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Lower Decks (episode)

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
"Lower Decks"
TNG, Episode 7x15
Production number: 40277-267
First aired: 7 February 1994
166th of 176 produced in TNG
166th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
307th of 728 released in all
Sito jaxa
Teleplay By
René Echevarria

Story By
Ron Wilkerson & Jean Louise Matthias

Directed By
Gabrielle Beaumont
47566.7 (2370)
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Junior officers speculate on the reasons for recent unusual actions taken by the command crew near the Cardassian border.

Summary Edit

Teaser Edit

Junior officers playing terrace

Playing in Ten Forward

Counselor Troi and Commander Riker are discussing crew evaluations in Ten Forward, much to the dismay of Ensign Sam Lavelle, who is watching them from across the room with his friends Ensigns Sito Jaxa, Taurik, and Nurse Alyssa Ogawa. This concern deepens when another friend of theirs, waiter Ben, tells them that Lavelle and Sito are up for the same position: ops night duty officer.

Act One Edit

Think promotion Lavelle

Lavelle wants that promotion badly

The crew performs a battle drill, with Lavelle and Sito on the bridge at conn and tactical, respectively, and with Taurik assisting Lieutenant Commander La Forge in engineering. Afterward, Riker offers advice to Sito on improving her performance, but snaps at Lavelle for acknowledging with more than one "aye." Captain Picard then orders a change of course to the Argaya system, near Cardassian space.

When the senior officers are in the observation lounge discussing the new orders, Sito is asked to fill in at ops. This indicates to Lavelle that his chances for promotion to the position are slim. In Engineering, Taurik enthusiastically shares some new ideas in warp field configuration with a somewhat annoyed La Forge who is intrigued but still slightly irritated by the Vulcan's ideas. In sickbay, Doctor Crusher tells Ogawa that she is promoting her to lieutenant. Ogawa shares her fears about her relationship with Lieutenant Powell.

Lavelle and Riker at Ten Forward

Lavelle trying to get on Riker's good side

Later, in Ten Forward, Sito is surprised and encouraged to find out from Lieutenant Worf that he recommended her for the ops position. Meanwhile, Lavelle laments the fact that, apparently, Riker does not like him. Ben, who is friends with Riker, tells him that Riker is Canadian and Lavelle tries to strike up a conversation with the first officer about this. Unfortunately, Riker is actually from Alaska and an embarrassed Lavelle jokingly states that they both get a lot of snow.

Close to the Cardassian border, the USS Enterprise-D is searching in vain for an escape pod. Finally, it is located in Cardassian space, outside of normal transporter range.

Act Two Edit

With some adjustments from La Forge and Taurik, the pod's occupant is beamed to sickbay. Due to the sensitive nature of this person's identity, Crusher orders everyone but senior officers out.

After seeing the mysterious visitor, Picard meets with Sito in his ready room. He gives her a stern dressing down for her part in the cover-up of an incident at Starfleet Academy that led to the death of a fellow cadet, (TNG: "The First Duty") and tells her he hasn't got a clue how she ended up assigned to his ship. Sito is so caught off guard that she does not defend herself.

Act Three Edit

In the shuttlebay, Taurik and La Forge are intentionally damaging a shuttlecraft with phasers. Taurik is puzzled but La Forge offers no credible explanation as to why they are doing this. Ogawa is asked by Crusher to assist her with emergency surgery on the visitor – a Cardassian – and is ordered not to reveal that fact to anyone else.

Junior officers playing poker

Playing poker

Later, the junior officers are playing poker and speculating on who was in the escape pod. Ogawa is quiet about what she knows. They encourage Sito, after hearing of her encounter with the Captain. Lavelle still laments Riker's seeming dislike for him. And Taurik is also concerned that his suggestions have put off La Forge. Meanwhile, Ben, who is also at the poker table, cleans out his preoccupied Starfleet friends until one by one they decide to turn in.

