If you can’t get enough Star Trek content from the excellent Lower Decks, Paramount has even more animated adventures in the form of the Very Short Trek series. These decidedly non-canonical adventures give us a glimpse of the final frontier as we have never seen it before, and that goes double for the latest episode, “Worst Contact.” Just be warned: with its emphasis on bodily functions, this is the most disgusting thing Star Trek has done since making Captain Janeway and Tom Paris have freaky lizard sex.
The premise of this Very Short Trek episode is as simplistic as it is gross. The crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, including Commander Riker and Dr. Crusher, beam down to make first contact with a group of aliens whose design was clearly inspired by the Talosians from Star Trek: The Original Series. This new race recently created warp drive technology, and in accordance with Starfleet regulations, Riker leads an Away Team down to their planet to invite these aliens into the United Federation of Planets.
Back in Star Trek: First Contact, we saw that these events usually resulted in a kind of cultural exchange. Humanity received advanced technology and philosophy from the visiting Vulcans, for example, while warp pioneer Zephram Cochrane introduced them to everything from handshakes and hard liquor to the musical stylings of Roy Orbison. In this Very Short Trek ep, the new aliens attempt a similar cultural exchange, but it doesn’t take long for things to go sideways.
So far, the Very Short Trek experiment has been very odd and very hit-or-miss.
That’s because the lead alien promptly (and quite prominently) picks his nose before trying to shake hands with Riker. When Riker understandably hesitates to reach for the hand, Dr. Crusher asks the alien point-blank if he just picked his nose. That’s when his companion drops the gross bombshell that their race believes that “boogers represent our essence” and that, like the Force in Star Wars, “binds us to all things.”
If this Very Short Trek episode had stopped here, it would have already been a top-five gross-out moment for the franchise. But Riker and Crusher soon learn that the aliens also wipe their snotty hands on just about everything, which is the real reason the environment around them is so green and dirty. The good doctor teasingly suggests that the hesitant commander should be the one to shake the proffered hand, and that’s when Riker asks what the odd smell is.
Just when you thought this Very Short Trek ep couldn’t get any worse, the aliens try to serve the crew their “national dish,” which turns out to be “leftover fish cooked in microwaves.” The aliens exuberantly describe how they can’t wait to heat this dish up in the break rooms of the Enterprise so that the crew can bask in the smell while the aliens kick back watching reality TV.
Star Trek has never used gross-out humor before, and if this episode of Very Short Treks is any indication, it probably should never use it again.
The Very Short Trek episode reaches peak grossness when Riker confirms that the aliens have no concept of washing their hands before preparing meals or at all, and that’s when the lead alien adds “the sauce” to the ugly fish dish by snotting right onto it.
Having finally seen enough, Riker points in the direction of some fictional Gorn invaders, distracting the aliens long enough to blow up the newly created warp drive. This is all the pretense Riker and Crusher need to end first contact and beam away, even as the aliens bemoan that they never had a chance to lick their visitors’ eyeballs.
So far, the Very Short Trek experiment has been very odd and very hit-or-miss. The franchise has never relied on gross-out humor before this, and if this bizarre attempt at bodily humor is any indication, the experiment might be a failure. With any luck, the writers of these short adventures will confer with the Lower Decks writers and learn a fundamental concept: jokes require actual punchlines and not, you know, endlessly escalating nastiness without any real payoff.