There are multiple canonical questions framed by Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 Episode 5, but the most pressing by far is how the Caitians and the Betazoids are both Federation members now when one species used to hunt and eat the other.
Seriously, how did that membership application go? As Betazoids don’t appear until TNG and Caitians have served in Starfleet since TAS, how did the Caitians feel about their favorite main course protein suddenly becoming political peers?
Putting that aside, Boimler’s training and T’Lyn’s trauma are the other — less morally confusing — narrative pillars in a triumvirate of lessons in growth and acceptance.
Since her introduction on Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 Episode 9, T’Lyn’s been a misfit of the highest order.
I’ve always maintained that the main takeaway from “Wej Duj” is that Boimler makes a better Klingon (i.e., Ma’ah) than Mariner makes a Vulcan (meaning T’Lyn).
And while we glimpse Ma’ah briefly in his role as captain when the mysterious vessel decimates the Che’Ta’, T’Lyn’s banishment to the Cerritos is a punishment worse than demotion. It ostracizes and excludes her from everything she knows.
Her message to the commander of the Sh’vhal is about as close as a Vulcan could come to begging. Recognizing the effort it must take to compose it, it’s understandable for her to be frustrated by her inability to deliver it.
Mariner: Yeah, good luck getting a message out right now. We’re in full security blackout. No outgoing coms while the ‘Zoids are onboard.
T’lyn: No communications, and yet alcohol and merrymaking are permitted? Everything about this ship is illogical.
Similarly, her frank discussion with Mariner is unusual for Vulcan behavior. Her conclusion that her Vulcan-ness isn’t the typical run-of-the-mill stoic repression is probably on point.
Mariner’s swear word-laden pep talk reframes her outlier nature as a feature rather than a glitch.
Mariner: Can you imagine anything more Vulcan than Bendii Syndrome? Hel-lo! Spock’s dad had it, and he was Vulcan as a motherf*cker.
T’Lyn: Hm. I suppose by the transitive property, I, too, must be Vulcan as a motherf*cker.
Mariner: F*ck yeah! Logic, bitch!
This is hard-earned wisdom on Mariner’s part, as she’s been labeled a glitchy outlier her entire career.
What’s fascinating is how Mariner and Freeman can recognize that the crew is behaving unusually, even though they are both being affected.
Freeman: Would you ladies mind joining me in sickbay? My provisional lieutenant thinks you’re telepathically ill.
T’Lyn: That is not how I would’ve stated it, but the captain is accurate.
The imbalance of emotions is an excellent excuse for pretty raunchy behavior. It’s not quite a Naked Time/Now level, but it’s not an infantilization effect either. Rather, it provides a peephole into what this crew would look like without societal inhibitions.
After the fantastic Orion pirate wedding ninja showdown backstory on Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 Episode 4, you can’t help but see Tendi through a more cautious lens.
Knowing the chirpy Orion Science officer is fully capable of killing with surgical precision and only retroactive remorse makes her being affected by high levels of emotional dysregulation a lot less funny and a lot more worrisome.
On the other hand, watching Dr. Migleemo take a replicator to task for not making his soup taste enough like it had been regurgitated is peak hilarity.
Besides the Betazoid-Caitian relations reveal, the fact the Betazoids have their own intelligence agency is somewhat disconcerting.
They are telepaths, after all.
And yet, despite the ability to read minds, they still fall prey to the dangers of interpersonal conflict.
Katrat: I do not have a drinking problem! It’s just part of my undercover character.
Cathew: Then you must be undercover all the time!
One would assume Betazoid culture would have established societal norms around consent regarding mind-reading.
Delorex: Cathew, we’ve been here for five minutes. Let’s maybe check out our rooms before you devour someone.
Cathew: I’ll devour whoever I want, Delorex, you sanctimonious buzzkill.
Interestingly, Freeman invited Delorex to read her mind, but when facing off with the slam poet, Cathew states she can’t get a read on her.
Ooooh, yeah. The Security Team’s slam poetry/charades/tarot card reading program of destressing for the betterment of Boimler’s mental health. Now, that seems like an extreme take on employee wellness.
It not only subverts our expectations of Shaxs — almost as much as his trysts with T’Ana — it subverts Boimler’s.
Slam Poet Security Officer: Worf. Worf. Worf. / Torn between worlds. / A warrior. / No! A farmboy.
Shaxs: Hope you can handle slam poetry, Lieutenant.
Slam Poet Security Officer: The son of Mogh. / CLANG goes the bat’leth against the armor of your heart!
What is brilliant about the plot device is that it keeps the entire security team and Boimler far away from the effect of T’Lyn’s not-quite-Bendii Syndrome.
Of course, Boimler tends towards the overshare on a typical day, so his expressing his disappointment with the mundanity of Security training is just him being him.
But having a team of clear-headed, emotionally regulated security officers attend to the captain’s captivity and a potential foray into the Neutral Zone is a solid strategy.
Mind you, if there had been a couple of security officers around when Freeman was taken, that might’ve saved them that close call.
Time to shred those party girls into brisket.
It might also have been a good idea to keep a security officer on duty in sickbay, considering T’Ana’s appetite for authentic Betazoid dining. We haven’t seen her this worked up since Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 Episode 3.
We gotta stop her. She took an oath not to consume patients.
Ultimately, everything works out. The ship is safe, no one gets eaten, and there’s even some progress on the mysterious vessel front.
Well, Ransom doesn’t get his wish to hook up with a Betazoid, but after learning they’re B.I.A., maybe he’s had second thoughts?
Delorex: We appreciate the lift.
Cathew: Especially on a ship with such sturdy officers.
Ransom: That’s what I’m talking about. I get off bridge duty at 1300hrs.
Cathew: Ugh, never mind. I like it when they’re hard to get.
Ransom: Oh, come on. Give me another chance! I can be distant and unavailable!
It’ll be interesting to see what rabbit hole the newly acquired image of the ship will take Freeman down. She is the type to let a little intel get under her skin. She won’t rest until the mystery is solved.
As we approach the season’s mid-point, it feels like we’ve reached the calm before the storm.
Multiple villains could return to be the mastermind behind the vessel. Furthermore, the Trek universe is full of unitasking anomalies that might be collecting the ships methodically or just randomly destroying stuff.
One thing is for sure, though. We’re as happy as Mariner to have T’Lyn sticking around.
T’Lyn: The telepathic symptoms must’ve tied to my unresolved conflict. My area of effect has dissipated.
Mariner: Damn. Vulcan brains are scary strong, huh?
Who do you think is behind the mysterious vessel, Fanatics?
Hit our comments with your thoughts and theories!
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.