“The Stars at Night”
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3, Episode 10 – Debuted Thursday, October 27, 2022
Written by Mike McMahan
Directed by Jason Zurek
Season 3 wraps up in an exciting, funny, heartwarming episode as long-running character and plot arcs come together with some unexpected twists.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“We’re doing this for the entire class!”
After the Breen banged it up bad last week, the Cerritos is back home getting patched up. And Captain Freeman finds herself not only defending Project Swing By’s ill-fated test run, but the future of the California-class itself. In a surprise move, Admiral Buenamigo gets Starfleet Command to put his fancy new automated Texas-class ships in charge of second contact duty, with the Calis being decommissioned. Uncool, Les. Word quickly works its way to three remaining ensigns (via “gossip king” Towel Guy, who knew?) who start to freak out about being reassigned, although Rutherford is oddly fascinated by the Texas-class ship’s cool code. Nerd. Missing Mariner and feeling guilty over not supporting her more before she left the ship, Boimler breaks up the trio’s mood by doing some spot-on impressions of the bridge officers… unfortunately Shaxs comes in right when Brad’s nailing him, sending the big Bajoran off angry-crying. Aww, Big Bear.
Carol challenges her old friend to a “second contact race” to determine the fate of the Cali fleet, so the Cerritos crew rallies for a multi-stop mission, with Tendi fretting about their chances, Boimler panicking over things ending badly with Shaxs, and Sam still staring at his PADD. The race starts off well, Billups running the operation like a drill sergeant, but then the Aledo shows up and just drops a big pre-fab power station. They can do that? Oh, s—t!
On the next planet, the Cerritosians quickly set up an outpost but have to stop when Tendi thinks she may have found some life on the supposedly lifeless rock. Turns out it was a trick of a tricorder, but the delay puts them behind the Aledo’s dropoff driveby. The next stop is tricky, as it’s one of those “Brigadoon-type” planets that only phase in a couple of hours a year. The slowdown from the previous stop makes them miss their window, but not the Aledo… cue Buenamigo’s maniacal victory laughter. Tendi feels bad her life sign scanning cost them the race, but Freeman realizes it shows the Aledo skipped that pretty important step, putting them back in the fight. More ominously, Sam finally figures out the Aledo code is based on an AI that he wrote back when he was that angry racing guy—the same AI that led to Badgey! That means Buenamigo is the one who erased his memory. No Bueno.
“I’m playing it very cool”
Meanwhile, Mariner is having the time of her life as a xenoarchaeologist, tomb raiding and getting chased by Ferengi grave robbers. After a close call beam out, she and Petra Aberdeen set off to deliver a golden idol and prep for more archeology adventures rescuing artifacts from black market thieves. Mariner is really loving the no-rules lifestyle, but she is wondering how her new partner Petra is funding this endeavor, but the space archaeologist remains evasive on that topic. Not willing to let it go, Mariner does some digging and discovers the secret benefactor is… Admiral Jean-Luc Picard. Apparently, he just loves mummies. Mariner was kind of hoping to find an evil plot involving Romulans or at least some Xindi.
It seems you can take the ensign out of Starfleet, but not the Starfleet out of Beckett. Mariner is finally realizing she has a need to do something for the greater good, because how many more brown pots does the galaxy need? (Rude.) Aberdeen tries to argue that Mariner is better off living the free life, especially with all the problems her old ship and friends are in. Problems—what problems? Petra was holding out; the Cerritos is once again breaking news on FNN. And the phaser in Aberdeen’s hand says her ship is not going to help. So many twists!
“I will burn your heart in a fire”
Things go from bad to worse quickly when Freeman and Rutherford confront Buenamigo, who flies right past badmiral to evilmiral, with his only regret not erasing all of Sam. He gets no sympathy for a backstory of struggles as an admiral unable to advance who has to cut some corners blah blah blah, but he isn’t trying to convince anyone anyway and orders his roboship to kill them and say it was self-defense. Really? Ignoring Rutherford’s warning about the unstable AI, the bad guy gives the Aledo full independence, and (of course) it immediately betrays him, “I don’t take orders from you anymore, father.” Sam’s AIs have issues.
