Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3.Star Trek: Lower Decks is known for its esoteric homages to the franchise which it includes organically while keeping its main cast of characters center stage. Set aboard the USS Cerritos, the animated show gives viewers a unique look at life in Starfleet, with an upstairs-downstairs perspective. Creator Mike McMahan brings his love for the franchise to the fore by packing in as many throwbacks each season as possible. The throwbacks in Season 3 are bigger and better, including an entire episode paying homage to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Even avid Star Trek fans might miss some of the many Easter Eggs McMahan and the creative team dropped in the third season, so let’s look at some of the more significant ones. We can’t include them all, but alongside orbital lifts, baby leaders, and captain’s yachts, what else is hiding in plain sight?
Yes, That’s James Cromwell as Zefram Cochrane
In an effort to prove Captain Carol Freeman’s (Dawnn Lewis) innocence in the destruction of Pakled Planet, her daughter Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and the rest of the gang head to Bozeman, Montana, the location of one of the most historic moments in Star Trek. This was where the legendary Zefram Cochrane launched the prototype warp-capable vessel, the Phoenix missile.
In 2382, the area has been turned into a re-enactment theme park with several elements last seen in Star Trek: First Contact, including a version of the infamous Crash-n-Burn Bar, a replica of the Vulcan ship that made first contact with Earth as well as a holographic version of the genius and eccentric inventor himself. And the best part, the character is brought back to life by James Cromwell, who reprises his role from Star Trek: First Contact. It’s a brief role, but the addition of his voice and eccentric dialogue adds authenticity to the theme park.
Is That Tuvok Helping the Cerritos?
The premiere had another surprise waiting for fans. Just as it seems that Mariner and her friends have failed in their mission to exonerate Captain Freeman, the captain herself appears and explains how she escaped sentencing. Turns out a Pakled data fabricator had implicated her in the planet’s destruction and the information was found out through an aggressive Vulcan mind meld. And the architect of this mind meld was none other than Commander Tuvok!
But hold up, isn’t Tuvok on Voyager which is lost in the Delta Quadrant? Not anymore. Star Trek: Lower Decks takes place in the 2380s (2382 in Season 3), which is after Voyager has already returned to Earth. So, while the character doesn’t speak in the episode, it appears that Tuvok remained with Starfleet and also got a promotion to full Commander.
You Have Heard of General Martok
In the second episode of the season, “ »he Least Dangerous Game, » Beckett, Boimler (Jack Quaid), Tendi (Noël Wells), and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) enjoy some leisure time playing Bat’leths & BiHnuchs, a D&D style role-playing tabletop game that involves dying with honor as a Klingon warrior. The host for this game is a recorded version of General Martok, voiced by JG Hertzler.
Hertzler, who played many roles in the franchise, was a regular as Martok on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (this season gives the show so much recognition!). Martok was a Klingon warrior and a leader in the Klingon Defense Force during the Dominion War. He was eventually elected the Chancellor of the Klingon Empire. As Boimler explains to Rutherford, Martok didn’t actually record himself for the game, the recording is a Ferengi knock-off. But the B&B dialogue is really well done and fake-Martok makes an excellent gamemaster. That’s not quite the legacy we predicted for Martok, but we’ll take it.
Who is Dr. Leah Brahms?
Season 3, Episode 3, “Mining the Mind’s Mine,” takes place on Jengus IV, where Beckett and team are sent to delicately remove Psychic Mines that read a person’s thoughts, bring their fantasies to life, and then turn them into stone. That goes swimmingly because it’s not long before the Cerritos crew come face to face with their wildest imaginings. Of particular note is Rutherford’s fantasy—of working with Leah Brahms.
Susan Gibney voices the character whom she first played on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Brahms is a leading scientist in warp field theory and the engineer who designed and built the warp engine of the Enterprise. The character appeared in the episode « Booby Trap, » when Enterprise engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) created a holographic version of Brahms to save the ship. He fell in love with her but then met the real Brahms who was nothing like her holographic self, and worse, it turns out she was married!
The Captain’s Mask Looks Familiar
At the start of « Room for Growth, » Captain Freeman is seen terrorizing the Cerritos after being possessed by an alien mask. The mask may look familiar to eagle-eyed fans; we’ve seen it before on The Next Generation episode « Masks. » The Enterprise came across a comet that downloaded its cultural database onto the ship, slowly transforming the ship and its crew into beings from an ancient civilization. Data (Brent Spiner) wears a mask similar to Captain Freeman’s.
On Lower Decks, Beckett mentions that this is the third time the ship has been transformed by an ancient mask, and even Captain Freeman, who was possessed by the spirit of Minooki from the D’Arsay Archives, is exasperated by yet another incident. The episode also dives into what happens when the credits roll after such a transformation—the crew’s days-long attempt at restoring the ship with little sleep. No wonder they need a spa day.
