From Cetacean Ops To Rubber Ducks, ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Easter Eggs In “First First Contact”

We have already recapped and reviewed the Star Trek: Lower Decks season two finale “First First Contact” and discussed it on the All Access Star Trek podcast. Now it’s time to take our weekly deep dive into all the canon references, nods, and Easter eggs that caught our eyes. In some cases the connections are clear, with others it may just be our Trek interpretations; art is in the eye of the beholder.

Obviously… SPOILERS ahead.


Cetacean Ops: There be whales here

For the first time, we visit the Cetacean Ops section of the USS Cerritos, even though it has been mentioned several times. There we meet two Beluga whale navigators, Lt. Matt and Lt. Kimolu. Cetacean Ops on the Cerritos included a large pool, buckets of fish, and some balls for the whales to play with. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home established that whales had complex language that could even be communicated through space. Through some lines of dialog on Star Trek: The Next Generation it was established a century later that Starfleet had cetaceans (whales and dolphins) on board some ships, including the Enterprise-D which had a “Cetacean Ops” section, which was never seen, but was featured in the 1996 book Star Trek: The Next Generation USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints.

Rubber Ducky Room

When Rutherford was suggesting special places to visit on the ship, Tendi asked, “The rubber ducky room?” This is a very deep cut referring to a production joke that showed a rubber duck on the master systems display for the USS Enterprise-D on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The rubber duck room is also seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual.

Captain’s Yacht

We also got to see the Captain’s Yacht for the USS Cerritos for the first time, and this was only the second franchise appearance of a captain’s yacht, which are large support craft on Starships. The USS Enterprise-D had one named Calypso, but only the underside of it was seen on the ship’s saucer. Star Trek: Insurrection featured the deployment of the Cousteau captain’s yacht from the USS Enterprise-E.

Gomez: From drink-spilling ensign to captain

The character of Sonya Gomez returned as Captain of the USS Archimedes, voiced by Actress Lycia Naff, who played Ensign Gomez in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Q Who” and “Samaritan Snare”). She is probably best remembered for spilling hot chocolate on Captain Picard. In “First First Contact” Gomez references that moment obliquely when she consoles an ensign who tripped on the bridge saying, “I’ve done way worse.”

Excelsior: TOS movie moments

The USS Archimedes was clarified to be an “Obena class” ship after initially being identified as an Excelsior Class, a ship that was first featured in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Showrunner Mike McMahan said it was “inspired by” the Excelsior, but there are some design differences and it is larger. However “First First Contact” had the Archimedes in some moments that evoked the original USS Excelsior in Star Trek III, including first seeing it in Spacedock. And when considering a new captain taking over the Cerritos, Mariner lamented, “We could end up with some weirdo with a riding crop.” This appears to be a reference to Captain Styles who commanded Excelsior in Star Trek III, and carried a swagger stick.

Later when struck by the energy and debris from the exploding Laap system planetoid, the Archimedes is thrown about in a moment reminiscent of the USS Excelsior being struck by the wave emitted from the destruction of the Klingon moon Praxis in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Going manual: TNG movie moments

The USS Cerritos also saw a couple of TNG-era movie moments. The external manual release clamps for the hull plates were the same as the maglocks seen on the USS Enterprise-E to release the deflector dish in Star Trek: First Contact.

And the first officer of the Cerritos also got to emulate the first officer of the Enterprise-E when Ransom used a manual steering column to guide the ship through the debris field, much like Riker did in the Briar Patch in Star Trek: Insurrection.

Like Kirk and Spock… and Jadzia

Star Trek’s James T. Kirk and Spock got mentioned yet again on Lower Decks, identifying them as major historic figures. When arguing with her mother, Mariner claimed she was a “Kirk-style free spirit who kicks butt and it super intimidates people,” but her mother disagreed saying she didn’t have Kirk’s confidence. Later when Dr. T’Ana tells Tendi she is being moved to senior science officer training, Tendi exclaims, “To work on the bridge? Like Jadzia Dax?” To which T’Ana says “Who the f**k is that? I don’t know who that is. No, like Spock.” So Deep Space Nine‘s Jadzia Dax also gets another Lower Decks shoutout, but she is apparently not as well known.

Captian First Contact Day

Boimler makes a banner to celebrate Captain Freeman Day in a style like the banner made for Captain Picard Day in the TNG episode “The Pegasus.” Like it was on the Enterprise, Captain Freeman Day is seen as something for the kids (or “calves”) onboard, but Boimler was undeterred. 

