From Horned Apes To Puffy Denobulans, ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Easter Eggs In “Mugato, Gumato”

We have already recapped and reviewed “Mugato, Gumato” and discussed it on the All Access Star Trek podcast; now we take a deep dive into all the Easter eggs that caught our eyes. In some cases the references are clear, with others it may just be our Trek interpretations; art is in the eye of the beholder.

Obviously… SPOILERS ahead.


You say Mugato, we say Gumato

The episode title gives away a big link to the classic Star Trek episode “A Private Little War,” which introduced the  Mugato, the dangerous, poisonous, white-horned apes. The episode title also ties into the production issue of how different actors were pronouncing Mugato differently during the TOS episode, and how it was actually “Gumato” early on and in the credits, but Mugato (and sometimes Mogatu) in the show. Lower Decks played on this with different characters pronouncing the name differently; Shaxs used a wide variety or pronunciations all by himself.  But this was all retconned by Boimler, who revealed they have “alternative pronunciations… Isn’t that neat and inconsistent?”

Ultimate fighting

The episode started in the Cerritos gym, with Mariner, Boimler, and Rutherford playing a game of anbo-jyutsu. Described as the “ultimate form of martial arts, anbo-jyutsu and its trademark colorful armor was introduced in the TNG episode “The Icarus Factor,” where William Riker played a match against his father.

As if Starfleet would hide a black ops agent

After hearing a rumor that Mariner was secretly a Starfleet black ops agent, Boimler pointed out it would not be the first time. He mentions “Tuvok did it when he infiltrated the Maquis,” as seen in the Voyager episode “Caretaker.” And he noted, “There were a ton during the Dominion War,” such as when Miles O’Brien infiltrated Orion Syndicate for Starfleet Intelligence in the DS9 episode “Honor Among Thieves.” Later, when they confront Mariner with their suspicions, Rutherford accuses her of being part of Section 31, the supposedly super-secret rogue organization first featured on Deep Space Nine. To help sell her dark and dangerous mystique, Mariner was shown playing the knife game, using a Klingon D’k tahg knife.

Diplomacy Cannon

There was a quick visual gag when Boimler and Rutherford confront the Ferengi to save the captives. After deciding to use “their brains” to solve the problem, they burst in with a makeshift device that looks just like the cannon Captain Kirk built to fight the Gorn in the classic Star Trek episode “Arena.” However, the ensigns made their device to create a persuasive presentation to convince the Ferengi there was profit in turning the planet into a Mugato preserve.

Throwback Ferengi

Ferengi have been seen on Lower Decks before, but the ones in this episode were portrayed as very aggressive, using energy whips as to hunt Mugato and capturing the Starfleet away team. This all appears to be a nod to how the Ferengi were going to be the main adversary on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but their introduction in the early first season episode “The Last Outpost” was not well-received. Mariner makes this clear when she accuses them of being “creepy, throwback ‘Last Outpost’-style Ferengi.” She also asks the “Ferengi goon” (that is how he was credited) if he knew Quark, the much more nuanced and sophisticated Ferengi character of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Quark was played by Armin Shimerman, who also played one of the “Last Outpost” Ferengi; he’d regretted the way that first time had failed and made it a goal to make the Ferengi a success on DS9.

Caffeinated Denobulans

The Mugato on Frylon IV was first discovered by a couple of Denobulan scientists. Denobulans were introduced in Star Trek: Enterprise with ship’s medical officer Dr. Phlox, and Lower Decks showed off their famous ability to puff up their face to help ward off danger. Before encountering the Mugato, the pair discusses finding a beverage alternative to Raktajino, the favored drink on station Deep Space 9.

Bar Cat

While we are talking about rare Trek alien sightings, there was a Kzinti Starfleet officer in the Cerritos bar. The feline-like race was originally created by sci-fi author Larry Niven and featured in many of his novels. He then introduced the Kzinti to Star Trek when he wrote The Animated Series episode “The Slaver Weapon.”

Fellowship of the Cerritos

“Mugato, Gumato” also has some references outside of Star Trek. As they were being chased, Boimler and Rutherford hide in the exposed roots of a tree as a Mugato hovers above them, replicating an iconic moment from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring when a group of Hobbits hides in a tree from a Ringwraith. There is also a moment a few minutes later when Rutherford stops at a cliff and Boimler runs into him, sending them tumbling down a hill just as Frodo did to the hobbits as they were running from Farmer Maggot.

