This Star Trek: Lower Decks article contains spoilers for Season 2, Episode 1: “Strange Energies.”
The mission of the USS Cerritos is to do the jobs other Starfleet ships can’t; following up with all sorts of minutiae and boring outer space logistics, long after the Enterprise or the Defiant has warped out. But whether it’s Lower Decks or Picard or Discovery or Strange New Worlds, the mission of hardcore Trek fans is the same: Pause the screen and see what deep-cut Easter eggs got slipped in this time!
In Season 1, Star Trek: Lower Decks earned the reputation for the most meta-textual Star Trek ever. There are layers and layers of Trekdom within every frame of this series, making it hard to look at one episode and catalog all the references. But if you thought Season 1 went deep into the wells of Trekkie references and Easter eggs, Season 2 is here to make Season 1 look tame. The Season 2 premiere of Lower Decks — “Strange Energies” — is one giant Easter egg with a bunch of reproducing tribble-ish Easter eggs inside of it. Unless you’ve got ESP powers on the level of Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, there’s no way you caught all of these.
The episode has a cold-open on some kind of prison inside of an asteroid field. This is surrounded by two kinds of Cardassian ships, the Galor-class and the smaller Hideki-class scout ships.
“The Keep Showing Me Lights”
Hologram Boimler says the Cardassians “keep showing me lights.” This line, and the existence of the secret Cardassian facility references the famous Next Generation two-parter, “Chain of Command,” in which Picard was kidnapped and tortured by the Cardassians. If you somehow haven’t seen that episode, the whole idea is that the Cardassians try to gaslight Picard into thinking there are five lights in front of him when there are only four. Lower Decks referenced “Chain of Command” in Season 1, too! In Season 1, Episode 7, “Much Ado About Boimler,” Mariner joked about the Cerritos getting a “Babysitter Jellico-type,” for a subsitute captain, which referenced the temporary captain the Enterprise got in “Chain of Command.” Freeman, Shaxs and Ransom whore the all-black special ops outfits in that episode, too, and Tendi did the same in “Veritas.”
Too Many Ships to Count
As Mariner escapes from the Cardassian facility, there are soooo many ships being stored in this particular hanger. It’s all the ships. Here’s just a few we caught
- A Federation runabout
- Jem’Hadar fighters
- A Nemesis-era Romulan warbird
- An old school Romulan Bird-of-Prey from TOS
- Federation fighter craft (like the ones seen in TNG’s “Preemptive Strike.”)
- And many, many more.
Miranda-class USS MacDuff
Mariner steals a Miranda-class Federation starship with the registry NCC-1877, and the name “USS MacDuff.” There’s a lot going on here.
- The Miranda-class was first seen in The Wrath of Khan, in the form of the USS Reliant. That film also featured someone stealing a ship like this with ease.
- The bridge for this ship is basically identical to the Reliant.
- Lower Decks showrunner Mike McMahan said in 2020 that he was inspired by the Reliant for the design of the Cerritos.
- The name “MacDuff” might reference the TNG character, Kieran MacDuff, from the episode “Conundrum.” In that one, the crew has temporary amnesia and MacDuff manipulates them into fighting a war they’re not supposed to be involved in.
Jennifer is back! Mariner is interrupted during her holographic work-out by Jennifer, an Andorian crewmember from last season. In the Season 1 finale, “No Small Parts,” Mariner runs through the halls and pushes this character out of the way, saying, “Move Jennifer.” As far as we know, Jennifer is the only Andorian named Jennifer, but you really have to wonder, was this an Andorian name, or a human name?
“I know we’re not supposed to have interpersonal conflict”
Mariner’s dislike of Jennifer is punctuated by her talking to herself saying, “I know we’re not supposed to have interpersonal conflict…but I really hate that Andorian.” This references a long-standing rule from the TNG–era of Trek TV; that Starfleet officers weren’t supposed to have petty differences with each other. This rule was apparently implemented by Gene Roddenberry and drove several writers, including Ron Moore and Jeri Taylor, nuts.
Slightly new opening-credits
In Season 1, we saw the Cerritos running away from a battle involving a bunch of Borg cubes and Romulan Warbirds. Now, that same battle includes a Pakled ship from the Season 1 finale, a few Klingon Birds-of-Prey, and seemingly, fewer Borg.
Fred Tatasciore’s name in the credits?
Although Shaxs died in the Season 1 finale, Fred Tatasciore’s name appears in the opening credits…hmmm…will this ever be explained?
