“Old Friends, New Planets”
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4, Episode 10 – Debuted Thursday, February 2, 2023
Written by May Darmon
Directed by Bob Suarez
An excellent season finale delivers plenty of laughs while tying up all the important plot and character arcs.
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
“How exactly are we sticking it to those chumps?”
We start with a flashback to Starfleet Academy 13 years ago with the Nova Squadron gang listening to Nick Locarno pitch a risky maneuver for the upcoming commencement ceremony. Josh (TNG spoiler alert: He gets killed later when they fail), Sito Jaxa, and Wesley (yes, that is Wil Wheaton) Crusher still need convincing, but Nick sells them on becoming Academy legends. A frazzled freshman Mariner arrives with Boimler-level nerding over xeno-history and fangirling over Sito, who supports the young Beckett’s enthusiasm. Snapping out of this memory, Mariner picks up after last week’s cliffhanger with Nick excited for her to join him on Nova One, the flagship of his new Nova Fleet. He relishes a Starfleet admiral’s daughter joining his cause. A confused Beckett plays along as he broadcasts his manifesto to the Alpha Quadrant for anyone who feels unappreciated by “soulless bureaucratic captains” to come to the Detrion System and join his unaligned fleet of mutineers… and there are no worries because they are protected by his indestructible “Trynar Shield.” Oh, and he has a black market Ferengi Genesis Device (aka big ol’ bomb) in case any fleet gets some funny ideas. He hands the mic over to his latest recruit to really stick it to those chumps in Starfleet, and Beckett vamps for a bit before grabbing the Genesis Device and telling the galactic audience (including a proud Captain Mamma) Locarno sucks and is just in it for himself, then runs off. Zoink!
“Ooh, dangerous and unpredictable space debris.”
Mariner makes her way through Nova Fleet’s base to find an old Starfleet ship, where she buckles in that Genesis Device and escapes. Locarno orders pursuit, with our first hint of resistance from these “independent” crews. Mariner soon finds out that super shield works both ways as she scrapes the inside wall during her outrageous maneuvering, all the while keeping up witty banter with Locarno. Unable to warp out, she finds a ring of space crystals to use as cover from pursuing Ferengi, who rebuff her use of the Rules of Acquisition to argue Locarno is bad for profit. She shakes them using the old venting coolant trick, but with life support failing and no crew, she decides to head to Detrion 9 to set off her “little buddy” Genesis Device and ensure Locarno never gets his hands on the planetary “murder machine.” Her plan is waylaid by sneaky Romulans, who don’t seem swayed by her arguments that Locarno is more interested in bossing than aiding their scheming. Surrounded, she heads into a lethal ion storm—because there always is a space cloud when you need someplace to hide. Locarno’s control over his fleet starts to waver when they refuse to follow, so he goes in alone with the Nova One to get his precious genesis bomb back. Nick and Mariner do a historic reenactment inside the storm and continue to trade barbs. She really nails him for trying to make up for his failure at Starfleet Academy and misunderstanding her disdain for authority for a lack of belief in Starfleet’s mission… a mission Sito died for. She puts in the final nail, pointing out he is just doing the same thing that got Josh killed, putting his new fleet in danger. He counters with “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Very mature, Nick.
“Accept my flappity fisticuffs you foul fiend!”
The USS Cerritos doesn’t sit idle as all this is happening. The crew rallies behind Captain Freeman, who defies Starfleet’s orders to not engage with Locarno’s fleet, concerned about the politics of attacking all those aliens. Tendi suggests they parlay with her sister, so they warp to Orion. D’Erika isn’t keen to help but accepts Tendi’s “barter by combat” challenge. The Orion crime lord (crime lady?) picks a huge champion Boimler notes is a “Shaxs and a half,” and Tendi shocks everyone by choosing Dr. Migleemo. The fight starts off as you might imagine, with the Starfleet bird man getting thrown around the arena like a chew toy, but a confident Tendi turns things around when she beckons the counselor to fluff his down. After Migleemo puffs up like a plushie, the very allergic B’eth starts sneezing, giving him the surprise upper hand… until the giant Orion woman collapses on him in an anaphylactic coma, which still technically means the Orions now win the USS Cerritos. Before Freeman makes good on that deal, Tendi offers herself instead, knowing the family has always wanted her bad ass back on the crime payroll. D’Erika agrees, and the Feds have themselves the Orion destroyer Retribution, which turns out to be a giant hunk of junk. No backsies! Billups and the engineering team get to work, but soon enough, Rutherford and the dastardly Livik almost come to blows over how to get the old ship back to the Detrion system. T’Lyn has an idea. A mind meld? No. The clashing engineers find common ground in the holodeck as convivial Twains. I do declare a callback!
