Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2, Episode 2, “Kayshon, His Eyes Open.”
In Star Trek: Lower Decks‘ late 24th-century era, some Starfleet Officers have a surprisingly low opinion of the USS Enterprise-D and consider the starship boring. However, Ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) stood up for the flagship of the United Federation of Planets and the episodic storytelling style of Star Trek: The Next Generation vs. the action-oriented, serialized ‘New Trek’ series like Star Trek: Discovery.
One of the big changes Star Trek: The Next Generation made was to the scope and mission of the USS Enterprise-D. Whereas Captain James T. Kirk’s (William Shatner) original Enterprise was just one of numerous Starfleet ships, albeit, with a storied legacy, Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s (Patrick Stewart) Enterprise-D was a massive, Galaxy-class vessel built for long-term deep-space exploration. Intended to spend several years in space, the Enterprise-D’s crew exceeded 1,000 souls, including the families of crew members. In some ways, the Enterprise-D was a combination of a luxury hotel/small village in outer space, with a school, the Ten-Forward lounge, and even a barber shop. Before it was destroyed, the Enterprise-D was spacious, comfortable, and designed to accommodate everything from diplomatic ceremonies to complex scientific experiments to first contact encounters with all manner of new life forms.
Star Trek: Lower Decks season 2, episode 2, “Kayshon, His Eyes Open,” drew a fascinating distinction between classic Trek and the new series on Pararmount+ by establishing that the USS Titan is a starship engaged in the serialized, action-packed style of New Star Trek. Boimler was quick to defend the Enterprise-D (and TNG in general), accurately reminding his team that Picard and Riker’s flagship “went to different dimensions… they fought the Borg… they insurrected!” since his action hero crewmates on the Titan believed that their leader, Captain William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes), “must have been so bored” on the Enterprise-D after seven years of exploration on a ship with “five daycare centers” and “regular string quartets.”
The Enterprise-D and Star Trek: The Next Generation could, indeed, do it all. Picard’s flagship fought battles where the fate of the Federation was at stake, crossed dimensional barriers, and rebelled against Starfleet command when necessary, but they did also have wacky adventures dressing up as Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood on the holodeck, hosted classical music concerts in Ten Forward, and there was that one time Picard and some of his crew were turned into children. That was the magic of Star Trek: TNG‘s episodic style – anything could happen each week – and Star Trek: Lower Decks emulates it. For instance, the USS Cerritos also has its own bar and hosts string quartet concerts.
Riker himself confessed to Boimler that even though he’s now the action hero Captain of the Titan, he wishes he could be back on the Enterprise-D, a ship that was “exploring instead of non-stop fighting.” Riker (and Jonathan Frakes, who directs Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard, as well as plays Riker on Patrick Stewart’s series), is comfortable in both settings but his heart is also back on the Enterprise-D and those seven glorious years of TNG. To their credit, Boimler’s crewmates on the Titan also remembered they joined Starfleet to pursue science and exploration, not to constantly fight enemy aliens. They’d also be at home on the USS Enterprise-D, a starship that was anything but boring.
It’s interesting that both styles of Star Trek storytelling are canon in-universe and there’s a segment of Starfleet who lean towards fast-paced action instead of exploration and scientific pursuits. The fact that some Starfleet Officers find the Enterprise-D (and TNG in general) to be boring reflects how the classic style of Star Trek can seem dated and campy to newer fans compared to the serialized style that New Star Trek has embraced ever since J.J. Abrams rebooted the universe with his movies starting in 2009. But Boimler championing the Enterprise-D also reflects where Star Trek: Lower Decks‘ heart is; there’s plenty of room in Star Trek for both styles of storytelling but the Cerritos happily exists in the tradition of the Enterprise-D and TNG, just ramped up as a half-hour comedy that celebrates everything weird and wonderful about Star Trek.
Star Trek: Lower Decks streams Thursdays on Paramount+.