Star Trek: Lower Decks – 08 – Out of the Space Loop

Hoo boy, this was one extra-stuffed, extra-caffeinated episode of Lower Decks! We begin by being thrown into an unknown situation with the core quartet: a sinister dungeon, then an alien trial on K’Tuevon Prime in which they are apparently being forced to testify against the senior staff.

One by one, they must speak into a Horn of Truth about the events of a specific stardate, starting with Mariner, who regales the court of a day when she and Boimler are late for bridge duty and have no idea what’s going on, only that the aliens they’re dealing with consider gratitude an insult.

Unsatisfied with her testimony, the aliens suspend Mariner over a vat of eels. Rutherford is next, and one would think his cybernetically-enhanced memory would be perfect, that is not the case as on that particular stardate his implants were undergoing constant system updates that caused multiple blackouts.

Everytime he comes to, it’s in a totally different situation. One minute he’s in a Cerritos corridor, then on a stolan Vulcan warp shuttle, then a kind of starship museum, then in outer space clinging to the hull of a cloaked Romulan Bird-of-Prey, and finally at a Gorn wedding.

Needless to say, Rutherford gets suspended over the eels along with Mariner, and it’s up to Tendi to tell her story. She was the assigned cleaner of the conference room when Ransom and a team of handpicked commandoes are briefed on a top secret mission. Ransom wrongly assumes Tendi is a cleaner cleaner, as in part of their covert operation.

The op unfolds as follows: they use the stolen Bird-of Prey acquired by Rutherford & Co. to slip past Warbird patrols, transport down to Romulus, and retrieve a secret “package”. Tendi shows off some Trek Fu on some Romulan guards, and the team manages to get out without detection.

Having failed to get what he wants, the alien consigns Tendi to the vat and all three are dumped in. That’s when Boimler saves them by telling the court that they are Lower Decks, the senior officers almost never fill them in on what’s going on, so they truthfully don’t have the info he wants.

Boimler goes even further to state that oftentimes even the senior staff doesn’t know what’s going on, such as whenever Q(!) shows up. But that’s okay, part of Starfleet’s mission of exploration is facing the unknown and…muddling through.

But it turns out this isn’t an alien trial at all…but a party, held by Magistrate Klar to honor the senior staff for rescuing him from Romulan captivity. As is the case with all Lower Decks episodes, it’s a subversion of the old Trek trope. Back on the Cerritos, Freeman promises to do a better job of briefing the Lower Decks, but as Mariner aptly puts it, “knowing things means more work”, so it’s probably better to keep things need-to-know!

So yeah, there was a lot going on this week—almost too much for 24 minutes—but it was still a hell of a fun ride, and the trial/party conceit held together all the loosely connected vignettes well enough.

Stray Observations:

  • The design of the “party silo” is heavily influenced by the Klingon courtroom in Star Trek VI.
  • There’s a mention of Roga Danar, a supersoldier from the TNG episode “The Hunted.”
  • Mariner warns Boimler if they wash out of Starfleet they’ll end up on Earth where all there is to do is drink wine (at Chateau Picard) and eat soul food (at Sisko’s dad’s New Orleans bistro).
  • Boimler suggests a Crazy Ivan, which is really more of a Submarine thing.
  • Shaxs warns about a Denobulan parasite that infects the peen from the same planet as Dr. Phlox on Star Trek Enterprise.
  • Tons of Trek ship references this week. The Vulcan museum contains Starfleet shuttles from both TOS and TNG, the Vulcan ship from First Contact, the timeship Aeon from the 29th century, a Klingon battlecruiser, a yellow Work Bee, a Ferengi shuttle, and a Jem’hadar attack ship.
  • The shuttle they use to airdrop into the museum is a Vulcan Warp Shuttle of the exact kind that transported Spock to the Enterprise in The Motion Picture.
  • Rutherford is asked to distract the guards with the “fan dance”, last performed on screen by Uhura on Nimbus III in Star Trek V. He really should be nude when he’s doing it.
  • The eels in the vat sound just like the Ceti Eels Khan uses to control minds in The Wrath of Khan.
  • Dr. Crusher’s ghost lamp pertains to the very bad TNG episode “Sub Rosa”.
  • Q shows up! Voiced by the inimitable John de Lancie. Love how he adds a little more floridness to his animated Q.
  • Klar is voiced by another Trek guest star, Kurtwood Smith. Known primarily for That 70s Show, he was the Federation President in Star Trek VI and Annorax in “Year of Hell”, my personal favorite Voyager two-parter. If he was going to yell “DUMBASS!” in a Trek episode, this would have been it. Alas…
  • When the guy tells Klar he only paid for the party silo for 22 minutes, exactly 22 minutes of time had passed in the episode.

