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Here's how the Star Trek: Lower Decks finale fits with the TNG timeline
If you're a casual fan of Star Trek, you might not have been thinking too hard about where and when all the zany adventures of Lower Decks were supposed to be happening. There have been a lot of jokes about the Enterprise and Picard and Riker, but not enough to make you worry about exactly how this all fits into the timeline. But, in the Season 1 finale of Lower Decks — "No Small Parts" — something happens that will shake any filthy casual fan out of their casual canon stupor and make them ask one simple question: What is going on again with the crew from The Next Generation at this point? How can certain people be where they are — and wearing what they are wearing — during the time period of Lower Decks?
Well, have no fear, here's your biggest question from the Star Trek: Lower Decks finale answered.
**Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks, Season 1, Episode 10, "No Small Parts."**
As the crew of the USS Cerritos seems to be running out of options, with enemy ships closing in, two very famous Trek characters run to the rescue in a starship you may or may not have heard of. That's right, it's Captain William T. Riker and Commander Deanna Troi aboard the USS Titan! And, yes, they're wearing the gray-shouldered uniforms you might remember from the TNG films First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis. How does this fit in with those movies and Star Trek: Picard? Easy. Let's break it down.
Lower Decks happens in 2280, one year after Nemesis, and five years before the earliest flashback in Star Trek: Picard.
At the beginning of Star Trek: Nemesis, it's the year 2379, and Riker and Trio are in the process of getting transferred off the Enterprise and to the USS Titan. Riker isn't actually promoted to Captain onscreen in Nemesis but by the end of the movie, that's where he and Troi end up. Nemesis also began with Will and Deanna's wedding, so, when we see them in this episode of Lower Decks, they are totally married and working together on the bridge of a starship.
But wait, don't they have a son?
In Star Trek: Picard, we learned that before they had their daughter Kestra, Riker and Troi had a son named Thad, who died when he was very young from a rare condition. The bulk of Picard happens in 2399, roughly 19 years after this moment in Lower Decks in 2380.
So, how old was Thaddeus Troi-Riker before he passed away? We don't know exactly, but it seems like he was probably at least 10 years old or so. Michael Chabon and the other Picard creative staff have established that Thaddeus Troi-Riker was born in 2381, so a year after Lower Decks. This means, that maybe, just maybe, Deanna Troi is about to be pregnant. In fact, because Will and Deanna make jokes about going to "Little Risa" on the planet Tulgana IV, you could infer that Thad is about to be conceived. Either that or Troi is already pregnant in this Lower Decks episode, and just isn't showing.
What about the different uniforms?
There's no time travel going on here, the grey-shouldered uniforms are contemporary to 2380, as are the Lower Decks uniforms we've seen all through this season. Basically, there are at least two different uniform styles in service in Starfleet at the same time.
There are actually several precedents for this. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, we saw two kinds of TNG-era uniforms in service at the same time: the kind with the colors down lower and the colored piping on the shoulders, and the kind with the colors up higher and no piping. Basically, after Season 3 of TNG, the senior staff started wearing the newer, high-colored uniforms, while some of the support crew (Lower Deckers!) wore the older style. In the Deep Space Nine era this happened, too. Crew members aboard the space station itself wore the mostly-black-with-color-on-top jumpsuit, while Starfleet people visiting the station wore the TNG-style uniform. In the film Star Trek: Generations, crew members on the Enterprise wore both kinds of uniforms side-by-side, often in the same scene.
Finally, in Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Captain Pike mentioned that the crew of the Enterprise NCC-1701 got the "new uniforms," implying that the crew of the Discovery was wearing an older style.
What does all of this mean for Season 2 of Lower Decks?
Well, in theory, because Boimler is now serving on the USS Titan, we might be seeing a lot more of Riker and Troi in Season 2 of Lower Decks. And if we do, it seems likely that something about Troi expecting a baby will at least be mentioned in passing. Furthermore, because the Picard flashbacks gave us yet another different style of Starfleet uniform for this era, it seems possible that the crews of both the Titan and the Cerritos will all change their clothes, again. It hasn't happened yet, but perhaps, Lower Decks Season 2 will give us an entire episode that just explains, once and for all, why Starfleet changes its mind so often about what everyone is supposed to wear.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 is now streaming in its entirety on CBS All Access.