Review for Star Trek: Lower Decks - Season Three
It’s pretty obvious that the home cinema industry is broken, when the biggest award winning movie of 2022, Everything Everywhere All At Once has yet to see a UK DVD, Blu-ray or 4kUHD release, despite being released pretty much everywhere else in the world. Yet it still comes as a bit of a pain, when I have to import the Blu-ray of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 from the US, in a package that is decidedly on the cheap side compared to the Seasons 1 and 2 Blu-ray releases the show did get in the UK. If you want Season 3 of Lower Decks with a BBFC ratings logo on the discs, you’ll only be able to get it on DVD. We’ve been shafted for the HD release of the show. Thankfully, Paramount CBS aren’t in the practice of region locking their Blu-rays, and I can still watch the show as nature intended.
Lower Decks follows the adventures of the USS Cerritos, focusing on the lower ranked crew, Beckett Mariner, Brad Boimler, Sam Rutherford, and D’Vana Tendi, who do the important drudge work of Starfleet while those higher up the command chain get all the credit and the glory.
Season 2 ended on one of those “To be continued” cliff-hangers, when despite successfully pulling off their toughest mission yet, the crew of the Cerritos were confronted by Starfleet Security, there to take Captain Freeman into custody charged with the destruction of the Pakled homeworld.
10 episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 are presented across two Blu-ray discs from Paramount CBS. The commentaries and episode specific extras are listed with the episodes.
The USS Cerritos is impounded, the crew restricted to Earth, and the evidence against Captain Freeman makes it seem like the trial will be a formality. Her father tells her to trust in the system, but Beckett Mariner is determined to clear her mother’s name, no matter how many rules she breaks in the process.
* Audio Commentary with Jonathan Frakes, Tawny Newsome (Mariner), and Mike McMahan
2. The Least Dangerous Game
Now that Commander Ransom has the last word on Mariner’s future in Starfleet, she’s subject to his every whim. The latest is that they will repair a planet’s orbital elevator, while the engineers conduct some diplomacy on the planet. Meanwhile Boimler learns the secret to quick promotions is to say “yes” to everything...
3. Mining the Mind’s Mines
A planet of silicon based life forms has insisted that Starfleet relocate the Federation scientists from their world. It’s up to the crew of the Cerritos and their sister ship the Karlsbad to do this, and deal with the psychic mines in the area. Meanwhile, Tendi gets a mentor for her science officer training.
4. Room For Growth
The engineering team is overworked, and Captain Freeman decides that they will relax, and to make sure of it, she accompanies them to a spa ship. On the Cerritos, there’s a lottery for vacant cabins; a godsend when you usually sleep in a corridor. Mariner’s determined to win, but they haven’t counted on the sneaky Delta shift.
Mariner’s latest boring disciplinary duty is to join Boimler at a recruitment booth for Starfleet, and get a PADD full of names. Meanwhile when Tendi fixes a glitch in Rutherford’s cybernetic implant, a different Samanthan Rutherford wakes up on the ship.
6. Hear All, Trust Nothing
Following the Dominion War, the Federation is trying to re-establish trade links with the Gamma Quadrant. It falls to Captain Freeman to conduct the negotiations at Deep Space 9. While everyone else gets to explore the space station, Mariner stays on the ship to hang out with her girlfriend Jennifer’s pretentious friends.
* Audio Commentary with Armin Shimerman (Quark), Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys), Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid (Boimler), Noel Wells (Tendi), Eugene Cordero (Rutherford), and Mike McMahan
* Docking at Deep Space 9 (12:21)
7. A Mathematically Perfect Redemption
Peanut Hamper is an exocomp who was briefly assigned to the Cerritos, before choosing self-preservation in a crisis situation, betraying her crewmates. She wound up stranded in space, but has now found her way to a primitive planet, where she has a chance to redeem herself.
