This Star Trek: Lower Decks article contains spoilers for Episode 9. You can read our review here.
If you started watching new Star Trek in the past ten years, that means your introduction to the franchise might have been the J.J. Abrams reboot films. From 2005 to 2017, there wasn’t any new Trek on TV, making the movies the only representatives of new stories set in the Final Frontier. This was also true for a big chunk of the 80s, before The Next Generation debuted in 1987. Arguably, without the success of the Trek films — either in the ‘80s or in the ‘00s — subsequent renaissances of Trek on TV wouldn’t have been possible. The latest episode Star Trek: Lower Decks is fully aware of this fact, and in episode 9 of season 1 — “Crisis Point” — the show tips its hat to the larger-than-life cinematic voyages of Starfleet.
Along the way, there are references to all 13 Star Trek feature films, at least two versions of Star Trek that were never made, and one iconic shout-out to Aliens. Here’s all the Easter eggs and references we caught in Lower Decks episode 9, “Crisis Point.”
They’re eating those guys!
The lizard aliens Mariner is trying to liberate seem to be oppressed by an alien that looks suspiciously like an Antican. In the TNG episode “Lonely Among Us,” the Anticans were self-described carnivores who kind of looked like dogs. In that episode, the Anticans were rivals with a reptilian-like species called the Selay. These lizard people don’t look like the Selay, but the reference seems clear.
This is the ‘80s!
Mariner complains about how she doesn’t need therapy because “this is the eighties!” She’s right! Lower Decks takes place in 2380 and depending on how much time has passed in Season 1, we might be in 2381. This also seems like a reference to the fact that even though we think of TNG as a ‘90s show, it debuted in 1987.
Mariner’s therapist is Paul F. Tompkins
The bird-like therapist (maybe an Aurelian?) is played by Paul F. Tompkins. In our universe, Tompkins is the co-host of the current official Star Trek Podcast; The Pod Directive, along with Tawny Newsome, the voice of Becket Mariner.
Da Vinci on the Holodeck
When Mariner enters the holodeck, Tendi, Boimler, and Rutherford are all shooting skeet with Leonardo da Vinci. This references da Vinci’s appearances as a holodeck character on Star Trek: Voyager, as played by Jonathan Rhys-Davies. However, this is also, possibly a reference to an unused script idea for a TNG feature film that was never made. Because this entire episode is about movie-versions of Trek, it seems possible that this is a slight nod to a script called Star Trek: Renaissance, which was developed shortly before First Contact became the second TNG film. In that unfilmed script, Data would have traveled back in time and become da Vinci’s apprentice. Really!
Boimler’s simulated crew
Boimler creating an entire holographic version of the Cerritos crew has several precedents, but the most on-the-nose episode being reference is probably the Voyager episode “Worst Case Scenario.” In that one, Tuvok created a holonovel that simulated a situation in which the Maquis tried to retake the USS Voyager. The simulation even meant that Tom Paris encountered his holographic self at one point, which is exactly what happens with Mariner later in the episode.
The opening credits to Mariner’s “movie,” are mostly reminiscent of the opening credits to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, although the warping streaks behind the letters recall a brief title style used by The Next Generation during the season 5. The way the letters are flying past the Lower Deckers might reference the opening credits to the original Christopher Reeve-starring Superman film from 1978.
“You were kind of a Xon, to be honest”
Mariner says that in her movie, Boimler would be “kind of a Xon,” and that he might not make the final cut. This references David Gautreaux’s Vulcan character Xon, from the unmade ‘70s series Star Trek Phase II. Xon was intended as a kind of replacement for Spock because, at that time, it was unclear if Leonard Nimoy would return for the role. David Gautreaux does appear in Star Trek: The Motion Picture as a human named Commander Branch.
