Thursday's season finale episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, "No Small Parts," featured the return of two Star Trek: The Next Generation characters. Those two former Enterprise crew members saved the day, and they did it in a ship never before seen in Star Trek canon. SPOILERS for the Star Trek: Lower Decks season finale follow. The episode sees the USS Cerritos in dire straits after falling into a trap set by the dangerously underestimated Pakleds. The Cerritos crew manages to destroy the first Pakled ship they encounter, but two more show up to take its place. Luckily for them, the USS Titan happened to be nearby.
Star Trek: The Next Generation fans probably remember that the Titan is the ship that William Riker would take over command of following his promotion to captain in Star Trek: Nemesis. Commander Deanna Troi, Enterprise's counselor who married Riker in Nemesis, was to go with him to this new assignment, and she's still by his side in this episode.
But the Titan never appeared in Star Trek film or television before this, despite getting a series of novels titled Star Trek: Titan starring Riker, Troi, and their crew. Nemesis ended The Next Generation's run and by the time Star Trek: Picard takes place, Riker and Troi have left active Starfleet duty. When Riker comes to Picard's aid in that show's first season finale (Is this the beginning of a trend?), he's in command of a different ship, the Zheng He. But Lower Decks begins approximately a year after Nemesis. It makes sense that Riker and Troi are still aboard the Titan.
As seen in Lower Decks, the Titan very closely resembles how it has been represented in non-canon sources such as book covers, magazines, and collectible model ships. It even has the same registry number as it does in those sources, NCC-80102.
This attention to detail and reverence for both the canon and non-canon stories that fans hold dear is what we'd expect from Lower Decks showrunner Mike McMahan. He spoke to ComicBook.com about his approach to Star Trek history in Lower Decks before the series debuted earlier this year.
"The more you reference Star Trek stuff, the more to a new fan it's just going to sound like sci-fi stuff," McMahan says. "There's nothing in a Lower Decks episode that will keep a new audience member from understanding what the emotional stories are and what the sci-fi story is if they don't know the term that you're using that reflects back on an existing Star Trek episode. That being said, nine times out of 10, when we're doing a sci-fi thing, we come up with the story we want to tell, and then we're like, 'Alright, well hold on, is there anything in Star Trek canon that this could just be that we can be careful with?' And luckily, there's quite a few Star Trek episodes and movies out there to pull from."
The entire first season of Star Trek: Lower Decks is streaming now on CBS All Access.