“Star Trek: Lower Decks” has taken a fond look at story ideas used in “Star Trek” since the start, and “Terminal Provocations” is no different. We get the altering tech for your benefit, only to have it turn evil on you. We also get a nice helping of holodeck malfunctions creating a dangerous situation. The episode forgets one thing, though – in both cases, the ‘antagonist’ is so utterly unlikeable that you lose interest in the fight.
That Guy From The Academy
Boimler’s academy mate Fletcher on the surface, appears to be bound for a promotion. He has everyone’s back. He’s good at diffusing tense situations. He covers an assignment for Boimler and Mariner so they can go to a concert. He’s everything you want. When Boimler and Mariner return, they find an unconscious Fletcher and a missing shield core. It seems Fletcher tried to use the shield core to make himself smarter, but accidentally created an AI that wants to be more. What? Rather than tell what happened, Fletcher makes up a series of lies to cover his tracks. Boimler and Mariner eventually are left with no choice and force the AI out of an airlock. Problem solved, right?
Out The Airlock
Not exactly. Since a shield core was missing, the Cerritos quickly finds itself losing a battle with a scavenger ship over some old Starfleet containers. Fletcher’s AI heads directly from the Cerritos to that ship, destroying it in the process. Mariner tells the command crew what happened. Instead of being thrown out the airlock himself, Fletcher promoted and transferred to the Titan. This new assignment doesn’t last very long because Fletcher is an idiot. The created AI was an unnecessary plot device here. I suppose something was needed to show off how stupendously witless Fletcher was, but the chosen instrument is so unbelievable that it distracts from the plot.
The other story this week suffers from the same problem. Tendi and Rutherford are excited to go through the Starfleet containers once the conflict is solved. There is a problem, though, in that Tendi never learned to spacewalk. Rutherford suggests they try his new holodeck training program. The first red flag. The program comes with a virtual assistant intended to remind you of Microsoft’s old Office assistant, Clippy. Clippy was always annoying, so we don’t need reminders of that. Jack McBrayer was excellent on 30 Rock, but he’s become stuck in the role of Kenneth Parcell and just about as annoying as Clippy. Because of a holodeck error, ‘Badgey’ becomes murderous and tries to dispatch Tendi and Rutherford. The error gets resolved, and ‘Badgey’ returns to normal. Or does he? Will he back to haunt our idle pastime? I hope not.
There’s nothing wrong with either story this week. Neither is very challenging, though. That can be a problem that “Star Trek: Lower Decks” faces. It wants to send up the ideas that we’ve seen repeatedly in “Star Trek” history. To do so successfully, though, there needs to be something unique about the satire. Unfortunately, “Terminal Provocations” is just more of the same.