'Star Trek: Lower Decks' Ending Explained: What does the return of USS Titan mean for Season 2 of the CBS show?

'Lower Decks' sets up a future for Beckett Mariner and Brad Boimler with a crossover from an oft-forgotten 'Star Trek' series


                            'Star Trek: Lower Decks' Ending Explained: What does the return of USS Titan mean for Season 2 of the CBS show?
'Star Trek: Lower Decks' (CBS All Access)
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Spoilers for 'Star Trek: Lower Decks' Season 1

'Star Trek: Lower Decks' has always made light of the fact that it's a canonical part of the 'Star Trek' universe, namedropping characters from its sister series left and right, but in the season finale, they cement that status by including an appearance from 'The Next Generation' stars William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) themselves, and their post-Enterprise ship, the Titan. The finale shakes up the status quo in some major ways, and we take a look at the ending, its major references, and what it means for Season 2.

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Starfleet's protocol of, as Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) puts it, "some interference" is a major plot point of the series. Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) may enjoy flouting the rules just to piss her mother off, but there are many times that she does it simply because Starfleet's policy of minimal interference sometimes does more harm than good when it comes to the welfare of various civilizations. As we see this episode, it's something that bothers both mother and daughter - the most common ground we've seen from the pair since the series began.

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When Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) accidentally reveals Mariner's parentage, it brings her a ton of attention she doesn't want from crew members looking to curry favor with her mother. It frustrates Mariner enough for her to seek a promotional transfer to another ship - following protocol down to the letter for the first time in her life. However, when the Pakleds attack the ship, Carol Freeman recognizes that this is the exact kind of situation that Mariner's off-the-cuff style of operating comes in most handy.

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The USS Cerritos is taken over by the Pakleds, who first appeared on 'The Next Generation' as scavengers that would send out false distress signals to capture vessels and tear them up for parts. Their appearance was a bit of a meta-joke on the part of the 'Lower Decks' writing team - the Pakleds, like 'Star Trek: Lower Decks' itself, are considered to be one of the 'Star Trek' universe's biggest jokes. However, there's a lot more to them than meets the eye - and like the show itself, they have a lot of hidden depths. That cunning has allowed them to quietly become one of the more dangerous threats in the galaxy, scavenging tech from various civilizations without Starfleet interference.

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The Pakleds' weakness, however, is that to combine all the different kinds of technologies together means to lower their defenses so that firewalls don't interfere from one civilization's tech to another - making them susceptible to a virus, which Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) has evil holodeck program Badgey (Jack McBrayer) design. Badgey is still out for revenge, however, and though his virus does destroy the Pakleds, it does so explosively, forcing Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore) to rip out Sam's cybernetic implant and send him away in an escape pod to save Rutherford's life. This removes Sam's long term memories, including all of the events of Season 1, but D'Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) is more than happy to catch him up on everything he's missed.

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The USS Cerritos was ultimately saved from additional Pakleds by the USS Titan, captained by none other than Will Riker himself, with his wife Deanna Troi by his side. The crossover is not one from 'The Next Generation', technically, but from 'Star Trek: Titan', a series of books set after the events of 'Star Trek: Nemesis', following the adventures of Riker, Troi and a few other familiar 'Star Trek' faces on the USS Titan. Riker turns out to have had a longstanding relationship with Mariner, and is additionally so impressed with Boimler's record that he promotes Boimler from Ensign to Lieutenant Junior Grade and takes him aboard the Titan - which enrages Mariner, as the two were just entering into a best friends/mentor relationship.

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Mariner has her own hands full, however, as Freeman has finally realized that it's better to work with her daughter, than against her. The two are both frustrated with how strict Starfleet protocols restrict them from helping people, and if there's one thing that Mariner's good at, it's bending the rules where necessary. Now that their secret is out, working together is going to be easier than ever - and for the first time in her life, Mariner is going to get to take on more responsibility by doing things her way.

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The creators' stated purpose for 'Lower Decks' has been to track the progress of the Ensigns to those who would become fully-fledged bridge crew in their own right, and with this season finale, Boimler and Mariner have taken their first steps towards that future. Season 2 will doubtless show how these new experiences have changed the characters - and what their new responsibilities mean for them, going forward. 

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All episodes of 'Star Trek: Lower Decks' Season 1 are available to stream on CBS All Access.