Review: “Cupid’s Errant Arrow” Hits Its Target In ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Episode 5

“Cupid’s Errant Arrow”

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Episode 5 – Debuted Thursday, September 3rd, 2020
Written by Ben Joseph
Directed by Kim Arndt

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

The fifth episode of Lower Decks brings a near-perfect balance of earned character humor and Star Trek gags. Changing up the structure with series of parallel stories, writer Ben Joseph deftly takes on a twist-filled action-film ride with the heart of a romantic comedy. Guest star Gillian Jacobs holds her own as the regular cast show off delightfully paired chemistries.

The aliens didn’t appreciate Captain Freeman’s impersonation of Chancellor Gowron

 

WARNING: Spoilers below!

RECAP

Brad Boimler’s Diary

In “Cupid’s Errant Arrow,” our two main characters Boimler and Mariner have teamed up once again for some fun adventures, but this time they’re not up for the same mission. The Cerritos is hooking up with the USS Vancouver to assist in the demolition of a moon threatening Mixtus III, and on board is Brad’s new girlfriend, Barbara Brinson. He is determined to hold on to this totally-out-of-his-league lieutenant, even faced with her reuniting with her ex-boyfriend, Jet, the “second coolest” guy on the Cerritos. And Mariner makes it her mission to get to the bottom of why a beautiful babe on one of the cooler ships in the fleet has an insatiable desire for Brad Boimler. Yeah, I know, right?

Beckett’s first move is something we all have probably tried in 2020: “Computer, end program.” When that fails, the Barb investigation begins. Her crazed conspiracy theory thoughtful analysis examines possibilities that are a veritable “who’s who” of evil Star Trek infiltrators, including a Romulan spy, a salt succubus, a surgically altered Cardassian spy, and a Sulliban. Mariner is driven by a bad (yet very fun flashback!) memory of her time on the USS Quito when her friend’s seemingly perfect boyfriend Niko turned out to be a Harvonian shape-changer that traumatized her when it ate Angie’s face off. Yuck.

Both Brad and Beckett slowly and hilariously spin out of control on their respective missions. In an attempt to compete with Jet, Brad orders up a whole new look by asking the computer to “analyze the coolest people in Earth history.” Even though such a nuanced and complex task should have resulted in a power surge greater than the one needed to create a mystery to confound Data, the Cerritos computer quickly delivered an outfit that was an unholy style mashup of The Fonz, Tim Riggins, and Will Smith, with a touch of Doc Brown. But it worked as Barb found it “sexy as hell,” which Mariner saw as yet another red flag. Beckett’s spiral downward involved getting a hair sample from the blonde lieutenant, leading to a new theory: “99.8% sure she is a reptoid.”

After Mariner actually finds some real evidence in the form of a parasite husk, the episode’s excellent pacing ramps up to action movie level as she risks a spacewalk to save Brad, now on one of the implosion control platforms. There she sees something that truly horrifies her… Brad, naked, talking all sexy. After he uses the word “lover” way too much, he is knocked out due to a conveniently timed platform emergency, leaving Mariner and Brinson to a full-on physical fight. Turns out Barb is convinced Mariner is way too much of a “badass space adventurer” to be real friends with Brad, so it is she who must be some kind of parasite. Twist!

Lower Decks homage to the Spider-Man meme

Sleepless in Vancouver

As for our other two ensigns, Tendi and Rutherford’s nerdiness rises to a level only measurable by one of Vancouver’s new T88 diagnostic tools that they both covet. After bonding over the Cerritos’ need for regular maintenance, they’re drawn by the siren song of the Vancouver’s superior technology. I mean it has double-latticed thermal meshes and fluidic processors that self-replicate their own silica, so what’s not to love, right?

And Vancouver engineer Lt. Cmdr. Ron Docent is all too eager to entice them with the promise of a T88, pitting the pair against each other in an all-out geek match for who can run more mainframe diagnostics, putting their friendship to the ultimate test. Their frantic, fun competition ends up in a tie, so it turns out they both get T88s and transfers to the Vancouver. Wait, what? Another twist?

