Star Trek: Lower Decks Episode 4 Easter Eggs & References

The fourth episode of Lower Decks references the space gods of Star Trek’s past, the decorating sensibility of Starfleet, and the most infamous hologram on Baker Street.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Episode 4
Photo: CBS

This Star Trek: Lower Decks article contains spoilers.

With most new Star Trek shows, locating the Easter eggs and references takes probably at least two viewings. But, with Lower Decks, you can watch an episode four times and still be missing references and Easter eggs. This is saying something when you also consider that these episodes are half as long as episodes of Discovery or Picard. So, with that in mind, like in the previous episodes, there is almost certainly something we missed in trying to gather all the Easter eggs and references from Lower Decks episode 4, “Moist Vessel.”

From a surprise guest star (Haley Joel Osment) to a heartwarming story about Mariner and Captain Freeman (briefly) becoming allies, this episode was about a lot more than just Easter eggs. But that’s not why you’re here. You came for the Trekkie eggs and you shall have them! 

Here’s all the deep-cuts and references we caught in Lower Decks episode 4, “Moist Vessel.”

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USS Mercet

This episode finds the USS Cerritos teaming-up with another starship of the exact same class, the USS Mercet. Like the Cerritos, the Mercet is a California-class starship, and, just like the Cerritos, is named for a town in California. We can only imagine what the USS Berkley is like.

Ancient generation ship

The concept of a “generation ship,” is a super-old sci-fi trope, which has appeared in everything from the Robert A. Heinlein novel Orphans of the Sky to the Doctor Who episode “The Ark in Space.” Generally speaking, generation ships carry multiple generations of people, because faster-than-light travel is not possible. Sometimes this also means the ships are sleeper ships, too, i.e. containing people in suspended animation. The earliest generational ship in Star Trek appeared in the TOS episode “For the World Is Hollow I Have Touched the Sky.”  In at least two alternate realities, the USS Voyager (“Shattered”) and the USS Enterprise NX-01 (“E²”) both became generational ships, in which the crews’ decedents became the new crew in the future.

Terraforming Emulsion 

Much of the conflict in  “Moist Vessel” happens because an inert “terraforming emulsion” is let loose and begins turning parts of the ship into self-contained biospheres and/or ecosystems. Like generation ships, terraforming is a pretty big sci-fi trope that doesn’t appear in Trek all that often. The most famous piece of terraforming tech in Trek history is easily the Genesis Device from The Wrath of Khan and The Search For Spock. Like the terraforming emulsion, the Genesis Device had an instant effect. In “Moist Vessel,” the terraforming emulsion is described as something to the ancient aliens had “to “to use it on a dead planet they could call home.” In The Wrath of Khan, Dr. Carol Marcus uses a “moon or other dead form,” as the ideal place to use the Genesis Device. 

Tellarite

Captain Durango is a member of the Tellarite species. He is also the first Tellarite we’ve seen in the TNG era. The first Tellarites appeared in the TOS episode “Journey To Babel.” Like the Andorians and the Vulcans, the Tellarites are founding members of the Federation. Star Trek: Discovery has given us several 23rd-century Tellraties in episodes like “The War Without. The War Within,” and the Short Treks episode “The Escape Artist,” which was, of course, written by Lower Decks showrunner Mike McMahan.

Hull colors on the Mercet and the Cerritos

Since its debut, fans have noticed that the Cerritos has gold/yellow ring on its saucer. Meanwhile, the Mercet has the exact same stripe of color, only blue. Just before the launch of Lower Decks, McMahan explained that because the Cerritos is a second-contact and engineering vessel, that its outward color is yellow, which mirror the yellow/gold colors worn by engineering and security officers. “In the California-class [line], there are three types of hull painting: there’s blue, red, and yellow,” McMahan. This means we can infer that the Mercet is more of a science vessel than the Cerritos, despite the fact the ships are the same class.

