Star Trek: Lower Decks – 06 – Not-So-Hollow Pursuits

For its latest not-so-glamorous mission, the Cerritos is in a standoff with alien junk traders attempting to salvage 100-year-old Starfleet debris (you know it’s old when the registries are only three digits long). The cold open features Commander Ransom attacking the Lower Decks when he walks past as they all attempt to imitate the hum of the ship’s engine sounds (I myself used to do this as a kid). 

Then the Cat doctor tears into Mariner after she accidentally makes her spill her nachos. Both Doc and Ransom both hold the Lower Deckers in generally low regard in the opening minutes. We also meet Fletcher, Boimler’s academy classmate who feels like a third wheel throughout the episode.

This is also the second straight episode where the Lower Deck Four are split down the middle, with Mariner and Boimler in one plot and Rutherford and Tendi in another. While it makes a certain sense that non-command crew would hang out more, I’d still like to see more of the four interact, or end up in different combinations, something TNG, DS9 and Voyager did so well.

That said, it’s good to see the Rutherford/Tendi friendship continuing to grow. Tendi confesses she never completed a successful spacewalk at the academy, leading Rutherford to show her his holodeck spacewalk simulator. Tendi is so green in magboots hers end up sticking to his, leading to an inadvertent romantic embrace with a shimmering galaxy as a backdrop.

We also meet the Starfleet equivalent of the Microsoft Office Assistant Clippy, a cheerful and worryingly buggy anthropomorphic comm badge named Badgey.

When Mariner and Boimler leave Fletcher to complete their busywork so they can attend the “Choo Choo Dance”, something for which Boimler made special shirts for, we see that these two have clearly become more than bunkmates and colleagues, but genuine friends who make a point to hang out together when off duty.

Unfortunately Fletcher is not like them. When they return from the dance they find him passed out and one of the doohickeys they were working on missing. After initially blaming Delta Shift, Fletcher claims alien intruders could be involved, but as conditions on the Cerritos suddenly go south due to the junk dealers using their tractor beam to sling wreckage at the Cerritos, the doohickey turns up…in his bunk.

Fletch assures his crewmates he meant well, trying to hook the component to his brain in order to become smarter (shades Barclay in TNG’s “The Nth Degree”), but now they have a new problem: the component is now gobbling up all pieces of technology in its reach and becoming a huge menace.

Up on the bridge, Shaxs implores Captain Freeman to let him target the junk traders’ warp core (Worf almost always advised using the phasers and/or photon torpedoes). But here is where the true Starfleet spirit shines through better in Lower Decks than in either of the extant live-action series: Starfleet doesn’t just not shoot first; they prefer not to shoot at all. Freeman orders Shaxs hold on weapons while she tries to figure out a peaceful solution.

Due to the damage from the tossed junk, main power is compromised and the holodecks are locked and safeties disengaged. Also, the buggy Badgie turns evil and homicidal. When his suit is ripped Rutherford changes their environment to a Bajoran marketplace where Badgie proceeds to literally tear bystanders apart.

As they climb the seemingly endless steps up to the main Bajoran temple (also seen in so many a matte painting establishing shot on DS9) Rutherford apologizes for putting them in such a mess. He knew the program wasn’t ready yet but wanted to impress Tendi, whom it’s clear by now he likes.

The good vibes continue as Mariner and Boimler acknowledge they make a great team, restraining the mechanical monster Fletch made so they can transport it into space. When it grows even larger and harder to drag, they toss it out the nearest airlock instead.

The Cerritos shields eventually fall, but it takes forever, underscoring how unnecessary force is in this situation. The junk traders are ultimately a super-low threat, even to a not-state-of-the-air Starfleet vessel. But Freeman waits so long to finally order Shaxs to return fire, the weapons are offline too.

Luckily, the now space-bound tech-devouring monster soon attaches to the junk traders’ ship and disables it before it can lob any more junk at the Cerritos. In the aftermath of their accidental victory, Fletch begs Mariner and Boimler to cover for him—again—and they grudgingly do, following the adage Lower Deckers Stick Together.

When he notices Badgie laboring up the steps, Rutherford realizes his creation is not invincible, and changes the environment to a frozen waste. A brutal fight between Rutherford and Badgie ensues as Tendi escapes, but Badgie eventually freezes to death before he can kill his creator.

