Monday, September 21, 2020

Lower Decks, Season 1: Much Ado About Boimler

 Lower Decks, Season 1
"Much Ado About Boimler"
Airdate: September 17, 2020
7 of 10 produced
7 of 10 aired


Boimler suffers a transporter accident, while an away mission with an old friend means that Mariner must confront her life choices.

The show has almost materialized into something quite good...


Matthew: This plot is one of the most fully bifurcated A-B structures we've gotten so far, it's almost like two completely separate episodes. They're both fairly good, with a few issues of ambition. With the A plot, we have Mariner going on a mission with an old friend from the Academy who has become captain. Initially, Captain Ramsey's shipmates are appalled at what a screw-up Mariner is. This was a story I was all in for - an episode in which Mariner's wildly inappropriate behavior for this entire season comes to a head and she either has to straighten up or get out. Well, the story didn't really deliver either. She avers that she was "faking" her malfeasance, and didn't want to be promoted by Ramsey due to her being an "effective badass." While I understand this as a character motivation, it doesn't square with my perception of Mariner over the past 6 episodes (or indeed, the teaser for episode 8). She is a screw up, and her unwillingness to do the work involved in being a Starfleet officer does wind up causing problems. And so the contrast doesn't really work for me. This is not to mention that her "faking" leaving the tricorders on the ship could actually have killed them all. The distance between her feigned incompetence and her real incompetence isn't wide enough for me. And then the story ends with Mariner turning down the promotion and saying "she needs to figure stuff out" instead of actually changing one way or the other. Lame. This was a chance for the character to grow, and the show punted on it.

Kevin: This worked a little better for me than it did for you, though I get your complaints. In the story's favor is the fact that the season is going in the right direction. If we started here and ended up at episode one Mariner, I would be more annoyed, but when you get down to it, they are at least engaging with the why of Mariner, and have done so on more than one occasion. Don't look now, but that's character development. They are clearly settling on the notion that Mariner does not want to leave this position, the only question left is to directly engage why. My only complaint with this as a character motivation is that it presumes Captain is the natural endgame. There just aren't that many chairs to sit in. It's entirely plausible that being very good at her job leaves here a career lieutenant or lieutenant commander. I like the general idea of exploring a character whose ambition is not command. I think to make it land, the next time they engage it, they need to rebalance the plot/joke ration to 60/40 instead of the 40/60 we've been getting.

Matthew: The B plot was a very pleasant fake out for me. It successfully lampoons various tropes (transporter accidents, Pike's wheelchair, other assorted accidents) and tells us that there is a special division of Starfleet for dealing with the victims of such accidents. Then, we are given the mutiny development. Division 14 is a sham, says one of the victims. See, I was fully expecting him to be right, because an awful secret organization with eerie black ships and an ulterior motive would be perfectly in sync with Kurtzman Trek for the past 11 years. As such, I was delighted when, in fact, they were on the level, wanted to help people, and if only they had talked it out, things would have been fine. This plot gives me hope that the people behind this show actually get what distinguished Kurtzman Trek from real Star Trek, and that we might get more of the latter going forward.

Kevin: It speaks to the quality of the show thus far that in the first few minutes of the plot I was annoyed at the possibility of such a tonal shift. The show has done a great job, even with the jokes and the occasional uber-violence, of feeling like a happy addition to the TNG era franchise, so a plot right out of Discovery actually felt out of place. That said, that did tip me off that the fake out was coming, so I wasn't really surprised when we got there, but the journey was fun enough with a ton of great sight gags. Also, we got Boimler with Tendi this time, though they didn't do a lot together. She was more there as a runner for The Dog jokes. That said, that whole bit worked. I would even go so far as to say it's a perfect example of the kind of stuff only Lower Decks could do. In a live action show, the CGI would be unconvincing or actually upsetting rather than humorously upsetting.


The regulars continue to provide good voice work. I really enjoyed the extra addition of Ramsey's crew members, and especially Fred Tatasciore, pulling double duty (he regularly portrays Shaxs) as the Edosian Division 14 officer.

Kevin: I want to single out Noelle Wells again. Her running gag was a master class is how to keep a joke afloat but stay in character. The way she delivered the line that of course she made The Dog able to talk was perfectly delivered and genuinely made me laugh, and it felt very a part of the character she has been portraying thus far.

Production Values

Matthew: I quite liked the Division 14 starship, and the character designs of the "freaks" therein. The Farm was also a pleasing design, very Risa-like. Generally speaking, I enjoyed all of the set designs, like the bog planet and their Starfleet wading pants. It was nice to see a callback to the three-armed Edosians from TAS. On the minus side, Mariner and her friend Captain Ramsey look too much alike, which made it difficult to distinguish them on screen at times.

Kevin: I want to say that similarity was intentional to literally portray a Captain version of Mariner. I also really liked the Division 14 ship and the nebula effect was well done. The numerous gags on the ship and in the farm were great too. I assume that the jellyfish was a callback to Encounter at Farpoint, and that is never going to make me mad.


Matthew: I think the A plot is between a 2 and a 3, whereas the B plot is a 4. As such, I will average them out to a 3. This was an enjoyable episode that didn't fulfill all of my hopes for some much needed character growth on the part of Mariner.

Kevin: This is squarely a 3 for me. I've been asking for two things: focus on Mariner's motivation and portray pairs other than Tendi/Rutherford and Mariner/Boimler. This episode did both of those things, though neither as well as I would like. That said, one of the concerns Matt voiced was that having the season completed before the first episode aired would prevent the kind of course correcting that a writer's room can make in the middle of a traditionally aired season, but it seems like the show is nudging itself in the directions I want them to go. The end result of this episode is that while imperfect, was still largely pretty enjoyable. 

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