This article contains MAJOR spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Picard.
As the enemy starships are closing in, and all hope is lost, our heroes in a battered starship look up, and see that: yes, another ship has just warped in. They’re about to be rescued! Everything is going to be OK!
In Star Trek, we’ve gotten used to this kind of last-minute starship rescue scene, with the most famous example probably being the Enterprise-E coming to the rescue of Worf and the Defiant in Star Trek: First Contact. But, in the Lower Decks Season 1 finale, we got the beginnings of what is becoming an eyebrow-raising Trekkie finale tradition.
So, in the case of the USS Cerritos being attacked by the Pakleds in the Lower Decks finale, the ship that comes to their recuse is the USS Titan, commanded by Captain Willaim T. Riker. That’s right. The big season finale surprise for Lower Decks was the appearance of Riker and Troi, who, we’ve now learned, will return for a few episodes in Lower Decks Season 2.
But wait a minute. Didn’t Riker also make a surprise appearance in the season finale of Star Trek: Picard? Yep, that’s right, superficially, the last-minute Riker-rescue in Lower Decks is eerily similar to the Season 1 finale of Star Trek: Picard, which only happened back in March of 2020. And, in “Et in Arcadia Ego Part 2,” just like in “No Small Parts,” a last-minute rescue from Riker, commanding a super-powered starship is what saves the day. Did “No Small Parts” rip-off “Et in Arcadia Ego Part 2?” Is there any connection to these Riker-rescues?
The short answer is: Probably not. Michael Chabon, Akiva Goldsman and Kirsten Beyer were working on Picard separately from what was happening on Lower Decks. Yes, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis had to be involved in both shows, but it seems unlikely that Mike McMahan called Michael Chabon and said: “Hey, let’s make sure both our season finales have Riker showing up at the last minute and getting all mouthy and hilarious.”
And yet. Here we are. Back-to-back season finales have pulled Beardo Numero Uno in for a last-minute assist. This fact gets weirder when you consider that Riker and Troi also appeared in the series finale for Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005, aka the episode “These Are the Voyages…” In the Lower Decks finale, Riker references this outright, when he says he was on the holodeck watching “the first Enterprise.”
Lower Decks seems aware that bringing in Riker and Troi in for your season finale is kind of a joke, because it already happened in Enterprise in 2005. BUT, because it also just happened on Picard, too, it feels not just doubly funny, but now, triply funny. What next? Will Discovery reveal that one of Kestra Troi-Riker’s descendants is named Will and he lives in the year 3188 and he’s played by Jonathan Frakes? Will Thomas Riker appear in Lower Decks Season 2? Will the Section 31 show try to figure out why Riker is always popping up at the last minute?
In any case, the Riker-Troi renaissance is here, and it’s probably best to just sit back and enjoy the smooth, smooth jazz.