Review: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Takes Pride In Itself In “An Embarrassment of Dooplers”

“An Embarrassment of Dooplers”

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2, Episode 5 – Debuted Thursday, September 9, 2021
Written by Dave Ihlenfeld & David Wright
Directed by  Kim Ardnt

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

In a delightful return to form, “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” has just the right mix of action, comedy, character, and Star Trek lore, with a perfect guest star bringing it all together.

Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs, Jerry O’Connell as Commander Ransom, Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman and Gillian Vigman as Dr. T’Ana

WARNING: Spoilers below!

Looking for number one

The routine of crate stacking has Mariner and Boimler going stir crazy, especially knowing they are just outside a Starbase known for an epic party of Starfleet VIPs. Of course Beckett yearns for the epic drinking, with Brad pining for some epic butt-kissing. He is also missing his time on the cool USS Titan and displaying a bit of jealousy over his transporter clone, but William also proves the solution to their problem as Brad can sneak into the party as his Titan counterpart, who is too far away to make it.  As a bonus, the Captain is a bit distracted with the title characters, leaving the ensigns an opportunity to sneak off the ship, and Boimler’s not even offering a token objection to Mariner’s transporter overriding… you’ve changed, Brad.

Starbase 25 is huge, and being animated helps the show display the grand scale of this station that is over a century old. Oh, and Mainer used to live there… of course. And she has dangerous former associates, naturally. Even worse, their old nickname for her was “Becky.” Insidious. But the ensigns are on a mission to find that cool party, so they take a side mission from Malvus the Mizarian to—ironically—move some crates, this time full of limited edition Commander Data bubble bath. (Hopefully, these become a real product too, like those Tom Paris plates.) Also, a couple bottles might be Lores. Nice. This encounter also nicely tees up a recurring issue of Mariner and Boimler accusing each the other of abandonment on various planets, but we know what’s really under the surface—* cough * Brad leaving for the Titan * cough.*

Yes, we all wear hoodies.

It should be no surprise that this simple task turns out to be a double-cross, as the crates are filled with contraband Klingon weapons. Thus ensues one of the funniest action sequences of the series, with Mariner channeling her inner Elwood Blues as the pair tries to elude corrupt station security. The car chase homage gave us a great tour of this vast station, with Brad frantically calling out all the highlights from fine men’s clothing to a Vulcan ship to “fish people!”

Ending in a lake—again this station is huge—winds up providing the leverage Becky needs to get that hot party location. And now that abandonment thing comes back big time as Luna-class William (Brad) is let in, but California-class Beckett is denied by the gruff alien bouncer. She lets Boimler have it as he is set to leave her in the lurch, finally admitting that she still resents him ghosting her in the season one finale when he bounced to the Titan. As they go their separate ways, it looks like this pair may have drifted too far apart.

We’re on a mission from God.

Double with Dooplers

Don’t forget, the reason Mariner and Boimler were free to get up to their shenanigans was due to a totally crazy crisis unfolding on the Cerritos. After carefully creating a stress-free environment while escorting an alien emissary to Starbase 25, Captain Freeman inadvertently reveals her frustration within earshot of their passenger, triggering a duplicating defense mechanism for the Doopler. In short order, the ship starts filling up faster than you can say “trouble with tribbles.”

Desperate herself to get down to that party and bask in the respect she feels she deserves, Carol implores her crew to placate the distraught and constantly apologetic Dooplers, all voiced by the pitch-perfect Richard Kind. Freeman tries everything from a soothing voice to silence to affirmations like “You are all great!” Nothing works. Every move she and the crew make just adds to the mass embarrassment of the Doopler horde threatening to take over the ship… but they are terribly sorry about it.

Who ordered the extra purple guys?

Ghost in the machine

As for Rutherford and Tendi, they are once again lost in their own little world, paying no attention to the cool space station and little mind to the Doopler crisis. They remain phaser-focused on building a hyper-realistic model… of the ship they are on. Nerd alert! This little hobby project predates Rutherford’s reboot, so he keeps finding things to remind him about his former self, and it’s all giving him another existential crisis.

