Star Trek: Lower Decks picks up some of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s hanging plot threads in the penultimate episode of season 4. “The Inner Fight” was written by Mike McMahan and directed by Brandon Williams.

RELATED: Read our recap of last week’s episode, “Caves”

At a science outpost on Percioff IX, Lieutenant Junior Grades Bradward Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Provisional Lieutenant Junior Grade T’Lyn (Gabrielle Ruiz) have completed work on a power relay. This will keep the station’s energy barrier up for a year, allowing continued research on the dangerous local fauna. Specifically, the venomous tremble lizards. They are so venomous that touching them causes your eyes to shoot out of your head.

Gabrielle Ruiz as T'Lyn and Jack Quaid as Boimler. They're standing behind breaking glass and wearing antivenom suits.

Photos: Paramount+

Unfortunately, that’s when one of the tremble lizards bites through a wire. A segment of the force field fence goes down. The lizards begin stampeding towards the outpost. Boimler and T’Lyn begin putting on their antivenom suits. But Mariner grabs the tool out of Boimler’s hand and runs through the stampeding lizards towards the damaged fencepost. In spite of violent opposition from the lizards, she succeeds in repairing it.

Mariner returns to the outpost. Unfortunately, a lizard has hitched a ride on the back of her uniform. It promptly attacks the outpost scientist, causing his eyes to shoot out. “Oh, ew, he wasn’t kidding about the eye thing,” winces Mariner.

“The Inner Fight”

Back aboard the USS Cerritos, Boimler and T’Lyn run into each other in the halls. They agree that Mariner’s behavior has grown increasingly erratic since the away mission to Ferenginar (in “Parth Ferengi’s Heart Place”). They arrive in the ship’s observation lounge and find Lt. J-Gs Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) and D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) waiting. Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) enters alongside Commander Jack Ransom, (Jerry O’Connell) Lt. Shax (Fred Tatasciore) and Doctor T’Ana (Gillian Vigman). 

Noël Wells as DÌVana Tendi, Jack Quaid as Brad Boimler, Eugene Cordero as Rutherford, Gabrielle Ruiz as T'Lyn, Dawnn Lewis as Carol Freeman, Gillian Vigman as Doctor T'Ana and Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs. They're all sitting around the table in the observation lounge.

Freeman demands to know why Mariner is trying to get herself killed. T’Lyn notes they have also observed the behavior. Boimler suggests she talk with Doctor Migleemo (Paul F. Tompkins). But Freeman says there’s no time. Ransom explains that the mysterious attacks unfolding over the course of the season have all been toward non-Federation ships. But now, someone is targeting ex-Starfleet officers. Freeman states that Command has a list of former officers who must be located and escorted back to Earth. These include Seven of Nine, Beverly Crusher, Thomas Riker and Nick Locarno.

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Boimler is excited about Crusher. But Freeman says they’ve been assigned to find Locarno. After being drummed out of the Academy for getting another student killed (see: TNG season 5’s “The First Duty”), Locarno has been working as a pilot for hire. In order to prevent Mariner from being involved in this potentially dangerous mission, she’ll be assigned to a safe mission that involves repairing a space buoy in the Sherbal system.

Moon Parking

In the Cerritos shuttle bay, Mariner joins Boimler, Tendi and T’Lyn on the shuttlecraft Death Valley. They avoid telling her any details, allowing her to believe the mission is dangerous. But soon they’re repairing the buoy and Mariner is complaining of boredom. Tendi and Boimler try to convince Mariner the situation is interesting, calling attention to the electrical storms on Sherbal V’s surface. But then Tendi observes it appears that someone tampered with the buoy. Mariner says the buoy studies weather in the middle of nowhere and wonders who would care. Answer: the crew of the nearby and cloaked IKS Che’Ta’ (last seen in the season premiere, “Twovix”).

Tawny Newsome as Mariner and Noel Wells as Tendi in Lower Decks season 4 episode 9, "The Inner Fight." Mariner leans against the Death Valley as Tendi works on a panel.

Meanwhile, the Cerritos arrives above New Axton. Freeman observes it is a favorite of every troublemaker in the quadrant. Ransom says Locarno is known to peddle his services in the capital city. Freeman accepts an incoming transmission from the planet. Soon an administrative officer is ordering the Cerritos to park by the second moon and informs her there’s a shuttle every two hours.

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Freeman begins to protest. However, the officer shushes her to accept a second transmission from an incoming bounty hunter. The bounty hunter has a head-covering helmet with a skull on it. The officer clears the bounty hunter for landing with little fanfare. The bounty hunter’s ship passes the Cerritos as it enters New Axton’s atmosphere. Freeman begrudgingly orders the Cerritos to set a course for the moon.

RIP Death Valley

Above Sherbal V, the Death Valley departs from the buoy. Tendi says she just needs to upload the updates and they’ll be done. Mariner wonders where a space anomaly is when you need one. Tendi says she thought it was fun. But she’s interrupted by the de-cloaking Che’Ta’. Mariner attempts evasive maneuvers. However, the Death Valley is destroyed by the Che’Ta’.

