Star Trek: Lower Decks

"An Embarrassment of Dooplers"

2 stars

Air date: 9/9/2021
Written by Dave Ihlenfeld & David Wright
Directed by Kim Arndt

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The problem with Lower Decks is that I don't laugh at it nearly enough, and often not at all. The jokes are way too obvious, the action sequences are maniacally overcompensating, and the franchise-self-referential name-dropping is shamelessly in-your-face.

Take this week's "An Embarrassment of Dooplers." Please. (Har, har.) It has a high-concept premise that could've potentially worked as a sitcom: A Doopler emissary (Richard Kind in a Richard Kind-ian role) is aboard the ship, being escorted to a conference. The Dooplers, you see, involuntarily and spontaneously reproduce when they get embarrassed. So the Cerritos crew has been walking on eggshells so they don't set off his fragile, insecure personality lest he start splitting in half. (Actually, "splitting in half" is a mischaracterization, since the two resulting Dooplers are the same size as the original, which seems like it would violate the laws of conservation of mass and/or energy if he's not constantly taking on additional mass and/or energy, which he is not. I realize I am bringing logic to a situation where it's not wanted.)

The problem is that nothing fun or clever is done with this concept. The Doopler expresses his embarrassment at whatever he's confronted with, duplicates, and then expresses embarrassment at having done that. Repeat. It's one joke — and not a very funny one — repeated ad infinitum until the entire ship is filled with Dooplers. The solution — which is that making them mad causes them to reintegrate, leading everyone on the ship to insult all the Dooplers until they are all recombined — is severely lacking in imagination. (Surely such a simple solution to the problem should've already been well known to the Dooplers so they could avoid the problem spinning out of control in the first place. Again, this is my logic foisted where it's not wanted, but if the show is going to assert nonsensical cartoon logic, could it maybe not be so lazy about it?) The inspiration here is obviously "The Trouble With Tribbles," but the only thing this episode has in common with that classic is that something keeps multiplying. All the wit and charm has been stripped away and all we have is the concept itself, which is far too transparent.

A little better are Boimler's and Mariner's attempts to get into an exclusive party of Starfleet elite on a space station, where they can schmooze with upper deckers and maybe angle for career prospects. I enjoyed the idea of Boimler's clone from the Titan having been invited to the party (and who can't make it) and so Mariner convinces Boimler to crash the party by posing as his doppelganger. This also allows Mariner and Boimler to work on some unresolved issues around Boimler having transferred to the Titan and Mariner's resulting feelings of abandonment and resentment. This isn't bad. It's not great, but it does contain a character core and some Friendship Stuff.

In the process, while on the station the two get unwittingly (and stupidly) recruited into a weapons-smuggling scheme by one of Mariner's old acquaintances. This results in them being pulled over by the cops, causing Mariner to lead them in a car chase sequence that the animators clearly went to a lot of trouble to orchestrate but which goes on forever. While more fun than the tepid Doopler material, this leans too much into Madcap Lower Decks.

Dying on the vine are the adventures of Tendi and Rutherford as Rutherford struggles with his memory loss — not in any relevant character way with stakes, mind you, but within the context of not being able to assemble a model of the Cerritos that he previously, pre-memory-wipe, had no trouble with. Okay, so it's kind of goofy that these two would be playing with models of their own ship, and there's one amusing shot of what looks like the ship's exterior but actually turns out to be the model — but this is pretty weak sauce. I'm all for the low stakes of the plot, but this is way too low of stakes for the characters. Rutherford's memory-wipe issue has been back-burnered for weeks now, and this is all they do with it?

As for the Trekky references, hey, look: Quark's (franchise)! Mariner and Boimler end up at a dive bar where Kirk and Spock once drank! Tendi gives Rutherford a Deep Space Nine model, while also name-dropping Jadzia and Ezri! To all this I say: So freakin' what? Is it supposed to be funny merely because we recognize these elements from the Trek series of yesteryear? This might play like a cute joke if it weren't done every other minute on this series.

So this didn't do much for me. The character work needs higher stakes. The plot needs to either be more grounded or more clever in its execution. And the jokes need to make me laugh, not sit with a blank stare on my face. Better luck next week.

