A bit of news: we finally have a release date for Star Trek: Prodigy! Yesterday’s Star Trek Day festivities saw the announcement that the next animated addition to theTrek franchise will begin streaming on Paramount+ 23 October. This release date follows the conclusion of Lower Decks, so we should be able to move seamlessly from one to the next. Note that the 23rd is a Saturday, but this column will continue to release on Thursdays.
We also have a release date for the new season of Star Trek: Discovery: 18 November 2021.
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
Getting back to the business at hand, we’ve reached the midseason for Lower Decks, and “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” makes for a good entry. The episodes thus far, while fun, have often struggled to find the sweet spot between having just enough Easter Eggs to please long time fans and not letting those references overshadow the rest of the story. Other episodes have tried to cram too much story into the show’s run time, and others have existed mostly to serve the larger season arc. “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” finally manages to enter the Goldilocks Zone of “just right.” The episode strikes a great balance between plot, character development, and in-universe references. It all just fits together nicely, and no one element outweighs any other. Plus, “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” is just plain funny in a way that we haven’t really seen yet this season, reminding us that Lower Decks is, first and foremost meant to be a comedy.
“An Embarrassment of Dooplers” focuses on a party. The Cerritos has been tasked with delivering the Doopler diplomat to Starbase 25 where, coincidentally, the Command Conference happens to be held. The conference itself is less interesting than the after party, and Captain Freeman plans on attending as the first captain of a California-class ship to do so. Ensign Beckett Mariner also wants to get in on that action, but she’s stymied by her rank and ship. She hatches a plan to get into the party by having Ensign Boimler masquerade as his own transporter clone as William Boimler’s position on the U.S.S. Titan automatically scores him an invite. Since the Titan is too far away dealing with Pakleds to make it to the party, Boimler can easily pose as his clone without anyone being the wiser.
However, before anyone can make it to the party, the Cerritos must successfully deliver the Doopler Emissary to the Starbase, but Dooplers as a species apparently react to emotional stress by duplicating or, as they say, “dooplercating.” As a result, everyone aboard the Cerritos has been walking on eggshells to keep the Emissary calm and therefore unitary. Just as they are about to dock with Starbase 25, Freeman vents her frustration to station command, and as she does so, the Emissary walks onto the Bridge in time to hear her blunt assessment of his character. The Emissary, predictably, reacts badly and begins dooplercating. The process embarrasses the now twin Dooplers, and that embarrassment sparks a chain reaction leading to the Dooplers multiplying like tribbles throughout the ship. Station Command refuses to allow the Cerritos to dock until they get their Doopler problem under control.
Mariner and Boimler take advantage of the situation to beam themselves directly aboard the station. Mariner, having previously lived on Starbase 25, seeks out Malvus, an old Mizarian friend to see if he knows where the party will be held. Apparently, the party’s location is always a secret. However, Malvus has an axe to grind, and he demands that Mariner transport crates of Commander Data dolls filled with bubble bath to a set location before he’ll tell her. She and Boimler agree, but when station security attempts to pull them over, Malvus informs her via comm that the box contains illegal Klingon disruptors underneath the dolls. He wishes her an enjoyable stay in a penal colony.
Mariner opts to run, engaging in an epic car chase throughout the station, crashing through the Aviary and ultimately landing in a lake. Soaking wet and covered in bubble bath, the pair limps to the party, and the alien manning the door allows Boimler into the party but not Mariner. Mariner, predictably, pouts, and takes her frustration out on Boimler. Boimler, having had it with Mariner’s nonsense, storms into the party. Mariner heads down to a disreputable looking bar. Boimler eventually joins her, and they have a heart-to-heart about Mariner’s vulnerability. The bartender points out that Kirk and Spock once ended up at her bar after trying unsuccessfully to crash the Starbase 25 party.
Aboard the Cerritos, Captain Freeman is drowning in Dooplers until her own temper reaches critical mass, and she begins berating the whimpering Dooplers, enraging several of them. The angry Dooplers begin to fuse back together, so Freeman orders her crew to give the Dooplers a dressing down wherever possible. They’re wildly successful at reconstituting all of the Dooplers into the single Emissary, and Freeman beams to the station with T’Ana, Ransom, and Shaxs. They head to the party but are barred because the party is limited to officers serving aboard Luna-class ships and above. They, too, end up on the Station’s Promenade with nowhere to go until Mariner invites them into Kirk’s bar to drink with her and Boimler. Before they head into the bar, the Emissary comes to apologize for his lack of self-confidence and asks Freeman to recommend a tranquil place in which to rest. Freeman has the ship beam him to the party, where the bouncer’s refusal to admit him sparks another disastrous round of dooplercating.
Largely oblivious to the shenanigans taking place regarding the party, Tendi and Rutherford attempt to work on the Cerritos model that they started last year. Rutherford, having lost his memories, relies on notes left by his past self in order to complete the model, but for whatever reason, various parts of the mechanism confound him. As the Dooplers begin to flood the bar, he and Tendi attempt to flee with the model through a maintenance hatch. After strategically detonating the model warp core to breach the hatch, they find themselves in a shuttle bay where, once again, Dooplers threaten to overwhelm the space. Tendi demands that Rutherford leave the model behind so that they can continue to flee, but Rutherford refuses, explaining that he worries that he’s not as good at engineering or as a friend to Tendi as he was prior to losing his memories. Tendi explains that they never intended to complete the model because working on the model allowed them to hang out uninterrupted by anyone else. Their friendship affirmed, they, too, make it to Kirk’s Bar on Starbase 25 where Tendi presents Rutherford with a DS9 model that they can once again fail to complete.
