‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Gets Its Best Sequel With “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus”
The back half of Star Trek: Lower Decks season 3 features returning stories, returning characters, and, now, a returning holodeck movie. It’s real good.
There’s a lot of follow-through on Star Trek: Lower Decks lately. Rutherford gets his cybernetic implant backstory. Deep Space Nine makes its triumphant return. And, out of all the previous characters out there, Peanut Hamper returns for a surprise villain origin story.
And while there are lots of other stories and characters worth revisiting, let’s face it: everyone loves a holodeck episode. “Crisis Point” from season one of Star Trek: Lower Decks is one of the most fun holodeck episodes in all of Trek. So, naturally, there’s going to be a sequel. Surprise: the sequel is now.
But if you’re expecting “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus” to be the return of Vindicta, you’re in for an actual surprise. This week’s episode doesn’t focus on Mariner at all. No, this time the holodeck has a lesson to teach to the purple-haired boy wonder Bradward Boimler.
To Boldly Recap
We’re on the holodeck and the Cerritos is under attack by Romulans. The Romulans transport aboard and steal a mysterious glowing rock before beaming away. The Cerritos is about to be destroyed when the USS Wayfarer appears to save the day. Boimler is the captain and also is going by the very corny name Captain Dagger. Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford are also along for the ride.
It turns out the Romulans stole the Chronogami, a device that can destroy any moment in time. During this explanation, Boimler is called away by Ransom. When he returns, Boimler is noticeably sad. Dr. Helena Gibson explains how the Chronogami works, flirting with Boimler all the while. But Boimler is not into it. He takes her Chronogami-finding watch and they leave for Tatasciore IX where the Romulans likely are heading next.
And, indeed, the Romulans are there. But as Tendi and Rutherford jump on hoverbikes to give the Romulans chase, Boimler finds himself more intrigued by the randomly-generated holodeck characters. One of them says something called “Kit Yha” has the answers to all life’s questions. Boimler decides he has to follow this adventure instead and makes Tendi acting-captain of the Romulan mission. Mariner is annoyed but follows Boimler to get him back on the mission.
Acting Captain Tendi
Before Tendi, Rutherford, and the fake, hologram crew of the Cerritos can catch the Romulans, they use the Chronogami. Tendi and Rutherford follow after and find themselves in the middle of the Great Soolian Algae Crisis of 2341. Apparently, at this moment in time, a sentient octopus named Ambassador Koro brokers peace with the Algaeic Slime Mind and the Romulans are there to change history. Thankfully, they are too late.
But the Romulans travel further back in time to 20th-century Earth where one of Koro’s ancestors is living in an Australian aquarium. And despite being attacked by some Australian punks, Tendi wins there, too. Finally, the Romulans travel to the genesis of the Federation. They plan to blow up Federation leadership with a bomb. As Rutherford dismantles the bomb, a Romulan shoots and kills hologram Dr. T’ana.
Throughout the holodeck program, Tendi takes everything very seriously, but Rutherford does not. It turns out Tendi wants to be a captain in real life but is afraid no one will take her seriously. Rutherford tells Tendi she will make a great captain and together they use the Chronogami to travel back to the beginning of the story.
The Cerritos, once again, is under attack by Romulans. But this time instead of stealing the Chronogami Tendi tricks them into stealing their own bomb. The Romulan ship explodes and Tendi is a hero.
Boimler’s Bad Day
Boimler’s quest for Kit Yha is ridiculous. Only one other hologram named Nik Nak agrees with him and the map to Kit Yha is tattooed on the back of an old man’s saggy skin. Mariner declares her disgust and leaves the holodeck. However, while being evaluated by Ransom, Mariner finds out what’s really going on. Boimler’s transporter clone William is dead after a freak neurocine gas accident. Realizing why Boimler is so sad, Mariner rushes back to the holodeck.
On a freighter, Mariner finds Boimler in the brig. Boimler says the quest is pointless and that life is pointless. Mariner convinces Boimler that there is meaning to be found and with the help of Nic Nac, they retake the freighter and use the saggy back fat map to find Kit Yha. Unfortunately, Kit Yha is a rock monster with no answers, only empty platitudes. Worse, “Kit Yha” is just short for “Kitty Hawk” for some reason. In a rage, Boimler overheats and dies.
While dead, Boimler has a vision of Captain Sulu who tells Boimler that obsessing over the meaningless of death detracts from life’s joy. And then Boimler wakes up feeling rested and ready to live life to the fullest.
Also, William Boimler’s death is fake. William is actually now a member of Section 31.
To Boldly Review
If the original “Crisis Point” is all about the good of Starfleet, then its sequel is about the good in death — a much more challenging sell. No one really likes the idea that someday they will die. And Boimler’s anxiety understandably increases when he hears a version of himself is suddenly gone. But the episode acknowledges the hard truth — there’s no design to the universe which leads us to accept mortality — that’s for us to figure out and accept all on our own.
But more than that, this episode is funny. The saggy skin map is a great sight gag. Nic Nac’s Yoda voice and an unexpected romance with Boimler is funny, too. And Tendi’s weird quest through Federation history is both exciting and laughably focuses on sentient octopi. But absolutely nothing tops the moment when Boimler says that Captain Sulu is “even better” than Captain Kirk. Ouch! If that ain’t a dig on Shatner, I’m not sure what is.
But back in the realm of heartfelt storytelling, Tendi’s revelation that she wants to be a captain is wonderful, too. In many ways, despite how sheepish she may seem, Tendi is actually a great candidate for captain. Tendi loves learning everything about ships, she’s empathetic towards everyone, and she’s also arguably the most cunning fighter on the ship. A little more confidence and the captain’s chair feels inevitable.
The only real criticism for “Crisis Point 2” is that William Boimler cliffhanger. And even that is nitpicking. Yes, it undercuts some of the “finding meaning in mortality” stuff, but also it sets up Section 31 in Star Trek: Lower Decks. And we all want that!
References: Gotta Spot ‘Em All
Star Trek: Lower Decks loves an Easter egg. And it loves one, even more, when it plays into something as tropey as a holodeck episode. Here are the best ones.
The Romulan triplets are a play on the Duras sisters. Discussions of time travel turn to the possibility of alternate, more cinematic versions of our heroes which is a Kelvin Universe reference. Dr. Gibson wears the same science uniform as Carol Marcus in Star Trek: Wrath of Khan. The Romulans may try to prevent the Federation from ever existing, something that is attempted by the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact and happens in the TOS episode “City on the Edge of Forever”.
The punks in Sydney are a reference to the punk on the bus in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Kit Yha actually being Kitty Hawk is a callback to VGER actually being the Voyager probe in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Similarly, Kit Yha’s home planet Shatanari sounds just like “Shatner” which is in reference to Sha Ka Ree from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, so named after the man who was supposed to play Sybok — Sean Connery.
Kit Yha being a rock monster is a reference to the rock monsters Shatner wanted for The Final Frontier. Captain Sulu is in something very similar to the Nexus which first appears in Star Trek: Generations.
Tatasciore IX is a reference to Fred Tatasciore who is the voice of Shaxs. And Someone at the black market references everyone’s favorite death koala.
All in all, this is a fun episode. Star Trek: Lower Decks is still on a roll.