Somehow, we’re halfway through the latest season of Star Trek: Lower Decks already. Things are heating up for the crew of the USS Cerritos in the brand new fifth episode “Empathalogical Fallacies”. Not one but three Betazoids have come aboard the ship, and the crew are going mad! Chaos ensues, and a certain Vulcan gets quite a lot to do in this explosive new instalment.
Knowing what the average, run of the mill day is like on the Cerritos, this episode’s sure to be something special. Read on for my detailed thoughts on the latest Star Trek: Lower Decks adventure below! WARNING: Spoilers ahead for “Empathalogical Fallacies”, read ahead at your own peril if you’ve not seen the episode!
Everything about the last couple of weeks has been about this mysterious alien ship, and this week’s not much different. Irritatingly, the series has been really inconsistent about having a cold open contributing to the story. I really enjoyed what last week’s episode did with the Orion bit, mentioning that ship in the actual episode too. Alas, this week we don’t get to see the ship continuing down its destructive path, which is actually a shame if you ask me.
The small throwaway scenes are adorable, and not having one around a Betazoid ship was a real missed opportunity. Given what we see from the Betazoid guests in the rest of the episode, it could’ve been awesome. Although not all is lost, for it’s the reason they’re on the Cerritos! Plus these Betazoid women actually help to contribute to the story as well. While we didn’t see the ship get closer to Federation Space, the Cerritos crew is now aware of its existence.
While the series has been a little lacking in the hints department, it’s set up this big threat nicely. I’m genuinely really excited to see who or what is inside the ship. More importantly, how this continues to be built up, and when the ship is going to first meet up with the Cerritos. It’s bound to be explosive! Could it be someone we know too? Imagine if someone like Badgey, AGIMUS or Peanut Hamper were behind this! The consequences not only for the Cerritos but for the galaxy could be dire.
Everyone’s Worst Impulses
The real meat of this episode comes when three Betazoid delegates are brought aboard the ship. It’s one of those classic Star Trek premises, where an alien delegation needs transport. In terms of recent Trek, it’s one of the least used tropes. It’s nice to not only see it again, but seeing it done so well was a real treat. Writer Jamie Loftus really understood the assignment, creating an inversion of a classic Trek setup without it feeling too formulaic.
Where Betazoids are involved, and the title of the episode talks about empaths and logic, some mental chaos is bound to follow. Shortly after the delegation arrive, people start losing their minds and engaging with their worst impulses. We’ve seen the Cerritos go mad a couple of times, but things have changed a lot over the years. Our main characters have been promoted, and the cast more broadly have settled into their characters a lot over the years.
Even the recurring characters remain memorable, with Dr Migleemo (Paul F Tompkins) getting a solid laugh out of me for the bit with the soup. Although most of the praise here has to be left to Gillian Vigman, the voice of Dr T’Ana. Letting the Caitian go wild, threatening to eat the Betazoids, and her exchange with Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore) being absolutely top notch. It’s certainly not character growth, but it’s wildly funny and more than I expected.
As the ship descends into chaos on red alert, it’s also redirected back to Betazoid by the spy visitors. It feels like the ship potentially crossing into the Neutral Zone was done purely to raise the tension. As if the time sensitivity added a little drama. Outside of giving the characters a time limit to solve the problem, it didn’t really amount to anything. At no point in the episode did it feel like anyone was in any real danger.
Although I particularly enjoyed the banter between the three Betazoid delegates. Seeing them communicate telepathically as their situation unravels around them was great. Knowing that the other characters couldn’t hear what was going on made it so much funnier. Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) certainly deserves a lot of credit for outsmarting them, in one of the episode’s more badass moments. As manufactured as the crisis was, I wouldn’t mind Betazoid Intelligence coming back into the series, it was a lot fun.
Seeing them avert it just in time as the problem was solved was sweet. Although that was less for the consequences of potentially crossing into the Neutral Zone, and more for the resolution taking me by surprise. I genuinely didn’t think it’d happen that way, but in hindsight the resolution makes perfect sense. Somehow, more happened here in the span of 25 minutes than in most Trek episodes. There was some great stuff on the bridge and beyond this week.
