Hey guys! I’m here to talk about another TV episode. Today, I’m talking about “Lower Decks”, an episode from the seventh and final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 7 was one of the only two seasons where I didn’t watch every episode when the season was airing, the other being season 6. Part of the reason for that was, by the time season 7 was airing, we no longer had cable, and CHRO, the channel TNG aired on here in Ottawa, was not an over-the-air channel. It was a cable channel. The second part of the reason is something I’ll get into when I get around to reviewing season 6 of TNG. For now though, let’s get on with the episode, as it’s fairly unique in the history of TNG.
Unlike the majority of Star Trek episodes, “Lower Decks” focuses on a group of junior officers who are there on the ship, but aren’t invited to the briefings in the Observation Lounge, don’t necessarily work closely with their commanding officers (Riker, Worf, and Crusher), and aren’t told everything that happens on the ship. Which is refreshing, because unlike DS9, Enterprise, and most Drama series made today, TNG isn’t well known for having a large recurring cast of characters. In fact, I can only think of two characters that appeared in multiple episodes per season once they were introduced and that’s Guinan, Whoopi Goldberg’s character, and Chief O’Brien, who later went on to become a regular cast member on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The rest of TNG’s recurring characters are recurring in that they appear in more than one episode over the course of the entire series rather than more than one or two episodes per season like the recurring casts of shows like Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl do today.
“Lower Decks” isn’t the greatest episode of TNG I’ve ever seen. In fact I found it a little confusing and it felt like a mess from start to finish. That’s probably because the episode was more focused on the junior officers rather than characters like Picard, Riker, Worf, Data, and La Forge, and so we’re not really seeing the story play out the way it probably should’ve. Personally, and this is just my opinion, I would’ve had the episode focus solely on Ensign Sito, rather than the whole group of officers, as the episode feels more about her anyway. I’m going to actually do something now that I’ve never done in any of my reviews. I’m going to write down what I would’ve done with this episode.
I would introduce Sito, and make it so it was her first day aboard the Enterprise, and having difficulty because that was the ship that uncovered her squadron’s cover-up of the death of a Starfleet cadet in the season 5 episode, “The First Duty”, and some of the officers on the crew felt she’d betrayed Starfleet principles by willingly participating in the cover-up. However, Ben, the civilian waiter in Ten Forward, goes ahead and befriends her, much like Guinan did with Ro in the fifth season episode, “Ensign Ro”. However, unlike Guinan, Ben doesn’t convince Picard to give Sito a chance. Instead, Picard, like in the episode that aired, chose Sito for a position on the Enterprise, believing she could be a fantastic officer with real potential. But, Sito lacks confidence in herself due to the earlier incident at the Academy, as well as the harassment she experienced during the remainder of her time at Starfleet Academy.
In order to prep her for the mission to escort the Cardassian, Joret Dal, back to Cardassia Prime, Picard and the other senior staff begin showing her some favouritism to boost her confidence. This gains her the ire of Sam Lavelle, who is much like he is in the aired episode. Unable to reason with Lavelle, Sito considers asking for a transfer to Deep Space Nine to act as a member of the contingent of Bajoran Militia officers on the station, on Odo’s security staff. However, Picard and Worf inform her that they gave her preferential treatment to boost her confidence so that she may participate in a top secret assignment, alongside Lavelle, who was the better pilot in my version.
During the shuttle ride, Sam and Sito begin to understand each other and a friendship begins to blossom between the two of them. However, Dal betrays them and they nearly get captured by Cardassians much like Picard was in “Chain of Command”. Sito is killed and Sam returns to the ship, forced to inform Ben, who had begun to fall in love with the young Bajoran, that Sito died in the line of duty.
That sounds simple, but I felt that the aired episode had too many characters, and that the story was too split between the junior and senior officers. Overall, it was an okay episode, but I really feel like it could’ve been better. I’m not as familiar with Rene Echevarria’s work on Star Trek as I am Brannon Braga’s, Ron Moore’s, Ira Behr’s, Michael Piller’s, and Rick Berman’s, but this doesn’t seem to be one of his better episodes. Even in this season, there are episodes that he wrote that are better written than this one. I still enjoyed it, because it is a refreshing and enjoyable episode, but, it is a bit cluttered with characters and as a result we don’t get as much time with Sito as we would’ve had they focused more on her than they did.
That’s all I got here folks. I just thought I’d come on here and talk about the episode and give my thoughts on what I thought should’ve been done with it just to streamline it a bit. I’ll be back with a “My Thoughts” tomorrow or Thursday and then, depending on when I finish reading it, I’ll be coming on here to talk about the trade paperback collection, Green Arrow By Kevin Smith. Take care!