“Much Ado About Boimler”
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Episode 7 – Debuted Thursday, September 17th, 2020
Written by M. Willis
Directed by Barry J. Kelly
The seventh episode of Lower Decks brings a delightfully dark comedy that still keeps the show’s heart pumping away. While playing familiar Trek tunes, the show finds ways to strike new notes. And just like last week, the show is enhanced by introducing new characters, helped along with strong guest actor performances.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
For the second week in a row Lower Decks continues its tour of Treknology gone wrong. Stepping into the role of Victor Frankenstein is Tendi, whose unholy assembly of leftover inert carbon and DNA fragments may resemble man’s best friend, but when “The Dog” starts crawling on the ceiling with glowing eyes, it’s clear something is off. And even after the nightmare of the Badgey incident, Rutherford has jumped back on that science horse, talking Boimler into playing lab rat to his marginal transporter improvement experiments, leaving Brad just “one millicochrane” off from fully materializing.
Boimler soldiers on in hopes that people will adapt to his new translucent lifestyle, but Dr. T’Ana isn’t having it, transferring the out-of-phase ensign to “The Farm” on Endicronimas V. Soon enough a terrifying Edosian from Starfleet’s “Division 14” takes Brad and The Dog (accompanied by Tendi) aboard his equally terrifying ship full of Starfleet’s unsolvable space illnesses and failed science mysteries. The assembled self-identified freaks are a Star Trek trip through the Island of Doctor Moureau with a stopover in Sid’s Room from Toy Story. And the Edosian medical specialist’s mad scientist charm with hearse-like ship hilariously add to the creepiness of it all.
The patients are a who’s who of Starfleet’s “dark abnormalities and the clinically obscene,” including an ensign in a Pike chair and devolved lizard Anthony. The half old-man/half boy leader of Starfleet’s hidden mistakes rallies them all under “Freaks fight back!” But the mutiny is short lived because – of course – Brad blabbed. His reward? He gets pushed into an airlock by the freaks.
The Lost Boys
This episode lives true to the core premise of the show focusing on the ensigns and their crazy adventures, while the bridge crew deal with serious Star Trek stuff in the background. Captain Freeman, Commander Ransom and Shaxs are sent as an “elite team” on a covert mission complete with “Chain of Command” stealth uniforms. The vital mission everyone treats with deadly grim determination: to plant some Rulot seeds on some agricultural colony. Sure, the seeds were “highly volatile” and the colony was in “disputed territory,” but the brief check-ins with the senior staff felt like a fun commentary on not taking things too seriously, or a nod to the Bard’s Much Ado About Nothing, which inspired the episode’s title.
Picking up on the “Chain of Command” thing, Mariner is not too happy to find out the crew is about to get Jellico-ed. However, she is presently surprised to find out the substitute captain is her old Academy pal Amina Ramsey, and it doesn’t take long for them to reconnect, which includes (shockingly) Mariner accepting the role as Captain Ramsey’s first officer.
The crew of the Cerritos have some routine operations to handle while Freeman and her boys are away. However, Mariner quickly and uncharacteristically starts showing that she isn’t up to the basics when fixing a water filter on the bog planet Khwopa almost turns into a disaster due to her forgetfulness. Ramsey’s taciturn trio of lieutenants from the USS Oakland don’t get why their captain admires this goof-off of an ensign.
Things get even more serious when a simple rendezvous with the USS Rubidoux becomes a full-on creepy mystery as the ship seems abandoned, found apparently lifeless and drifting. With Mariner still bumbling about, Ramsey’s old-pal patience finally wears thin. Just as this episode starts peeling off more layers of the complex onion that is Beckett Mariner, they discover the freaking out Rubidoux crew hiding in the cargo hold. Their terror is justified when power is restored and the “it” they were so worried about starts tearing the ship apart from the inside out.
Back on the Division 14 ship, things turn out pretty well for Brad and the Freaks. Sure they shoved him out the airlock, but it turns out they had landed at “The Farm,” which is actually a lovely spa for these poor afflicted souls to rest, recuperate and maybe even be cured of their various freakishnesses. And even though he was a total fink, Brad was proved right as the Division 14 operative admits they should have just talked it all out. Oh, and his maniacal laugh? That’s just his way. So, not evil after all.
And The Dog loves The Farm. Tendi was sorry to see her go, but they had a nice chat. Oh yeah, The Dog can talk and fly. Turns out, Tendi can cook as good as Carol Marcus when it comes to making life. Brad loves The Farm too and wants to get some time by the pool, with attendants, but now that Rutherford’s delayed transporter phasing has passed, he is again rejected by the freaks and sent back home. Brad just can’t win sometimes.