The autonomous ship destroys Buenamigo’s office and starts taking apart the Starbase, activating two more Texas-class ships to help. The station and Cerritos are outmatched by the advanced weapons, even after a big Sovereign class shows up. Freeman pulls a Kirk and bluffs, telling the Aledo she has its creator on board, Sam, and he’s ready with the delete button. He is? Right, um, yeah.
The Cerritos warps out, which saves the station, but the three robo-Texans are catching up fast as the bridge crew runs options: Shaxs suggests the usual and everyone else tries various tropes like deflector dish weapon, paradoxing AIs, and even calling the Titan—all dismissed as unworkable with debate raging as the ship is being torn apart. But Brad sees no one really paid attention to Shaxs, so he musters all his Bold Boimler to cut through the noise… because yeah, this time ejecting the warp core is actually the smart move.
The Bajoran is as happy as a bride and there isn’t a dry eye on the ship as he runs to meet his destiny in engineering. The warp core ejection works. With a cinematic explosion and music, the Cerritos is thrown out of warp… but oh no, the Aledo survived and it still really, really wants to kill its dad. Carol is ready to abandon ship, but help arrives in the form of Mariner, who has convinced Petra to do the right thing. The Aledo considers her ship a “negligible” threat, but she brought help… the Oakland? One Cali just can’t turn the tide, but this is Mariner, and she called “all of them.” One by one, the sky fills with California-class ships ready to fight for their brethren. This ragtag fleet shows the Aledo how it’s done, returning the last Texas-class to stardust.
Back at the Starbase, the Calis do what they do and get to work repairing the Cerritos and the station. At the traditional bar wrap-up, Mariner returns and everything is forgiven as she is ready to Starfleet it up again, with hugs for mom and promised torment for Ransom. Not only has Shaxs forgiven Brad for his impersonation, he embraces him into the Bear Pack. Sam is happy too, and still sticking with his implant with new features to explore. Tendi is praised for standing up for science and she now has a new “study buddy,” a familiar Vulcan who is going to fit in just fine. Things wrap up with the crews coming together to celebrate with a new chant… one for “Cali-class!”
But wait, there’s more? A post-credit scene takes us to the battle debris field in the Kalla System, where Rutherford’s old implant remains. A mystery ship arrives to tractor it in as it activates… Badgey lives!
Tied up with a bow
In the series’ best finale yet, Lower Decks brings the action but never forgets to bring the funny. It’s densely packed with jokes, character drama, lore, and heart, and it is now clear that writer/showrunner Mike McMahan was playing the long game with this season. The show sticks the landing on a season that has focused on character by bringing each of their arcs home in a satisfying way and even finding ways to weave them together. However, Mariner’s exit and reentry to Starfleet and easy forgiveness—she even blames herself for it—had the same kind of sitcom oversimplicity that plagued the previous episode. At least she didn’t forgive Jennifer’s cruelty; that bridge should stay burnt, opening up more possibilities for future seasons.
Dawnn Lewis continues to shine this season, carrying much of the load for this episode as Captain Freeman becomes more central to the show. While often a bit erratic, Freeman here shows why she is worthy of the captain’s chair, even adding “Maximum warp me” to her catchphrase and borrowing Jean-Luc’s “make it so” for that beautiful moment of giving Shaxs his greatest wish. And like Shaxs, everyone got to have their hero moments, from Billups to Boimler, as this show celebrates its own mythology, exemplified by the fleet of California class ships coming to the rescue. Sure seeing a legacy hero and ship could be fun, but it’s no match for Fly Boimler. There were also ties going all the way back to show’s first episode, including Douglas Station and the Galardonians, all part of embracing the series’ own growing lore. And speaking of going back, T’Lyn from last season’s best episode (“wej Duj”) is a very welcome addition to the crew.