The senior officers are also playing poker. Worf and Riker debate who to promote, Sito or Lavelle. Riker thinks Sito is too inexperienced and Lavelle too eager to please. Troi points out that he and Lavelle are very much alike. Riker decides not to be so hard on him in the future. As the games break up, La Forge invites Taurik to engineering to try out his engine improvements. Moments later, Ben comes by, hoping to press his luck by engaging the remaining senior officers in a few more hands.

Act Four Edit

After his next mok'bara class, Worf singles out Sito and tells her she must pass a gik'tal challenge to move into his advanced class. He has her put on a blindfold and spar with him. But after being knocked down several times, she removes the blindfold and refuses to continue with the test. He praises her for standing up to the unfair treatment and hopes she will do so when it happens again. The gik'tal was, of course, invented by Worf, in order to test (and encourage) Sito's ability to stand up for herself when she is being unfairly attacked.

Sito takes Worf's advice and confronts Picard about his comments on her academy days. She asks him to judge her on her performance on the Enterprise, not her past mistakes. Picard is pleased. In actuality, he was the one who requested that Sito be assigned to the Enterprise as he wanted her to have a proper chance to redeem herself. In fact, he had only been testing her mettle for an important and dangerous assignment.

In sickbay, Ogawa announces her engagement to Lieutenant Powell to Doctor Crusher.

Sito joins Picard, Riker, and Worf in the Observation Lounge. With them is Joret Dal, a Cardassian military officer and a Federation operative. He was the occupant of the escape pod. Now Starfleet must get him safely back to Cardassian space. His return would be easier if he had a prisoner, allowing him to pose as a bounty hunter. As a Bajoran, Sito is a perfect candidate but Picard, knowing the extreme danger of the assignment, cannot bring himself to order her to do it. Sito volunteers, fully aware of how Cardassians treat their prisoners. After she leaves, Dal expresses his regret that she is so young. The Enterprise officers share this regret.

The shuttle that La Forge and Taurik damaged with phasers will carry the two to Cardassian space, where, after passing through the border patrols, Dal will return Sito to the Federation in an escape pod. Sito says goodbye to Worf as she boards, with fake bruises provided by Crusher.

Act Five Edit

Sito jaxa, final mission

Sito gets ready for her final mission

Sito wonders why Dal does what he does for Starfleet and he tells her that he is sick of the pointless fighting his people engage in. He believes what he does is worth it if it brings peace to Cardassia. Sito is surprised to hear such a sentiment from a Cardassian. Their sensors alert them that a Cardassian border patrol has spotted them.

On the Enterprise, Lavelle is worried about his friend Sito's absence. He realizes Taurik and Ogawa know something, and is upset when they won't speak of it. Taurik reminds him that they are Starfleet officers, and Ogawa says that she isn't allowed to talk about it. Lavelle then drops it.

Later, on duty on the bridge, Lavelle has just finished a long-range scan, and does not find any escape pod. Riker tells them to narrow the scan field. Lavelle says that it would help if he knew what kind of life signs to look for. He is told to scan for a Bajoran life sign. Lavelle wanted to know if he was looking for his friend. Riker senses his distress. Only after launching a probe do they detect something: debris just inside Cardassian space.

Picard makes a note in his log that they have intercepted a Cardassian communication indicating that a Bajoran prisoner was killed in her pod while trying to escape. And he announces to the crew that they have lost an officer of courage and character.

Afterward, Ogawa and Taurik are sitting with Lavelle in Ten Forward, where Lavelle is regarding the rank pin for the promotion he has just received to lieutenant junior grade. He feels guilty about the promotion, wondering if he received it because Sito was killed. Ogawa and Taurik tell him that the best way to honor her memory is to excel in his new position.

At the same time, Worf is also in Ten Forward. Ben sees him sitting alone, and encourages him to join the other group in remembering Sito, which he does.

Memorable quotes Edit

"You sure about dessert?"
"Yes, don't tempt me."

