Double Shot — Star Trek: Lower Decks: “Twovix” and “I Have No Bones Yet I Must Flee”

Last season, Lower Decks did a crossover with DS9, “Hear All, Trust Nothing,” which was, in many ways, a love letter to the 1993 Trek spinoff. Not to be outdone, the first of the two episodes that debut LD’s fourth season is a similar love letter to Voyager, “Twovix.”

It’s followed by “I Have No Bones Yet I Must Flee,” which does not, repeat not, have any reference to Leonard “Bones” McCoy in it. I was both surprised and relieved, honestly, but it says something about LD and its predilection for self-reference that I assumed “Bones” was referring to Dr. McCoy…

Besides being a love letter to the 1995 Trek spinoff, “Twovix” also—as you might guess from the title—addresses one of Voyager’s thorniest episodes, “Tuvix,” in which an alien flower got into the transporter and served to merge Tuvok and Neelix into a single entity. Janeway famously split them again, killing the merged being in order to restore the other two, and Star Trek fans have been arguing about the episode for pretty much all of the twenty-seven years since it aired. (As an example, “Tuvix” received the most comments of any episode of Voyager in my 2020-2021 rewatch of same for this site, and indeed was one of only two to blow past 200 comments.)

The plot of “Twovix” is two-fold. The Cerritos is assigned to escort Voyager to Earth. It’s been lovingly restored by an archivist, with lots of exhibits on board commemorating their seven-year sojourn through the Delta Quadrant. The plan is to put it on display on Earth for a time before installing it in the Fleet Museum.

As an added bonus, it’s promotion time, and Ransom indicates to Boimler that he’s a shoo-in for promotion to lieutenant junior-grade, assuming nothing catastrophic happens. Because nobody self-sabotages like Brad Boimler, he spends the entire episode worrying and stressing and screwing things up.

Mariner, Boimler, and Rutherford are part of the team on Voyager that’s bringing that ship back home. Of course, things go horribly wrong, with holodeck programs running amok and things malfunctioning and the macrovirus from “Macrocosm” getting into the gelpacks and mutating, and just a general reference-fest to various Voyager episodes. (One macrovirus even gets into Seven’s regeneration cubicle and becomes Borgified.) My favorite, though, is that the archivist created animatronic versions of the two salamander-like thingies that Janeway and Paris “evolved” into in “Threshold.”

trek lower decks tillups

Image: CBS / Paramount+

Back on Cerritos, they have other problems: a petal from one of the flowers from “Tuvix” gets into the transporter, and merges Billups and T’Ana into T’illups. (I was hoping for this being to be called “Billana,” but I guess that would’ve sounded too much like Voyager’s chief engineer…) This results in a hilariously foul-mouthed engineer.

The spectre of “Tuvix”—who has become a verb to describe this process—hangs over the episode very deliberately. Freeman is appalled to read up on Voyager’s log that Janeway just out-and-out murdered Tuvix—she had been hoping for another solution—but then she remembers that she’s not trapped thousands of light-years from the Federation and she can consult other people in Starfleet and the Federation.

However, T’illups takes matters into their own hands, using their medical and engineering knowledge to adjust the transporter so it will Tuvix more members of the crew—Freeman with Migleemo, Shaxs with Barnes, Steve with Matt the Whale (“Not my best work,” T’illups admits).

As usual, the lower-decksers have to save the day. In Boimler’s case, it takes some doing—and a verbal ass-kicking by Mariner—because he’s worried that he shouldn’t be promoted, and that it’ll ruin his friendship with Mariner. Because of that, he’s off his game, but after the aforesaid ass-kicking, Boimler saves the day, with help from Rutherford, as they technobabble their way out of the crisis.


Things on the Cerritos are bad also, as T’Lyn tries to save the day by transporting all the Tuvix’d crew to the brig. Alas, she accidentally merges all of them into one bit Tuvix’d meatball, as Tendi puts it. However, Tendi and T’Lyn are able to work out a way to separate them all.

