Star Trek 274: Lower Decks

274. Lower Decks

FORMULA: Face of the Enemy + Ensign Ro + Chain of Command - 2 ranks

WHY WE LIKE IT: A unique POV.

WHY WE DON'T: Canadians get stiffed. Riker is not one of us (well, we knew that).

REVIEW: Lower Decks tracks an adventure from the junior officers' point of view and in so doing, produce something quite interesting. Two of the "little people" we already know: Nurse Ogawa has been a supporting player for a long time, and Sito Jaxa has been posted on the Enterprise since her fall from grace in The First Duty. The new guys are Taurik the eager Vulcan engineer and Sam Lavelle the junior Riker bucking for a promotion. Oh, and they even have their own Guinan in the guise of an affable waiter called Ben.

The good news is, they're all sympathetic and each is infused with a different personality and point of view. Lavelle getting shot down by Riker, Ogawa sharing gossip with Crusher, Sito coming to terms with her Academy problems via zen master Worf's help, Ben jumping the fence to the senior officers' poker table, Taurik immediately figuring out Geordi's plans... these stand out as excellent scenes, and yet they feature minor or unknown characters. Of course, the regular cast's opinion of them is part of the charm, and this is all played out against crew evaluations.

Some further notes: Geordi pisses me off. He won't let me like him! In this case, he shows himself to be a bad personnel manager. In the first place, it's not the first time we see him shut down an enthusiastic junior officer, an enthusiasm he should be fostering. Secondly, he puts a mathematically gifted Vulcan in charge of smearing up a shuttle, not realizing that would give away the game. Get a human lunkhead from security to shoot the phaser rifle, or Data or Worf, for Pete's sake! Much better are the mirrored poker games. Well directed, but I think it might have worked better if the senior officers had played with their hands hidden given the whole gist of the episode. A minor point.

Ultimately, the show lives or dies by Ensign Sito's story, and fortunately, it's quite good. Sito herself is extremely engaging, beaming when first selected for duty by the Captain, then at a loss for words when she gets chewed out. Her Bajoran independent streak finally comes out under Worf's tutelage (he's very good in this episode), and she gets to go on a mission that feels pulled out of DS9 (not a bad thing). The epilogue with the remaining friends allowing Worf to grieve with them is rather moving, actually.

LESSON: There are 1014 personal stories on the Enterprise.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Showing us how the many extras aboard see things could have been gimmicky, but we always see enough to understand what's going on, and there's an emotional core to the stories. Sorry to say we never saw these characters again (except Ogawa, of course).

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