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  • Writer's pictureAntal Bokor

In the Cradle of Vexilon: Ring Worlds, Kzinti and Supercomputers, Oh My!

Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman appearing in episode 3, season 4 of Lower Decks streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Paramount+

The third episode of the fourth season of Lower Decks, “In the Cradle of Vexilon” sees the USS Cerritos helping the inhabitants of an artificial ringed world get their supercomputer back in working condition. It’s a classic “of course things are going to go wrong” situation, and while I would have appreciated a bit of subversion, “In the Cradle of Vexilon” manages to move along some character development for the recently promoted Boimler, who is tasked with leading his first away team.

The world of Carazonia, a ring shaped artificial planet, has perfect living conditions controlled by a computer called Vexilon. This computer is starting to break down, and Starfleet has been called in to help fix it. Captain Freeman gets in a little over her head, and this eventually leads to an apocalyptic event that has to be stopped.

L-R Gabrielle Ruiz as T'Lyn and Jack Quaid as Lt Brad Boimler appearing in episode 3, season 4 of Lower Decks streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Paramount+

Meanwhile, Boimler is tasked with leading his first away team, and he’s a little paranoid about people getting hurt under his command. In fact, he’s so paranoid that he refuses to delegate any tasks, and performs the entire away mission himself. When disaster strikes, of course, teamwork gets the job done. Mostly.

Interestingly, one of the members of the away team–Ensign Taylor–is a Kzinti. This was a cat-like species that showed up in Star Trek: The Animated Series. They’re also a creation of classic sci-fi author Larry Niven who is well known for his Ringworld novels, which feature ring shaped worlds like Carazonia. Most likely not a coincidence, and the second time in as many episodes that Lower Decks overtly made a reference to a classic sci-fi author that contributed to Trek.

L-R Eugene Cordero as Lt Rutherford, Tawny Newsome as Lt Beckett Mariner and Noel Wells as Lt Tendi appearing in episode 3, season 4 of Lower Decks streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Paramount+

While the action is happening on the ringworld, there’s a B-plot with Tendi, Mariner, and Rutherford being tasked with scanning a huge wall of isolinear chips to find a less than one percent error variance. While this side story has a clever use of obscure references like the Betazoid gift box and the Wadi game from Deep Space Nine, it feels a little out of character for Rutherford and Tendi not immediately falling into this task. However, they’re all recently promoted Lieutenants forced to do an Ensign’s work. I mean, I get it–it just feels like a bit of a contrivance for a task earlier season versions of Tendi and Rutherford would absolutely love doing.

“In the Cradle of Vexilon” doesn’t advance the season arc at all, either. Unless there’s a sneaky detail I missed on my first viewing, that powerful mystery ship that was teased in the first two episodes is missing. Overall this is a decent episode, but it does some strange things with character motivations, but this isn’t the first time this or any other Trek has done that. Or maybe being a Lieutenant junior grade is really getting to their heads.



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