This Star Trek: Lower Decks article contains spoilers.
Trekkies love to argue about everything, especially the best and worst parts of their favorite franchise. But while favorites might be up for constant debate, most agree on two of the worst episodes of all time: “Haven” from Star Trek: The Next Generation and “Move Along Home” from Deep Space Nine, both part of the otherwise acclaimed series’ beleaguered first seasons. The episodes aired while their respective series were still figuring themselves out, indulging in embarrassing ideas that were quickly brushed under the rug.
But as has been made abundantly clear over the past few years, the creators of animated comedy series Lower Decks don’t forget anything. So it’s no surprise that the Betazoid Gift Box from “Haven” and the Chula Game from “Move Along Home” make a return in the latest Lower Decks episode, “In the Cradle of Vexilon.”
At first, “In the Cradle of Vexilon” acknowledges the episodes by putting them in the only place most viewers would accept them, in a storage closet deep in the USS Cerritos. While Boimler’s first mission as a Lieutenant Junior Grade sends him on a trip off-ship, the newly promoted Lower Deckers Mariner, Rutherford, and Tendi get stuck with superior officer Dirk (Phil LaMarr of Futurama fame). Dirk gives the trio a monotonous assignment to individually scan legions of isolinear chips in a dark, unused corner of the ship. On the way, the team discovers a Chula set and a Gift Box.
Although it was the face of the great Armin Shimerman in the original Gift Box from “Haven,” not even he could redeem the inherently ridiculous communication device. The box arrived on the Enterprise to announce to Deanna Troi the imminent arrival of her mother Lwaxana, a character who quickly became synonymous with ostentatious accoutrements.
Even worse, the Chula game arrived in Deep Space Nine via some of the worst-looking aliens in Star Trek history (which is really saying something), the Wadi of the Gamma Quadrant. After spending time at the Dabo tables with Quark (Shimerman, successfully redeeming an irritating species), the Wadi invite the Ferengi to play their game, Chula. By agreeing to play Chula, Quark inadvertently traps several members of the DS9 crew in the game, forcing the otherwise regal Sisko to play hopscotch and to sing “Allamaraine, count to four.”
No one would blame “In the Cradle of Vexilon” writer Ben Waller or director Brandon Williams for simply making a knowing joke and moving on. Instead, they integrate the items into the plot, as Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford decide that Dirk gave them the isolinear chip as a hazing ritual and plot their revenge. They set up a trap that will send Dirk into the Chula game along with the Gift Box, forcing him to learn the game’s inane rules while listening to the Gift Box bellow nonsense.
Although the trio abandon their plan before unleashing it on Dirk, the episode makes its point. Even the most embarrassing parts of Star Trek‘s best shows deserve recognition. This doesn’t mean that these embarrassing aspects need to be somehow praised as important pieces of canon (after all, this isn’t Star Wars). But they can be reintegrated into later series for different purposes than initially intended, such as a torture device in a vengeful prank. Allamaraine!
Star Trek: Lower Decks season 4 is streaming now on Paramount+.