Sarcastic Vulcan salute

As Mariner is leaving Captain Freeman’s Ready Room, she flashes the famous “live long and prospers” Vulcan salute. Freeman yells, “Don’t give me that sarcastic Vulcan salute!” Interestingly, we haven’t seen the Vulcan salute used sarcastically or ironically all that much. Although, in Star Trek 2009, Spock did say “Live long and prosper,” with such venom that it almost scanned as “fuck you.” In Discovery, we also learned that “The Vulcan Hello,” was not the Vulcan salute, but instead, firing upon a Klingon vessel without checking first.

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Beings of pure energy

This one was easy. When Tendi is talking to Rutherford about a crew member named O’Connell (Haley Joel Osment) who is going to try to ascend into a higher plane of existence, Rutherford says, “Oh, like a Q! Or, the Traveler!” The Q obviously references the Q Continuum, first seen in “Encounter at Farpoint.” In terms of a “regular” person becoming a Q, that happens in the TNG episode “True Q,” in which a woman named Amanda Rogers realizes she can become a being of pure energy. The Traveler refers to the alien of the same name from the planet Tau Alpha C. (Though sometimes, this was said to be Tau Ceti.) The Traveler himself didn’t exactly become a being of pure energy, but he did help Wesley Crusher “ascend” beyond the physical realm in the TNG episode “Journey’s End.”

However, in Nemesis, just one year before Lower Decks, Wesley Crusher was glimpsed at Riker and Troi’s wedding in a Starfleet uniform, implying he was, in fact back in Starfleet. (Wesley also had a new rank of Lieutenant, which seems to indicate he had returned to the service.) So, does Rutherford know about Traveler stuff from Wesley? And is that because Wesley is actively a part of Starfleet again — an officer who is also a being of pure energy?

Holodeck waste removal

Throughout TNG and DS9 it is strongly suggested that people have sex with holograms. This is implied in TNG episodes like “11001001,” but pretty much stated outright in DS9, specifically the episode “Merdiain,” in which Quark is outright commissioned by a sleazy client to create a holographic duplicate of Kira for erotic purposes. Later in “Moist Vessel,” when Ransom and Freeman are talking about what Mariner is doing, they say Mariner is “emptying BEEP out of the holodeck’s BEEP filter.” We all know what they mean.

Debating the Prime Directive

When Mariner is called in to join a senior staff meeting, she jokes “Are you guys debating the Prime Directive again?” In fairness, most debates about the Prime Directive do tend to occur in conference rooms like this one.

Conference room chairs

Mariner quickly discovers the senior staff is debating about the furniture in the briefing room. “A beige chair with a strip of leather right down the middle,” is mentioned. This could refer to a chair Picard had in his personal quarters throughout The Next Generation, which had a strange piece of fabric running right down the middle. The briefing room chairs in Voyager also had at least two leather-ish sections at the top and in the middle.

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Everyone folds at poker all the time

When Marnier joins the senior staff’s poker game, she is chastised because she decides to go “all in.” She also points out that most of the characters tend to fold, just when things are getting interesting. This references several episodes of TNG in which the senior staff play poker together and tons of people fold. In “The Best of Both Worlds,” Wesley folds only to discover, in the end, that he would have had the winning hand.

Taco Tuesday

When Tendi is talking to Rutherford about needing to be liked, it looks like she is having a taco. This could mean that the USS Cerritos has Taco Tuesdays in the mess hall, just like on the USS Discovery, about 120 years prior. In the Short Treks episode “Calypso,” the sentient computer of the Discovery, Zora, claims at one point, it is “Taco Tuesday.”

Tamarians

At one point, Tendi lists off an “ascension process for the Tamarians.” The Tamarians are also known as “The Children of Tama,” and appeared in the TNG episode “Darmok.” 

Moriarty!

While Boimler is caught talking to himself, he briefly pretends to be talking to a non-existent hologram on the Holodeck, specifically, Moriarty. This references the sentient holographic version Professor James Moriarty (Daniel Davis), first introduced in Trek canon in the TNG episode, “Elementary, My Dear Data.” In that episode, Moriarty was accidentally brought to life when Geordi asked the computer to create someone who could defeat Data in a Sherlock Holmes simulation. Moriarty reappeared in the episode “Ship in a Bottle,” and attempted to take control of the Enterprise from the holodeck. At the end of the episode, Picard and the crew trapped Moriarty in an endless simulation, in which Moriarity believed he had won his freedom.