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 11 (Fin)

What’s worth saving, today or tomorrow? I think I’d have to go with Yoga and say tomorrow. The case for Mikuni’s way got weaker and weaker, as his numerous uses of Midas’ rotary press essentially bankrupted Japan. It was finally Yoga’s turn to stand up to him and fight to get Japan’s future back. The first half is almost non-stop action, as their duel reaches fever pitch. The combat system of [C] was always a bit dorky, but never boring, and this week was no exception. More than anything, it was basically what the whole series has been: ambitious, creative,  intriguing, and weird.

That said, there was a breakthrough, as Yoga saw Mikuni’s most powerful asset, Q, for who she was; Mikuni’s sister Takako. Q is a crazed demon-like fighter, but while fighting Mashyu, who all but became human thanks to Yoga, snapped her out of it. Yoga defeats Mikuni, and the latter ends up in a 2001-style time warping sequence in Takako’s hospital room. Basically, she wants him to stop fighting. She wants the future to unfold as it should, not be stuck in the present.

If all this sounds abstract, it is, but it was still cool. And the animation, while a bit choppy and far from perfect, was at least really bright and vivid. When Yoga reverses the rotary press, the financial district becomes all sparkly and pretty, like there are christmas lights everywhere. It is here where Mikuni says goodbye to Takako, and Yoga bids farewell to Mashyu, who now well and truly loves him. Their passionate kiss seems a bit strange after Yoga earlier saw her as a daughter-like figure, but whatevs.

When he returns to the real world, things look pretty good – the Sky Tree is back, and the city is clean and cared-for, people are prosperous. The teacher’s family appears to be back. Hanabi also seems back to normal, but doesn’t seem to know him anymore. In an interesting twist, Japan is now using dollars, the yen having literally vanished into nothingness (a nice tie-in with the opening sequence). But the financial district isn’t gone, and neither is Mazakaki, or his godlike boss, who makes a cryptic appearence here. Still, I don’t see Yoga going back to Midas anytime soon. He could never get back everything he lost. He’s learned the cost of playing around with the future. Rating: 4

P.S.: About a year ago this month, I snapped a picture of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Nihombashi. Coincidence? Well, yes, actually.

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 10

We’ve known for a while now that Kimimaro Yoga would eventually have to dael with Mikuni mano-a-mano, and this episode set up that climactic battle, which will have to wait until the final episode. This week, the question was answered: How can Mikuni be stopped? Mr. Goldteeth (Taketazaki) and Satou counsel Yoga on the need to acquire the “darkness card” from Mikuni; without it, he cannot start the rotary presses that make Midas Money, which saps the future from Japan.

Yoga doesn’t like Mikuni’s scortched earth strategy, nor his vow to die with his asset Q, if necessary. Yoga doesn’t want Mashyu to die; he even keeps her out of half of his deal with Kutsui. He’s acting more and more like her father, because, well, she is his daughter; his future by any other name. He eventually relents, letting Mashyu fight, and Kutsui is wasted. However, Satou underestimates Mikuni’s power and goes bankrupt, leaving Yoga alone, but bequeathing her cuddly asset Georges to him.

