Strange Energies: When Someone Asks If Ransom Is a God, Ransom Says…

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.


“Strange Energies” builds upon the strengths established in season one to great effect. The episode showcases all of the things that make Lower Decks work as a series: Mariner’s strange competence, Tendi’s unique world view, and the crew’s acceptance of the weirdness that comes with a career in Starfleet. However, the changed relationship between Mariner and Freeman and their resulting frustration with that change form one of the major plot pillars. The episode would land better if we actually saw more of that. Here, it feels rushed, but despite that relatively minor criticism, “Strange Energies” successfully strikes the balance between calling back to a previous season and promising new things for the coming season that makes for a great season premiere.

Plot Ahoy

The show opens with Mariner escaping from a Cardassian detention center while bemoaning her frustration with how accommodating her mother has become. However, a summons from Captain Freeman interrupts the simulation and leg day. They are concluding second contact with the Apergosians, and Freeman assigns Mariner to accompany Ransom on the latest Away Team. Mariner requests permission to do some power washing of local buildings, and Freeman grants her request.

On the planet, Ransom negotiates with the Apergosian High Leader to pick a subspace code, which does not go well considering that the Apergosian wants a number with “gravitas.” He orders Mariner to bring him new PADDs with numbers, but Mariner wanders off to begin washing the building. She reveals not only beautiful murals but also a mysterious device that activates upon coming in contact with light. It prepares to fire, and Ransom rushes to save Mariner only to be struck himself. Dr. T’Ana beams down and observes that he has been struck with “strange energies,” which is apparently the technical term, and Ransom develops god-like powers. He proceeds to begin converting Apergosia into his own, very gym-centric paradise. Mariner and T’Ana attempt unsuccessfully to contain him, and even a beam-out fails.

Ransom separates his head from his body and sends it to confront the U.S.S. Cerritos. Freeman discovers that phaser fire only makes him stronger, so she resorts to flattery to subdue him, a task which becomes all the more important after a call from her husband dangles a potential promotion to a bigger ship in front of her. Her attempt to resolve the situation peacefully fails, however, when Ransom decides to usurp her position as captain. Just as Freeman prepares to escalate the conflict, Ransom’s head begins to fall back to the planet, where Mariner happens to be kicking Ransom’s body in its “neutral zone.” The physical assault brings Ransom under control, and judicious application of a large rock on Ransom ends the flare-ups that occur.

While all of this is ongoing, Tendi worries that Rutherford is experiencing SMD, a potentially lethal degradation of synaptic pathways to which cyborgs are prone. Her worry stems from Rutherford’s new interest in eating pears and his decision to date Ensign Barnes. She attempts to cure him by administering random shocks to realign his neurons, and when that fails, she resorts to firing some sort of glowing goo at him. Rutherford flees for his life and resorts to using security forcefields to stop Tendi from potentially injuring him via invasive medical procedures. She confesses that she worries that she’s losing his friendship, and Rutherford reassures her that she isn’t.

Mariner returns to the ship where she and Freeman conclude that while working together on some missions will work for them, the amount of closeness they’ve experienced to this point has not. Freeman calls security to escort Mariner to the brig for insubordination, where Tendi and Rutherford visit her. They all wonder how Boimler is doing aboard the Titan. As it happens, Boimler is on the bridge of the Titan fighting Pakled battle harpies. The episode ends with Riker declaring how much he loves his job as they pilot the Titan into an anomaly while Boimler screams in horror.


To get the most low-hanging fruit out of the way, “Strange Energies” is meant to be a parody of “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which is a pretty fantastic nod to Trek history. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was originally intended to be the pilot for TOS as we know it. During T’Ana’s explanation of strange energies as a technical term, you see a clear image of Gary Mitchell, and while normally, “Lower Decks” has been content to leave such images seen but not explained, T’Ana actually does discuss Mitchell’s fate in TOS because in this case, the callback to TOS is actually part of the joke. T’Ana and Mariner ultimately subdue Ransom by dumping a large rock on him, which is exactly what Kirk did to Mitchell.

Within that parody framework, “Strange Energies” captures the unique dynamic between Mariner and her mother, highlighting not only the tension between them but also the genuine affection. Freeman orders Mariner not to attack Ransom, despite Mariner’s ruthless calls for her to use photon torpedoes against her deified First Officer. Mariner being Mariner, she ignores her mother’s orders and unleashes the fury of her pretty fantastic front kick, and of course, Mariner turns out to be entirely correct and saves the day. We know from the episode’s open that Mariner has been uncomfortable with the wide latitude she’s been afforded by her mother because Mariner herself confesses as much to her holographic Cardassian torturer. We gather that Freeman feels the same way from her voice-over log entry, so allowing Mariner to defy her mother’s order lets both characters achieve a new equilibrium without losing the progress they’ve both made with respect to their relationship. Using the altered Ransom to force them to confront their issues is a pretty inspired choice considering that neither Freeman nor Mariner could or would confess their feelings to the other.

The Tendi/Rutherford B plot mostly serves as additional comic relief. It’s frankly hilarious to watch Tendi gleefully fire goo at Rutherford “for his own good,” and more importantly, it’s perfectly in sync with Tendi’s genuinely well-meaning awkwardness. Rutherford’s easy forgiveness is equally in character and exemplifies why the Tendi/Rutherford dynamic has been such a success for the series. They’re just adorable. While I can guess that the writer’s room has plans to bring them together, I confess I really like that they have a friendship dynamic more so than a romantic one. Plus, Rutherford gets a really great line when he observes that while his brain may not be melting out of his nose this week, who knows what’ll happen in the future. Tendi and Rutherford both acknowledge that not only is Starfleet home to the truly weird but also that they are part of that weirdness and happy to be there.

Ending the episode with Boimler is an equally nice touch. Boimler’s absence haunts “Strange Energies,” from his presence in Mariner’s holodeck simulation to the use of his bed as additional storage. His Cerritos friends muse that his life aboard the Titan must be somehow better and more of what he wanted, which is clearly the set-up for the joke at the end. You can see it coming from a mile away, but the revelation of Boimler’s suffering is no less satisfying for the anticipation.

All in all, season two is off to a good start, and I’m looking forward to next week.


Four Cups of Earl Grey Tea and a Saucer

The Egg Hunt

  1. The best part of Lower Decks happens to be Easter Egg hunting, and “Strange Energies” offers some great ones. Holo-Boimler mentions that the Cardassians keep showing him lights, which is a call back to “Chain of Command.”
  2. ”Prepare the ship for grabbing” calls back to “Who Mourns for Adonais,” in which a green hand actually does grab the Enterprise. Also, there are so many giant floating heads in Trek, from the God of Sha Ka Ree to the Cytherian from the “Nth Degree.”
  3. ”Strange Energies” also references two of Roddenberry’s Rules for Trek: that there be no interpersonal conflicts on star ships and that there be no religion.
  4. We already know that Mariner uses the holodeck to process her emotions from last season. I like that she uses it to work out in this season.
  5. Riker orders the Titan into an anomaly, which screams the end of “All Good Things, part II” to me.
  6. Second Contact is a great call back to the first episode of last season.
  7. The High Leader of the Apergosians is voiced by Randall Park, who by this point is an Easter Egg in himself.
  8. Jennifer the Andorian is back! Her doing Yoga to work out would not meet with Shran’s approval.
  9. Rutherford’s confusion involving LSD is a call back to Star Trek IV, when Kirk observes that Spock must have done a little too much LDS.
  10. Ransom on the Mount might reference an infamous video.
  11. As always, there are a ton of ship and object Easter Eggs in both the hanger in the Cardassian detention center and on Boimler’s bunk.
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