Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Includes One Of Its Funniest And Most Deep Cut References

The central joke of "Star Trek: Lower Decks" is that a career in Starfleet, however dazzling on the page, is still full of petty, garbage jobs that no one necessarily wants. In the fifth episode of season 3 of "Lower Decks" — called "Reflections" — Ensigns Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Mariner (Tawny Newsome) are tasked with working a Starfleet recruitment booth at a futuristic jobs bazaar. Standing under a 10'-by-10' sunshade emblazoned with Starfleet logos, Boimler and Mariner have to make desperate, impassioned pitches to casual passersby that Starfleet is the bee's knees. They have the bad luck of being stationed right next to a vaguely criminal — and ultra-cool — adventuring archeologist booth. 

The idea that Starfleet would need a military recruitment booth at a jobs fair is simultaneously logical and a little sad. Surely Starfleet would want to get the word out about what kind of lifestyle they offer, and would constantly require new officers to explore new parts of the galaxy. Starfleet, however — as "Reflections" points out — isn't as naturally attractive to other people in the "Trek" universe as it might be to viewers. You and I may want to serve on a Starfleet vessel, but a sexy archeologist may not have need for the bland, technical, militaristic status quo offered by such an organization. 

One of the other booths at the jobs fair appears to be a board game manufacturer of some kind. A kindly alien couple stand in front of a colorful wall hanging depicting some sort of board game map, and have a few 3-D chess sets for sale. Trekkies will recognize the couple as Wadi, a species from the Gamma quadrant, last seen on the ninth episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," entitled "Move Along Home" (March 15, 1993). 

Move Along Home

While trying to make a pitch, Boimler is mocked for his uniform and Starfleet is criticized for their vague colonialist leanings. When a passing ruffian plucks Boimler's single rank pip off his collar, Boimler cracks, and begins flipping tables and screaming at his neighbors about the nobility of serving on a starship. During his raving, Boimler slams his palms onto the booth table of the Wadi. "You're always trapping people in games! Stop trapping people in games!" In "Move Along Home," the Wadi — via an ineffable technological process — kidnap the crew of Deep Space Nine in a game and force them to play, in real life, a high-stakes board game. 

The episode is largely about how Quark (Armin Shimerman), the station's most prominent business owner, appoints himself a cultural liaison to the visiting Wadi, hoping to introduce them to gambling and to bilk them out of their money. The Wadi respond with an introduction of their own game, a six-foot tall, multi-tiered structure with meeples placed throughout. It's called Chula. Quark, curious, elects to play. What Quark doesn't know is that the game has teleported Commander Sisko (Avery Brooks), Lt. Dax (Terry Farrell), Major Kira (Nana Visitor), and Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig) to a pocket dimension where they have to solve strange, childish games to cross mysterious, alien escape rooms. The crew have to chant nursery rhymes, drink champagne, and brave the sudden appearance of caves and canyons (!). 

The fantastical conceits and the bizarre "escape room" premise have left "Move Along Home" in "Trek" memory as one of the worst episodes of the series. Indeed, in "What We Left Behind," the 2018 documentary film about "Deep Space Nine," Visitor and showrunner Ira Steven Behr mock the episode openly.

Games in Star Trek

Also at the Wadi table are other recognizable games. They have a copy of "Bat'leths & bIHnuchs," the board game that the show's main characters payed at the start of the season's second episode, "The Least Dangerous Game." They also have a few spindly headsets for sale, clearly copies of the Game from the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "The Game" (October 28, 1991). In that episode, the Game was a VR headset that beams a game scenario directly into the player's field of vision. Using only their thoughts, a player directed a virtual discus into an awaiting funnel. As a reward, the Game stimulated the pleasure centers of one's brain. It also, it turns out, made a player docile and susceptible to suggestion, as evidenced by the original owner of the Game (Katherine Moffat) demanding the keys to the Enterprise. 

The Wadi, this episode posits, are an entirely game-based culture. They are also vaguely malevolent. In "Move Along Home," they hiss and cackle like supervillains, and appear to be very threatening. Of course, "Move Along Home" ends with Sisko and crew reappearing back at home having suffered no harm. When they express astonishment at their having escaped unscathed, the leader of the Wadi (Joel Brooks) explains, bemused, that "It's only a game."

Boimler's explosive "Stop trapping people in games!" is a fun DS9 callback, but is also a fun way to communicate the dignity of Starfleet. Boimler is willing to trash marketplace tables to point out the study of quasars and the occasional rescue mission are going to be nobler endeavors than trapping unwitting saps in board games. Boimler, in his raving, is making a point. His outburst, naturally, gets a few e-mail addresses on the Starfleet sign-up sheet.