All the Fashion Callbacks
Fandom and merchandise go hand in hand, so it should come as no surprise that Star Trek ships include some of their own merch as well. Star Trek: Discovery introduced casual wear for the crew that looks like plain blue jerseys with ‘DISCO’ (short for Discovery) emblazoned on the front. Star Trek: Lower Decks follows suit and we see Beckett and several other crew members sporting similar ‘RITOS’ shirts, this time in an identical shade of blue. It doesn’t quite have the ring to it as DISCO, but they still look cool.
And these aren’t the only couture throwbacks in the season. Rutherford is seen wearing an asymmetrical purple sweater that was worn by Jake Sisko (Cirroc Lofton) on Deep Space Nine; the outfits worn by the Dulanians in the second episode are reminiscent of the clothing worn by the Edo in The Next Generation episode « Justice. » There’s also an engineering crew member who’s seen wearing the same visor as another engineer, Geordi La Forge.
More ‘Voyager’ Love
Rutherford has an interesting arc this season, as he learns that the cybernetic implants in his body may not have been completely voluntary. We find out about this during « Reflections, » an episode where Rutherford is confronted by his younger self. The two fight for control over Rutherford’s body, and younger Rutherford suggests they space race each other. Whoever wins gets control.
They challenge one another to build a ship from scratch—young Rutherford creates a unique racer, but older Rutherford recreates the Delta Flyer! And why not? Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) built the ship with other members of the Voyager crew, and this ship actually did enter (and almost win) a space race. Rutherford even replicates the same racing outfit from Star Trek: Voyagerepisode « Drive, » when Tom and Harry Kim (Garrett Wang), and later B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) joined the race. You can’t go wrong with a classic.
Do We Really Find Out What Happened to Sisko?
Not only is it great to see that Joseph Sisko’s Creole cuisine restaurant is still running (and apparently the gumbo is still a hot favorite as seen in the Season 3 premiere), but Mariner somewhat hints that we may have a conclusion to Captain Benjamin Sisko’s (Avery Brooks) story. Sisko was called away by the Prophets/Wormhole Aliens in the series finale of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine—this meant that he ostensibly disappeared from the timeline, leaving behind his father Joseph (Brock Peters), teenaged son Jake and pregnant second wife Kasidy Yates (Penny Johnson Jerald). Sisko had been deemed the Emissary of the Prophets, but the series finale was a melancholic end to his conflicted relationship with the all-seeing beings.
In « Reflections, » Beckett and Boimler are stuck in a recruitment booth and conspiracy truthers ask the question all fans have been wondering—what really happened to Sisko? Mariner replies almost immediately that Sisko is « working hard in a celestial temple. » Does that mean Sisko is back but has new duties, or is that the official Starfleet line for their missing captain? Won’t someone confirm what happened to Sisko?!
William Boimler’s Resurrection
In “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus,” Boimler learns that his transporter accident clone, William, died in a meaningless accident. But, in a cliffhanger twist, we learn that William’s death was faked by none other than Section 31. A mysterious figure hands him the agency’s signature black Starfleet badge as a welcome. Section 31 is a clandestine organization that claims to work for the benefit of the Federation, but their methods are unorthodox and often unethical.
Over several series, Section 31 has recruited the help of several Starfleet officers, oftentimes without their consent—Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating) from Star Trek: Enterprise had dealings with them, Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) was also captured by the group while on Deep Space Nine. Two recurring crew members from Star Trek: Discovery joined the agency, Emperor Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and then Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif). Like William, Ash’s death was faked, and he was then recruited.
The penultimate episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 sees Captain Freeman heading the first Starfleet “swing-by” effort—a program she invented to give California class ships like the Cerritos more credibility. Her first mission is to check in on the Ornarans, a species who had been contacted for the first (and last) time by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) in The Next Generation episode, « Symbiosis. »
The Ornarans were an advanced race who were unwittingly addicted to a drug created by their neighbors on Brekka. The Brekkians had duped the Ornarans into believing they were suffering from a plague and were ingesting a cure. The cure was used for trading supplies, but the Ornarans were completely under the Brekkians’ thumb. Picard worked around the Prime Directive to instigate the end of this ‘symbiosis’ and we see that 17 years later, after a lot of work, the Ornarans are thriving. Things didn’t work out so well for the Brekkians though, which is disturbing.
Archaeology Is Cool!
Petra Aberdeen (Georgia King) is the latest character with an archeological bent of mind to join the franchise. She’s part of the Independent Archaeologists Guild, with a mysterious benefactor. Mariner eventually discovers in the Season 3 finale who that person is—none other than Admiral Picard.
Archeology is a subject close to Picard’s heart. As a young man, he was poised to join the field and his Starfleet instructor, renowned 24th-century archaeologist Richard Galen (Norman Lloyd), believed Picard would surpass even himself in the area. But Picard chose a different path and the two wouldn’t speak for another three decades. Following Galen’s death, Picard completed his mentor’s final mission. Picard later went on to meet and become fascinated by Vash (Jennifer Hetrick), a free-spirited archeologist, whom he had two adventures with. Petra’s personality is reminiscent of Vash’s. No wonder Picard is so eager to support this enterprise.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is available to stream on Paramount+.