As for Mariner, she switches back to kickass space adventurer mode to deal with the crisis on the Rubidoux, helping Ramsey take control of the situation to save the crew. And her former friend and temporary captain figures out that Beckett has been phoning it in because she is still dealing with her issues and isn’t ready to “rank up,” and for now just wants to keep exploring being “a super-great ensign.” So, all is forgiven on that front as well. As for the terror on board the Rubidoux, it turns out the ship had become the vessel for the birth of a peaceful – and familiar – space creature.
In the end with all the scares and darkness and frights, the only actual harm delivered in the episode was on Commander Ransom, returning to the Cerritos with an ill-advised attempt to hook up with Captain Ramsey resulting in some impressive space-jujitsu and a broken table in the bar. But he’s okay too, or so his ego claims.
Playing the hits
In a panel last month, Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan said the show is going to be “playing the greatest hits” from Star Trek (especially his beloved TNG), and as we are now wrapping up the mid-season of the series we are seeing that nicely come to fruition. But “Much Ado About Boimler” wasn’t just playing air guitar with “Chain of Command” and “The Next Phase.” Lower Decks continues to find ways to do familiar stories, but in clever and funny new ways.
And even with 2 ½ story arcs, the seventh episode still found time to work in some character development. We got to see Tendi show off her strong grasp of science, combined with her delightful and blissful ignorance of domesticated Earth companions. Rutherford’s seemingly dangerously pointless transporter tinkering actually turned out to save the day. Brad learned another painfully funny lesson that trying to take shortcuts to get a promotion will not end well. And we pulled up at least a colorful bucket or two from Mariner’s endless well of complexity.
The Dark Side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be hilarious
I like my coffee like I like my comedy, dark and sweet. And this week’s cup of Trek woke me right up. The episode was not afraid to take the show into some of the darker corners of Starfleet, exploring just what happens to all those officers affected by weird science, dangerous anomalies and other space strangeness. Sometimes it takes more than throwing Tuvix back into the transporter to reverse the polarity, and that is where the fun idea of Division 14 comes in.
Writer M. Willis came to Lower Decks after working on shows including The Exorcist and Helix, and a taste of the macabre shown through, without turning into genuine horror. During that Lower Decks Metaverse panel last month it was revealed that she is the one in the writer’s room pushing the envelope for the show, with some of her ideas being rejected as too dark or nihilistic and certainly “Much Ado About Boimler” could have gone in that direction, but she pulled it back to be the heartwarming show that it truly is. The Edosian Division 14 Specialist played that dark to light arc with the funniest moments of the episode with a character introduction rivaling Badgey.
Heading into the home stretch
Star Trek: Lower Decks moves from strength to strength with “Much Ado About Boimler.” The mid-season wraps up with what may be the best episode yet. The humor is more and more character-based. The Trek references are more seamless. And the show is willing to explore and comment on some head-scratchers from Star Trek, like what do they do with all those suffering from crazy space science and why would Starfleet ever use the captain of a starship as a covert operative?
The episode was also much enhanced by the voice talent. A particular delight was hearing legendary voice actor Maurice LaMarche as the Rigelian Lt. Drew Prachett. This was the Star Trek debut for the founder of “Talk Like William Shatner Day,” who also voiced many of the character’s in Futurama’s Trek tribute “Where No Fan Has Gone Before,” including Melllvar. Shaxs voice actor Fred Tatasciore also impressed, taking on the role of the Division 14 Specialist.
So far Mike McMahan’s plan to do their fun versions of Star Trek’s greatest hits is working. And as long as they keep the kooky twists coming and don’t turn into just a cover band I say, play on.
Today we learned
- Stardate was 57752.6
- Division 14 ship was called “Osler” with Designation NX-75300
- USS Rubidoux was designation NCC-12109 and was California Class ship, named for Rubidoux, CA
- Rubidoux was lost to alien infestation just like the California-class USS Merced (in “Moist Vessel”)
- Presumably, the USS Oakland is another California class ship
- Borg smell like “old trash bags”
- Mariner got the “best grades” at Starfleet Academy
- Brad has acid reflux
- “I don’t want some babysitter Jellico-type hovering over us when we are already going to a bog planet, which is already the worst kind of planet as far as planets go.”
- “Boimler’s back baby. Time to kiss some visiting butt!”
- “We osmose our most brackish gratitude.”
- “No! I’m covered in freaks!”
- “Normal dogs hover and spit lighting, right?”
More to come
Every Friday the new TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network. And 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.