‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ wants you to know it’s okay to like ‘Voyager’

by Jeremy

This article contains mild spoilers for season two, episode three of ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks.’

This week’s episode of Lower Decks, “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris,” manages to squeeze two references into its title: a season one The Next Generation installment called “We’ll Always Have Paris,” and the name of the leading cast member of Star Trek: Voyager, Lieutenant Tom Eugene Paris. But aside from that clever bit of wordplay, the title also carries a more profound meaning: As much as we’d like to forget about the more embarrassing moments of the Star Trek franchise, they still happened, and they weren’t all bad. Even, and especially, Voyager.Star Trek

Viewer reactions to Voyager have been polarized over the 26 years since its premiere. In the ’90s, many fans were excited to have a “real” Star Trek show again, one that took place on a ship that was constantly exploring, unlike the comparatively stationary political drama of Deep Space Nine. But clunky writing soured many people’s opinion on Voyager. Toward the end of its run, the show was known more for Seven of Nine’s skintight outfits and its slate of guest stars of the week, including Jason Alexander and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

After the show went off the air, the franchise stopped moving forward in its timeline, choosing to explore Starfleet’s founding in Enterprise and rebooting the entire universe entirely with the 2009 Star Trek movie. While fans were thrown a bone with a brief cameo by Admiral Kathryn Janeway in the last TNG-era film, Nemesis, Voyager would essentially disappear from the Star Trek canon until the appearance of Seven of Nine in episode four of Picard.

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Picard had its upsides for fans of The Next Generation: We got to see Troi and Riker as a family, and Data got a better sendoff into the afterlife. But for fans of Voyager, it was anything but positive, with the death of a supporting character and a rather grim existence for fan-favorite Seven of Nine.

Star Trek: Lower Decks rolls back the clock a little bit, as it takes place a year after the events of Nemesis, making it our first accurate view of the Star Trek universe’s immediate future after TNG, DS9, and Voyager. The Dominion War is over, Romulus is under a new regime, and the crew of the USS Voyager are celebrities after seven years spent in the Delta Quadrant; Picard takes place nearly twenty years later when the luster would have been gone.

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Everything is just shiny and new and worthy of commemorative plates — a bit weird to exist in a post-scarcity culture, but this is a comedy series, after all. And in this week’s B-plot, Brad Boiler is looking to get one of his plates signed by a special guest to the USS Cerritos: Tom Paris. Or, as Brad refers to the former Voyager crew member, “Creator of Fairhaven, Captain Proton himself,” as well as the first human to break the transwarp barrier. Straight off, that’s a rethat referenceshe goofiest, oddball, and some say worst episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. And just in case you forgot what was so bad about the last one, Mariner asks, “Is he still a salamander?” because that is a thing that happened in the episode “Threshold.”

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