The Death Valley faces the Che’Ta’.

Fortunately, they are in range of Sherbal V, and all four of our heroes survive thanks to emergency transport. Mariner says observes that something doesn’t add up, as they’re nowhere near Klingon territory. Soon they hear people shouting. Tendi notes no one is meant to be on the planet due to the storms. Mariner asserts she’s ready for anything.

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T’Lyn suggests step one is locating shelter. In spite of discouragement from Boimler, Mariner actively seeks out the danger. Soon, Mariner is declaring that she’s the new apex predator on Sherbal V. 

Tawny Newsome as Mariner, Jack Quaid as Boimler, Gabrielle Ruiz as T'Lyn and Noel Wells as Tendi in Star Trek: Lower Decks season 4 episode 9, "The Inner Fight." They are standing on Sherbal. Mariner declares herself "apex predator" while Tendi and Boimler shush her.

But they’re quickly distracted. A Romulan has disabled a Ferengi. The Romulan demands to know where they are. The Ferengi protests that they were stunned by some ship and he woke up there. A figure wearing a skull over his head approaches. The Romulan allows him to step into a trap that ensnares his leg. It is revealed that the Romulan and the Ferengi were working together to trick the third party.

Sherbal V

Mariner throws herself into the conflict and begins battling the Romulan. Her distraction allows the third party to escape. But Mariner is knocked against a tree. Boimler, Tendi and T’Lyn drag her away.

Mudd's on New Axion.

A shuttle lands on New Axton and Freeman, Shax and Rutherford disembark. Freeman says Locarno was last seen at a drinking establishment in the pickpocket’s district. They arrive outside Mudd’s, “a notorious dive for all sorts of unsavory rogues.” Asserting she “aced [her] hoodlums and racketeers seminar at the Academy,” Freeman approaches the bouncer. The bouncer asks if they have a reservation. He’ll put their name on the list but it’ll be two hours until they get in, even though it’s almost empty.

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The skull mask bounty hunter passes them and enters Mudd’s without incident. When Freeman asks why he was permitted to enter without a reservation, the bouncer adds 30 minutes to their wait. As they walk away, he welcomes two tripedal passersby half-price jippers (see Star Trek: Short Treks‘ “The Escape Artist“).

Tree Time

On Sherbal V, Mariner says the Klingons must be up to something. She cites the battle from season 2’s “wej Duj.” T’Lyn asks if she was in that battle. Mariner returns the question. But before they can share more, they’re attacked by a Cardassian. T’Lyn incapacitates him with a nerve pinch. They leave to search for shelter.

Tawny Newsome as Mariner, Jack Quaid as Boimler, Gabrielle Ruiz as T'Lyn and Noel Wells as Tendi in Star Trek: Lower Decks season 4 episode 9, "The Inner Fight." They are standing on Sherbal. Mariner looks mad. The others look concerned.

From a hollowed-out tree trunk, our heroes observe an incoming storm. Tendi says if they can reach the monitoring station attached to the buoy, they can send a distress signal. However, it is located past several campfires. Boimler suggests going around the long way. Mariner asserts she’s not afraid of combat. T’Lyn reveals Freeman ordered them to keep her out of danger. Mariner is angry at being called out. She says they should get some rest and tackle the mission tomorrow, “when everyone’s not being a dick.”

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When the other three are asleep, Mariner sneaks out of the tree. But soon the third party from earlier attacks. He casts aside his skull helmet and reveals himself to be Ma’ah (Jon Curry). He and Mariner begin to battle. But when a glass storm begins, they’re forced to seek shelter together. Ma’ah says the planet has no honor. He explains to Mariner that the Che’Ta’ is under the command of mutineers. Mariner offers to continue the battle but Ma’ah says their hiding spot is too confined for proper battle. Later, Ma’ah asks how Mariner is Starfleet but also a warrior. He says she wages war with herself. Mariner explains that she got a promotion and can’t get demoted. Ma’ah says she must hate Starfleet. Mariner says she doesn’t.

The Last Generation

Mariner (Tawny Newsome) kicks Ma'ah (Jon Curry) in the torso. They are in the forest of Sherbal V at night.

Mariner says back at the Academy her dream was to become a captain. She explains she modeled herself after “this perfect friend,” Sito Jaxa (see TNG’s “The First Duty”; “Lower Decks”). Mariner relates that Sito graduated early and was stationed on the USS Enterprise-D. However, she was killed by Cardassians. 

“She didn’t sign up to be a spy; she wanted to explore,” Mariner says. She further relates that she took part in the Dominion War. When Ma’ah regrets not being there, Mariner says he didn’t miss anything. Ma’ah points out they won the war. Mariner says Starfleet’s supposed to be about exploration, not war. She states that she doesn’t want to be a general and doesn’t want to send her friends off to die. “I just want to be an ensign,” she says. “If it was good enough for Sito, then it’s good enough for me.”

