The Spy Humongous Is A Return To Form For Star Trek: Lower Decks
From the season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks, the crew of the USS Cerritos has experienced some growth. While this is great news for the characters, it has meant that the episodes thus far veered from the season 1 forumla that worked so well. Luckily, the latest episode, The Spy Humongous, feels like a ‘classic’ Star Trek: Lower Decks episode. The main four don’t leave the ship, and while there is peril to face it’s all very, very silly. Of course, it’s not all just empty laughs. This episode works as a kind of deconstruction of the way Star Trek highlights accomplishment and work. The senior officers bungle their way through a mission, the lower deckers do grunt work, and the hilariously-named Redshirts show careerism gone bad in the world of Starfleet. The Spy Humongous is a perfect Star Trek: Lower Decks episode.
Lower Decks makes great use of The Next Generation goof species the pakleds. After they battled the USS Cerritos in the season 1 finale of Star Trek: Lower Decks, the ship is sent to negotiate peace with them. Even without going into spoilers, I think you can guess who sent the humongous spy. This show is at its best when they use these low-stakes Starfleet interactions. These are the moments they can best mine for humor. We often forget that the episode of The Next Generation that inspired this series ended on a very down note. The inclusion of a group of ‘redshirts’ reminds us that Starfleet is not as forgiving to the lower deckers as it is to the principal cast members.
Spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks “The Spy Humongous” to follow.
The Qualities of Leadership In Starfleet Aren’t What We Think
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Speaking of Star Trek deconstruction, all the Starfleet captains we’ve met thus far fit a specific mold. They believe in the system, and yet they challenge it when necessary. The captains aren’t afraid to do the dangerous missions, even though regulations should state they stay with the ship. And, when things look bleak, every Starfleet captain from Kirk to Michael Burnham are ready with an inspiring speech. The Redshirts are a group of career-minded Starfleet officers who only care about the artifice of leadership. They approach Jack Quaid’s Ensign Boimler merely because of his past association with Riker, Starfleet royalty. As per usual, they look down on his friends and try to change him to fit their mold of what a leader looks like.
Meanwhile, we get the whole gang together again doing “Anomaly” duty. It’s a ridiculous premise that suggests Starfleet officers have piles of dangerous space-junk in their quarters. Our hapless lower deckers, mostly excluding Boimler, are nearly killed at least a dozen times in the episode because of them. The attitudes of Tawny Newsome’s Ensign Mariner and Eugene Cordero’s Ensign Rutherford feels like meta-commentary about using menial Starfleet tasks as the premise of an episode. Noël Wells’ Ensign Tendi, however, tries to stay positive about the task and celebrates that they’re all together (in an episode) finally.
As if the episode couldn’t get more meta, the solution to the ultimate problem is that Boimler has to make Tendi laugh. The Redshits, perhaps also a meta reference to a certain segment of the Trek fandom, mostly realize that their idea of what it means to be in Starfleet is deeply flawed. Well, all except the one character who wins a title that means nothing, making him the ultimate joke of the episode.
‘The Spy Humongous’ Suggests Pakleds Will Be Lower Decks Persistent Foe
Image via CBS Interactive, Inc.
The bridge crew of the Cerritos has to deal with the Pakleds, including an alien who requests asylum but is actually a spy. These ‘Klingons, but stupid’ aliens are perfect for Lower Decks. They are from “real” Star Trek, usually showing up as a punchline. So, while they are bush-league baddies for our upper echelon Trek heroes, they are the perfect foils for the chuckleheads aboard the Cerritos. The show couldn’t have invented a better group of baddies if they tried. Star Trek: Lower Decks often “feels” like classic Trek. There is a dangerous situation on a strange new(ish) world, and they solve the problem often with action and wit. That it’s animated or has a high gag-per-minute ratio doesn’t change that.
The first season episodes were good, but it was clear that the storytellers were still finding their footing. They’re much more comfortable in their space, and each episode this season reflects that. Not only is this season funny, it features many deep-cut references (Armus, for example) and still finds ways to deliver a Trek-quality message through its stories. It also feels like a series that could run a very, very long time. Hell, I’d love to see an entire season of Lower Decks focused on time-travel and dimension-hopping. The possibilities for humorous stories is as limitless as the Trek universe itself.
Star Trek: Lower Decks debuts new episodes Thursdays on Paramount+.
What did you think of The Spy Humongous or this season of Star Trek: Lower Decks in general? Tell us your thoughts, reviews, and theories in the comments below.
Featured image via CBS Interactive, Inc.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.