Lower Decks

"Lower Decks" is the 167th episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is the 15th episode of the seventh season.

"Lower Decks"
Star Trek: The Next Generation episode
Episode no.Season 7
Episode 15
Directed byGabrielle Beaumont
Story byRonald Wilkerson
Jean Louise Matthias
Teleplay byRené Echevarria
Featured musicJay Chattaway
Production code267
Original air dateFebruary 7, 1994 (1994-02-07)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Sub Rosa"
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"Thine Own Self"
Star Trek: The Next Generation (season 7)
List of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, while enduring the Enterprise's promotion evaluation process, four junior officers find themselves involved in a top-secret mission[1] and is noted for its focus on non-main characters.[2] The episode also brings back Sito Jaxa (Shannon Fill) previously introduced in "The First Duty".[1][3]

This episode is noted for focusing on a group of guest characters, rather than the main cast, and for its emotional impact. It has been rated highly among the series' episodes.


Four young Enterprise junior officers find their friendship strained during personnel evaluations. Two of the friends, Sam Lavelle and the Bajoran Sito Jaxa, discover that they are being considered for the same job. Joined by their friend Ben, a civilian who works as a waiter, they learn that promotions seem to be already decided on for their other two friends, Nurse Ogawa and Vulcan engineer Taurik.

Worf soon detects an escape pod inside Cardassian space, which is off limits to the Enterprise, and Geordi and Taurik work to transport the passenger on board amidst a cloak of secrecy.

Ogawa seems to be doing nicely in the evaluations as Beverly Crusher has nothing but praise for her abilities and accomplishments. She orders Ogawa not to reveal what she is about to see in Sickbay, and Dr. Crusher takes her to where an injured Cardassian has been brought on board.

Meanwhile, during a poker game, Commander Riker and Worf differ on whether Lavelle or Sito should be promoted. Captain Picard chastises Sito for her role in a Starfleet Academy scandal. She leaves the meeting exasperated, as Picard has left her without the opportunity to defend herself. Considerations of promotions are interrupted by a baffling secret mission that all but Lavelle are involved in. Left out of the loop, Lavelle becomes convinced that this is a sign that he will not be promoted.

After teaching a class, Worf tells Sito to stay and that he wants to test her. He blindfolds her and engages her in a one-on-one martial arts fight. Sito is powerless to stop Worf's attacks, adding insult to her already bruised self-esteem, but finally stands up to him, saying it's an unfair test. Worf admits that getting her to stand up for herself when she is being judged unfairly is what he intended all along. She uses her newfound confidence to confront Picard about his earlier interrogation. Picard, to Sito's surprise, admits that the purpose was to assess her personal growth, along with her readiness for a dangerous secret mission where she will pose as a Bajoran captive taken by a Cardassian named Joret Dal. He also states that he had specifically asked for her assignment to the ship so she would be given a fair chance. Joret is actually a Federation operative, and he needs to get back to Cardassia. The plan is for Joret and Sito to enter Cardassian space in a "stolen" Starfleet shuttle craft that has been made to look like it was damaged from phaser fire during an escape. At the first opportunity, Joret will launch Sito back to Federation space in an escape pod. Acknowledging the risks, Sito accepts the mission and leaves to prepare.

Sito's escape pod does not return from the mission, so after waiting 32 hours, Picard orders a probe to be launched into Cardassian space, despite being warned that doing so could be considered a treaty violation. The probe detects scattered debris that appears to be the remnants of a Starfleet shuttle escape pod. The Enterprise later intercepts Cardassian communications which report that a Bajoran prisoner overpowered her Cardassian captor and attempted to leave Cardassian space in an escape pod, which was then destroyed, leaving no survivors.

Captain Picard announces the loss of a fellow crew member over the ship's general address. Lavelle receives the promotion, but he and his friends, as well as the senior crew, are downhearted. Even the emotionally distant Worf has been affected by the loss they all feel. They comfort each other, and Worf joins them as the episode concludes.


