Monday, November 13, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 167 (Lower Decks)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Every so often, there’s an episode of The Next Generation that at least mentions crew reviews, but we rarely ever get to see those crewmembers that are affected by those decisions. In “Lower Decks”, there are four ensigns that are worried about their crew reviews. One is Nurse Ogawa, who finds out a little early that Dr. Crusher is recommending her for a promotion. Two other ensigns find out that they’re competing for the same promotion. (One of them is Sito Jaxa, who was in “First Duty”.) There’s also Taurik, who’s apparently not up for a promotion, but is a friend of the other three.

Things get complicated when an escape pod is found adrift in Cardassian space. It’s just close enough that if the transporter is pushed a little beyond its limit, the occupant can be safely beamed aboard. Everything about it is top secret. With the episode done from the perspective of the four ensigns, it isn’t until later in the episode that the audience finds out what’s going on: it was a Cardassian who was in that escape pod. Ogawa is the first to find out when she’s called in to sickbay to help. Sito is the second to find out when she’s asked to pilot the shuttle that takes the Cardassian home. It’s a risky mission, but Sito volunteers for it. (Taurik figures some details about the mission, but isn’t told anything.)

I don’t really want to go into how the episode ends. I don’t think that it’s necessary. It’s an interesting episode that deals with crewmembers of a lower rank. The only problem that I had with it was that it seemed like a token episode. Ogawa is the only one of the four ensigns that had any real history. Sito may have been used because the writers needed someone with her background. I have to admit that it was convenient to have that character there. However, she had been on the Enterprise for seven months and this was the first we had seen of it. Granted, this is one of the final ten episodes, but it would have been nice if we could have seen more of the other two ensigns.

Those that have never seen the series before might find the story interesting, but will probably have some questions. Sito Jaxa’s history is explained, but those watching this as their first Next Generation episode won’t really know the significance of who she is. There’s also the history between the Federation and the Cardassians as well as the relationship between the Bajorans and the Cardassians. Again, someone would be able to follow the story and infer many of the details. However, I don’t think I could necessarily recommend this as your first Trek episode.

I definitely recommend this to people that have an understanding of the Trek universe. It looks like the writers were trying to have some continuity in the final half of the last episode and this episode does do well. It also does well with the writing and acting. I’d say that this is one of the better episodes. I’d give it four stars. 

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