That is not how laser tag is played, guys

How Carol Got Her Groove Back

Our third story pair for this episode—yes, this time we get three—has Captain Freeman and Commander Ransom giving an assist to the condescending captain of the Vancouver, who can’t seem to get the locals of the Mixtus system on board with the plan to implode the unstable moon. Freeman has to use all her second contact skills to navigate the diplomatic crisis just to get the various factions to agree to let the Federation save Mixtus III from certain destruction.

Gone is the uncertainty and doubt of some previous episodes, as Carol nicely channels Starfleet’s greatest captains by quickly coming up with a plan to satisfy everyone, even down to moving three tons of moon dust for a religious sect to worship. But as the plunging lunar crisis culminates, in comes the representative from Mixtus II, revealing the moon destruction plan may save the third planet but will end up destroying the second. Twisterino numero tres.

Freeman picked the wrong week to quit synthehol

Forgetting Barbara Brinson

As the moon crisis rises to red alert, all of our separate but interlinked stories are balanced on the edge, and each comes to a nice satisfying conclusion.

The Barb/Mariner smackdown gets bloody but turns on some honesty and bonding over war stories of Brad’s adorkable bumbling. Oh, and there WAS a parasite, but it was stuck to Brad, making him “chemically irresistible.” Barb insists she’s above being swayed by some pheromones, despite that moment earlier when she was deeply sniffing Brad. And yeah, she dumps him, ironically to study the surprisingly talkative parasite. But she and Mariner are now the best of friends.

After debating leaving the Cerritos, Tendi, and Rutherford decide they want to stay with the old girl, but Docent presses the point. Turns out he wants off the Vancouver. He can’t handle all that pressure to be “epic,” so our ensigns have to work together to stop the forced crew swap, and they are not above using a little cyborg-enhanced blackmail to do it. Ever resourceful, they both stole a pile of T88s on their way out the airlock as a present for each other.

As for Captain Freeman, she doesn’t waver when faced with an impossible problem, because that is what Starfleet captains do. But it turns out that Mixtus II is only populated by two rich d-bags, mostly concerned about ruining their latest home improvement renovations. Giving off a sardonic version of a “Mr. Worf, fire” vibe, a steely-eyed Freeman gives the order: “Implode the moon.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for Parasite and the Pheromones

ANALYSIS

Trek Actually

Just five episodes in and it feels like Lower Decks is already risking some experimentation with its own format, and that’s a good thing. Eschewing the opening teaser/cold open altogether, “Cupid’s Errant Arrow” tells a series of parallel stories, with different pairs of our characters each facing their own little challenges. This Robert Altman-like narrative style—also used to good effect in movies like Pulp Fiction and Love Actually—was a lot of fun to watch, punctuated by moments when the character storylines would literally run past each other in the corridors.

The plot involving the imploding moon wasn’t the only thing holding all of this together; there were also some recurring themes. Each of these three narratives was its own little love story. As Mariner investigated Boimler’s girlfriend her true (platonic) love for Bradford was revealed. (“He is a dork, but he is my dork.”) While Tendi and Rutherford flirted with the sexy USS Vancouver, they discovered their true love for the tried and true USS Cerritos, even down to “that smoky smell.”  As for Captain Freeman, she recaptured a love of her role in Starfleet, after showing some doubts in some recent episodes. As her trusty companion on this journey Commander Ransom noted, “She’s doing great!”

Take a number, ladies

There’s Something About Cerritos

In every Star Trek show, one of the most important characters is the ship. This episode held a mirror up to the USS Cerritos via reflection by the USS Vancouver, which felt like its Sovereign-like upgrade at first. But in another theme of learning to accept yourself, we get to see the isolinear chips are not always greener when you actually get there.

Sure the Cerritos “shakes and creaks and moans at warp 7,” and the mission of second contact isn’t the most glamorous, but the pressure to be “epic” on a hero ship appears to have the risk of stressing the crew out to the point of extremes. With a meta wink we hear the bemoaning about how on ships like the USS Enterprise “it’s something new every week with those guys.” Maybe there is something to the quieter life on board one of the least important ships in the fleet. The USS Cerritos may be falling apart, but it has character.