Later after Captain Freeman was allowed to make first contact with the people of Laap, Boimler repurposed the banner to say “Happy First Contact Day.” First Contact Day is the day celebrated throughout the federation to commemorate the first contact between humans and Vulcans, as depicted in the film Star Trek: First Contact.

Farewell lineup

With Captain Freeman expected to be getting a promotion to leave the ship Boimler was excited for the crew to “line up in the hallway” where they could “applaud while the captain walks off the ship for the last time.” The crew later lined up to do exactly this (although Freeman was instead being arrested). This kind of crew lineup for departing members of the crew has been seen before including Worf leaving the Enterprise in the TNG episode “Redemption,” and Neelix leaving the USS Voyager in “Homestead.”

To Be Continued…

“First First Contact” ended on that cliffhanger of Freeman being arrested and taken off the ship. This lead to a title card with “To Be Continued…” in the exact style as the first cliffhanger in Star Trek history, the TNG season three finale, “Best of Both Worlds” with Captain Picard captured and taken off the ship by the Borg. Lower Decks used the exact same style title card as that episode to end the season.

LDS Callbacks

After two seasons, Lower Decks is building up a substantial bit of it’s own canon. In addition to picking up on the previous mention of Cetacean Ops, there were some other quick callbacks to previous episodes…

  • Captain Freeman reminds Mariner she holds the hydroscoot record at Starfleet Academy, something first mentioned in last season’s “Crisis Point.”
  • After Brad was revived from almost drowning he says, “I saw a Koala.” In “Moist Vessel” Lt. O’Connor saw a Koala as he was ascending to become an energy being.

Bonus Video: Mike talks Gomez

In his weekly eggs update, showrunner Mike McMahan is joined by Tawny Newsome to talk about the return of Sonja Gomez.

What did you see?

Spot any new Trek references we missed on Lower Decks? Have a favorite? Sound off in the comments below.

New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. It is available on Amazon Prime Video internationally on Fridays. It will debut in Latin America on Paramount+ in September.

Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at

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This makes me hope we get to see Deep Space Nine or at least Ezri Dax in season 3. I could imagine her being a mentor figure to Tendi.

I would love to see Ezri Dax in a command role as she has in the Litverse.

It seemed such a better fit with the evolution of the character after her she had successfully integrated with the Dax symbionts.

I never liked that. It always seemed more like Ezri was trying to emulate Jadzia or Curzon, and it kind of implied that being a counselor was somehow not a worthy profession for a Dax. Not everyone needs to be a captain. Ezri should become the best counselor in Starfleet.

It’s not a matter of emulation, it’s a matter of who Ezri wants to be as a joined Trill vs the career path she was exploring as a new officer.

The books make the compelling point that Ezri has to use all of her skill as a counselor on a constant basis to manage her high number of past host memories, and to develop a high level of self awareness and mastery to keep on top of them all and to maintain her own identity.

Ezri can’t be the person she would have been without Dax, and would be overwhelmed by Curzon, Jadzia and the rest if she didn’t integrate what she wished. But Dax wasn’t finished with Star Fleet when Jadzia was slain, and it makes sense that the combination of Ezri and Dax would want to make the most of a Starfleet career that Dax is likely never to have the opportunity to explore a third time.

The possibilities are great there—the books say that by this time, Bajor would be in the Federation and likely Kira would be Captain of DS9 by now, and Ezri Dax as first officer. Not only would Ezri be a great cameo with Tendi as you said, but would be cool to find out if Kira has insight on some of Shaxs’ trauma that they alluded to in the pottery scene, in the prior ep.

Could maybe J.G. Hertzler or Michael Dorn show up as Martok or Worf, since the story seems to involve some sort of conspiracy involving at least a faction within the Klingon Empire?

As far as how well known Jadzia and the others on the Deep Space Nine crew are, I do wonder what media is like in the 24th century. If “news” is anything like it is now, Jadzia’s name would be prominent since her murder (by the prominent former leader of the Dominion military forces) occurs with the collapse of the wormhole and Sisko taking a leave of absence. All of that would be broadcast far and wide 24/7 round the clock by media, especially in the middle of the Dominion War.

Is there any reason the main characters must remain ensigns? I kinda wish they get bumped up to Lt. (jg) or full Lieutenant at some point. They’ll still be lower decks characters in the scheme of the Cerritos but I kinda feel like the show doesn’t have to be just about that anymore. I think the series has been great at establishing that EVERYONE on the Cerritos, including the ship itself, is kinda lower decks from the perspective of Starfleet. Watching Boimler and Mariner grow and change over time makes more and more sense than them just always being stuck duty crap duty.

“I kinda wish they get bumped up to Lt. (jg) or full Lieutenant at some point.”

