The fourth episode of “Star Trek: Lower Decks’” sophomore season dropped on September 2, and it was another Easter egg-filled episode. “Mugato, Gumato” followed the crew of the Cerritos as they tracked down a loose Mugato, an ape-like alien creature, on Frylon IV. The episode brought back a “Star Trek: The Original Series” alien and aesthetic.
Though the episode was filled with clever references to the “Star Trek” canon, the writers didn’t rely on these references as much as they have in previous episodes. “Mugato, Gumato” wasn’t a direct parody of the TOS episode it referenced, nor was the plot completely reliant on its Easter eggs. Like the previous episode, “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris,” episode four was an example of how the writers can craft new stories while incorporating canon.
Here’s a breakdown of the major Easter eggs in “Mugato, Gumato.”
Mugatos… Or Gumato? Mugutu?
The episode’s main storyline involved the hunt for the reported Mugato, led by Lieutenant Shaxs. The episode brought back the horror movie aesthetic that worked so well for classic TOS episodes like “The Devil in the Dark.”
“Mugato, Gumato” began with two Denobulan researchers hearing strange noises in the woods around them. The suspense built for a bit before a Mugato burst out of the underbrush, roaring loudly. There were several moments of suspense-building like this and multiple jump-scares throughout the episode, making it clear that the writers were creating a tribute to the horror-themed episodes peppered throughout “The Original Series.”
The writers also got super-meta throughout the episode by referencing the myriad pronunciations of Mugato. As Heavy previously reported, the name of the ape-like creatures changed from the script to production because of DeForest Kelley’s inability to pronounce the word Gumato. However, the actors still mispronounced the name of the creatures, leading to the name “Mugutu.” Throughout the episode, characters pronounced the name of these creatures in different, sometimes wildly inaccurate ways. Notably, Shaxs pronounced the name differently nearly every time he spoke of them.
The writers also incorporated a jab at the incongruencies within the Trek canon, using the Mugato as an example. When discussing the variations on the name of the species, Boimler said, “Isn’t that neat and inconsistent?”
“Mugato, Gumato” also expanded upon the Mugato, adding some context to the creatures that were portrayed as vicious monsters in “A Private Little War.” Though the Mugatos did viciously attack the humanoids they encountered, they were no longer a threat once they were no longer threatened. It seems that they were only violent when protecting their herd-mates and their territory. This could be another vague reference to “The Devil in the Dark” as it was revealed that the Horta was only attacking the miners because the miners were stealing and killing their offspring.
An interesting side note: the same actor who played the Horta in “The Devil in the Dark” also played the Mugato in “A Private Little War.”
The episode also introduced a new way to deal with Mugato poisoning. Mugato fangs contain a deadly neurotoxin that is fatal to humanoids within hours of infection. When Captain Kirk was bit by a Mugato, he was saved by an indigenous alien shaman who performed a ritual and applied local plants to the wound.
In “Mugato, Gumato,” Shaxs was bit by a Mugato. Mariner attended to his wound by sucking out the poison, much like is recommended for snake bites. It’s a reasonable assumption that in the century since Kirk’s time, new research has provided different, non-indigenous methods for dealing with Mugato bites.
The big reveal of the episode’s main storyline was that a group of Ferengi “businessmen,” as they insisted they were, had set up an illegal Mugato trade operation on Frylon IV. They were capturing Mugatos and slaughtering them for their pelts and horns. When the Cerritos away team confronted the Ferengi, a battle ensued.
These Ferengi were not like the Ferengi fans of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” are used to seeing, though. These Ferengi were caricatures of capitalist villains, ruthless and malevolent, but also kind of stupid. They were so driven by profit that they didn’t care how they made it, even if it meant slaughtering an alien species.
The Ferengis of “Mugato, Gumato” will probably be familiar to fans of the early episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” These Ferengis were much like the greedy little goblins introduced for the first time in the episode “The Last Outpost.”
In fact, Mariner even says that the Ferengi are “some creepy throwback, ‘Last Outpost’ style Ferengi.” The writers’ choice to have a character reference an episode name is… interesting. It’s possible that the incident was mentioned as “The Last Outpost Incident” in Starfleet reports. However, it seems a bit too meta to have a character referencing an episode name.
Regardless, Mariner’s assessment is correct. She goes on to ask whether these Ferengi have “ever heard of Quark.” The comment serves as a direct comparison between the primitive, stupid, avarice-driven Ferengi of TNG and the clever, conniving, super capitalist DS9 Ferengi.
Mariner also brings up the long-debated contradiction of the Ferengi as a species. In a universe where almost anything people desire can be replicated, why do the Ferengi insist on destroying natural resources to sell them for profit? Instead of capturing and killing actual Mugatos, they could just replicate Mugato pelts and horns.
