Published Oct 20, 2023
Below Deck with Lower Decks: Vendorian Morality Test
Is it paranoid anxiety or a classic Vendorian set up?
By Dayton Ward
SPOILER WARNING: Discussion for Star Trek: Lower Decks - Season 4, Episode 8 "Caves" to follow!
Our favorite junior officers go spelunking on this week’s all-new episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, and of course things take a turn toward the weird.
It’s a Beta Shift reunion! Mariner, Boimler, Tendi, and Rutherford are excited to learn they’ve all been assigned to the same away mission for the first time in quite a while. The task itself seems easy enough — researching a mysterious moss discovered in the caves of the storm-riddled planet Grottonus. Mariner’s not at all pleased with this development, as she absolutely hates caves. To hear her tell the others about it, nothing good ever comes from a cave mission.
To be fair, Star Trek history’s on her side, as borne out by the fact it takes less than two pages of this episode’s script before the away team is trapped thanks to a cave-in.
Oh, and there’s that moss we talked about earlier, which apparently wants to eat the away team.
If you were thinking something along the lines of, “If I were in this situation, the first thing I’d do is recall another mission where I was also stuck in a cave,” then you’re in luck! That’s exactly what the Lower Deckers do. Each regales their crewmates of their previous cave shenanigans, beginning with Boimler, who recounts that time he was stuck in a cave with Lieutenant Levy, an avowed conspiracy theorist. According to Levy, he and Boimler were victims of a scheme hatched by nefarious Vendorians.
Wait. What? Who?
The Vendorians, a race of shapeshifters, were introduced in “The Survivor,” a first-season episode of the classic animated Star Trek series waaaaay back in 1973. In the episode, Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise unknowingly encounter a Vendorian who’s assumed the outward appearance of Carter Winston, a famous Federation philanthropist who went missing five years earlier. Its plan is to impersonate Winston in order to deliver the Enterprise into the hands of the Romulans.
However, the longer a Vendorian remains in the form of another being, the more they take on the other individual’s memories and feelings. Because of this, the Vendorian has adapted to Winston’s attitudes, and becomes unwilling to let the Enterprise be captured and its crew threatened. This allows Kirk and his crew to escape the Romulans.
As for Boimler and Levy, it turns out Levy was right, and they were being observed by Vendorians while being subjected to a “morality test.” Despite their initial arguing which their shapeshifting testers view as failing their challenge, the two Starfleet officers are able to acquit themselves, befriending each other as well as their Vendorian hosts.
In the present, Boimler’s recounting of this bizarre mission impresses Mariner, Rutherford, and Tendi even as they continue working to find a way out of their current predicament. Being trapped together makes them realize their promotions and new duties prevent them from spending as much time with each other as they did when they were ensigns, but they realize they’ll always be friends, no matter what.
Sounds an awful lot like a test being passed, doesn’t it? Hey, you don’t suppose there might be any Vendorians in this cave, do you?