I really hope that Garret Wang as Harry Kim will appear in THAT episode to observe their collective promotion :-)

I believe the dudes on Trekyards suggested that they should get Garret Wang to be “Captain Kim,” and he should be the captain that (temporarily) replaces Freeman.

This is only two or three years after Voyager returned from the Delta Quadrant. Harry deserved a promotion straight to Full Lt. (skipping over Lt. Junior Grade), but no way is he a Captain yet.

Janeway has somehow kept forward to full admiral.

Kim should at least be a lieutenant commander.

Tom only went up one grade though, to full Lt.

If Harry ever shows up, they should keep him an ensign. It would be hilarious if Boimler outranked Harry.

If Harry Kim isn’t still an ensign in that episode I won’t be happy 😂

Mike McMahan has said previously that Season 3 would see at least some of them begin to move up the ranks so maybe it’s coming??

According to the Picard comics Worf should be captain of the Enterprise now.

Ransom’s interactive helmet gets cracked by a tiny piece that hits it. Similar to Kirk’s helmet in “Star Trek: Into Darkness”.

There was the line about going old school without the view screen – I thought this was a cut about having a window instead of a view screen.

I thought the same thing. I actually was half expecting for the view screen to slide away revealing a window; but completely removing the bulkhead worked too ;)

I loved the whole episode, but especially the cetacean ops scenes.

bit long on the watered down moment, short on the water up.

The riding crop gag made me laugh out loud when I heard it 😂

I knew the koala was a reference to something as well…!

Wasn’t cetacean ops also mentioned in the TNG tech manual? I’ve got a copy lying around somewhere I’ll have to look it up.

But finally we get an LDS character call another character out for all the deep cut references 😂 T’Ana’s reaction to the Dax reference was perfect!

I have not looked forward to the resolution of a cliffhanger this much since Captain Riker said “fire” back in, like, 1991, or whenever it aired on BBC2!

Who’s going to guess that the stupid Pakleds blew up their own planet by accident 😂😂😂

I wouldn’t put it past them, but somebody is responsible for framing Freeman.

Correction. The banner says happy first contact. Freeman and day are crossed out.

Dann it…. You already pointed it out.

We like to insert small errors into each article as a sort of game for the readers. Congratulations you win

Is the prize 8oz of cetacean ops water?

I am a highly qualified Trekkie. My earliest memory is watching the intro to TNG with my dad. But Cetacian Ops was even a deep cut for me. There were dolphins on the Enterprise? What the hell?

Maybe on the Enterprise there have been whales instead of dolphins ;)

The ones on Lower Decks are beluga whales, not dolphins.

it’s non-canon but there was a dolphin as crew-member in the TNG-novel “Dark Mirror”.

“Have you seen the dolphins?” is mentioned by Geordi to a visiting Ferengi (TNG: “The Perfect Mate”). They’ve been a recurring ambition that hasn’t reached the screen (sometimes called “alpha canon”) as detailed at:

Its actually doesnt say First contact day.
It says Happy First contact.

Lower Decks is, in my opinion, the best thing from this new “TV series” of the new era. Congrats.

Small nitpick why was gravity still working on the Archimedes (EMP protected backup or this a nod to one of the Kelvin movies or other episodes where they did gravity wrong before?)

This (almost) always happens in onscreen Trek, because it’s impractical to film otherwise. The TNG tech manual invented an explanation: Starfleet-design gravity generators contain flywheels that continue to emit gravitons for many hours, even without power. (The Klingon ship in ST6:TUC evidently *didn’t* use such a failsafe design.)

The more immediate problem would be life support (you reach toxic levels of CO2 faster than you deplete O2) but passive chemical scrubbers seem reasonable.

Could be the missing explaination for needing cetacean ops.
As in, on failure, water floods graviton flywheel area permitting cetaceans to pick up the slack.
aka push wheel while floating in water.
Since there are no references to Klingons having cetaceans, no gravity backup on klingon ships

Haha, that’s great and logical :-D

Thanks for the tech manual reference, that’s great!

Gravity is one of those things in Trek where artistic license always rules. If artifical gravity failed even at any velocity greater then thrusters everyone is instantly a splatter mark on the bulkhead. In universe, I’d image artifical gravity is very much so ‘systems critical’ operations. Bad things happen with any failure.

What keeps one from becoming a splatter on the bulkhead is not the artificial gravity, it’s the inertial dampeners… But same argument holds.

Thanks everyone!

1st contact situation, all hands glued to their spot.

It’s a fine parody show. Kinda “Keystone Starfleet”!

So, trek finally had a actual, physical water shed event