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Image: CBS / Paramount+

I love this part of the plot, because the Tendi-T’Lyn dynamic is fun as hell. Tendi is the most emotional person ever, and T’Lyn is the perfect Vulcan who keeps all emotions shut down hard. T’Lyn is also cynical and snotty (again, the perfect Vulcan) where Tendi is optimistic and chirpy. Tendi also desperately wants T’Lyn to be her friend, and T’Lyn is extremely resistant to this. It makes for comedy gold, aided by Noël Wells’ earnestness and Gabrielle Ruiz’s deadpan.

In the end, Boimler and Tendi are promoted, as expected—as is T’Lyn. To everyone’s surprise, Mariner is promoted as well, and Rutherford isn’t. The latter brushes it off, though—he broke Voyager, and engineers are supposed to fix things.

That promotion ceremony pays off nicely in the second episode, as Mariner, Boimler, and Tendi are all leaving the corridor bunks for actual crew quarters with doors and bulkheads and stuff. Rutherford decides that he needs to work to do something fabulous to get promoted—but, alas, there’s a new engineer on board, Livek, who is a prodigy. Every time Rutherford tries to do something amazing to increase efficiency in some aspect of the ship, Livek has beaten him to it.

The payoff for this is perfect LD (and, honestly, perfect Star Trek). Rutherford blithely mentions to Tendi that he was sorry he turned down all those other promotions. This gobsmacks Tendi, but it actually makes sense, given Rutherford’s accomplishments over the previous three seasons.

She then just asks Billups if Rutherford can be promoted, and the chief engineer says yes, just like that. (Taking a promotion away from Livek. I suspect this rivalry will continue to be a thing this season.) Besides being hilarious, it’s also a nice little commentary on how utterly ridiculous promotions tend to be on Trek. I mean, we’ve seen several characters get promoted without it changing a single thing about their duties: Worf and La Forge on TNG, Sisko, Dax, and Bashir on DS9, Tuvok and Paris (who got demoted and then re-promoted) on Voyager, the entire bridge crew of Discovery. It’s kind of silly…

Mariner has her own issues with being promoted, which we’ve been seeing indications of for the last three seasons, and it’s all brought into sharp relief here. Any whiff of moving up the rank ladder, and she self-sabotages even worse than Boimler. I especially like that Ransom has decided to make her his project—but not in a bad way, as Mariner assumes. He sees her potential, and also knows that she will self-sabotage, and he’s not going to let her get away with it. Ransom has been a delightful satirical riff on the manly-man white-guy officer (Kirk, Riker, Paris, Archer, Tucker), but this deepening of the character is nice to see. And he isn’t losing the satirical edge, as we see him doing random chinups because of course he does, and later on he instructs Mariner to punch him in the face repeatedly to knock his teeth out.

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Image: CBS / Paramount+

That’s the plot part, by the way, and also where the bones of the title come from. There’s an alien menagerie that accidentally put some humans in their zoo. The Cerritos is being sent to rescue the two humans. But while they’re there, the cute little creature called Moopsy (because it constantly makes the sound, “Moopsy!” in an adorable little squeaky voice) gets free. Alas, Moopsy is a monster that drinks bones. Ransom and Mariner use the former’s punched-out teeth to lure Moopsy back into its cage.

(In the end, it turns out that the humans freed Moopsy because they didn’t want to be rescued, as they were the star attraction. They were hoping Moopsy would drink the bones of the zookeeper and then they could reap the profits themselves.)

And then we have the Boimler plot, and sigh. One of the things I have liked is that LD has been moving away from dopey sitcom plots. This episode has Boimler moving into new crew quarters he’s entitled to as a junior-grade lieutenant. His first cabin is right by the nacelle and the red light flashes brightly into the window, driving him crazy. And my first thought is, “It’s the future, disphit, polarize the window!” Instead, he asks for another cabin, and gets one that’s placed between two holodecks, with sound bleeding through on both sides, which makes nothing like sense on a starship. I’m pretty sure that soundproofing technology won’t be forgotten in the next four hundred years…

Eventually, after Rutherford’s promotion, the pair of them are made roommates in another room that overlooks the nacelle—and the first thing Rutherford does is polarize the window. So, okay, fine, that worked, at least, but the holodeck thing was just dumb.

