This discussion and review incorporates spoilers for Star Trek: Lessen Decks episode 5, “Reflections.”
Decreased Decks has a incredibly nuanced and properly-produced main ensemble. Three seasons in, the viewers has a pretty good sense of figures like Mariner (Tawny Newsome), Boimler (Jack Quaid), and Tendi (Noël Wells). Nevertheless, Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) stays some thing of a secret. This isn’t abnormal. It is popular for specific Star Trek reveals to have “problem” characters, who really don’t pop out in the very same way that the relaxation of the cast may well.
The Following Era often struggled to build powerful drama around Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden). Deep House Nine took the improved aspect of 3 seasons right before it figured out how to compose for Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) and Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig). Voyager arguably by no means figured out how to make Chakotay (Robert Beltran) function and invested 7 several years recycling the identical plots for Tuvok (Tim Russ) and Harry Kim (Garrett Wang).
It is not a enormous issue that Rutherford is comparatively underdeveloped. Decrease Decks is a sitcom, and part of the attraction of a comedy is that its people are generally broadly drawn archetypes. In fact, it is notable that people like Mariner, Boimler, and Tendi have mostly created organically more than extended intervals of time somewhat than in concentrated spurts. This is most apparent with Tendi’s path to senior staff members, which appears to have been a pleased accident rather than a planned arc.
This receives at the big issue with “Reflections.” It appears to be like a aware work to make up for dropped time with Rutherford, in the most direct way doable. After all, this is an episode that invitations the viewers to virtually vacation inside Rutherford’s head, meet up with his more youthful self, and indicate a mysterious backstory that could presumably drive the character’s arc for a couple of seasons. It hundreds a whole lot on to the character Rutherford, in a way that feels notably significant-handed.
Decrease Decks does pretty a couple matters remarkably properly. It is a present that can create total episodes close to loving homages to common Star Trek tropes. It is also a durable business office comedy, skillfully making use of the franchise’s allegorical storytelling to the present day office. The display can also be astonishingly experimental, occasionally even bending its format in exciting approaches to inform stories that simply just would not function on any other Star Trek series.
However, “Reflections” betrays a important weakness in Decrease Decks, demonstrating that the sequence is not rather as very good at other sorts of storytelling. In certain, “Reflections” feels much less like a parody or deconstruction of a particular archetypal Star Trek tale and a lot more like a standard illustration of it. Soon after all, the episode’s opening act is a pretty straightforward case in point of the typical “possession” or “body swap” plot, recalling “Turnabout Intruder,” “Vis à Vis,” or “Spock Amok.”
The challenge is that none of these episodes are notably fantastic in their own suitable and that “Reflections” is taking part in these things remarkably straight. There is a specific clumsiness to the episode, most notable in the revelation that the imposter posing as Rutherford is essentially Rutherford’s more youthful self. It’s a good twist on paper — a clever take on the classic body swap idea. Even so, the true reveal with Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman) feels curiously inert in practice.
The core concepts that travel “Reflections” are intriguing and could conceivably make for a good episode. Who has not puzzled how their teenage self might react to the existence that they stay? Who hasn’t altered so radically given that their teenage many years that they are a basically different human being? There is fantastic drama to be mined from that idea. However, when Lessen Decks is continuously extraordinary with characterization, it is not suited to these a uncomplicated method.
This is most evident in the way that “Reflections” keeps having distracted from its significant emotional beats by empty nostalgia. Rutherford is racing for his quite existence and consciousness, so that feels like a bizarre spot to slot in some uncomfortable Voyager nostalgia. Seeking for a race craft, he manifests the Delta Flyer. “It’s superfast and it’s received pop-out impulse thrusters,” he boasts, excitedly. “Tom Paris intended it on Voyager.”
His young self is not impressed. “You could have constructed practically just about anything you could envision. You know that, right?” he muses. Of course, Rutherford’s selection to manifest the Delta Flyer is a winking acknowledgement that the episode’s “space race” established piece is a direct homage to “Drive.” Nevertheless, “Reflections” does not have anything at all to say about “Drive.” So the real story right here — Rutherford’s struggle with his youthful self — receives confused by fan-provider references.
This comes about again at the psychological climax of the story, as Rutherford cradles his more youthful self in his arms. It’s a moment that is shockingly touching, accepting that in some scenarios modify involves the demise of a previous self. “Sometimes it is improved to develop,” Rutherford’s more youthful self concedes. Nonetheless, this poignant moment is instantly undercut with a blatant reminder of one more additional legendary loss of life scene in The Wrath of Khan, as Rutherford’s younger self urges him to “remember.”
