SPOILER WARNING: Discussion for the complete Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 to follow!
Welcome to Warp Five, StarTrek.com's five question post-mortem with your favorite featured talent from the latest Star Trek episodes.
The latest season of Star Trek: Lower Decks came and went all too briefly, and if you're like us, you're still thinking about the Season 3 season finale, "The Stars at Night." Ensign Beckett Mariner has been through it all — attempting to clear her captain/mom from unjust charges, taking orders from Ransom, watching an unsanctioned sequel to her Crisis Point: The Rise of Vindicta, getting kicked off Starfleet, breaking out on her own as an independent archaeologist, and saving the day.
StarTrek.com had the opportunity to speak with actress Tawny Newsome, who voices one of our favorite Lower Deckers — Mariner — on just about everything this season. Strap yourself in and get ready!
On Holding a Mirror to Mariner’s Relationship to Boimler and Ransom
Newsome recognized and appreciated Mariner and Bradward Boimler’s friendship over the course of three seasons. In speaking on “Crisis Point II: Paradoxus,” Newsome pointed out, “The fact that she’s annoyed that he’s messing with her movie. She’s not loving it and she’s being kind of annoying about it, but she’s there. She lets him name her Commander Doodle. She’s ‘OK, I’m doing this for my friend.’ She’s making snide comments about it, but she’s participating. She’s trying to keep him on plot.”
“When it’s revealed why he’s off on these side missions, she doesn’t tell him he’s being stupid,” she continued. “She’s like, ‘Hey man, I’m sorry; that sounds hard.’ She really is trying to be there for him. It’s such a great shift compared to what she might have done in seasons past, which would be controlling or taking it over, or trying to tell him how he should feel or fix it. She’s doing what he wants to do, and what he wanted to do was kick and punch a bunch of people like Kirk did so she’s right there with him.”
In addition to being in a solid place with her best friend Boimler, another core, non-familial relationship this season was to Jack Ransom. With “Grounded,” the third season opened with Freeman relinquishing oversight of Mariner to Ransom, and then to the third season finale, “The Stars at Night,” Mariner herself asked to have the first officer as her mentor. “I love it; it’s perfect,” explained Newsome. “It’s such a good combo of two bullheaded alphas. Ransom’s not the idiot that some people make him out to be. He’s competent; he’s good at his job. They just have such different motivating factors about things, but then when they find small moments of finding common ground, it’s super satisfying.”
Newsome spotted similarities in those two relationships, and how it’s helped Mariner across the seasons. “It’s a really nice bookend from 101 [“Second Contact”] when she’s literally doing the inverse of that to Boimler putting him in the headlock going, ‘Stick with me, kid. I know everything and I’ll teach you everything,” to this moment in [“The Stars at Night”] with Ransom where she’s going, ‘Let me stick with you. Teach me everything. I want to learn everything and be molded,” reflected Newsome. “It’s still so in character because she’s still approaching it with the same kind of aggressive, chaotic energy, but the emotional growth it shows is really profound.”
On the Relatable Mariner Factor
In the previous season, Freeman offered Mariner the sobering advice that she needed to be more open and trusting of others. That vulnerability was tough for the ensign as she quit Starfleet in “Trusted Sources,” when none of her friends, crewmates, or even her own mother didn’t believe she wouldn’t disparage the Cerritos.
“I really identified with this moment,” explained Newsome. “Because, yes, while the audience have seen all this growth that she's had, the perspective on the Cerritos may be that some people have seen that growth. You have to remember when you're in a work environment, folks, they're not paying as hyper-close attention as we are as an audience to this main character. So when they believe that she's done something harmful for their reputation, that comes from a very real place for a lot of people, because they're like, ‘Oh yeah, that's Mariner. Always messing around, always talking trash about us and getting us in trouble because she doesn't care.’”
“They're operating off of an old version of her. Maybe some people don't have the new Mariner update, they haven't downloaded the iOS whatever that fixes the bugs in your app and tells you, ‘Wait, this Mariner's actually a little more emotionally intelligent,’” continued Newsome.
