Star Trek: Lower Decks 4×09 “The Inner Fight” gives us some answers about our Not-Slave-1 ship, why Mariner’s been freaking out, and more. We’ve also got a cliffhanger to contend with! The penultimate episode of Lower Decks season four is proving to be a real contender for one of the best episodes of the series yet. Here are a few of my thoughts on Star Trek: Lower Decks 4×09 “The Inner Fight.”
Lower Decks Calls Back to “Lower Decks”
It shouldn’t surprise me when Star Trek: Lower Decks 4×09 “The Inner Fight” makes a callback to Star Trek: The Next Generation 7×15 “Lower Decks.” Not just “Lower Decks,” but another episode as well. Let’s begin at the beginning. Mariner’s friend Sito, who passed away, got her start in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sito first appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode 5×17 “The First Duty” where she, Wesley Crusher, Nick Lacarno (more on him later), and others participated in the illegal flight maneuver at Starfleet Academy, which resulted in a the death of another cadet. As Mariner says, Sito made mistakes, but worked hard to overcome them.
She would make her way onto the Enterprise and appear again in episode 7×15 “Lower Decks,” which is the episode that inspired Mike McMahan to create Star Trek: Lower Decks the series. Sito would be sent on a covert mission in that episode, where she was presumed killed in action by Cardassians.
Now that you have context for Sito, and now that we know Mariner was friends with her, it makes the hunt to find Nick Lacarno all the more intriguing, considering his connection to Sito. I have other thoughts on that connection, but we’ll get to that later.
The Heart of the Matter
Now that we’ve established more context for Sito, we now can get to the heart of the matter—Mariner’s erratic behavior. She’s been mourning the loss of her friend, and understandably so. She is apprehensive about being put in a position where she might have to order her friends to do something dangerous where they could potentially come to harm or die. All of these are understandable reactions, and yet, Mariner has locked herself into this perpetually grieving state. I’m not suggesting that Mariner should just “get over” the loss of her friend. I know grief is much more complicated than that. Mariner, as her new Klingon friend says, does dishonor to her friend’s memory by not confronting her fears head on. This new, more emotionally stable Mariner is life-affirming. I’m excited to see her going forward.
We finally know who’s behind the Not-Slave-1: Nick Locarno. This is a fascinating callback for a few reasons. First, we’ve not seen Nick since his one appearance in “The First Duty.” Second, he’s played by Robert Duncan McNeil, who would just a few years later be cast as Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager. Robert Duncan McNeil has the distinction of being one of a few Star Trek actors to go from guest role to series regular. Among them are his Star Trek: Voyager costar, Tim Russ. This is Robbie’s second appearance on Star Trek: Lower Decks, the first being in the season 2 episode, “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris.” I was elated to see his name in the credits in Star Trek: Lower Decks 4×09 “The Inner Fight.” The revisit to this character is an interesting one.
First, we don’t know what he’s been up to since leaving Starfleet, but it’s apparently no good. Second, what is he doing with all those ships he’s taken? Third, every ship taken had a mutineer on board. Fourth, and this is extremely hypothetical, could he have taken Sito’s ship? She’s presumed dead because the escape pod she was on exploded. But only until recently, did we think the ships taken by the Not-Slave-1 were destroyed. That means that Sito has been in Locarno’s clutches for a while. According to Memory Alpha, 11 years to be exact. So while I doubt that Nick has been swiping ships for that long without getting caught, maybe there’s something to the theory. As I said, this is extremely hypothetical, so I could be completely wrong. I suppose we’ll have to wait until next week to find out.
There’s a lot to love in Star Trek: Lower Decks 4×09 “The Inner Fight,” aside from the solid emotional beats and the big reveal of Nick Lacarno. Captain Freeman plays on the prejudices of those crooks in order to get the information they needed. Billups in that costume kind of reminds me of Leia in costume in Return of the Jedi. That plus Locarno flying the Not-Slave-1 shows that there are some Star Wars fans in the animation department as well as Trek fans. I can’t blame them. I’m definitely #TeamWhyNotBoth when it comes to the Star franchises.
In another nod to another sci-fi franchise, the venomous tremble lizards remind me of tiny xenomorphs crossed with birds. They’re also just about as scary! There’s also a noticeable familiarity forming in the ranks of our lower deckers. Boimler says, “Hey T,” to T’Lyn! Mariner also calls Tendi “T,” and Tendi declares an attack on Mariner an attack on her entire house! We already knew of their closeness, but that’s basically saying that Mariner is a Tendi. Apparently they have nicknames! There’s familiarity! T’Lyn accepts it! I LOVE IT!
T’Lyn also knows how to get Mariner to comply, giving her an exact figure of how much more dangerous it would be if she didn’t know what they were doing. As far as she knew it was all “Hell yeah, Girls Trip + Boimler!” I do enjoy the camaraderie we’re forming here. It’s one of my favorite parts of Lower Decks.
Do you have any thoughts or predictions for Lower Decks’ season four finale? What did you think of Star Trek: Lower Decks 4×09 “The Inner Fight” (which of course is a Star Trek: The Next Generation reference to the episode “The Inner Light”)? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.