Star Trek: Lower Decks

"Empathological Fallacies"

1.5 stars

Air date: 9/28/2023
Written by Jamie Loftus
Directed by Megan Lloyd

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Three drunk and lascivious Betazoid diplomats (all women over 50, naturally) are being transported by the Cerritos to Risa. Their telepathic/empathic projections cause the entire crew to "get their party on," resulting in drunken excess and rowdiness that occurs in the background of a lot of shots in Ten Forward, or whatever the bar on this ship is called. Eventually, the partying reaches a fever pitch that Freeman finds unacceptable. When she tries to shut it down, the Betazoids revolt, turning the episode into a classic Ship Takeover Plot. The lunacy is set against the character backdrop of T'Lyn — unhappy aboard the Cerritos — trying to send a message to her former captain, hoping to return to the Vulcan ship she was banished from.

The truest, and best, exchange in the episode comes when Mariner exclaims, "Why am I yelling?" and T'Lyn dryly responds, "This crew is always weird and yelling." (At least there's a moment of self-awareness here.) There's indeed a lot of yelling in "Empathological Fallacies," which exhibits the worst of Lower Decks' first-season tendencies, with the volume and madcap excess turned up to 11 and drowning out any tempered sensibility or worthwhile plot. It's brazenly overconfident for an episode with such tepid "jokes."

The plot doesn't even try to make sense. When confronted over being the alleged cause of the telepathically induced emotional turmoil aboard the ship, the Betazoids — who are actually agents of Betazed's intelligence service for some reason — decide not only to seize control of the bridge by force, but to pilot the ship through the Romulan neutral zone in their quest to return to Betazed to resolve the dispute.

This engineered crisis is lazy even for this unserious series. The questionable-at-best geography of traveling through the neutral zone to leave and then re-enter Federation space is dumb enough. But to have these "intelligence operatives" break Federation treaty out of some inexplicable haste is so many steps beyond stupid that it doesn't even work on the cheap comic terms conjured up here.

In the B-story — which goes on in the background far longer than it should've given the crisis on the bridge — Boimler hangs out with Shaxs' security team below decks. The "joke" here is that the security officers have so much downtime (slam poetry, puzzles, card games) when they're not doing kick-ass Security Things. But even that joke is not really the joke here, since the story contradicts it in the interest of giving the security team some soft-skill duties beyond kicking ass (admittedly, not a bad idea); they're merely indulging Boimler so he can relax. Yawn.

The saving grace here is T'Lyn, who is actually the cause of all the telepathically induced craziness. She's maybe suffering from early-onset Bendii Syndrome (um, isn't that serious and eventually fatal, like in "Sarek," which this episode name-checks?) and projecting emotions everywhere. The Betazoids are actually red herrings. It's all about T'Lyn and her lack of self-purpose on the ship. But she finds it through Mariner telling her how valued she is here, and how her old captain should eff off already. I guess I can support this show's desire to highlight a character core in each episode. But aside from that kernel, this episode is an obnoxious mess that does not work at all.

Previous episode: Something Borrowed, Something Green
Next episode: Parth Ferengi's Heart Place

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23 comments on this post

Jeffrey's Tube
Thu, Sep 28, 2023, 2:58am (UTC -6)
Catians eating Betazoids is daaaaaaaaaark. On the one hand, I really enjoy dark humor, but on the other hand, this is a shared universe in which the majority of the creative content is presented as more serious fare, and this is canon now. I don't like it. I hope the show will stay away from these kinds of jokes in the future.

T'Lyn continues to be the shot in the arm this show needed.

I got a small laugh out of the licentious and rowdy Betazoids being older middle aged women exactly like Lwaxana. Hey, she was pregnant in her final appearance on DS9, so we know Betazoid women are apparently fertile well into old age. I guess apparently they also all turn into Lwaxana, personality-wise, as the hormones do what they do. Watch out, Riker.

I like that Freeman was shown as being a very competent captain in this episode. It's a fine line to walk on a show like this. She can't be TOO competent all the time because then the lower deckers cannot get up to shenanigans, but if she's too incompetent, the show loses all grounding in reality. This was a nice reminder of why she's the captain of the starship when in previous episodes of the season she's made questionable decisions about personally upgrading a sentient computer rather than delegating it to the experts of her engineering department, getting easily tuvixed, etc. I feel like her character needed this right about now, so it was well timed.

