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How Much More STAR TREK Does LOWER DECKS Have to Get Before You Just Let Your Hair Down, Angry Fanboy?

Last year at this time if you liked STAR TREK, all you had to watch was episodes “Bread and Circuses” and “The Omega Glory” for that maximum sci-fi/inclusive politics with maximum cheese that the kids nowadays just don’t understand. If you liked actual STAR TREK, only Mike McMahan’s LOWER DECKS really did that subverting-expectations thing really well instead of “let’s give the kids a dose of the medicine we think they need” thing that Kurtzman TREK used to do until Akiva slapped some sense into everyone involved. You know, guys, maybe we should produce some space-flavored escapist entertainment? STAR TREK isn’t preachy; it’s not ham-handed in its message if even sometimes its presentation is a little…vaudevillian. Like Dana Gould says, in order to reinvent the wheel, you have to be expert at making regular wheels, first, and that’s what Secret Hideout just whiffed. You can’t make good STAR TREK without knowing what good STAR TREK is and why it worked while it did what it did. You know who gets that? Mike McMahon. All you have to see is the Zefrem Cochrane theme park ride and “Magic Carpet Ride” on the soundtrack. You can’t make a joke like that that works without knowing why your reference needs to be bulletproof or you’re just Kurtzmanning the place up with phonetic pronunciations of a language you don’t know how to speak.

One of the crazy things about this show, though, is some fans want to PARSE THE JOKES. Now, of course everyone here worships at the feet of Nancy Sen, who originally coined the phase “Explanation is joke murder” and proud we are of all of them. And explaining a joke never made it funnier, and thinking a funny joke ISN’T and explaining in excruciating detail about how you DIDN’T like the joke is… somehow worse than trying to explain how you missed it in the first place. But some guy named Richard Urquiza wrote: “The story is pretty simple, but the jokes can be lacking in wit. For instance, there is this one scene where Mariner meets Ensign Boimler at the family vineyard. The joke of this scene is that the girls around Boimler are obviously flirting with him but he’s too oblivious to notice, and…I don’t know, for me the whole ‘blind man’ routine is played out and tired.” First of all, the joke of that scene is that the audience mistakes Boiler for Picard at the chateau instead of the Boiler family raisin farm. Instead of a vital vineyard with adult beverages loving crafted by artisans of the Federation, the Boimlers take plump, fruity grapes and dry out everything from it leaving the Egyptian mummies of dried fruit snacks. That’s where the joke is… so when the girls come up thinking Boiler is the raisin stud, even he doesn’t see it anymore because all the life has been baked out of him, just like those grapes. JUST SPRAY OFF WITH THE HOSE, LEE ANN. That’s a guy who isn’t set up for life on Earth, and that’s the joke.

But all I did was make Richard here mad he didn’t see that or wasn’t willing to play along and either way, what’s the point of that? Explanation, you see… IS JOKE MURDER.

Some of the best STAR TREK episodes are when the crew is dealing with stuff that doesn’t seem like gritty, high-stakes, end-of-the-world stuff and is just, you know, clearing up some misunderstandings. The Pakleds aren’t going to be pulling any smart, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE type reveals, right?

Like this episode, for example? Captain Freeman framed for society-wide destruction by the Pakleds?? Of course Starfleet doesn’t fall for a simple frame job by the masterminds who look for things to make them go, and the entire resolution is told in a two minute summation using court sketches. I mean, all we need to know is that Beckett and Boiler are showing up in live action on STRANGE NEW WORLDS. Talk about legitimacy of the concept.

Anyway… today’s ST question comes from little Dougie Goldstein who writes: “If you take a bite of food in the holodeck, does the computer keep forming a force-field-hologram of the food as you chew it and swallow it?”

No. The snowball that lasted out into the corridor in “Encounter at Farpoint” shows some holo-produced items are just replicated. Next!

Larry Young
Larry Young
Larry Young is a writer: non-fiction, graphic novels, and pop culture criticism. His work has appeared in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, VARIETY, and THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION. A frequent guest on the video podcasts MILLION DOLLAR MAILBOX and WORD BALLOONS, he’s also co-host of SERIOUS STAR TREK and the sister YouTube channel of this website.


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