SPOILER WARNING: Discussion for Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season 3, Episode 5 “Reflections” to follow!
Where does the time go? I look away for a minute and WHAM! We’re already most of the way through September and at the midpoint of Star Trek: Lower Decks’ third season! How does that even happen?
It happens because time is a predator, yo. Stalking us, all our lives. And stuff.
This latest Lower Decks episode finds the Cerritos and its crew returning to the planet Tulgana IV, the scene of much mayhem and chaos during “Envoys,” the second episode of the show’s first season. You remember, right? Boimler gets assigned to ferry Klingon general K’orin to this very same planet, and Mariner gets herself invited to come along for laughs. She ends up getting drunk with the general before he steals their shuttle.
For this visit to Tulgana IV, the Cerritos crew is charged with helping update the power systems for the Federation consulate located there. This also gives Captain Freeman an opportunity to have her people catch up on some lingering tasks required by Starfleet, but one crewmember is having a bit of trouble. Ensign Rutherford has been plagued by odd dreams, and it turns out his implant’s malfunctioning.
Tendi tries to help by erasing a bunch of old memories stuck in the implant’s data cache, but things go sideways, pitting the present version of Rutherford’s personality against an older one stored within the implant. It becomes a contest of wills to see which personality will win control of Rutherford’s brain, so the two identities agree to a competition — a race within his mind! An actual race, where the winner takes the brain while the loser is erased for good. While the older Rutherford ("Red Rutherford") psyche turns to tricking out a Starfleet shuttlecraft, the current personality opts to build a new ship from scratch. Since all of this is happening within the ensign’s subconscious, he can build anything he wants, and what he wants is the Delta Flyer.
That’s right, Star Trek: Voyager fans. Today’s your birthday.
Fans know the Delta Flyer isn’t just some wimpy shuttlecraft. Instead, it’s “a 24th Century, warp-powered, ultra-responsive hot rod,” as Lieutenant Tom Paris described it in the fifth season Voyager episode “Extreme Risk.” A collaboration between Paris, Harry Kim, B’Elanna Torres, Tuvok, and Seven of Nine, the Flyer blended Starfleet and Borg technology to produce a unique spacecraft boasting higher speeds and better defenses than a standard shuttle.
Due to his love of ancient science fiction stories like The Adventures of Captain Proton, Paris made sure to incorporate some of the same old-fashioned controls from Proton’s own spaceship. The original Flyer was destroyed during an encounter with the Borg during the sixth season episode “Unimatrix Zero,” but the crew built a replacement ship and gave it the same name. This new Flyer continued to serve Voyager until its return to the Alpha Quadrant.
As for Rutherford’s Delta Flyer, did it help him win the race and save his brain? You’ll just have to watch the latest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks to find out!
Dayton Ward (he/him) is a New York Times bestselling author or co-author of numerous novels and short stories including a whole bunch of stuff set in the Star Trek universe, and often collaborating with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore. As he’s still a big ol' geek at heart, Dayton is known to wax nostalgic about all manner of Star Trek topics over on his own blog, The Fog of Ward.
Star Trek: Lower Decks streams exclusively in the United States and Latin America on Paramount+, on Amazon Prime Video in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan, India and more, and in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.