Previous episode: Mugato, Gumato
Next episode: The Spy Humongous

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21 comments on this post

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Tim C
Thu, Sep 9, 2021, 7:02am (UTC -6)
A nice combination of low-stakes Star Trek material along with a classic sitcom premise: gaining entry to a party. This episode didn't have anything that made me crack up like last week's Mugato threeway, but it did get quite a few laughs out of me:

* The Doopler just being insufferably precious was great.

* The classic Star Trek stock-footage-of-the-ship actually being a model was cute

* "Eh, *some* of them may be Lores."

* The groundskeeper that actually wanted to die

* "Your pagh is weak and disgusts me!" - bajoran insults. Eat your heart out Kai Winn

* Smash cut from Freeman's inspiring Captain's Speech to still being denied entrance to the party

* DJ Okona

The Tendi/Rutherford material was, as usual, the weakest. I'm not sure exactly why it is but although their friendship is somewhat endearing, there's just not much spark to their scenes together. Tendi/Mariner and Rutherford/Boimler both seem to work better.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Sep 9, 2021, 8:51am (UTC -6)
That was a great episode. Easily the best of the season to date, though not quite at Crisis Point levels yet. It really is stunning to me how they manage to fit so much genuine character development into episodes with less than 30 minutes.

First, I loved the fact that this episode stands on its own without significant "memberberries." There were of course callbacks to lots of old Trek (lots of aliens from TAS were seen here) but the central plot elements did not rely upon any established Trek lore or tropes. It was pure Lower Decks, and rested upon the characters themselves.

And what good character work there was here - particularly the end. Boimler and Mariner had a great arc across the episode - arguably the conclusion of an arc which began with the first episode. Their relationship has transformed from one where Boimler is basically Mariner's punching bag to one where they both can admit they are genuinely fond of one another and show some vulnerability. Indeed, for the first time I detected a tiny hint of romance there...though I'm here for whatever in terms of what may happen.

That wasn't all though. Rutherford was given depth for the first time as well (similar to Tendi in the last few episodes) with some layers beyond a guy who really geeks out regarding Starfleet tech. Even Captain Freeman had a bit of an arc from wanting to be invited to the "grown-ups table" to accepting her actual place as being pretty good, all things considered.

Honestly, I couldn't ask for much more in an episode of Lower Decks.
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Jammer
Thu, Sep 9, 2021, 1:09pm (UTC -6)
Review now posted.
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Chrome
Thu, Sep 9, 2021, 2:46pm (UTC -6)
Call me a sucker for a Boimler-Mariner story but I liked this. It continues the story thread from “No Small Parts” where Mariner was furious enough to make death threats to Boimler after he transferred without her consent. This week Mariner keeps upping the ante on lies to cover up her feelings for Boimler (professional feelings, we presume but they do tease the dating angle). Boimler himself tries to smooth out the zany scheme only to realize that smooth route is without friends and… boring!

The episode really promoted the idea that Mariner/Boimler is the Kirk and Spock of the show. I can’t say I see the similarities that far, but the comradery of two uniquely different people is good Trek fare.

The Doopler problem feels more like a B or C plot, so unlike Jammer, it didn’t grate on this fan too much. The Rutherford/Tendi plot wasn’t very meaty either but I enjoyed the mini-Cerritos ejecting it’s warp core to save the day. It felt kind of the spirit of a Wesley Crusher science project.

Much better than last week - Keep it up with character stories please!
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Yanks
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 10:08am (UTC -6)
@Chrome "The episode really promoted the idea that Mariner/Boimler is the Kirk and Spock of the show."

I don't think this is the case. I think Jammer missed the mark a little here as well. The Kirk/Spock carving on the bar was there to make Mariner and Boimler feel better about not getting into the big-boys party. I don't think humor ever was intended.

The Doopler splitting bit was pure Lower Decks stuff. While I didn't find it side-splitting (pun intended) it got a couple chuckles out of me. The funnier part for me were the lines the crew used to get them "unsplit".

The only part of the episode that drug on for me was the car chase.

Both character pairings were enjoyable to watch. It was nice how the crew all ended up together after the Cerritos bridge crew were turned away from the big party.

This episode had a little charm to it. I enjoy the relationships between our LD crew. Failed attempts at humor (aside from last week) don't piss me off like on 'The Orville'. A marked improvement over last week.

Still watching out for all those easter eggs.

Great? No, but I enjoyed it and will watch it again.

