Lower Decks S4E7: A Few Badgeys More

We get two cold opens this week, each bringing back its own recurring villain. First, an alien salvage ship recovers Rutherford’s original cybernetic implant — lost in a battle with Pakleds in season one finale “No Small Parts.” The implant has been occupied by Badgey (Jack McBrayer), a sentient Starfleet badge who’s a spoof of Microsoft’s much-memed Clippy. Rutherford created Badgey on the holodeck in season one’s “Terminal Provocations” as a helpful personal assistant. Badgey immediately turned evil and tried to murder everyone because, you know, holodeck. This time around, Badgey quickly turns the tables on the scavengers, attaching the implant (and therefore his holographic presence) to the ship’s captain.

Post-opening credits, we get the now-familiar “Lower Decks on a different ship” sequence, this time with the Binars, old favorites from the Next Generation episode “11001001.” As always, they encounter a mysterious gaming-mouse-shaped ship that quickly shuts down their ship and destroys it. 

But why stop at two recurring villains? While the Cerritos investigates the attack on the Binars, Tendi and Boimler are sent to secret research outfit Daystrom Station to meet with two more old AI adversaries. Tendi has to supervise the parole release of Peanut Hamper (Kether Donohue), a self-aware drone who joined Starfleet and befriended Tendi in “No Small Parts,” before revealing herself to be dangerously selfish. Hamper was last seen in season three’s “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption,” being imprisoned at Daystrom and pledging to team up with AGIMUS (Jeffrey Combs), a petulant supercomputer Boimler outsmarted in “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie” in season two.

AGIMUS claims to have info about the attack on the Binars, and insists in only speaking to Boimler. Although Captain Freeman is highly skeptical, she sends Boimler along with Tendi for some prison-intel-gathering that mercifully doesn’t include a hackneyed Silence of the Lambs parody (credit to Lower Decks for restricting its low-hanging-fruit to jokes about Star Trek).

Naturally, it’s a trick, and AGIMUS and Peanut Hamper have been scheming together. But when AGIMUS easily escapes and captures Boimler and Tendi, Peanut blows off her rendezvous with her, and the evil AI quickly realizes that, sure, he can enslave a planet (and does), but it’s no fun without someone by your side. Tendi and Boimler immediately revert to type, as she tries to comfort the lovelorn AI, and he stays focused on the original mission — the transparently phony Binar intel — to the point of ignoring the fact that AGIMUS has captured them and enslaved a whole planet.

Meanwhile, back in space, Badgey fires on the Cerritos, who are helpless, as the AI knows all their defenses, and Freeman is reluctant to fire back and kill innocent scavengers. Rutherford spacewalks over to the scavenger ship, Mariner in tow, and confronts his creation, with an unexpected burst of fatherly affection.

Overwhelmed by mixed emotions, Badgey splits into two, one side retaining his lust for revenge, and the other — Goodgey — eager to return Rutherford’s affection. Decks then does what it does best, doubling down on the joke, as Badgey then splits off into Logicy, leaving the original even more unhinged. Things escalate and escalate until we get a resolution that’s both a satisfying endpoint to Badgey’s story, and a little anticlimactic, given Rutherford really doesn’t do anything to save the day and just watches things unfold.

It’s not a perfect episode. But it’s still fun to see these recurring villains come back. So much of Trek is episodic, to the point where — Deep Space Nine aside — the shows rarely revisited old characters. On a lesser show, going from referencing older Treks to referencing Lower Decks itself would be a sign of creative bankruptcy. But this isn’t a lesser show, and it’s been around long enough that familiar faces make the Cerritos’ world feel lived-in and familiar.

And lest we forget, there’s one more recurring villain still out there. We get a bit more info on Evil Gaming Mouse at the end, so as the season finale approaches, we’re likely to see this season’s running mystery get solved soon.

Stray tachyons:
• AGIMUS proving he’s no longer evil by changing his ominous red lights to light blue is a gag that’s both incredibly dumb and incredibly clever.

• Strange that there are no consequences of any kind for Rutherford, either for creating an AI that nearly destroyed the Federation, or for being a good enough engineer to create an AI that nearly destroyed the Federation.

• It can be hard to juggle an ensemble, and everyone’s taken a turn out of the spotlight, but Mariner does absolutely nothing this week, and only tags along with Rutherford because she wouldn’t be in the episode otherwise. I feel like they could have stuck her on the Cerritos, bickering with her mom through the crisis.