Star Trek: Lower Decks Wants To Bring On Two Fan-Favorite Next Generation Stars

Trekkies from the 1990s were spoiled, perhaps even more spoiled than in 2022. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" debuted in 1987, and was so successful, it ran for seven seasons. During its run, the show spun off twice into "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1993 – 1999) and "Star Trek: Voyager" (1995 – 2001) and by 2002, there were four NextGen feature films. In addition to all the shows and movies, the Creation Entertainment Grand Slam conventions — the biggest "Trek" cons yet — began in Pasadena, CA in 1993. In 1998, Star Trek: The Experience opened at the Las Vegas Hilton, and Trekkies could visit Quark's Bar and experience "Borg Invasion 4-D." Trek hasn't reached this level of pop saturation since.

Although it's coming close with the recent era of Paramount+ shows. There are currently five new Trek shows running concurrently (it seems "Short Treks" may be at an end), with news of more shows and movies on the way. Importantly, most of the new shows are "legacy" shows, taking characters and ships seen in older Treks and repurposing them. Case in point: one of the new shows is merely called "Star Trek: Picard." "Strange New Worlds," additionally, is almost all known previously-known characters, and — most importantly for the purposes of this article — "Lower Decks" gets a great deal of mileage from a steady deluge of references and callbacks. 

Mike McMahan, the creator of "Lower Decks," has been incredibly tactful about his many callbacks, however. A viewer doesn't need deep-cut knowledge of "Trek" to understand the characters or the stories. Although it certainly enhances the experience. Seeing the U.S.S. Titan or the Crystalline Entity in the background won't mean much to casual viewers, but Trekkie will likely wiggle in self-satisfied recognition. 

Geordi and Data

"Lower Decks" is, one should recall, a spirited nostalgia trip for those 1990s Trek days. The show picks up on the straightforward timeline of events that began with NextGen and ended with "Voyager." The aesthetic on the "Lower Decks" starships resembles the NextGen era, and "Voyager" is only the recent past. The list of references and side characters seen throughout "Lower Decks" is incredibly long, and enterprising Trekkies regularly author lists of recognizable "Trek" stuff in new episodes. 

McMahan, however, wishes he could take the show's legacy just one step further. McMahan's favorite characters on NextGen were Data (Brent Spiner) and Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), the android and the engineer. In a September 2022 interview with the website Fangirlish, McMahan laments that he has not been able to include them yet:

"I haven't had Geordi and Data on. I haven't had Spiner or LaVar on, and to me, they were really the heart of TNG. I just love them so much. I'll never be able to get Rene Auberjonois because he passed away, but he was another dream person to be able to work with on this show. Geordi and Data are spiritually in the show as Tendi and Rutherford, but getting them actually in there in some way you know, like in the timeline, it's tough with Data, but the holodeck always exists! I want to wait and see."

Tendi (Noël Wells) and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) are the more enthused, upbeat characters on "Lower Decks," often excited about their jobs in Starfleet. Geordi and Data were the "nerd" characters on the show, often looking at problems from a technical perspective. One can see the parallel.

The timeline is tough

When McMahan says the timeline is tough, he means specifically that, in the chronology of "Lower Decks," Data is dead. In Stuart Baird's 2002 film "Star Trek: Nemesis," Data sacrificed himself to blow up a Romulan doomsday ship that had its weapons trained on a helpless Enterprise. That film took place in 2379. "Lower Decks" is now rounding 2383. Data is dead, and we don't know where Geordi might be. Likely on a newly repaired Enterprise-E, still its chief engineer. Data would eventually be resurrected for "Star Trek: Picard," but that show doesn't take place until 2399. 

The third season of "Picard" is coming in February of 2023, and showrunner Terry Matalas has endeavored to reunite the entire central cast of NextGen. This throws an extra monkey wrench into McMahan's desire to include Geordi and Data on "Lower Decks," as he needs to wait and see what is canonically put in place; it would be awkward if McMahan declared Geordi to be married to Dr. Leah Brahms, only for "Picard" to contradict that. In Mahan's words: 

"I've heard that there's going to be some of the legacy cast in Picard season 3, and I want to see what Terry does with all of them before I start mucking around. Because his show takes place 30 years after mine, everything that they've figured out for them and written for them is really going to define where they are in the time period for 'Lower Decks.'"

Knowing "Lower Decks," they'll find a solution. Holodecks, time travel, mirror universes. "Trek" is pliable that way.