HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
While I do not wish to imply that all of the sins present in Lower Decks have been forgiven, “No Small Parts” does a lot to make me look forward to next season, which CBS has already greenlit. The episode flies by, but it still manages to provide a satisfying ending to the first season while teasing greater things to come. I am here for it.
Before getting into the meat of “No Small Parts,” I should mention that next week marks the premier of Star Trek: Discovery’s third season. Watch for those posts beginning hopefully next week, though I do not yet know if Discovery will air before Thursday’s blog goes live considering the air time for previous seasons. If it doesn’t, I will do a TNG filler post before picking up Discovery the following Thursday.
On planet Beta III, Captain Freeman and Commander Ransom scold the inhabitants for taking back up their belief in Landru, and they return to the ship only to discover that Ensigns Mariner and Boimler remain on the planet’s surface where they distribute art supplies to the local children to keep them occupied and uninterested in Red Hour. Mariner, thrilled that Boimler breaks protocol wonders if her teaching has had any effect, and Boimler tells her that he knows she’s Freeman’s daughter. Unfortunately, the entire bridge crew hears the exchange through Boimler’s communicator, and the information runs rampant throughout the ship. As a result, every member of the crew tries to curry favor with Mariner, which Mariner detests.
Boimler asks her to sign his recommendation for a promotion onto the U.S.S. Saratoga, and Mariner concludes that she should apply for the promotion instead because she would simply be another face on board rather than the captain’s daughter. She neatens up her uniform and resolves to be the best regulation ensign on board. They go to Ransom to apply in person, and he shoos them out, claiming he has to think more on the issue.
Ensigns Tendi and Rutherford report for their assignment as the welcome squad for the new crewmembers coming aboard the Cerritos. Rutherford struggles with the personality settings on his implant while Tendi welcomes an Exocomp to the crew. Ensign Peanut Hamper, as the Exocomp wishes to be known, struggles to perform manual tasks as she lacks hands, and Tendi worries that she will struggle in Sick Bay with Dr. T’Ana. Peanut Hamper proves her worries unfounded when not only does she successfully perform laser-suturing but also discusses a new skin grafting technique she has been developing (of note, Leonard McCoy developed a neural grafting technique that gets referenced in “Lifesigns”) Tendi is thrilled to see Peanut Hamper flourish.
On the bridge, Freeman decides to respond to a distress signal from Captain Dayton’s new ship, the U.S.S. Solvang broadcast from the Kalla System. Though viewers already know the ship has been destroyed, Freeman gleefully anticipates Dayton’s discomfiture at being rescued because someone leaned on the wrong button, but what they find there is the wreckage of the Solvang in the process of being assimilated by a ship of unknown origin. The ship hails the Cerritos, revealing the crew to be Pakleds who are determined to add pieces of the “Enterprise” to their own ship to make them STRONG. Freeman tries to convince them that the Cerritos is not the Enterprise, but the Pakleds simply do not care and deploy grappling devices.
Those devices attach themselves to one of the nacelles, so Freeman orders the engines shut off, despite Shaxs vociferously protesting this decision. The Pakleds rip the nacelle from the Cerritos, and they tow the rest of the ship into a docking bay, where they proceed to “carve up the Cerritos like a First Contact Day salmon.” Mariner and Boimler rush to the Bridge, where they find the captain injured. Freeman orders Mariner to come up with a risky solultion, and Mariner complies. Ascertaining from Boimler that the code used aboard the Pakled ship is likely made of duct tape and belief, she directs Rutherford to craft a virus that will shut down the enemy vessel. Rutherford heads to the holodeck to order Badgey (shades of Moriarty’s recurrence?) to craft the virus. Badgey asks that the holodeck safety protocols be deactivated, and Rutherford, nervously, complies. Badgey offers him the virus, and Rutherford rushes off to take it to the captain.
