Star Trek: Lower Decks Brings Back One Of The Franchise's Most Unsettling Enemies

This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of "Star Trek: Lower Decks."

For an animated comedy series, "Star Trek: Lower Decks" takes its world very seriously. The workplace comedy set in Starfleet, now nearing the end of its third season, has deep reverence for the "Star Trek" universe even when it's being its irreverent itself. And that means occasionally getting a little dark

In the third season's penultimate episode, "Trusted Sources," a U.S.S. Cerritos away team ends up face-to-helmet with one of the franchise's most terrifying villains, the Breen. Like the Gorn, the lizard-like species that Captain Kirk (William Shatner) once fought on the original series, the Breen were considered a bit of a joke when they were originally introduced on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." We wouldn't actually see the Breen until "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," and it turns out they're absolutely deserving of our fear. Just like "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" made the Gorn into true nightmare creatures, "Deep Space Nine" revealed that the Breen were bloodthirsty and cold, potentially even scarier than the series' other killing machines, the Jem'Hadar. 

There are quite a few villainous alien races fighting in the Dominion War in "Deep Space Nine," but the Breen were the final villains introduced and they might have dealt a death blow to the entire Alpha Quadrant. Having them show up in "Star Trek: Lower Decks" and having them be just as scary as they were at the end of "Deep Space Nine" is the exact kind of "Star Trek" swing that makes "Lower Decks" so great. 

A Breen invasion on Brekka

In the "Lower Decks" episode, the leadership team of the Cerritos are trying a new initiative created by Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) that she calls the Planetary Follow-Up Initiative. The idea is to go back to planets that engaged with Starfleet in some way and make sure that things are still going well. After all, the Federation has a habit of giving problems quick fixes and then zooming off to explore other parts of the galaxy, so it wouldn't hurt to follow-up. With a journalist tagging along to observe, the crew head down to the planet Ornara, which had been freed from a horrible addiction during a visit from Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in the events of the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "Symbiosis." It turns out that the Ornarans are doing great, and Captain Freeman is going to look foolish in front of the press. She decides to take the crew over to the neighboring planet, Brekka, which was also impacted by Picard's decision because they had been supplying the drugs to the Ornarans. 

When the away team arrives on Brekka, they find it nearly deserted. Then Commander Ransom (Jerry O'Connell) runs into a Brekkan woman who tells him to run, but she's soon phasered out of existence. It turns out that Brekka has been taken over by the Breen, the masked aliens who joined the Dominion near the end of the Dominion War, and they're more than willing to shoot at Starfleet. Ransom and the rest of the away team barely beam out in time, and then they endure a space battle with multiple Breen ships. They survive, but what does this mean for the future of the series? The Breen don't just forgive and forget, and if they're taking over entire planets in the Alpha Quadrant, the Federation has bigger problems than some bad press.

A force to be reckoned with

The Breen were kind of a strange "Star Trek" species because they were mentioned a few times on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Star Trek: Voyager" before they were ever seen on "Deep Space Nine," and became kind of a red herring for danger. When they finally did show up on "Deep Space Nine," however, they were ruthless killers who had very little patience and even fewer scruples. They had the cold, murderous intent of the Jem'Hadar but weren't controlled by anyone or anything. The Breen didn't need Ketracel White or the Changelings commanding them — and they were fearless. By the time they team up with the Changelings and the rest of the Dominion, they've managed to make both Cardassians and Klingons nervous, which is no easy feat. The Breen are never seen without their unique suits or helmets (which coincidentally look a lot like the helmet Princess Leia wears while rescuing Han Solo in "Return of the Jedi"), and their motives, culture, and biology are almost a complete mystery. 

Part of what makes the Breen so scary is that they're extremely intelligent. They have similarly advanced technology to many of the other species in Federation space but are not bound by Federation ethics. The Breen keep slaves, use extreme torture to get information out of captives, and are basically just the ultimate "Star Trek" baddies. At least with the Borg you'll get to exist on in assimilated form. With the Breen, you're probably just in a body bag. 

If you want to get in on all of this deep-cut "Star Trek" goodness, you can check out season 3 of "Star Trek: Lower Decks," streaming on Paramount+.