* Audio Commentary with producer/supervising director Barry Kelly, Kether Donohue (Peanut Hamper), and Mike McMahan
8. Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus
Previously, Mariner took Boimler’s holodeck simulation and turned it into a movie (and therapy). Now Boimler’s doing the movie the way it should be done, and he’s invited Mariner, Tendi and Rutherford to partake. But when he comes back from a summons from Commander Ransom, his heart is no longer in it.
* Audio Commentary with Tawny Newsome, Noel Wells, Jack Quaid, Jerry McConnell (Ransom), and Mike McMahan
9. Trusted Sources
Captain Freeman’s dream of fulfilling the California class’s primary mission looks to come true, with a follow up 2nd Contact mission to Ornara. But her triumph is soured when a FSN reporter shadows the mission. Lines are crossed, and Mariner’s reputation alone is enough for her to be transferred off the Cerritos...
10. The Stars at Night
What is it with Starfleet Admirals that think it’s a good idea to replace crewed starships with automated computerised vessels? Now Captain Freeman has to defend the honour of the California class, against the new Texas class ships with a 2nd Contact competition. Did no one watch The Ultimate Computer?
* Audio Commentary with Jack Quaid, Dawnn Lewis (Captain Freeman), and Fred Tatasciore (Shaxs)
Lower Decks gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, which is clear, sharp, and colourful, with excellent detail, bringing the animation across smoothly and without issue. There isn’t even the spectre of digital banding to worry about, that I see on many anime Blu-rays. The character design is somewhat generic for US adult comedy animations. It has its own style to be sure, but it still conforms to an overall stereotype that I have been seeing since the year Simpsons. Where the show really does impress is the world design, really embodying that 24th Century Star Trek era where The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager reside. Costumes, ‘sets and locations’ and the technology will all be comfortably familiar if you’ve grown up with those aforementioned shows.
Lower Decks gets a DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English track with optional SDH English subtitles. I had no issues with the audio; the surround bringing the action and music across well, and with animation, the absence of mumbly actors is a godsend, with the dialogue clear and audible throughout. I find that US animation of this nature shares a common ‘voice’, fast paced delivery and familiar cadences across the medium, and in that way Lower Decks has a degree of comfort to it. The music takes a cue from the Berman era that inspired the show’s 24th Century look, and the orchestral feel really suits the show well, establishing it firmly as Trek with the opening credits (The TNG font doesn’t hurt either).
You get 2 discs on each inner face of a thin BD Amaray style case. The discs boot to animated menus where you get a Play All option, an episode listing, and audio and subtitle options.
The one extra presented separately on Disc 2 is Lower Decktionary: Season 3, an overview of the episodes which runs to 33:06, with plenty of input from the cast and crew.
I could kick myself! I went and gave Season 2 of Star Trek Lower Decks a 10/10 for its sheer comedic brilliance, as well as the way it ties in seamlessly with the Star Trek universe. I should have made allowances for a show that seems to be getting better and better as it goes, and not rely on a Spinal Tap-esque 11/10 to show my increased appreciation. I could mention that Season 3 does have the one episode that disappointed me, but really that’s no excuse. What serialised television show doesn’t have the occasional episode that falls short of the mark set by the rest of the series? And I’m certain that for everyone who shares my opinion of A Mathematically Perfect Redemption, there’s someone who feels the exact opposite. Bottom line, Star Trek Lower Decks Season 3 is the best yet, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Season 4 improves on this third one.
Lower Decks is still the Star Trek show made by fans for fans, and the references to other Treks come thick and fast as usual, with some whole episodes referring to previous stories, and plenty of visual gags, and verbal asides too. The opening episode is one big love letter to Trek, cliff-hangering over from Season 2, with Captain Freeman on trial, the crew back on Earth, and Mariner and her friends determined to break a few laws to clear her mother. There’s a whole lot of the First Contact movie referenced here, with James Cromwell reprising his role as Zefram Cochrane.
