Star Trek: Lower Decks Parodies TOS & TNG Pandemics
Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1, episode 1 - "Second Contact"
Star Trek: Lower Decks' series premiere plunges the U.S.S. Cerritos into a crisis that cleverly nods to the pandemics the two U.S.S. Enterprises faced in Star Trek: The Original Series andStar Trek: The Next Generation. Created by Mike McMahon (Rick & Morty), Star Trek: Lower Decks is the first half-hour animated comedy set in the Star Trek universe. This time, the show centers on the junior officers of a starship traveling the galaxy in the 24th-century TNG era.
The problem plaguing the crew of the Cerritos resembles the Psi 2000 virus that infected the crews led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). In "The Naked Time", which was the 6th episode of TOS season 1, the Enterprise crew is exposed to polywater intoxication, AKA the Psi 2000 virus, named for the planet the starship visited in the episode. The effects of the virus are similar to the lowering of inhibitions due to alcohol intoxication. Not only were infected crew members acting bizarrely, like Mr. Sulu (George Takei) running around with a sword, but even Spock (Leonard Nimoy) succumbed to the effects of the disease and lost his Vulcan control over his emotions. The crew's irrational behavior nearly destroyed the ship until Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) synthesized a cure.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
The second episode of TNG season 1, "The Naked Now", was a remake of the TOS episode. The same polywater intoxication afflicted the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D with nearly identical effects, right down to Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) taking over Engineering and declaring himself Captain, just like Lt. Kevin Riley (Bruce Hyde) did on Kirk's Enterprise. Even Data was somehow affected by the virus, just like Spock was. Picard's Enterprise eventually beat the virus when Dr. Beverly Crusher developed an altered version of the antidote Dr. McCoy created decades prior. "The Naked Time" and "The Naked Now" established a precedent for a ship-wide crisis early in a Star Trek series, and Star Trek: Lower Decks knowingly follows that tradition.
However, Star Trek: Lower Decks' premiere, "Second Contact", thankfully didn't use the Psi 2000 virus for the third time. Rather, the Cerritos' crew was infected by a rage virus brought to the ship by Commander Jack Ransom (Jerry O'Connell) while he was performing second contact duties with the Galardonians. After he was mysteriously bitten on the neck, Ransom transformed into a black-bile-puking rage zombie and so did numerous members of the crew who were exposed to the rage virus. The crisis aboard the Cerritos was more chaotic than on the Enterprises and nods more to the action-packed moments of fighting zombies on The Walking Dead and Picard's crew fighting the Borg aboard the Enterprise-E in Star Trek: First Contact.
Not unlike TOS and TNG, the cure to the rage virus was developed by Dr. T'Ana (Gillian Vigman), the Cerritos' Chief Medical Officer, from the goo covering Ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) when he was nearly eaten by a Galardonian spider-cow. Soon, the infected aboard the Cerritos were returned to normal, but the ship's senior staff took full credit for beating the pandemic, much to the chagrin of Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawney Newsome), who knew that it was herself and Boimler from the lower decks who indirectly saved the ship.
With the rage virus, "Second Contact" ingeniously showcases how being in Starfleet is can be incredibly dangerous but still a lot of fun. And along with doing their own spin on a ship-wide pandemic, Star Trek: Lower Decks also name-checked Spock, Kirk, Sulu, Worf (Michael Dorn), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), and even Lt. Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) from the TOS season 1 premiere, "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Star Trek: Lower Decks maintains canon while gleefully continuing the proud tradition of Star Trek even as their journeys explore space as the "funnest frontier".
Star Trek: Lower Decksstreams Thursdays on CBS All-Access.