Aug 20, 2020
Star Trek: Lower Decks “Much Ado About Boimler”
This week’s episode of Star Drek: Lower Blecchs (RIP MAD magazine) is entitled “Much Ado About Boimler”, yet doesn’t actually have much ado about Boimler at all.
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The cold open features Tendi excitedly showing the other lower decks ensigns her science project: a dog that she grew from scratch, sequencing its genome by hand, and naming the resulting dog “The Dog”. A running gag in the episode is going to be that Tendi grew up on a planet without dogs and doesn’t know that dogs aren’t supposed to crawl on the ceiling, or unhinge their upper jaws and spit out bats, or randomly turn into a large metal cube and roll away.
The main plot has to do with Captain Freeman and her first and second officers getting dispatched to a planet that’s having an agricultural dispute, because they’re all really good at growing a certain kind of plant that the aliens are fighting over, or something like that, but it doesn’t really matter. They may have been taking a stab at a joke about how often Star Trek plots send the most senior officers away on frivolous missions, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Instead of leaving the ship with Doctor T’ana, or that engineer dude with a mustache we haven’t seen much of, Starfleet has assigned a visiting captain to the Cerritos. Mariner moans over this, but Boimler sees an opportunity to impress another ship’s captain.
Rutherford has the same idea. He’s trying to juice up a transporter to make it beam faster. Boimler excitedly volunteers to be his test subject, beaming six feet away, and then beaming back again. The process manages to shave nearly half a second off of loading times, but when Boimler beams back, he’s still stuck in the last frame of special effects animation: blue, translucent, and with the trademark Trek beaming noise ringing very loudly wherever he goes. Rutherford claims the difference is “cosmetic” and he’s only off by one millicochrane. Boimler’s still solid enough to grab Rutherford’s shirt and shake him, saying he can’t report to his shift like this; he’s trying to suck up, after all.
The new captain, to Mariner’s delight, turns out to be Amina Ramsey, a friend of Mariner’s from the same class at the Academy. Boimler interrupts their reunion by reporting for duty while still ringing. Ramsey irritatedly orders Boimler to Sickbay. Rutherford rushes in as Boimler sits in Sickbay, claiming he’s “figured it out”; he waves a tricorder over Boimler and the noise stops. However, he’s still partially immaterial. Doctor T’ana tells Boimler she’s alerted Division 14, which handles strange unsolved space afflictions. They’re going to pick Boimler up and take him to a medical spa on a vacation planet, which everyone calls “The Farm”.
As luck would have it, T’ana had already alerted D-14 to come pick up The Dog. Tendi is going along too, because she’s fiercely protective of The Dog. They come to pick him up on a ship that looks like if Section 31 had a baby with the Imperium.
They’re greeted by a three-armed, three-legged alien (he’s clearly the same species as Lt. Arex from the ’70s animated series) wearing a villainous cloak who’s congenitally unable to not act evil at all times. He ushers them onto the ship—which is just as dark and sharp-angled as the outside—where they meet many strange, biologically altered human anomalies. We see a lady with too many eyes, a guy who’s carrying his own head like in Re-Animator, a lady who got hit by delta radiation and ended up in a Captain Pike chair, a real-life Mac Tonight, and one of Tom Paris and Captain Janeway’s fish babies. We see a guy whose right half is aging too fast and whose left half is aging in reverse. “Don’t worry, The Dog, you don’t belong here with these freaks,” says Tendi, with all that Starfleet openness and tolerance on display.
The last guy has some bad news: this “Farm” they’re talking about doesn’t actually exist. Starfleet just gathers up all its mistakes on this satanic ship and flies them around the galaxy to keep them away from normies. The ship has been traveling for months. The ship itself is The Farm.
Meanwhile, Captain Ramsey has caught up with Mariner a little bit. She asks if Mariner would like to be her temporary first officer, to which Mariner readily agrees. Ramsey has told her own senior staff that no one can kick ass like Mariner. They all head down to the bog planet Khwopa to help unclog one of their water filtration units.
Ramsey’s by-the-book staff is less than impressed with Mariner’s constant stories about all the mean pranks she pulls. They’re even more less than impressed when Mariner continually screws up, including leaving their tricorders on the ship, and the filter almost blows up for lack of tricorders. Everyone glowers at Mariner.
