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.
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