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.
Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.