Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Lower Decks Points Out Starfleet’s Biggest Flaw

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Episode 10, "No Small Parts," now streaming on CBS All Access.

In theStar Trek universe, Starfleet is presented as an idealistic organization that preaches peace and prosperity. Its ideals are commendable, and they carry a message of hope and unity between all alien races wishing to join the Federation. It's a hopeful look at the future, something that humanity, in its present predicament, should strive to emulate. However, it turns out Starfleet isn't all that perfect.

In fact, in the Season 1 finale of Star Trek: Lower Decks, a pair of Starfleet's failures comes back to haunt the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos, and it reveals the organization's biggest flaw.

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At the start of "No Small Parts," the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos visits the planet Beta III, where the natives have fallen under the influence of a computer overlord named Landru. This is actually a situation that was first resolved in  the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "The Return of the Archons." While the Beta III natives were eventually freed from Landru by Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, it appears as if, decades later, they reverted to following the evil computer once more. Therefore, Captain Freeman and the Cerritos have to save them again.

Then, later on in the episode, the Cerritos is attacked by the Pakleds, a race of aliens who first went up against Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 episode, "The Samaritan Snare." The Pakleds weren't all that intelligent, so whatever progress they made in the realm of technology came from stealing what they could from other races. The Pakleds were deemed ridiculous, and largely inoffensive. However, when they return in the Lower Decks finale, they have now stolen so much powerful weaponry that they are able to destroy the U.S.S. Solvang. They kill the ship's entire crew, and their attack even results in the death of Lieutenant Shaxs.

On both occasions, threats that were believed dealt with returned, threatening the lives of many once more -- and in the case of the Pakleds, more than ever before. Thankfully, Captain Freeman and her crew are able to defeat them once again, but this leads Mariner to point out Starfleet's flaw. While the organization is great at exploring and observing new planets and new civilizations, they aren't good at maintaining these observations and making sure that whatever changes they bring remain in place. Usually, whenever the crew of a starship is finished exploring and perhaps even changing a new planet, they simply leave and don't look back.

The universe is a large place, and the starships just go on to further explore. But, in this case, Mariner and Freeman realize the dangers that can come from this practice. While Starfleet changes things for the better, they can't be certain this peace will remain in place forever. There's always a chance things will get worse, and Starfleet isn't around to observe and prevent this regression. Therefore, there might be many more dangers out there in the Star Trek universe -- dangers that were long ago believed resolved.

Streaming on CBS All Access, 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.

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