I’m not exactly sure, but something, possibly that, led to Yoga’s card turning black, giving him the power to reverse the presses. Of course, Mikuni has to be neutralized in order to prevent the endless cycle of starting and stopping the press. Meanwhile, Taketazaki is causing hyperinflation and crashing the yen, Mikuni’s power base, making me believe the victor of the coming final deal may have to rely on more than Midas Money to prevail. And then there’s Masakaki, pointing upward at where he gets his orders. Will whoever they are come into play before the end? I’m rearin’ to know. Rating: 4



P.S.: 
Shinjuku LOVE Sign Cameo FTW! I’ve been there…

P.P.S.: I’d be ridiculously remiss if I didn’t mention how totally and completely the soundtrack rocked this week. Epic, cinematic stuff befitting what’s on the line.

 

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 7

This episode of [C] is reflective. First, we get the story of Mikuni’s past, which to a large degree explains his present methods and motives. His father taught him that when enough money is bound together, it ceases to be money, and becomes power. The lust for this power led his father to abandon a chance to save his own daughter’s life, and he forcably prevented Mikuni from taking action. Before breathing her last, Mikuni’s sister Takako told him to treasure things like “tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year”, because they’re all things she’ll never see.

After her death, he closed himself off, and got a visit from the Midas dude just a bit too late to save his sister. This got him off on the wrong foot with the financial district, and after fighting deals and learning the system, he began to believe Midas was directionless, merely mocking and playing with people’s destinies at will. It was chaos, and with the guild, he sought to bring order. He may have learned a lot from his father, but his father’s success, in effect, cost him his daughter’s life. Mikuni will be damned if he’s going to allow such a thing to happen again. And is it just me, or does Takako vaguely resemble his asset Q?

The second half is all about Mashyu’s adjustment to having Yoga as an entre, their relationship becoming close and oddly human (despite the fact she isn’t human), and realizing why people like Mikuni and Satou want him to lend them his strength. He’s seemingly the only one she sees in the financial district who is so completely unsure about everything, and yet, when he does act, it’s always significant in one way or another. He hesitates because he won’t act unless his heart is sure of it. A nice parallel to this is waving off Mashyu kissing him, because she needs to “like him 30 times more” to be able to kiss him.

While only four episodes now remain in [C], I’m glad the series took the time to paint two rich character narratives this week. Both Mikuni and Mashyu will be far more interesting to watch, judging from the new things we know about them, and we also learned about how Yoga fits into their respective pictures. It’s also a bit chilling when Yoga notices that the Shinjuku skyline is missing skyscrapers: when people lose their future in the district, more than people and power disappears. That just punctuated just how unnervingly, insidious and dangerous Midas can be. Rating: 4

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 2

This week Yoga is acquainted with his “asset” (Mashu, a cybernymph, of sorts) and has to fight in his first “deal” (duel) with another fellow player of the game. Losing means going bankrupt, which isn’t pleasant, either in the financial or real world. Fortunately, Mashu is an extraordinarily strong asset, and with her guidance he’s able to win. Also fortunately, while she’s scantily clad, she’s not a squeaky-voiced goofball, but actually quite surly, and fanservice is kept to a minimum.

Winning means a payoff. A considerable one, as when he returns to the real world (the whole ordeal was like a dream), he finds more than 33 million yen in his bank account and starts spending a little freer. His friend Hanabi notices his unfrugal-for-him behavior. He’s also able to talk with Mashu just by talking to the funky card he’s been given. He also suddenly sees banknotes that look normal to everyone else as strange, sinister, black notes from the Midas Bank.

One of his potential rivals, Mikuni, is the only other person his asset Q can recall winning his first deal. She also points out that it was while he was trying to save her, just as Yoga was treating Mashu like a human. But while Mikuni’s gained ambition and rises to challenges, Yoga still wants a normal life with normal pay, and no more. It’s pretty clear that aiming that low could get him hurt in the financial world. While not nearly in as dire a situation as Deadman Wonderland’s Ganta, Yoga nevertheless has stepped into something much bigger than himself, and must adjust to survive. Rating: 4