The Sinister Deep Space Nine Influence on Star Trek: Lower Decks

Star Trek: Lower Decks takes some inspiration from a classic Deep Space Nine episode as it challenges some of what we think we know about beloved Ensign Sam Rutherford.

Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford of the Paramount+ series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS season 3 episode 5
Photo: Paramount+

This article contains Star Trek: Lower Decks spoilers.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 5

There’s a lot of looking back in this week’s episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is appropriately titled: “Reflections.”

The first subplot is rife with suspicion, involving Ensign Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) who, after a routine purge of his implant’s memory cache starts to experience problems with a suppressed personality and memories that suggest that the lovable and happy-go-lucky Rutherford isn’t exactly the person we all thought he once was.

“Rutherford is a character who is all about memories and identity – he always knows who he is,” Star Trek: Lower Decks showrunner Mike McMahan tells us, setting the scene for a storyline that throws some of the perceptions we have about Rutherford into a bit of doubt. Not only does he have a repressed personality inside him, but “Reflections” also sets up the possibility that there might be a suspicious reason for his cybernetics.  

Ad – content continues below

“I definitely wanted to do a story to explain where Rutherford got his implant from,” McMahan says. 

There are memories that Rutherford isn’t able to fully recall but definitely create more questions for him to answer and a deeper backstory for fans to explore in later episodes. This is even more significant in the context of Lower Decks, because it marks a more serious note to the development of the characters in this comedy than what we’ve seen in previous episodes of the series. 

“[Rutherford’s story in this episode] was partly inspired by the revelations we learn about Dr. Julian Bashir in Deep Space Nine,” he says, referring to classic Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, “Doctor Bashir, I Presume?” in which it was revealed that Dr. Bashir was actually a genetically enhanced being. That secret that sent his father to prison for two years and almost caused Bashir to lose his commission as a Starfleet officer. Revelations like these changed Bashir’s character forever and spawned a series of stories that sometimes had sinister repercussions.

McMahan sees similar implications for Rutherford down the road.

“Finding out that he used to be a different person, one who was a little less likable, who became this likeable Starfleet Officer, so genuine… and yet that’s the version of him he liked the most,” McMahan points out. “It was just like Bashir who chose to say: ‘you’re not defined by the choices you made in the past, but by who you are.’ I just thought that was touching.”

The parallels with Julian Bashir’s secretive background could potentially put Rutherford on a similar path for fans to discover more about him in future Star Trek: Lower Decks episodes. After all, who doesn’t love a good character origin story?  

Ad – content continues below

Star Trek: Lower Decks drops new episodes every Thursday on Paramount+.