Published Oct 27, 2023
Below Deck with Lower Decks: The Legacy of Sito Jaxa
Mariner modeled herself after this perfect friend.
By Dayton Ward
SPOILER WARNING: Discussion for Star Trek: Lower Decks - Season 4, Episode 9 "The Inner Fight" to follow!
We’re getting down to the nitty gritty with this week’s all-new episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks. Threats lurking in the shadows are starting to move into the light, and our favorite junior officers find themselves racing to find former and disgraced Starfleet Academy cadet Nick Locarno. According to Starfleet, Locarno possesses unique knowledge which might make him a target of whoever is carrying out mysterious attacks on vessels across the Federation and neighboring space. Lieutenant Mariner knows Locarno from their time together at the Academy. He might easily have been just like her and her fellow Lower Deckers, but a series of bad choices derailed a promising Starfleet career before it could even begin.
Caught up in Locarno’s academy foibles was another classmate Mariner recalls with great fondness — Sito Jaxa.
A Bajoran, Sito was introduced to viewers in “The First Duty,” a fifth-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She along with a few other Starfleet Academy cadets including Wesley Crusher were members of Nova Squadron, an elite team of pilots led by Cadet Locarno. While piloting a group of single-seat spacecrafts during a training exercise near Saturn, the squadron practiced a highly dangerous acrobatic maneuver Locarno had pushed them to learn. This resulted in the death of Cadet Joshua Albert, and the cadets compounded their tragic mistake by covering up their actions and blaming the accident on a piloting error committed by Albert. The truth eventually came out, and Locarno was expelled from the Academy while Sito, Wesley, and another cadet were forced to repeat the previous academic year.
Despite this setback, Sito eventually graduates from the Academy and receives her commission as an ensign along with a posting to the U.S.S. Enterprise under Captain Picard. In the seventh-season episode “Lower Decks” (HAH!), Sito learns the captain requested her for his crew. Picard knows she’s worked hard to prove she could learn from her mistakes and become a capable, trustworthy officer, so he wants to ensure she receives a fair chance to redeem herself.
Because of her Bajoran heritage, the captain asks her to participate in a dangerous and top secret mission to accompany Joret Dal, a Cardassian who’s also a Federation deep cover operative, back to Cardassian space. Despite the obvious danger, Sito volunteers for the mission, playing the role of a Bajoran terrorist captured by Dal in a bid to bluff his way past any Cardassian security patrols. The plan calls for him to send Sito back to Federation space once he’s made it past any patrol ships. For reasons that remain unclear, the plan goes awry and Sito is apparently killed while attempting to escape back to the Enterprise.
More than a decade later, the pain of losing Sito, someone she still admires, remains with Mariner. It also sheds light on Mariner’s continual attempts to resist promotion or do whatever it takes to return her to the rank of ensign. Rather than simple rebellion, her actions are instead borne from a desire to emulate and even pay tribute to her friend. As Mariner puts it, “I just want to be an ensign. If it was good enough for Sito, it’s good enough for me.”
Interestingly enough, Mariner’s attitude is challenged in this week’s episode by Ma’ah, a Klingon she encounters when she’s marooned with Boimler, Tendi, and T'Lyn on Sherbal V while working to repair a malfunctioning buoy. It’s Ma’ah who points out her insubordinate and disobedient conduct while wearing a Starfleet uniform actually dishonors Sito’s memory.
Leave it to a Klingon to put these things into proper perspective, amirite?