Reduced Decks generally gets away with a bit extra nostalgia than one thing like Peculiar New Worlds because individuals references hardly ever undermine comedic premises. In distinction, “Reflections” is a reasonably earnest and spectacular episode of Decrease Decks, but 1 that leans just as closely and eagerly into enthusiast company as one thing like “The Minimum Unsafe Game” or “Room for Development.” The benefits are disheartening, and the episode under no circumstances coheres as well as it could.
“Reflections” also suffers rather from the perception that it is performing a large amount of legwork for threads that will presumably pay off afterwards in the year. Reduced Decks is a largely episodic series, but it has shown the ability to slowly but surely and steadily accrue continuity throughout its a few seasons. Having said that, “Reflections” is a great deal clumsier and a lot less natural in what it is undertaking. Apparently, this clumsiness runs through equally halves of the episode.
It is obviously current in the expose that Rutherford’s implant was the consequence of “a include-up,” a thread waiting around to be pulled. Nevertheless, it’s also apparent in the character of Petra Aberdeen (Georgia King), who looks to be founded generally so she may possibly arrive into engage in at a later on level. It is intrusive in a way that the plotting in Lower Decks hardly ever is. Aberdeen’s introduction is much clumsier than that of recurring figures like Jennifer (Lauren Lapkus) or Kayshon (Carl Tart).
Reduce Decks has been hinting for a though that Mariner may perhaps depart Starfleet. In “Room for Expansion,” Mariner even suggested that this was how she noticed herself drifting absent from Boimler, Rutherford, and Tendi. The closing scene of “Reflections” presents Aberdeen as a possible escape hatch and partner, should really a long term episode (perhaps the period finale) end with Mariner currently being drummed out or simply just quitting Starfleet.
Of course, these kinds of a enhancement seems probably to only be short-term — and not just since there will be a fourth year. “Reflections” is appealing in how it would seem to accept the awkward romantic relationship concerning Starfleet and the greater Star Trek universe. Forced to perform a recruitment stand, Mariner and Boimler brush up from the notion that people outdoors of Starfleet really do not imagine fairly as much of the establishment as people who provide in it.
There is a thing perhaps exciting right here. Following all, Deep Area Nine was noteworthy as the very first Star Trek clearly show to actually think about that there have been perspectives outside of Starfleet. Aberdeen’s criticisms of the corporation as “a pseudo-navy” are valid. Ironically, the conspiracy theorists are far more or significantly less ideal about, well… “Conspiracy.” In truth, Aberdeen’s cynical asides about Starfleet provoke Boimler to go on a rampage on the campus.
“Without Starfleet, none of you would exist!” he raves. “We don’t want to shield you from the Klingons and Borg! We just want to investigate and study fucking quasars! But you know what? It’s the appropriate issue to do!” It’s a bizarrely entitled rant, a bizarre victimhood narrative from an officer in what seems to be the dominant army and political drive in the quadrant immediately after the Dominion War. It to begin with plays as a parody of these kinds of privileged meltdowns, with Boimler even shelling out a night in the brig as punishment.
Having said that, Reduce Decks pulls its punch. Constructing off his bizarre anti-researchers rant at the start of “Mining the Mind’s Mines,” Ransom (Jerry O’Connell) acknowledges that he is very pleased of Boimler for standing up to those civilians. Aberdeen herself confesses that her cynicism wasn’t rooted in any sincere opinion, but as a substitute a calculated ploy. “You were being ideal,” she admits to Mariner. “I was only staying a discomfort in the arse mainly because I necessary a distraction.” Which is the only motive to be essential of Starfleet.
Likewise, Rutherford’s flashbacks advise that he was part of some magic formula and sinister Starfleet operation. Even then, Rutherford’s youthful self is speedy to stay away from any criticism of Starfleet as an establishment. “I guess an individual broke even extra procedures than we did,” he quips. It’s just negative apples. Soon after all, Starfleet was ultimately suitable that Rutherford should not have been building engines in advance of he graduated. If he’d listened to them, he might have avoided his incident.
“Reflections” is an odd episode. It pushes Lessen Decks exterior its comfort zone. This can guide to successes like “Crisis Point” or “I, Excretus,” but “Reflections” moves the show into a remarkable house that can not fairly assist the show’s nostalgia and heightened storytelling. There’s a powerful tale somewhere in “Reflections,” but it is not distinct that Lower Decks understands how to convey to it.