Star Trek: Lower Decks
"Much Ado About Boimler"
Air date: 9/17/2020
Written by M. Willis
Directed by Barry J. Kelly
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
There's something to be said for taking a situation and actually developing the humor out of it, rather than just spewing one-liners and Trek references for 22 minutes. "Much Ado About Boimler" is the best and most creative, funny, and visually impressive episode yet of this series because it has some ideas that actually play as original thoughts within the Trek universe.
Boimler is a test subject of some new transporter tech Rutherford is working on, and an accident leaves him "out of phase" — glowing white and translucent, emitting a constant transporter-beam sound. The condition is "purely cosmetic" and otherwise harmless, but would you want it to happen to you? Now imagine it happening to Boimler, just as he's about to meet visiting crew members from another ship!
This is played for the requisite situational laughs, and it works. What works even better is that this becomes the impetus for an exploration of Starfleet's "Division 14," which handles bizarre sci-fi conditions and mysterious diseases afflicting personnel. Boimler is told he will be traveling on a D14 ship to "The Farm," where he will receive treatment for his condition (or maybe, as some other D14 patients believe, be put out of his misery). Also going on this trip: a genetically engineered dog Tendi created as a science experiment, and whose bizarre properties are good for a surprising number of offbeat laughs.
The D14 vessel is a horror show of "freaks," including its most prominent subject, who is half old man, half child, speaks in both voices, and is suspicious and bitter and creepy. The episode milks a lot of dark humor out of these scenes, but also a surprising amount of originality and curiosity. This felt like a part of Starfleet I'd never seen or envisioned before, and not something that could probably work outside of animation without seeming too implausibly bizarre. This series is the right venue, and I'm finding that the humor I'm most enjoying on this show is the darker, weirder stuff, and this episode finds the right mix of comic horror and absurdism.
In the B-plot, equally important and actually committed to some character work, a new captain takes command of the Cerritos while Freeman, Ransom, and Shaxs are on a special assignment that looks a lot like it could be "Chain of Command" but is way more mundane and less important. The visiting captain is Amina Ramsey, whom the still-ensign Mariner went to the academy with, in what proves to be a particularly harsh moment for career comparison contemplation. The question here: Why is Mariner stuck in such a place of arrested development? Ramsey charitably gives Mariner the temporary opportunity to be her first officer, much to the ire of Ramsey's other officers. That Mariner proves to be a perpetually incompetent screw-up on their mission (for reasons ultimately revealed to be intentional out of her defensive need to keep real responsibility at arm's length) is not helpful. Both Mariner and the episode show some refreshing self-awareness.
The mission ends in a nicely visualized special effects display that's more ambitious than this series has attempted to date. All of these elements gel in an episode that actually puts in the time to explore its characters and their situations while developing an actual Star Trek plot. It puts in the work. Now if only Mariner could do the same.
Previous episode: Terminal Provocations
Next episode: Veritas
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19 comments on this post
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 3:06am (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 11:26am (UTC -5)
“‘But it is not Star Trek.’
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 2:02pm (UTC -5)
In the same vein, I actually found the new Bill & Ted ultra refreshing just because of it's rare sense of positivity.
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
Again parody ie a show that makes fun of something can not be part of that something. Is that such a hard concept to grasp?
Is this part of Star Wars?
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
It's a new showrunner, so hopefully this season will be different, but the trailer makes things look as manic, emotionally manipulaive and wildly melodramatic as what came before.
You just don't feel like this Discovery crew - and Kurtzman Trek in general - is an actual collection of highly trained scientists and navy-persons. They feel like they've stepped off of CSI Miami or a Tony Scott movie.
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
I would bet on the Omega molecule. Hopefully having one showrunner for a full season will give some consistency to the show. I really liked the concept of the red angel in season 2, but it fell apart in the middle and didn't really recover.
"You just don't feel like this Discovery crew - and Kurtzman Trek in general - is an actual collection of highly trained scientists and navy-persons."
Its funny, but this is one reasons I can't fully immerse myself fully in The Orville. I know its part of the nature of the show but it bugs me. On Discovery, I don't feel like the crew lacks competence, but it feels like they lack discipline, which also irks me at times.
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 6:22pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 2:14am (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 12:28pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 12:54pm (UTC -5)
As most here,I have just no interest in this show. There is so much great stuff to watch. I can barely keep up.
I'm watching maybe 8 shows right now. NuTrek doesn't make the cut.
Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 6:00pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this one as well. I definitely got the "Chain of Command" vibe early on. The episode made me realize just how long Mariner has been an officer. Her best bud is now a Captain! I'm even more interested in learning more about her past. More nutty Star Trek fun I've come to very much look forward to in this series.
3.5 stars from me.
Sat, Sep 19, 2020, 12:55am (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 19, 2020, 12:57am (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 19, 2020, 4:21am (UTC -5)
Or have the producers done some kind of calculation where they found out how fast the dialogue needs to be before the viewer is too distracted to be able to determine whether they are actually enjoying the show.
Sat, Sep 19, 2020, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 28, 2021, 4:01am (UTC -5)
Also, did Tendi admit to messing with her friends' DNA?
Wed, Jul 28, 2021, 4:12am (UTC -5)
And was that a Tholian running the medical ship?
I'm loving all the callbacks the show layers into their eps. I too got a clear "Chain of Command, part 1" vibe. And the old man/boy child patient name drops "Rascals".
Did Mariner refer to Jellico by name? I missed that reference.
Wed, Jul 28, 2021, 11:30pm (UTC -5)
This show is so close to getting it. If they slow down the dialogue to 1.5x and have everyone shout 20% less, it would be a real hoot.
Mariner purposefully screwing up in front of her classmate so she wouldn’t get a nepotistic promotion was weak tea. Would’ve been better if she were overcorrecting out of insecurity about still being a lowly ensign and that imperiling the mission. Since we still don’t know why she’s been dogging it all these years, it wasn’t satisfying or interesting to see her double down.
The B story (A Story? This show is so frenetic I can barely remember how everything balances out) was lighter weight but more fun. Loved the classic Star Trek feelgood message of ”The Farm” actually being a place of arcadian bliss. Nice little inversion of the worn out trope of the promised land actually being hell, as in Logan’s Run and so many others.
Tendi and her “The Thing”-esque dog was a great showcase of visual and physical comedy, something Lower Decks has excelled at from episode one. Again, the feelgood ending to this storyline actually felt like Trek, a welcome and rare occurrence these days.
Tue, Aug 3, 2021, 5:04am (UTC -5)
Nice to have it turn out like a Risan pleasure planet.
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