While Star Trek has had its fair share of romantic subplots and episodes, Star Trek: Lower Decks drops the ball once again, as ‘Cupid’s Errant Arrow’ presents one of the most by-the-numbers romance plots ever featured in the franchise.
Like last week, the USS Cerritos has once again found itself providing assistance to another Star Fleet vessel, this time being teamed up with the USS Vancouver to assist in the demolition of a planet’s moon. While the mission is delayed due to the religious and cultural concerns of the planet’s native species, Boimler announces that he will be taking the opportunity of the Cerritos’ meeting with the Vancouver to visit his girlfriend Lieutenant Barbara Brinson (Gillian Jacobs). A skeptical Mariner proceeds to mock Boimler for ‘making up’ his Brinson, until the two women meet for the first time, at which point a shocked Mariner begins to grow highly suspicious of Brinson’s true motives and proceeds to spend the accuses the Lieutenant of being an alien for the rest of the episode.
Any viewer who has seen more than one or two sitcoms in their life could probably and correctly guess how events unfold from here on out. All the classic romantic ‘humor’ tropes are hit, as Boimler grows jealous of one of Brinson’s coworkers, attempts to change his personality and appearance to impress her, and even refuses to listen to Mariner’s concerns due to her erratic behavior. Ultimately, when it is revealed that a brain parasite has caused Brinson’s attraction to Boimler, the relationship is ended, and the series is predictably returned to the status quo.
Conversely the episode’s secondary plot, which revolves around Tendi and Rutherford competing to see who can perform their support duties fastest in order to acquire the latest T-88 scanners from the Vancouver, has little bearing on the events of the episode. Their competition is contained entirely between the two of them, and none of their actions have an effect on the Cerritos, the Vancouver, or even the moon-based demolition mission. When the episode ends one is left to wonder why this subplot was even included when the time could have been better sent exploring Brinson’s interactions with all of Boimler’s friends instead of just with Mariner.
Most predictable of all is the ultimate resolution to Mariner and Brinson’s stand-offish relationship, as eventually, Mariner’s accusations lead to a physical confrontation between the two which causes Brisson to admit that she had similar suspicions about Mariner’s relationship with Boimler. The two eventually bond over Boimler’s clumsy existence and become close friends, with the two even making plans to hang out after Brinson dumps Boimler. This trope has been played out hundreds of times before, and despite it being played for laughs in Lower Decks, it serves no purpose other than to provide a tired attempt at ‘subverting’ audience expectations.
In a testament to the boring and predictable nature of this week’s episode, this episode features the most ‘random’ references to Star Trek lore to date. References to the original series episode ‘A Piece of the Action’, Lore’s partnering with The Borg in The Next Generation, and “a Kirk sundae with Trip Tucker sprinkles” serve as both the set-up and punchline in many instances. While few of Lower Decks’ references to previous Star Trek lore have felt natural, the obvious “Hey, remember that?” nature of this episode’s references feel completely forced and unfunny.
Simply put, ‘Cupid’s Errant Arrow’ is too by-the-numbers to be anything more than boring. Its main plot is entirely predictable, and despite the appearance of the wonderful Gillian Jacobs, offers very little to keep viewers interested. Even the moments that focus on actual Star Fleet work, which have regularly noted as only slightly positive aspect of the series, is shoved to the side and handwaved in favor of a stereotypical romcom plot.
If ‘Cupid’s Errant Arrow’ happened to be someone’s first date with the Star Trek franchise, I wouldn’t be surprised if they never called again.
- It's always a pleasure to see Gillian Jacobs
- Predictable plot
- Overuse of references to previous Star Trek lore
- The episode’s ‘B-story’ was unnecessary and inconsequential