RECAP: STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS S2E10 — “First First Contact”
In the season finale of the second season of Star Trek: Lower Decks, “First First Contact,” written by series creator Mike McMahan and directed by Jason Zurek, it’s Captain Freeman Day! What could possibly go wrong?
— Star Trek on Paramount+ (@StarTrekOnPPlus) October 10, 2021
If you want to catch up with The Beat’s previous Lower Decks recaps, you can do so here.
S2E10 — “First First Contact”
We open on a Starbase, and Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) recording her Captain’s Log for Stardate 58130.6, recounting that the Cerritos has rendezvoused with the U.S.S. Archimedes (NCC-83002), an Excelsior-class starship that’s captained by her friend, Sonya Gomez (Lycia Naff), so that the California-class Cerritos can assist in first contact with the Laaperians.
In a briefing from Admiral Freeman (Phil LaMarr), it is explained that the Laap system has several Class J planets, the Class M planet (where first contact will take place), and an unstable planetoid just off the system’s ecliptic. The Cerritos will remain outside the system as a precautionary measure. Captain Gomez acknowledges that Cali-class ships “aren’t afraid to get their nacelles dirty,” but they want to avoid having the Laaperians worry that the two pair of ships equates to an invasion force.
But before Captain Freeman can leave the Admiral’s office, he holds up a pair of champagne flutes and says he’s heard congratulations are in order…
In the hallway outside, Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) is moving a crate of Romulan Ale (possibly obtained from Captain William T. Riker) when she collides with Ensign Jennifer (Lauren Lapkus), the Andorian with whom Mariner has had personal conflict all season long.
Mariner tells Jen that she knows Jen doesn’t like her, but Jen goes full Mad Men and tells Mariner that she doesn’t think about her at all. Mariner’s skeptical, and mention’s Jen’s butt.
But that’s when Mariner overhears Freeman and Gomez talking: Gomez tells Freeman to enjoy her final mission on the Cerritos… and to drive the point home, it’s confirmed that with Cali-class vessels, command likes to maintain a sense of consistency… so her command crew will be left behind.
Freeman is leaving the Cerritos? Say it ain’t so! Mariner is just as upset as we are as we head into the opening credits.
My Good Friend, Captain Sonya Gomez
After the credits, we open on the Cerritos beneath the Archimedes, and then cut to the Lower Deckers storage bay. Ensign Bradward Boimler (Jack Quaid) is hard at work on a banner for Captain Freeman Day (for more on these Captain-themed celebrations, see The Next Generation season seven episode fifth, “The Pegasus”).
Meanwhile, Ensign Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) is interrupted by an ALERT pop-up on his implant, informing him that an isolinear override surge has been detected. Rutherford asks Boimler to take his shift in Cetacean Ops so he can get it fixed, but Boimler says he’s too busy making the decorations for Captain Freeman day, which is only a week away (and he denies is a holiday for toddlers).
Then Mariner arrives and shares the news that Freeman is being promoted. Boimler says she should be happy for her mom, lamenting the fact that he never gets to dive into the unknown. Ensign D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) gets excited about the potential for a fancy dinner (possibly fajitas), and then Boimler notes that when the Captain leaves the ship for the final time, she receives a round of applause from the entire crew.
Boimler realizes that Freeman’s promotion might interfere with Captian Freeman day and wonders if Commander Jack Ransom (Jerry O’Connell) might be willing to move it up. But mentioning Ransom gives Mariner an idea: inform Freeman’s command crew of the promotion and let them throw a monkey wrench into the Captain’s plans!
After Mariner and Boimler have run off, Tendi gets a notification informing her to report to Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman), and she hopes she isn’t being reprimanded (Tendi admits it’s hard to focus on Sick Bay). Rutherford says that he hopes that his ALERT pop-ups don’t interfere with his work, but because his vision’s blocked by the notification, he doesn’t realize Tendi’s already left.
Mariner finds Ransom, Lt. Shax (Fred Tatasciore), and Head Engineer Andy Billups (Paul Scheer) sharing a table together in the Cerritos cafeteria. After trading a few barbs, Mariner shares the news…
Soon, the Archimedes and the Cerritos are disengaging from their airlocks and heading out of the Starbase into open space – it’s very majestic. Captain Gomez sends a message saying she’ll see them in the Laap system before the Archimedes goes to warp.
