Review: Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 Episode 4 “Something Borrowed, Something Green”
Our favorite Orion gets a long overdue spotlight as a family struggle takes center stage, while roomies Boimler and Rutherford find their friendship tested in an unexpected way.
D’Vana Tendi (Noel Wells) has been one of Lower Decks’ most underutilized characters, so we were happy when the lieutenant junior grade was given leave to return home to attend her sister’s wedding. Tendi, for her part, tries not to make this look inside the mysterious Orion culture a big deal, but her friends Beckett Mariner (Tawney Newsome) – who is always ready for a road trip – and T’Lyn (Gabrielle Ruiz) – a scientist eager for a look at Orion culture – join the trip.
The trio gets to Orion – a rare treat for outsiders. Star Trek fans certainly haven’t been privy to Orions beyond their stereotypical piracy and debauchery – a stereotype Lower Decks previously tackled in “Hear All, Trust Nothing.” It’s nicely surprising, then, that Tendi’s life back home was one of high society. Mariner and T’Lyn are both shocked to see wealthy Orions carried around like royalty, and Tendi’s family themselves living in a massive estate. Like so many times before, Lower Decks is great at subverting audience expectations.
“Wait. Wedding? Sister? Parents? Tendi, I’m sorry, I’m freaking out. This is more backstory than I have ever been able to get out of you.”– Mariner, elated at learning more about Tendi.
The family drama ramps up when Tendi’s parents reveal her sister, D’Erika, has been kidnapped before the wedding; and no, this isn’t some ceremonial event the bride undergoes. Tracking down D’Erika is no easy task, and Mariner and T’Lyn are exposed to Tendi’s carefully guarded former lifestyle – including visits to pheromone-fueled sex dens and dance clubs with potentially lethal drinking games. It’s when the crewmates arrive at a deserted ship Tendi and D’Erika used to frequent as kids that D’Erika reveals herself; she had kidnapped herself to bring Tendi home for a long-awaited sister-to-sister confrontation.
Tendi and D’Erika fight each other while laying bare their sibling angst, such as how D’Erika always felt like she had to live up to Tendi’s potential as Prime Daughter after the older sister abandoned her to join Starfleet. As you might expect, the pair do resolve their differences thanks to some heartfelt apologies, and even get to the wedding in time thanks to some on-the-fly hotwiring.
Back on the Cerritos, Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) and Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) are excellent roommates, and their friendship is really blossoming… until the pair find they each want to water their resident bonsai plant. Who does this chore is a major sore point for them, but they opt to keep an appointment in the holodeck to try and relax their tension.
Each lieutenant junior grade arrives in their late-19th century riverboat simulation cosplaying as Mark Twain, and while it’s initially annoying to them that the other wants to play this role, the two friends soon find the veneer of the holodeck and their impersonations of the famous writer helps them find common ground and resolve their differences.
Boimler and Rutherford suggest this diplomatic strategy, then, when Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) runs into an aggressive alien, Coqqor, who claims to have rights to a nearby phase-shifting nebula. Since the holodeck strategy worked so well for the two lower deckers, Freeman gives their idea a shot – which leads to typical Lower Decks absurdity as Coqqor and Freeman dress up as Mark Twain. Coqqor, however, thinks it’s as absurd as it appears, so it doesn’t seem like the diplomatic overture is going to work – until, that is, Coqqor eats the lower deckers’ Bonsai tree and his aggression is satiated.
“Oh, what the hell am I supposed to say, Lieutenant?”
“Homespun aphorisms about compromise.”Freeman, dressed as Twain, and Rutherford, as they try to negotiate with Coqqor.
Taken together, “Something Borrowed, Something Green” presents a valuable look at Tendi’s past, and the entertainment offered by her character and her surprisingly decadent society only cements our opinion that the Orion should play a more prominent role in Lower Decks’ narrative structure. While this episode builds Tendi’s character in none-too-subtle ways, writer Grace Parra Janney also bulks up T’Lyn, who is quickly becoming one of our favorite secondary characters. Seeing the Vulcan stoically observe Orion culture, only then to discard her findings in favor of Tendi’s plea for privacy, speaks well to the Vulcan’s hidden emotional center; indeed, T’Lyn’s unusual emotionality was a defining part of her transfer to Starfleet.
While this week’s B-plot was somewhat predictable in its origin – best friends becoming angsty over a small detail is nothing new – the riff on Star Trek’s holodeck history is welcome, and Jack Quaid’s and Eugene Cordero’s takes on the southern drawl is hilarious. The cherry on top of this plotline – Coqqor eating the bonsai tree – perfectly sums up Lower Decks’ tone: unpredictable, hilarious, and always willing to take a whimsical twist on the challenges faced by its crew.
Finally, someone on the Cerritos recognizes, at least in some small part, the looming threat the mysterious and deadly alien ship holds. Freeman makes an offhand comment to Tendi about Starfleet wanting to put a good foot forward with the Orions because an Orion ship was recently mysteriously destroyed – a scene we are treated to in the episode’s first minutes. Freeman acknowledging the attack is a key hint that word of this destructive force is growing… how long before this thing crosses paths with our heroes?
- Mariner likens Tendi growing up in a castle to Lt. Billups’ upbringing, something that was explored in “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie.”
- Boimler is reading the Missouruh Courier-Post when Rutherford walks in.
- Mariner notes how Starfleet created the myth of Orions secreting pheromones to cover the idea that a Starfleet captain, perhaps someone like Kirk, could be intoxicated so easily by “showgirls.” The pheromones, however, turn out to be real, but Tendi notes not all Orions can produce such pheromones.
- Why did Boimler and Rutherford need to report to the bridge during Freeman’s conversation with Coqqor?
- Why was the enraged Coqqor so interested in what a bonsai plant was? He looks like he’s going in to fight Freeman and the two lower deckers, but stops dead in his tracks when Boimler mentions the plant.
- One lingering question we have from this week’s A-plot: why did Tendi feel it was okay to leave Orion and venture to Starfleet without even consulting her sister? Tendi claims she assumed D’Erika would be fine taking Tendi’s place, but why assume that? Tendi’s upbringing with her sister seems like it deserves another piece of media, perhaps a comic, to flesh out that era of her life.
- The junk ship Tendi and her sister fight in appears to be a Raven-type, as seen in Voyager’s “The Raven.”
- Why would T’Lyn submit her report to the Vulcan High Command before the Orion wedding?
- Why would Freeman ban Rutherford and Boimler from playing Mark Twain on the holodeck? Seems like a bit of an overreaction to a legitimate effort by the lower deckers to solve a diplomatic crisis.
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