First First Contact: First Cliffhanger

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

First First Contact” marks the end of season two, and watching it, I found myself a touch confused until the last five minutes of the episode. Considering that the Pakled threat has been such an important part of season 2, I kept asking myself where the Pakleds were. Certainly, the show kept me intrigued, but I thought ending the season with a regular episode to be an odd choice. This episode kept me guessing, I must admit, but I did appreciate the bait and switch at the end.

Plot Ahoy!

The Cerritos has been assigned to provide support to the Archimedes for their First Contact mission with the Lapperians. Captain Gomez asks Captain Freeman to hold the Cerritos outside the system in order to avoid frightening the Lapeerians. Gomez offers Freeman congratulations, and as they walk out of the briefing room, Gomez tells Freeman that she’ll be unable to take her senior staff with her to the new ship. Having been solidly up to no good, Beckett Mariner happens to overhear this last exchange and rushes to tell the senior staff what she heard.

Meanwhile, our other intrepid Lower Deckers work together in a random repair bay. Boimler is in a tizzy about decorations for Captain Freeman Day, and Rutherford’s implant begins throwing warning images that obscure his vision. Tend comes in to worry at Rutherford that Dr. T’Ana might be angry with her because T’Ana has asked Tendi for a meeting. Rutherford assures Tendi that while T’Ana’s default state is grumpy, he’s sure she isn’t angry with Tendi. Mariner rushes in and tells everyone about her mother’s promotion, but her cohort doesn’t seem to worry about it as much as she does. She then decides to tell the senior staff and runs out of the repair bay to find the bridge crew. She finds most of them sitting around the same table in the mess, and she accosts Ransom. Despite some initial reluctance, he agrees to let her speak.

Tendi goes to Sick Bay where she hears T’Ana remarking that Tendi isn’t cut out for Sickbay and watches as she deletes her from the roster. Tendi panics and runs back to Rutherford, who takes her on a goodbye tour of the Cerritos, despite his worsening vision. Meanwhile, the senior staff display their collective anger with Freeman who drags them all together to discuss it. She admits that she’s been offered the promotion.

While the Cerritos crew works through their respective issues, the Lapeerian sun gives off an unexpected flare that destroys a nearby planetoid, sending debris and a plasma wave ricocheting throughout the system. The plasma wave strikes the Archimedes and wipes out her systems, leaving the ship adrift. Unfortunately, the now derelict starship drifts into Lapeeria’s gravity well, and the Archimedes begins to plummet toward the planet’s surface.

Aghast, Freeman asks her crew for options. They cannot take the Cerritos directly through the debris field because contact with the radiolytic isotopes in the debris field will render the Cerritos similarly adrift. Freeman gets no other answers and storms off to the Captain’s Yacht, where Tendi and Rutherford happen to be hiding. Mariner follows and refuses to allow her mother to pilot the yacht, and the two fight. Rutherford, meanwhile, pulls up the information on the debris field and develops a plan. Just as Freeman tells Mariner that she needs to drop her own defenses, Rutherford rushes into the cockpit to tell them that dropping the ship’s defenses will allow them to reach the Archimedes. Freeman confirms the viability of this plan with Billups, and they proceed to strip the magnetic hull plating from the Cerritos.

Rutherford’s implant continues to hamper his efforts, and Billups asks him what the issue is. Apparently, Rutherford has saved his memories with Tendi in triplicate to avoid losing them as he did at the end of season one. Billups reminds him that if he’s unable to make new memories, none of that will matter. Rutherford agrees and starts the memory purge. During the purge, he discovers a fragment of a memory that he should not have.

With time running out, a single hull plate remains, but it cannot be removed from the outside. Rutherford, Tendi, Boimler, and Mariner duck into Cetacean Ops as the control panel for the remaining panel rests at the bottom of the water. The Lower Deckers convince Mariner to go reconcile with her mother and send Boimler down to release the panel as neither Matt nor Kimolu, two Beluga whale lieutenants, cannot manipulate the panel due to their lack of opposable thumbs. Boimler reaches the panel and releases it, only to discover that his EV Suit is taking on water. He turns to head back to the surface and makes decent time before he runs out of air.

On the bridge, Ransom steers the Cerritos through the debris having opened the bridge to space in order to see. An enormous chunk of rock appears, and he can’t avoid it in time. The rock strikes the Cerritos and flings Mariner out into space. Mariner despairs until Jennifer Sh’reyan catches her. Back in Cetacean Ops, Tendi and Rutherford worry that Boimler has been underwater too long but are relieved when Matt and Kimolu deliver his unconscious body to them. Tendi discovers Boimler to be in cardiac arrest and springs into action to save him, which she successfully manages. Later, Tendi will have to speak to T’Ana about her fitness to remain aboard the Cerritos, and T’Ana explain that she wants to recommend Tendi for senior science officer training.

