Lower Decks starts its second season with funny, heartfelt “Strange Energies.”
Red Alert: Spoilers for “Strange Energies” off your starboard bow!
“Strange Energies” in a nutshell
The Cerritos is making second contact with the Apergosian civilization so the planet’s leader can choose the 24th-century equivalent of a phone number. Mariner (voiced by Tawny Newsome) gets off-the-record permission from her CO and mother, Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), to power-wash some of the Apergosian’s public buildings. (“They never cleaned up after their Industrial Revolution.”)
When she does, she uncovers a sphere atop one of Star Trek’s patented enigmatic alien obelisks. It harnesses the “strange energies” of the episode’s title. Those energies zap Commander Jack Ransom (Jerry O’Connell), sparking his Gary Mitchell-esque transformation into (as Ransom later says) an “omniscient murder-god.”
After wreaking superpowered havoc on Apergos, Ransom attacks the Cerritos in the form of his gigantic, disembodied head. He’s been jealous of the special treatment Captain Freeman’s been showing her daughter, and it’s payback time.
Freeman realizes she’s been taking Ransom for granted. Her praise of him manages to reduce his powers—to an extent. Ransom isn’t fully subdued until Mariner repeatedly kicks his body back on the planet in its “neutral zone” (that’s “groin” in non-Trek talk) and Doctor T’Ana (Gillian Vigman) non-lethally drops a boulder on him.
Meanwhile, in the B-plot, Tendi (Noël Wells) worries a new implant is changing Rutherford’s (Eugene Cordero) personality. She pursues him with increasingly invasive, high-energy tests to save him. Ultimately, she reveals she was worried Rutherford’s implant would cause him to stop liking her. He assures her, “No new implant is going to stop me from being your friend.”
With Ransom restored and Mariner and Freeman’s relationship reset to independent crew member and exasperated captain, the lower deckers wonder how now Lieutenant Boimler (Jack Quaid) is faring in his new posting on the Titan.
The episode’s tag scene shows us: Pakled “battle harpies” chase the Titan into a spatial anomaly that causes “gluonic disruption,” much to Captain Riker’s (Jonathan Frakes) delight and Boimler’s terror.
“Strange Energies” showcases heart and high-quality animation
“Strange Energies” is an amusing reintroduction to the Cerritos and its crew.
While it draws some explicit comparisons to the series’ pilot episode, the episode also reminds viewers just how much heart Lower Decks developed last year. Its pace has become far less frantic, and its characters, while still broadly exaggerated, also feel more real than they did in “Second Contact.”
Without a doubt, fans of “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the original series’ second pilot episode, will find a lot to love here. Where “Second Contact” name-checked Gary Mitchell in its closing moments, “Strange Energies” goes all-in on his tragic tale, transposing it into a comedic key with delightful success.
And simply calling the mechanism by which Star Trek characters so often experience extraordinary changes “strange energies,” as though it were a technical term, is not only funny but also refreshing. I’d much rather hear about “strange energies” than try and parse whatever pseudo-scientific technobabble the writers are throwing at us!
The episode also shows off the high quality of animation on Lower Decks. From the fantastic opening holodeck sequence to the rainbow energy rays Ransom produces, to the unexpectedly exciting tag scene, the episode’s full of visual treats.
Rutherford tells Mariner at one point that people in Starfleet never know what’s going to happen week to week. It’s certainly true for Lower Decks viewers. “Strange Energies” is a solid start to this season’s adventures.