Tendi finally starts to take notice of the wall-to-wall purple alien situation, but Rutherford becomes obsessed over proving he is just as smart as his former self. Eventually, the pair finds themselves cornered by Dooplers with no way out while Rutherford clutches onto the unfinished model as if his life depended on it, haunted by the ghost of his forgotten year, decrying, “The old me was better!”

Maybe he won’t notice if I reverse the polarity of this nacelle

Raising the bar

All of our characters are facing some kind of crisis, and each one of them is going to have to dig deep and take a closer look at themselves to find their way out. For Boimler, after a short stint at the cool party complete with some deep cuts to excite his inner Starfleet fanboy, he still can’t really have a good time, realizing it’s just not fun without his pal Mariner. As for Beckett, she is drowning her sorrows in the one dive bar she must have missed during her earlier time on the station. It turns out to be the coolest place in the quadrant, right down to the ancient understanding bartender, walls full of even more deep cuts, and some amazing patron pedigree with Kirk and Spock’s name carved into the bar. How’s that for old-school cool? And luckily for her, Brad found his way to her for some needed bonding and expressing of emotions.

Tendi is able to exercise Rutherford’s ghost by revealing the plan was to never finish the model. Old Sam was no smarter; the whole thing was just an excuse for them to hang out together and avoid dealing with others. But the model also proved to be their salvation, thanks to ejecting the cutest little warp core to explode their way out of a room full of Dooplers. Tiny Shaxs would be so proud.

As for the Captain, she solves her problem by remembering who she is. Carol Freeman starts jumping all over those eggshells and lets the now dangerous Dooplers have it. Turns out calling them whiney little s–ts does the trick, and she tells the crew it’s time to let the Dooplers know how they really feel, with Shaxs and T’Ana being particularly good at the task. We’re not sure what T’Ana said due to the bleeping, but we get the point, and now we are back to one Doopler, leaving the bridge crew free to check out the party… only to get the same treatment by the bouncer as Mariner. Carol tries the same tactic she used on the Dooplers, still full of righteous indignation!

And so, of course, the bridge crew ends up at the dive bar. Rutherford and Tendi show up too, along with more of our Cerritos gang. This is all more their style, not dealing with all those Starfleet stuffed shirts. But the captain has the last laugh, beaming the contrite Doopler emissary straight into the party. They had endless sliders, and now an embarrassment of Dooplers too.

Doooooooooooooooooooop!

ANALYSIS

Character counts

In this halfway point for season two, Lower Decks is again firing on all nacelles. “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” offered the perfect mix of a unique sci-fi plot, well-paced action, character emotion, and Star Trek gags. Most of the comedy came from character, even as we saw them grow. And within the different character storylines, there was a strong through line theme of a family, and that also makes Lower Decks worthy of being Star Trek.

It feels that Mike McMahan and his team have used the first five episodes of this season to lead up to a sort of catharsis for our characters. Mariner and Boimler have resolved their abandonment issues, Rutherford has finally accepted his new self, and he and Tendi have restored their trust and friendship. The captain has come to see that the respect of her crew is worth more than all the admirals in the fleet. Every one of them realizes that the grass is greenest right where they are, for who they are. Lower deckers all, no matter the rank.

Actually, I am this many years out of the Academy

The right Kind

One thing that ties the episode together is the endlessly duplicating Doopler emissary, each more humiliated than the last, and all hilariously voiced by Richard Kind. Known for his live-action roles in Spin City and Curb Your Enthusiasm and extensive voice work including a number of Pixar movies, Kind was tailor-made for the role. Kind is a perfect example of one of the strengths of this show: to bring in great guest stars to play memorable new characters like Paul F. Tompkins as Counselor Migleemo, Jack McBrayer as Badgey, and many others. McMahan and his team excel at perfect castings, as this episode relied heavily on Kind to provide many of the laughs as our characters dealt with some of their issues.

“An Embarrassment of Dooplers” also was a good example of side characters that come and go in an instant but are still well-realized and capable of delivering plenty of humor. For this episode, we had the exasperated Aurelian wife in the Aviary, delivering some great ’50s sitcom-style deadpan “Let’s move to the aviary he says” bird sarcasm to her husband, or the groundskeeper with his “Oh, still alive” lament. And again, the top-notch voice talent from the main cast and veterans like Paul Scheer and Tom Kenny help raise the show to a high level of quality and comedy.