Shinier isn’t always better

When Brad Met Mariner

As we move into mid-season, Lower Decks continues to feel like it is hitting its stride with another funny and heartwarming episode. What’s best about “Cupid’s Errant Arrow” is how the humor works because we are getting to know these characters, and can laugh both at and with them. And while the meta Star Trek winking also ramped up, it was still (mostly) organic and fun, fitting into a Goldilocks Neutral Zone where you see it, laugh with it, and yet aren’t yanked out of the story by an excess of it.

The pacing on the show continues to improve with an excellent effort this week by director Kim Arndt, who knew when to dial it down for family comedy and when to dial it up for action comedy. This was greatly helped by composer Chris Westlake, who is also showing how the music can help with the laughs, like in the rock and roll “cool Boimler” scene. Community’s Gillian Jacobs brought one of the best guest roles of the show so far, keeping us guessing all the way with her curious girlfriend Barb.

Once again, Star Trek: Lower Decks gives us a great half-hour to forget all our troubles and spend some time with our new friends in the 24th century. Can’t want to see them again next week.

How dare you treat Teddy Geordi like that

MORE BITS

Today we learned

  • The stardate was 57601.3.
  • USS Vancouver is a Parliament-class ship, registration NCC-70492.
  • Boimler’s full first name is Bradward.
  • Brad wears a boy’s size small.
  • Brad used to have a holodeck girlfriend.
  • Mariner still has the tricorder with a purple stripe she forced an energy creature to make for her in episode 2 (“Envoys”).
  • A Phylosian serves in tactical on the Cerritos, and Mariner is willing to set Brad up with her.
  • Mariner visited Deep Space Nine when on serving on the USS Quito.
  • Rutherford thinks the Cerritos smells like toasting marshmallows on a cool night, even when it is actually a plasma fire.

Laugh lines

  • “She’s as real as a hopped-up Q on Captain Picard Day.”
  • “That guy’s a Kirk sundae, with Trip Tucker sprinkles.”
  • “Whatever. It was no big deal. I managed to reverse the polarity and reboot the timestream. Good thing too. 1920s Chicago, nobody’s washing their hands.”
  • “You need to stop spinning out and accept people for who they are. Now be quiet, I have to change everything about me to trick her into thinking I’m something I’m not.”
  • “It’s so stressful. It’s so epic. It’s all, tow this space station, and calibrate the Dyson sphere. Go back in time and kill the guy that was worse than Hitler!”
  • “You maniacs! We just redid the floors!”

Old school Mariner keeping it real

 

UPDATE: All Access Star Trek podcast discusses “Cupid’s Errant Arrow” and more

Every Friday the new TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe, including a discussion on the latest episode of Star Trek. This week we cover “Cupid’s Errant Arrow.” The podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPocket CastsStitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.

On Saturday we will post our weekly analysis of Easter eggs and references for this episode.


New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. It has not yet been announced where and when Lower Decks will be available outside of the USA and Canada.

Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.

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This one was fun.

I was kind of hoping Boimler would just have a girlfriend on the Vancouver who worked well with him and we’d occasionally see here now and then whenever the ships needed to partner up, but oh well.

Vancouver is a cool ship design I’d like this team or the team behind Star Trek Online to help out with Picard and Discovery.

Vancouver is a cool ship design I’d like this team or the team behind Star Trek Online to help out with Picard and Discovery.”

Yes, seconded…

It was fun. This show keeps making me smile.

I third the idea of engaging the Titmouse Animation and ST Online designers.

The Vancouver is lovely (as befits the city).

I also love the Aventine design that is based on the Captain Ezri Dax’s slipstream ship from the Relaunch novels. In fact, I have the Eaglemoss Aventine model.

See, inspired, modern Starfleet design is possible: Kurtzman just needs to push the live-action series to bring onboard other folks with different design ideas. SH has to be willing to thank and part ways with Eaves and Cherniawski so that his strategy of different shows having different looks and feels can come alive.

Last edited 26 days ago by TG47

Star Trek Discovery does have some inspired designs and I personally love the design for the Discovery itself, but they don’t align well everything that has come before or even after.

