Monday, September 7, 2020

Lower Decks, Season 1: Cupid's Errant Arrow

 Lower Decks, Season 1
"Cupid's Errant Arrow"
Airdate: September 3, 2020

5 of 10 produced

5 of 10 aired

Introduction

While the ship aids in an engineering mission, Boimler struggles to convince Mariner that his girlfriend is real.

You ain't bad! You ain't NOTHIN'!

Writing

Matthew: I'm feeling the strangest feeling. I'm feeling like the Grinch whose hears grew two sizes that day. This feeling is.... unadulterated enjoyment. This episode was a milder exploration of the central premise of the show - that this ship is populated by Starfleet officers who aren't the superheroes of TNG - which had our characters acting in character but not out of universe. For instance, Mariner still has her basic distrust and disdain of strait-laced Starfleet officers, but she doesn't massively break protocol or slice anyone open with a Bat'leth. Rutherford and Tendi indulge in their love of the minutiae of a Starfleet vessel, but end up not wanting to leave their comfortable rut on the Cerritos when an opportunity to transfer presents itself. The Vancouver engineer who wants to transfer them seems crazy, but ends up having a realistic motivation as well, wanting to relax from the pressure of being on a front-line ship. Boimler has a girlfriend and wants to show off about it, but is actually under the influence of a pheremonal parasite. All in all, nobody's story involved anything universe breaking, all of them were enjoyable and funny, and the whole episode was entertaining.

Kevin: I agree that the character work is the focus of the episode and it works really well. Everyone behaves within the bounds of how their characters have been sketched to this point and it really sings. I've been less annoyed by Insubordinate Mariner, but I will say this version of "intense/unorthodox" Mariner works better. It's the same independent streak, but it's more fun to watch not always pitched in a way that makes you question her career choice. The A and B plots also work great. Like Matt said, this is a fun way to explore the basic theme of the non-hero characters. It would be exhausting to have to recalibrate a Dyson Sphere every week. I also like the twist on the secret alien girlfriend. It was a fun way to reimagine the trope and left all the characters as actual people you could care about.

Matthew: The referential humor was top flight. I loved seeing the Olympic class starship in Mariner's flashback. The way she and her former crewmates discussed the Enterprise as a sort of celebrity ship was amusing and on-brand for the universe. The "Justice" joke was tight. THIS is what I've been saying as a criticism of past shows. There's a way to tell these jokes without breaking the world. Making a captain crash his starship breaks the world. Having the crew gossip about other ships doesn't. This is the first LD episode to successfully get the tone right throughout.

Kevin: This episode really hit a sweet spot in being Star Trek brain candy. It is genuinely enjoyable for itself and does know just how to hit the fan service button the right number of times with the right pressure. And yeah, that Justice reference killed me.

Acting

Matthew: Jack Quaid's delivery again really sells Boimler's vulnerability and dorkiness. Tawny Newsome was not over the top and I believed her jealousy and concern. Gillian Jacobs (of Community fame) was the guest star as Lt. Barbara Brinson, and I kind of wish she was on the show as a regular. The character really worked, in no small part due to the voice, but also due to her being a "traditional" Starfleet officer.

Kevin: Newsome really nailed this week for me. Since she had a goal other than annoying her mother, she really got to go places and give Mariner some more internal life, and it helped sell me that she does genuinely like Boimler rather than merely tolerate him. Eugene Cordero and Noel Wells have also done a really good job delivering high speed technobabble in way that makes you know they know what they are talking about.

Production Values

Matthew: The Vancouver looked nice, if a bit too similar to the Cerritos. What shined in the rest of the episode was the reference material. I loved seeing an Olympic-class starship docked at DS9, and the crew in the flashback wearing First Contact-era uniforms. The various creature designs were also effective, and I liked Barbara Brinson's character model.

Kevin: Yeah, that shot of the Quito docked at DS9 was just a pure shot of oxytocin directly to my brain. Even Mariner's hair felt closer to the more elaborate updos 90s Trek liked to give their female characters. Great work all around.

Conclusion

Matthew: This episode surmounted two major hurdles for me - I was not dragged out of my Trek Universe happy place for the entire run time, and I would enjoy watching it a second time. No post-2009 "Star Trek" production has ever done both for me. This episode was a delight from start to finish, and definitive proof that it can be done (as well as a ringing condemnation for 11 years of failure). I think it's a solid 4.

Kevin: I get why they couldn't lead with this episode, but this one really stands as proof of concept for the show. The animation gives everyone the permission needed to color outside the lines, but depth of referential humor and the clearly defined characters help anchor into something more than an overlong SNL gag. I was delighted beginning to end, and I happily agree with the 4, for a total of 8.

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