3 stars for me.
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Jonno1701
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 12:38pm (UTC -6)
Yeah I loved this episode.

A lot better than last week where the sex references were a bit much for me (I'm no prude but I didn't get that at all).

Bit of character development and a fun plot.

I think look, I think we just have to accept all the self referential stuff. It's baked into this universe. It does skate the line at times of winking too hard at the audience but the casual viewer won't pick up on any of that.

I don't belly laugh much but I think this show (for the most part) has some heart. The writers love Star Trek and so do we.
3.5 out of 4
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Danielle
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 2:02pm (UTC -6)
I thought this was a definite improvement over last week's Mugato episode. True, I didn't laugh out loud much (except for Shax's "Your Pah is weak!"), but the development of the Boimler-Mariner relationship really helped do it for me. I enjoyed the car chase sequence as well, but I agree it was probably about 30 seconds too long. I don't really mind if the jokes don't land in LD if the show is still giving us decent character work like in this episode. 3 stars.

I feel like Tendi and Rutherford still feel under-developed at this point. I never really care about them as characters because I don't feel like I know who they are yet. The show has alluded to Tendi feeling conflicted about her Orion identity and I'd love to see the show explore that more. Rutherford needs more than just memory loss to be an interesting character. Eugene Cordero is a great comedy actor and Lower Decks isn't utilizing his talents to their potential.

I also enjoy seeing more of the bridge crew. I think it's important to have them as foils to the Lower Deckers. Their professionalism and the seriousness with which they take thir jobs make them a good Abbott to the Lower Decker's Costello.
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Latex Zebra
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 7:41pm (UTC -6)
Dooplers annoying to start with but love how they turned it on it's head at the end.
The car chase, OK, a bit much.

Everything else. Really good. Probably my favourite episode yet. I hope this is where they build from. The end with the bridge crew and the lower decks hanging out, all outcasts. Lets play on that. That will be great. Even among the daft cartoon aspects.
3.5 for me. The first episode I genuinely want to watch again.
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Episodenull
Sat, Sep 11, 2021, 1:57am (UTC -6)
I really liked last week and this week's episodes. Season 2 is finally starting to gell for me.

I'm a little bummed that Jammer didn't like this episode much at all. Not because I need a reviewer to agree with me, but I find LD such a charming little show that I wish he got more pleasure out of it.

Can I defend the Doopler jokes? Not really; yes, they're derivative and I saw where the episode was going as soon as they introduced the concept, and the show can be pretty dumb at times...but all I know is that while I have zero desire to watch the next seasons of Picard and Discovery, I'm excited for each new episode of Lower Decks, even at those times I haven't liked prior week's episodes.
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Barristan
Sat, Sep 11, 2021, 2:44am (UTC -6)
Was... was that a Battlestar Pegasus also docked at the station?

It's probably not a good sign when the easter eggs and references are the most notable things in the episode. (Although the Shelby cameo made me happy; it was SUCH a waste that her character was never brought back in the TNG/DS9 era.)
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Shasarak
Sat, Sep 11, 2021, 5:09am (UTC -6)
I don't always agree with Jammer, but in this instance he's pretty much spot on. This episode simply isn't funny enough. And the Doopler stuff was especially tiresome. There is sometimes a fine line between "a running joke" and "the same joke repeated over and over", and the Doopler stuff was firmly on the wrong side of that line.

The one joke which actually did make me laugh out loud was when Rutherford and Tendi decide to detonate the model warp core of their model shop to blow open the hatch, complete with having to turn tiny little keys simultaneously.
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Episodenull
Sat, Sep 11, 2021, 11:13am (UTC -6)
@Barristan
>Was... was that a Battlestar Pegasus also docked at the station?

That was an Andorian Kumari-class battle cruiser, as seen in Enterprise.
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Bok R'Mor
Sat, Sep 11, 2021, 11:41am (UTC -6)
Didn't feel there was much to this beyond an extended chase scene (which was very well animated) and the exponential duplication of the Doopler guest.

That said, LD continues to work hard on building up good relationships between its main characters (Mariner/Boimler, Tendi/Rutherford). This can be a little too saccharine and try-hard to be entirely convincing, but it's usually done well enough. It's hit and miss, but lands at times.