We have a cool new ship in this week’s Lower Deck’s finale: the USS Archimedes, an Obena class ship. Inspired by the Excelsior class (which is still in service) but larger with some other changes. #starfleetstuff pic.twitter.com/h0c6DTJW21
— Mike McMahan (@MikeMcMahanTM) October 12, 2021
Freeman orders the Cerritos to warp, but she finds herself facing friction from her command crew. Shax, Billups, and Ransom are not pleased. She asks her senior staff to join her in her ready room.
Meanwhile, Tendi is about to speak with Dr. T’Ana when she overhears the doctor saying Tendi isn’t fit for Sick Bay. Panicking, Tendi leaves instead of speaking with T’Ana (who does seem to catch a whiff of her, anyway).
In the ready room, the news that Freeman may be getting a promotion is brought into the open. Each of the senior crewmembers is visibly upset, with Billups in particularly unable to contain his emotions. When Freeman admits that it’s more likely to be an all-new captain rather than an internal promotion, the group breaks down into chaos.
Down in the Lower Decker bunks, Tendi tells Rutherford that she’s discovered she’s being transferred off the Cerritos. Rutherford checks the Ensign roster and confirms the news. The pair decides to take one last opportunity for Tendi to take in the ship. However, due to Rutherford’s obstructed vision, they head off hand-in-hand, with Tendi leading the way.
In the Laap System, the Archimedes comes out of warp. In a brief exchange, we see that Gomez isn’t just kind gracious to her peers (like Captain Freeman), she’s also kind to those serving beneath her.
On the Cerritos, Rutherford and Tendi are enjoying their tour of the Cali-class vessel. They visit Maintenance Hatch 88 and the warp core, all the while avoiding T’Ana (who is hot on their scent).
They’re down in the Jefferies tube where they watched the Trivoli Pulsar back in season one, episode two (“Envoys”) when Rutherford admits that he is attached to the ship: he loves the Cerritos, and Tendi agrees (same here, Ensigns).
Rutherford says they should go somewhere off-limits (but not the rubber ducky room)…
The Smaller the Ship, the Tougher the Crew
When the Cerritos drops out of warp in the Laap System, the senior crew is still arguing the ready room. Freeman turns the senior crew out before reprimanding Mariner for telling them without her permission. Mariner says it’s messed up to keep the information from them, but Freeman says it was to avoid conflict – and says Mariner has a lot to learn.
But their argument is interrupted by a Red Alert! The Laaperian sun emitted an unexpected flare, which then hits the unstable planetoid. The planetoid explodes and the debris collides with the Archimedes, which suffers cataclysmic system failure and is sent tumbling!
Onboard the Archimedes, Captain Gomez learns that the magnetized debris has disabled their systems… and they’re heading towards the inhabited planet. Fortunately, Gomez has an infectious sense of calm.
Meanwhile, on the Cerritos, they analyze the situation and determine that the Archimedes is trapped in a gravity well, and heading towards the Class M planet where they’re supposed to be making first contact, with twenty hours until impact.
Freeman suggests using the tractor beam, but Billups notes that the Cerritos can’t travel into the field of magnetized debris, as even a pomegranate-sized piece of debris could knock out the ship’s systems if it hits their shields. The deflector can’t be used because any energy field will draw the debris to the ship… and they definitely can’t warp past the debris.
Freeman says they just need to break the rules… but even Mariner’s coming up empty-handed.
Freeman and Mariner head to the Captain’s Yacht, and although Freeman notes that she has the hydro-scoot record at the Academy (see also: season one episode nine, “Crisis Point”), Mariner says she’s not up for navigating the debris field.
Rutherford and Tendi are both hidden elsewhere in the yacht, and wondering if the Captain and her daughter always come here to fight.
Freeman tells Mariner that she can’t just bully her way into whatever she wants, and Mariner says it’s because she’s a “Kirk.” But Freeman says Kirk was confident, and Mariner only starts fights – she has to make some allies.
But that makes Rutherford realize that the key to allowing the Cerritos to navigate the debris field is to lower defenses (just like Mariner needs to). By lowering the shields and removing the outer hull panels, they can make it through without shorting out their systems… and they only have 11 hours to do it in.
