Recent episodes of Lower Decks’ second season have shaken up the formula by pairing off the central foursome in unusual combinations. An Embarrassment of Dooplers returns to focus on the show’s two central relationships: the odd couple of the rebellious Mariner and ambitious, stickler for the rules Boimler; and sweet-hearted nerds Tendi and Rutherford.
Lower Decks is always at the best when it focuses on the characters and their relationships, while placing them in absurd twists on classic Trek scenarios. So here we have Mariner and Boimler resolving the emotional issues caused stemming from his temporary transfer to the U.S.S. Titan and getting into trouble on a Starbase (that’s happened before) while trying to gatecrash an epic party (that’s new). Meanwhile, Tendi and Rutherford continue to rebuild their friendship following the latter’s memory loss while dealing with a shipboard crisis featuring a rapidly duplicating alien dignitary, in a neat twist on The Trouble With Tribbles.
The party in question is held every year after the Starfleet Command Conference and is legendary in Starfleet circles (despite never ever being mentioned before, but we’ll overlook that). And the command crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos is looking forward to attending. The only snag – their lowly status as an unimportant California-class ship would normally exclude them from the exclusive guest list. However, Captain Freeman is confident that her exploits against the Pakleds (plus she once escorted the Enterprise out of Spacedock) are sufficient to land them an invite, something that Mariner – always one for a good time - is keen to get in on. She persuades Boimler to pose as his transporter clone William (who, serving with Riker, is cool enough to be on the list). Boimler, eager for the chance to suck up to lots of Starfleet’s finest, agrees. The old Boimler would never have done anything like this. Perhaps Mariner’s influence is finally starting to rub off on him?
The main snag in the Cerritos reaching the party lies with their current mission. They’re heading to Starbase 25 – the location of the conference – to deliver a representative of the Doopler race to a meeting. The snag comes in the form of a quirk of the Doopler’s biology. Every time he gets embarrassed (and he gets embarrassed very easily), he duplicates. Obviously, this makes no sense whatsoever – either he’s an unusually nervy representative of his species, or they come from a bloody big planet - but then neither do Tribbles, and we all love them.
After walking on eggshells around him for most of the mission, the inevitable happens when the Doopler hears Captain Freeman complaining about him behind his back and he starts duplicating. A lot. Soon the Cerritos is overrun by versions of the Doopler, (voiced by the great Richard Kind, Inside Out’s Bing Bong - no, we’re still not over it), which means the ship is immediately banned from both the starbase and the epic party.
Equally inconvenienced are Tendi and Rutherford, who are spending their free time from working on the ship, by building a smaller model of the ship. It was always their old way of spending quality time together, deliberately never finishing it so they could enjoy each other’s company, and keep away unwanted outsiders.
While the two attempt to escape the swarm of Dooplers (the collective noun for which is, if the episode title is anything to go by is the rather apt ‘an embarrassment'), Tendi helps her friend come to terms with his feelings of inadequacy compared to his former, pre-memory wiped self. Watching this pair build then rebuild their friendship is one of the sweetest elements of the show. While it’s sometimes hard to see what Mariner and Boimler see in each other, it makes perfect sense that these two socially awkward nerds would find comfort together.
Elsewhere, Mariner and Boimler are getting into trouble on the station. Because Mariner used to live there, obviously. It’s a great running joke that, besides her 20-something appearance, the ensign has been everywhere and done everything. There may be a mystery here, but frankly, if it’s just a joke, it’s one we like. Besides pointing out that the station now has a Quark’s (his bars have popped up a couple of times in both Lower Decks and Picard, so it’s nice to have confirmation that DS9’s entrepreneurial bartender is doing very well for himself, establishing his own franchise. Also, can we have an appearance from Armin Shimerman please?) she has a contact who knows where the secret party is.
Unfortunately, her contact isn’t too fond of her, and it turns out the crate of Commander Data bubble bath (want!) – possibly with a few Lore thrown in - that she transports across the station for him in exchange for the location, is actually hiding illegal Klingon disruptors.
This leads to a frantic, fun car chase throughout the station, with them pursued by security, and a terrified Boimler commentating as they go: “Vulcans!” “Fish people!” and ending in an aviary (with a neat cameo from a pair of Aurelians from The Animated Series).
They eventually reach the party, where Mariner’s plan works. To an extent. Boimler is admitted by pretending to be his Titan double, but Mariner is excluded. Too bad, as she’d love it. Besides being DJ’d by The Outrageous Okona (from the Next Generation episode of the same name) the prestigious guest list includes Captain Shelby (from The Best Of Both Worlds) and her first officer, who looks suspiciously like the original, rejected makeup for Saru (now that’s a deep cut reference).
Boimler – who should love having Starfleet’s finest to fawn over – soon realises the party’s no fun without his best friend, and the two soon end up drinking and resolving their issues in an out-of-the-way bar festooned with Trek memorabilia (favourites: the portraits of M’Ress and Arex on the wall). Here the bartender consoles them with the knowledge that many of Starfleet’s finest have ended up there after failing to get into the party and points them to a couple of names scratched into the bar: ‘Kirk + Spock.’
Back on the Cerritos, Freeman resolves the issue of the duplicating Dooplers by realising that berating them reverses the process. Cue the crew insulting them, the most memorable of which include Shaxs’s fantastic “Your Pagh is weak and it disgusts me,” and T’Ana’s foul-mouthed tirade which is unfortunately lost on us due to being entirely bleeped out.
Doopler problem resolved, Freeman leads her command crew to the party, only to be informed that they’re still not allowed in due to them coming from a rubbish ship. After getting their revenge by beaming their Doopler guest into the shindig, where he proceeds to rapidly multiply (another nice Tribbles homage), they join Mariner and Boimler in the frankly much cooler bar. Here the crew bond, Tendi gifts Rutherford a new model kit – Deep Space Nine, “It comes with an Ezri and a Jadzia!” – (it turns out Quark also does a nice side-line in model kits), and Mariner and Boimler leave their names etched into the bar next to those of their Starfleet heroes.
There’s a feeling of finality about An Embarrassment of Dooplers. The first half of the season has focussed on the relationships between our four heroes, specifically the two central pairings, and this feels like a resolution to the issues they’ve had. Mariner and Boimler have made up, and resolved the power dynamic in their pairing, with him reluctantly accepting that he’s her “number one.” Rutherford, with Tendi’s help has come to terms with his feelings of inadequacy compared to his former self, and the two are best friends once again. Now we’ve reached mid-season, it looks like the show’s about to throw some new challenges at our quartet of Lower Deckers. Bring it on.
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