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Ma’ah admits that Klingons once thought humans to be weak, but they proved their toDuj. He says Sito was a warrior, and says Mariner does not honor her. He asks if Mariner follows every order from her commanders. Mariner says she doesn’t. Ma’ah says Sito made her choice. “You want to solve puzzles and mysteries? Your friend gave her life to protect that. She would not approve of your actions.” Mariner admits he’s right.

Mariner (Tawny Newsome) hugs Ma'ah (Jon Curry). He looks more upset about it than he did about being kick.

But Mariner says she’s not wrong to call out bullshit when she sees it. Ma’ah returns her pip to her. “Honor your friends, slay your enemies, and study your… what is it, plants?” Mariner admits it is sometimes plants. They introduce themselves. Then Mariner hugs Ma’ah. She declares them to be allies over Ma’ah’s protests.

No Strings

On New Axton, Freeman, Shax and Rutherford finally enter Mudd’s. Rutherford points out “a snake guy smoking some green liquid.” Freeman says they have to locate the information broker before someone else tracks down Locarno. They spot what appears to be Balok’s puppet (see Star Trek: The Original Series season 1’s “The Carbomite Maneuver”). He declares he’s the information broker. 

Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) looks on in horror as Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) shakes the Information Broker like a puppet. They are standing in Mudd's.

Rutherford says he’s freaking out. But Freeman says it’s a puppet. Freeman picks him up and shakes him. His arms and legs flail. She curses at him as she smashes him against tables covered in drinks. Rutherford uses his implant’s x-ray vision to determine the information broker is not a puppet. “He’s got all sorts of internal organs,” Rutherford says. Freeman puts the information broker back down. She says it’s hard to tell who is and isn’t a puppet.

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The information broker states Starfleet thinks they can do whatever they want. He says he’s now going to sell the information to someone else. The bounty hunter approaches the table with a bag of money. Freeman protests that she’s trying to protect Locarno from people like the bounty hunter. The information broker says she should have thought of that before she called him a puppet. He hands the data to the bounty hunter. The bouncer mocks them as he throws them out.

The Hard Way

On Sherbal V, Mariner and Ma’ah approach the relay station. They observe a conflict between many of those stranded, including several dominant Orion warriors. Ma’ah suggests taking the Orion out first. Mariner says they have to do something harder. She emerges from cover and calls for a time-out. Ma’ah backs her up.

Mariner says she knows they’re all hungry and pissed off, “but that’s what they want.” She asks if anyone knows who did this. Everyone present experienced the same betrayal by their lower officers and were subsequently stranded. Mariner says she doesn’t know who did it but that is the real enemy. She continues that if they want to get off the planet, they have to stop squabbling over resources and work together.

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However, the Orions advance on Mariner and Ma’ah. Mariner says she won’t fight. But Tendi appears and uses her authority as Mistress of the Winter Constellations to stop their attack. Mariner says they don’t have to like each other. However, until they’re off “this **** planet,” they have to work together. “How else are you going to get revenge on whoever did this?” Mariner says if they can work together, nothing can stop them. The others are won over (even the Romulans).

Tendi says they can update the station to be a distress beacon. Boimler observes the planet is so remote it could take a while. Mariner says they’ll be located and escape. But she’s abruptly beamed away. The others wonder if they’ve been betrayed. But Ma’ah says Mariner is honorable and won’t betray them. He orders Tendi to complete her work and states that he has a plan.

The Virgin Bounty Hunter Cosplayer

Fred Tatsciore as Lieutenant Shaxs, Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman and Eiugene Cordero as Rutherford. They're standing on the streets of New Axton.

At the New Axton moon shuttle station, Rutherford laments the failure of the mission. He wonders who would have suspected a bunch of criminals would hate Starfleet. Freeman says she would. She reveals their mission was a success. The bounty hunter approaches and removes his helmet to reveal he is Andy Billups (Paul Scheer). Freeman says she knew they’d just be targets wearing her uniform. So she used their bias against them.

On the Che’Ta’, the distress signal is activated. The Che’Ta’ descends toward the planet. Rock formations shield the station, but the captain orders the Che’Ta’ to move closer. It fires on the station and destroys it. However, Ma’ah leads the rest of the stranded in leaping from a cliff onto the ship. They soon penetrate the hull to arrive on the bridge. Ma’ah attacks and kills the mutineer, regaining command of the Che’Ta’. However, Mariner is not aboard.

RELATED: Read our Star Trek: Lower Decks recaps here!

Meanwhile, Rutherford, Billups, Freeman and Shax search for Locarno at the location they got from the information broker. However, Rutherford discovers schematics for the mystery ship. Elsewhere, on the mystery ship at warp, Mariner awakens. She’s greeted by Locarno (Robert Duncan McNeill). “We’re gonna cause some trouble together,” he says to a distraught Mariner. To be continued…

New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks are available for streaming on Paramount+ on Thursdays.

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