Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Lower Decks Debuted Its Version of a Famous TNG Character

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Episode 6, "Terminal Provocation," now streaming on CBS All Access.

Taking place only a year after the events of Star Trek: NemesisStar Trek: Lower Decks has not shied away from making references to the beloved Next Generation series. Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise have been referenced in nearly every episode, from Captain Picard Day being celebrated galaxy-wide to a teddy bear sporting a Geordi LaForge-style VISOR. But the latest episode of the animated series went the extra parsec in creating its own version of a recurring TNG character, with disastrous results.

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The main plot of "Terminal Provocation," the latest Lower Decks episode, involves a newly introduced character named Fletcher. Voiced by Tim Robinson, the tall and broad-chested ensign seems like the perfect Starfleet officer, a confident yet approachable diplomat. But when Fletcher's left on his own to cover for fellow ensigns Boimler and Mariner, his facade cracks. He turns out to be equal parts anxious and inept, continually making things worse and lashing out angrily and desperately.

Fans of The Next Generation may have watched Fletcher and gotten flashbacks to Enterprise engineer Lieutenant Reginald Barclay. According to series creator Mike McMahan, that's by design. "Barclay was one of those characters where sometimes people don't fit in at their place of work," he revealed on Twitter, "and the Enterprise was no exception to that." Played by Dwight Schultz, Barclay appeared in five TNG episodes, and made guest appearances on Voyager. Like Fletcher, he was commonly portrayed with social issues, walking around with tense anxiety and committing many emotional and conversational faux pas.

The similarities between the characters stop there, though. While Barclay certainly struggled to acclimate to the Enterprise crew, his different way of thinking allowed him to come up with many innovative solutions to save the day. Fletcher, one the other hand, had no flashes of brilliance. To McMahan notes, the ensign is not an outlier because of his social behaviors, but rather because he's a "jackass."

To cement the connection further, both Barclay and Fletcher encounter the same plot point, though with vastly different results. The two men separately have connected themselves into the ship's computer. For Barclay, the episode "The Nth Degree" made him a super-genius via an alien energy pulse. While the plot allowed us to see a new side of Reg, things turn more dangerous, when he wires himself into the Enterprise, warping the ship into the center of the Milky Way galaxy. There, the crew is greeted by a group of aliens called the Cytherians, who imbued Barclay with his intelligence so they could exchange knowledge.

Fletcher's experience is different. Frustrated at not being able to do his work, he decides to connect himself to an isolinear core to "become smarter." And of course, things go wrong. The core takes on Fletcher's lack of brains, becoming similarly aggressive and short-sighted. It gains sentience and tries to grab anything with intelligence to integrate with itself, turning into a behemoth. Mariner and Boimler are able to get it out an airlock--with no help from Fletcher--where it ends up destroying a group of alien scavengers that were attacking the Cerritos.

"Terminal Provocation" ends in a similar way many Barclay episodes do, with Fletcher being commended for his unique thinking in saving the day, as unfounded as it is. It turns out that Mariner purposely played up his role to get him promoted and transferred off the Cerritos to get him out of their hair. And his tenure as lieutenant doesn't last long, as six days later he gets fired for dumping trash in the warp core. And let's be honest, though Reg Barclay possesses some out-of-the-box thinking, a transfer off the Enterprise would have probably been the best thing for him too.

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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