Hands down, this is my favorite episode of Lower Decks so far. There are several reasons for this, but I have to admit that one of the biggest is the guest casting. We’re introduced to a species known as Dooplers. In times of stress, Dooplers will, well, duplicate themselves. And when the Doopler on board the Cerritos starts to feel any kind of stress, he duplicates. A lot.
And he is voiced to whiny perfection by Richard Kind. Which just makes it all work. And it’s one of many reasons why this episode is so much fun.
Another reason why this episode works is that it builds nicely off of what has already been established and moves the characters forward: not just our “big four” of Boimler, Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford, but also Captain Freeman and the Cerritos in general.
Let’s start with the ship: yes, they still have the crap duty of escorting the Doopler envoy. But they’re taking him to a starbase that is holding a big after-party for Starfleet muckitymucks. Thanks to their work against the Pakleds in “No Small Parts,” they’re now invited to the after-party, which no California-class ship has ever been invited to before.
This brings us to our two main characters. Mariner is grumpy that she and Boimler are stuck stacking crates in the cargo bays when she’d much rather be at the party. Boimler is equally grumpy, especially since his transporter twin, “William” Boimler, is probably going. Upon realizing that Titan is too far away to attend, Mariner realizes that they can crash it, with Boimler pretending to be the other him.
Along the way, of course, Mariner gets Boimler in trouble. Because that’s how they roll. There’s a car chase right out of The Blues Brothers, there’s a crash into a lake in an aviary, and there’s Mariner and Bomiler stumbling toward the party, their dress uniforms a mess.
Then the final indignity: Boimler can still get in, but Mariner can’t, because she’s on the Cerritos, not the Titan. “Only Luna-class ships or higher,” according to the bouncer.
Mariner heads to a bar to drown her sorrows, and eventually Boimler winds up there, too, as it’s no fun to be at the party without her there to make fun of the brass. The two of them also have it out: Mariner is still upset that Boimler abandoned her to go serve on the Titan. And Boimler didn’t want her to be disappointed in him. But they drink and make up, especially once they realize that once, a century ago, two other officers got drunk in this same bar after not being able to get into a party. (The bartender allows as how “the blond one” did most of the drinking.) And etched into the wooden bar are their names: Kirk and Spock. It proves to be a good bonding moment for Mariner and Boimler, and for the first time in a season-and-a-half, their friendship feels genuine.
Speaking of genuine friendships, we have Tendi and Rutherford. Before Rutherford lost his memory, he and Tendi were making a model Cerritos, and they’re trying to finish it, but Rutherford left notes for himself that he doesn’t understand. He’s growing ever-more-frustrated with his inability to finish the model, until Tendi—who only doesn’t say this sooner because the Cerritos is being overrun by a kvetching Doopler who is duplicating faster than a tribble—tells him that they deliberately never finished it. It was their way of being able to hang out together without anyone else bugging them, because they were too busy working on their model. Their friendship, also, is reaffirmed.
Meanwhile, the senior staff has spent the entire trip from the Dooplers’ homeworld to the starbase walking on eggshells, trying not to upset the Doopler so he doesn’t duplicate. During a dinner in the captain’s mess, the Doopler drops a fork, and Ransom shows some quick thinking by tossing his own fork to the floor. Everyone laughs, and all is well.
Unfortunately, Freeman’s nerves are so frayed that when she reports to the starbase, she doesn’t notice the Doopler entering the bridge—right when she’s bitching about how difficult it’s been dealing with him. Aghast that he’s been such a burden, the Doopler duplicates. And he’s so horrified that he’s duplicated that it happens again. And again, and again, and again—and soon the bridge is overrun.
And hey, look, once again Mariner doesn’t save the day. In fact, she’s down on the starbase the whole time. Instead, it’s Freeman who—admittedly, by accident—hits on how to reintegrate the Dooplers. Anxiety makes them duplicate, but anger makes them come together again—something she learns when she frustratedly yells at the Dooplers.
Soon, the whole crew is yelling at them—Billups tells them they’re in his engine room now, and they’ll listen to him, while T’Ana just curses a blue streak—and before long we’re back to one Doopler.
