The Star Trek: Lower Decks Gag We'll Sadly Never Get To See

"Star Trek: Lower Decks" has managed to pull off a seemingly impossible task in that it functions as both fan service, and as a show with an identity of its own. While the characters have emerged as fully-realized entities, and the show is an excellent workplace comedy, every single episode of "Lower Decks" is lousy with Easter eggs, dropping in minute references to previous "Star Trek" episodes that only the deepest-cut Trekkies would understand. For example: At the very beginning of "Wej Duj," the ninth episode of season 2, Ens. Boimler (Jack Quaid) asks his fellow low-ranking officers if they — during their rare spate of downtime — want to enter the U.S.S. Cerritos' strategema tournament. That little throw-off reference calls back to an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" called "Peak Performance" wherein a master tactical strategist named Sirna Kolrami (Roy Brocksmith) visits the Enterprise to analyze and help improve its battle techniques, and also, in his off-hours, challenge the crew to a game of strategema, a holographic, "Qix"-like video game played with sheathes fitted over one's fingers. 

A notable detail from an episode of TV that originally aired in 1989 is now fodder for a throwaway line in "Lower Decks." And this is only one reference among dozens that drop every episode. In at least one instance, however, the show tried to take its references a little too far. Namely: They wanted the credits of the show to be in the Klingon and Vulcan languages. 

Wej Duj

The episode in question is the above-mentioned "Wej Duj," a high-concept story that shifts between three different settings. One-third of the episode is the usual setting aboard devoted to the U.S.S. Cerritos as our four central characters each attempt to get chummy with members of the senior staff. Inspired by a line of Boimler's commenting that lower decks life on a Klingon ship is about the same as aboard the Cerritos, the second third of the episode suddenly devotes itself to the Klingon Bird of Prey Che'ta, and follows a low-ranking officer named Ma'ah (Jon Curry). While life aboard a Klingon ship is indeed different (there is a lot more punching and treachery), we see that being a low-ranking officer on any ship is still a somewhat humiliating job. When someone compares Ma'ah to a Vulcan, the episode then shifts settings again, this time to the Vulcan science vessel Sh'Vhal, and the low-ranking officer T'Lyn (Gabrielle Ruiz) who — in an emotionless, Vulcan environment — is attempting to impress her own bosses by implementing a long-range sensor improvement, even though her assignment lies with her ship's engines. 

The three-species approach was an ambitious and fun project for the makers of "Lower Decks," and presented endless opportunities for Easter eggs. In an interview that Trekcore conducted with Mike McMahan, the show's creator, he revealed his plan to run the show's credits alternately in English, Klingon, and Vulcan. The Klingon and Vulcan languages were to be presented without subtitles. 

McMahan, as one might guess, adores "Star Trek," and admitted he always had an affinity for Klingons:

"Wej Duj" kind of ended up being like the kind of pitch I'd make to Paramount if they'd let me make a "Star Trek" movie. What I would want is like a "Wrath of Khan"-era movie that looks like it was produced in 1982, from the point of view of a Klingon ship — and the point of view of a Vulcan ship. That's like my dream "Star Trek" movie. So we condensed that into this examination of Lower Deck-ish-ness, this celebration of Lower Deck-ish-ness — and getting to tell this triple-mini-movie that's part "Undiscovered Country," part this Vulcan thing we've never seen before, and have it all tie up with our overall Season 2 plot... I was just so in love with this episode.

The Klingon language

It was late into production of the episode that the "Lower Decks" crew had the idea to run the credits in multiple languages. Translation wasn't the issue, as there are handy online translators now for that sort of thing, as, no doubt, a number of Trekkies on the writing staff who were at least partially versed in Klingon (The Klingon language, to give credit, was originally constructed by linguist Marc Okrand). The issue came with the fact that 25 minutes of TV with multiple new elaborate settings and an entire new retinue of characters already took a great deal of work for the production staff, and McMahan admits that adding the gag would have simply spread him too thin, and would have added a full minute to the runtime of the show, which, in animation terms, speaks to at least a full week's more worth of work: 

Originally, I wanted every card of the opening credits — for all of the opening credits — in alternating Vulcan and Klingon languages, so you couldn't read anything. I mean, everything from the Lower Decks show title, the names of the actors and producers, everything — and then we would have added some extra credits at the end in English. And we were going to do it, but it's essentially telling my animators that we were going to have to add an extra minute and eight seconds to the episode ... which may not sound a lot, but is a massive ask. The remnant of that original idea, at least, is that the episode title is written in full Klingon.

As pictured above, you can see the Klingon text that was presented on screen as the episode's title, decipherable only by the deepest-cut Trekkies. "Wej Duj" is Klingon for "Three Ships." That part is pretty straightforward.