Fan Collective Unimatrix 47: Star Trek Lower Decks “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus” Episode

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

Since TNG, writers have used the holodeck as its own MacGuffin, and the original “Crisis Point” followed in those footsteps. What “Crisis Point 2” has going for it in the third season’s eighth episode, however, is that it lampoons the worst of the Star Trek movies while still celebrating the reasons we come back to them over and over again. They are, after all, Starfleet movies and therefore worth doing.

Plot Ahoy!

On the holodeck, Boimler, Rutherford, Tendi, and Mariner are gearing up to play through Boimler’s addition to the Vindictaverse, but before the opening credits can roll, Ransom calls Boimler into his office. Boimler returns in a much quieter more pensive mood, but they continue with the film regardless. On the trail of the nefarious Romulan triplets, they arrive at a random desert setting where the local populace all seem to be proselytizing for different religions. Boimler’s attention gets called to one that worships the great Ki Ty Ha, who possesses all wisdom. Despite Mariner’s objections, Boimler seizes on Ki Ty Ha as a way to find meaning.

Meanwhile, Tendi and Rutherford actually follow Boimler’s plot. Boimler puts Tendi in command, and she just runs with it, taking her responsibility very seriously. Rutherford, however, does not and nips out for a sandwich and chips. Back in the desert, Mariner and Boimler argue loudly about Boimler’s decision to follow the Ki Ty Ha cult, Mariner arguing that the prophet was a random extra the holodeck added for flavor. Boimler believes the holodeck may actually be showing him something deeper, and their disagreement dissolves into a shouting match.

Mariner leaves the holodeck to go to her evaluation with Ransom, where she receives a glowing review. Ransom then asks how Boimler has been coping with the news that his clone aboard the Titan has passed away. Mariner, visibly shocked, admits that Boimler hadn’t said anything to her about the clone’s death. She returns to the holodeck, only for random acolytes to throw her in the brig. As it happens, Boimler is also in the brig because the zealots had mutinied. Knicknack, one of the extras, blows open the brig once Boimler and Mariner make up, and confesses his love for Boimler. They all head to the bridge, where Boimler knocks out the head zealot and discovers the way to fold the old man’s skin map to show the real directions to Ki Ty Ha.

Tendi and Rutherford could not be farther away, given that they are now hopping through time trying to stop the Romulans from destroying the Federation by blowing up the founding. Dr. T’Ana sacrifices herself to save Rutherford, who doesn’t seem to mind, and Tendi shouts at him, demanding to know why he isn’t taking this as seriously as she is. Eventually, Tendi admits that she wants to be a captain someday and worries that Rutherford won’t take her seriously, but Rutherford assures her that she’ll be a great captain that he’d be thrilled to follow. Tendi decides to use her magic watch to resolve the plot by going back in time to the beginning of the movie and swapping the plot macguffin for a bomb, which destroys the Romulans before they can cause mischief.

On the forbidden moon, Boimler and Mariner do find Ki Ty Ha, but the “god” is merely an inspirational quote generator, much to Boimler’s distress. He forces his way into the stone creature and finds the Kitty Hawk inside, which drives him into a rage because that reveal made no sense. He begins destroying the structure with his own hands before collapsing.

When Boimler awakens, he’s at Kirk’s farm, but Captain Sulu appears and tells him that he’d take the ranch off Kirk’s hands. Sulu points out that we can’t have sadness without joy and that searching for a meaning of life means he’ll miss those joys. Boimler wakes up on a biobed. Dr. T’Ana tells him he was clinically dead of dehydration, and Boimler finally finds some peace.

In an unknown sector, a Defiant-class ship decloaks, and an unidentified officer unlocks William Boimler’s coffin. They administer a hypospray, awakening him. Apparently, William Boimler has joined Section 31.

Analysis

“Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus” is nothing so much as a love story to all of the Trek films, good and bad that does not blink at their flaws. Most of the commentary comes from Mariner as she critiques Boimler’s writing. She discusses tropey concepts like third act reveals, romantic subplots, and even touches a bit on the relationship between franchises and fanfiction. While her criticism is entirely valid, make no mistake, at a given point, she reminds us that good or bad, it’s a Starfleet movie and therefore worth doing. As someone who engages in a re-watch of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier on a yearly basis, I have to admit that I entirely understand her point.

