From Barclay To Clippy, ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Easter Eggs In “Terminal Provocations”

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.

J.G. Drookmani

“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.

Ambient Warp

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.

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.

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Mariner mentioned a warp core should be one big unit not a bunch of little modules. This is a fan critique of the warp cores seen in JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek movie.

Except that she was talking about the isoliner cores, not a warp core. If you’re going to be hating on JJ-Trek, at least be correct.

Exactly. Mariner’s comment was in no way a critique of the JJ films. That’s ridiculous–especially since Kurtzman worked on those films.

I would be surprised if Kurtzman went over every script of Lower Decks to make sure nobody dares to criticize or make fun of anything from the movies he worked on.

That’s not at all what I said or implied.

Yeah, if she were commenting on JJ-Trek, she would have mentioned a Budweiser plant.

I May have missed it being mentioned but the last thing stated in the cold by Badgey was ‘diplomatic immunity’. Just before being ‘killed’ reminded me of Lethal Weapon 2 at the end.

It made me think of the Lois McMaster Bujold novel with that title, but it also really seems to be a callback to any number of TNG episodes, not least the one with the people with the death penalty for stepping on the grass.

I suspect that all of the threats spouted by Badgey could be referencing other movie villains:

  • Very meta Moriarty reference: “I’ll burn your hearts in the fire” –> on Youtube, search for “Sherlock 1×03 I’ll burn the heart out of you” to watch the scene. I’m quite sure about that because of both pronunciation & Moriarty’s history with the holodeck.
  • I googled “wear your skins” and it points to an ice skating comedy (Blades of Glory) which would be fitting for the icy environment
  • “We really did it” –> Planet of the Apes?
  • Probably needless to say lots of Star Wars vibes

Anyone recognise other movie villains Badgey has borrowed lines from?

JG Hertzler as the alien captain!

Well, his casting wouldn’t qualify as an Easter egg since that’s not what an Easter egg is. But the character’s eye patch MIGHT qualify.

How did Tendi know what voyagers warp core sounded like? Is it a museum ship? Did she serve aboard it briefly?

She could have served aboard an Intrepid-class starship, and they chose to name-drop Voyager for the audience.

She may have traveled on it at some point, certainly possible. Voyager returned in 2378 and there’s nothing in the finale to suggest that Starfleet de-commissioned it upon its return from the Delta Quadrant. Or maybe they turned Voyager into a cruise ship! People would pay good latinum to take a cruise on the historic USS Voyager.

Holodeck program?

While Voyager wasn’t my favorite show, I think hands down it would be the most celebrated ship in Starfleet. A single ship being transported to the Delta Quadrant and making it all the way back home with no Starfleet support, where every single race met is a first contact, and single handedly taking on the Borg at the same time, should be considered the greatest achievement of any single ship and captain in the history of Starfleet. I’m sure there’s a holodeck recreation of Voyager available on every ship.

The Voyager made it home and is a highly celebrated ship. There are dozens of reasons she would know.

All very valid points, thanks folks

The hollow matrix being revealed patchily in a storm could have been a reference to TNG 7×13 homeward

I think that it may have happened in an earlier holodeck failure episode as well, but I can’t think which one.

“Lower Decks” is settling into a “fun-but-forgettable” pattern. Nice whirlwinds of varyingly deep Easter Eggs, but with stories that are secondary, and not re-watchable (one of Star Trek’s greatest strengths)

I have to disagree. We’ve watched every episode at least three times! I think they get better with every viewing. And there is always a lot of quoting lines back and forth to each other. Fun stuff! Mariner is already in my top 10 Trek characters of all time!

Disagree also.

Lower Decks is so layered and packed that I watch it at least 3 times each week.

Really this reminds me of how I watched TNG in first run. I expect these to stand the test of time.

Completely disagree.

It’s extremely rewatchable.

Absolute rubbish. It’s completely re-watchable and fun!

Wow, 5 of us in a row, who typically disagree with one another, all clearly happy with LDS and agreeing that is rewatchable.

LDS is a hit.

Perfect sign that Lower Decks is a good show… my wife cannot stand Trek and usually leaves the room when the kids and I watch it.

She watches Lower Decks every Thursday and again on the weekend.

Tend to agree regarding episode 6. Surprisingly, in my case what sticks to memory though are the work related topics. Have not watched workplace comedy before.

I thought I was a super Star Trek fan, but it turns out I don’t know the franchise nearly as thoroughly as Lower Decks does. It’s disturbing how many references fly over my head, and I love it!

The Sulu reference COULD have been about Demora Sulu – we don’t know!

Also the secondary backup of the shield core is a reference to DS9’s “Destiny” where O’Brien and Gilors Rejal (Tracy Scoggins) are working on some equipment and the old Cardassian systems have been modified to have the standard Starfleet secondary backup. Gilora points out (with lots of eye rolls) that the chances of both the primary system and its backup failing at the same time are extremely unlikely and although O’Brien agrees, he says he wouldn’t like to be caught without a secondary backup in a crunch.

Unfortunately I didn’t like this one at all. First one I didn’t like however but it just didn’t do it for me in so many ways. Maybe when I have more time I’ll write my issues with it but overall the Badgey one just went too overboard and violent and Fletcher as well. I only watched it once though so maybe I’ll like it more with another viewing.

Fletcher made this episode completely unwatchable for me. As an aside, of course the total idiot character was a white male, they wouldn’t dare make a black female such a idiot in this day and age.

Also, PLEASE, enough easter eggs already. It makes the Star Trek universe feel tiny if every single comment is about someone or something we’ve already seen. Invent new things!

The Drookmani were new. A battle waged completely with tractor beams was new. Also never heard of the Chu Chu dance or the Zebulon sisters. That’s four new things in a half hour. And then they doubled down with the Chu Chu CHU dance. Five new things.

Besides, if they go too crazy inventing new things, we’re gonna get another Discovery or Picard. They’re going to “invent something new” by “ripping off another franchise”. I’d rather they just stick to ripping off Star Trek. And Office 97.

Not every single Starfleet officer reference needs to be from a previous Trek show.

I like the references, but tend to agree that they are starting to feel like the universe is a little small. I’d like to see them go much deeper and more obscure. Maybe references to the Enterprise C or dozens / hundreds of other Starfleet ships we’ve seen, characters we’ve only seen once or twice but that undoubtedly have more to their stories than we’ve seen, or even references to some key people or events from the novels or comics (Trek has a history of “canonizing” details from novels by adopting or referencing them on screen).

I hope Ensign Fletcher isn’t permanent. I realise all the characters in this show are hyperactive, speed-talking cartoons. Ensign Fletcher is THE BIGGEST cartoon and made every scene unwatchable. With the exception of Fletcher, I’m loving this series.

He was transferred off to the Titan so he’s probably gone for good.

Yeah, that was a tease…. had me (futilely) hoping to see Frakes pop up as Riker.