Starfleet, like all organizations, is built on ideals but its cogs, being (for the most part) humans and thus fallible, are usually less than ideal.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 Episode 6 gives us our first truly (and dangerously) stupid member of the Cerritos crew.
Voiced by comedian, Tim Robinson, Ensign Fletcher is a Problem of the Week who springs fully-formed into our Lower Decks team which, in and of itself, was a bit of a red alert.
I briefly considered that he might be a psychic chameleon of sorts who had insinuated himself into everyone's memories but it turned out to be so much more mundane than that.
Granted, they play it pretty fast and loose with the "science" of computer-human interaction in order for Fletcher to manages to corrupt one of the computer's isolinear cores with his brain pattern.
I mean, he basically connected his brain to the core with a jumper cable and it suddenly absorbed all his neuroses and went nuts.
Showrunner Mike McMahan hinted during his Star Trek Day panel that Fletcher was their take on Lt. Barclay but I'm afraid that just doesn't compute.
Fletcher's too smooth, to start with. Barclay (as this reviewer observed before) is more of a Boimler with his awkwardness and desire to be liked.
Boimler describes Fletcher as a natural peace-maker which he demonstrates by calming Dr. T'Ana down from her nacho-coated rant at Mariner in the mess hall.
Do you know how hard it is to get cheese out of fur in a SONIC shower?Dr. T'Ana
I'm not sure what Starbase 80 did to earn the trashy reputation (if someone knows, please let me know in the comments) but it was definitely a trigger for Mariner.
Fletcher sliding in there with the hot towel and new nachos was about as un-Barclay a move as moves get. And to manage that after chugging melon puree? I can clearly picture how much Barclay barf would've been involved if that had been him.
Yes, Fletcher was terrible at mimicking Starfleet warp core sounds but Barclay would never have had the guts to jump in on the jam at all.
Mariner: What are you doing?
Boimler: Sometimes I hum warp engine sounds just to, y'know, sooth myself.
Mariner: Well, that is NOT what the engine sounds like.
Boimler: Duh, that was Enterprise D at Warp 4. THIS is Cerritos.
(And I have to take a moment to applaud that whole scene because appreciating the nuances of warp core noises is probably the most Trek-geek thing EVER.)
But the thing that defines Fletcher as a not Barclay (and if you can't tell, Barclay is a character I love dearly) is that Barclay is Starfleet and Fletcher just isn't.
Even when Barclay was possessed by Cytherian probe tech and taking control of the Enterprise with his brain (and, admittedly, acting like a grade-A jerkwad), he was fulfilling the mandate of exploration and education.
Fletcher throws garbage into the warp core. Who does that?
Boimler: Did we have to get him promoted?
Mariner: You know what they say. Keep your friends close and your enemies WAY the hell somewhere else.
Mariner's cunning plan to get him promoted and transferred to the Titan is brilliant as she knew that without Boimler and her, Fletcher would get himself kicked out of Starfleet.
Mariner: Dude! What you're doing is so not Starfleet!
Fletcher: You break rules all the time!
Mariner: Only dumb rules that shouldn't be there so I can do a better job. I would never put anyone in danger.
Boimler: [clears throat]
Mariner: Except sometimes, maybe Boimler!
Fletcher's short tenure with Beta Shift also serves to reveal where the line is drawn for Mariner's rogue tendencies. Where Fletcher's a loose cannon with no true loyalties and no sense of when to stop digging, Mariner's rule-breaking is (85% of the time) for a higher purpose and in the interests of Starfleet.
Well, maybe 75% of the time.
Over on the B plotline, Rutherford's newest attempt to impress Tendi is his loosely programmed and strangely sensitive holodeck Clippy rip-off.
The corruption of Badgey's program is pretty dark if you think about it. It's probably the first real glimpse of McMahan's Rick and Morty roots poking some blood-drenched tendrils out onto Lower Decks' stage.
Tendi: You impress every day! You're very scientific. I mean, Badgey's an amazing piece of programming even if he does want to kill us.
Rutherford: Yeah. He is a killing machine, isn't he?
Again, there were some semantic plotholes here.
Why would safety protocols be the first thing to be disabled when non-essential power is diverted? How are safety protocols non-essential? Aren't they the definition of essential?
And if non-essential power is diverted, why doesn't a holodeck training program end immediately? And if the computer won't end the program, why can they still change the environment?
Rutherford's also demonstrates some pretty piss-poor parenting skills. He starts out abusing Badgey for glitching (probably out of embarrassment in front of Tendi) but then acknowledges his paternal role when Badgey goes on his rampage.
And, of course, they left the program in the system. Even Barclay was smarter than that.
These guys are lucky I'm so ethical and considerate.Freeman
Under all the spectacle and high-octane "Danger! Danger!" going on, the writers were actually pretty wily with the architecture of this narrative.
The premise of Captain Freeman standing off against the scavaging Drukmani (my guess at spelling) over the remains of the U.S.S. Darius (NCC-502, did you notice? It was on EVERYTHING floating by), provides the prolonged downtime needed for the Lower Decks team to be assigned the isolinear core duty.
This leads to Boimler and Mariner having to miss the Chu Chu Dance (oooookay) unless they take Fletcher's offer which gives him the opportunity to try to brain-boink the computer.
The missing isolinear core causes the power fluctuations that trigger Badgey's corruption and just like that, all the storylines connect.
Not to mention the salvage mission space walk for the USS Darius' bits is what motivates Tendi to take up Rutherford's offer of the holodeck training.
Rutherford: Spacewalking is easy! You just float and magnet, float and magnet.
Tendi: But what if I forget to magnet!
To have Fletcher's monster baby take out the Drukmani just completes the circle really. It's all quite cleverly done.
Like much of the season so far, when you watch Star Trek: Lower Decks online this week, there's a lot to pay attention to in the background and in the warp speed dialogue.
Let me know what you noticed most in the comments!
Also, anyone else interested in seeing what Delta Shift is like? Maybe Boimler switches shifts for a week? Hmmm...
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.