Star Trek: Lower Decks

"Much Ado About Boimler"

3 stars

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

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Cody B
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 3:06am (UTC -5)
I don’t know why they insist on playing Boimler snitching on everyone each week as comedy. It’s not funny it just makes him more hateable. I don’t think “what a teacher’s pet brown nosed! LULZ!”, instead I think “man I would hate this guy irl”. They make all the characters unrelatable. It’s sad when Mariner seems to be the most fleshed our realistic character
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Luke
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 11:26am (UTC -5)
@ctothel

“‘But it is not Star Trek.’

Yawn.”

Also yawn.
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Flipsider
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 2:02pm (UTC -5)
It is relevant though to want a show to be more "Star Trek", and we know what that means. Since the last three shows have felt nothing like Star Trek, it would be nice to have something that actually feels like Star Trek, with that sense of optimism and professionalism. Especially in this day and age, a show like that would be refreshing.

In the same vein, I actually found the new Bill & Ted ultra refreshing just because of it's rare sense of positivity.
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Booming
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
Yes, words are difficult. Parody. I didn't say anything about the quality of this show. I see it on the same level as the Orville which is more of an homage, though.
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?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HO70-Rk3jE
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Trent
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
I just caught the Discovery S3 trailer. It seems like "THE BURN!!" is the new "RED ANGEL/SIGNAL" mystery box. Probably it has something to do with the mystery boxes in "Picard" (super powerful AI, or Control, or the Omega Molecule from Voyager).

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.
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Tommy D.
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
@Trent

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.
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Brandon
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 6:22pm (UTC -5)
I too would be surprised if it wasn't an Omega explosion. Good way to make Discovery and its spore drive needed in the 31st century.
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Jordan
Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 2:14am (UTC -5)
I think people who are boycotting "Lower Decks" are missing out. it's good trek. really honest and true to the show. with a lot of good comedy layered in. In fact i'd say it's better comedy than the average star trek "funny" episodes. It's good.
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Marlboro
Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 12:28pm (UTC -5)
"Boycotting" is too strong a word, Jordan. It's been 20 years since the franchise was consistently good, imo. I'm just tired of waiting for things to get better. So, I'm not boycotting so much as I'm just giving up on new Trek.
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Booming
Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 12:54pm (UTC -5)
I cannot hear these stories anymore of how much this or that showrunner loves Star Trek sooooooo much.

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.
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Yanks
Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 6:00pm (UTC -5)
"Much Ado About Boimler" - S1, E7:

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.
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Kyle
Sat, Sep 19, 2020, 12:55am (UTC -5)
Lower Decks isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I don’t like the juvenile snarky vibe but as a comes it can work, and there are some really trek worthy stories in there . If they can slow down the dialogue and get a more mature tone I could get into it. It feels more like real Star Trek and less like kurtzman/grim dark/nutrek than all the other Star Trek shows on right now. And what was that creature? I have to rewatch now but I think that was the jellyfish creature from Encounter at Farpoint? And definitely felt the Chain or Command vibe, right before Mariner makes a reference to Jelico.
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Kyle
Sat, Sep 19, 2020, 12:57am (UTC -5)
And Arix from TAS! Or at least same species. Although Tendi and her dog were super annoying. If they could jettison some inane stuff like that it would be a better show.
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Juan
Sat, Sep 19, 2020, 4:21am (UTC -5)
Could someone who is familiar with how these type of animated shows are made answer this: Is there a minimum page length for the scripts? Because that would explain why the voices sound like they were recorded at double speed and crammed into every bit of space available in each 25 minute ep. I wouldn't be surprised the average Lower Decks ep is longer than the average TNG episode, which is of almost double length. Either the writers or the people vetting these scripts need to be made aware of that and cut down the damn dialogue.

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.
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Sen-Sors
Sat, Sep 19, 2020, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
Probably the latter.
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Jill Florio
Wed, Jul 28, 2021, 4:01am (UTC -5)
The Dog amused the heck outta me. Loved when it turned into a rolling metal cube. This show has some seriously weird moments and I'm all for it.

Also, did Tendi admit to messing with her friends' DNA?
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jillyenator
Wed, Jul 28, 2021, 4:12am (UTC -5)
Was one of the medical freaks intended to be a Threshold salamander? Looks like someone pulled a Warp 10. ;-)

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.
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Gorn with the Wind
Wed, Jul 28, 2021, 11:30pm (UTC -5)
Second best Lower Decks thus far, with Moist Vessel in the lead.

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.
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jillyenator
Tue, Aug 3, 2021, 5:04am (UTC -5)
Isn't the farm where we tell our children that we brought their dogs too? You know...the farm..where they can run and play in our minds, but they adults meant the kill-shelters. It becomes fridge logic when one grows old enough to understand.

Nice to have it turn out like a Risan pleasure planet.

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