Shortly afterwards main power is restored, and with it holodeck safeties and control. Rutherford (harmed) and Tendi (unharmed) return to the holodeck grid to find a rebooted Badgie who is friendly again. But once they leave, Badgie admits he’s “always there”, which is creepy but also demonstrates that he’s attained a level of sentience not unlike Voyager’s doctor.

Due to Mariner and Boimler’s story about Fletcher intentionally creating the doohickey monster to disable the junkers’ ship, Fletcher is promoted to lieutenant and given a transfer to the Titan (the brand-new ship Riker commands after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis).

Titan transfer is something Boimler has always been working towards, but he’s oddly okay with it. Not only is this a factor of how hanging out with Mariner has softened his hard edges a bit, and that he doesn’t altogether dislike thatbut he also hopes it’s a learning experiment for Fletch.

Alas, it isn’t; he’s fired and demoted after just six days on the Titan (they clearly have a higher standard” and Mariner and Boimler are forced to fake interference to hang up on him. Like them, I won’t miss Fletch. He may have worn the uniform, but he wasn’t Starfleet.

Stray Observations:

  • There are some pretty relaxing YouTube videos of Star Trek engine sounds.
  • Something Boimler has in common with Picard? Both were once hassled by Nausicaans. They stabbed Picard in the heart, but just spat in Boimler’s face.
  • Frozen/in-stasis princess-like characters are a surprisingly common occurrence on the various Treks.
  • Probably everybody knows this, but flip phones (back when they were a thing) were inspired by the clamshell design of The Original Series communicators.
  • Rutherford runs down a litany of holodeck personalities with whom one can interact in the holodeck: Holmes, Freud, Einstein, Da Vinci, and Hawking all showed up at somepoint in Trekdom, while Picard and crew were sent to the world of Robin Hood by Q in “Qpid”, while Barclay played Cyrano de Bergerac in “The Nth Degree”.
  • I honestly don’t know what “Choo Choo Dance” is a referance to, if anything.
  • Jacket flaps were a bit thing in Star Treks II through VI. You undo that, and you’re either ready to rumble…or ready for a pot of black coffee.
  • “FUCK YOU!”: Best Viewscreen Sign-off line, or Bestest?
  • The captain’s yacht keychain sports a tiny, hopefully fake tribble.

No Guns Life – 22 – The Shackled Man

Kronen and Kunugi would have probably fought for some time to an eventual draw. As it stands, Kunugi is almost out of ammo, so he takes the opportunity to flee when the fight betwen Juuzou and Seven distracts Kronen.

That’s just as well; I’m here for the Gunhead Fight. Unfortunately for Juuzou, Seven and Pepper are rather effectively demonstrating the advantage of a gun having a shooter, as Juuzou is soon beaten down into a corner.

Juuzou recalls that his own Hands once gave him the choice of whether to carry out the mission to eliminate the other GSUs. Like Pepper, he chose to do his duty, in the absence of anything worth fighting or dying to protect.

In what may be the first evidence of nuance in Pepper’s character, she actually seems to lament the fact Juuzou won’t join her. She considers not wanting to die to be what makes people human, and can’t fathom why he insists on dying rather than joining her and living, even if it’s shameful.

Pepper decides to give Juuzou what he wants, but Seven is stopped in his tracks by Kronen, allowing Tetsuro to use Harmony on Juuzou. Tetsuro remembers Juuzou telling him never to use Harmony on him again, but he also told him later that his choices and his worth are his own to determine.

Tetsuro choses to save Juuzou, and the only way to do that is to become his Hands, at least for the time being. When he hacks into Juuzou’s sub-brain, he finds a pedestal containing Juuzou’s trigger, and Juuzou’s voice begins to guide him through his formative memories.

I say formative because even here Juuzou doesn’t remember anything about his past prior to becoming a soldier and GSU. He does, however remember the mission to destroy the other rogue GSUs. We get to meet Twelve, who has a big pot belly and drinks sake from a dainty bottle rather than smoking cigarettes (back then Juuzou simply administered the drugs with an inhaler).

Twelve tells Juuzou that he and his fellow gunheads are tired of war and simply want to live their remaining days in peace, and to have a bit of fun after so much toil. He seemingly convinces Juuzou, who gives Twelve an escape route. But Juuzou simply led them to a spot where he could take them all out from a clock tower—an appropriately noir-y venue for betrayal.

It was there, after he had blasted to smithereens the people who considered him a brother, and heard the mocking comments of his fully human handlers who call him a “lunatic extended” that a switch flips in Juuzou. All this time he’d been insulating himself from blame and regret because it wasn’t his hand on the trigger.