Freeman calls on all officers the Cerritos – no matter what their usual duties – to work together in order to rescue the Archimedes and stop the cataclysmic event on Laap.
In the next scene, we see many Cerritos crewmembers on the outside of the ship, using suits and magnet boots to go from one outer hull panel to another and release it (which has a very similar vibe to the scenes in First Contact in which several Enterprise crewmembers had to confront the Borg in the vacuum of space).
Rutherford is still facing problems from the vision-obstructing ALERT pop-ups. Billups notices he’s having issues. Billups analyzes the situation and figures out that Rutherford is out of memory, and Rutherford and discusses the problem with him… which is when we learn that, after losing his memories of Tendi last year, Rutherford is saving extra back-up memories to safeguard against forgetting anything else about his Orion crewmate. But Billups tells him that it doesn’t matter how many memories Rutherford saves: if he can’t make new ones, it isn’t worth it.
Elsewhere, we see Shax moving the volatile material deeper into the ship (to prevent it from exploding) while Ransom and Lt. Jr. Grade Kayshon (Carl Tart) remove the ship’s viewscreen.
Meanwhile, the Archimedes is still tumbling towards the planet as Captain Gomez and a member of her crew attempt to power-up one of their shuttles (the Adonis). They’ve only got seven hours left, and Gomez will give it her all until then.
However, the Cerritos hull plating has been mostly removed. Freeman and Mariner are arguing, with Mariner pushing back against Freeman for micromanaging her. Meanwhile, Billups is working on the final hull plate when he realizes it’s been fused, and must be released from the inside (good thing he didn’t get laid, so he’s around to help during this crisis).
But if they’re going to make it, they have to leave now. Freeman declares that the panel will just have to come off on the fly as Ransom uses his helmet display to calculate the route the Cerritos will take through the debris.
It’s All About the Notes You DON’T Hit
The Cerritos enters the debris field, with Ransom at the helm.
Elsewhere on the ship, Rutherford can no longer walk without running into a wall… so he purges the redundant memory files (which is very similar to a process undergone by Ariam in Discovery season two episode nine, “Project Daedalus”).
After a series of backpup Tendi memories is purged, he sees a pair of shadowy figures stating that they’ve implanted a memory that will make Rutherford believe the procedure was elective…
What the…?! Is Rutherford an unwitting spy, and if so, for whom? Well, that will have to wait until next season, because we’re kind of in the middle of something right now!
Our four Lower Deckers meet up and head into a place we’ve been waiting to see since it was first mentioned on TNG: Cetacean Ops! They meet up with two whale ensigns, Ensign Matt and Ensign Kimolu.
The two whale ensigns want Rutherford to go swimming with them, but there’s no time for that, either. Rutherford explains that someone will have to swim down and release the hull plate from the inside. Mariner suits up while complaining about her mom, but Boimler says the Captain needs their support.
Mariner keeps pushing back, which eventually leads Tendi to declare that the lower deckers are Mariner’s family, and as such, she needs to trust them… Mariner needs to lower her defenses and let others in, and trust Boimler to handle the action stuff.
Bradward suits up and dives into the water. He makes small talk with Matt and Kimolu as they carry him downward.
Meanwhile, Ransom is navigating the Cerritos through the debris field. Mariner arrives on the bridge and makes amends with Freeman, then joins Jen at the front of the bridge to help with avoiding the rocks. Boimler finally succeeds in releasing the hull panel, and Freeman orders them to cut power.
But in the process of releasing the panel, Bradward’s suit has been punctured! He throws off his helmet as it begins to fill with water… but he loses consciousness as he attempts to swim out of the hydro tube.
Soon after, Matt and Kimolu bring the unconscious Boimler to the surface, and Tendi says there’s no time to get him to Sick Bay, immediately setting to work administering aid to him. On the bridge, Mariner and Jen are working together to spot debris when they are hit by a large chunk, causing Mariner to be ejected from the ship.
In Cetacian Ops, Tendi’s care is effective: Boimler awakens! He says he saw a koala but Tendi tells him to keep that to himself (but to learn more about this marsupial, see Lower Decks season one episode four, “Moist Vessel”).