Newsome related to that moment in her own personal life. "That really resonated with me because, I'll say in my career, I'm a very direct person. Whenever I've had friction with people at work or whenever I'm being self-righteous, if something is happening that I believe is wrong and I'm trying to use my position and privilege to speak up about things, sometimes I'll get reactions from people that are like, ‘Oh, here she goes being difficult again,’ because earlier in my career, I was less nuanced about these things and I was a little more heavy-handed. So people who don't know me now may assume that I'm still kind of coming in swinging a hammer when now it's just a small mallet, and I'm just going to tap on things. I'm not coming in to smash stuff. You kind of have to remind people how you are. She quickly accepts that people have an old image of her because she's kind of used to being thought of that way, and it just felt very real to me.”
On Being Let Down But Still Showing Up
The emotional arc this season was very familiar for Newsome. "She rode so hard for Carol in the beginning to try and clear her name and to stand up for her," said Newsome. "People who are self-righteous cowboys like Mariner and I are always or often the first ones to stand up when something is going wrong, and are often the last ones to be stood up for, because we are seen as not needing help. We're always the ones leading the charge; we're always the ones bailing people out or fixing things. Then when we need backing up, people just aren't used to doing it. It can be lonely. This cuts deep with me because I can fully see me railing against systems and standing up for everybody in my life, and then when I need standing up for, people are kind of unfortunately absent."
Speaking on the pivotal moment in the finale, Newsome highlighted, "The writers did a great job making this a really beautiful answer to the other two finales because this moment is not Mariner coming in and saving the day. It's not Mariner and Petra in some super souped-up ship coming in and fixing everything. It's Mariner reaching out to the community, reaching out to the Cali-class ships and saying, 'We need help. One of ours is in trouble.' If you look at Season 1 Mariner, the idea of her leaning on other people within Starfleet is unheard of. She would've been like, 'I got to do all this myself.' Even in the premiere episode of Season 3, she's got to do all this herself. We've ended the season with her calling all of them. I mean it made me tear up because these are things I struggle with too; the reaching out for help and trusting people enough to lean on them."
The Human Element of Starfleet
On the finale “The Stars at Night,” Newsome commented, “These episodes provided an answer to this question of automated ships versus the human touch. They proved that human touch is so needed. That nuance can’t be programmed, unless you’re Data, then we can program in some human touches. But, those Texas-class ships aren’t as sophisticated as Data’s programming was.”
Newsome took the message a step further, adding, “That’s a really beautiful message — ‘Hey, this class of ship has been kind of a joke and we’ve discounted them, but there’s a human, humanoid element to them that’s super necessary.”
As for Starfleet as a whole, Newsome reflected, “I always joke I would never join the military so that’s the part of Mariner I can’t relate to, but what I can relate to is, in a perfect world, Starfleet isn’t the military. It’s a peaceful organization for exploration and altruism and all that. She wants that and she wants to find a way to use Starfleet properly, as a tool to help people advance the pursuit of knowledge and scientific exploration. I’m in agreement with her on that, and I hope in Season 4 she can find it because it’s definitely doable. It’s just all these pesky wars that keep popping up that makes them have to be a military. If people would just chill, like the Breen, the Dominion, the Klingons, and the Founders. If everybody would just chill, they wouldn’t have to be the military so much. They could just explore some goop. My favorite episodes of Discovery are the ones where they’re just like, ‘Yo, this rock seems like it has thoughts; let’s figure that out.”
A Little Morsel of Season 4
With Season 3 wrapped, we need something to hold us over until Season 4 arrives. Newsome thankfully left us with something to look forward to, “My favorite thing to tease is that we’re going to get some good Mariner, T’Lyn, Tendi time. Some little Three Musketeers, little Three Stooges action. They’re dynamic together; the three of them are super fun so look out for some of that.”
All Season 3 episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks now streaming!
Christine Dinh (she/her) is the managing editor for StarTrek.com. She’s traded the Multiverse for helming this Federation Starship.
Star Trek: Lower Decks streams exclusively in the United States and Latin America on Paramount+, and is distributed concurrently by Paramount Group Content Distribution 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.