Star Trek: Lower Decks' first season finale turned out to be a celebration of past Star Trek shows. Not only did two Star Trek: The Next Generation crew members return to action in the episode, but Captan James T. Kirk and Spock show up on the screen as well. SPOILERS for Star Trek: Lower Decks' first season finale episode, "No Small Parts," follow. The episode begins with the USS Cerritos making the second contact on a planet that fans of Star Trek: The Original Series may remember, Beta III. That's the planet the USS Enterprise visited in The Original Series episode "The Return of the Archons."
In that episode, Kirk's crew discovered that the planet was under the control of an intelligent computer. The people of that world had worshipped this computer, called Landru, for at least 6,000 years. Landru's lack of a soul meant led him to stifle all creativity and inspiration on the planet. It also implemented some barbaric customs, included the "Red Hour" that began "Festival," a brief period of anarchy that was The Purge in space.
Kirk's crew teamed with the resistance on Beta III to free the people from Landru's control. When the Cerritos shows up at the planet, they find that the people of Beta III have regressed. They've chosen to let Landru control their lives and are trying to reinstitute the Red Hour and Festival. Freeman has to talk some sense into them to get them back on track. Upon returning to the ship, she glances at her Padd, which shows Kirk and Spock. Since Lower Decks is an animated show, it makes sense that Kirk and Spock here appear as they did in Star Trek: The Animated Series.
It's a fun cameo that's part of a bigger joke at the start of the episode. By the end, it speaks to why second contact missions, while not as glamorous as first contact missions, are essential to Starfleet's mission. If not for the Cerritos' arrival, Starfleet may never have known about the regression on Beta III. Similarly, no one kept tabs on the Pakleds well enough to notice when they became a legitimate threat in the galaxy. Maybe Starfleet will start giving these missions a higher priority from here on out.
The full first season of Star Trek: Lower Decks is streaming now on CBS All Access. The second season is already in the works.