This week’s episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks sees the Cerritos crew investigating the sighting of a Mugato on Frylon IV, a world very distant from the creature’s planet of origin. Although Captain Freeman views this as a low-priority “animal control” operation, making the mission more interesting is the knowledge that Mugatos are an endangered species. How did one make its way so far from home?
We have Ferengi poachers to thank for that. After seizing Mugatos from their native world, these illegal hunters bring them here to a special compound where they kill the creatures in order to sell their pelts as well as the oversized horns dominating their skulls. A heinous crime on its own, it’s even worse when considering how the Mugatos are already facing extinction.
Mugatos first appeared in “A Private Little War,” a second-season episode of the original Star Trek series. Aggressive carnivores, they resemble gorillas and other primates found on Earth, though with tails, spikes along their spines, and the aforementioned horns. Attacks on humanoids and larger animals are not uncommon, including poisonous bites which are fatal if left untreated. During a survey mission to Neural in 2268, Captain James Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise suffered a Mugato bite and would have died if not for the ministrations of a local healer.
(Trivia Time! While the script for “A Private Little War” contains the name “Neural” for the planet, it’s never spoken aloud in the actual episode.)
When an away team from the Cerritos exposes the poaching operation, the Ferengi release their captured Mugatos to cover their escape attempt. In the ensuing chaos, Lieutenant Shaxs is bitten and Ensign Mariner comes to his rescue. Meanwhile, Ensigns Boimler and Rutherford receive an unprecedented opportunity to observe Mugatos in the wild. Specifically, a male Mugato and a female Mugato. Together. In the wild. Oh, and another male Mugato who’s crashing the whole “observation” thing.
Look, it’s a family website, all right? Connect your own dots.
Even this episode’s title, “Mugato, Gumato,” offers yet another reward for sharp-eyed fans of The Original Series. Before the away team even beams down, Boimler notes that Mugatos can also be called “Mogatu,” “Mugutu,” or “Gumato.” This is a poke at the end credits of “A Private Little War,” where actor and stunt performer Janos Prohaska is listed as portraying “The Gumato.” Why? Because this originally was to be the creature’s name, but Dr. McCoy himself, actor DeForest Kelley, kept stumbling over the word as written, so it was changed to “Mugato.” This correction never made it to the end credits!
Mugato. Gumato. Let’s call the whole thing off…at least until next week’s episode!
Dayton Ward (he/him) is a New York Times bestselling author or co-author of numerous novels and short stories including a whole bunch of stuff set in the Star Trek universe, and often collaborating with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore. As he’s still a big ol' geek at heart, Dayton is known to wax nostalgic about all manner of Star Trek topics over on his own blog, The Fog of Ward.
Star Trek: Lower Decks streams exclusively in the United States and Latin America on Paramount+, on Amazon Prime Video in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan, India and more, and in Canada, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.