Star Trek: Lower Decks review, Episode 408: “Cave Stories”

Image: Star Trek: Lower Decks/Paramount+
Image: Star Trek: Lower Decks/Paramount+ /

It’s been a while (most of the season, if memory serves) since the gang’s all been together in the same place. So it’s very exciting when the whole beta shift are sent down on the same research mission. Even more exciting than that? Moss! Time to spelunk some caves.

Right off the transporter, its clear that Tendi and Rutherford’s budding relationship is still budding; Mariner is suspicious of caves in general; and Boimler is just happy to be there.

As with all cave missions, the entrance explodes, communications are cut, and the mysterious moss is moving menacingly. Trapped, the only thing left to do is to tell an anthology of cave (not turbolift) stories. Boimler recounts his cave adventure with a paranoid ensign and a conspiracy of shape-shifting, mind-controlling, morality-testing Vendorians. Rutherford tells the tale of his and Dr. T’Ana’s cave baby. Mariner’s story is all about Delta Shift and a mysterious chronoton-emitting rock.

The Lower Decks crew rebonds and the show mocks Star Trek conventions

The whole episode is a return to form for Lower Decks, which made a name for itself by gentling mocking the tropes of every other Star Trek series. Mariner starts a sentence before transport, then finishes a word as they arrive. There are multiple mentions of how every third mission involves a cave of some sort. The first thing that happens in the Vendorian cave was finding a conveniently placed escape ship. Boimler comes up with a very specific mineral that will enhance comm-range, so Rutherford uses a phaser and a pair of pants to extract the necessary materials. The Rutherford/T’Ana clone baby fits right in with Tom Paris and Janeway’s brood. Rutherford also adapts a tricorder to translate a cave monster’s growls within a matter of minutes.

As the crew tells these stories, what becomes clear is that the Beta Shift have grown apart. Suddenly they don’t know one another’s stories, and they’re jealous of one another’s new adventures and new friendships. It’s very sweet that the characters are showing some personal growth as they move away from their comfort zones.

Tendi’s turbolift (not a cave) story provides the coda. She reminisces all the way back to “Second Contact” (LD 1×01) and the post-rage-virus rager that saw the foursome trapped and bonding for the first time. In the end, the bonds of friendship are re-established, and the malicious moss is entertained by the stories.

Next. Star Trek: Lower Decks review, Episode 407: “A Few Badgeys More”. dark

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