Does being two of me make me look fat?

Final thoughts

After last week’s mixed bag, it was a delight for Lower Decks to return to form, with one of its best episodes. “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” feels like a real halfway mark for season two, now resolving— to an extent at least—many of the hanging character issues. This lets the show move into the back half of season two with what looks to be some crazy new adventures.

It’s always impossible to find a spot at this station.

MORE BITS

Random stuff

  • Stardate 58053.9
  • The episode began without a cold open/teaser.
  • For the first time, we see a white dress version of Lower Decks Starfleet uniform, matching the white variant of the dress uniforms still worn by most of rest of Starfleet.
  • What was thought of as the dress uniform seen in season one is revealed to be the “skant” variant.
  • Starbase 25 has “a Quark’s” confirming that it is now a franchise.
  • There are also Quark’s branded models, including the California Class and DS9 station.
  • Mariner tried to bluff her way into the party by claiming to be a member of the crew of the Voyager-D (not necessarily confirming there actually is a Voyager-D).
  • Thadiun Okona is now a DJ.
  • Brad likes drinking prune juice spritz
  • Captain Shelby’s first officer is a new alien species that’s modeled after the original design for Saru, a complicated multi-eyed alien design that was too much work and uncomfortable.

Laugh lines

  • Maybe we can take our skants in a bag just in case everyone is in a skant.
  • Oh, they have a Quark’s now. That used to be an empty lot where teens would make mistakes.
  • I like mini-Mariner bossing around tiny Boimler.
  • I’m sorry I left you on Ceti Alpha, I really thought there was life there.
  • I barfed up bubble bath.
  • I wasn’t smarter than me!
  • Your pah is weak and it disgusts me!
  • My crew deals with just as much s#!t as Picard’s or any other.
  • Oh, it comes with an Ezri and a Jadzia!

That’s definitely a Lore I am tasting.

More to come

Every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe. The podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPocket CastsStitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network. On Saturday, we’ll post our weekly analysis of Easter eggs and references for this episode.


New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. It is available on Amazon Prime Video internationally on Fridays. It will debut in Latin America on Paramount+ in September.

Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.

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This one was great (and glad you guys liked it more than last weeks). This show is just so quirky and fun! It was fitting we got this as an episode to commemorate Star Trek day. I can’t believe the season is already halfway over. :(

This episode was a joy.

I love the Dooplers.

Their looks have a bit of a cartoon or muppet vampire vibe, but in fact they are like the diplomatic version of the Pakleds. Of course Captain Freeman was up to handling them.

But the most unexpected laugh of the week was First Officer Jack Ransom pulling an HMQ Elizabeth and copying the fork etiquette failure of the guest by tossing it over his shoulder to make them more comfortable.

“Their looks have a bit of a cartoon or muppet vampire vibe,”

They reminded me of Humpty Dumpty with their eggheads :-)

Mike McMahon did mention that they had to coordinate with Prodigy on some of the legacy characters, so I guess Okona was one of the ones he was talking about. Hopefully he’ll still have his cool eyepatch on Prodigy.

Whew. That was a blast of an episode! The car chase scene is one of the most exhilarating in all Trek. The animation has vastly improved – very noticeable here.

I’m so glad Ricard Kind makes his first appearance in Trek. Being waiting for that for ages. He was hilarious as a doppler, Lower Decks version of a tribble.

My faith is fully restored in the show going from the weakest to probably my favourite episode. Wow.

Doopler

They should have titled this episode The Doopler Effect

They REALLY should have.

That actually ended up being rather sweet. Well done, LD!

I was kind of aggravated by this one. Probably my least favorite episode of the series to date (and for the second week in a row). Still not bad, though.

Loved it… laughed a lot in the middle of the night through this episode…

This one really made me laugh hard. The Dooplers… forget Tribbles :-) Kirk+Spock carved into that bar… Data bubble baths, some of them are Lore :-) The entire model kit plot, so reminiscent of aTrekkie friend of mine who builds ship models… The drive.through around the station… Quark’s, Mot’s barber shop, Garak’s fine clothing store… all of those now being in-world franchises :-) I feel bad for the fish creature in that fish tank though…
This episode really made a difference for me.