“Explosive terraformation will initiate in five minutes.”
Soon enough, the Cerritos is back at the Detrion system under the command of… checks notes… acting captain Bradward Boimler! Ignoring Admiral Vassery’s exasperated call to stand down and with all the drama that classic musical cues can muster, the steely Lt. JG uses the towed Orion ship to ram a hole in Locarno’s “impenetrable shield” as Freeman and the other senior officers run through the gap in the captain’s yacht. Nick’s coalition of mutinous aliens are pissed his plan is falling apart and abandon him; even his own crew of Bynars beam away. Alone, he declares he doesn’t need any of them, and he soon finds Mariner’s ship and disables it. Out of options, she activates the Genesis Device, which she is delighted to learn comes with a friendly Ferengi UI. Nick beams in wielding a rifle and all of his entitled overconfidence that he can easily disarm the bomb. She tries once more to reach him, pointing out that so far he hasn’t killed anyone, but he has made the villain mustache twirl and is ready for some murdering. He fires his phaser. Mariner is beamed out at the last moment by her mom, but Beckett continues to try to save Nick until he seals his fate by putting up shields, so they book it. Locarno successfully stops the countdown but is foiled by the UI’s paywall, which demands two bars of latinum. Ferengi gotta Ferengi. BOOM!
“I didn’t survive a Genesis explosion just so I could get hugged to death.”
With all the tense action over, things quiet down on the Cerritos. Captain Freeman is off the hook for defying orders since she also successfully opened up diplomacy with the Orions. As for the Detrion system, the Genesis explosion created a stable M-Class planet the Federation has decided to name after Locarno, so he did get remembered. Good for him. The four five lower deckers reunite for some hugs and character resolutions as Mariner apologizes for being a handful, promising to stop all her self-sabotaging, maybe. But for now, she is more focused on some classic drinking and “Lower Decks! Lower Decks!” chanting in the bar with her friends. This includes T’Lyn, who is also ready to move on from her past, rejecting a call from her old Vulcan captain and committing to stay on the Cerritos to become “science besties” with Tendi. OMG! With Boimler basking on the adulation of his “captaining” and Rutherford back to his feud with Livik, all is well again… until Captain Freeman drops the other boot: An Orion ship has arrived to take Tendi home. The tears start flowing (on screen, I’m not crying, they’re crying, I swear) in the transporter room as D’Vana beams away. The remaining four rally with hopes that she will be back soon enough, but it still hits hard, especially for poor Sam. As for Tendi, she watches the Cerritos fade away as the Orion ship warps home, and with a determined look, the Mistress of the Winter Constellations readies herself for what’s next… in season 5! And that’s a wrap.
This was a very entertaining episode and a great season finale. It had all the action and stakes you could want but never forgot to keep things fun and funny, with plenty of broad comic moments along with the subtle Trek gags just for the fans the show is known for. The pacing was perfectly balanced to allow for all the exploits in multiple locations while still delivering some heartfelt (and heartbreaking) moments. This was a particularly satisfying episode for Mariner’s arc as she finally worked past her self-sabotage, assisted by Tawny Newsome’s strong performance, often with only an inanimate object (her “little buddy” Genesis Device) as a scene partner. Guest star Robert Duncan McNeill also raised the bar to show Locarno’s descent. And while it was an obvious gag, the banter between Boimler and Rutherford debating if Locarno looks like Tom Paris was nicely played.
Picking up on some of the Star Trek themes of the previous episode, Mariner and the Cerritos crew never fire a shot to achieve their goals, instead using ingenuity and reason… and some “Twaining.” However, it might have been nice to see some of this finally get through to Locarno, but perhaps they are holding his redemption for a Star Trek III-like return now that he’s been integrated into the new Planet Locarno. If there was a weak point to this storyline, it would be about Locarno’s ultimate plan: It seemed a bit thin, which became evident as soon as his allies abandoned him. Speaking of classic beats, Mariner’s chase through the Detrion system had many nice franchise echoes, but things got a bit too on the nose when it turned into a beat-for-beat recreation of the Kirk v Khan battle in the Mutara Nebula.
