HomeEntertainmentIn ‘Grounded,’ Star Trek Lower Deck Season 3 Episode 1: Review

In ‘Grounded,’ Star Trek Lower Deck Season 3 Episode 1: Review

The episode “Grounded” highlights both the simplicity of Star Trek: Lower Decks and the limits of the current Star Trek series.

Season 3’s “Grounded,” like other Lower Decks episodes, parodies a certain genre of Star Trek tale. It makes me think of old-school Star Trek adventures when the main character is compelled to go rogue for the greater good, like The Search for Spock or Insurrection. It’s a solid plot device and a fascinating enough idea for a season opener. The fact that Lower Decks’ season openings frequently evoke Deep Space Nine rather than The Next Generation or Voyager is to its credit.

In ‘Grounded,’ Star Trek Lower Deck Season 3 Episode 1: Review

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“Grounded” alludes to a radical shift in the status quo, similar to what occurred in Deep Space Nine at the beginning of the second season when Kira (Nana Visitor) was transferred to Bajor, the beginning of the sixth season when the Dominion took control of the station, and the beginning of the seventh season when Sisko (Avery Brooks) returned to Earth. However, “Grounded” basically ends with a return to the pre-episode state of affairs, in large part because of Boimler’s (Jack Quaid) move to the Titan at the start of Lower Decks’ second season. This makes me sad.

Of course, the greater joke includes this misdirection. It is purposeful defiance of expectations. It’s also not wholly a negative thing because it brings an end to the show’s protracted Pakled subplot, which has never felt like it was moving in the right direction. Furthermore, it is tempting to speculate whether Strange New Worlds’ “main cast member is jailed as a season-ending cliffhanger” diminished the popularity of Lower Decks in any way considering how the first season of that program ended.

However, it is unfortunate that Lower Decks appears hesitant to embrace the long-term storylines that Deep Space Nine did. It may have been entertaining to spend one or two episodes with Tawny Newsome’s character, Mariner, guiding the cast through a series of escapades, such as those in The Voyage Home or the Sisko family subplot in “Shadows and Symbols.” The story of four junior officers taking over a spaceship and getting themselves into trouble may almost likely be made into a comedy.

In ‘Grounded,’ Star Trek Lower Deck Season 3 Episode 1: Review

The conclusion of “Grounded” is the biggest problem. To be honest, that makes a great joke by itself. They wouldn’t be the ones to resolve the cliffhanger concerning Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), just as they weren’t necessary to Shaxs’ resurrection, as the idea of Lower Decks has always been that its heroes reside on the fringe of more traditional Star Trek adventures (Fred Tatasciore). All of this makes sense in theory.

The question is how “Grounded” decides to wrap up the plot. The episode’s central idea is that the Federation’s justice system works, which contradicts everything Star Trek has previously demonstrated. The upper leadership of Starfleet Command and the Federation are consistently shown in the series as being at best incompetent and at worst outright corrupt. Even on The Next Generation, the crew of the Enterprise seemed to be an exception.

The Star Trek franchise’s protagonists have never received assistance from Starfleet management. In the movie The Undiscovered Country, senior Starfleet officials conspire to kill Kurtwood Smith, the president of the Federation. In “Too Short a Season,” Admiral Mark Jameson (Clayton Rohner) provided weapons to all parties on Mordan IV in violation of the law. Admiral Kennelly (Cliff Potts) was accused of engaging in shady weaponry deals with the Bajorans in “Ensign Ro” as a result of Cardassian influence.

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