But Juuzou wasn’t—and isn’t—an inanimate gun. He’s a gun with a human soul and personality, capable of making his own choices then and now. He chose to let his Hands use him to eliminate his brothers rather than letting them go. When he realizes that no matter who pulled the trigger, the decision was his, he snaps.

This is the first step on the road to the remorseful Juuzou we know, a Resolver living every day trying to atone for the red in his ledger. He’s always felt both he, the people in his life, and the world are better off if he never had a Hands again. But it’s not just his choice anymore, it’s Tetsuro’s too.

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 09 – Old Tricks Are the Best Tricks

This episode begins encouragingly, with Haru and Daisuke in the same room together. Unfortunately, they’re soon separated again, as Daisuke refuses to return to the station and tosses his badge, telling Haru the case is a personal family matter he’ll be handling in his own way, i.e. ostensibly alone, but really with the help of Suzue and his bottomless purse.

Back at the station, the Second Division is on the job, even as the First Division now led by Hoshino takes Haru in for questioning. No doubt awakened by his old friends’ deaths, Kiyomizu shows his underlings that the dice Cho-san always had on him were in fact a nifty transmitter-receiver set, and Cho-san’s last act before being killed was planting the transmitter on Shigemaru. Natural Po-lice to the end.

After mostly goofing off for most of the show, it’s awesome to see the Second Division misfits pull off through pure pluck and resourcefulness what it costs Daisuke hundreds of millions of yen to achieve. Even deprived of official cars, under the pretense of “going out for lunch” they slip out one by one to the “kabob truck”, actually an old surveillance van with an antenna.

As the lanky Kamei contorts himself on the van’s roof to get the antenna into position, Saeki works her computer mojo to attain a clear enough signal to hear. It’s the boat-loving Yumoto who first recognizes a marine motor, and then they hear sweagulls and a huge steam whistle. That means in the 10km-range of the die, the Oura Wharf is the only place Shigemaru could be.

Haru isn’t able to participate in this awesomeness, but he tells Hoshino the whole truth and nothing but the truth, which Hoshino can’t really believe because he still resents Haru for washing out of the First Division. However, upon searching Takei’s desk, he find’s Haru’s letter of resignation from two years ago; after killing the bank robber’s accomplice he’d become unable to fire his weapon. Thanks to Takei, he remained a detective with the Second Division.

Daisuke’s much more expensive solo investigation bears fruit when Suzue finds Shigemaru’s car, but assumes it’s a trap…and it is. Upon entering the car to read a letter bearing his name Daisuke is hit by nerve gas; thankfully he was wearing a protective mask.

As Suzue tracks surveillance footage of Shigemaru, HEUSC starts painstakingly deleting all the camera data in the city. With their video trail suddenly dried up, Daisuke suggests they create their own surveillance network with the power of Balance: UNLIMITED.

As Haru and a newly convinced and contrite Hoshino head to the wharf, he gets a video message offering cash prizes to anyone who turns on their video camera and spins around in place. In addition to reminding be of the excellent Gatchaman:Crowds in clever hijacking of mass technology, it’s a wonderfully whimsical workaround.

But the fact is, it is almost totally unnecessary. Had Daisuke kept in touch with Haru and his police colleagues he would have learned the position of his father a little bit quicker and with none of the cost. Haru actually beats Daisuke aboard the huge cargo ship in the wharf where Shigemaru’s signal is located.

Hoshino is there to tell Daisuke Haru is aboard, much to Daisuke’s surprise. He also tells Daisuke about Haru’s past, and that while he’d “stopped being a hero” after the bank incident, thanks to Daisuke he seems to have gotten his spark back. Daisuke listens as he puts on a Black Panther-like nanotech suit Suzue calls an “Active Support Veil”, one of the highest-tech toys we’ve yet seen.

Plunging his apparently amphibious Bentley Continental into the sea, he catches up to the ship and stows aboard, using his suit as camouflage until he locates Frantz Weinski, bodyguard of an international arms dealer and apparent accomplice of his not-dead dad.

But while Daisuke gets the jump on Frantz, upon confronting his dad, who stares down at his son from the bridge, an “Allodium antenna” is activated that causes EMP-like burst, deactivating Daisuke’s suit and thus his tactical advantage. Frantz smashes his earring and Suzue loses all contact; I wonder if she’ll stay away or take a helicopter out to sea.

