Star Trek: Lower Decks Finale Connects the Past and Changes the Future
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Episode 10, "Small Parts," now streaming on CBS All Access.
The entire first season of Star Trek: Lower Decks has paid homage to the era of The Next Generation, most notably going back to an episodic rather than serialized format in a departure from series like Discovery and Picard. And while the Season 1 finale still had its TNG references -- including a game-changing cameo -- it chose to bring together all the threads from its previous installments to weave an epic and dramatic tapestry.
The finale starts with a sequel to TOS ("Those Old Scientists," according to Ransom), as Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) visits the Beta III planet from the episode "The Return of the Archons." Saving a society from computer subjugation for the second time has left the captain feeling disillusioned with Starfleet, dissatisfied with having to wait to intervene with a society until it destroys itself. But the unhappiness has just begun for Freeman, as she pings Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Boimler (Jack Quaid) while they're giving away art supplies on the planet. And through their overheard conversation, the entire Cerritos crew finds out what Boimler did last episode: Freeman is Mariner's mother.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
Before fans can see the fallout from that revelation, though, the post-credits scene actually takes the show to the Solvang, led by the panicked captain from the former Rubidoux. An ordinary mission for the ship goes awry when it comes into contact with a mysterious behemoth of a vessel, which fires on them immediately. Unfortunately, the Rubidoux crew is unable to escape death twice, as the ship grabs onto the Solvang and vaporizes it in one brutal blast.
Back aboard the Cerritos, Tendi (Noel Wells) has come full circle, now serving as the orientation liaison to another science officer. Surprisingly, that new recruit is an exocomp (Kether Donohue), an advanced artificial lifeform that gained sentience in the TNG episode "The Quality of Life." As the exocomp begins to adjust to her new ship, Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) is making his own adjustments to his Vulcan implant. In the process, he finds a setting that allows him to change his mode, ranging from Overly Optimistic to British to standard Sexy.
Things have also changed for Mariner when it comes to her perception on the ship. Her relationship with the captain is the talk of the town, and everyone from the ensigns to high-ranking officers is treating her differently. That includes Boimler, who actually asks her to help him get promoted to the Sacramento. But Mariner gets an idea, opting to go for the promotion herself and get another chance at anonymity. She rolls down her sleeves and puts up her hair to take on a new Boimler-like attitude, which is enough to get Ransom (Jerry O'Connell) to consider her for the promotion, in spite of Boimler's extensive resume.
Tendi is taking her new role to heart, helping the exocomp -- who has given herself the "mathematically perfect" name of Peanut Hamper --fit in on the ship. She's worried about her limitations as an officer, but a perfect incision made by her in Sick Bay impresses her and Dr. T'Ana (Gillian Vigman). Meanwhile, the Cerritos receives the distress call of the late Solvang and warps to their location. There, they find the ship's wreckage, as well as the species behind the menacing destroyer: the Pakleds. And though the group appeared comically inept in their TNG appearance, their scavenging now sports technology from over 30 species, making it clear that they are no joke.
The Pakleds grab onto the Cerritos, and Freeman turns to Mariner for a textbook rule-breaking solution. Literally letting her hair down, Mariner gets Rutherford to create a virus that can be installed on the enemy ship to disarm them. Rutherford heads to the holodeck to get help from his old friend/formerly homicidal creation Badgey (Jack McBrayer). And while Badgey gleefully agrees to help his father manually install the virus in the Pakled ship, there's an edge to his voice that hints at his first appearance.
The Pakleds (slowly) beam aboard the Cerritos, surrounding the bridge crew. Luckily, Mariner reveals teems of stashed contraband weapons -- including a bat'leth that cut Boimler in the series' very first scene -- which helps the gang make easy work of the intruders. In the fracas, Boimler tells Mariner she's his best friend, while Freeman gets injured. Everyone rushes into Sick Bay and outlines what needs to happen. Someone needs to go into the Pakled ship and manually install the virus, and naturally, Peanut Hamper is the one for the job. However, she bluntly refuses the invitation, beaming away and gloating about the superiority of inorganic life.
Seeing no other choice, Rutherford immediately volunteers to take the virus over himself. He's exuberantly joined by Shaxs (Fred Tasciatore), and the Bajoran papa bear grabs his former baby bear and rams their shuttlecraft through the Pakled ship in the blink of an eye. Just when everything seems to be going according to plan, Badgey pops up to taunt his father. Avenging his death, he triggers the ship to explode. However, it's Shaxs who has the last laugh, as he rips out Rutherford's implant and gets him to safety, sacrificing himself in the process.
The crew can't take time to mourn, though, as several more outfitted Pakled ships warp in. Just when all looks lost for the Cerritos, a familiar theme hums in the distance. Much like the Picard finale, the Titan is here to save the day, helmed by Captain Will Riker and Commander Deanna Troi (Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis, reprising their famous roles). As the new ship tears through the Pakleds, Riker greets Mariner, and it's revealed he helped set her up with all their contraband. The enemies flee in bulk, finally ending the conflict.
While Freeman insists that the Cerritos look the same as before, it's clear the crew (and show) are changed forever. Rutherford is being cared for, but it turns out the loss of his implant means the loss of his memories. That includes Tendi, though she's characteristically chipper about getting to become friends again. After laying Shaxs to rest, Freeman seems ready to punish Mariner for all of her rule-breaking. But like her daughter, she is beginning to see some of Starfleet's downsides and offers they work together to make the galaxy a better place, one loophole at a time.
The crew congregates at the bar, where Boimler apologizes to Mariner for his hyper-focus on rank, promising to concentrate on what's in front of him. And that happens to be Riker, who compliments his work. This leads into the ending twist of the season, as several irate voicemails from Mariner show fans that Boimler has been transferred and promoted to the Titan. Lieutenant Boimler has a swagger not seen from the Ensign version, impressing his crew members by regaling them with a story of Klingon districts and Andorian bars. He confidently takes the helm as Riker takes the show into warp with a jazz beat.
Though Lower Decks didn't present a "big bad" that led into the finale, its Season 1 closer still felt like an ending. Referencing everything from the first scene of the season to the last scene of the previous episode, it's a showcase of how the show has built up its world and creativity in no time at all. "Small Parts" also opens up several plots to chase in the second season, from Boimler's new role on the Titan to the security officer opening.
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. The show premiered on CBS All Access on Aug. 6.