I also felt like the joke about the Romulans that was "settle down, now let's go lurk over there" all mustache-twirly was very Family Guy-ish and I haven't watched that show in around 20 years because that kind of humor gets tiresome with how obvious it is.

So yeah, that's two jokes I didn't like in this episode, and in fact found offputting. There have been many jokes in other episodes that didn't land at all for me, but none that I would have said were offputting until these two in this episode. Hmmm. Maybe it's just my mood tonight? Did anyone else feel similar?
Thu, Sep 28, 2023, 4:18am (UTC -6)
Not the best episode.
But now Mariner + T'Lyn I will ship till I die. Please just make it gay and don't make it weird.
Thu, Sep 28, 2023, 5:27am (UTC -6)
I liked this outing a lot, perhaps my favourite this season. The A/B-plot struc­ture had bug­ged me some­what, par­ti­cu­lar­ly in the last epis­ode. I am glad this epis­ode was fo­cus­ed on one single threat, could cover it in rea­son­able de­tail and still had time for a few cha­rac­ter mo­ments, par­ti­cu­la­r­ly with T’Lyn. When the party esca­lat­ed quickly, I was im­me­di­ate­ly re­min­ded to Bendii syn­dro­me, and dis­mis­sed the idea be­­cau­se they’re Beta­­zoids, not Vul­cans. So ba­sic­ally I fell into the same trap as the cha­rac­ters, which makes a sa­tis­fy­ing view­ing experience.

I the first season, LD was often described as “screw­ups on a space­­ship”, but we have come a long way since. Every­one was com­pe­tent here, or ra­ther at least as com­pe­tent as the D crew in “The Nak­ed Now” (which, ad­mit­ted­ly, was not their finest hour). Sure every­one were af­fect­ed by the an­oma­ly of the week, and every­thing was a litt­le more wacky than it would have been on TNG, but in the end they pul­led it to­gether and fixed the situ­a­ti­on; po­e­try slam sure­ly gets stop­ped by Red Alarm. And no Beta­­zoid was eaten by a Cai­­ti­an, nor by any­­one else.

(@Jeffrey's Tube: I find the cannibalism joke totally in­offen­sive; pre­da­tor/​prey re­la­ti­on­ships have been de­pict­ed among sen­ti­ent spe­­cies be­fore, e.g., “The Slav­er Weapon”, “Lone­ly Among Us” [that was bor­­der­­line taste­­less], “The Sound of Thun­der” and even on “Cri­sis Point”. And we are talk­­­ing an­­ci­ent past here, not a pre­sent thing)

The mystery ship plot boils slowly in the background; now the Cer­ri­tos crew gets a blur­ry ima­ge, which I hope will come handy when they will in­evit­ably cross path with the ag­gres­sor. I am hap­py the cha­rac­ters don’ re­cog­nize the ship de­sign, either. Half way through the season, I now want that plot to gain trac­tion to­wards an epic finale.

In the end, I award 3½ points for this epis­ode, where half a point is entirely earned for the scene between T’Lyn and Mariner in the clo­set. There lies also the fa­vou­ri­te line of the epis­ode: “I sup­po­se, by the trans­iti­ve pro­per­ty, I, too, must be Vul­can as a mother­fucker”. This ab­use of lo­gi­cal ter­mi­no­lo­gy is just Vul­can as a mother­fucker, and the clash­ing style levels make it even funnier.
Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Sep 28, 2023, 8:59am (UTC -6)
I thought this episode was better than the last two, but not as good as the start of the season.

It was nice to finally get a T'Lyn episode. She really puts off some serious Daria Morgandorffer energy. I had some worries that her deadpan might be boring if not in small doses, but I'm glad to see I was wrong. The A plot was a bite-sized, coherent character arc for her, and worked well.

The actual scenario, however, left something to be desired. I'm okay with the whole idea that T'Lyn's out of control emotions affected the whole crew. But they didn't affect the whole crew. Boimler and the security team were shuffled off into the B-plot, and seemed to act pretty much normal (for this show anyway). Why did T'Lyn affect the bar, but not them? Actually, it seemed like she was pretty much only affecting the bar. Were her quarters nearby or something.