"Lower Decks" has been consistently rated among the best episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and in the Star Trek franchise.[4][5][6][7] Grunge.com noted that the finale of "Lower Decks" is one of the saddest moments in Star Trek,[2] and Screen Rant included it in their review of most heart-breaking moments in the franchise.[1]

The 2012 book, Star Trek: The Next Generation 365 notes that "Lower Decks" was an early example of a continuing story in Star Trek, with Sito Jaxa's story being continued from "The First Duty" which was earlier in the show's run.[8]

In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter rated "Lower Decks" as the 50th best television episode of all Star Trek franchise television prior to Star Trek: Discovery, including live-action and the animated series but not counting the movies.[9] In May 2019, they ranked it among the top twenty-five episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, noting that it shifted the focus away from the usual main cast of bridge officers and explored the tensions between the Star Trek aliens of Bajor and Cardassia.[10]

In 2016, Empire ranked this the 49th best out of the top 50 episodes of all the 700-plus Star Trek television episodes.[11] They remark that this episode offered a change of pace for the show late in its run, by focusing on a new group of characters and showing how they interact with the existing main cast.[12]

In 2017, Den of Geek listed "Lower Decks" as one of the top ten ground-breaking episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[13] They note how it draws the audience in to caring about the ensign, whereas usually the loss of some crew does not connect with the audience in the same way.[13] The same year they ranked this episode as one of the top 25 "must-watch" episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[14]

In 2018, Io9 suggested using this episode as the concept for an entire new Star Trek show that focused on lower ranking crew aboard a starship.[15] It was then announced a few months later that production would begin on a new animated series called Star Trek: Lower Decks.[16]

In 2019, Screen Rant ranked "Lower Decks" the fifth best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation,[17] and again in 2020.[18]

Variety listed "Lower Decks" as one of the top 15 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[19]

In 2019, The Hollywood Reporter ranked "Lower Decks" as one of the top 25 episodes of the series.[20] They note how the episode focused on lower ranking characters on the Starship for a change, and also tied into the universe's Bajoran-Cardassian conflict.[20]


This episode has proved influential on later television writers. In his "Production Notes: Doodles in the Margins of Time" in 2007, Doctor Who executive producer Russell T Davies cites "Lower Decks" along with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Zeppo" as an influence on his 2006 Doctor Who episode "Love & Monsters".[21] The episode provided a television format which came to be known as the "Doctor-lite episode", an annual tradition for Doctor Who since 2006.[22]

See alsoEdit

  • "The First Duty", the fifth-season episode introducing the character Sito Jaxa as a member of Nova Squadron.
  • "Ensign Ro", the Bajoran—Cardassian conflict is first introduced.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Bajoran—Cardassian conflict is a primary story element in the show.


  1. ^ a b c "Star Trek: 17 Most Heartbreaking Deaths In The History Of The Franchise". Screen Rant. October 31, 2016. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Snellgrove, Chris. "Star Trek moments that secretly made us cry". Grunge.com. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  3. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: "Lower Decks"". Tor.com. February 22, 2013. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  4. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation' — The 25 Greatest Episodes". Hollywood Reporter. September 21, 2016. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  5. ^ "Star Trek: 50 Best Episodes". Den of Geek. September 4, 2017. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  6. ^ ""Endgame" – 'Star Trek': 100 Greatest Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  7. ^ "The 50 best Star Trek episodes ever". Empire. July 27, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2019.
  8. ^ Block, Paula M.; Erdmann, Terry J. (November 16, 2012). Star Trek: The Next Generation 365. ABRAMS. ISBN 9781613124000.
  9. ^ ""Endgame" – 'Star Trek': 100 Greatest Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  10. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation' – The 25 Best Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  11. ^ "The 50 best Star Trek episodes ever". Empire. July 27, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2019.
  12. ^ "The 50 best Star Trek episodes ever". Empire. July 27, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Star Trek: The Next Generation — 10 Groundbreaking Episodes". Den of Geek. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  14. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation's 25 must-watch episodes". Den of Geek. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  15. ^ Whitbrook, James. "7 Star Trek Shows We'd Love to See From CBS All Access". io9. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  16. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (October 25, 2018). "'Star Trek' Animated Comedy a Go With 2-Season Order at CBS All Access". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 25, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  17. ^ "The 10 Best Star Trek: TNG Episodes Of All Time". Screen Rant. March 7, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  18. ^ "The 15 Best Star Trek: TNG Episodes Of All Time". ScreenRant. April 28, 2020. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  19. ^ Ryan, Daniel Holloway,Joe Otterson,Maureen; Holloway, Daniel; Otterson, Joe; Ryan, Maureen (September 28, 2017). "'Star Trek: The Next Generation's' 15 Best Episodes". Variety. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  20. ^ a b "'Star Trek: The Next Generation' – The 25 Best Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  21. ^ "Review: Doctor Who 2x10 – Love and Monsters". The Medium is Not Enough. June 19, 2006. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  22. ^ "'Doctor-Light': The Doctorless 'Who' Stories". Digital Spy. June 22, 2008. Retrieved July 20, 2013.


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