These are two enjoyable episodes to start the season, though I was massively disappointed that they didn’t get anybody back from Voyager to provide a voice. I mean, this very show managed to get Robert Duncan McNeill (who doesn’t even really act these days hardly at all) to voice Paris in “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris.” They couldn’t even get the guys who played the holograms to voice their roles? I mean, I get that Kate Mulgrew and Robert Beltran might not have been available due to their Prodigy commitment (allegedly, that’s why Mulgrew couldn’t appear in Picard season three), but it would’ve been so cool to get somebody back. Hell, with all the holograms running around, why not a cameo by the EMH? It’s the one way Robert Picardo can appear in his role without having to worry about the fact that he’s two decades older…

The animation and music, however, were spot-on, perfectly re-creating Voyager’s oversized bridge and all the music cues coming right out of that prior show.

And it’s nice to see generally that the characters are moving forward, both in terms of rank—now all four of our main characters, as well as our new recurring one, are promoted—and in terms of personality. Mariner and Boimler in particular are both maturing past their neuroses and quirks, and it’s fun to watch.

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Image: CBS / Paramount+

Random thoughts

  • Both episode titles are riffs on other works. “Twovix” is, obviously, a play on “Tuvix.” “I Have No Bones Yet I Must Flee” is a play on the award-winning 1967 short story “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” by the late Harlan Ellison, who is also the writer of the great original series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
  • The Voyager holograms that run loose include Dr. Chaotica from the Captain Proton holodeck programs, who appeared in “Night,” “Bride of Chaotica!” and “Shattered,” played by Martin Rayner; the clown from “The Thaw,” played by Michael McKean; and, for some inexplicable reason, Michael Sullivan from “Fair Haven” and “Spirit Folk,” played by Fintan McKeown. Again, none of those three gentlemen provided the voices for their roles, which is such a missed opportunity…
  • Rutherford was apparently offered promotions after saving the ship from the Pakleds in “No Small Parts” and stopping the space jelly that attacked the Rubidoux in “Much Ado About Boimler.” He turned them down because he didn’t want to lose his friendship with Tendi. This prompts Tendi to make him stand at attention and declare that they will remain friends no matter what and that’s an order. It’s the sweetest most adorable scene ever. While Mariner and Boimler are both hot messes, these two are so much healthier. They still have problems, but they’re lower-key and less messed up, and they’re so magnificently dorky about it, you just want to hug them both.
  • Tendi convinces Billups to give Rutherford the promotion based on his suggesting removing the hull in “First First Contact.”
  • We saw Voyager in the Fleet Museum, run by Commodore La Forge, in Picard’s “Bounty,” which is presumably where it wound up after the initial exhibit on Earth seen in “Twovix.” Given everything that’s on the ship, one wonders if Admiral Picard and the gang wouldn’t have been better off taking that instead of a Klingon cloaking device or the Enterprise-D…
  • Apparently, Boimler and Mariner’s wacky time-travel adventure in SNW’s “Those Old Scientists” has been classified, as Mariner makes reference to “that Pike thing we aren’t supposed to talk about.” Though we also see the recruitment poster with Number One on it among Boimler’s possessions when he’s moving into his own quarters, too…
  • The single funniest moment in either of the two episodes is Ransom and Shaxs in the Cerritos gym working out. They’re wearing the exact same workout clothes that Crusher and Troi wore in their girl-talk workout scene in TNG’s “The Price.” (They’re discussing Mariner, Mariner overhears some of it and draws the wrong conclusion, because of course she does, and then she stomps off.)
  • Finally, “Twovix” ends and “I Have No Bones…” begins with a small vessel that seems to be destroying ships at random. In “Twovix,” it wipes out the Klingon vessel we met in “wej Duj,” and in “I Have No Bones…” it destroys a Romulan ship. In both cases, we see the alien vessels from the POV of lower-decks personnel. We don’t know what this is, but I am going to go on record as thinking that this is a merging of AGIMUS and Peanut Hamper, having escaped captivity and wreaking havoc.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be attending Albacon 2023 virtually as part of the Eye of Argon panel on Friday night at 9pm EST.

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