The Cerritos’s next assignment is to rendezvous with the USS Rubidoux. Rendezvous with the Rubidoux, and have a tête-à-tête vis-à-vis some objets d’art, and maybe have a dejeuner with étouffée and crêpes Suzettes okay I’m done. They come across the Rubidoux floating in space, non-responsive, with all their systems powered down. They beam over to see what’s up and Mariner has some trouble working the magnet boots in her spacesuit.
On the USS Rad As Hell, the freaks are conspiring to stage a mutiny and break free of their floating prison. Boimler listens intently and then immediately rats them all out to Captain Tripod. He hulks out, punches his desk in two, and grabs a rifle to put down the rebellion, to an embarrassed Boimler’s dismay. The captain then reveals Boimler’s snitchery to the would-be mutineers, and throws him in with them to get mercilessly beaten.
Back on the Rubidoux, Ramsey is starting to get snippy about Mariner’s incompetence and her insouciant attitude towards her mission. Mariner protests that she in turn is disappointed that her former friend is such a brown-nosed rule worshipper. They come across a cargo bay with its doors welded shut. They break in and find a bunch of crewmembers in there with the gravity turned off. The hysterical captain begs them not to turn on the power, saying that there’s a creature after them. “You don’t understand… we’re inside of it!” she screams, which turns out to be the exact opposite of the truth.
Things take a decidedly monster-y turn when the away team switches the power back on and instantly, a huge iridescent fungus pops out of the walls, feeding on the power.
Mariner’s switch flips from “slacker jagoff” to “badass space adventurer” as she takes charge, scooping up kids (why are kids allowed on starships?, vol. 3382) and rushing down the hallway to the bridge as shiny blue tendrils pop out everywhere. Ramsey correctly deduces that Mariner was taking a dive so that Ramsey wouldn’t offer her a job. “We all thought you’d be the first captain from our class! You had the best grades, you kept us all on track…” Mariner protests that she didn’t want that job and she doesn’t like all the butt-sniffing and rule-mongering of high command. They strike a deal where Mariner stops pretending to suck and Ramsey stops trying to recruit her.
The freaks on the Starship Album Cover are chasing Boimler down the hall, locking him in an airlock, and threatening to push eject. Just then, Boimler’s bad case of semi-substantiality comes to a sudden end and he’s solid flesh again. They shoot him out the airlock anyway, but he lands on grass beneath the sunshine. They’ve finally made it to the actual Farm.
The captain apologizes for going ape on them, and concedes that the months-long route, creepy feel of the starship, and his tendency to laugh in an exaggeratedly evil manner could communicate the wrong impression. Everybody gets out and enjoys the amenities. We get a good sight gag in the form of all the delta-radiation cases putting beach clothes on over their full-body Hoverounds.
Tendi bids a tearful farewell to The Dog, who reveals that she can talk and stand on two legs. The Dog reassures Tendi that she loves it here and can be well cared for, and begins to float away. Boimler comes over and tells Tendi that real dogs can neither walk nor talk nor float. “Oh… well this is starting to make more sense,” Tendi says, shouting after The Dog that she realizes it really is a freak, after all. “I know!” The Dog answers. “I didn’t want you to worry!” There were like fifty jokes that could’ve been made out of that scene and they just fffft, whiffed right past them.
Things are a lot less paradisal on the Rubidoux. The two captains are doing hero stuff, rescuing people from the blue tentacles, and meeting in the bridge where they think they’ll be able to beam out. The blue stuff is everywhere, cracking the windows and buckling the walls. But there’s not enough time to beam everybody out. Mariner instructs Rutherford to beam them out on his crazy new high-speed transporter. “It made Boimler weird!” he protests.
With everyone safely off, and only a few people trapped between planes of reality, the rescue is a complete success. The crew watch out the window as the Rubidoux blooms into a gigantic space jellyfish reminiscent of the one in “Encounter at Farpoint”.
Nothing much happens after this. Tendi meets a real dog and calls it a weirdo for licking her face. Boimler pleads with Rutherford to untether him from spacetime again so he can go back to the resort with the sexy nurses. Ramsey tells Mariner her offer’s open and then throws Ransom over a table when he hits on her. Hugging, learning, end.
Next week: It’s an alien trial episode! Are our main characters going to stand in the middle of a cavernous stone room under harsh overhead lighting and shout to a fierce alien judge on a pedestal a story or two above them? You bet they are!