To me, they do look like Star Fleet vessels, but from a parallel universe. I could understand Discovery existing within Canon with the exception. That it’s oldish color is nothing like any vessel…ever in Starfleet (that I have seen).

I bought the Eaglemoss Model for the Shenzou years ago and the booklet explained Brain Fuller wanted out of the box designs because Starfleet was trying to branch out and find designs outside of Vulcan influence. I love that idea, but again, none of the design fit at all.

Eaglemoss took the Garrgarian and Buran and converted them to fit the future universe of STO and they fit beautifully, just not in TOS era. Dispute the controversy surrounding the Anaxas fan film, they new how to take the classic TOS style and bring it to the modern era.

NX-01 is another beautiful design that feels like it belongs.

Federation ships in Picard didn’t seem to have much care put into them. We haven’t seen any schematics or further shots showing them off and they following this pattern where the ships are jagged.

That’s my main issues with modern Trek (minus lower decks) is that the way it’s shot and the way it’s designed makes it feel like another Sci-fi show and not a part of the universe. Starfleet ships generally have carried a level of elegance in many of their designs and STO has done well to honor it. Picard and Disco ships are fairly jagged and painted with dark muted colors.

Even Discos Enterprise feels dark and edgy when it should look sleeker.

I think if the USS Discovery had a coat of grey paint like TOS Enterprise that would help. That copper look is cool, but feels like it belongs in the future with Ent-J.

Discovery era ships feel perfect for the mirror universe or a war torn future where elegance in design takes a back seat. I love how Lower Decks and Star Trek in-line especially have carried the look and feel into newer designs that still feel like home.

Long response, but I’m passionate about the Starships. I do love the USS Discovery it just feels foreign similarly to the Kelvin era ships.

What I don’t get is why they feel like more classical ship designs would work for animation but not for live-action?

I agree with you about the new Trek shows and ship designs, they feel like they should be in another show altogether at times. I do like the new Enterprise but I can’t disagree it could look a bit sleeker.

But the Vancouver really looks and feels like a classic Trek ship through and through. Another reason I’m loving this show. This show doesn’t even feel like it’s being made by the same people who makes PIC and definitely DIS.

Last edited 25 days ago by Tiger2

Oh God no… That would be somewhat clever and a good thing for the character. Boimler can’t have that GF because he has to be the pathetic loser who has nothing work for him.

This episode would have worked WAY better had they set it up where Mariner was the one with the parasite and Boimler did indeed find someone. But again, nope. Mariner had to be right and Boimler has to be the loser. (eyeroll)

I’m gonna have to agree with this. This is not how you write powerful characters. They shouldn’t be invincible and know it alls all the time. They have to make mistakes and learn from them. As it stands now the show is taking a too one-sided approach with their characters. There has to be a point where Boimler is not the butt of the jokes.

One thing that’s been missing thus far is mixing and matching characters more. Pairing up Boimler or Mariner with the other two would help us geta better handle on their differences — Tendi and Rutherford have mostly been the same person in most of their stories.

I thought the funniest line was when Mariner tried to do an emergency beamout and used a fake code.

Yes… That was a rare out loud laugh. This show is so mediocre I’m not even remembering the gags that caused me to laugh anymore. And there are so very few of them you’d think they’d be memorable!

Hey, man, you all right? Do you need to talk to someone? It’s okay, 2020’s been a tough year for all of us.

Not following you, Great Lakes. Your comment makes no sense whatsoever. Care to clarify?

Interesting review.

You… basically said nothing whatsoever just now. What was the point of even posting anything?

He gave a fair comment.

Spock would just say “fascinating”.

Not really.

Fun episode and enjoyed the references to Vancouver’s neighbourhoods in the Shuttlebay. Also the Parliament Class is looking pretty nice!

Yeah, and here I was hoping it was a reference to Vancouver, Washington

I spotted Marpole, Fairview and Kitsilano.
Which makes me think the show is produced in Vancouver, it would explain having Jerry O’Connell in the cast-he did star in Sliders made in Vancouver.

A lot of shows are shot in Vancouver. All the voice actors technically could do their rolls from home, although typically it’s done in a sound studio. Which literally could be ANYWHERE.

