Published Aug 26, 2022
Below Deck with Lower Decks: Zefram Cochrane and the Phoenix
The Cerritos' crew find themselves 'Grounded' in Bozeman, Montana!
By Dayton Ward
SPOILER WARNING: Discussion for Star Trek: Lower Decks — Season 3, Episode 1 "Grounded" to follow!
“Holy moly,” as Ensign Rutherford might say! It’s a new season of Star Trek: Lower Decks! It’s the third season of Lower Decks!
Last season left us with a surprise cliffhanger and the arrest of the Cerritos’ intrepid captain, Carol Freeman, on charges of destroying Pakled Planet (aka “the Pakled’s home planet,” because who needs pretentious-sounding planet names like “Pakeldonius” or “Cygna Pakled IV,” amirite?). Starfleet has also impounded the Cerritos and sent it to drydock at an unspecified location, with its crew placed on leave while Freeman faces court-martial.
We should all know by now that won’t stop the Lower Deckers from finding a way back to their ship and retrieving the evidence needed to exonerate their captain. Even though Rutherford has determined the Cerritos’ location, getting to it requires an encrypted transporter system of the sort used only at secure Starfleet facilities. Leave it to Ensign Mariner to come up with the craziest plan ever to get around these safeguards, and all it involves is visiting…a theme park.
That’s right, kids! We’re off to historic Bozeman, Montana, where humanity’s first warp-capable vessel, the Phoenix, was launched in 2063 by inventor Zefram Cochrane. His incredible flight into space and breaking the warp barrier attracted the attention of a ship from the planet Vulcan, leading to official first contact between Earth and another world. In the three centuries since that epic meeting, Bozeman has become a tourist attraction thanks to Cochrane’s efforts (depicted in the film Star Trek: First Contact). There’s even a replica of the Phoenix you can ride like a magic carpet right into space, piloted by a holographic representation of Cochrane himself!
See where we’re going with this? Knowing the Lower Deckers as we do, what you do think happens next?
While the Bozeman connection was introduced to fans in First Contact, Zefram Cochrane has been a part of the Star Trek mythos since the days of The Original Series. Introduced in the 1967 second-season episode “Metamorphosis,” Cochrane, as portrayed by actor Glenn Corbett, is found by Captain James Kirk. Listed as missing in space long after discovering warp speed travel (and well after he should’ve died, you know), Cochrane instead was living in solitude on a remote planetoid, cared for by a non-corporeal being, “the Companion,” which restored his youth. It’s a whole interstellar science fiction-y romance sort of thing. You should definitely check out that classic episode.
Elsewhere, actor James Cromwell reprised his role of Cochrane from First Contact for “Broken Bow,” the first episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, where he’s shown in “archival footage” talking about the future of human spaceflight and a new warp engine which will bring the final frontier that much closer — “Thousands of inhabited planets at our fingertips, and we'll be able to explore those strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations. This engine will let us go boldly where no man has gone before.”
I wonder if Captain Kirk ever told him about his holographic doppelgänger on the Phoenix ride?