Before his phone is fried by the Allodium burst, Haru gets a text from Suzue asking him to look after Daisuke. Just like that, the two detectives are back together, having chased the same trail by very different means. I liken those differing means to two very different consecutive James Bond films.

In Die Another Day the spy tech reached its peak of goofiness with the cloaking device-equipped Aston Martin “Vanish” (a pun on the car’s real name, Vanquish). Casino Royale, on the other hand, was a return to basics, and Bond’s “toys” were similarly stripped down, until by Skyfall he had the same old DB5 with an ejector seat.

If Daisuke was Die Another Day Bond when he boarded the ship, now he’s just a well-dressed man with no tech at all. Haru is unable to immediately rescue him from Frantz because he still can’t fire his gun. But he’s there, and Shigemaru pointedly says his son is not to be killed. It’s a big ship, and if there’s a way to save his partner that doesn’t involve cloaking suits or revolvers, I’m confident Haru will find it.

Oregairu 3 – 10 – One Word Isn’t Enough

Prom Night is upon us, and everyone is markedly calm. Yui will be helping at the reception desk while Hikki will be up in the sound booth assisting Iroha. His conversation with Yukino is both natural and a little stiff at the same time; but still little more than cordial pleasantries.

In the booth, Iroha gets up quite close to Hikki after suggesting he, Yukino and Yui all simply join the student council so the four of them can continue helping each other help others. Hikki regards it as an enticing offer but is politely noncommittal.

As the prom unfolds, everything goes swimmingly, as expected from an organizing team at the top of their game. Hikki gets to share a dance with Yui as per her latest of many small wishes, but she assures him after this she’ll only have one more.

Up in the booth, Hikki chats with Yukino via headset, and from this greater physical distance they’re able to cleverly verbally spar like they always used to. She pretends to forget he’s up in the booth because she’s not used to looking up at him (rather than down on him). Yukino tells him she expects him to grant her wish—which is to grant Yui’s.

After the prom concludes, Yukino’s mom arrives with Haruno in tow to congratulate her daughter on a job well done. When Haruno mentions that Yukino is considering the position in the family company Haruno herself has been groomed to take, their mom can’t quite hide her pause before telling Yukino if she’s serious about it than she’ll support her.

Before Haruno leaves, she tells Yukino, Hikki and Yui that she won’t yield her position easily or nonchalantly, even if she doesn’t really care who’s ultimately in what position. She doesn’t believe the year Yukino has spent growing into a more complete person can compare to Haruno’s twenty years of grooming. Bottom line: she’s not satisfied with the outcome of the three as it stands.

That’s because Haruno has a keen nose for deception, being a skilled lifelong practitioner herself. After she leaves, Yukino declares this to be the time and place to end things. Ever the go-alonger to get-alonger, Yui concurs, though she’d also be fine with continuing. The two turn to Hikki for what they expect to be a consensus…and he wavers. He lets the fortuitous bell that is Iroha save him and leaves without answering, but Yukino follows him and grabs his sleeve.

She’s not there to get an answer out of him, but to thank him for his help tonight and throughout their time together. Whatever else she’s holding back, in this Yukino is completely earnest and genuine. She almost looks like she expects…something from Hikki in response (like a kiss, perhaps?) but Hikki only slowly, tenderly removes her grip, gives a curt goodbye and walks away. Yukino looks…dissatisfied.

He bumps into Haruno, who insists on him and the others properly satisfying her by giving her some kind of ending—one that isn’t coated in a thick layer of artifice and cordiality; something genuine for someone who believes there’s no such thing. She tells Hikki that Yukino’s wish was “an act of compensation” and not what she truly, genuinely desires.

And yet there were Yukino and Yui, ready to accept the “outrageous lie” that this is the best time and place and way to end things, when it is really none of those things. Haruno offers her advice as someone who feels like Hikki is going down the same road: don’t let it end that way…even if you can’t get “drunk”.

Thankfully, neither we nor Hikki are left only with Haruno’s skepticism and cynicism to chew on until next week. That’s because Shizuka offers to drive Hikki home, but only after a stop at the batting cages where she shows off her talent for dingers.

It’s the hopeful, optimistic Shizuka who tells Hikki what he really needs to hear from someone with authority: that he, Yukino, and Yui do not have a codependent relationship. They don’t have it because what they have, and how they feel, cannot be condensed down to that word, or any one word. From where she’s sitting, if there’s any end happening between them, it is only the end of a beginning.