Every Star Trek series has an episode with an absurd plot device that gets played up for laughs, notably TOS’s “The Trouble with Tribbles.” For Star Trek: Lower Decks, we’ve found our tribble. Episode 2×05, “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” features a tribble-like plot device, a car chase we’ve not seen the likes of since Star Trek: Nemesis, and emotional depth from Mariner. Here are a few of my thoughts on “An Embarrassment of Dooplers.”
Doople-mats Make For Great Comedy
I wish I could take credit for the fantastic pun of “doople-mat,” but that goes to TV Fanatic. Frankly, I’m mad my pun-tacular brain didn’t think of it first! Our mission this week is to get the Doopler Ambassador to Starbase 25. For those unfamiliar with Dooplers, they are a brand new race to Trek, introduced in this episode. When a Doopler gets scared or nervous, they duplicate themselves. Of course, this is a problem that grows exponentially, just like tribbles!
While this is played up for comedy, I had a good discussion with Craig McKenzie of the Rarely Going Podcast about this being an interesting metaphor for anxiety and the feeling one gets of being embarrassed or self-conscious. That feeling you get where you’d like to fall into a pit and hide from the world because you’re embarrassed, but instead, you feel like all eyes are on you? That’s what being a Doopler is like!
The metaphor doesn’t hold up completely, as the solution for a Doopler literally pulling himself together is to make him mad enough to become indignant, but it’s still an interesting idea to think through. Watching the Cerritos crew deal with their “embarrassment of dooplers” was very cathartic.
A Car Chase? In Star Trek?
Yeah, I wasn’t expecting a car chase either. I couldn’t remember ever seeing a car chase in Star Trek until speaking with Craig of Rarely Going, where he reminded me of the car chase in Star Trek: Nemesis. Here’s a clip, if you’d like to compare this with 2×05’s car chase.
I love how this scene is animated. The glowing detail on the cars gives me a little bit of a TRON vibe, even if the chase itself is a hybrid of Mario Kart and monster truck rally. It is also fun to get to hear Boimler point out the different things within Starbase 25. “Fine Men’s Clothing!” and “Vulcans!” make him our frightening thrill ride tour guide through Starbase 25. That whole sequence had me laughing the entire time.
It’s Tough Being Vulnerable
Yeah, yeah, vulnerability can suck it, right? Even though her emotions are expressed angrily, it is refreshing to see Mariner express her feelings about Boimler transferring off the Cerritos. Watching the two of them talk it out, and work through their issues together at the bar, just like Kirk and Spock is heartwarming, and dang it, it’s that emotional development that I want out of my Star Trek.
While the A-Plot of 2×05 is focused on Mariner and Boimler, the B-Plot with Rutherford and Tendi adds a little more emotional development to the episode too. Rutherford feeling like he’s in competition with his past self that he can’t remember really puts him in a vulnerable spot. Watching Tendi help him walk through that put a smile on my face. The friendship factor in Lower Decks really makes the show for me.
The emotional development we have out of our mains in “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” is an interesting choice. It points back to Boimler’s speech about “peaceful diplomatic solutions” in 2×02. It also hearkens again to the discussion about Star Trek being all action vs. a story about exploration. I’m firmly in Team “Why not both?” but it’s the emotional development here that gives the action its heart for me.
Finally, I would like to point out that Mariner’s frustration at not getting into the party and exclaiming, “I didn’t put on underwear for nothing!” is extremely relatable content. It is easily a rallying cry for those of us making the slow emergence out of our Covid hibernations, only to be forced back inside again by variant bugs!
What do you think of 2×05, “An Embarrassment of Dooplers”? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek. I’m on the next episode of the Rarely Going Podcast, chatting with Craig about this week’s episode. Our thoughts on 2×05 will be live soon, so be sure to subscribe to Rarely Going on your favorite podcast catcher for deeper discussion.
The next episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks will air on September 16, 2021, on Paramount+.