What to Watch Verdict
A hilarious side character carries the humor while the main cast delivers on a promise of found family and emotional growth.
🖖🏻 Richard Kind is a treasure.
🖖🏻 The animators get to go nuts with a fun chase scene.
🖖🏻 Boimler and Mariner get a genuinely touching moment of growth.
🖖🏻 Rutherford and Tendi have a contrived subplot that feels a few episodes too late.
This post contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks. Check out our last review here.
After last week’s episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks felt like a low point for the series, I was genuinely concerned that the show had run out of steam. Baseline amusement and the brief uptick of the third episode aside, the show has largely been spinning its tires, almost as if it came out half-baked from a COVID-influenced production pipeline. So color me impressed that “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” is the exact inverse of everything disappointing about last week’s installment. It’s amazing how a properly framed homage, actual comic timing, and genuine character growth can make for an excellent episode of television, even when the show it’s part of hasn’t been living up to those standards.
First and foremost, props to the ever-talented Richard Kind for lending his voice to the standout character(s) of the episode, the Doopler delegate. As the creature uncontrollably duplicates when emotionally distressed, causing a cascade of duplication as his nervous disposition makes each copy feel even more embarrassed, the flooding ship becomes a hotbed of chaos punctuated by Kind’s trademark plaintive pleas. The homage to “The Trouble with Tribbles” is obvious, but it’s a fun and comedic spin on the idea that doesn’t feel bogged down by nostalgia or impenetrable lore worship. It’s just a refreshingly funny gag to see play out over twenty minutes, and it demonstrates the show's comedy instincts at their sharpest.
The episode’s weak link, in classic Lower Decks fashion, is the plot between Tendi (Noël Wells) and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), who are assembling a model starship replica as the Doopler continues to multiply throughout the ship. Their conflict revolves around Rutherford feeling inadequate to his former self, the result of missing memories that resulted from last season’s cyborg implant replacement, which seems strange to only address halfway through the season and hinges on some information that Tendi is aware of but for some reason withholds from him. It does allow for a moment of revelation that proves Rutherford is still the same as he’s always been, which in turn reaffirms the strength of his friendship with Tendi, but the whole conflict feels a little contrived, especially as the Doopler horde continues to steal the spotlight.
The best character moments, of course, belong to Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Boimler (Jack Quaid), who sneak off the ship to attend a fancy officers’ party, with Boimler posing as his transporter clone still stationed on the USS Titan. An extended car chase lets the animators really have a blast with some frenetic energy and great sight gags, but the heart of the episode belongs to the realization that Mariner felt abandoned by Boimler’s sudden disappearance after being promoted last season. There’s been an unspoken distance between the characters since Boimler’s return to the Cerritos, so it was nice to finally see these characters put into words how important they are to one another. It shows growth from this odd couple, as Mariner’s emotional guard lowers for her best friend and Boimler comes to realize there are more important things than his career.
“An Embarrassment of Dooplers” is exactly the kind of episode that Lower Decks needs to keep its focus on in the future. The key to success rears in having fun and interesting side characters carry the humor while the main cast delivers on a promise of found family and emotional growth. The less Lower Decks acts as a referential repository for Star Trek in-jokes, the more it functions as the worthy addition to the canon that it’s always hinted it could be.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is available to stream now on Paramount Plus in the US and on Prime Video in the UK.
Leigh Monson has been a professional film critic and writer for six years, with bylines at Birth.Movies.Death., SlashFilm and Polygon. Attorney by day, cinephile by night and delicious snack by mid-afternoon, Leigh loves queer cinema and deconstructing genre tropes. If you like insights into recent films and love stupid puns, you can follow them on Twitter.
By Lucy Buglass