“Reflections” is the episode I’ve been waiting for all season. We get some surprising answers about Rutherford’s past, we learn how Starfleet does recruitment, and frankly, we’ve got some questions about Starbase 80. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so strap into the Delta Flyer and join me for this race through the neutral zone with Star Trek: Lower Decks episode 3×05, “Reflections.”
Rutherford vs. Rutherford
Of all the ways I would have thought that they might reveal Rutherford’s backstory, a mindscape face-off between the younger and older Rutherfords was not what I had imagined. While some of this is played for laughs, I think “Reflections” does a few exciting things. First, this is about as close to a Mirror Universe episode as we’ve gotten from the Lower Decks crew. Sure, we had a Mirror Universe scenario very briefly last season in “I, Excretus” but that was just a holodeck scenario.
Second, the idea of Rutherford wrestling with and ultimately having compassion for his younger self is very compelling. Learning to have compassion for your younger self is a technique used in counseling. I find it very moving that Lower Decks while being the silliest and only straight-up comedy in the Star Trek universe is also leaning hard into positive mental health messaging. And here I thought it was just Star Trek: Discovery doing that! Well done, Mike McMahan and Lower Decks writing team!
Third, there are lots of fun homages and nods to previous Trek in this episode. The mindscape reminded me of the finale of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. We’ve got our Rutherford totally fanboying over The Delta Flyer from Star Trek: Voyager, as well as Tom Paris. I love that our Rutherford’s dream hot rod is what dark Rutherford said–a shuttlecraft with a paint job.
Finally, that shuttlecraft with a paint job gets its power not from its engine, but from its crew. That bit really warmed my heart. Rutherford could have suped-up his hotrod however he liked, so he chose a good crew. That’s the best. Plus, when else will you get to hear Mariner say, “Okey dokey”? Unlikely at best, so I’m glad we got that moment here. Overall, this aspect of the story is highly emotionally satisfying for me. I’m glad we got to see emotional sensitivity as a prominent theme in “Reflections.”
Not the Recruitment Table!
Recruitment tables are good in theory but perhaps are not as good for bringing in folks in practicality. Unless you’re Tendi, anyway. This B-Plot provides some gentle comedy alongside the more serious emotional drama that Rutherford is having. This bit of the episode is great fun and perfect photon cannon (or canon) fodder for the Lower Decks writers. My favorite bit was getting a closer look at The Collectors Guild table. SPOCK HELMET, people! That face-in-the-hole standee! It is all a feast for the eyes, very pause-worthy.
But this gal from The Archeologists Guild? I’m not too sure about her. Mariner is the kind of person to hedge her bets, so perhaps if she gets kicked out of Starfleet, this is her backup plan. I don’t think it’s the last we’ve seen of the Archeologists Guild.
Also, forget BOLD BOIMLER, I’m here for BERZERKER BOIMLER! The sheer amount of Star Trek goodness we get from his furious tirade is brilliant. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of BERZERKER BOIMLER!
“Reflections” is the most satisfying episode for me thus far in season three of Star Trek: Lower Decks. It’s an emotional payoff for a premise that was established in the finale of season 2—Rutherford’s implant was not elective. But will we find out what he was working on, who designated the implant, and who wiped his memory? I NEED ANSWERS!
As usual, the dialogue is a highlight for me in this episode. My two favorites are Tendi pointing out that Rutherford might have some long-term memory stuck in his cache, like that time he called Captain Freeman, “Mom.” That is definitely the kind of embarrassing moment that gets stuck in your long-term memory! My other favorite is when referencing Starbase 80, which is apparently The Worst™, Kayshon says, “Coltar, when he drowned in the swamp!” I have no idea what exactly that means, but I love it. I hope we get an explanation of all these Tamarian phrases at some point.
Also, hate all you want, but I LOVE that we get a Kelvin timeline joke. My new headcanon is that Rutherford dreamed up the Kelvin timeline since he has a recurring dream about Kirk and Spock and their cinematic chemistry.
If you want to hear me take a deeper dive into the episode, check out this week’s episode of the Rarely Going Podcast, where I join Craig McKenzie to chat “Reflections.
What did you think of “Reflections”? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.
The next episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks will air on September 29, 2022, on Paramount+.