Star Trek Brings Back Another Next Generation Star

Star Trek: Lower Decks is now even more a sequel to Star Trek: The Next Generation

The Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 finale debuts today on Paramount+, and the episode is a game-changer for the U.S.S. Cerritos crew. Star Trek: Lower Decks fans will remember that last week's penultimate episode of the season ended with Mariner being abducted. Her captor turned out to be Nick Locarno, the character that Robert Duncan McNeil, who eventually starred as Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager, played in a guest starring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Star Trek: Lower Deck Season 4 final reveals Locarno's big plan, it goes back to that Next Generation. That means Wil Wheaton gets to reprise his role as Wesley Crusher once more, this time in voiceover, in a flashback scene. SPOILERS for the Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 finale, "Old Friends, New Planets," follow.

Nick Locarno was a Starfleet cadet who led Nova Squadron, a distinguished group of pilots at Starfleet Academy. Locarno wanted to finish his time at Starfleet Academy with a bang and decided he'd accomplish that by having Nova Squadron perform a banned flight maneuver during the commencement ceremony. Wesley was at the academy and a member of the academy at the time, and he went along with the plan. The flashback in Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4's finale shows how Locarno managed to convince Wesley to go along with the idea by pushing at Wesley's desire to earn Captain Jean-Luc Picard's approval. That makes it all the more ironic that Wesley lying about the incident after one of the Nova Squadron pilots died while attempting the maneuver earned him the sternest talking to he'd ever received from Picard.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Is Now Even More a Star Trek: The Next Generation Sequel Than Ever

The Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 finale even more firmly ties Star Trek: Lower Decks to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Lower Decks has always been a successor to Next Generation and its spinoffs, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, both in terms of chronological Star Trek timeline and in spirit. However, "Old Friends, New Planets" feels like the third chapter of a trilogy with "The First Duty" and the original TNG "Lower Decks" episode.

That's because of the relationship between Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Sito Jaxa (Shannon Fill, who also returns as a special guest star in this episode of Lower Decks). Sito was also a member of the Nova Squadron during "The First Duty." The character returned in the Next Generation episode "Lower Decks," the namesake and inspiration for Star Trek: Lower Decks, as an ensign serving aboard the Enterprise. As a Bajoran, Sito was chosen for an undercover mission to return a Cardassian defector to Cardassian territory. She never returned and has been presumed dead.

Mariner, a first-year at Starfleet Academy at the time of the Nova Squadron incident, considered Sito a friend and looked up to her as a mentor, which viewers get a glimpse of in this week's flashback. The past two Star Trek: Lower Decks episodes reveal that Sito's loss and the trauma of serving during the Dominion War made Mariner fear command, associating it with having to order her friends to their deaths, as Sito was ordered to hers. A heart-to-heart with a Klingon in last week's episode set her straight and made her realize that she owes it to Sito to live up to her memory and her potential. She's willing and eager to sabotage Locarno's grand designs, and she does.