Back on the Bridge, the Pakleds have begun beaming boarding parties aboard, so the Starfleet officers rush out only to find more Pakleds in the corridors. Shaxs suggests finding the armory, but there are too many Pakleds. Mariner rushes to open several hidden panels in the walls and ceiling, dropping various hand-to-hand weapons onto the floor. She grabs a bat’leth and tosses her angry mother a mace. Boimler grabs a saber, and they proceed to battle the invading Pakleds. After being struck by an invader, Freeman collapses, so Mariner orders Shaxs to grab her mother. They proceeds to Sick Bay, leaving Ransom to cover their rear. Rutherford arrives and informs the assembled officers that someone will have to be aboard the Pakled ship to upload the virus. They ask Peanut Hamper to do it, even invoking Spock’s “Needs of the Many” logic from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, but Peanut Hamper refuses.
After finally finding the “normal” emotional setting on his implant, Rutherford takes the virus and uploads it to his own implant. Tendi protests, but Shaxs grabs him and hauls him off to the shuttle bay. They fly the Sequoia to the Pakled ship, and Shaxs protects Rutherford while Rutherford performs the upload. Badgey, however, stops the upload just as it reaches completion, and he refuses to finish the upload until Rutherford dies. Rutherford insists they don’t have time for that nonsense, so Badgey sets the ship to explode. Rutherford yells to Shaxs that Badgey intends to destroy the ship, so Shaxs grabs Rutherford, rips away his implant, and throws him aboard the shuttle. He shoves the shuttle through the hole in the Pakled ship, and he calls Rutherford “Little Bear” just as the Pakled ship explodes.
The crew of the Cerritos cheers, but more Pakled ships appear to menace the crippled ship, but Captain Riker’s U.S.S. Titan swoops in to destroy the other Pakled vessels. Mariner greets the victorious Riker as an old friend from the captain’s chair.
We briefly see the funeral held for Shaxs, and afterward, while Freeman closes the box containing his earring, she admits to Mariner that he will be hard to replace. She then offers to work more closely with Mariner because she understands and mostly agrees with Mariner’s actions and opinions. However, she must work within regulations as captain, but Freeman acknowledges that she can offer protection to Mariner when Mariner wants to do what is right.
The scene flashes to space dock where Starfleet completes repairs on the Cerritos. Freeman asks that there be no cosmetic upgrades (unlike the upgrades to the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Rutherford wakes up in a medical bay with Tendi sitting beside him. Unfortunately, he remembers none of the events from the previous ten episodes because the removal of his implant damaged his long-term memory. Tendi cheers because they get to become best friends all over again.
In a bar, Ransom tries to get Troi to introduce him to some of her fellow Betazoid officers, and Riker good-naturedly teases Freeman about her daughter before roping Mariner into a drink. Before heading to the bar, Riker tosses Boimler a PADD containing his transfer to the U.S.S. Titan as a lieutentant. Boimler accepts, and we see him taking his place aboard Riker’s ship and stepping into a Mariner-eque role. He informs his new crewmates that there’s a great bar on Tulgana IV, omitting that Mariner led him to that bar during the events of “Envoys.” We hear an angry message from Mariner playing on his console. Despite having called her his best friend while fighting the Pakleds back to back, he dismisses her when his new crewmates ask him who the person leaving him so many messages is.
“No Small Parts” is what happens when Lower Decks gets everything right, and the result is a great episode not only of Lower Decks but of Trek in general. The writers scatter references to each previous episode throughout the length of “No Small Parts,” creating a feel that Lower Decks exists in a greater universe. Those threads tie Lower Decks to its own canon in a way that we have not seen in previous episodes. To do so in the season finale escapes being to little too late because “No Small Parts” also provides closure to the bigger season arcs at the same time. Mariner reconciles with her mother, and they both find a way for Mariner to remain herself while also remaining in Starfleet. In so doing, Freeman provides the validation Mariner has so desperately craved from the very first episode.
Boimler finally gets the recognition for his efforts in the form of a promotion to a position he had coveted but ceded to Fletcher to get him off the ship in “Terminal Provocations.” More importantly, Boimler seems to come into his own. His pride at putting on the Titan uniform is palpable, and he gets to be the experienced officer this time, rather than the mess of a Lower Decker he had been on the Cerritos.
