Review: Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 Episode 5 “Empathalogical Fallacies”
Lower Decks spotlights its robust capacity for character growth and friendship building as our heroes deal with emotions that run rampant.
The Cerritos is tasked with transporting a trio of Betazoids to Risa, and Dolorex, Katrot, and Cathiw (voiced by Rachel Dratch, Janelle James, and Wednie Malick, respectively) are like Lwaxana Troi on steroids: lustful, energetic, and, yes, capable of reading other peoples’ thoughts and feelings. Naturally, things go off the rails pretty soon – but not for the reasons one would assume.
This mission takes place as T’Lyn (Gabrielle Ruiz) is feeling increasingly frustrated with her assignment onboard the Cerritos. The Vulcan is eager to report her dissatisfaction and unease around humans to the Vulcan High Command, except the Cerritos’ comms system is disabled while it escorts its guests, which means the Vulcan must power through her disgruntlement for now. The mission takes a wonky turn when the ship’s crew members seem to let their emotions run rampant and their inhibitions set free, which leads to scenes of intense drunkenness, public indecency, and jolly good times unbefitting even of the Cerritos’ crew.
What is the cause of this turmoil? Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) and her crew postulate the libidinous Betazoids are to blame, as older women of that species can exhibit Zanthi Fever, a condition that makes a Betazoid inadvertently project emotions onto other people (as seen in DS9’s “Fascinations”). However, the Betazoids don’t take kindly to that assertion, and, seeing no way out of their way to the brig, reveal themselves as members of the Betazoid special intelligence unit. Not wanting to jeopardize their mission to track down the source of recent attacks on ships, the trio hijacked the Cerritos and set a course for Betazed – which isn’t great, as such a course would lead the Cerritos through Romulan territory.
The Betazoids clearly aren’t the cause of the ship’s emotional turmoil, as they suffer some emotional issues themselves, but T’Lyn soon discovers who is: herself. Vulcans, of course, are emotionally complex beings that can potentially telepathically impact other people, like what happens with Bendii Syndrome. T’Lyn’s recent discomfort aboard the Cerritos was strong enough to impact her crewmembers. It’s only after an encouraging and much-needed heart-to-heart conversation with her friend, Beckett Mariner (Tawney Newsome), that T’Lyn regains control of her emotions, silences her damaging emotional aura, and gains the confidence she has lacked after being banished from the Vulcan fleet. With the Cerritos’ crew tamed it’s time for security, which today includes Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), to regain control of the ship.
“There’s no character flaw! Could you imagine anything more Vulcan than Bendii Syndrome? Hello? Spock’s dad had it and he was as Vulcan as a mother[bleep]er.”
“Hmmm. I suppose by the transitive property, I, too, am as Vulcan as a mother[bleep]er.”
“[Bleep] yeah, logic, bitch!”– Mariner and T’Lyn, as the human helps the Vulcan regain her confidence.
Let’s back up and explain why Boimler was with Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore) and the other security members. Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) had noticed Boimler stressing about his new responsibilities following his promotion, and so he recruited Shaxs to help his friend deal with this stress. This leads to the imposing, intense, and excitable security officer inviting Boimler to luxurious and relaxing activities with the security team, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, slam poetry sessions, and Starfleet security officer-themed charades. This makes the frustrated Boimler assume being a security officer wasn’t as badass a job as he thought. Boimler quickly revises this assumption, though, when security is called to the Cerritos’ bridge to retake the ship from the Betazoid operatives, which they adroitly do.
The best thing to come out of this B-plot is how we see Shaxs carry the responsibility of protecting the ship’s crew. As the officer asserts to Boimler, safeguarding the Cerritos’ crew doesn’t just mean taking care of security matters. Mental health is needed for a well-attuned mind, so peaceful activities like the ones Shaxs exposed to Boimler are also important. This outlook fits perfectly into Star Trek’s ethos, and seeing Shaxs and his team tackle a pressing security matter and fulfill mental health obligations helps illustrate his character better than anything else we’ve seen him do this season.
“Get ready to RESIST OCCUPATION!”– Shaxs as he and his security team retake the bridge from the Betazoids.
In the same way, we appreciated the B-plot’s holistic message, so too did we appreciate how Mariner and T’Lyn resolved the Vulcan’s emotional woes with some honest, open discussion. We noted before how T’Lyn is a standout character this season, and this episode does much to add to the Vulcan’s multi-faceted and conflicted nature. Seeing a Vulcan vulnerable to their feelings is rare, and indeed the times we do see this are in memorable episodes like TOS’ “Amok Time” or TNG’s “Sarak.” T’Lyn, luckily, pushes through her emotional ordeal positively reframes her unusual experience aboard the Cerritos, and appreciates the crew’s unfamiliar and lovable nature.
Framing these tender moments are scenes of hilarity, as the Cerrito’s crew quickly lose themselves in a hotbed of emotions. Crewmembers openly engage in sexual activities in the Mess Hall; an angry Dr. Migleemo (Paul F. Tompkins) destroys a replicator when it doesn’t provide soup that tastes like it was in his mother’s mouth; swearing runs rampant; and, as what happens when people get drunk, genuine feelings bubble to the surface. It’s all typical Lower Decks humor, frantic and funny while still retaining easy offramps for serious conversations.
Taken together, we think “Empathalogical Fallacies” is a standout episode of this season, as it adds impressive depth to a few of this show’s characters. The breadcrumb mystery of the deadly alien ship is pushed forth in a big way, as it’s clear there is a pattern of destruction that the Alpha Quadrant can’t ignore.
Now more than ever, we must ask who or what could be aboard the alien ship. Let’s remember how the infamous Peanut Hamper and AGIMUS teamed up at the end of “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption.” Perhaps the pair are to blame for this destruction? Could it be the transporter clone of Brad Boimler, William, who last we saw was recruited by Section 31 following the clone’s apparent death? We have a feeling we still have a few episodes to follow this breadcrumb trail, but at least Freeman knows what the mystery ship looks like thanks to the Betazoid intelligence operatives.
- Before arriving on the Cerritos, the Betazoid trio were at Angel One, a planet seen in the TNG episode of the same name.
- This episode reveals an unexpected fact of Star Trek lore: in the “ancient past,” Caitians used to hunt Betazoids.
- If CBS doesn’t license a hat saying “It’s Romulan Ale O’Clock Somewhere,” what are they even doing?
- Mariner tells T’Lyn communications are down while the Betazoids are onboard, but then the Vulcan goes to the bar to inquire when communications will be reopened – which she should know won’t be while the Betazoids are on the Cerritos.
- During Starfleet Security Officer charades, we see Kayshon (Cart Tart) mimic Odo, but Odo, let’s remember, was never in Starfleet, but instead worked for the Bajoran government.
- Crucially, we must ask: even despite their emotional turmoil, why wouldn’t the Betazoid operators not just tell Freeman of their clandestine mission, instead of resorting to hijacking? Also, if the trio believes Freeman when she asserts the Cerritos will be destroyed if they enter the Romulan Neutral Zone, why continue on that course?
- Even before the Red Alert siren sounded, surely the security team would be aware that their ship’s bridge was commandeered, their captain was hostage, or the ship wildly changed course to enemy territory, right? The hijacking happens right under their noses.
- This show knows Star Trek. Look at the way the Cerritos turns around from the Romulan Neutral Zone and tell us that move doesn’t remind you of the Enterprise-D high-tailing away from Q’s net in “Encounter at Fairpoint.” The animation here can’t be a coincidence.
- A neat piece of trivia noted by the TrekRanks podcast: “Empathalogical Fallacies” contains the second-longest word in any Star Trek title.
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