Ransom guides the Cerritos out of the debris field just in time for the tractor beam to grab the Archimedes before it strikes the planet’s surface. A grateful Captain Gomez offers Freeman the chance to engage in First Contact for the first time, and once back on the ship, Freeman decides that she will turn down the promotion. A Starfleet vessel approaches and hails the Cerritos to tell them that a party from Starfleet Command wishes to speak with Captain Freeman. Freeman has them join her at the ship’s victory party, thinking they’ve come to offer her the promotion. However, the officers declare themselves members of Starfleet Security and arrest Freeman for conspiring with Klingon extremists to destroy the Pakled planet, using a Varuvian Bomb. The crew prepares to rally around their captain, but she orders them to stand down and allows the security officers to take her into custody. They escort her off the ship, and the episode ends with a very familiar “To be continued…” title screen.

Analysis

I want to stress that overall, I found this to be a satisfying episode, but my criticism of Mariner remains. Even now, she’s pretty terrible. Rather than celebrating her mother’s promotion, she attempts to sabotage it. Yes, that’s typical of her abandonment issues, but we’re ten episodes into the season now. Has she learned nothing? The show does have her reconcile with Jennifer, a character with whom she has had an entirely antagonistic relationship. I even appreciate that Mariner has to confess that she has treated Jennifer horribly because she secretly liked her and has bad emotional coping skills. However, this moment feels both rushed and given the repetition in Mariner’s season-long arc, potentially temporary. Mariner doesn’t manage to save the day, and yet, her issues give rise to Rutherford’s ingenious solution. It’s a nice piece of writing that would be more meaningful if we hadn’t seen similar themes in most of this season’s episodes. With respect to Mariner’s prickly vulnerability, less really would have been more.

I love that T’Ana offers Tendi the recognition that we’ve known she deserves all along. Tendi’s willingness to believe that T’Ana will fire her is entirely in character for Tendi. The show’s treatment of Tendi tends to fluctuate, but I’m glad we finally get some resolution on that. Her friendship with Rutherford has been one of the show’s real gems, and discovering that Rutherford’s memory issues are because he worries so terribly about losing his memory of her is such a great moment for him. That decision says so much about what he feels for her, and it ties in nicely with his earlier concerns about the model Cerritos from “An Embarrassment of Dooplers”.

Captain Freeman finally gets that promotion for which she’s been angling since the season began, and I like that she realizes she doesn’t really want it. Her adventures aboard the Cerritos have not only proven that she’s a good, if unorthodox, captain but also that she doesn’t really want to move ahead with the Starfleet crowd that refused her entry to the party due to her ship’s class. The show has made a running gag out of the insignificance of the California-class Cerritos, but at the same time, that gag pokes fun at Starfleet’s own classism as well. Freeman’s decision to turn down the promotion serves as a rejection of that attitude as much as it is about her found family.

Finally, the episode does a pretty solid bait and switch. I spent most of this episode wondering where on earth the Pakleds had gone. Surely, the events in the previous episode were not enough to end the season’s Big Bad, but that’s what the show wanted me to think until that last sequence. Credit where it’s due, that was an excellent example of how to hide the ball in terms of plot twists. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Freeman gets out of this mess in season three.

Rating:

Four cups of Earl Grey Tea and cup/saucer combo waiting to be filled.

The Egg Hunt

  1. Jennifer’s last name, Sh’reyan, sounds awfully similar to Shran, one of the great Enterprise characters.
  2. I may have mentioned that Cetacean Ops actually existed aboard the Enterprise-D as a nod to Star Trek IV. I love that we get beluga whale crew-members.
  3. Captain Freeman Day comes to us directly from Captain Picard Day.
  4. Having the Cerritos remove hull plating reflects Mariner learning to take down her own defenses. Yes, show, we get the metaphor.
  5. Rutherford’s memory cap reminds me of Airiam’s.
  6. The collision warning in Mariner’s HUD reminded me of Discovery’s opening episodes.
  7. I feel very much like the “to be continued” bit is a nod to how TNG tended to end its seasons.
  8. Of course Mariner has Romulan Ale. Of course, she does.
  9. I love that we get to see another side of Ransom in this episode. He’s competent, despite his other flaws. It’s nice.

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