Win, Lose or Drawn: Lower Decks crossover offers Strange, New Dimension…

'That' crossover episode gets animated and an early release courtesy of SDCC and Paramount+

While investigating a long-dead portal on a desolate planet, the USS Cerritos sends a landing party including Ensigns Boimler and Mariner and before you can say ‘That could be a mistake…’ Boimler gets zapped through the supposedly dead portal and finds himself back over a century and face to face with an away-team from the Enterprise of that era.  Quickly working out that they have a time-traveller on their hands, the Enterprise crew work to find a way to send their rather star-struck visitor back to when and where he came from.

But however bad Boimler ‘s presence in the past might go, things get far more complicated when Marriner follows him through. can the two erstwhile adventurers set  everything right again or are they now trapped in a world and past they never made?



“How old Scientists?”  – “Old Scientists fine, how you?”

Okay, that’s not a joke in this week’s episode, but it could be.

Continuing in a series of marmite episodes that have been sprinkled through this season – some more successfully than others and with more to come – Those Old Scientists (debuting at San Diego Comic Con and released early to Paramount+) is a further demonstration of a show that’s been well-received enough to feel confident in at least trying some wider swings earlier than you’d think it might. (This feels more like a 100th episode stunt or a birthday celebration event) It helps, of course, that the second year of Strange New Worlds is well over the fiftieth year of one incarnation of Trek or another and it’s a legacy (and the nature of legacy) that this offbeat episode leans into with glee and gusto.

While I appreciate its success, I haven’t followed the animated Lower Decks regularly and this isn’t necessarily an episode that makes me want to do so – like Pike and Spock’s reaction to Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Mariner (Tawny Newsome), a soupcon of such characters may be entertaining and eye-opening but is probably a shrill, high-octane, kinetic pace best served in moderation. Your light-years will vary. But the joy of this is that you don’t really need to be a die-hard Lower Decks fan to go along with the concept of time-travelling back to the early days of the Enterprise and geeking out over meeting people who will become legends. These are essentially ensigns given the opportunity to hang out with their heroes and realising that they might be messing up the opportunity (equally, our regular cast enjoy the more fun aspects of the problem by consistently wrongfooting them). The animation aspect (book-ending the story and also informing a fun tweak to the opening credits) is just something to go along with before you get to the live-action aspects, but watch the opening credits closely and you’ll note some sly additions to the mix.

Those who did/do/will take their time-travel seriously probably need to avoid as beyond the necessary mentions of causality and the dangerous ways in which time-travel can affect the present and future (the second time this season that such concerns have been addressed, though in quite different ways), this is really meant to be little more than a celebration of Trek (which would be enough) and a crossover event that nobody thought to ask for or presume (but which everyone anticipated once it was announced last year. Yes, fine, one would expect the visitors to be confined to quarters so that they don’t cause ripples, but perhaps to the annoyance of the purists, the off-kilter nature of the episode quickly needs the characters to interact, shrug and cross their fingers over the effects of their visit.  There’s so much silliness among the love letter to the franchise that it’s a wonder they don’t just burst into song (writer looks slowly to camera).

Jack Quaid and Tawny Newsome shift effortlessly into live-action versions of their animated personas (thanks to the trend of partially modelling characters on the voice-actors portraying them) but though their characters are shrill and excitable and speak louder and faster than everyone else (meta-textually referenced in the script itself!) they manage to seem like the giddy, awkward and desperate characters they’re supposed to be rather than just cartoons-made-flesh.

Jonathan Frakes – because, honestly, who else?  – gets to direct and his love for the material shows through. There are, of course, those in-jokes galore (even the episode’s title gets a fun pay-off in one of the latter scenes) with references spread across the time-continuum: seriously, can you think of any other Trek that’s managed to cram in references to Archer, Pike, Spock, Riker, Q, Cardassians, Bajorans and more deep-dive material in one form or another? Throw in a Cary Grant quote and… voila! What is surprising is that the constant zingers, side-eyes and one-liners do resonate beyond what is largely an unapologetic ‘stunt’ episode… with some implications felt by characters for ongoing story-arcs, most noticeably Spock and Chapel. The final scene – a brief animated sequence of our Strange New World regulars enjoying a little too many Orion Hurricanes, raises a smile and seems a little reminiscent of the classic dimension-challenging CGI Simpsons episode of old.

In a week where Barbie was made flesh, The Old Scientists may only be the second most unlikely escapist escapade to crash into our pop-culture yard and mess things up with a smile, but though I wouldn’t want every episode to barrel along at this pace or tone, this Trekker-treat feels like a lovely, giddy interlude.

'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds  S02  Ep07  The Old Scientists'  (Paramount+ review)
'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds S02 Ep07 The Old Scientists' (Paramount+ review)
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