Rutherford’s date with Ensign Barnes
“Strange Energies” directly parallels the 2020 Season 1 debut, “Second Contact,” in several ways. The crew is involved with a second contact mission that goes horribly wrong and Rutherford starts dating Barnes for the “first” time. In the Season 1 finale, Rutherford lost his memory, which is why his relationship with Barnes seems new to him. This is why Mariner says “that sounds familiar.”
Hating pears…a Doctor Who reference?
Tendi is concerned that Rutherford used to hate pears, but now he doesn’t. This is possibly incorrect, but this could be a Doctor Who reference. In the Doctor Who episodes “Human Nature,” “Twice Upon a Time,” and “Hell Bent,” the Doctor (both David Tennant and Peter Capaldi) mention hating pears. In fact, in “Human Nature,” when the Doctor’s memory is erased, he asks Martha Jones to “never let me eat a pear.”
Sonic power washing
“Sonic showers” have long been a thing in the Star Trek universe, making their debut in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. But, we’ve never seen sonic power-washers before!
“Ever heard of Gary Mitchell”
Ransom’s possession is very much a tribute to Gary Mitchell’s god-like powers in the second TOS pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Dr. T’ana’s insistence that Kirk beat Gary Mitchell with a “boulder” is accurate. For whatever reason, the very first canonical Kirk-adventure ever, established that rock beats god-like powers any day of the week. It should also be noted that Mariner referenced Gary Mitchell in the first episode of Season 1, too.
Possible Harlan Ellison reference?
While Ransom is starting to work out, you can briefly hear him say, “The trick isn’t becoming a God. The trick is staying a God.” This could be a reference to the axiom attributed to Harlan Ellison: “The trick isn’t becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer.” Ellison wrote “The City on the Edge of Forever,” for TOS. In Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Soji traveled on a ship called the Ellison, which Michael Chabon revealed was an Easter egg meant to reference Harlan Ellison. So, you never know?
“The Trick isn’t becoming a god, the Trick is staying a god”
Harlan Ellison reference?
Ransom on the Mount
Mariner says that Jack is “going all Ransom on the Mount.” This almost certainly references a hilarious fan video called “Shatner on the Mount,” in which a group called Fall On Your Sword remixed a behind-the-scenes interview with William Shatner (promoting Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) into a hilarious kind of talking-rap song. It has to be seen to be believed.
Giant God Head
A giant God head coming out to grab a starship might seem silly, but there are several precedents for this kind of thing in Trek canon. In the TOS episode “Who Mourns For Adonais?” a giant green hand grabs the Enterprise, which is later revealed to be the hand of the god Apollo. In the TNG episode “The Nth Degree,” the giant head of a Cytherian finds its way onto the Enterprise-D bridge. And, of course, in The Final Frontier, the crew meets “the God of Sha Ka Ree” which also, is a giant floating head.
My older sister got a symbiont
Barnes and Rutherford joke around that her Trill sister has a symbiont, but she doesn’t. This references the idea that not all Trill are joined, which was established in both TNG and Deep Space Nine.
Barnes mentions going swimming in “Cetacean ops,” a part of the USS Cerritos that we’ve never seen, but we have to assume has something to do with sea creatures. This is the second time Lower Decks has referenced Cetacean ops, which itself derives from an overheard line in TNG’s “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” Again, with yet another parallel to its Season 1 debut, “Cetacean ops” was last referenced by Lower Decks in Season 1, Episode 1, “Second Contact.”
Rutherford incorrectly refers to SMD as “LDS.” This references a few things. First, for most fans, the official abbreviation of Lower Decks is LDS. But, that abbreviation also references a joke from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in which Kirk incorrectly refers to the drug “LSD” as “LDS,” saying that Spock “did a little bit too much LDS back in the ‘60s.”
At the end of the episode, Stevens tells Ransom he’s going to read him “Nightengale Woman.” This too is a reference to “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which Gary Mitchell quotes from the poem “Nitengale Woman,” from memory. In Trek canon, the poem was written in 1996 on “the Canopus Planet.” In real life, the poem was written by Gene Roddenberry, who originally wrote part of the poem to describe flying a plane.
Riker’s jam session
As the final moments of the episode cut back to the USS Titan, Captain Riker says “This jam session has too many licks and not enough counts.” In jazz, a “lick” refers to a pattern or musical phrase which is predetermined, but open to interpretation. Usually, a lick could result in a long jazz solo. A “count” on the other hand, is more about the beat and form of a piece of music. Riker’s obsession with jazz began in the TNG episode “11001001.” In the season finale of Lower Decks Season 1, Riker’s catchphrase for sending the Titan into warp was a jazz count.
Lower Decks Season 2 airs new episodes on Paramount+ on Thursdays.