We see three ships come warping in on this season’s penultimate Lower Decks.
For the next to last episode of its second season, Star Trek Lower Decks serves up a delightful break from its usual format with “wej Duj.” The title is Klingon for “Three Ships.” I believe it’s the first episode title in the franchise completely in a language (fictional or real) other than English (unless you count TNG’s “11001001”). It’s certainly the first to appear onscreen in a non-English alphabet. But the title is only the most superficial of this episode’s differences.
The three ships of the title are the Cerritos, the Klingon Bird of Prey Che’ta’, and the Vulcan cruiser Sh’Vhal. Over the course of the half-hour, we follow “lower deckers” from all three vessels. Our Cerritos friends are all spending a rare day off with their “bridge buddies”—all but Boimler, who doesn’t have one, and who pretends to be from Hawaii so he can attend a holodeck luau with Ransom and two other Hawaiians aboard.
Meanwhile, aboard the Che’ta’, young M’ach is serving as substitute helm officer when Captain Dorg kills his insubordinate first officer and announces the crew member who impresses him most will become the new one. M’ach gets the job and learns Dorg—one of the franchise’s many 24th-century Klingons dissatisfied with peace and lamenting the loss of the Empire’s former glory—has been arming the Pakleds with weapons and military intelligence so they can throw the quadrant into chaos, paving the way for Klingon dominance.
And on the Sh’Vhal, junior scientist T’Lyn recommends investigating a strange energy reading in a distant system, only to have her captain and crewmates dismiss her “emotional outbursts”—which only qualify as such by extremely rigid Vulcan standards. Ultimately, we learn the Pakleds caused the anomaly by blowing up an asteroid to test a Klingon-supplied Varuvian bomb. Thanks to T’Lyn’s persistence, the Sh’Vhal arrives on the scene as the Che’ta’ and the Pakled “clumpship” Pakled are fighting the Cerritos, which was also investigating.
M’ach challenges and kills Dorg because of Dorg’s dishonor in letting others fight his battles, and for his futile quest to sabotage the peace. The battle over, T’Lyn’s captain tells her she will be transferred to a Starfleet vessel, where her “hotheaded ways” may find more acceptance. Boimler still has no “bridge buddy”—during the battle, the truth came out that none of the “Hawaiians” were actually Hawaiian, though all except Boimler grew up on moons—but takes a cadet under his wing, telling him, “The bridge crew is maybe the ones you hear about, but trust me, the real action begins on the lower decks.”
“wej Duj” is an outstanding balance of comedy, drama, and artistry
Star Trek often insists that, despite our differences, we have more in common than we realize. “wej Duj” is an amusing and admirable amplification of this theme, focusing on the underdogs and unsung heroes of crews in three completely different fleets. (We also even get glimpses of Pakled and Borg “lower deckers!”) It all underscores the truth of what Boimler tells the cadet: “Every ship in the fleet”—every fleet—“depends on officers like us to keep them running.”
But “wej Duj” is no slow, serious, overly sentimental reflection on those who dutifully do what must be done. It’s full of immediately quotable lines—as when Boimler screams, “I don’t wanna die in a Hawaiian shirt!”—and the Easter eggs at which Lower Decks excels. Even before this episode dropped, fans were buzzing about the “RITOS” t-shirt Captain Freeman wears, which resembles the “DISCO” tees on Star Trek: Discovery. We also get to see Boimler zooming around in a “Go Climb a Rock” shirt and hover boots, straight from the Star Trek V wardrobe department.
Even better, “wej Duj” makes the Lower Decks “world” feel even richer than it already did. We now know two new and fairly fully realized alien characters, one of whom, T’Lyn, may already be on her way to becoming a new series regular. And as the truth behind the series-long Pakled threat comes to light, we realizes its stakes are much higher than the show’s comedic treatment of it (as in such episodes as “The Spy Humongous”) has let on.
Finally, kudos yet again to the Lower Decks production team. The battle between the three ships is spectacularly paced and drawn, and is underscored with some of composer Chris Westlake’s most inspired music to date. It both mimics James Horner’s Star Trek movie scores but also rings with its own nobility and energy.
Because “wej Duj” is so satisfying on so many levels—comedic, dramatic, artistic—it only makes me more excited to see what Mike McMahon and crew have cooked up for the show’s second season capper next week!