This episode sets into motion the character arcs for the season, in some cases revealing hidden depths to the main characters, in some cases shifting their trajectories. Mariner for one pulls one insubordination too many, and realises that she actually wants to stay in Starfleet and on the Cerritos, where for once she’s made friends. She’s assigned to the first officer, Ransom, who has to take her in hand, and finally make an officer of her. She has to dial down the independent streak, and try and be more of a team player. Boimler on the other hand has had enough of being a stickler to the rules, of being timid, and instead chooses to make the bold choices, sometimes ignoring the consequences before it’s too late.
Tendi was introduced in Season 1 as the eager young space cadet, although we did get a glimpse of her Orion heritage in the previous season. It’s something that she’s been embarrassed by, but in this season she has to embrace that side of her personality. She also grows as an officer with her new science training, with a clear career trajectory to the bridge. Rutherford’s story plays a big part in the season arc. We’ve seen before that his cybernetic implant is prone to glitching, and we learn why in this season which points to something dark at the heart of Starfleet.
There are some great episodes in this season... well for me there are nine great episodes in this season, and it’s hard to pick out any highlights. Even more, on the surface, mundane plots have character moment gems, and sparks of narrative joy. Taking a bunch of workaholic engineers to a spa to relax causes more stress than it relieves. Sitting at a recruitment booth trying to attract applicants to Starfleet could be dull, but with the character reversal that we see this season, with Mariner trying to stay on the straight and narrow, and Boimler letting his adventurous side loose, it makes for a chaotic 20 minutes. I absolutely love the Deep Space Nine crossover, which is where the season arc really begins to take centre focus. And then there is a sequel to the Season 1 holodeck adventure which took a cinematic approach to the episode. Here we have another movie, this time based on Star Trek V. That might be one of the weakest films in the canon, but Lower Decks finds a character story that makes this spiritual journey so much more meaningful.
There is that weak point, the Peanut Hamper episode. The Next Generation introduced the Exocomps, alien robots that turned out to be alive, and an earlier Lower Decks episode gave us Peanut Hamper, an exocomp with a heightened sense of self-preservation that joined Starfleet. When danger arose, she abandoned her duties and wound up stranded in interstellar space. A Mathematically Perfect Redemption relates what happened to her after, as she finds her way to a primitive planet and makes friends with the locals. It’s a fair enough story, but for me, what disappoints is that the Cerritos and the regular characters are just an afterthought, playing just a small part in the story. For me Peanut Hamper was never that appealing a character.
Then there are the final two episodes of the season, which while both work as stand-alone stories, they also are two halves of a whole story. Trusted Sources sees the ship on a 2nd Contact mission to planets visited by the Enterprise in Season 1 of Star Trek the Next Generation. It’s what the Cerritos was built for, and should be a breeze for the crew, but having a news reporter on board, trying to get the skinny on the Captain and the crew throws a wrench into the works. The mission turns out to be a disaster in more than one way, with the reporter trashing the ship in a news story, and given Mariner’s reputation, and past conduct, and given that she disobeyed an order to be interviewed, she gets the blame. And in the end, the Cerritos only survives the mission by being rescued by one of the new automated ships.
All of which leads to the final episode, with the Cerritos pitted against the USS Aledo in a test for Starfleet to see what works better, a ship with a living crew, or a ship run by computer. This heavily references the original series episode The Ultimate Computer, and the results are predictably apocalyptic. But the story hits the highest, Hell Yeah! note in Lower Decks so far. Season 3 definitely leaves triumphantly, as opposed to the cliff-hanger of Season 2, but it makes me no less determined to see Season 4.
The home media industry has gone to pot. It’s a pain in the ass, and an insult to the fans, that the UK only gets this third season on DVD, and we have to import the US Blu-ray if we want the show in high definition. At least Paramount Plus doesn’t do a Netflix or Amazon and impose lengthy moratoriums on their online content, and we get their shows on disc in a timely manner. But it’s still not great optics.