Fan Collective Unimatrix 47: Star Trek Lower Decks “Room for Growth” 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

So, I watched the third season’s fourth episode titled “Room for Growth,” and I’m honestly not certain what it was that I watched. The general bones of all good Lower Decks episodes were there, but they didn’t quite gel for me. While I did revel in Tendi’s pure joy in exploring the Cerritos, I’m not entirely sure what else I took away from this episode.

Plot Ahoy!

Mariner, Boimler, Tendi, and Rutherford bemoan their lack of personal space as Captain Freeman floats by, possessed by the spirit of Minooki, who plans on using the Cerritos to recreate her temple. While the bridge crew manages to return the captain to her non-possessed self, Engineering gets stuck clearing the ship of aqueducts and vines in the aftermath. Understandably, they’re all exhausted, and Dr. T’Ana prepares a report specifically regarding Andy Billups’s stress levels. Captain Freeman orders them all, including herself, to the Dove a relaxation facility contracted by Starfleet to help in cases just such as this.

However, the Engineers, being Engineers, do not relax well. They draw schematics in the sand garden. They fix doors on the Dove, and they sneak build time in during massages. This failure to enjoy the spa triggers Freeman’s own latent stress-levels, causing her stress monitor to change to black. The attendants immediately try and treat her with puppies and bunnies, but nothing works. Then, the engineers dismantle a turbolift to create a machine that will eliminate Freeman’s stress levels. The machine works so beautifully that the Dove’s head of treatment has it jettisoned from the ship.

Back aboard the Cerritos, Mariner, Tendi, and Boimler have discovered that the evil officers from Delta shift plan to sabotage the upcoming lottery for the quarters coming available. Determined to thwart their enemies and secure the quarters for themselves, they go on an expedition through the ship’s underbelly, discovering a hallucinogenic swamp, the inside of the Deflector Dish, and more Jeffries Tubes than one small ship should ever need. They catch up with the Delta shift crew, and they have an intense bonding moment over Ransom’s Churro wife. However, when the opportunity presents itself, the Delta shift folks throw themselves into the computer area to secure their room.

Mariner, Tendi, and Boimler proceed to convince themselves that they don’t actually want to be separated from each other, and they opt to let the Delta Shift folks have the single room that was available. Later, Rutherford grumbles at them for not thinking about pushing additional beds into the quarters and then wants them to get on the invite list for the Delta Shift’s room party.

Analysis

I honestly think that this is my least favorite episode of the season thus far, not because the episode is necessarily bad for any given definition but rather because it’s one of those episodes that just sort of happens. We don’t learn much new about our stalwart crew friends other than that we now know Ransom has a simulacrum of a partner made out of churros, which is a thing that’s going to haunt my nightmares. The Dove storyline goes pretty much exactly where you think it will, and the room plot just fizzles with a Simpsons-esque return to the status quo. I did like that we get more time with Captain Freeman and that Rutherford gets the chance to emote in a new way, but none of that really elevates “Room for Growth” to a level beyond “meh.”

A case can be made that “Room for Growth” is a great look at Starfleet as a dysfunctional workplace, which makes a certain amount of sense. I don’t quite understand why such an officer-heavy organization designs ships with the barracks-like quarter design that we see in the show. From a resource standpoint, it doesn’t make sense. We know that the Federation is meant to be a post-scarcity utopia, so why would ship designers with virtually no restrictions on the resources available to them try to save space by scrimping on crew quarters? That just doesn’t seem to follow.

Don’t get me wrong, “Room for Growth” also emphasizes the importance of the crew’s mental health, acknowledging that there has to be some reaction to one’s workplace dramas involving getting possessed by masks or literally petrified. Captain Freeman makes it pretty clear that she values all of her Engineering staff, which is good leadership. However, failing to recognize what your crew actually needs is not, so that’s a wash for Freeman. Getting to see the relationship dynamic between Shaxs and T’Ana was also a net gain in that Shaxs gets to turn the trope on its head and be the one to demand emotional availability from his partner. Even more significantly, she gives it to him, albeit in a way that respects her boundaries and needs. That’s great relationship etiquette, and I love seeing it play out in Lower Decks. I would have loved it even more had it been better contextualized.

However, ultimately, none of that really saved the episode for me. Granted, I was never a fan of “The Office” or “Parks and Rec,” and generally, I don’t find office comedies appealing. While I really love that Lower Decks tries to address the incredible weirdness of working for Starfleet, the comparative disjointedness of this episode rubbed me the wrong way.

Rating:

Two cups of Earl Grey Tea and a saucer

The Egg Hunt

  1. Freeman’s mask is clearly a reference to “Masks.”
  2. The sequence involving Mariner and Tendi stripping down to their skivvies made me think of the infamous Carol Marcus scene in Into Darkness, which is not a good thing.
  3. The head of treatment aboard the Dove is an Edosian, the same species Arex is in The Animated Series.
  4. I don’t have to explain the reference to Geordi LaForge.
  5. The Bonny and Clyde program reminded me of Picard’s Dixon Hill adventures.
  6. There’s a dead Doopler.
  7. Boimler finds the “sweet spot.”
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