Peanut Hamper is a sentient machine known as an exocomp. The “previously on” replays the scene from the season two finale, when she declined the heroic mission to infiltrate the enemy ship and upload a computer virus. That’s understandable. Although she had skills perfectly suited to the task, it was her very first day on the job. But she also transported off the ship, abandoning her new Starfleet friends to their fate. Not cool, Peanut Hamper.
The tale resumes with PH drifting through that battle’s debris field, where she eventually cobbles together a rocket-sled made from a detached nacelle. When Drookmani scavengers show up, she warps away from the junkyard — sacrificing her imaginary friend Sophia without a second thought — and immediately crashes on a planet.
Peanut awakes in a village of bird-people known as Areore, where the chieftain tells his son Rawda to show her their ways. Ms. Hamper has some fun using technology to do things better than their primitive methods. She easily saves the chief from an otherwise fatal sky-snake bite, and helps every egg in the nursery hatch a healthy chick.
Rawda is greatly impressed. A romance blossoms between bird-man and exocomp. He shows his new girlfriend the cave where “relics of our ancestors are kept,” revealing that the Areore had warp-capable warships, but they decided to return to their simpler way of life. Peanut says she has a new appreciation for organic life and confesses her guilt at abandoning Starfleet.
On the couple’s wedding day, the Drookmani scavengers show up, intent on claiming the old ships, but that would destroy the village. The Areore are helpless against superior technology. PH sends a distress call, but she doesn’t know if anyone received it. She volunteers for the mission she had formerly been too selfish to accept, infiltrating and disabling the enemy ship. Her exocomp sabotage crashes the Drookmani barge, no sweat.
The Cerritos hears the distress signal and comes running, arriving just in time to see Peanut Hamper’s heroics. Freeman, Shaxs, and Tendi beam down to congratulate her. PH gives a speech about everything she has learned since her cowardly mistake. She asks to rejoin Starfleet, and the captain accepts. She doesn’t want Rawda to come with her. No thanks, babe.
Then the Drookmani fire up one of the old Areore ships and start a-blastin’. Ransom, commanding the Cerritos, hails them to try defusing the situation. They say they were tricked by “Starfleet lies.” Peanut Hamper invited them to come get that old tech, setting them up as the bad guys so she can play the savior. What a dick move.
The ancient birdman ship kicks the crap out of the Cerritos for a while. Tendi hopes that Peanut will step up for real this time, but she nopes out again. It’s Rawda who saves the day, piloting a much bigger Areore vessel. (Luckily the Drookmani didn’t see that one, I guess.)
Having burned her bridges with the locals and Starfleet, PH is about to be stranded again, this time as a pariah. She threatens to sic the Borg on everyone, and that gets her arrested and thrown in psycho AI prison.
I did not like this episode. We expect Peanut Hamper to grow and redeem herself because that’s a well-worn storytelling trope and especially because this is a Star Trek show. The whole gag is that we don’t get what we expect. There’s nothing deeper. The episode just hammers on that same joke, with diminishing returns.
It strikes me as a poor prank. There’s nothing funny about leading someone to believe a regular plausible thing and then revealing the lie. “The company is cutting costs and you’re being laid off. I’m very sorry. — Just kidding! Ha ha ha, you totally bought it!” A good prank turns on getting someone to believe something weird or outlandish because they want it to be true, exposing a person’s foibles, or at least exaggerating the difference between the belief and reality in an illuminating way. This episode’s writers seem content to trick us and call it a day.
So I didn’t dig the comedy, but I’d be remiss not to mention the double subversion of audience expectations. We are primed to see Peanut Hamper as the protagonist because she is a returning character and a former member of Starfleet. The bird-people seem like standard-issue supporting characters. The village elder and his semi-rebellious son is a time-honored Trek trope.
It’s clever that Rawda, who we assumed was a tertiary character, turns out to be the hero of this story (even saving the Cerritos). And the secondary character we were rooting for was the villain.
- “They expect me to sacrifice myself on day one? Ugh, no way! I hate Starfleet! What about the needs of the me?”
- “They’re so uptight about being betrayed.”
- “Oh, fuck.” “I beg of your pardon?” “Yeah, it’s just something we space folks say when we’re stranded on a backwater planet with no culture.” “Oh, yes. Fuck indeed.”
- “I’m sorry, ‘sky snake’? That’s ridiculous. If everything here flies, why call it a sky snake? Wouldn’t that just be a snake?”
- “Anyway, those are the coordinates. The ships are all underground. Feel free to come on over and take whatever you want. Everyone here is a tree-kissing farmer. There won’t be any pushback.”
- “Oh my god, just shut the fuck up, Rawda. Grow a fucking beak. I wasn’t about to spend the rest of my very long robotic life on a frickin’ bird planet.”
- “Smell you later! And I mean that literally, ’cause y’all shit everywhere.”