I *loved* the Trip Tucker line. If only they could have throw in a line like, “Trip Tucker totally survived!” and make it canon.

Too. much. fan service/references.

Poutine and Sushi were seen in the mess hall which was a nice call-out to the city of Vancouver lol

Last edited 26 days ago by Finnian Lynch

Poutine has nothing to do with Vancouver. It’s a dish from Quebec, not British Columbia.

There are plenty of poutine dives in downtown Vancouver hoping to attract tourists looking to sample a Canadian staple.

Dang I forgot this was on. I’ve been rewatching DS9 all this week.

Yeah… I’ve been forgetting it was on, too. I think that speaks to the quality of the show. But then, I have trained myself to not recall when anything is on. If I feel like watching TV I just look at my DVR to see what I recorded.

Good points. I recognize the quality of Lower Decks, but I just don’t look forward to watching it. It’s kind of forgettable.
Also, I stream all my shows, so since I’m knee deep into DS9, I forget about other shows I guess.

Yeah… Streaming is a bit odd. Only go there if there is something I hear about elsewhere and want to see. I’m sure there are sure are things I wouldn’t mind checking out. But I just don’t want to go fishing through the service. The DVR is easier. I program it and forget. When the new season starts, there it is.

The last two weeks of LDX I didn’t watch until late Thursday night because it just never occurred to me it was on. As I said, if I could DVR it I would turn on the DVR and say, “Ah! A new Lower Decks.” Now it’s a bit like the old days. When you had to remember when it was on. The only difference now is if you miss the air time it’s of no consequence because you can see it whenever after that. But still…

I think they have referenced the first 5 or 6 series

I liked this episode SO much better than the others so far! The crew were actually competent, which is a must for me to enjoy the show, and the humor grew out of the characters and out of things that actually happen in Star Trek, rather than just being ridiculous stuff tacked on or shoehorned in. And Mariner’s over-the-top actions made sense in this episode, given that she thought her friend was about to be eaten/impregnated/taken over. It worked for me.

Whoever wrote this one, get them to write some more!

I agree that this one was much better than the others. After last week’s I was deciding on whether to cancel CBS AA until Discovery comes back and then binge the remainder of Lower Decks. After today’s episode, I think I’ll keep going. I thought this episode was more believable/traditional and with better comedy. The preview for next week looked good too.

I never watch the previews, because I don’t want to be spoiled, but I’m glad to hear that next week looks good!

I still think the 2nd one was the best. It had the most laughs. Er… Chuckles.

Best one for me, I agree completely with the pacing this director nailed it.
Also glad to see Tendi is off of the speed this week 😏

I wonder if they purposely had Mariner in a First Contact uniform and a post-TNG combadge during the flashback referencing “Descent” just happening, knowing fans would pick up on the ‘goof’

Last edited 26 days ago by David

I think it’s one of four things: (1) the flashback takes place circa 2373, and the “gossip” is actually old news; (2) Mariner can’t quite remember when/where the flashback took place; (3) it was a production goof; or (4) what you said.

Someone tweet Mike McMahan and ask!

I think so far my favorite moment in the entire season is Mariner’s flashback!

Seeing DS9 again with Mariner on the Quinto that is the same class as Beverly’s ship, the USS Pasteur, from All Good Things back in their First Contact uniforms talking about Data, Lore and the Borg almost gave me nerdgasm! It was just too much to handle. Of course it would’ve been great to actually go inside the station but I’m guessing that will come later. ;)

Loved the moon plot and it made Captain Freeman look a lot more competent in this episode since I been seeing complaints she kind of sucks at her job so far. And the U.S.S. Vancouver, WOW! It’s nice to see real 24th century design ships again. So beautiful! And loved Tendi and Rutherford’s scenes. They didn’t have much to do but still fun to watch them.

But man, the show is great! It’s just nice to have classic Trek stories again and solving basic Starfleet/Federation final frontier problems that doesn’t end with the threat of all life in the galaxy being wiped away from existence. ;) Just basic, but interesting life stories again.

The problem for me is it just goes by TOO fast. By the time you’re settled in, its already over.

