The Surprising Stephen King Influence in Star Trek: Lower Decks

The friendships between crew members have always been a core part of the Star Trek franchise, and the latest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks leans into that...but with an influence from a surprising place.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 4: Room for Growth
Photo: Paramount

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 4

This article contains some mild Star Trek: Lower Decks spoilers.

It’s always been clear to Star Trek fans that the heart of this franchise is in the friendships it features. Whether it’s Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, Trip and Malcolm, or Tom and Harry, it’s those relationships that we celebrate in Star Trek, and that’s what this week’s episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, “Room for Growth,” focuses on.

“Room for Growth” sees the Lower Deckers lamenting the lack of space in their shared quarters with the rest of the lesser-ranked (and dressed!) officers and crew on board the USS Cerritos. When the chance for a lottery for more private quarters comes up on the upper decks and attracts the attention of all shifts, including the devious Delta Shift, it’s up to Mariner (Tawny Newsome), Boimler (Jack Quaid), and Tendi (Noel Wells) to thwart their plans and fix the lottery to their favor. The Beta-Shifters, represented by Mariner and crew, decide to embark upon a perilous quest through the decks of the ship to get to the terminal computer on Deck 9 that allocates room allotments before their Delta Shift rivals do. 

Star Trek: Lower Decks showrunner Mike McMahan shares some of the influences behind this episode. “This was partially based on the room lottery that happened at my college,” McMahan says with a laugh. “Everybody was frantic about it every year and there were always rumors about ways to game the system!”

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Of course, this type of concept isn’t new to Star Trek. The Kobayashi Maru is the ultimate touchstone that fans will always hearken back to for ways to game systems in this franchise. There are also notes of classic Star Trek episode “The Ultimate Computer” as well as defeating the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s classic two-parter “The Best of Both Worlds.” These episodes easily demonstrate a concept that has long been a Starfleet tradition, so changing some code in a terminal to get better quarters is definitely the Starfleet way!

There’s one particular (and surprising) non-Trek influence in this episode as well. 

“This episode was also inspired by Stand by Me,” he says, referring to the 1986 Rob Reiner movie, based on a Stephen King novella. “I wanted to do a story so badly where the journey was more important than the destination. The Lower Deckers right now are good friends. So, a lot of Lower Decks episodes should thematically be all about friendship. Unfortunately, Rutherford is on his own side of the story (laughs). The journey through the bowels of the Cerritos is about that journey.”

Of course, Stand by Me also features its own share of Trek alumni, including Wil Wheaton and Lower Decks own Jerry McConnell. In that film, in their quest to find the body of a dead boy, they share experiences, learn about each other’s pasts, and get to understand each other better. It’s the ultimate friendship story and as the Lower Deckers make their way through the different levels of the USS Cerritos, they also open up to each other that really unifies them as a crew. 

“The Plant Room was kind of like when the kids in Stand by Me are going through the swamp area with the leeches,” McMahan says. “Then the next room had sort of a Willy Wonka vibe to it. All of these were mini, coming-of-age adventures. The ship is so big and there can be all of this stuff inside of it but it’s still just one ship and they’re all going to different places. So, it really is about the journey and not the destination.”

Star Trek: Lower Decks drops new episodes every Thursday.

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