- Ben and Troi, in Ten Forward

"What could they be talking about?"
"Have you ever considered learning to lipread?"

- Sam Lavelle and Taurik

"Defend yourself!"

- Worf, to Sito Jaxa

"All my life I've served in the military. Once, it was an institution dedicated to the security of Cardassia. Now it's little more than a platform for ambitious guls hoping to make their reputations in battle. I'm sick of war... my people need peace."

- Joret Dal, explaining to Sito Jaxa why he was doing what he was doing, when they were in the shuttle

"Why? Did you crash the ship into something?"

- Ben, to Sam Lavelle in Ten Forward after Sam stated Riker didn't like him

"He likes poker, jazz... he's Canadian."
"Yeah? My grandfather was from Canada."

- Ben and Sam Lavelle, on Commander Riker

"Sir... I'm a little puzzled. Why are we intentionally damaging the shuttlecraft?"

- Taurik, to Geordi La Forge

"My grandfather was Canadian, you know."
"Aren't you one, too?"
"A grandfather?"
"No. Canadian, sir. Canadian."
"No, I grew up in Alaska."
"Oh. Well... they both... get a lot of snow."
"It was good talking to you, sir."

- Sam Lavelle and William Riker

"I only filled in for ops for half hour but I had to degauss the main deflector dish, recalibrate the navigation grid and use internal sensors to find a lost puppy."

- Sito Jaxa, to Worf

"Do you think Worf is chewing her out?"
"No, he always looks like that."

- Sam Lavelle and Ben

"Sir, is there really such a thing as a gik'tal challenge?"
"No, there is not. But perhaps next time you are judged unfairly, it will not take so many bruises for you to protest."

- Sito Jaxa and Worf

"It's not your place to punish me for what I did at the Academy. I've worked hard here. My record is exemplary. If you're going to judge me, judge me for what I am now."

- Sito Jaxa, to Picard, echoing his own words towards Q from "Encounter at Farpoint"

"To all Starfleet personnel: this is the captain. It is my sad duty to inform you that a member of the crew, Ensign Sito Jaxa has been lost in the line of duty. She was the finest example of a Starfleet officer and a young woman of remarkable courage and strength of character. Her loss will be deeply felt by all who knew her. Picard out."

- Jean-Luc Picard, to the crew (on intercom)

Background Information Edit

Story and production Edit

Lower Decks cast

The prominent guest cast

  • According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, the story was partially inspired by the classic television series, Upstairs, Downstairs. Freelancers Ron Wilkerson and Jean Louise Matthias took the unusual step of presenting the premise in the form of detailed character notes.
  • Jeri Taylor commented, "The episode was a wonderful premise from Ron Wilkerson and Jean Matthias, who have given us other wonderful premises and a beautiful script with "Lessons". Unfortunately, we were in a time bind. I had to have a staff member do it, so René took it over and wrote a wildly off-concept show, but that's what made it work. It was: How does the Enterprise look to those little junior officers who don't get to go into the observation lounge and who don't know what's going on? It was just a really fresh, original idea and, I think as it turned out, one of the best episodes of the season." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Ron Wilkerson remarked, "Again, like our "Lessons", what was important was not the mission but the relationships of the people. What it is like to work for Riker, to work for Worf, to wonder what goes on in secret briefings in the observation lounge?" (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • Ronald D. Moore noted that there was some initial discussion on how far to take the premise. "There was a debate early on about how much it was going to be their show and how much it was going to be our show. Ultimately, Michael said this is their show, which I thought was a good decision – especially since he usually says it has to be about our characters – which is what made the show so good." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
Filming Lower Decks

