“Veritas” changes up the Lower Decks formula for the best episode of the season, given all the characters equal focus and riffing on the age-old trial trope to hilarious and clever effect.
This recap of Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1, episode 8, “Veritas”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Thus far, Star Trek: Lower Decks has adhered to a pretty clear format that is basically the A-plot adventures of Mariner and Boimler and the B-plot shenanigans of Rutherford and Tendi. “Veritas” changes that format up slightly, and it does so by riffing on the classic Star Trek trial episode – you can’t have any version of Trek without one of those, after all.
But the trial is a popular setup for a reason: It’s useful. It gives equal attention to all the characters; it allows for an overarching theme or idea to be explored in a contained setting, and it allows for backstory and context to be parcelled up into flashbacks or other deviations and doled out as necessary. Plus, you know, it makes plenty of room for gags at the expense of all this. Star Trek: Lower Decks episode 8 delights in its trial, and for good reason. The structure feels fresh, the jokes land, the characters all have things to do. On balance, this is probably the best episode of the season thus far.
But here’s the gimmick: It isn’t the lower decks crew who’s on trial, but their commanding officers, which the ensigns learn when they’re brought to a courtroom with is reminiscent of the episode’s most obvious influence, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Part of the fun in episodes like this is piecing everything together along with the characters. The story here involves a secret classified mission that the USS Cerritos has taken into Romulan space, across the Neutral Zone, and into the Star Empire to retrieve… something of importance to the interrogating alien. This, we learn gradually through different character testimonies, all of which are informed by the fact that each character knows something different from the others and is trying to reckon with loyalty to their friends as well as Starfleet and galactic peace in general.
Again, this is smart, both for reasons of pure storytelling efficiency and because what we already know about each character informs how they respond to this situation, and there’s a certain amount of ambiguity left around the exact shape of events that the audience can puzzle over if they see fit. “Veritas” is obviously designed this way intentionally, and it’s using our knowledge not just of the junior officers but of side characters like Ransom – there’s an especially on-brand gag at his expense – and Trek lore, in general, to cleverly subvert or adhere to expectations where necessary.
The climax is especially clever since it contrives not only a big moment for Boimler and the reiteration of a theme about the commanding officers’ fallibility that is right in the show’s wheelhouse but then quickly changes the context at the last minute at the expense of the ensigns. We’re close to the end of the first season of Lower Decks at this point, but “Veritas” felt very much like the kind of episode we’d see much later in a show’s life when its characters and overarching themes are more concrete. It’s riffing on itself, on its franchise, and the audience’s idea of those two things, and it’s doing so with a confidence that can only make one excited for the show’s future.
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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.