The Star Trek: Lower Decks Season Finale Pays Off A Niche Next Generation Subplot

This post contains spoilers for the season finale of "Star Trek: Lower Decks."

At the end of last week's episode of "Star Trek: Lower Decks," called "Trusted Sources," Ensign Mariner (Tawney Newsome) infuriates Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) and Mariner has to leave the ship in disgrace. Luckily, she seems to have had a second career already lined up: Tomb Raider. Mariner moves onto the ship of sexy maverick archaeologist Petra Aberdeen (Georgia King) and the two immediately go about plundering ancient, abandoned temples looking for statues and tchotchkes they can distribute to museums. 

In the following episode, "The Stars at Night," Mariner begins to sense something is suspicious about Petra's setup. Most notably, Petra becomes cagey and evasive whenever Mariner asks her about who is financing her operation. In a cute nod to Trek's post-capitalist utopia, Petra mocks Mariner for not knowing anything about what things cost. Eventually, Mariner uses her amble Starfleet computer skills to hack into Petra's database to follow the money. She discovers in an instant that her ship and all her supplies have been provided by [musical sting] Admiral Jean-Luc Picard. 

Picard doesn't appear in the episode, but his mention reveals a few things. The last time audiences saw Picard in Trek's ample chronology, he was still a captain on board the Enterprise-E in "Star Trek: Nemesis." Four years have passed since then, and it seems Picard received his promotion in that time. Picard's funding of somewhat-shady plundering also reveals that Jean-Luc still holds archaeology close to his heart, fulfilling a running detail with the character. 

Picard the archaeologist

Picard's interest in archaeology goes back to the early days of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Picard was also fond of old-fashioned things, often reading Shakespeare from paper books and regaling his crew with stories of building three-masted sailing ships in bottles as a boy (a passion only shared by transporter chief Miles O'Brien). In the episode "Captain's Holiday" (April 2, 1990), Picard (Patrick Stewart) redoubles on his passion for archaeology thanks to the appearance of the dashing maverick Vash (Jennifer Hetrick), a Tomb Raider who enlists the captain to aid her on her quest to find a Tox Uthat.

Most notably, in the episode "The Chase" (April 26, 1993), Picard met with his old mentor Prof. Galen (Norman Lloyd), who gifted him an artifact called a Kurlan naiskos, a 5,000-year-old stone nesting doll from a long-dead alien civilization. To Picard's utter amazement, it is complete, with every miniature stone inside in tact. It's rare that viewers got to see Picard so gloriously lose his cool, but he certainly lets his dignity drop and his enthusiasm fly openly when presented with the Kurlan naiskos. As the kids said on the internet in the early 2000s, he squees. 

As many Trekkies will hasten to add, Picard found the top half of the now-broken Kurlan naiskos on the torn wreckage of the Enterprise-D after it crashed during "Star Trek: Generations." Although thousands of years old, Picard roughly puts it down in favor of a book he finds under some rubble. At the very least, he did seem to have kept it; in an episode of the second season of "Star Trek: Picard" (which takes place after the events of "Lower Decks"), the naiskos is back at his château. 

Picard's criminal past

The events of "Star Trek: Picard" begin in 2399, whereas the current season of "Lower Decks" takes place in 2383. It seems that prior to retiring to his vineyard to make wine, the Admiral had a very open criminal dalliance with Petra Aberdeen, and who knows how many other roguish artifact plunderers besides. This opens an entire can of worms in "Star Trek," and reveals that Picard might have had an entire career beyond what audiences have seen. Did he merely wire money (and where does he get money?) to his charges? Is Picard doing archaeological research, finding what is rare or at risk in the galaxy, and hiring his own army of Young Indiana Joneses? Either way, it seems that Picard is singlehandedly responsible for finding and protecting rare artifacts. 

And if that's the case, then why wasn't that the premise of "Star Trek: Picard"?! A TV series about a large team of young, sexy, hotshot archaeologists delving into the ancient history of the "Star Trek" universe, expanding the mythos of the series under the banner of an adventure show? Sign me up! Picard could serve as the Bosley or the Charley to his archaeological angels, giving them assignments and hooking them up with contraband Starfleet technology in order to fulfill their missions. And, because Picard is an admiral, it would all have to be secret. Whatever happened on a show of that nature wouldn't brush up against extant continuity. 

Ah, but one can dream. The third season of "Star Trek: Picard" is coming on February 16, 2023, and the showrunners have already made their decisions. The Picard/Indiana Jones show will, it seems, have to remain in the realm of ideas.