Fan Collective Unimatrix 47: Star Trek Lower Decks “Grounded” 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.


We’re back with our friends from the Cerritos for the first episode of season three of the animated series Lower Decks titled “Grounded.” It’s apparently the Star Trek III: the Search for Spock season, judging by the opener. That said, “Grounded” certainly puts a lower-decker spin on the concept. Lower Decks is very, very good at reminding us that not every Starfleet officer is a hero, and that they don’t have to be.

Plot Ahoy!

As Captain Freeman stands trial for the destruction of “Big Strong City” and the Pakled planet, Beckett remains grounded on Earth, slowly going out of her mind with boredom. Her father attempts to remind her to trust in the system, but Mariner simply can’t let it go. She storms out of her father’s home, smashing things along the way, and goes to hunt down Boimler, who happens to be working diligently on his family’s ancestral raisin vineyard. Boimler, like Beckett, dislikes being planetside intensely enough that when Beckett comes to demand his help in proving her mom’s innocence, he readily agrees.

They discuss that Freeman couldn’t have been the one to bomb the planet, despite the very Star Wars footage of her being extra sneaky on the Pakled Planet, because they were at a very different planet. Boimler explains that the ship’s logs would work to prove Freeman’s innocence, but unfortunately those logs were lost. Boimler explains that he records copies of all the ship’s logs, and Beckett exults that his re-recordings should be enough to liberate her mother.

Unfortunately, they need access to the Cerritos, which lies in a military impound only accessible by a designated transporter. Mariner and Boimler meet up with Rutherford and Tendi at Sisko’s and conspire to go visit the transporter in question. They find Denny in charge there, and while he can’t transport them to the Cerritos due to the Verugament migration, he can send them to Bozeman, Montana where they liberate a replica of the Phoenix from First Contact.

They get to the Cerritos, and Mariner tries to trick her friends into leaving her on the ship to go hunt down Klingons. However, Boimler thwarts her, and they all end up on the ship together. They proceed to get underway, but Starfleet Security stops them. Mariner has a small meltdown, but Tendi realizes that they’re right in the path of the migration. The Verugament use the Cerritos as a breeding ground, and Tendi tries to use that as a ruse.

Security eventually believes that they’re all aboard to study the Verugament, but they need the name of the authorizing officer. Tendi waffles just long enough for Freeman to waltz in and grant them the necessary authorization. Apparently, Starfleet was cognizant that Freeman wasn’t behind the bombing and was conducting an investigation into the events. They discovered that the Pakleds had bombed their own planet, so Freeman was freed.

Freeman orders Tendi, Boimler, and Rutherford to clean the mating Verugament off the ship and orders Mariner to come with her. She acknowledges both that Mariner has a great deal of promise, but that she can’t be the authority figure Mariner needs. She appoints Ransom to be Mariner’s final evaluating officer. Tendi, Boimler, and Rutherford are all ecstatic to be back aboard a newly re-captained Cerritos.


Way back in season one, Lower Decks establishes that Chief O’Brien is the most important person in Starfleet history, and that wasn’t entirely done as a gag. O’Brien represents the solid support system, the regular guy without whom the officers could not go on all of their adventures. O’Brien’s efforts often went unrecognized and under-appreciated, but he kept Deep Space Nine up and running often with minimal resources. Thus, it makes sense that Lower Decks would view him as being more important than a Kirk or Picard.

“Grounded” doubles down on this idea that not everyone needs to be the flashy hero. For all of Mariner’s plotting and her attempts at casting herself in the role of a Kirk or Janeway, she isn’t either. She ultimately leads her friends into trouble that without Freeman’s (her mother) tolerance could have serious ramifications for their careers. Sure, Star Trek has a history of officers stealing a ship to rescue a comrade, Genesis Planet, I’m looking at you. However, in that case, they’d already exhausted Starfleet, so they had to go rogue. Mariner doesn’t even come close to relying on the system; she immediately jumps the gun and goes off on a hare-brained adventure.

In that sense, “Grounded” turns a certain trope on its head. I can’t even count the number of movies I’ve seen in which the “little guy” stands up to the crushing system. In “Grounded,” we’re given a functioning system. Starfleet is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. The system’s effectiveness renders Mariner’s would-be heroism entirely moot, and the show once again reminds us that Mariner’s inability to cope with her emotional life renders her the source of her own problems.

It’s a good message, but I confess there’s a certain discomfort I have with how the show glibly skips over Mariner’s trauma. Mariner watched her mother be led away in handcuffs and is terrified that Starfleet will imprison her. That’s a narrative that many Black Americans live every day, and they don’t have the benefit of trusting a system to protect them. An argument can be made that by portraying a system that works to protect Freeman, Lower Decks highlights on the more broken systems in our real lives. However, if that was the goal, I’m not convinced that comes across in the episode.

The episode ends with the status quo being reinstated, with the exception of placing Ransom in direct control of Mariner’s fate, and I look forward to seeing how that will change their dynamic throughout the rest of the season.


Four cups of Earl Grey Tea

The Egg Hunt

  1. As previously mentioned, so much of the framing of this story recalls the events in Star Trek III.You’ll note that the season poster mirrors the movie poster.
  2. Boimler’s vineyard looks an awful lot like Chateau Picard in Picard.
  3. Y’all, ALL of the Bozeman, MT sequence is an Easter Egg, and I loved seeing it turned into a theme park.
  4. Gavin talks about a “Trek among the stars.” Star trek, anyone?
  5. Sisko’s is a direct call back to Deep Space Nine.
  6. The FNN calls back to Deep Space Nine, Picard, Children of Mars, etc. They also reference the infamous Jellico in the broadcast.
  7. Ketracel White-Hot sauce. It’s apparently a thing.
  8. Zakdorns and Sonny Clemonds get a few references.
  9. Morgan Bateson recalls “Cause and Effect.”
  10. Oh, Boimler, those ladies were working so hard for your attention, and you’re just clueless.
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