the story: Junior officers are uncomfortable awaiting performance reviews.
what it's all about: One of the most necessary episodes ever, in which we finally have a look at what it's like to be one of the ordinary personnel of Picard's ship. (Voyager had a slightly similar one with "Good Shepherd," but that was more in line with its early work of exploring members of Janeway's crew that didn't fit in with the Starfleet/Maquis mishmash that was the backbone of that series.)
It's also a sequel to "The First Duty," in which the focus is shifted from Wesley Crusher to Sito Jaxa, from whom we learn a new perspective of Picard's eagerness to discover the true moral caliber of those below him. In that sense, "Lower Decks" also functions as a quasi-sequel to the earlier "Pegasus."
It's also the closest to a Nurse Ogawa episode the series ever got. Ogawa appeared in many episodes as a member of Crusher's staff, but her significance rarely seemed much more than the likes of Riley in the original series; you really have to be a Next Generation fan to even know she exists. Casual fans might recognize her, but I bet they wouldn't know her name. In a way, this is her "Data's Day," the episode where we first meet Keiko, who'd marry O'Brien at the end of that one, because we learn all about Ogawa's romantic life in addition to her career. Along with Sito, she's one of several junior officers up for promotion, including a Vulcan and a sort of younger version of Riker (a comparison that leads to one of the episode's best scenes, and most awkward!).
But with apologies to Ogawa, this is really Sito's episode. Her relation with Worf follows a pattern that in "Lower Decks" is finally perfected: Worf's interest in passing on what he's learned. Strangely, the recipient ends up being a Bajoran and not, say, a little boy or his own son. But among the best scenes, and you know it's a classic when you can point to numerous scenes that stand out, is a combat lesson that turns out to be a moral one, which leads to Sito standing up for herself in front of Picard...and volunteering for a heartbreaking mission. This is the extremely rare episode where what amounts to slice-of-life scenes merge with a b-story that totally complements and augments them. Most of the time, that b-story, meant to please angsty producers who think some excitement is needed, spoils the fun. Not this time.
The end result is one of the most genuinely affecting episodes of the whole franchise.
- franchise - a fruitful glimpse into how the other half lives.
- series - speaks volumes for the series' depth.
- character - works for Worf, Picard, Sito...
- essential - this is the humanity of Star Trek personified.
Shannon Fill (Sito)
Patti Yasutake (Ogawa)