You have to squint awfully hard to see a unifying plot theme on Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 Episode 4, but it’s not impossible.
While the women are having their Orion adventure — engaging in deadly drinking games, exploring hump dungeons, and examining the perils of defying expectations (mostly lots of stabbing) — the guys have to delve deep into conflict resolution strategies.
It’s a delightful reversal of traditional gender norms and a helluva hoot at the same time.
It’s a matter of record that while Orions have been represented in multiple Trek series and films, they are a species never truly included in core Starfleet until D’vana Tendi joined the Cerritos.
Over the run of Lower Decks, she has refuted many of the stereotypes that have persisted ever since TOS Kirk cut his swath through a cross-section of female aliens.
The destruction of the Orion ship in the opening scenes (as well as the trademark Lower Decks vignette) reminds us that there’s still a mystery afoot as the unidentified vessel continues to drain power and disintegrate ships.
D’Bora: We deliver fuel and supplies to real pirates. We’re, like, pirate-adjacent.
Risik: Right now, I’m just a plunder sorter, but I’m capable of way more.
We even have some subtle progress in that story element as Freeman references the disappearance of the ship when she announces Tendi’s leave approval.
I’d like to know how T’Lyn and Mariner managed to finagle leaves at the same time, but maybe being a provisional crew member and the captain’s daughter (although not simultaneously) can work in your favor.
We’ve suspected ever since she was addressed as Mistress of the Winter Constellations on Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 Episode 3 that there’s more to Tendi than meets the eye.
Mariner: Are we going to talk about how everyone’s in awe of Tendi?
T’Lyn: She does command an unexpected gravitas for someone so excitable.
Once they’re deep into the search for her sister, T’Lyn and Mariner are constantly impressed by everything their mild-mannered Science buddy has kept from them.
We’ve known for a while that she has epic ninja pirate skills. On Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 6, she kicks it into high gear to prevent the Karemma ship from leaving the Alpha Quadrant through the Bajoran Wormhole at Deep Space 9.
Of course, the only people to witness her transformation into Orion superhero are the Ohio-raised Orion, Mesk, and Rutherford, who, in typical Rutherford fashion, probably never thought to share her abilities with the rest of Beta Shift.
Mariner: Tendi, how are you so good at the murder bug drinking game?
Tendi: I don’t know. It’s my first time. Guess I’m just a natural.
Tendi’s endearing attempts to continue the ruse that she’s not a pirate-y Orion are pretty futile. Mariner’s no fool, and T’lyn is a brilliant analyst.
But rather than having the truth of Tendi’s training as her family’s Prime Daughter and her infamy across all the seediest Orion hang-outs change their estimation of her nature, Mariner and T’Lyn reassure her that they know who she is and value her for that.
Tendi: I’m a Prime. Y’know, a trained assassin. It’s the most pirate-y someone can be.
T’Lyn: Incorrect. You are who you choose to be. A Starfleet lieutenant and a loyal friend.
Mariner: Don’t worry. We know you’re a big nerd and not some hot assassin.
In turn, Tendi’s able to reassure D’Erica that she is the perfect Prime for House Tendi despite being the second-born daughter.
I could probably tone down on my delight in T’Lyn, but I won’t.
In the short time she’s been aboard the Cerritos, she’s earned a promotion (if provisional) in rank and become the undisputed queen of the deadpan zingers.
Mariner: One of the great things about being a lieutenant JG is it’s actually possible to finish your work.
Tendi: We should do something fun!
T’Lyn: Celebrating a lack of purpose is illogical.
Furthermore, she’s come to value the camaraderie of the Lower Decks, Junior Grade. I’m not sure she needed to trash her PADD report on Orion culture so dramatically, but Tendi probably appreciated the gesture.
It occurs to me that Boimler’s the only shift member who hasn’t seen Tendi in action, but he might have an unconscious, somewhat intrinsic, understanding of her abilities after giving her a field promotion to commander during his holodeck adventure on Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 8.
While the women are having their wild and crazy bridal kidnapping shore leave excitement, bestie roommates Boimler and Rutherford — forever and ever termed Brutherford — have their first tiff and find resolution through the most random role play ever.
Mariner: I just got to get away from Boims and Rutherford. Ever since they moved in together, they’re, like, finishing each other’s sentences.
T’Lyn: Their emotional closeness is unpleasant.
If Tendi had chosen to take the guys to Orion instead of Mariner and T’Lyn, I shudder to think how they would’ve handled the stabbings, the pheromone den, or the murder bug drinking game.
Mariner’s worldliness (and unexpected immunity to being a stab magnet) comes in handy when exploring strange new worlds, it seems. And T’Lyn’s stoic demeanor just takes everything in stride.
Oooh, pretty nice hump dungeon. I think they have one of these in New Seattle.
For Brutherford to conflict over the parenting and care of their custodial bonsai is pretty on-brand. I did, however, expect a longer mourning period after the visiting captain eats little Bonsy.
Their adventures in cohabitating may pale in comparison to the Orion family reconciliation shenanigans, but it’s just as relatable as Tendi’s resistance to the pressures of returning home.
Tendi: Are you guys jealous? It was just a wedding.
Boimler: Why would we ever want to go to an awesome pirate wedding on a planet nobody ever gets to see?
Mind you, their dependence on holodeck-assisted dissociation is kind of concerning.
Seeing Tendi out of Cerritos context — feared by all in her presence – hearkens back to Mariner’s visit to Boimler’s family raisin vineyard on Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 1, where our favorite Starfleet Boy Scout wannabee is the jaded and unobservant recipient of rampant grape harvester lust.
It goes to show that our heroes are where they can be their best selves — true to their nature and making the universe a better place.
Where can the show take this thread next?
Maybe the mysterious ship-destroying vessel will need Brutherford’s help to resolve its disintegrating-all-it-encounters rage issues.
Will Beta Shift need to combine their special skill sets to defeat this new threat?
Hit our comments with your thoughts and theories, Fanatics!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond ’til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on Twitter.