When the Cerritos is sent to track down a mysterious imposter starship, Boimler says “If this was actually happening, they’d send the Enterprise, but you know, artistic license.” This references the Enterprise itself, obviously, but also the idea that in several Trek movies, the Enterprise is bizarrely the only ship available to respond to a distress call or strange situation. In The Wrath of Khan, the Enterprise is sent on a dangerous mission involving a top-secret project. In Generations, the Enterprise-B is the “only ship in range” to assist refugee ships caught in an energy ribbon. In both cases, it feels odd that the Enterprise is the only ship that can help out, but you know, artistic license.
The long approach via shuttlecraft
Think it took a long time for the shuttlecraft to land on the Cerritos? This is an extended joke that references the loooong wordless scene in The Motion Picture in which Kirk and Scotty lovingly stare at the newly refitted Enterprise until, eventually, docking and getting on the ship. In TMP, the reason why Kirk and Scotty make the long approach via shuttlecraft (rather than just beaming over) is that the transporters aren’t actually working. But, in subsequent Treks, from TNG’s “All Good Things…” to “Caretaker” in Voyager, people tend to take shuttles to get onto big starships, even if it makes zero sense. Perhaps the only scene like this that makes actual sense (other than TMP) was in the first episode of Enterprise. In 2151, the transporters weren’t reliable!
The bridge of the Cerritos is bathed in lens flare, referencing the extensive use of this camera technique in the J.J Abrams-directed, 2009 Star Trek reboot film.
Captain Freeman saying “Warp Me!” references her workshopping a catchphrase in the earlier Lower Decks episode, “Envoys.” In that episode, she wondered if “It’s Warp Time!” was a good thing to say before ordering the ship into warp.
The “movie” warp speed effect
When the Cerritos jumps into warp, the effect is way more bombastic than on the show. This references the warping effect in Star Trek Into Darkness, but also the rainbow warp speed effect from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
“Our revels now are ended”
As Vindicta, Mariner says “Hell is empty and the devils are here” and also, “Our revels now are ended.” Ransom asks, “Is she quoting The Tempest?” The answer is yes, which not only references The Tempest by William Shakespeare but also the fact that General Chang (Christopher Plummer) said “Our revels now are ended, Kirk!” as he was attacking the Enterprise in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. More recently, Picard quoted The Tempest during Data’s “death” in the season finale of Star Trek: Picard, “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.”
Mariner’s energy weapon
The super-destructive phaser used by Vindicta/Mariner has a similar vaporizing effect as lasers used in the TNG “As Loud as a Whisper.”
The pah-wraiths and Jax’s giant phaser
In the Cerritos bar, Jax says “When you get to hell, tell the pah-wraiths that Jax sent you; special delivery from Bajor!” The pah-wraiths are the “evil” versions of the Bajorian prophets, which first appeared in the DS9 episode “The Assignment.” Jax’s giant phaser seems to be a reference to a huge weapon Guinan busted-out in the bar in the TNG episode “Night Terrors.” The design of this phaser rifle also seems a lot like one of the giant weapons used by Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Star Trek Into Darkness.
The Pirates Orions
Tendi pushes back against the stereotype that all Orions are pirates and slavers. The Orions were first established in TOS episodes “The Cage,” and “Whom Gods Destroy,” and later in the TAS episode “The Pirates of Orion.” It wasn’t until the Enterprise episode “Bound” when it was revealed that certain Orion “slaves” were actually manipulating their “masters” to create an illusion of who has the real power. Tendi isn’t the first Orion we’ve seen serving in Starfleet — Uhura’s roommate Galia (Rachel Nichols) Star Trek 2009 was Orion — but it’s never been fully explained the relationship between the Orions and the Federation. In TOS, TAS and in the Short Treks episode “The Escape Artist,” we get the general idea that every aspect of Orion society is connected to crime and pirating. Tendi points out this isn’t true, and that some Orions haven’t been pirates for “over five years!” So, it sounds like some kind of Orion reform happened in 2375!
