Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Lower Decks Just Made a Ridiculous TNG Throwaway Line Canon

The Star Trek universe has an ever-expanding continuity, each show building upon the last to build a franchise that is over fifty years old. There are a lot of strange nooks and crannies in Star Trek, some of them downright silly. But die-hard fans have been memorizing and cataloging the many nuggets of lore popping up in each episode. In "Second Contact," the premiere episode of CBS All Access' new animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks, the writers were counting on this fact and put in a very obscure reference, one that wound up rendering a silly background line canon in the main Star Trek universe.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation is considered by most to be a high point in the venerable franchise. During its illustrious run, one of TNG's best episodes was Season 3's "Yesterday's Enterprise," which involved a space-time anomaly that alters the Enterprise's normal timeline and surprised viewers by bringing back Natasha Yar, the ship's original security officer killed back in Season 1.

Her alternate timeline was a dark, grim and militaristic version of the Federation, one that has seen decades of war. During the event of this episode, background chatter can be heard calling a science officer to "Cetacean Ops." This line might sound like nothing, but Cetacea is the scientific classification for aquatic mammals including whales and dolphins. That meant, in this bleak alternate timeline the much more heavily weaponized Enterprise-D, dolphins were considered essential enough to be taken into space. Needless to say, fans have been poking fun at this line since it was first uttered.

At the end of "Yesterday's Enterprise," the correct timeline is restored, Natasha Yar is dead once again and her dolphin equipped Enterprise was no more. People looking for any sort of confirmation regarding Cetacean Ops were out of luck. The closest they ever got was in the Season 5 episode "The Perfect Mate," where Geordi La Forge mentions that there were dolphins currently aboard the Enterprise but he does not mention Cetacean Ops by name.

Lower Decks decided to clear up the matter once and for all when Ensigns Mariner and Boimler are giving the tour of their ship, the U.S.S. Cerritos, to their new teammate Ensign Tendi. Mariner is attempting to goof off and sneaks Tendi onto the holodeck, despite Boimler's protests. Mariner states that holodeck is the best part of the ship, but the over-serious Boimler loudly objects and begins to rattle off important rooms like the warp core, bridge, photon torpedo tubes and finally, Cetacean Ops.

Even though Lower Decks is an animated comedy, it's still considered to be a proper Star Trek entry. This means that Lower Decks sneaked in a reference that made one of the silliest concepts from The Next Generation as explicitly canon in the main timeline. Star Trek fans everywhere can now rejoice knowing that dolphins and whales are officially aboard Starfleet vessels, going boldly where no one has gone before.


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