One of the best things about the episode is how finely it tied together elements from the season well beyond bringing resolution to the mystery ship arc. A number of characters introduced earlier in the season returned to play a role, including the insufferable Admiral Vassery and Tendi’s formidable sister D’Erika. Even Goodgey got a brief moment during a montage. The callbacks also added to the laughs from the Twains to Migleemo (established as a foodie in the Ferengi episode) suggesting he and B’eth resolve their differences over a delicious bowl of slime. Consider the Ferengi Genesis Device, dropped in as a throwaway gag earlier in the season, and now it becomes the MacGuffin of the finale. Even the details of making it smaller so Mariner can eventually carry it around shows how Mike McMahan and his team finely calibrated this season.
Picking up on the big reveals from part 1 of this finale last week, this episode got to the emotional heart of Mariner’s origin story by taking us back to her time at the Academy. It was great to see that idealistic version of her, with perhaps a hint that some of that may return now that she has resolved her self-sabotaging. The flashback was also a fantastic way to bring in some major cameos in the form of Shannon Fill, coming out of acting retirement to reprise the role of Sito Jaxa, and Wil Wheaton returning as young (squeaky-voiced) Wesley Crusher. The only complaint here is that it was all too short. It might have been nice for Mariner to return to this memory to maybe tie up her arc in an even tighter bow, or perhaps as part of her plea with Locarno in the final confrontation.
The episode wasn’t just a satisfying tie-up for Mariner, as pretty much everyone had their own great moments, including Boimler getting to live out what he had only fantasized about before. His time in the captain’s chair was epic, assisted with some wonderful musical stings from the James Horner collection and beyond. Composer Chris Westlake was at the top of his game, seamlessly weaving in original and classic music throughout the episode. Another character arc that saw some wonderful resolution was for the fan-favorite new member of the gang T’Lyn, who had her own classic homage with the declaration “I believe the only response in this situation is Cerritos strong.” As for Tendi, when one looks back on the season, she has been the one who has been quietly competent while others struggled with their new promotions, and once again she got the job done in the finale. Her sacrifice was on brand and opened up the opportunity for some interesting stories for the next season, which can’t come soon enough.
It is only fitting that the best season of the series so far ends with the best finale as well. “Old Friends, New Planets” is great comedy, but also great Star Trek. This season has been the best example of how the series is finding humor in and commenting on the franchise but never mocking it or punching down. Instead, it elevates Star Trek by showing it to us in a new light. We know we are getting at least one more season of the series, making it a bit easier to say goodbye for now, but these last nine weeks have been a delight and a highlight of 2023.
- This is the first Lower Decks episode written by May Darmon, who was previously Mike McMahan’s assistant and prior to that, Alex Kurtzman’s assistant on Discovery. Her first script credits were on McMahan’s other animated sci-fi comedy Solar Opposites.
- The episode begins with “previously on Star Trek: Lower Decks,” which the series also did with the season 3 episode “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption.”
- The Detrion System is new and not to be confused with the Detrian System seen in the TNG episode “Ship in a Bottle.”
- When Locarno made his speech, you could see reactions on a number of other vessels including the Free Spirit under the command of Petra Aberdeen. Mariner had joined that crew after resigning from Starfleet in season 3.
- The episode introduced two new Ferengi Rules of Acquisition:
- 91: Your boss is only worth what he pays you.
- 289: Shoot first, count profits later.
- The ship Mariner takes from the Nova base was a Steamrunner class named the USS Passaro (NCC 52670). There will also be a Gagarin class USS Passaro in the 25th century (seen in the Picard series finale). Both ships are named in honor of Star Trek artist Fabio Passaro, who passed away in 2022.
- Mariner refers to the ship as an “old tub” but Steamrunners were seen in active duty over the previous decade (in Star Trek: First Contact and Voyager) and one will still be active 20 years after this episode (as seen in season 3 of Picard).
- The “Trynar Shield” and Locarno’s bridge crew reveal that Bynars also work as trios, as noted by Mariner when she said “Oh, the three Bynars, right. Can you have three Bynars?”
Easter eggs and more to come
There were plenty of canon connections and more to explore in a follow-up Easter egg analysis, so keep an eye out for that. And every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast reviews the latest episode and 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.
New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere on Thursdays, streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and Europe. It will stream on Paramount+ in S. Korea later in the year. Lower Decks also airs on Thursdays in Canada on CTV Sci-Fi Channel.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.