The Improvised Lower Decks Moment That Spawned A Brand-New Star Trek Character

These are the voyages of the USS Cerritos. "Star Trek: Lower Decks" follows the madcap antics of one of the most average ships in Starfleet. More specifically, it's the adventures of the lowly crewmates who man the lower decks — the support crew who never even get near the spotlight. Enter Ensign Boimler, the career-driven suck-up, Ensign mariner, the lone wolf badass who hates that she's the captain's daughter, Ensign Tandy, the ultra-nerd with a heart of gold, and Ensign Rutherford, the softly spoken cyborg.

As a long-time "Star Trek" fan, I wasn't expecting to get quite so attached to a bunch of redshirts, but "Lower Decks" keeps you caring as they blunder their way from episode to episode. Even then, there's one crewmate nobody was expecting to have such a big impact: Ensign Jennifer Sh'reyan

Sh'reyan originally appeared in the series as a mere background character, manning the decks of the USS Cerritos and hanging out in the mess. But one throwaway line improvised by Ensign Mariner actress Tawny Newton changed everything.

"Get out of my Way! Move Jennifer!"

The "Lower Decks" Season 1 episode "Cupid's Errant Arrow" is where it all began.

After Ensign Boimler welcomes his new girlfriend Barbara to the lower decks, Mariner is instantly suspicious. She's hot, she's smart, she's even a lieutenant. "I've got to hand it to you, Barb is great," admits Mariner. "A little too great."

That's right — Mariner thinks Barb might be a secret alien, a Romulan spy, or a salt succubus, or an android, or a changeling... And she's determined to prove it. Secret scans, attempts to disrupt her positronic brain, and analysis of hair samples show nothing. And that's when she finds part of an exoskeletal husk.

Certain that Barb is some kind of alien parasite (or being controlled by one) she races after her pal Boimler. And that's when the moment happens. Tearing through the corridors of the ship, she's determined to save her friend ... and shoves one unsuspecting crewmate out of her way, yelling "Get out of my way! Move, Jennifer!"

That moment, and the quote "Move, Jennifer!" became an instant meme. GIFs of Ensign Mariner shoving poor Jennifer out of the way flooded fan forums. And in that moment, the new character Jennifer Sh'reyan was born.

But it turns out, the line wasn't even in the script.

"I've been places – I just pick stuff up along the way."

One of the coolest things about "Lower Decks" is its pithy quips that subvert "Star Trek" expectations, often toying with established canon along the way. During an interview with Syfy, "Lower Decks" creator Mike McMahan revealed that a lot of the dialogue is actually improvised... and that's how Jennifer was created:

"Mariner has to run to try to get to save Boimler and Tawny [Newsome] just threw in. I was like, 'Just give me effort and just... you're running, you're running. Just say whatever comes to mind while you're doing this.' Because we improv a lot of stuff too. And she was like, 'Got to save Boimler. Move, Jennifer!' And that just made me laugh so hard. And I was like, 'Mark that. That's going into the show.'"

I love this moment. For one thing, it's the kind of off-the-cuff scene that really helps establish a character's personality. Mariner's confrontational attitude is front-and-center as she shoves Jennifer — even though she's already easily racing past her.

But there's a bit more to why Jennifer became a fully fleshed character.

"And then on top of that, the artist chose, whoever was boarding that episode, put in the Andorian design because they knew that I liked it there," said McMahan. "And that's how the whole Jennifer arc started. You find these serendipitous things and they just feel better than if you had made it happen on purpose sometimes."

Why is Jennifer Sh'reyan so important? It took us two seasons to find out.

"I really hate that Andorian."

Ensign Jennifer Sh'reyan first appeared (then unnamed) in "Lower Decks" during episode 2 of the first season. After Boimler proves himself during an away mission with Mariner, he proceeds to brag about it to anyone who will listen while quaffing drinks in the mess hall. Enjoying a laugh at Mariner's expense, there's Jen — sat right next to Boimler lapping up his story about how he was right... and more importantly, how Mariner was wrong.

"I loved her because she was wearing her hair the way my wife wears her hair sometimes," explained McMahan.

This small moment would lay the foundation for Jennifer and Mariner's relationship aboard the USS Cerritos. She's regularly seen engaging with eye-rolling annoyance to Mariner, who at various points singles Jennifer out during aggressive rants. They regularly butt heads and even angrily compare fitness routines on the holodeck. As one memorable scene plays out:

Jennifer: "So, you work out by staging Cardassian prison breaks?

Mariner: "Yeah. What do you do?"

Jennifer: "Err... Yoga?"

Mariner: "Wow, how unique!"

Jennifer: "Whatever. Captain wants you in her ready room." [exits]

Mariner: "I know we're not supposed to have interpersonal conflict, but I really hate that Andorian."

Their strained professional relationship is hilarious, but it soon makes way for something else entirely. Why is Jennifer so important? It all comes down to the season 2 finale.

"Thanks for doing a super dangerous space walk to save my life."

A full-blown emergency aboard the USS Cerritos brings Mariner and Jennifer's previously aggressive relationship to a head ... and it turns out they have a lot more feelings for each other than they first thought.

The USS Cerritos is assigned to aid the USS Archimedes in a first contact mission — the crew's first-ever first contact. But disaster strikes. The USS Archimedes is pulled into a gravity well, and it's up to the crew of the Cerritos to save the day. It all culminates in a dramatic space flight — the Cerritos having been stripped down and the crew forced into space suits to even get near the Archimedes. Navigating headfirst through a field of space debris, the USS Cerritos is hit head-on by a massive asteroid, which knocks a crewmate out into the void of space.

None other than Ensign Mariner.

Tumbling head-over-heels into the void, it looks as though Mariner is done for, until Jennifer dramatically saves her life, scrambling out across the hull of the Cerritos to grab hold of Mariner for dear life. The one person she hated is the one person who's there when she needs it the most... and there's a good reason why.

"When I like people, I go out of my way to force some distance."

It all comes out in the final scenes of the "Lower Decks" Season 2 finale — Mariner and Jennifer like each other. But even after admitting her feelings, Mariner still gets too embarrassed to really put herself out there:

Jennifer: "What I'm taking away from that... is that you like me?"

Mariner: "No. Shut up, come on."

Taking Jennifer by the hand, she drags her over to Boimler, Tendi, and Rutherford, introducing the long-hated Jennifer Sh'reyan to her friends. Of course, all the hints were there. Throughout season 2, Mariner's distaste for the Andorian developed into romantic feelings. And a possible relationship was always an option.

"It was always a baseline in my head that Mariner could date a guy, Mariner could date a girl, Mariner could date an alien," McMahan told "It just felt right for that to be the tone of Mariner."

That never transpired in the first season. After all, Mariner was far more focused on her sense of duty and her complicated relationship with Starfleet. But as Mariner opened up in season 2, the time felt right:

"Nothing felt more appropriate for Mariner than taking the person that she ostensibly dislikes the most on the Cerritos and finding out that, of course, she's attracted to her because anything Mariner likes, she pushes away."

Where this goes in season 3 remains to be seen, but I get the feeling we can expect the relationship between Mariner and Jennifer to develop even further. And it's about time Mariner found someone she can truly trust.