Star Trek: Lower Decks Continues to Delight in “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris”

DW takes a look at the third episode of season three of Star Trek: The Lower Decks, “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris”.

We’re only three episodes into the second season of Star Trek: Lower Decks, and it’s already aiming straight for my heart. Between Episode 2 being one long Darmok reference with a quick Kahless joke peppered in, and this episode being Voyager focused, Lower Decks truly knows how to harken back to the older star trek content just enough to ground the show and not too much that it’s an entirely referential show. So far, these first three episodes of Season 2 are some of the all time best Star Trek content. Yeah, that’s right, I SAID IT. this show is truly top tier Trek in every single way, and i absolutely adore it. Every week they seem to find a new way to, in business terms, “surprise and delight”. I’ve spent the last year or so telling each and every star trek friend i have to watch it. “I had reservations too,” I say, “but i promise it really is incredibly charming and sincere!” One day i will convince everyone. One. Day.

The A plot, B plot, and C plot in this episode are all stellar, and work together so well to give the audience great screen time for all four of our main lower decks crew members. I think the A plot really does a lot of incredible things that I was frankly a little bit worried about when I realized what was going on. Tendi and Mariner realize they have never had a mission that’s just the two of them and opt to have a “girl’s trip” of sorts running an errand for commander t’ana. Of course, what should be a simple fetch mission turns into wacky hijinks galore. Now it’s very obvious that this story happened because someone in the writer’s room was like “hey why haven’t mariner and tendi ever really had any significant character time together?”

Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris in the Paramount+ series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS; episode: “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris” / Photo: PARAMOUNT+ ©2021 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved

While it could have easily come off as very pandering and hamfisted, the progression of their mission together and thus their friendship, was very organic and charming. I personally related to it a lot, especially from my days working in the gaming industry. So many times i would be friendly with female coworkers only to one day realize that actually, i didn’t really know anything about them at all despite seeing them and talking with them at length every day for several years. I think going more into Tendi’s backstory and life in particular was a really great choice. She’s always trying to “prove” herself because being an orion comes with a lot of stigma, and this episode gives us much more context on where specifically she’s coming from with that attitude, aside from the obvious surface level explanation.

The thing that truly got me excited for this season though, occurs in the b plot: TOM PARIS COMES TO THE CERRITOS! Boimler’s first big day back on the cerritos and Tom Paris is coming to visit! Boimler, in true boimler fashion, is nerding out over this and hoping to get his Voyager crew commemorative plate signed. Everyone rightfully clowns him for this because like, it’s truly the goofiest but most on brand thing ever. The problem is, Boimler’s been written out of the Cerritos’ system, so he spends the entire episode fighting the computers just trying to get through various doors or eat lunch in ten forward. Poor dear sweet Brad Boimler just truly has the absolute worst day in this episode. Serves him right for abandoning his friends, I say!

Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler in the Paramount+ series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS; episode: “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris”. / Photo: PARAMOUNT+ ©2021 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Lastly, the smallest and funniest subplots is what goes on with Rutherford while Boimler is having A Bad Day and Tendi and Mariner are on their “girl’s trip” away mission. Lieutenant Shax, who met his untimely demise at the end of season 1, is mysteriously back on the Cerritos. Given that Shax died saving rutherford, our beloved cyborg friend’s lack of knowledge around Shax’s sudden reappearance has him consumed with guilt and anxiety. The gag about “not ever questioning” how or why bridge crew ever comes back from the dead culminates in rutherford finally breaking down and asking Shax directly. The burly Bajoran takes a moment to warn Rutherford that having this knowledge will change him forever, and rutherford of course just wants answers. Pretty sure he won’t be questioning anything like that ever again. I’m fairly certain that guy just got like 3 new layers of trauma added from that interaction alone. 

Noel Wells as Ensign Tendi and Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner in the Paramount+ series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS; episode: “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris” / Photo: PARAMOUNT+ ©2021 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Overall, Season 2 has really hit the ground running, and is consistently getting better with every episode. Season 1 took me a few episodes to really warm up to, but Season 2 really started things off with one hit after another. If Season 2 keeps its stride, it will surely take a spot amongst the coveted “best seasons of Star Trek” crowd. 

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