Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2, Episode 4 – Debuted Thursday, September 2, 2021
Written by Ben Rodgers
Directed by Jason Zurek
With a story tied into Trek lore and themes along with more welcome exploration of our characters, “Mugato, Gumato” misses a step by relying on uncharacteristic lowbrow gags for its humor.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
A conspiracy of ensigns
A “friendly” match of anbo-jyutsu sets up the key dynamic and strikes the tone of the episode. Boimler and Rutherford conspire to finally beat badass Mariner after their months of secret training at the ultimate form of Human martial arts, but once this predator senses a real challenge, she goes all Tarantino on them. Beckett again is able to combine her workout routine with a way to get in touch with her inner psychopath, leaving her two opponents literally barfing, bleeding, and begging for mercy. But buckle up, because this episode is just getting started on testing the boundaries of what this series can—or should—do.
If all that wasn’t enough to make them wary of Mariner, Sam and Brad are told a rumor by the shady ship’s bartender Honus—literally whenever he talks he gets all shadowy—that she is a Starfleet black ops agent, who possibly killed half the crew on one of her previous postings. It’s true that Mariner—if that’s her real name—kicks ass and is complex and mysterious, but was being their friend was all part of a deep cover for Starfleet’s “perfect weapon”? Sure. Let’s go with that.
Hopped up on conspiracy theories, Boimler and Rutherford warily join Mariner on an away team to Frylon IV to find a wayward Mugato that doesn’t belong on the planet. Shaxs leads the team, channeling his inner Bear Grylls in a way that includes—oh god, ewww—repeatedly tasting Gumato dung to track his prey. But this turns out to be much more than another animal control assignment as they come upon some old-school energy whip-wielding Ferengi harvesting Mugatus for their horns. The Bajoran security officer may have gone to the Black Mountain and returned from the dead, but he hasn’t lost his leap before looking approach, which creates chaos and the release of he horned ape-things, and somehow ends with him getting stabbed—and possibly eaten?—by Mariner. Wait, maybe the rumors are true!
Things go from bad to worse to the unspeakable as Brad and Sam go on the run from the released Gumatos, and Mariner herself. Unfortunately, a fun but all too brief meetup with a Mugato expert named Patingi reveals an Outback Tellarite who turns out to not be what he seems—see a pattern here?—and he ends up getting his head bitten off… gross. Things get even weirder when the boys try to hide in a log that ends up offering two Mugatu just the support they need for some vigorous—and quite graphic—together time. Oh, and a third Mugatu hangs out to watch, and what he does with his horn shall not be mentioned again. Also, gross!
You will be scanned
Tendi isn’t involved with all the conspiracy and Mugato weirdness, busy continuing her quest to finally get some respect from Dr. T’Ana. She’s sick of getting pushed around and left out of the cool medical stuff happening in sickbay, so she goes full-on with a BS assignment: Following T’Ana’s order to hunt down those reluctant to take their physicals and told to “scan their asses,” D’Vana seeks to find her own inner badass.
After a fun montage of scanning the reluctant, she is just left with one holdout, Dr. T’Ana herself. Like a monologuing supervillain, the doctor slow-claps Tendi’s discovery, revealing she never believed the ensign had it in her to suss her out. Doc goes full-on feline-avoiding-a-bath, leading the poor medical tech to chase “bad Dr. T’Ana!” through the ship.
Captain Freeman also gets her own little side story as she stews over Starfleet assigning her another animal control mission. Nothing seems to be going her way; even simply tractoring a ship leaving the planet results in its destruction. Poor Captain Hyde—another fun character for Paul F. Tompkins—can only be satisfied with a replacement Federation shuttle, along with all the knick-knacks in her office. She is having almost as bad a day as poor Sam and Brad hiding in that… actually we shan’t talk of that. Her day gets even worse when Admiral Hubbie calls to let her know about a compensation scam run by an alien pretending to get his ship destroyed. Oh yeah, she’s pissed.
