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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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