Jack Quaid is also worth praise—if for nothing else, his hilarious impersonations of Ransom, T’Ana, and Shaxs. And that’s just the tip of the comedy iceberg with laugh-out-loud moments throughout, from T’Ana’s riding crop tirade about spending “seven f—ing years on an Oberth” to Billups demanding Data-level isolinear chip work to Mariner trading quips with classic Ferengi… but Ransom’s “command that chair” demonstration of the Riker maneuver may be the standout. Even with all the heavy character and plot lifts going on—and unlike extended portions of the previous episode—this finale never forgot this show is a comedy and kept delivering.
An evil AI and badmiral, who would see that coming?
The finale leaned into Trek’s longstanding distrust of anything to do with artificial intelligence going back TOS, with the Aledo AI looking like the classic M5. This all fit nicely with Trek’s skepticism about taking the human out of the equation. And even though this was a twist we all saw coming, the show still kept it feeling fresh and even topical, with allusions to modern-day drone programs. Pitting the California class against the Texas class is also a bit on the nose, but still good to see Lower Decks dipping its toe into the Trek tradition of political debate, even if it is a bit heavy-handed.
Buenamigo turning out to be a bad guy is another Star Trek trope Lower Decks openly embraced, and many fans also saw this coming. Tying it all to Rutherford’s arc was clever, and it’ll going to be fun looking back on the whole season to see the clues. However, the degree of his corruption and brutality for completely selfish motives was on a whole other level than the usual bad faith admirals Freeman talked about, making it a bit hard to buy someone this evil could make it so far in Starfleet. Sure, we have seen some baddies, but they usually had some kind of vision or different viewpoint justifying their actions and weren’t up for killing off whole Starfleet ships just to get another pip. And it looks like there is more evil AI in the show’s future, which risks getting tiresome but may be worth it just to get more Badgey.
Season 3 was the best yet for Lower Decks and this episode was the perfect example of how the show has a whole new confidence in finding humor with its own characters and lore while still embracing classic Star Trek. The finale tied things up nicely, leaving very little hanging for the next season (which was ordered long ago and is already well into production).
- Hans just told me that the Phylosian in Tactical’s girlfriend’s Vedek heard that Starfleet Command is shuttering the Cali-class and replacing it with drones!
- I can’t work in an outpost. I won’t look good in a drab olive vest.
- Rutherford, stop being impressed with the thing stealing our jobs.
- Ah that’s cute, pretending to you have any concept of how money works?
- Wait until you see the uniform, it has four epaulets.
- Toss me the scanner that looks like a phase discriminator.
- Oh no, a starship can’t have daddy issues.
- I’m still wiped from all that Ferengi mocking.
- I was hoping for a Romulan or at least a Xindi cabal.
- They robbed me of my memories and it was used to cover up crimes deadly crimes, but it’s so cool!
- The episode title comes from the lyrics of the folk song “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
- Stardate 58499.2
- Towel Guy’s first name is Hans. (His last name Federov was revealed in episode 4 of season 3.)
- The Van Citters Sovereign-class ship (NCC-72504) is named for Paramount Star Trek Group VP John Van Citters.
- The Alhambra, Oakland, Merced, Sacramento, Carlsbad, and Inglewood are all California-class ships that had been seen or mentioned before.
- The Alhambra was the ship Dr. T’Ana confused for the Cerritos with the bizarro crew that included male Freeman and Fly Boimler.
- The Inglewood is the ship with the all-Bolian crew led by former Cerritos ensign Vendome.
- Newly established California-class ships include the San Diego, San Clemente, Sherman Oaks, Vacaville, Burbank, Fresno, Santa Monica, San Jose, Culver City, Anaheim, Riverside, Valejo, West Covina, Pacific Palisades, Redding Eureka, Mount Shasta… named for (primarily) small and medium size cities in California.
- There are a few previously seen or referenced Cali class ships that weren’t named but were presumably part of the battle, including the Bakersfield and Ventura.
- The other two Texas-class ships were the Dallas and Corpus Christi, named for cities in Texas.
More to come
Every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network. On Saturday, we’ll post our weekly analysis of Easter eggs and references for this episode.
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 debuted in Latin America on Paramount+ in September.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.