Last edited 26 days ago by Tiger2

This episode was a whole lot of fun, but the “dauphin” reference was jarring, as it means the writers not only got the allasomorphs’ species name wrong but also didn’t understand why the episode was called “The Dauphin.” That’s a French word meaning a king’s eldest son. It was a reference to the role that Wesley’s girlfriend plays in her society. It’s like watching an episode of TNG with Gowron in it and mistaking the Klingon species as being called “Chancellor.” Sloppy on the writers’ part.

Last edited 26 days ago by His Name Is Rios

I’m forced to admit that I get a charge out of any reference to TAS. Here, we got a Phylosian one.

I confess I felt the need to double-click Memory Alpha to see how the writer might have gone astray ( since McMahan says they do vet things with that resource). The entry is very clear on the allasomorph shapeshifters, and it was the central footprint.

Take it another step, Dauphin is the name of a French region to which the heir to the throne had title (like the Prince of Wales in the UK) rather than a general term for a crown prince. So, it’s a reference to an extinct French title used in analogy that they misunderstood.

Last edited 25 days ago by TG47

random story idea – the time frame is wrong, but maybe they could flashback – the Ceritos would be the perfect ship to clean up and remove the saucer section of the Enterprise-D from Veridian III. Maybe they remove it, maybe they modify it into a working outpost. I release this idea to the Star Trek Lower Decks writing team. :)

Holy crap, Episode 5 was fantastic. If it continues like this it’s already found its footing.
They seem to have already made some of the adjustments I suggested recently. The humour is less childish and made me laugh loads of times. It’s placement never got in the way of a really good ‘Trek story. I dunno if it was just the planets aligning or a particular writer, but this was head and shoulders better than previous episodes.

Sigh… It is now abundantly clear that this is what this show is. Mediocre. The jokes are soft and the characters, not that I expect much from animated 2D characters, are not interesting or even fun. I mean, is Mariner ever going to be WRONG about something or make a mistake? Conversely, is Boimler ever going to be RIGHT about something? I’m at the point thinking the show would be more interesting if Boimler and Mariner where eliminated and we just focused on Tendi and Rutherford. They aren’t that great either but are WAY more fun and interesting than those other nitwits.

But again, the bottom line for a comedy is jokes. But.. And this is a recurring theme… There were some clever bits but no real laugh out loud moments. I wasn’t expecting Rick & Morty level jokes but I was still hoping for something better than Home Improvement.

Anyway, as mediocre and as much as the show consistently misses their target it is STILL the best Trek Secret Hideout has produced. Not by much, but it is. So the positive thing is that SH Trek is improving. Improving very slowly but it is moving in a positive direction.

Will S3 of STD continue this trend? I’m hoping so…

Mariner is black female, Boimler is a straight white male, you think a CBSTrek show is going to make the latter be more competent than the former? Even on occasion? Think again.

Last edited 25 days ago by Steve

You got some real hang ups Steve. You don’t think Pike wasn’t a competent person on Discovery? He seem pretty together to me….even for a white guy.

This show is the worst. I really want to like it, but there’s nothing funny going on. They’re all tedious tools spurting lines at a manic pace. Are they supposed to be insecure teenagers or Starfleet Academy graduates? Mariner supposedly has all of this experience, and she still acts emotionally stunted. It’s painful to watch.

Last edited 25 days ago by Salt Vampire

Funny how the two Federation ship designs seen so far in Lower Decks are better than anything Eaves has come up with in Discovery and Picard. By far.

Last edited 25 days ago by Steve

I thought Newsome/Mariner was rather annoying in the first ep, but now she has won me over. So this is officially the best Star Trek product since, what, the days of Trip talking about catfish. I don’t think it’s amazing, mind you, but it’s charming and Trekkish; and a relief to finally have a Trek not stinking with the sickly rot of the Abrams/Kurtzman aesthetic. (Yes, I know Kurtzman greenlit it, but it’s a McMahan joint.)

So once again (starting with episode 1) I did not laugh at all during the episode, but once again (starting with the previous episode) the show is actually growing on me.

I’m beginning to be quite fine not finding the show funny at all since it does entertain me, but why oh why did they have to redesign the uniforms again? The First Contact ones are amazing and they looked great in that flashback.