Unfortunately, the response to Mariner’s attempt to get into the party was a preview of what happens when Freeman, Ransom, Shaxs, and T’Ana try to get into the party: they’re turned down. Freeman gives an epic speech about how they deserve to be there after all they’ve been through, which does absolutely no good whatsoever. So they wind up at the same bar as Boimler and Mariner, and Freeman realizes that she’s happier hanging out with her own crew than a bunch of Starfleet snobs.
On the one hand, there’s a level of elitism here that’s totally at odds with the Trek ethos, but I’m willing to forgive it on this occasion when I haven’t in the past for two reasons: 1) it’s funny (not always a given on this show that’s supposed to be a comedy), and 2) it provides some truly excellent character moments for Freeman, Mariner, and Boimler.
And in the end Freeman even gets her revenge by sending the Doopler to the party, who has a panic attack as soon as he’s told he shouldn’t be there, and he duplicates like crazy. Is that behavior unworthy of a Starfleet officer? Probably. But so’s beaming a bunch of tribbles into a Klingon engine room…
I like this episode because it solidifies the relationships, it made me laugh many times, Kind’s whiny voice is magnificently perfect, and Mariner doesn’t save the day.
- Mariner announces blithely that she lived on the starbase years ago. Boimler sighs and says, “Of course you did.” Which is also the viewers’ response. But I like that Boimler is finally at the stage where he’s just rolling with it.
- Mariner’s old friend is a Mizarian, who is a gun-running criminal. At one point, he threatens Mariner with a weapon, only to find himself bonding with Boimler over what a creep Mariner is. Mizarians were introduced in the TNG episode “Allegiance,” where they were established as a world that’s been conquered dozens of times. Not exactly the types you’d expect to be gun-runners who threaten people, but maybe he’s the black sheep of the family.
- Also, Mariner complains that Boimler and the Mizarian told embarrassing stories about Mariner. Boimler rightly points out that Mariner tells embarrassing stories about Boimler all the time, so it’s only fair. Mariner says that isn’t the same, because her stories are hilarious. For the record, this is yet another piece of evidence that Mariner is a really awful person. I wish the producers had taken Chris Knight (Val Kilmer’s character in Real Genius) as a guideline for Mariner. It’s really hard to invest in her as a character when she’s this mean-spirited.
- I’ve been dilatory in pointing out when they have Kzinti show up, so I must mention the Kzinti in the Cerritos bar. Between the several Kzinti we’ve seen on LD and the mention Riker made of them in Picard, it’s just nerdy reference heaven. At least as long as the good Mr. Niven is okay with it….
- One of the captains at the party is “Captain Shelby,” and she sure looks like Elizabeth Dennehy. On the one hand, it’s good that she got promoted to captain in the thirteen years since “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II.” On the other hand, this appearance doesn’t acknowledge her promotion to admiral in the New Frontier novels by Peter David.
- The party is being run by the pillbug-like aliens that M3 Green belonged to in the animated episode “The Jihad.” The Starfleet Corps of Engineers series edited by your humble reviewer established that species as the Nasat, and P8 Blue was the structural systems specialist in that series. Heather Jarman’s Balance of Nature novella detailed the origin of the Nasat, though she didn’t go into any great detail about their tradition of throwing wild parties.
- The Nasat bouncer says that only Luna-class or better ships are allowed in the party. The Titan series of novels established that Titan was part of the Luna class (the other ships in the class were also named after solar moons, such as the Io, the Ganymede, the Europa, etc.).
- Quark’s continues to franchise! As Mariner gleefully declares, the starbase now has a Quark’s now. I love it, but I’m still waiting for an Armin Shimerman appearance somewhere…
- Tendi provides a new model for her and Rutherford to build and not finish: Deep Space 9. To Rutherford’s glee, the model—which includes small figures of the crew—includes both Jadzia Dax and Ezri Dax.
- Okona is the DJ at the party. That seems an unlikely side gig for the piratical dude we met in “The Outrageous Okona” on TNG. But then, the character was also used by David Mack in the novel Collateral Damage, where he was established as now working for Starfleet Intelligence, so maybe the DJ gig is a cover…
Keith R.A. DeCandido is going to be part of The Gold Archive, a series of monographs on various episodes of Star Trek, from the original series to the current spate of programs on Paramount+. Keith will be writing about TNG’s “Birthright” two-parter for the series, which will be out some time in 2022.