We have already recapped and reviewed Star Trek: Lower Decks season 4, episode 9, “The Inner Fight,” and discussed it on the All Access Star Trek podcast. Like many episodes of Lower Decks, there are many fun nods and Easter eggs, but this episode also had some major connections to franchise lore (and not just the Star Trek franchise), so obviously this analysis has SPOILERS with the biggest ones lower down in the article.
Outpost weirdos and Kirk spacesuit
The episode kicked off with Boimler and Mariner dealing with some Federation Outpost Scientists like the ones they first tussled with in the season 3 episode “Reflections.” When Mariner risked her life to rescue the scientists from the venomous tremble lizards Boimler made it clear it was not for any affection, noting “She thinks you’re weirdos.”
When the tremble lizards got inside the fence at the outpost everyone (except Mariner) put on anti-venom suits, which resembled the 23rd century EV suits seen on Star Trek: The Original Series.
Klingon weirdo and Kirk Fu
Later when Mariner fights with the Klingon Ma’ah she employs a few classic Klingon barbs, including calling him a petaQ, which may be the most commonly used Klingon curse word in Star Trek and according to the Klingon Dictionary means “weirdo.” Mariner also deploys one of the fighting moves made famous by James T. Kirk (aka “Kirk Fu“) with a double-fist punch.
Over on an entirely different planet, Mariner’s mom was dealing with an antagonistic alien information broker until she thought she recognized something about him, saying it was an “ancient trick” and accusing him of being a puppet. Only when she grabbed the alien it was confirmed she was wrong. But one can understand her confusion as the broker looked just like the Balok puppet from the TOS episode “The Corbomite Maneuver.”
The totally not a puppet alien was found in a bar named Mudds which Freeman describes as a “notorious dive for all sorts of unsavory rogues.” That is an apt description for one of the franchise’s first rogues, Harcourt Fenton Mudd a smuggler and con-man who first appeared on TOS and later on The Animated Series and Discovery. It’s possible this bar was named by him, or possibly in his honor.
While the name was from classic Trek, the whole vibe of Mudds, and New Axton in general, was from an entirely different galaxy, far far away. Comments about how the planet was lawless and a “favorite of every troublemaker in the quadrant” all harken back to the first Star Wars movie and the visit to Mos Eisley, home of the most famous Cantina (technically Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina) in all of sci-fi.
The officious people who ran New Axton and made the Cerritos park next one of the moons wore uniforms like Imperial officers from Star Wars, even speaking in the same snooty British accents.
There was even what appeared to be an homage to Return of the Jedi on the planet with Mariner and Ma’ah. The Federation monitoring station in the forest looked a lot like the Imperial shield bunker on the forest moon Endor.
Billups the Bounty Hunter
One of the quintessential elements of Star Wars is cool bounty hunters in helmets like Boba Fett and “The Inner Fight” had one of those too. On New Axton a helmeted bounty hunter appeared to be getting the better of Freeman, but in the end it turned out to be a ruse orchestrated by her as the bounty hunter was just Billups all along. He was disguised in the suit and his voice had the same distorted sound of the helmeted Breen from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Lower Decks meets “Lower Decks”
The deepest connections in this episode are not easter eggs, but key points where character and plot arcs tie into some important parts of franchise lore, specifically Star Trek: The Next Generation. Series creator Mike McMahan has often spoken about how an inspiration for the show Lower Decks was the season seven TNG episode “Lower Decks” which focused on a group of ensigns on the USS Enterprise-D. One of those ensigns was the Bajoran Sito Jaxa, who was recruited for a covert mission and ended up getting killed. One of the big reveals of “The Inner Fight” is that Mariner was close friends with Sito at Starfleet Academy and her death is what set her on a path of rejecting authority, especially accepting any authority by constantly self-sabotaging any promotions. So Mariner’s own origin story is now directly linked to the origin story for the series itself.
It was Nick!
The dive into TNG goes even deeper to the season 5 TNG episode “The First Duty,” which introduced the character of Sito, at that time attending Starfleet Academy along with Wesley Crusher. Both were members of the Academy’s elite Nova Squadron and after a fatal accident, both were involved in a coverup trying to hide how a member was killed performing a banned maneuver. The leader of Nova Squadron was Cadet Nick Locarno who also pushed the group to lie to Starfleet and for that, he was expelled. Locarno was played by Robert Duncan McNeill who went on to play Tom Paris in seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager and Paris was loosely based on Locarno. And “The Inner Fight” brought McNeill and Locarno back in a big way, as it turns out Nick built the mystery ship that has been the focus of the big season plot arc. The episode ended with him beaming Mariner off the planet and it was made clear they knew each other from back at the Academy.
Locarno has been capturing ships with the help of lower deckers on each ship. The episode ended on a cliffhanger with Nick telling Mariner: “We’re gonna cause some trouble together.” Locarno appears to be building up his own fleet and they are using a five-pointed star symbol as their emblem, which can be seen on Nick’s jacket above, and painted on the hull of the Klingon Bird of Prey Che’Ta’ (which, along with Ma’ah, was first introduced in the season 2 episode “wej Duj”). This pattern Locarno is using comes from the banned Kolvoord Starburst maneuver, which is what got him kicked out of the Academy.
Freeman was seeking out Nick Locarno on New Axton as Starfleet was concerned about ex-Starfleet officers being targeted by the same group behind the alien ship attacks. Locarno was one of four they mentioned along with Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager, Beverly Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and William Riker’s transporter clone Thomas Riker. Boimler was particularly excited they would be assigned to find Beverly Crusher, however, that job was assigned to the USS Vancouver, a ship introduced in the season one episode “Cupid’s Errant Arrow.” Later as Boimler slept we could hear him dreaming, saying ” Teach me how to tap-dance, Beverly Crusher.” Like actress Gates McFadden, Beverly Crusher was an expert in dance and she taught Data to dance (including tap) in the TNG season 4 episode “Data’s Day.”
What did you see?
Spot any new Trek references we missed on Lower Decks? Have a favorite? Sound off in the comments below.
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