The Boimler B-plot was...fine...but it felt kind of like a throwback to the first/second season, and didn't have the most relevance to the current goings on. I was also a little confused that Shaxs was calling Boimler "baby bear" - because I thought that was his nickname for Rutherford. I guess he just calls them all that?

Three stars.
Thu, Sep 28, 2023, 9:50am (UTC -6)
I introduced my kids to Trek a few years ago, starting with TOS. We've gone more or less in chronological order since then, which means right now we're alternating DS9 and Voyager episodes. We just recently watched the DS9 episode that introduced Zanthi Fever through Lwaxana, so I immediately thought that's what it was just like the Cerritos crew. I dismissed Bendii Syndrome because I, like T'Lyn, assumed she was too young. It was nice to follow up on T'Lyn's emotional instability and to have her make the decision to remain in Starfleet (will she no longer be a provisional lieutenant?).

I also really liked the B plot with Boimler and Shaxs, as simple as it was. We've always known that Shaxs has a softer side (and a spiritual one, he is a Bajoran after all), but learn that has driven him to a holistic view of ship "security" was really nice. @Karl, I can't remember what episode it was, but I believe it was at least implied once that Shaxs has a group of favorites that he calls his "baby bears," and Boimler earned the nickname after sticking up for him last season.
Thu, Sep 28, 2023, 10:31am (UTC -6)
T'Lyn doesn't have early onset Bendii syndrome. They were worried she might, but it was just her emotional turmoil from being kicked off a Vulcan ship and sent to live with the rowdy humans.
Gorn with the Wind
Thu, Sep 28, 2023, 7:27pm (UTC -6)
Weakest episode of the season. I al glad, however, that T’Lyn is staying on. Vulcan neutrality helps to temper the zaniness of the rest of the crew… most of the time

2/4 stars.
Thu, Sep 28, 2023, 7:43pm (UTC -6)
Mostly I found T’Lyn’s conflict a good story harkening back to her original appearance in “wej Duj”. Despite her rogue attitude then, it feels like she’s been the inexplicable stick in the mud this season, and it’s nice that there’s a logical explanation for that behavior here. That said, her emotional condition leads to everyone else acting irrationally, which is the big conceit needed to enjoy the episode.

Yet, the silliness pairs well against the practiced calm that the security officers show off to Boimler. That training even gives one of the junior officers a moment to shine with its absurd combat effectiveness against the Betazoids.

The development of the mysteriously destructive ship plot was a welcome one (the smart money is on Section 31). And I giggled at the idea that Romulans just sit around lurking in the borders of random Neutral Zones ready to pick a fight. It certainly seemed that way in TNG.

I’ll give it a 2.75. The funny outweighs the illogical for me.
Thu, Sep 28, 2023, 11:27pm (UTC -6)
"The questionable-at-best geography of traveling through the neutral zone to leave and then re-enter Federation space is dumb enough. "

Yeah it's clear from DS9 that Betazed is a "downtown" Federation world, since its fall was, as Kira said, a danger to "Andor, Tellar, Alpha Centauri"...
Fri, Sep 29, 2023, 1:24am (UTC -6)
Who thought we would ever hear about Angel 1 again in the ST universe?
Tim C
Fri, Sep 29, 2023, 3:13am (UTC -6)
I'm with Jammer on this one - it feels like an early season 1 throwback when the show was very fast and very loud, but not very funny. I couldn't even call it a swing and a miss because, well, what were they swinging for? First dud of the season.
A. Franco
Fri, Sep 29, 2023, 2:03pm (UTC -6)
OK episode. They just vulcaned it up.
Fri, Sep 29, 2023, 5:48pm (UTC -6)
The biggest missed gag was the security guys actually running to the bridge when the custom in TNG/VOY was for security people to stroll to where they were needed. Can't you see the platoon strolling down the corridor, Boimler freaking out, "Don't you think we should go faster?!!!" "Relax, Baby Bear"...
VILF Hunter
Fri, Sep 29, 2023, 7:17pm (UTC -6)
Yes, why would the Betazoids make such a rash decision? It's almost like someone on board was sending out psychic waves that were removing everyone's inhibitions or something. PS. It's not Bendii syndrome, that was just the first theory.
C.T. Phipps
Fri, Sep 29, 2023, 10:06pm (UTC -6)
Caitans eating Betazoids is good worldbuilding.