We also got a bit of Star Wars with Mr. Hyde’s dice, a nod to Han Solo’s Dice. Hyde also exclaimed, “Thank the Maker!“… a favorite phrase of C-3PO.

And the whole hunting of Mugato for their horns feels like a nod to the Futurama episode “Spanish Fry” when Phillip J. Fry is hunted for his “human horn.” Another possible link to Futurama could be the name of the planet Frylon IV.

And the character of self-appointed Mugato expert Patingi could be a mashup of  “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, who was killed by a stingray, and self-appointed grizzly bear expert Timothy Treadwell, who was mauled by a grizzly in the documentary Grizzly Man.

UPDATE: Showrunner talks anbo-jyutsu


What did you see?

Spot any new Trek references we missed on Lower Decks? Have a favorite? Sound off in the comments below.

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

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Gotta hand it to them… I thought they were stupid before I watched em but this show, like Orville, makes me lol. The denobulan blow up got me good xD

LD deserves praise

Fairly certain the green dude said “thank the maker” when the Cerritos team arrives…!

Another solid LDS episode. Not great, but I liked the relationship between Boimler and Rutherford this week. Also, I would find it hilarious if Mariner was double bluffing this whole time and she actually *was* a special ops type!

The resolution was good this week too – high fiving a compromise was reminiscent of TNG and DS9 (the one where Sisko forces the Maquis and Cardassians to switch colonies with the trilithium torpedoes or the one with the Sheliak spring to mind).

As for the *ahem* more adult aspects of the episode, I must admit I laughed a couple of times. But making your audience think of “Sub Rosa” is not a good thing… or even “the naked now” – those aspects of this episode were crude but amusing enough. And it’s not *that* overt unless you’re an adult and you get the references to what the Mugatos are doing.

I was pleased that Tendi became more assertive too – she’s putting all that *energy* to good use and becoming a real Starfleet officer it seems.

And, of course, the power of maths saved the day – just without a dark matter asteroid that was in the shuttebay with a permanently open door that can be used to lure the thing away from the planet so that the time anomaly doesn’t get it so that a different time anomaly can save the futurepast. Yay for DSC I guess? But anyway, this time using the power of maths made *sense* and I understood what the heck was happening.

Looking forward to next week’s episode!

By comparison, this ep of LDS makes Star Trek Nemesis look like Citizen Kane.

McMahan jumped the shark with this one. Not impressed.

Meanwhile this is probably my second favorite of the series so far.

People are doing WAY too much with this episode, especially over three or so vague shots of Mugatos.

The mugato sex and masturbation scene was gratuitous if not necessarily super graphic (yeah, it was stroking a horn, but… Lordy), however it also followed a scene of a mugato biting off someone’s face, after we’d had enough time to establish his character and get to know him. Bit tawdry.

Counterpoint: I thought it was second worst. A major disappointment after We’ll Always Have Tom Paris.

Typo: Rutherford’s holographic projector looks like Kirk’s cannon, not canon. (Funny, people in these parts usually make that mistake the other way around.)

I think Patzingi was a reference to the animal guy from KCHAT in Grand Theft auto vice city

Glad to see that the Denobulans aren’t extinct in the 24th century after all, as many have often speculated!

Speaking of things from ENT:
The notion that you have a good compromise when both negotiating parties aren’t really happy with it, was also once uttered by Captain Archer in the episode Cease Fire. (Where the crew of the NX-01 had to settle a dispute between Andoria and Vulcan.)

And last but not least:
Does the term “booby trap” count as another Trek reference (due to it having been a TNG episode title), or is that a stretch?

After enjoying the first three, this was a huge step backwards. Didn’t laugh once, turned it off halfway through. Oh well, better luck next week. Can’t win em all!

And people need to remember that: one bad episode doesn’t mean the show sucks.

True. It was disappointing the episode sucked but I’m hoping it was an anomaly.

The alarms going off, the cages open, and suddenly it’s raining came together as a Jurassic Park reference.