Vulcan Character Development
Turns out I was right at the end of last week, from start to finish this episode belongs to T’Lyn (Gabrielle Ruiz). I adored her, as an outsider, thrown out of her environment, trying to fit in on the Cerritos. The Star Trek: Lower Decks cast, particularly the main quartet of Boimler (Jack Quaid), Tendi (Noël Wells), Mariner (Tawny Newsome), and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) are quite a tight knit bunch. Adding a fifth character here was a risky gamble, but it truly paid off in spades.
She embodies what so many Trek series have benefitted from in the past, having a character who’s a total outsider. Getting to sit with them, and seeing her inner struggles was a thing of beauty. Having the solution being talking through it rather than retreating and running away? There’s nothing more Starfleet than courage in the face of adversity, and nothing more Vulcan than coming to terms with your feelings. I’m so down to see where T’Lyn’s story develops over the next couple of weeks.
I hope that she’s able to come into her own, and engage her more wild tendencies. There’s certainly more of a journey for her on the Cerritos. If anything, her finding her home among the team helps to ensure the strength of the homely camaraderie they’ve developed over the years. Her addition presents an interesting challenge to the crew, and everyone seems to be coming out stronger. She’s become my favourite character on the show for sure, I really felt for her here.
This episode actually had some real heartwarming moments underneath the chaotically funny scenes around the ship. They weren’t just around T’Lyn’s character development either. The moment between Shaxs and Boimler were a perfect representation of what Gene Roddenberry intended for the crew in the 24th Century. That being that their mental health is just as important as their physical health. It’s nice to see it in the spotlight, and it’s cool to see the show treat Shaxs as something other than a brute.
The stuff in the security training room was full of genuine comedy as well. Giving everyone time to unwind, and watch the characters fumble through charades, ended up being funny as hell. Kayshon (Carl Tart) was particularly bad at charades, to nobody’s real surprise. Every time he tries to communicate cracks me up to no end. These sweeter moments are what I feel Star Trek: Lower Decks does so well. Sure, we get some grand space plots, but the show really is about the characters – how the lower officers react to them in particular.
Boimler’s grown a lot so far this season. Not only has he been forced out of his comfort zone and into his own quarters, but now he’s being forced to unwind. It’s important to take a break, and it’s important not to push yourself. While it’s a simple lesson, it’s one that resonates in these strange times. I didn’t see myself getting a little emotional in a Star Trek: Lower Decks episode, especially about this sort of thing. Really blew my expectations for what this show can do out of the water.
Conclusion – Looking Forward to “Parth Ferengi’s Heart Place”
As fun as it was to revisit the USS Voyager, as cute as the Moopsy was, or as funny as the Mark Twain bit was, I really think this is the strongest episode of the season so far. This is what Star Trek is really about, not the fun missions, but the way the characters react to them. Spending time in T’Lyn’s head was long overdue, but also held off until just the right moment. Across the board, everything here was really strong. It was funny, it was heartfelt, and it was also representative of the very best of Trek‘s ethos.
Next week seems to be going a little more into the overt comedy with Ferengi in the title. We saw in the trailer that both Rom (Max Grodénchik) and his wife Leeta (Chase Masterson) seem to be making a return. Given how long ago that trailer was released, it’s safe to assume they’re not just small cameos. As a massive fan of Deep Space Nine, I’m beyond excited to see what’s happening. It looks like the Ferengi were in for some reforms, so it’ll be nice to see how that’s going. Very exciting potential next week!
You can find Star Trek: Lower Decks streaming every Thursday on Paramount+ in the US, Latin America, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. Each episode is also broadcast on the CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada. The season will also stream in South Korea on Paramount+ later in the year when the service arrives there. For more reviews, news, and general geeking out about Star Trek, follow Trek Central!
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