How The Search for Spock and First Contact Influenced Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3

In the first episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks season 3, fans are treated to some of the familiar inspirations that they can relate to in enjoying this series.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3
Photo: Paramount+

This article contains Star Trek: Lower Decks spoilers.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 1 “Grounded”

Living and laughing often go in the same sentence. That’s the case with Star Trek: Lower Decks, which just kicked off its third season. Laughter has a purity of spirit. If something can’t survive a little ribbing, then it’s not worthwhile and can’t hold up to the serious criticisms in life.

“When I was growing up, the way we expressed our love for something in my family was to make fun of it,” Star Trek: Lower Decks creator and showrunner Mike McMahan tells us. That’s a great philosophy. After all, a shared joke or relating to familiar references brings us all together, doesn’t it?

 At the conclusion of Star Trek: Lower Decks season 2, Captain Carol Freeman was arrested and charged with the devastation of the Pakled Planet’s capital city. In the opening scene of the season three premiere, she stands trial for this accusation as relayed to us via a news broadcast, complete with ticker headlines at the bottom of the screen (Trek fans may want to press pause and pay careful attention to those bulletins, by the way). 

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So, what about the Trek influences?

One obvious one is Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) working in a vineyard that his family owns, wearing an outfit that might have come straight from the closet of one Rene Picard. Oh, and he isn’t making wine with those grapes, folks. No, the Boimler Family knows that behind every good grape, there’s a raisin waiting to be born. Humorous touches like these resonate with those Next Generation style moments that reinforce feelings of family and friendship.

Lower Decks is about friendship,” McMahan says. “But we really wanted to do a Star Trek III sort of mixed with First Contact and the whole idea of…seeing Earth as you come back to it.” 

The First Contact and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock elements are definitely present. For example, Boimler is holding a Type-III phaser rifle – the same armament we saw in First Contact, while the hat that Tendy is wearing recalls the one worn by  Zefram Cochrane in that film. 

“I love Jonathan Frakes and First Contact is my favorite Star Trek movie,” McMahan says.  

We see a change in character in Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) in this episode. She’s still rage-filled and enjoys breaking things but she has a definite sense of familial protectiveness in this episode coupled with her frustration and anger as she has to watch her mother be taken away in handcuffs to await trial for a crime that everyone knows she didn’t commit. 

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Of course, that means that Beckett has to “get the band back together” as the Ceritos crew is placed on leave awaiting the decision of the trial. It calls back to the Star Trek III vibe of Kirk organizing his loyal bridge crew to steal the Enterprise and mount Spock’s rescue. There’s a definite nod to that bit of Trek-lore in this episode, as fans will recognize and love. It’s also represented when we see the USS Cerritos stolen right out of space dock – also revealed in the trailer and definitely happens in this episode!

“You know those episodes in TNG, Voyager, or DS9, when we see ships successfully return to Earth? We wanted one of those episodes where you feel successful,” he tells us.

In this episode, that “successful feeling” is achieved when the Enterprise-E sees Earth unsullied by the Borg or when the captured Bird of Prey (The Bounty) achieves orbit around Vulcan. Those are triumphant moments for the Lower Decks crew, and we hope for many more this season.

Star Trek: Lower Decks season 3 is now streaming.