The character of Moriarty, of course, originates in the canon of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, specifically the short story “The Final Problem,” and the novel, The Valley of Fear. Within Star Trek canon, it could be debated that Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty are not fictional characters, but rather quasi-historical ones. In The Undiscovered Country, Spock attributes a Sherlock Holmes quote to “an ancestor,” which seems to imply Spock is related to Sherlock Holmes on his human side. Or, maybe Spock was referring to Doyle, and not Holmes. Or perhaps, as many Sherlock Holmes fans and scholars have maintained for decades, Doyle was simply the real-world literary agent for Dr. Watson, and both things are true. 

The notion of Watsonian (in-universe) and Doylist (real-world) viewpoints relative to canon originates, naturally, within Sherlock Holmes scholarship and fandom. However, these viewpoints also heavily apply to Star Trek, insofar as both viewpoints are often required to reconcile various canon discrepancies. 

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In fact, from a Watsonian viewpoint, the reference to Moriarity implies that Boimler is aware of the infamous holographic Moriarity from the Enterprise, and that, perhaps, that Moriarty escaped the “Ship in the Bottle” simulation and is terrorizing various holodecks throughout Starfleet. But, from the Doylistic standpoint, this is mostly just the Lower Decks writers making a fun reference to the TNG episode in which the holodeck goes bananas. Finally, any Sherlock Holmes references in Trek tends to be meta even when you don’t talk about Data and Spock. Both Nicholas Meyer (director The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country) and Michael Chabon (showrunner of Star Trek: Picard) wrote their own Sherlock Holmes pastiches. In fact, in Meyer’s first Holmes book – The Seven-Per-Cent SolutionMoriarty turns out to be a hallucination created by Sherlock Holmes’ grief and cocaine addiction. So, in The Next Generation, Moriarty was a hologram. But in Nicholas Meyer’s Holmes canon, Moriarty is an outright delusion! 

The voice of the Cerritos references… Captain PIke?

Though uncredited, the voice of the ship’s main character in this episode is played by Vanessa Marshall. The fact that the computer says “Hitting It” in reply to Captain Freeman saying “Hit it” could be a reference to Captain Pike saying “Hit it” on Discovery Season 2.

Also, the computer getting sassy in general has a precedent in the TOS episode “Tomorrow Is Yesterday.” 

Captain Freeman’s first name is Carol

Not only is this the first episode that Mariner calls Captain Freeman “mom,” but we also hear Freeman’s first name spoken aloud: “Carol.” This entire episode is about terraforming, and the creator of the Genesis Device in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was named Carol Marcus. This seems intentional. 

O’Connell becomes… V’Ger?

When O’Connell’s ascension actually does end-up happening, aspects of it visually look a lot like when Decker became part of the massive A.I. known as V’Ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. O’Connell also briefly has wings, which could reference the Red Angel in Star Trek: Discovery, but probably not.

Spock visors 

Just before Mariner and Freeman meet-up with an admiral in the conference room, we see Cerritos crew members vacuuming-up the terraforming emulsion. But, they’re wearing red visors while doing it. This seems like a reference to Spock’s red visor in the TOS episode “In Truth Is There No Beauty?” In that episode, Spock wore the visor to prevent himself from going insane by looking directly at a creature know as a Medusan. The Medusans were last referenced in the Star Trek: Picard episode, “Broken Pieces,” when Rios’ engineering hologram talked about “Medusan astrogation.” 

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Starfleet medals, DISCO-style

The medals that Mariner and Freeman receive at the end of the episode are almost identical in style to the medals that the entire crew of the Discovery were given in the Season 1 finale episode “Will You Take My Hand?” This is most likely the “Starfleet Medal of Honor,” which is given for acts of valor. The insignia on the medal is a little different than the DISCO versions, but that blue stripe on the fabric is unmistakable. Interestingly, in “Will You Take My Hand?” the vast majority of characters who received medals, were, not primary cast members, and, it could be argued, were part of the “Lower Decks” of Discovery, even if they worked on the bridge. 

Star Trek: Lower Decks airs new episodes on CBS All-Access on Thursdays.