What really drives it home is that “Crisis Point 2” skillfully retreads plot beats and set pieces from The Final Frontier, acknowledging that film’s many, many, many flaws. The world on which Boimler hears about Ki Ty Ha resembles the Planet of Galactic Peace, and the Shatanari system sounds so much like Sha Ka Ree that I had to double check the spelling. However, Boimler’s journey is the really big thematic thread here.

In “The Final Frontier,” Sybok promises to take away pain and lead his followers to meet God, where they’ll find perfect peace, and given that his search takes place in a fundamentally atheistic franchise, he, of course, discovers that the god he’d hoped to meet is anything but. However, there’s a kernel of something interesting in the story that frequently gets overlooked due to the movie’s glaring issues of pacing, self-aggrandizement, often nonsensical plot, and questionable casting choices. Sybok recruits those who are lost, drowning in their pain. Every single person Sybok recruits is looking for an escape from that pain, which Sybok offers. The point that Kirk makes later—that he needs his pain—misses the mark. Really, the actual resolution of that issue comes from McCoy, a man whose entire life has been shaped by his grief over the choice he made for his father. Sybok does take away his pain, allowing McCoy to move past that grief, but nothing about that purging of grief changes McCoy’s fundamental self, which is why he’s able to refuse Sybok and choose to remain with Kirk and Spock.

Boimler wrestles with a need to find meaning; William’s death not only forces Boimler to recon with his own mortality but also with the capricious nature of the universe. Boimler himself wants to have significance, and in his emotional upheaval, he turns to a prophet on the holodeck for answers. Obviously, a computerized god can’t give him the information he seeks, and the episode uses a nonsensical reveal to highlight the absurdity of his quest. The experience does force him to confont his grief and resulting existential crisis, enough so that he’s open to the wisdom his mind places in Sulu’s mouth. The point the episode is making here is that the story on the holodeck gives Boimler a framework to process his emotional experience.

Boimler’s story does the exact same thing for Tendi. She steps into the role Boimler originally designed for himself, which is one of command. The seriousness with which she treats her role in the film comes across as strangely over-the-top, especially when juxtaposed with Rutherford’s lackadaisical approach to his own part to play. Tendi is so entirely serious about taking command of an illusory ship because through the story, she is living her own deepest desire. Rutherford forces her to put it into words, but it’s the story that provides her the space to acknowledge her ambition to become a captain someday.

“Crisis Point 2” reminds us as viewers that Trek is a story that even at its worst provides us with a narrative through which we can process our need for hope. Even during the most painful dialogue in The Final Frontier, the underlying message is that through cooperation and community, we can build something worthwhile, crafting our own meaning out of the universe around us. “Crisis Point 2” cleverly highlights that truth and provides just a bit of redemption for one of the worst films in the franchise, albeit in a very Lower Decks way.

Rating:

Four cups of Earl Grey Tea and a saucer

The Egg Hunt

  1. I mentioned that “Crisis Point 2” is a love letter to the films, and the way the writers and animators weave elements from the films into the episode is just fantastic. There are so many Easter Eggs in this episode that I’m just going to focus mostly on the ones relating to the films in this list in order to keep the length down. You’re welcome.
  2. The research station and sexy scientist clearly reference Dr. Carol Marcus and the Genesis Project from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
  3. The Wright Flyer recalls discovering the Voyager probe at the heart of V’ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
  4. Kirk’s ranch is lifted directly from Star Trek: Generations as is Boimler’s reference to the Nexus.
  5. The punks come to us from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as do some of the references to time travel.
  6. Knicknack blows open the brig the same way Scotty did in The Final Frontier.
  7. Mariner references a concurrent timeline, which recalls the Abrams Trek films.
  8. William Boimler’s “resurrection” calls back not only to Wrath of Khan with the torpedo coffin but also to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in which Spock also comes back to life.
  9. Sulu’s promotion to Captain occurs sometime before Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and Mariner’s reference to the “Kirk thing” could be a reference to Kirk fighting the alien while on Rura Penthe.
  10. Boimler losing a “brother” refers to Star Trek: First Contact in which Starfleet notifies Picard that his brother and nephew have died.
  11. The Warbird owned by the Melponar triplets (a reference to the Duras Sisters) comes to us from Star Trek: Nemesis.
  12. I’m pretty sure that the skin map on Illustor is a reference to the skin stretching the Son’a have done in Star Trek: Insurrection because it’s too weird to be accidental.
  13. The Founding of the Federation comes to us directly from Star Trek: Enterprise’s finale, but the less said about that episode, the better.
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