Lower Decks keeps exceeding my expectations by a mile this year. Episode 2×08, “I, Excretus” is no exception. It’s an episode that manages to embody the heart of all Trek shows–working together as a crew to overcome adversity–while also bringing madcap humor and deep-cut Trek references galore! Next to 2×02, “I, Excretus” has the most Trek in-jokes that I’ve seen in a Lower Decks episode this season. Here are a few of the things I enjoy about this week’s episode, “I, Excretus.”
Holodecks Are Really Just Fancy RPGs
This is quite obvious from the get-go, and truly has been since its introduction in Star Trek: The Animated Series and heavy use in Star Trek: The Next Generation but what really brings that idea home for me is the use of percentages in “I, Excretus.” If you’re a gamer, you know how frustrating it can be to explore a giant game and complete it, only to find at the game’s end that you’ve only completed 70% of the activities and side quests within a game. Boimler is the embodiment of all our frustration here! I admire that even though he kept insisting that he go back and get nothing less than 100% that he was willing to drop all of it to help the crew. That focus on teamwork and working together as a crew is peak Star Trek.
The best part about all of these holodeck simulations is that every single one of them is a spoof on a previous Star Trek episode! Take a look at that board above all the mini holo-chambers. Each scenario is the title of a Trek episode from another series. It’s that kind of Easter egg that is the icing on the cake for me with Lower Decks; this kind of homage deepens my love for the series with each viewing.
A Common Trope with a Twist
While I’m not surprised when I see any TV show lean into a story trope, the twist we get with this one in 2×08 is really nice. Role reversal is a fairly common trope. I am hard-pressed to think of a show that hasn’t used the “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” idea. However, when I noticed when we were getting to the warm and fuzzy “this-is-all-about-understanding-the-other-person’s-perspective” with at least half the show left, I knew something else was in play. Watching the crew come together to defeat corruption within Starfleet while also testing their own mettle is a great twist on a tired trope.
There’s a lot to enjoy about this episode. We get fun little details that add a little bit of flair to the characters, like finding out that my girl Tendi loves her some pesto! (I do too, girl)! This is the first appearance of Pandronians since Star Trek: The Animated Series. We’ve got great guest spots this episode with notable appearances from voice acting great, Phil LaMarr, Marc Evan Jackson (Kevin from Brooklyn Nine-Nine), and Alice frickin’ Krige reprising her role as The Borg Queen. That was the biggest surprise for me! Lower Decks is doing an awesome job of bringing back veteran Trek actors this season as they did with Jeffrey Combs in 2×07. I’m hopeful that Lower Decks will continue with this trend throughout the rest of the season and into next season.
Finally, the fact that Boimler’s Borg name is a poop joke makes me giggle like a 12-year-old boy. Good one, Mike McMahan.
What did you think about “I, Excretus”? We’re coming up at the end of season 2! Next week is the penultimate episode of the season. Do you have predictions for the season’s end? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.
The next episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks will air on October 7, 2021, on Paramount+.