Filming the episode

  • According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, Barclay was briefly considered as one of the characters featured, but was dropped for being "too well-known". Echevarria then added the civilian waiter Ben so as to have a character "who hitches aboard the ship for fun, who's unconcerned about rank, and who passes along stupid rumors!"
  • Taurik was originally named "Sorik", but was changed to reflect the new practice of giving Vulcan males names starting with "T", as with Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager. Had the series continued, the production staff would have considered making Taurik a recurring character. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • Sam Lavelle was named after Wilkerson's Canadian Labrador Samwell and a close friend of Echevarria. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, Nils Diaz was named for the Cuban nuclear engineer of the same name, who is Echevarria's godfather and a propulsion-system researcher.
  • In early drafts of the script, Sito Jaxa's death was somewhat more ambiguous. Taylor explained, "When I mentioned that to Michael, he said, 'Absolutely not, she's dead. She stays dead. That would undermine the whole episode.' So I said 'Fine.' The morning after Michael saw the episode, he came in and said, 'We can't let her stay dead. We've got to bring her back. She was wonderful.' He was really bowled over by the episode." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • A script written for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine would have centered around the discovery that Sito Jaxa had not died after the events of the episode but had ended up as an inmate in a Cardassian prison. The story itself was never produced but did come to form the basic premise for the episode "Hard Time". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
  • Piller commented "We were very impressed and very happy with the reaction we had to Ensign Sito who was lost along the Cardassian border and presumed dead. We have a plan to find her in captivity and to deal with what happens when somebody comes back from a long time in captivity, and the psychological impact of that sort of experience". (The Deep Space Log Book: A Second Season Companion, p 51)
  • First UK airdate: 17 April 1996

Continuity Edit

  • Sito's presence on the Enterprise-D – and indeed in Starfleet as an ensign – is another clue that the seasons of the series do not exactly correspond to the passage of time. Sito states that the events of "The First Duty" happened "three years ago" – presumably to account for her graduation from Starfleet Academy while having to repeat a year there as a result of her misconduct. Other clues include Molly O'Brien's age and the fourth anniversary of Wolf 359 in "Second Sight".
  • When Riker comments that he should just promote every crewman on the ship, Riker and Troi jokingly refer to each other as "commander" and "captain" respectively. Troi is promoted to commander in the very next episode, "Thine Own Self".

Cast and characters Edit

Reception Edit

  • After the show aired, rumors emerged that the characters of the episode were being introduced to become characters on Star Trek: Voyager. Taylor remarked, "It was just a rampant rumor that would not die. I am just mystified was to why people thought that three middle-aged people – Rick, Michael and myself – would ever create a series that had nothing but a bunch of young 90210 people on it. It was just absolutely out of the question." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • This episode became the Trope Namer for the "Lower Decks Episode" trope at

Video and DVD releases Edit

Links and references Edit

Starring Edit

Also starring Edit

Guest stars Edit

Uncredited co-stars Edit

Stunt double Edit

Stand-ins Edit

References Edit

Alaska; alpha shift; ambassador; Argaya system; Bajor; Bajoran; beta shift; blackjack; bounty hunter; cadet; Canada; Cardassia; Cardassian; Cardassian border; Cardassian escape pod; Cardassian military; Cardassian patrol ship; Carstairs; Clement, USS; confinement beam; crew evaluation; crew evaluation report; coffee; Curie; debris; deflector dish; Diaz, Nils; drill evaluation report; escape pod; evacuation pod; evasive maneuvers; Federation; Fletcher; flight instructor; flight test; fly; gamma shift; gik'tal; gul; helm; hull resiliency; inorganic matter; internal sensors; jazz; junior officer; Klingon; life support system; lip reading; long range scan; marriage; mok'bara; nacelle; navigation grid; night shift; observation lounge; phaser; phaser rifle; plasma; poker; Potemkin, USS; Powell, Andrew; probe; propulsion systems; puppy; Riley; senior officer; sensor sweep; shackles; shuttlecraft; snow; soccer ball; spider; Spock; Starfleet; Starfleet Academy; subdural hematoma; Tanaline propulsion laboratory; Ten Forward; Terrace; three-dimensional chess; Trakian ale; turbolift; vedek; Vulcan; warp field

Previous episode:
"Sub Rosa"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7
Next episode:
"Thine Own Self"

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