Welcome to Mugato Land
When Mariner catches up with the boys, they finally confront her with the truth of her black ops Starfleet ninja past, which turns out to be a big lie… which she started herself. Of course she did. In another nice moment of growth, Beckett reveals her bit of self-rumor mongering is all part of building her mystique and keeping people at a distance, but the sweet bonding moment is cut short by the Ferengi capturing her. With badasses Shaxs and Beckett as prisoners, freeing them and the away team is left to the Geek Squad, who use the power of their favorite board game Diplomath to get the Ferengi to turn their operation into a nature preserve for the Mugatu; apparently, there is profit in that, thanks to merchandising.
As for Tendi, her T’Ana situation was solved by using a broken arm to lure the doc to come to her aid, allowing for a quick scan, a level of commitment that finally earns her some sickbay respect. And the captain gets her groove—and her shuttle—back by sending Mr. Hyde to work for the Ferengi, shoveling that stuff Shaxs was tasting. Ick. Speaking of the Bajoran security officer, he was patched up nicely by Dr. T’Ana, who showed a whole new level of bedside manner… so yeah, they are totally a thing now too.
So all is well again in the galaxy. Lessons were learned, growth was had, and what was seen on Frylon IV, stays on Frylon IV.
Most of the elements are in place for this to be another good if not great episode of Lower Decks. The premise offers a fun spin on the classic Muguto from TOS, having some inside fun on how no one can agree on the pronunciation… or spelling. Isn’t that neat and inconsistent? Indeed it is. And we lean into core Star Trek themes like conservation and diplomacy, or in this case, Diplomath The Game™. Once again, season two offers deeper exploration of our characters, with some nice development for both Tendi finding some agency in sickbay and Mariner shedding more of her complex shell.
However, Lower Decks is first and foremost a comedy, and the show works best when that humor comes organically from character. Too often “Mugato, Gumato” bent our characters in order to service the humor, and too often that humor was of the cheap and easy variety. Excessive violence and coarse jokes about ex-wives, poop, kinky sex, and drugs felt out of place. At the risk of going all Marge Simpson, we have come to expect more from Lower Decks. Raw and rude humor can be done, perfected by shows like Futurama and Rick & Morty, but this episode lacked that level of finesse.
But again, there is still much to like in the episode, including some fun new characters like Paul F. Tompkins’ scammer captain Mr. Hyde and the all-too-short-lived Patingi, the dubious Mugato whisperer. Trek fans can also delight in seeing the return of truly villainous Ferengi complete with energy whips, and Mariner’s meta callout to “The Last Outpost” is allowed because of Lower Decks doing a better job at making the Ferengi a threat than that failed TNG effort.
“Mugato, Gumato” is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s great to see our core characters continue to grow and watch them raise each other up using the power of math and diplomacy, just like a good Star Trek show should. But the overly broad humor used here triggers some of the early concerns about the show before it premiered and proved it could find a way to mix humor and Star Trek together. The result is a sometimes passable half-hour of entertainment, but the weakest entry of the second season, and possibly the series.
- Episode writer Ben Rodgers also voices Commander Stevens.
- Stevens has weak bones.
- Stardate 58036.4
- One of Mariner’s previous ship postings was the USS Atlantis. (She has also served on the USS Quito and two other ships prior to the Cerritos).
- Tellarite blood is purple… poor, poor Patingi.
- Kayshon teaches karate.
- Rutherford accuses Mariner of being part of Section 31. Boimler mentioned Section 31 in S1, showing it isn’t exactly a secret to the crew of the Cerritos.
- Before retrieving it, Freeman gave Mr. Hyde the Type 6A Shuttle Joshua Tree. Ransom said they can say they lost it in a black hole, which apparently had happened before.
- Pretty sure we would know if she is the perfect weapon. Most of the time she’s napping.
- Keep your pips on, Billups.
- Dude, I’m talking alien pronunciations here, that’s like your favorite thing.
- Mugato dung. Fresh, tangy.
- I think he likes to watch.
- Maybe the old Tendi was a pushover, but a lot’s changed since earlier today!
- Our brains are inside of our skins.
- You guys are what? Some creepy, throwback, “Last Outpost” style of Ferengi?
- Of course, I’ve heard of Quark!
- Sorry, we thought you were a secret super-spy that was ready to kill us, by the way.
More to come
Every Friday the 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. On Saturday, we’ll post our weekly analysis of Easter eggs and references for this episode.
New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. It is available on Amazon Prime Video internationally on Fridays. It will debut in Latin America on Paramount+ in September.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.