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That first episode is the least successful of all the shows. It is based on elements that, while they usually work at least early, Rick and Morty, don’t work here. Chief among these was the dynamic between Mariner and Boimler. Mariner, the hot shot does what she wants, contrasted with Boimler, the neurotic overachiever who never wants to do anything too dangerous. it was just Rick and Morty but in the trek universe. The main thing that didn’t work was how it handled Mariner.
In Rick and MortyMuch of the Rick character’s humor comes from being a hollow shell of a person who eventually becomes the cause of his own problems. He may pretend to be perfect and smarter than anyone in the room, but he’s his own worst enemy. sailor in Lower decks, at least in the first episode, is just an action leader who is seemingly perfect aside from ignoring orders for the right reason. It’s like in Rick and MortyRick actually always turned out to be perfect and never had any flaws. It would make him annoying and all his horrific actions would be perfectly justified, losing their dark comedic edge.
lprimeval cover soon realized this was not the way to go and throughout the first season she filled in Mariner’s backstory, making a big mistake that wasn’t always right. Boimler could give her a beating at times and she could go too far, as in “Cupid’s Errant Arrow” where her insistence that Boimler’s new girlfriend must to be an impostor is proved wrong.
The show also took the time to flesh out her backstory, giving her a real trauma that is mostly played for comedy, but still fills in why she acts the way she does. We also get a softening of her friendship with Boimler. While in the early episodes the relationship felt incredibly mean on Mariner’s part, later on the two really grow apart but still have an edge that makes for a fantastic comedy.
The crude humor of the first episode, especially an extended sequence where Boimler is sucked in by an alien, has largely disappeared from later episodes. They still do “crass” jokes, but they’re not as overplayed and tend to get more of the characters. In “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris,” medical officer Tendi must travel with Mariner to find a libido post for T’ana, the ship’s medical officer (who is actually a cat person). After a series of crazy adventures the two accidentally break the pole, but T’ana doesn’t care. All she wanted was the box to play in, just like a real cat. The sub version is just perfect.
Lower decks can still be accused of relying too much on the “we said a Trek thing, you know” and the first episode is guilty of that. In the final moments, Mariner just lists characters from other trek shows and the joke is that she just lists them. Later episodes also rely on trek references, but, like the Wolf 359 joke, it’s done in a way that takes advantage of the trek universe in the same way that a regular comedy might use a pop culture reference.
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