“Moist Vessel” finds Mariner being punished… with a promotion, as she’s forced to learn that not all responsibility necessarily entails being uncool.
This recap of Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1, episode 4, “Moist Vessel”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
A persistent gag that has come up all throughout the first few episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks is that all the traditionally heroic and important characters aboard a starship are really the painfully dull ones. “Moist Vessel” takes that idea and runs wild with it, but it also mixes in some familial drama between Mariner and her mother, Captain Freeman.
Mariner is the most interesting character in Lower Decks because she exists in open opposition to Star Trek norms. She’s always getting demoted for pointing out the baked-in absurdities of save-the-day heroism, low-risk poker games, and stuffy by-the-book leadership. It’s a funny joke and a decent setup in Star Trek: Lower Decks episode 4 that the only way Captain Freeman can think to punish her is to promote her and give her more responsibility, thus making her – in her eyes, anyway – less cool and aloof.
Mariner is most disturbed and annoyed by all the stuff that Star Trek has historically treated as light-hearted recreation; a break from the away missions. Her whole thing is having recognized that the most daring thing to be in an egalitarian future is unambitious. For her, Starfleet is just an employer, not an excuse for adventure, exploration, and nobly extending a hand in greeting to every species in every corner of the galaxy. Responsibility is the last thing she wants.
The “twist”, if you want to call it that, of Star Trek: Lower Decks episode 4 is that Captain Freeman feels more similar to Mariner that she suspected. She, too, hates many of the same things, but she puts up with them anyway because that’s what being an adult, being responsible, is. Lower Decks is about characters like Mariner, and so it has to side with her on some level, but when she and her mother work together to save the USS Cerritos from the episode’s obligatory disaster, a lesson is being learned, and development is occurring, even if the payoff for these things isn’t necessarily going to be immediate. This is a smarter show than it’s often given credit for, and thus far it hasn’t given me any reason not to trust that it knows what it’s doing.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.