Though Mariner’s point is fair, it highlights the entire reason the Ferengi exist in the “Star Trek” canon — to demonstrate the lasting power of shady capitalism. The existence of the Ferengi and their customers acknowledges that even in a utopian future, there will always be people who want genuine, not replicated, products and resources regardless of the harm it takes to get them. And there will always be greed-driven individuals who don’t mind profiting off of harm.
However, in their episode, the “Lower Decks” writers chose to imagine a different outcome for both the Ferengi and the Mugato. Boimler and Rutherford sold the Ferengi on the idea of creating a nature preserve for the Mugato and making it into a kind of theme park, to which they could charge admission. The profit-driven Ferengi couldn’t ignore the fact that this was a much more sustainable stream of profit. The team behind “Lower Decks” seems to be driving home the point that there are always less harmful alternatives, even when profit is the only goal.
Starfleet Intelligence and Section 31
The secondary storyline of “Mugato, Gumato” involved the rumor that Mariner was actually a secret agent of the Starfleet black ops group Section 31. The bartender in the mess hall told Boimler and Rutherford that he’d heard Mariner was a sleeper soldier for Starfleet black ops, placed on the Cerritos.
Rutherford commented that he couldn’t believe Starfleet would embed a Section 31 operative on one of their own ships. Boimler agreed but mentioned that Starfleet Intelligence, a separate agency from Section 31, often put intelligence operatives on their own ships. He pointed out that Tuvok also went deep cover to infiltrate a Starfleet ship that had gone Maquis and that there were several undercover operatives on Starfleet vessels during the Dominion War. Boimler’s comments were references to the events portrayed in the pilot episode of “Star Trek: Voyager” and in the fifth through seventh seasons of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
There were so many more Section 31 references to be made, but the writers decided to skip them in this episode, opting for more original storyline and fewer Easter eggs. They did, however, reveal that Mariner had started the rumor herself so that people would keep their distance.
Other Random Easter Eggs
Like all the other episodes of “Lower Decks,” “Mugato Gumato” was peppered with one-off references to the Trek canon. In this episode, Boimler, Rutherford, and Mariner did some incredibly aggressive Anbo-jyutsu sparring. TNG fans know that Anbo-jyutsu is a martial art Commander William Riker and his father practiced together.
Another quick martial arts reference happened during another secondary storyline, which involved Tendi tracking down officers who’d skipped their physicals. Tendi snuck into the holodeck as Ensign Jet and Lieutenant Kayshon prepared to spar with each other. They were wearing traditional martial arts gis, as were the students sitting in a circle around them.
Though Jet and Kayshon weren’t wearing headpieces, the rest of the students were. This suggests that they were training Aikido, as Tasha Yar did in the TNG episode “Code of Honor.” However, it could also be a reference to Lieutenant Worf’s Mok’bara classes on the Enterprise-D.
The Denobulans at the beginning of the episode chatted about drinking raktajino, a Klingon drink similar to coffee. Raktajino was a favorite beverage of Major Kira Nerys, Captain Benjamin Sisko, and Jadzia, but not Ezri, Dax. The Denobulans agreed that human coffee was much weaker and less effective than raktajino.
The alien who conned Captain Freeman, and was revealed to be running a con throughout the Quadrant, appeared to be a Benzite. The Benzites first appeared in season one of TNG and made multiple appearances in DS9 and Enterprise. However, they’re not a particularly prominent Trek species.
Another rare alien appearance was a Kzinti onboard the Cerritos. The Kzinti first appeared in “Star Trek: The Animated Series.” They were an aggressive species with a cat-like appearance. The Kzinti fought multiple wars with humankind, but lost them all. Eventually, humans stripped them of all their military assets. According to Memory Alpha, a non-canon “Star Trek” book established that the Kzinti had shared ancestry with the Caitians, another cat-like species that had much better relations with humans. The appearance of a Kzinti on the Cerritos could indicate that the “Lower Decks” writers plan to canonize the Kzinti-Caitian connection.
Lastly, on Frylon IV, Boimler and Rutherford encountered a Tellarite biologist who had a pretty distinct Steve Irwin vibe.
“Mugato, Gumato” was less heavy-handed with the Easter eggs than previous episodes of the show’s second season. However, it was heavy on good comedic storytelling.
The next episode of “Lower Decks” drops on September 9 at midnight Pacific Time/3 am Eastern Time. Check back for previews of episode five and a full breakdown of the episode’s Easter eggs after it airs.
Follow the Heavy on Star Trek Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!