The best part of “No Small Parts” is that the closure to these two arcs does nothing to prevent future story development along these lines for these two characters. No one should expect that Freeman and Mariner will experience anything other than a rocky road on their path to greater cooperation. Without a doubt, there will be future conflicts, but what “No Small Parts” hopefully guarantees us for this duo is that there will be a way out of them that won’t result in future estrangement. Even with Boimler aboard the Titan, I doubt Mariner will let him go so easily, and I wonder if Boimler will learn that “having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting.”
My only real quibble with the episode is that the Tendi/Rutherford dynamic gets short shrift. Admittedly, that has been true throughout the entire season, but for major characters, merely hitting a reset button for them is a disappointment. Even Shaxs gets a great send-off that feels true to his character and was surprisingly poignant. Hopefully, next season will develop Tendi and Rutherford further and build on Rutherford’s innate heroism and Tendi’s blinding goodness of spirit.
Goodbye, Shaxs. When you see him, tell Captain Sisko that we miss him.
Stray Thoughts and Reference Round Up
- Landru and Beta III refer to when Star Trek did the Purge before purging was cool. Freeman’s threat to “paradox the computer to death” sums up just how Kirk defeated the Landru AI.
- Freeman’s offhand reference to “Gamesters of Triskelion” calls back to the TOS episode of the same name.
- TOS frequently shows up in fandom and is short for “The Original Series,” not “those old scientists.” Nice nod at fandom, though, Ransom. Eagle-eyed viewers will also note that Ransom’s PADD flickers with an image of Kirk and Spock as they appeared in TAS, the only other animated Star Trek series.
- Captain Freeman Day probably mirrors Captain Picard Day, which we saw in the TNG episode “The Pegasus.”
- The exocomp comes to us from ”The Quality of Life,” a really great episode from TNG’s sixth season.
- Wolf-359 actually was an inside job, sort of.
- The Pakleds are supposed to be a joke, but they do hang out in the Kalla System.
- Shaxs gives Mariner a bat’leth, which should be recognizable as the traditional Klingon weapon. I’m also fairly certain I saw a Gin’tak spear fall out of one of her hidey-holes as well as a bottle of Blood Wine. Boimler’s use of what appears to be fencing saber likely refers to Jean-Luc Picard’s sport of choice as seen in “I, Borg,” “We’ll Always Have Paris,” and “Lessons.” Of note, Hikaru Sulu uses a foil during “The Naked Time.” Alternate Reality Sulu comments in Star Trek 2009 that his combat training is in fencing, but well, that wasn’t fencing.
- Other things that she admits to having squirreled away on the Cerritos include Romulan Ale and a Tribble. As a side note, Riker and Troi apparently served Romulan Ale at their wedding, which could be the reference behind Troi’s “we’ll talk about this” comment. I link the source to that below, and I refuse to link that film twice.
- Shaxs sacrifices himself in nearly the same way that Data sacrificed himself in the TNG movie We Do Not Discuss, an ending so traumatic that we had to have an entire series to make up for it. However, security chief Tasha Yar also perishes in the first season of TNG, and Mariner threatens to feed Boimler to “Armus,” the being responsible for Yar’s death. The funeral recalls both Spock’s from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and Airiam’s from Star Trek: Discovery but not Yar’s.
- The Prophets are the Bajoran gods, despite being aliens who live in the neighboring wormhole.
- Wesley Crusher did actually serve aboard the Enterprise with his mother.
- William Riker and Deanna Troi are familiar characters from TNG, as is Riker’s love for jazz. Riker also admits to having been playing a holodeck program about the “first Enterprise, which brings up the Star Trek: Enterprise series finale which takes place entirely as a program Riker runs during an earlier TNG episode. The line “a long road getting from there to here” is lifted directly from the lyrics to “Faith of the Heart,” the rather infamous opening theme from that series. The crew of the Titan also wears First Contact-era uniforms.
- The Horga’hn, as I have referenced previously, is a fertility statue from Risa, and there was a Saurian on board the Titan. I’ve also mentioned “cha’Dich” before, but it’s a Klingon term for a stand-in for personal combat.
- The offhand comment that the Federation doesn’t use money refers to Star Trek: The Voyage Home when Kirk leaves Gillian Taylor the check.