Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Lower Decks Episode 6 Debuts Some Off-the-Wall New Characters

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Episode 6, "Terminal Provocation," now streaming on CBS All Access.

Through the first half of its debut season, Star Trek: Lower Decks has done a commendable job of introducing the crew of the Cerritos, from the captain's chair to the eponymous lower deck ensigns. But to kick off the second part, the series shakes up its formula with the introduction of new characters, both of whom leave nothing but chaos in their wake.

Before getting to that, though, the cold open focuses on a much less high-stakes topic: Engine noises. In the bunks, Boimler (Jack Quaid) calms himself with an impression of the Enterprise-D hum. It stokes the interest of his fellow ensigns, and soon the entire group -- including Mariner (Tawny Newsome), Tendi (Noel Wells) and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) -- are standing about yelling whirring noises at each other. A passing Ransom (Jerry O'Connell) fears the worst and dispatches Boimler, adding him to the roster of crew members who have put him in pain.

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After the credits, the show goes to the heart of the matter as the Cerritos is in a tense standoff with Drukmani scavengers over some abandoned Starfleet cargo. Though the aliens lay claim to the inventory due to it being over a century old, captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) is reticent to not let Starfleet tech fall into the wrong hands. Despite Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore) being ready to fire, she is insistent they pursue a peaceful resolution.

Elsewhere on the ship, another battle is being fought: Man vs. cantaloupe puree. The winner appears to be Ensign Fletcher (Tim Robinson), a new face who is hanging with the usual suspects. Mariner accidentally covers T'Ana (Gillian Vigman) in nachos during the rush, but Fletcher steps in to dissolve the tension of a literal catfight. If it wasn't clear already, Boimler underlines that his new Cerritos character seems to be the big man on campus. Meanwhile, while discussing the cargo, Tendi frettingly admits that she never passed her spacewalking class at the Academy. Looking to earn some brownie points, Rutherford offers to help her via a command training program on the holodeck -- not just being used to meet historical figures anymore.

Mariner, Boimler and Fletcher work on the tedious task of replacing isolinear cores. The former two are unhappy, as their mounting work means they'll have to miss out on a concert from the popular Zebulon Sisters and their hit "Chu Chu" dance. Seeing their sadness, Fletcher offers to take one for the team and do the rest of the work on his own, sending them off to "Chu Chu" it up.

On the holodeck, Rutherford shows off his new program, along with a new creation: Badgey (Jack McBrayer), a sentient Starfleet badge with cartoon limbs, a genteel smile and an interest in helping. Tendi and Rutherford proceed to float around space, even sharing an adorably awkward moment when their magnet boots get stuck together. The mood gets soured when Badgey freezes up a bit, though. Rutherford resolves the situation with force, kicking him and calling him a "stupid glitch." And though the program eventually loads, Badgey's expression indicates a malevolent turn for the helper.

Coming down from the high of the "Chu Chu" dance, Mariner and Boimler find Fletcher coming to consciousness. He says that a mystery person stunned him and stole the core he was working on. Though the missing item was for the backup to the shield array, the trio's first priority is to find it and avoid getting in trouble. Their first suspects are the seedy delta shift crew, who they clearly don't get along with. As Fletcher intensely goes in on them, the stunned group reveals that they too were at the concert, meaning they couldn't have stolen the core.

As the intrigue builds inside the ship, the outside is experiencing its own drama. The Drukmani are now propelling the debris at the Cerritos as a method of attacking. Freeman tries her best to evade and maintain a non-offensive position, despite the aliens' insistence that "avoiding damage is fighting." The hits disable the safety protocols on the holodeck, which Trek fans know is never a good sign. Badgey goes maniacal, shoving Rutherford and biting into his suit. Rutherford quickly transports them to a Bajoran market, as he and Tendi watch the living badge gruesomely rip virtual people apart in search of them.

The three red shirts continue their search for the core, but it's becoming abundantly clear that Fletcher is not telling the truth, continuously changing his story as to who knocked him out. And a trip back to the bunks reveals that it was Fletcher himself who had the core. Breaking into tears, Fletcher tells the true story. Having a tough time alone, he wired himself to the core to "make himself smarter." It instead formed a neural pathway, breaking the core in the process. Despite being furious with the deception, Boimler and Mariner agree to help. However, their mission gets a lot more difficult when the core comes alive, corrupted by Fletcher's brain waves and grabbing anything to gain further intelligence.

Things look equally hairy for Rutherford and Tendi, who are being chased by Badgey up a steep staircase. He apologizes to her for the situation, admitting he wanted to impress her. Their flirting stops, though, when they see how out of breath Badgey is with his death wishes. Realizing the environment affects him as well, Rutherford transports them all to the tundra, hoping to freeze his holo-son out.

Mariner and Boimler have more problems than a sentient core on their hands, as Fletcher is completely unwound. He threatens to blame them for this if they don't help them, then immediately concocts a fish story about a Q being responsible for everything. Now viewing their friend in a new light, the two surprisingly work well together, wrapping up the core in an attempt to take it to the transporter pad. They're forced to pivot and send it out of the airlock. Problem solved -- at least until it drifts towards the Drukmani ship.

On the bridge, things are dire. Shields have gone down, and it's too late to bring up weapons systems. Freeman prepares to abandon the Cerritos, before the crew spies an oddity. The core infiltrates the Drukmani hull, destroying the ship from the inside and saving the Cerritos. Rutherford is still not out of hot water in the freezing cold, as he gets in a bloody brawl with Badgey. Though Badgey gets a couple of nasty wounds in, he eventually does freeze, with his father apologizing before sadly breaking his neck. The holodeck returns to normal, as does Badgey, though the second gland seems to indicate that all is not as it seems.

Boimler, Mariner and Fletcher are found by Ransom and Shaxs, who demand questions as to what happened. The show then cuts to a conference room celebration for Fletcher, who took the credit for destroying the Drukmani, as well as a promotion and transfer to boot. It turns out that the others put it all on Fletcher to get him off the ship, to Boimler's chagrin, as he's transferring to his dream role on the Titan. Boimler's dream becomes Fletcher's nightmare fairly quickly, though, because six days later, he chats with him and Mariner, saying he was fired for emptying trash into the warp core. As the two fake interference before he can ask for a transfer back, they ruminate that, though they may have their differences, at least they don't have a Fletcher to deal with.

"Terminal Provocations" has to be the most unusual episode of Lower Decks yet. After building up Mariner vs. Boimler as the main conflict of the series, this episode puts them in the rare position of being in lockstep, working together to fight Fletcher's ineptitude. And in over 50 years of Star Trek fan fiction, it's hard to believe anyone imagined a Starfleet version of "Clippy" becoming bloodthirsty and a deadlier holodeck enemy than Moriarty. But this episode makes it clear that there are no limits on the stories that can be told, and characters to be brought in.

Star Trek: Lower Decks stars Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, Noël Wells as Ensign Tendi, Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman, Jerry O'Connell as Commander Jack Ransom, Gillian Vigman as Doctor T'Ana and Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs. The show premiered on CBS All Access on Aug. 6.


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