Lower Decks‘ “Empathological Fallacies” in Review
There’s no pre-credit teaser this time. In other words, we dive into the action straight after the title sequence.
T’Lyn records a report for Captain Sokel of the Vulcan ship Sh’vhal. The USS Cerritos is tasked with ferrying three Betazoid “diplomats” — T’Lyn’s description of them as “glorified socialites” is more telling — from Angel I to Risa because of the recent mystery ship attacks. The Betazoids plan to keep partying and fancy seducing Freeman, much to Ransom’s confusion. There is also historical tension between the Betazoids and Caitians… as the latter used to eat the former.
T’Lyn reports that the frivolity surrounding the Betazoids’ visit deepens her resolve to curb her own rebellious tendencies, so that her punishment of being on the Cerritos can be over. The signal to transmit her report is blocked, however.
Mariner comes to invite T’Lyn to the Betazoid party and reveals they’re under total comms blackout while the diplomats are aboard. She agrees with T’Lyn that blocking comms while allowing boozy partying is illogical.
Meanwhile, Boimler is trying to memorise every crew member’s name and face from their files on a PADD, because now that he’s an officer, he feels he should know everything. Rutherford almost manages to trick him into coming to the party but instead calls Shaxs, telling him he has a candidate for “the program.”
To see if anyone can give an ETA on resumption of comms, T’Lyn goes to the party. She finds everybody even more emotional than she’s used to on the Cerritos, to the extent of Doctor Migleemo phasering a replicator. Freeman yells about her desire to not be embarrassed in front of the Betazoids. An officer plans to slow the ship in order to keep the party going but T’Lyn nerve-pinches her. Freeman realises something is affecting the crew.
Shaxs takes Boimler to a secret area of the ship, where Boimler hopes to learn something like Tsunkatse but instead finds a secret improv club involving the ship’s security officers, currently trying poetry about Worf.
T’Lyn, meanwhile, has deduced that the Betazoids may be infected with Zanthi fever, from the DS9 episode “Fascination”, and recommends opening comms to contact a Betazoid doctor. Freeman refuses, saying Doctor T’Ana can handle it… when she stops chasing her own tail.
The Betazoids test negative for Zanthi fever. They beat up Mariner, T’Ana and T’Lyn before restraining Freeman. After the improv club ends a game of charades that Boimler wins, the Betazoid women reveal themselves to be members of Betazoid Intelligence. They proceed to hijack the Cerritos. The visiting threesome were on a telepathic tour, scouting for clues to the mystery ship. They now want to take the Cerritos to Betazed through the Romulan Neutral Zone, but Freeman is sure the crew will notice the problem.
The crew is making a naked human(oid) pyramid in the bar. Fortunately, T’Ana claws herself, Mariner and T’Lyn free from their bonds and goes off to make the three female visitors into Betazoid brisket. Her tricorder shows T’Lyn is the source of the chaos.
T’Lyn has Bendii syndrome. On the bridge, Freeman tricks the Betazoids into reading her mind about insults to each other that she’s heard, thus making them fight each other. Boimler, meanwhile, is fed up with the security officers always spending their downtime playing games, including a current Tarot session in which all the cards mean a rebirth. The Betazoids fight between themselves long enough for Freeman to reach the red alert button.
The alert sounds throughout the ship, finally giving the security officers some action. Rutherford, Tendi and the rest of the crew from the bar are shocked to find that proximity to T’Lyn is the cause of their emotional imbalance. They chase her and Mariner, who hide in a closet. T’Lyn reveals that her transfer was a punishment — for saving her ship by acting on instinct — and that she fears she’s not Vulcan enough.
Security round up T’Ana. When Mariner points out to T’Lyn that even Sarek had Bendii syndrome — which makes T’Lyn “as Vulcan as a motherf***er” – this calms her down, reducing her involuntary telepathic transmission and returning the crew to normal.
Exploiting the calmness of their poetry sessions to be unreadable, security beat up the Betazoids in time to turn away from the Neutral Zone — much to the disappointment of a Warbird crew.
At Risa, Shaxs reveals he and Rutherford just planned to give Boimler a day off, as that’s also a way of protecting the ship and crew. Before leaving, the Betazoids give Freeman an image of the mystery ship. T’Lyn decides not to send her report.
This episode starts off as a take on US female socialisation of the Mean Girls vibe. This means two things. One, it’s a play on a specific subgenre of US TV and movies that, historically, has been aimed at basically a school- or college-age audience, and two, it’s a less iconic — though not unfamiliar — trope that will play less well in non-US territories. Thankfully, this element is just window-dressing, with a bit of Charlie’s Angels thrown in.
The meat of the episode is T’Lyn-centric, focusing on her backstory and how, by Vulcan standards, she’s as rebellious as Mariner. The Betazoid/Caitian history moment is another highlight, with Doctor T’Ana reminding all cat owners that, if the cats were as big as the people, they may well want to eat the people. T’Ana getting the best moments isn’t unusual, thankfully, and here we have a good, evolving running gag about her designs on the Betazoids, up until Shaxs scruffs her.
The B-story of Boimler’s day off is a mere distraction from the actual fun, but we do also have some fun easter eggs, such as people in anbo-jyutsu gear. When the Betazoids take over sickbay, the music is rather TOS-ish too, which is never a bad thing.
In the end, this is a great episode that largely dodges the Mean Girls setup that the opening scenes threaten us with. Ultimately, the episode delivers a great T’Lyn story.
David A McIntee is a writer and historian who has written for properties such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Final Destination, and Stargate, as well as having written several adventures in the Star Trek franchise for Pocket Books. He has contributed many pieces to the magazines Star Trek Explorer (née Star Trek Magazine) and Star Trek Communicator, as well as having written nonfiction books about Star Trek: Voyager.