Lower Decks satirizes Star Trek movies in “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus.”
As I watched “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus,” the latest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, I was reminded of a heated discussion I had with a fellow fan back in 1998. The issue? Whether Star Trek: Insurrection was a good Star Trek movie. “I don’t know,” I told him, “it didn’t seem like anything special to me—just a two-hour-long episode of The Next Generation.” “I know!” he replied, aghast at my lukewarm reaction. “That’s exactly why I loved it!”
Fast forward to 2016. I’m a guest on a podcast with other fans discussing whether Star Trek Beyond was a good Star Trek movie. “It didn’t seem like anything special to me,” another guest says, “just like a two-hour-long episode of The Original Series.” The irony is not lost on me as I say, “Yes! That’s exactly why I loved it!”
“Crisis Point 2” is a sprawling, silly, sentimental love letter to Star Trek movies. It’s a great example of how Lower Decks can get big laughs from paying attention to the smallest of details. For example, I was impressed the animators took the time to put film artifacts into the holodeck sequences, right down to the visual “blip” in the upper right-hand corner of the frame before a reel change.
It also brings in fan discussions like the ones I had 18 years apart, and which Star Trek fans have been having ever since Star Trek: The Motion Picture debuted, in for some well-deserved mockery. How many times have fans fretted that the powers that be at Paramount are “ruining the franchise” with the latest movie the way Mariner accuses Boimler of ruining her “Vindictaverse?” How often has one fan, enthralled by the latest movie’s action sequences, told another who’s pining away for something more philosophical, “Important? No, this is supposed to be a thrill ride!”
Even as the episode finds things to mock in many Star Trek movies, it also reminds us that even when we find elements of any given Star Trek movie “stupid,” or even the whole film “an uneven slog that totally ignores the successes of the original,” it’s still a “Starfleet movie,” which means it’s worthwhile.
Here are my three favorite Trek movie-skewering moments from “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus.” What were yours?
1. Mariner lambasts a Star Trek movie that (thankfully) never happened.
Even Star Trek movies that didn’t get made got lampooned in “Crisis Point 2.” After Rutherford compliments Boimler on the time travel premise of his immersive holodeck movie, Mariner says, “Don’t tell me we’re gonna have to go back and assassinate Kennedy, because that is not happening.” She’s referencing Gene Roddenberry’s oft-pitched but thankfully never produced story for a movie in which the Enterprise crew traveled back through time and ended up doing just that.
2. Rutherford reacts to the “mind-blowing” computer graphics.
The Europa temporal lab is a fantastic recreation of the Regula One lab interior from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, down to its oddly angled partitions and that device with the glowing red tube that surfaced from time to time in other scientific settings. But Rutherford’s gee-whiz response to the computer graphics in the chronogami presentation made me laugh out loud. The Genesis tape in Star Trek II, which this scene evokes, was “mind-blowing” in 1982. Indeed, it was the first completely CGI sequence in a feature film, an early product of what would become Pixar animation. And it still holds up better than the vector graphics that so impress Rutherford.
3. Boimler crawls into a rock monster’s mouth to find Kit-ti-ha.
The culmination of Boimler’s quest for Kit-ti-ha is not only a glorious send-up of the V’Ger revelation at the close of Star Trek: The Motion Picture but also as close as we may ever get to seeing William Shatner’s original ending for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Shatner has said he wanted “earth-breaking granite monsters spewing rocks and fire” on Sha Ka Ree, per Cinema Blend. But his rock monsters were not to be. The inspirational cliche-quoting rock monster Boimler faces looks more than a little like Shatner’s intended “rock men”—even if the Lower Decks scene is ultimately more reminiscent of Aladdin entering the Cave of Wonders in the animated Disney classic.