This Star Trek: Lower Decks review contains spoilers.
Although the mother-daughter dynamic between Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) and Ensign Mariner (Tawny Newsome) dominates much of the newest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, you may have noticed a familiar name pop-up in the credits as part of the guest cast. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. That did say “Haley Joel Osment.” And, yes, he was a huge part of the episode. Here’s what’s up with O’Connell, the guy who wants to ascend to a higher plane of existence…
Throughout the episode, Tend (Noël Wells) is obsessed with winning over O’Connell (Osment) after she accidentally ruins his ascension process by knocking over some well-placed sand. After unsuccessfully trying to get him on her side, O’Connell eventually admits that he wasn’t really all that spiritual to begin with and he was actually kind of faking it the whole time, basically, just to be interesting.
At the end of the episode, this results in O’Connell actually ascending and becoming a being of pure energy, which doesn’ actually sound all that great. There’s a great joke in there when O’Connell mentions that the universe is balanced on the back of a Koala, which probably references the myth of the “World Turtle,” who carries the world on its back. We’ve all heard the expression “turtles all the way down,” which references the idea of infinite regress, the idea that once you learn one truth, it might lead to another question that is hard to answer, and so forth. In “Moist Vessel,” O’Connell fears that the Koala is smiling and wonders “What does he know?!”
Haley Joel Osment is hilarious in this role, partially because we’ll always think of him as the kid who saw ghosts in The Sixth Sense, but also because he seems to have a sense of humor about that fact. When O’Connell turns into a being of pure energy in “Moist Vessel,” he joins the tradition of other Trek characters who have had similar things happen, with John Doe in the TNG episode “Transfigurations” probably being the most direct parallel example.
That said, within the canon of Lower Decks, another Starfleet officer also became a being of pure energy just five years before this series begins. When we think about people ascending, we tend to think about Decker in The Motion Picture or Wesley in “Journey’s End.” But, the one we tend to forget is the Emissary himself, Captain Benjamin Sisko. In 2375, Sisko went to join the Prophets in the Celestial Temple in the DS9 episode, “What You Leave Behind.” If O’Connell just became a space god, could he be chilling with “the Sisko” very soon? And, most importantly, will Sisko even get along with this guy?
Star Trek: Lower Decks airs new episodes on Thursdays on CBS All Access.