My foregoing plot summary likely fails to do the episode justice because the plot for “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” is incredibly streamlined and clean. The car chase is satisfyingly in character and peppered with enough Easter Eggs that they feel like nods to Trek canon rather than the point of the episode. We get to see Boimler become a willing co-conspirator rather than a hostage; he doesn’t remonstrate with Mariner when she suggests that he masquerade as William Boimler. He thinks to ask his clone’s permission, but when Mariner growls at him to stop, he does so gamely. I’m excited that Boimler gets to go along willingly rather than be a plot-hostage even if it means that he’s just as much at fault for the trouble Mariner stirs up as she is. The car chase becomes a bit of a metaphor in that Boimler and Mariner are literally ride-or-die friends, even if they do struggle with some fractures in their friendship.
The episode prompts Boimler and Mariner finally to discuss his jaunt to the Titan, which we know has been hanging over them since the end of last season. I almost wonder if Boimler’s willingness to believe that Mariner isn’t really his friend from last week doesn’t stem from some of the guilt he admits to feeling this week. More importantly, Boimler calls Mariner out for her casual cruelty and other relationship-sabotaging behaviors. At one point, he tells Malvus about how Mariner abandoned him, but he doesn’t back down when she grouses at him for telling a story for which she is the butt of the joke. He rightly points at that she does the exact same thing. When she throws her tantrum at the party’s entrance, he storms off because he’s frustrated with her attempts at manipulating him. She blames him for abandoning her for the Titan, but he refuses to bend here. Boimler reminds Mariner and us as viewers that he earned that promotion and that she should have been proud of and excited for him. The not-so-subtle implication here is that the world does not revolve around Beckett Mariner, and season two has been much better about expressing that truth.
I don’t think it’s accidental that this reminder comes on the heels of yet another great moment for Boimler. Mariner tells him that she used to live on Starbase 25, and Boimler’s response is a metaphorical eye roll. His “Of COURSE you did” is ours as well because it’s yet another reminder of how the show has treated Mariner. I mentioned last week that she has near Mary Sue status, and that line from Boimler indicates that the writers are aware of this and are engaging with it. As a reslut, Mariner spends a lot of time in this episode off of her game. Her scheme to get into the party fails; her actions aboard Starbase 25 actually create the problem that dumps them into a lake. Her comeback to Boimler—that her stories are hilarious—falls entirely flat because he’s right. She does tell stories that make him look like an idiot. Even the party’s supposedly secret location is so obvious that she looks a little silly for not thinking of the Starbase’s ballroom that plays host to all of the really big parties. Everyone else knows where the party is; she’s the only one for whom it’s a secret. I’m willing to wager that someone, somewhere gave orders to that effect.
I would still prefer that the emotional climax of the plot not center around Mariner’s emotional vulnerability. While I understand that realistically, Mariner should not be expected to get over her insecurities over a handful of episodes, I would really like an episode to highlight something else. Yes, having Tendi and Rutherford bond in this episode provides a nice counterbalance, but the trauma surrounding Rutherford’s lost year offers so much potential for exploration. We’re five episodes into a ten episode season, and he’s only just admitted that it worries him. While this season has been better about capitalizing on the story potential of Tendi and Rutherford, the story still focuses on Mariner who becomes less likeable as the season continues.
Captain Freeman gets more screen time, and the episode is better for it. Lower Decks does a great job juxtaposing the bridge crew with the Lower Deckers, highlighting just how similar they really are. The Bridge crew have to contend with their own space weirdness, and even when the craziness overlaps, the show never really lets the Bridge crew lose that certain feeling of experience that differentiates them from their Lower Decker counterparts. However, much like Mariner, Freeman only excels when she leans into who she really is. Rather than pretending to be more diplomatic than she is, she handles the Doopler situation by losing her temper, and that’s a nice parallel to Mariner’s character arc. The entire episode resolves with Freeman admitting that she doesn’t actually like socializing with the Starfleet folks at the party; she prefers the company of her own crew. That they all get to come together in a bar that hosts a piece of history is just a bonus.
Four cups of Earl Grey Tea and a saucer
The Egg Hunt
- The Doopler diplomat’s title is “Emissary.” If I have to tell you that’s a DS9 reference, this section of the column may not be for you.
- Boimler refers to Skants, which happens to be a fandom term for the dress-like uniforms.
- Their formal uniforms seem straight out of Nemesis.
- Quark’s continues to be a recurring Easter Egg. I’m glad to see him franchising.
- Okona comes back to be a DJ. Last we saw him, he was romancing Counselor Troi.
- A prune juice spritz calls back to Worf’s affection for prune juice.
- The starbase bar has models of Zephram Cochran’s Phoenix and the ship eating machine from “The Doomsday Machine” as well as a picture of an ancient Bajoran spacecraft that Sisko happened to construct and fly into Cardassian space.
- The groundskeeper calls back to Boothby.
- Mizarians are a TNG alien as is the Antedian that you see during the car chase.
- The avian Skorr and the insectoid bouncer are species introduced by “The Jihad.”
- The Ceti Alpha 1V/V mix up recalls Khan’s adventures prior to Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan.
- The purple bartender makes a crack about “generations,” which is clearly a joking reference to the film of the same name.
- Freeman beaming the Doopler into the party reminds me a lot of Kirk’s solution to the tribbles.
- Nice to see that Shelby made captain and now has her own Number One. She might want to try out a new hairstyle, though.
- Lastly, Mariner narrowly avoids crashing into a gentleman riding around in the same power chair to which Pike was confined in “The Menagerie.”
- The title once again makes a joke. “An embarrassment of riches” refers to having a lot of something, and we get a lot of Dooplers due to their embarrassment. Ha.