Written by Rene Echevarria, Ronald Wilkerson, Jean Louis Matthias, and Naren Shankar
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Now that the seventh season seems to have had a character-driven episode based around every single regular member of the crew, it’s time to bring in some new ones. And in many ways, it’s not bad.
In Lower Decks, fans get a look at the workings of the starship from a junior officer’s point of view. With all the people on the Enterprise, we have seen a lot from the senior officers through the years, but little from the underlings.
Lower Decks is the story of four ambitious ensigns: Sito, Lavelle, Taurik, and Ogawa (portrayed by Shannon Fill, Dan Gauthier, Alexander Enberg, and Patti Yasutake). Sito was first seen in the episode The First Duty and it’s nice to see a character from that episode back and dealing with the ramifications of her behavior.
The four are friends and share s good deal of time together having drinks and playing cards. Sito and Lavelle are also competing for the same promotion to Ops. There are some interesting contrasts as the senior officers play poker in one room and the junior officers in another. Shadowing both is Ben (portrayed by Bruce Beatty) who is serving as a bartender here but it’s hinted that he discreetly tips off the senior officers to how the junior officers are feeling.
The Enterprise is dispatched close to Cardassian space. There, they beam on board a passenger in a life-pod kept under high security. When it becomes apparent that Ogawa and Sito know what is going on, Lavelle seethes with jealousy and demands to be let in on the deep secret. The two stick to their morals and hold the secret close.
Lower Decks is interesting because in a certain way it makes the Enterprise new again. Up until now virtually the only perspective fans have had on the operation of the ship has been from the Senior Staff. Watching the role of those who have not attained that status is different. Unfortunately, the script drops the ball in a way by mostly showing their downtime together and interacting with the senior officers off-duty instead of making their daily lives somewhat interesting.
There are several side stories going on. There is a rivalry between Sito and Lavelle. Ogawa frets over her love life and wonders if her boyfriend loves her anymore. Lavelle thinks Riker doesn’t like him. Sito must combat the demons of her past with the help of the Klingon Worf (portrayed by Michael Dorn).
The guest cast is interesting. I liked Sito and wish she could have had more of a future, perhaps as a prisoner of the Cardassians who turned up on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Shannon Fill does a great job and seems comfortable in the role. Dan Gauthier is an actor I’m familiar with and he gives Lavalle an edge which was fine for this episode. I don’t know if he could have made him interesting in the long term. Patti Yasutake has been a recurring character and it’s nice to see her branch out a bit after being relegated to the background for the most part.
Probably the biggest disappointment is Ben. I don’t know if the character was created because Whoopi Goldberg was unavailable to portray Guinan or if it was designed to be the younger version of that character, but it doesn’t fit. We’ve never seen him before, but he seems smooth enough to get himself invited to the Senior Officers’ poker game. It just doesn’t have a good feeling to it, although I can’t fault the actor for that. The role feels like it was originally written for Guinan and then shifted over.
This is a pretty good character-driven episode after a series of them that just didn’t seem up to the usual standards. There was a degree of suspense with the secret mission and the conflict it created with the friends, and their perspective was a breath of fresh air.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Sub Rosa
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Thine Own Self