Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Lower Decks Teases Secret Mission to Change History

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 5 of Star Trek: Lower Decks, "Cupid's Errant Arrow," now streaming on CBS All Access.

If there's one major Star Trek staple that has been around ever since the franchise's beginning, it's time travel and the way those visits to the past reverberate across the entire space-time continuum. From the original series preventing Doctor McCoy from accidentally changing history by preserving the United States' timely entry into World War II to the Enterprise traveling back to the 21st century to prevent a chronal invasion by the Borg in 1996's Star Trek: First Contact, there is no shortage of instances when Starfleet has sought to preserve or alter the course of humanity.

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In the latest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks Ensigns Rutherford and Tendi attempt to impress Ron Docent, a senior officer on board the U.S.S. Vancouver, a more respected starship than the Cerritos, which is accompanying it for a controlled planetary demolition. Tempted with an offer for complimentary state-of-the-art scanners not yet available to most Starfleet personnel, the pair complete their duties, with Docent prepared to transfer them to the Vancouver against their will. The two junior officers turn down their transfers and a frustrated Docent vents about how stressful it is to serve on a high-profile ship like the Vancouver. In the process he reveals a time-travel mission he and the Vancouver's crew went on.

Docent mentions the Vancouver once traveled back to the past to kill someone worse than Hitler before they could come into power, but quickly changes topics before Rutherford and Tendi can gather more information about the assignment. The implication is that, in the past, there was a figure so evil Starfleet was willing to risk the entire fabric of space-time to history by killing them; not even the Enterprise embarked on such a high-stakes temporal assassination mission, a rare, brutal move from the enlightened, peacekeeping organization.

Time travel has become such a staple in the franchise that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine introduced the Department of Temporal Investigations. This division of Starfleet was specifically created to ensure that no reckless time travel was undertaken and that history and the space-time continuum is preserved in order to mitigate the reality-altering paradoxes that could arise. In their introduction, the division had a noted contempt for Admiral James T. Kirk due to his frequent time-travel adventures in the original series and 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Docent's passing comment suggests there is a darker side to Starfleet than the idealistic United Federation normally presents in which it carries out tasks as lethal as the organization's black-ops division, Section 31. Although the organization has become increasingly wary of relying on time travel to get the job done, it was used to rectify an unseen side of human history and make for a more optimal version of the 24th century. Whether the Cerritos will ever go on time-travel adventures of its own this season remains to be seen, but the mechanism is apparently as widespread as it ever was, even with the existence of the Department of Temporal Investigations.

Star Trek: Lower Decks stars Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, Noël Wells as Ensign Tendi, Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman, Jerry O'Connell as Commander Jack Ransom, Gillian Vigman as Doctor T'Ana and Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs. New episodes premiere Thursdays on CBS All Access.

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