Outside the Cerritos, Mariner’s life is saved by Jen – and as they gaze into each other’s eyes, it seems like Mariner really appreciates it. But the Cerritos is getting really battered…
The Archimedes is five minutes away from impact. As the ship enters the atmosphere, Captain Gomez tells her crew to get to the back of the ship, where they may survive, but they refuse to leave her side. Meanwhile, the Laaperians see the incoming Archimedes and are struck with wonder rather than fear (with a parent even lifting their child to see better, a particularly horrifying display of the stakes at play here).
The friction of the air against the ship causes flames to erupt outside the Archimedes as it hurdles towards the planet where they’re meant to be making first contact…
But then, it stops. Captain Gomez looks up as fire is replaced with the cool blue of a Starfleet tractor beam. Just like the Titan arriving at the perfect moment in the first season finale of Lower Decks, the Cerritos has arrived at just the right moment to rescue the Archimedes and avert disaster.
Later, Captain Freeman beams down to Laaperia with Mariner, Shax, Ransom, and Stevens… and while we learned in the first episode of the series, “Second Contact,” that the Cerritos “rarely goes where no one has gone before,” it’s time for Freeman to make first contact. It goes well, and the Laaperian leader invites her to drink.
Later still, the Cerritos is docked above Laaperia alongside several other Starfleet vessels (including the Archimedes, which is undergoing repairs). In the Sick Bay, T’Ana finally catches up with Tendi.
Tendi says she knows that she doesn’t belong in Sick Bay, and T’Ana agrees. Tendi begins to cry but T’Ana clarifies: Tendi is too talented to stay inside Sick Bay, and instead, she’s being moved into Senior Science Officer Training, which will give her the chance to work on the bridge and take part in away missions (just like Jazdia Dax or Spock, depending on your preferred point of reference).
Tendi hugs T’Ana… and T’Ana hugs back, even beginning to purr.
In the Cerritos cafeteria, Boimler has put up his Captain Freeman Day banner (which is now a “Happy First Contact” banner). Meanwhile, Freeman returns to the ship, a little intoxicated from the celebration on Laaperia.
Meanwhile, Mariner and Jen meet at the bar. Jen apologizes for being a jerk all year, and Mariner admits that she pushes people away when she likes them. Mariner takes Jen by the hand to introduce her to the other Lower Deckers, and soon, Mariner and Jen are bonding over their shared affection for Bradward.
Meanwhile, representatives from Senior Command have arrived on the Cerritos. Freeman announces that she’s turning down the transfer: she has everything she wants here with the “best crew in the fleet” on the Cerritos.
Freeman, Shax, Mariner, and Ransom arrive in the conference room, where they are met by Commander Mandel of Starfleet Security. Freeman says she’s not leaving the Cerritos but Mandel says she doesn’t have a choice. Freeman continues that she’s decided to decline the promotion…
But then she’s put in cuffs! This is outrageous – we even learned a few weeks ago that Freeman has never even been sent to the brig!
Mandel says that Freeman is being arrested because they have proof that Freeman colluded with Klingon extremists on an attack on Pakled Planet (which
Janeway Freeman visited in the sixth episode of this season).
It seems a Varuvian bomb was detonated (the same weapon we learned that the Klingon extremist Captain Dorf was supplying to the Pakleds in last week’s episode). The fact that Freeman was busy with rescuing the Archimedes at that time is characterized as an intentionally engineered alibi.
Ransom and Shax panic but Freeman says they have the truth on their side… but she doesn’t want the crew to know until it’s been sorted out. However, Boimler has gathered the crew just outside the conference room, wanting to arrange the full-crew applause that accompanies a Captain leaving a ship for the last time…
Which, given that Freeman is being lead away in handcuffs, is a horrible twist of the knife.
What gives? We watched Freeman earn a promotion over the course of this season (or earn the right to remain with her crew on the Cerritos, if that’s what she chooses). The crew of the Cerritos watches dejectedly as the ship carrying the incarcerated Freeman jumps to warp…
But unlike the majority of Lower Decks episodes this season, which ended on the Cerritos jumping to warp, without her captain, the Cerritos is going nowhere, and remains docked above Laaperia as we close on “To be continued…”
And it will be a very long wait until we hear those magic words, “And now… the conclusion.” But you can bet The Beat will be there when the third season of Lower Decks finally arrives!
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