We have already recapped and reviewed “Terminal Provocations,” the sixth episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, and discussed it on the All Access Star Trek podcast. Now we take a deeper dive into the fun details, references, Easter eggs, and more. In some cases the references are clear, with others it may just be our Trek interpretations; art is in the eye of the beholder.
Obviously… SPOILERS ahead.
Not as smart as Barclay
This episode introduced Ensign Fletcher, who creator Mike McMahan has said is the Lower Decks version of Reginald Barclay, an engineer from Star Trek: The Next Generation who—like Fetcher—had serious issues with a lack of self-confidence. In Lower Decks, we saw Fletcher disastrously fail to make himself smarter by plugging his brain into a computer core. In the TNG episode “The Nth Degree,” an alien probe enhanced Barclay’s intelligence, and eventually he used the holodeck to integrate himself into the ship’s computer to get even smarter.
Clippy’s revenge: Why does Starfleet keep installing holodecks?
Tendi and Rutherford’s storyline in this episode primarily takes place in a malfunctioning holodeck, a trope of the TNG era shows, starting in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation with “The Big Goodbye.” The holographic adversary that goes rogue for this adventure was “Badgey,” a helpful Starfleet badge-shaped assistant created by Rutherford, which was a dark homage to the much-maligned Microsoft Office Assistant named Clippit (better known as “Clippy“), introduced with Office 97. The final moments in the holodeck featured a frozen wasteland, like the one seen briefly in “The Big Goodbye.” (It could also possibly be a nod to the Animated Series episode “The Practical Joker,” which features the holodeck—then called the Rec Room—for the first time, and showed McCoy, Uhura, and Sulu stuck inside it in a winter storm.)
When talking about what you can do on the holodeck, Rutherford says ”It’s not just for hanging with Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood and Sigmund Freud and Cyrano de Bergerac and Einstein and da Vinci and Stephen Hawking and Socrates.” All of those historic figures and characters have appeared in TNG or Voyager, mostly on the holodeck. Einstein and Cyrano de Bergerac are also references to Barclay in “The Nth Degree.” In that episode, he debated with a holographic version of famed physicist Albert Einstein and played the title character in a production of Cyrano de Bergerac on board the USS Enterprise-D. As for Sherlock Holmes, TNG’s most famous holodeck malfunction episode may be “Elementary, Dear Data,” which featured a rogue version of the Sherlock Holmes character Moriarty—who, according to Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan, was the inspiration for Badgey. As for evil Badgey’s final line of “diplomatic immunity,” that appears to be an homage to Lethan Weapon 2.
Spacewalking romance and frozen princesses
In addition to “Nth Degree” and “The Big Goodbye,” this week’s Lower Decks episode referenced a number of other Trek episodes. When Tendi and Rutherford first startup his spacewalk simulation program their magnetic boots attract each other, recreating a romantic visual from the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Day of Honor,” when Tom and B’Elanna finally admitted their love.
Fletcher also recalls a time with Boimler back at Starfleet Academy when “Nausicaans tried to eat your heart,” a reference to the TNG episode “Tapestry” which showed Jean Luc-Picard’s time at the Academy, including the incident when a Nausicaan stabbed him in the heart. And when speculating about what could be found in an abandoned cargo ship, Rutherford speculates it might include “cryo-frozen princesses.” Crews from across the franchise have found people frozen in cryosleep starting with the TOS episode “Space Seed,” and also in the Enterprise episode “Precious Cargo,” Trip found an actual cryo-frozen princess.
From Antares to Titan, with a stop at Bajor
This week’s Lower Decks episode also ties into some known Star Trek locations. The abandoned cargo ship with the registration NCC-502 had the same design as the Antares (NCC-501) seen in the remastered version of the TOS episode “Charlie-X.” The design was based on a cargo ship seen in the Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles,” written by David Gerrold as a sequel to his TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”
While escaping from Badgey, Ruthford and Tendi run though a marketplace and up to a shrine on Bajor, the main planet in the system where Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was set. At the end of the episode, Fletcher is transferred to (and then promptly removed from) the USS Titan, the ship William T. Riker took command of after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis (set one year before Lower Decks). The episode also mentioned station Deep Space 3, which was mentioned in the TNG episode “Interface.”
Off the Tribble chain
Speaking of “The Trouble With Tribbles,” the keychain for the Captain’s yacht Mariner was holding at the end of the episode featured a toy version of a Tribble. This is a very deep cut, as David Gerrold came up for the idea for tribbles based on a fuzzy ball he saw on his friend’s keychain. Gerrold also named Sherman’s Planet for this same friend, Holly Sherman. The keychain also features an isolinear chip, a technology often seen in TNG era shows.
“Terminal Provocations” introduced the Drookmani, with a crew of scavengers after all that old Starfleet tech. The captain of the Drookmani ship was voiced by J.G. Hertler, better known to Trek fans as the Klingon general (and eventually Chancellor) Martok. The Drookmani’s left eyepatch was a nod to Martok’s missing left eye, with the white beard more matching the actor’s current look.
Sulu and Q, again
This week Lower Decks kept its namedropping to a minimum, but Captain Freeman did call for “evasive pattern Sulu Alpha,” evoking the legendary helmsman of the original USS Enterprise, Hikaru Sulu. And Lower Decks made two more references to Q. Fletcher suggests blaming the missing core on the Q because “Q’s are super unpredictable,” and at the end, Mariner and Boimler cut Fletcher’s communication off with the false claim “There’s a Q doing Q crazy Q stuff.” All of these references to Q (introduced in the series premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation) could be a bit of foreshadowing.
The cold open got a bit meta, showing our four ensigns showing off how they could recreate the ambient warp engine sounds of the USS Cerritos along with other ships, including the USS Voyager and the USS Enterprise-D. Boimler says he sometimes hums warp engine sounds to soothe himself. A popular sub-genre on YouTube are hours-long videos featuring the ambient sounds of various Star Trek ships. One for the Enterprise-D runs for 24 hours and has almost 4 million views.
Delta shift are cooler
Lower Decks isn’t just making references to previous Trek shows. While the show isn’t serialized, they are doing some callbacks to earlier episodes. In episode 3 (“Temporal Edict”) it was revealed that the Cerritos has a four-shift rotation and that Delta Shift was (annoyingly) “the coolest.” In this week’s episode, we finally meet Delta shift, who appeared to each be cooler versions of the show’s four main characters (from Beta shift).
This episode had another appearance of Mariner’s fancy tricorder with the purple stripe she acquired from an energy being in episode two (“Envoys”); however, it now seems lost as she used it to lure the evolving computer core/creature out of the ship.
Bonus video: Mike talks Barclay
On Sunday CBS released a video on Twitter with series creator Mike McMahan talking about the connections to Reg Barclay.
— Star Trek on CBS All Access (@startrekcbs) September 13, 2020
What did we miss?
Did you catch anything else? Let us know in the comments below.
New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. It has not yet been announced where and when Lower Decks will be available outside of the USA and Canada.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.