Finally some more interspecies relationships that don't involve humans.
Sat, Sep 30, 2023, 10:50am (UTC -6)
What can I say? I enjoyed it.

Not the best, not the worst. Loved the scene in the closet with Mariner and T’Lynn.
Brandon Adams
Sat, Sep 30, 2023, 11:50am (UTC -6)
This show is increasingly rote/pointless and I appreciate Jammer being unafraid to say it.

Can I just say that I get tired of being pressured into singing the unqualified praises of any television product bearing the arrowhead because fans are terrified that Trek will go away if we don't. The emotional scarring reminds me of 90s Seahawks fans.
Sun, Oct 1, 2023, 4:00am (UTC -6)
Because of nuTrek, Memory Alpha now actually has this ridiculous line:

"At some point in their history, Betazoids were hunted and eaten by Caitians, however this practice had long since been discontinued by 2381"
Jeffrey's Tube
Sun, Oct 1, 2023, 9:27pm (UTC -6)
And apparently they still eat "synthetic Betazoid" as a staple of their diet.

I don't know. I find it too dark. If I suddenly found myself with a dolphin coworker, I wouldn't keep eating dolphin steaks (presuming I ate dolphin steaks in the first place), synthetically manufactured or not. The joke doesn't sit right with me. It's not very Trek. Maybe if they joked about Klingons doing it, or Orions, or some non-Federation race. Caitians are Federation members and it doesn't fit the Federation, Trek ethos.
Mon, Oct 2, 2023, 12:42am (UTC -6)
> Catians eating Betazoids is daaaaaaaaaark. On the one hand, I really enjoy dark humor, but on the other hand, this is a shared universe in which the majority of the creative content is presented as more serious fare, and this is canon now. I don't like it. I hope the show will stay away from these kinds of jokes in the future.

Eeh, that was hysterical.

But that highlights the only major, fundamental misstep Lower Decks has made, in my eyes (aside from indulging too frequently into referential humor), and that's this suggestion that the events depicted are canon.

But why? What's the point?

Typically you'll hear the canonistas explain it away as the show being seen through a "cartoon lens" where the events happened, but in "reality" wasn't quite as comedic and over the top in real life, and it's just exaggerated for the show.

Sure, and that worked great for 'Those Old Scientists', but it places an unnecessary burden on the show -- an animated adult comedy, mind you -- a burden for it's content to be both absurd, but a generally accurate record. Which, itself, is almost a joke. Like, in-canon there's a holo-novel that apes the style of the TOS movies? A Pokemon that says it's name and drinks bones? An evil sentient AI combadge? Etc.

I can enjoy the show well enough on it's own merits without needing it to anchor itself needlessly to "canon". We're so fucking obsessed with these shows being a living documentary of a real future, that we'll let the nerdly analysis of it get the way of basic enjoyment. It's like it's become clerical work for some folks, making sure it all lines up.
Mon, Oct 2, 2023, 3:49am (UTC -6)
"And apparently they still eat "synthetic Betazoid" as a staple of their diet."

Yes, so a Betazoid technician might have to program a replicator to dispence recipes made of Betazoid meat.
Mon, Oct 2, 2023, 10:40pm (UTC -6)
Wow this sounds like some stupid crap

Too tired to indulge this
Wed, Oct 4, 2023, 11:21pm (UTC -6)
As we've been recording our Trek casts, I don't usually have time to invest in commenting on this great site anymore, but I do keep my eye on new reviews. Full disclosure--I also use Jammer's index to check credits and air dates as I find the interface far less stressful than Wikipedia or Memory Alpha.

But I was really shocked to see the low score for this episode and Lower Decks in general. Jammer is...what 5/10 years older than me I'm guessing and maybe that's why the humour fails to land. I generally haven't enjoyed the new shows--Discovery and most of Picard are particularly weak if not down-right exhausting; SNW isn't terrible, but often rather bland; Prodigy is a bit too kid-centric for me to really get into--but LD has been a consistent bright spot for me, and I found this episode to be the best of the season so far. Oh well...

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