Fan Collective Unimatrix 47: Star Trek Lower Decks “Trusted Sources” 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

Have you ever found yourself feeling as though you’re a square peg in a round hole? Have you ever felt that no matter what you do, you’ll never quite fit into the group or role you’ve been assigned? “Trusted Sources” is the dramatized version of that feeling for Mariner in the third season’s ninth episode. There are no surprises in this episode, well, aside from the Breen, but the episode is no less difficult to watch for it. The episode also teaches a valuable lesson about assumptions, which Captain Freeman learns at a great cost.

Plot Ahoy!

Admiral Buenamigo confirms to Carol Freeman that her Project Swing By has been approved, and she’s understandably excited, given that the Cerritos will be checking in with planets Starfleet has not contacted in some time. Buenamigo informs that there will be a reporter, Victoria Nuze, and Freeman immediately starts plotting on ways to put her best foot forward as a captain. Her first and most important priority is to be certain that Ensign Beckett Mariner comes nowhere near the reporter. As a result, Freeman changes duty rosters and cancels the crew’s pie-eating contest, much to our Lower Deckers’ collective distress.

Mariner decides that Freeman’s portrayal of the Cerritos is a lie, so she manages to get into see the reporter for an interview, despite Freeman and the Bridge crew keeping her off the approved list. Freeman gets wind that the reporter doesn’t believe that she runs a tight ship and immediately blames Mariner. Mariner protests, but Freeman informs her that she’s been transferred to Starbase 80. Mariner goes to Jennifer who refuses to listen. Boimler tries to tell her to apologize for whatever her mother thinks she did, but she demurs. She boards the shuttle to Starbase 80.

In terms of Project Swing By, Starfleet sends the Cerritos to Ornara, a planet that hadn’t received a visit in 17 years. They beam down and discover a fully functional, peaceful society, just as Picard had hoped they would become all those years ago. This mission a bust, Freeman concludes that they’ll go to Brekka, the sister planet and source of the Ornarans’ original drug addiction. On Brekka, they find no one until Ransom stumbles upon a girl. However, an energy beam hits her and vaporizes her. They discover that the Breen have taken Brekka. The Breen engage in combat, and the Cerritos attempts to fight back, but the Breen quickly overpower the ship.

Just as the Breen go to board the Cerritos, a new ship drops out of warp and does away with the Breen. Buenamigo hails the ship and explains that a new, fully automated Texas-class ship saved them. He proceeds to give the reporter an interview.

Later, when the FNN runs the Cerritos coverage, it turns out that all the negative information about the Cerritos came from the officers Freeman approved as interviewees. Mariner was the only officer to speak well of the Cerritos and its crew. Freeman scrambles to try and contact her daughter only to find that Mariner has resigned her commission. Unbeknownst to Freeman, Mariner has joined up with Petra Aberdeen.

Analysis

The episode’s title, “Trusted Sources,” is clearly intended to be sarcastic as Freeman clearly misplaced her trust. The individuals Freeman believed to be reputable sources instead painted a picture of the Cerritos as a petty, dysfunctional workplace and Freeman as an incompetent yet harsh taskmaster, and honestly, they aren’t entirely wrong. Freeman accuses Mariner—without any evidence that Mariner is indeed the reporter’s source—of sharing stories without context, so there’s a certain karmic balance when it turns out that Freeman is the one who jumped to conclusions, without asking Mariner for additional context. Her failure to investigate proves the reporter’s point; a truly competent captain would have asked Mariner for her side of the story, especially in light of Mariner’s efforts to become a better officer.

However, Mariner is far from blameless here. She very carefully crafted an image of herself as being the iconoclast and troublemaker for years. The people who have known and worked with her over the last three years have earned a bit of skepticism, but they should have at least heard Mariner’s side of the story. Not even Jennifer, her girlfriend, does that. It’s certainly obvious that their betrayal drives Mariner into business with Petra.

All of that is, of course, the low-hanging fruit. What’s very Lower Decks about this episode is that it plays with the very real class hierarchy that exists in Starfleet. In every other franchise installment, the bridge crew and senior officers would be giving those interviews. They would be the beating heart of the ship, at least so far as the opening credits are concerned. Freeman’s assumptions fall right in line with this stereotype, but in “Trusted Sources,” that’s just not true. Mariner, a disreputable ensign from the lower decks, is the only character who loves the ship and her crew enough to convey that affection to the reporter.

Freeman’s assumption gives us a view into Starfleet culture that is perhaps not as favorable as those we’ve seen in the past. She clearly buys into the hierarchy, being the head of it herself, and that acceptance creates a framework in her mind that she considers factual. Lower Decks chooses to reject that approach, and Freeman rightly pays the price for her lack of curiosity.

To be fair, Mariner probably will enjoy her stint with Petra more than she did Starfleet. She has had a somewhat fraught relationship with the organizational structure and demands. It’ll be interesting to see how she does, going and “liberating” relics with Petra as we round into the season finale.

Rating:

Four cups of Earl Grey Tea

The Egg Hunt

  1. The Ornarans come to us from “Symbiosis,” which was another episode playing with the concept of assumptions. It was also Merritt Butrick’s last appearance on Star Trek. He had previously played David Marcus in Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: the Search for Spock.
  2. Landru comes to us from “Return of the Archons.”
  3. Mariner actually references “Frame of Mind,” which played with perception.
  4. She also mentions a devil taking control of a planet, which is from “Devil’s Due.” That episode also involved proving that something that seemed true wasn’t.
  5. The “Temporal Cold War Shenanigans” references an early plot arc in Star Trek: Enterprise.
  6. Mee Ma might just recall Moogie.
  7. “Trusted Sources” may have won the prize for most effective use of references.
  8. I have to admit, I’d like to know how they managed to get the Texas class ship to save the Cerritos JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME. Hmmm.
  9. Victoria Nuze’s name is a bit on the nose, but not as much as Buenamigo’s is, though.
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