As always, a nice parade of references and at least one laugh-out-loud line ('Your pagh is weak and it disgusts me!'), but also, again, unnecessary and detracting puerility in some of the supposedly comedic dialogue.
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Andrew Taylor-Cairns
Sun, Sep 12, 2021, 9:07am (UTC -6)
I'm definitely enjoying the series more than Jammer. The show isn't always laugh-out-loud funny, but it does build relationships.

I think that was a 3 out 4, for me. I'm a sucker for the Mariner/Boimler and Tendi/Rutherford dynamics, so always enjoy it when they are developed.

The Data bubble bath was such a funny visual gag, although some may be Lores.

I was laughing at poor Doopler desperation at everybody being annoyed by him. Then everybody having to piss him off at the end was also as fun.
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Yanks
Sun, Sep 12, 2021, 9:44am (UTC -6)
Choosing Richard Kind as the Doopler voice(s) was perfect.
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Barristan
Sun, Sep 12, 2021, 1:46pm (UTC -6)
@Episodenull
Ah, cool. I didn't make it that far in Enterprise. Must be a durable ship if it's still in service over 200 years later! That would be like, what, Napoleonic-era schooners still being in use today?
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Danielle
Mon, Sep 13, 2021, 10:22am (UTC -6)
@ Barristan

I wouldn't read it as being the exact same class of ship, just that Andorians always use the same basic hull design just like Starfleet always uses a saucer, and how the Klingon Bird-of-preys from the 22nd century look almost identical to the ones from the 24th century.
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Jeffery's Tube
Wed, Sep 15, 2021, 6:10pm (UTC -6)
Speaking of uniform humor as we have been over the last few episodes, the "skant" jokes got a huge laugh out of me. "Nobody wears those anymore!" I really wish Mariner and Boimler had put them on after all, haha.

Also the Ceti Alpha IV/V joke was pretty great. If I hadn't just recently re-watched Wrath of Khan I'm not sure I would have caught it, but it still would have been a humorous exchange to hear. The writers of this show REALLY love Star Trek. There's never any question of that, to me.
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Bok R'Mor
Thu, Sep 16, 2021, 1:04am (UTC -6)
@Jeffrey's Tube

Yes! I found the skant joke quite clever and nicely unexpected too.

Also noticed that when Mariner put on her white dress uniform, her sleeves were rolled up (as always with her). While presumably an obvious breach of dress uniform protocol, it was a nice touch in-keeping with the character (that or they simply re-coloured an existing arm template... although given the attention to detail in LD I'll go with the former).

Isn't the white footwear on the Cerritos (which continued while they had the dress uniforms on, incidentally) meant to be a reference to the white footwear inadvertantly seen on Bashir in TNG's 'Birthright'?
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Jeffery's Tube
Thu, Sep 16, 2021, 2:04am (UTC -6)
I noticed Mariner had her sleeves rolled up too, and yes, I think it's a nice bit of attention to detail. Also, the Cerritos crew's dress uniforms were slightly different from the Titan-style dress uniforms we saw in the TNG movies and DS9, which were also seen in this episode. So even for the dress uniforms, they're sticking to two different uniforms depending on the class of ship. More consistency and attention to detail.

I have no idea about the white shoes being a reference to the goof with Bashir's tennis shows (they didn't think his feet would be seen in the shot--oops!), but seeing as how they're only worn by the blue Sciences division, I'd certainly believe it, haha. I'd just figured it was because they look better with the blue uniforms than black boots, but maybe wouldn't look good with red or yellow uniforms.
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DataMat
Thu, Sep 16, 2021, 1:45pm (UTC -6)
Absolutely nothing in this show I've watched .. and I haven't watched a whole lot of it I'll admit, has made me laugh.

Why is this show so intent on this ridiculous hyperactive character play? There IS a good series in here but it's sabotaged by its own producers who are seemingly fixated on one so called gag after another, and it comes across as lame and boring to me.

I'll say it like I've said elsewhere.
Star Wars has done animation so, so much better than this for the last ten years now.
Star Wars is far more geared to comedy and children than Star Trek and yet 'Trek is being reduced here to a very awkward and unnatural comedy-drama and it doesn't work for me, at least not so far. And then comes the matter of who this show is for .. children I can't imagine would even really enjoy ot appreciate any of the 'gags' .. so .. it's it is for adults? .. I'm not even sure who this show is really aimed at?

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