The Star Trek: Lower Decks Season Finale Features One Darn Good Starship Battle

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

Who knew that the spin-off cartoon from a writer/producer on "Rick and Morty" would be delivering some of the best modern "Star Trek" stories we've seen lately? As crass and silly "Star Trek: Lower Decks" can often be, the show has always been a genuine and loving attempt to capture the adventurous essence of the historic sci-fi franchise. But, wow. Season 3 of "Lower Decks" has raised the bar and may just be the best outing for the show yet.

Season 3 of "Lower Decks" wraps up with "The Stars at Night," which picks right up from the chaos we were left with last week. After Mariner (Tawny Newsome) was kicked off of the U.S.S. Cerritos in bad faith by Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), our Cerritos crew finds themselves in danger, faced with Admiral Les Buenamigo's (Carlos Alazraqui) new technology: a fully automated Starfleet vessel which would make most of the crew's jobs obsolete.

The season finale's climax is a stunner and marks one of the show's most impactful moments yet, brilliantly showcasing the bump in quality animation the show has developed since the start — culminating in a wonderfully staged starship battle.

Mariner puts on a fight, Starfleet style

Following the aftermath of the Cerritos' scathing news report, the threat of the California class fleets shutting down in favor of Buenamigo's automated Texas fleets becomes a tangible fear. In an effort to buy time, Captain Freeman challenges the automated U.S.S. Aledo to a series of tasks to prove the value of her crew and ship.

In that time, Ensign Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) has an epiphany; the code for the Aledo is suspiciously familiar to him, and that's because it's his code. Or, the code the old him wrote before his memory was forcibly wiped! When Rutherford heads to the Captain's quarters to confront Buenamigo alongside Captain Freeman, Buenamigo admits to his crimes, including his ploy to set up the Cerritos for failure throughout the entire season. Buenamigo activates all automated Texas-class ships to attack the Cerritos.

We cut back to Mariner, currently enjoying her new life adventuring as an archeologist with Petra Aberdeen (Georgia King), but when she finds out the Cerritos is in danger, she decides to put her found family first. In a moment of delightful growth for her character, Mariner calls every single California class vessel, from the USS Burbank to the USS San Diego, to take down the Aledo and save their comrades. 

Visually stunning, but also thematically satisfying

Though the Cerritos itself is not strong enough to take down the Aledo themselves, they're not alone. With the support of all the other California Starfleet ships, the Aledo is taken down with ease. There was a clear bump in the animation quality of this season of "Lower Decks," and this sequence feels like Titmouse Animation showing off everything they've learned since the show's inception. There's multitudes of laser beams bouncing off of shields and explosions with depth and color, a swan song climax for the show so far.

But what truly makes this Starship battle feel all the more complete is what it means emotionally. Mariner has truly found her belonging on the Cerritos, and she came out on top this episode by fighting like a true Starfleet hero. The Cerritos survived not just because of any one individual, but with the collective strength of the entire California class.

Yes, a cool laser throwing space battle is quintessential "Star Trek," but equally so is a message of unity and strength in numbers.