That episode was so funny. I am still laughing just thinking about it, and I watched it yesterday.

My faith in LDS is restored after last week’s awful Mugato episode.

I thought it was Gumatu?

No, Goo-matu!

Richard Kind was great as the voice of the Doppler, but love that Jennifer Lewis from Blackish as the bartender. She is a treasure!

I spent half the episode trying to place the voice!

The poor guy in the Pike “Beep-Chair” sure looked a lot like an animated version of Mike McMahan. Also, there’s a delightful surprise when Mariner and Boimler (and the cops) careen through that Vulcan ship. I won’t spoil it- but you’ll hear it.

I enjoyed this episode. Something about all those Data bubble bath bottles floating in the lake really tickled me. :-)

I’m getting more and more annoyed with Mariner’s character, though. In this episode, she says that it’s okay to embarrass her best friend because she thinks it’s funny. In “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris,” she was willing to breach a fellow officer’s privacy to satisfy idle curiosity. In “Mugato, Gumato,” she was willing to cause painful physical injuries to her friends in order to have a good workout.

This woman is criminally selfish.

I can only guess that the Cerritos must have visited Alfa 177 recently (the planet where Kirk was split into good and evil parts in “The Enemy Within.”) They need to go back to Alfa 177 right away and retrieve the GOOD part of Mariner, who must be one of the many people that this version of Mariner has marooned.

I mean, I know the characters are exaggerated for comic effect; everything is dialed up to eleven. But even dialing Mariner down a bit … she’s not a nice person. She’s our lead, so I want to love her, but she’s SO selfish.

I generally like Mariner but I see your point, she definitely has a real ‘mean girl’ spirit and 90% of what she does is in that vein

Tawny Newsome is so engaging that she makes the character more likeable than her behavior warrants. It’s great to have someone so engaging in the role, but I’d still rather the character were less self-centered.

Yes but IMO it makes a better character that Mariner is not “perfect” and always right.

Sure, flawed characters are generally more interesting, but “monstrously selfish” isn’t a character flaw that I find interesting; it’s just mean.

Am I the only one to notice the Battlestar parked at the Starbase?

Where’s the battlestar?

On the far left side.

I always bring my skant in a bag in case everyone is wearing a skant.

Another great entry this week. I’m beginning to think there’s more to the Mariner storyline than we know here though. She has a history – a little sketchy in places. And I think that black ops red herring from the other week is misdirection and she’s actually a secret agent (not necessarily S31, but maybe another branch of Starfleet Intelligence – did she infiltrate the Maquis back in the day and that’s why she’s so anti-Starfleet? Too long in deep cover?)

The resolution was great this week though – yelling at the Dooplers (I identify as a Doopler now, btw, for my reactions are the same as theirs in any social situation lol) to get them to unduplicate was inspired. I was worried that they’d go down the route of that terrible Short Trek with the tribbles and Freeman would blow up the Cerritos or something, claiming that Boimler was an idiot, but they avoided that beautifully.

I also liked the bonding at the end with Freeman and the senior team not getting into the fancy Starfleet party. And where Mariner proclaimed Boimler her “number 1” and it was immediately sanctioned by the captain (she saw it happen after all haha!).

Ultimately, though, I think the whole show is taking place in real life Mariner’s therapy sessions (hence the tone of the show, etc.) and since the ship model has been upgraded to look more detailed and “real”, I’m becoming convinced that over time the show will look more and more like real life and by season 7 of LDS, it will be live action with Mariner being discharged from therapy after having worked out her issues in cartoon form.

Man, I love this show 😂

I’m a clinical psychologist in real life, and I found it interesting that psychological trauma makes the Dooplers split in two, because that’s an awful lot like what happens for real in Dissociative Identity Disorder (which is probably better known to laypeople under its former name of Multiple Personality Disorder).

I wonder if the writers had Dissociative Identity Disorder in mind, or if they were only thinking of tribbles?

It’s great that the Dooplers can just create matter out of nothing supposedly ad infinitum :P