The destruction of the Cerritos
When the Cerritos burns up in the atmosphere of the planet, the effect is similar to the way the Enterprise burned up in the atmosphere of the Genesis planet in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. But, when the saucer crashes on the planet’s surface, that references the saucer crash of the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: Generations. The Enterprise’s saucer also crashes on the surface of a planet in Star Trek Beyond.
Weird movie beaming
Rutherford says he uses a “a rapid repeating transport sequence” to beam the entire crew to safety. Billups is utterly confused as to how this is possible, and Rutherford says “No, it’s a movie you can beam whatever- you can do all sorts of beaming stuff in a movie!” This references several times that beaming tech in Trek film has been downright miraculous, as opposed to the slightly more reasonable beaming in TV series. In Star Trek: Generation, Scotty is able to beam 47 people off of one ship with a touch of a button. In Star Trek (2009) Spock helps Kirk and Scotty beam from a planet and onto a moving ship traveling at warp. In Star Trek Beyond, Scotty converts a cargo transporter so it can beam up dozens of people at the same time. In The Voyage Home the crew beam up some humpback whales. You get it.
Get off my mom, you bitch!
Holographic Mariner’s battlecry against Vindicta is not a Trek reference! This line is a reference to the climax of Alien in which Ripley said “Get away from her, you bitch!”
Toby Targ on Halloween
Mariner apparently dressed as “Toby the Targ” when she was a kid for Halloween. A targ is a type of Klingon pet that kind of looks like a dog crossed with a pig. The educational children’s character “Toby the Targ,” comes from Voyager. B’Elanna Torres owned a plush Toby the Targ, and the Doctor was familiar with the publisher of the “Toby the Targ ” stories, Broht & Forrester.
Throughout the episode Mariner is obsessed with having a fight on a “rickety catwalk.” This probably references the ending of Star Trek: Generations, in which Kirk and Picard fight Dr. Soren on a series of rickety catwalks. But, Riker and his duplicate, Thomas Riker, also have a big confrontation on a rickety catwalk in the TNG episode “Second Chances.”
Do you like turtle necks or just standard uniforms?
Boimler absent-mindedly asks Captain Freeman if she likes “turtlenecks or just standard uniforms.” This seems to indicate that the DS9-style turtleneck uniforms might still be in service in some parts of Starfleet in 2380. Either that, or Boimler is wishing those uniforms could make a comeback.
Mariner is buried in rocks
Captain Freeman buries the body of the holographic Mariner in a strange grave made of rocks. This references the ending of Star Trek; Generations, where Picard buries Kirk in the exact same way. Why did Picard not wait to have Kirk’s body taken back to a starship? Why would Freeman have her daughter buried on a random planet? It’s a movie! Don’t ask questions!
Before being shot by da Vinci, Vindicta rises out of a photon torpedo tube. This references the ending of The Wrath of Khan, which shows that Spock’s casket landed on the Genesis Planet. During the filming of the The Wrath, this scene was actually filmed at the last minute, and was overseen by Robert Sallin because director Nicholas Meyer was opposed to hinting that Spock was still alive. In other words, the photon torpedo casket was a small retcon inside of The Wrath of Khan, which is why it’s fitting to have it as the coda in this episode. Just when you think it’s over — somebody’s gonna rise from the dead.
Da Vinci shooting Vindicta with a shotgun could be reference to the very first episode of Enterprise — “Broken Bow” — when a farmer shoots a Klingon with a shotgun in the first scene.
Signatures at the end
At the very end, all four of the Lower Deckers sign their names in spacey blue ink across a starfield. This references the ending of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in which all seven cast members of the original series sign their names over the ending credits. This concept is interestingly used for the ending of Avengers: Endgame, probably because Marvel president Kevin Feige is a self-professed Star Trek fan. So, is this a reference to the TOS crew and the Avengers? It’s an episode of Lower Decks, so it seems like you can totally have it both ways.
Star Trek: Lower Decks will air its Season 1 finale next Thursday on October 8.