Stаr Trek Is Still Cleаninɡ Up Mistаkes Piсаrd’s TNG Enterprise Mаde

Part of the mission of the USS Cerritos on Star Trek: Lower Decks is to check in on the planets Captain Picard and the Enterprise visited in TNG.

Star Trek TNG Lower Decks Captain Picard USS Cerritos


  • Captain Picard’s mistakes in interfering with alien cultures often left planets to fend for themselves after his departure.
  • Captain Freeman’s initiative, Project Swing By, aims to check on previously visited planets and avoid leaving them to their own devices.
  • Starfleet rarely followed up on first contacts, but the concept of Second Contact ships like the Cerritos in Lower Decks could prevent future negative consequences.

The USS Cerritos on Star Trek: Lower Decks spends much of its time cleaning up mistakes made by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Picard is often regarded as one of Starfleet’s – and Star Trek’s – best captains, but that doesn’t mean he never made mistakes. Because of Starfleet’s Prime Directive, which prevents interference in other cultures, Picard often had very limited options when it came to helping alien worlds. While the Enterprise crew always tried to leave planets better off than when they found them, Starfleet rarely checked in on these planets after Picard left.

Following the adventures of Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) and the USS Cerritos, Star Trek: Lower Decks takes place about a year after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. As a ship that specializes in Second Contact missions, the Cerritos often visits planets that had first been visited by starships like Picard’s USS Enterprise-D and E. In Lower Decks season 3, episode 9, “Trusted Sources,” the Cerritos stops by the planets Ornara and Brekka, whose people Picard had met seventeen years before in TNG season 1, episode 22, “Symbiosis.” While things seem to be going well now on Ornara, the planet suffered over a decade of turmoil after Picard’s interference.

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Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Mission Is To Clean Up Picard’s TNG Mistakes

In Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Symbiosis,” Captain Picard acted with the best of intentions, cutting off contact between the Ornarans and their neighboring planet Brekka. The Brekkians provided the Ornarans with a highly addictive drug, and the absence of this drug caused the Ornarans to go through a difficult withdrawal period. From Picard’s perspective, it would have been a violation of the Prime Directive to help the Ornarans through this withdrawal period or even inform them it was coming. Instead, Picard simply left them to figure out their future for themselves. While things worked out in the end, Picard could have helped the Ornarans avoid years of suffering if he had made a different call.

Captain Freeman proposes an initiative called Project Swing By in Star Trek: Lower Decks‘ “Trusted Sources,” which would have the Cerritos check on planets that had previously been visited by Starfleet. When she visits Ornara, the people seem to have found contentment and insist they don’t need anything from Starfleet. The Ornarans tell Freeman that “Starfleet’s done enough for Ornara,” and while they frame this as a compliment, it could also be taken as an indictment. The Cerritos then investigates Brekka, which has been invaded by Breen soldiers. Despite these less-than-successful missions, Captain Freeman’s Project Swing By is a good idea, as captains like Picard often seem to leave planets to fend for themselves after making First Contact.

Star Trek Lower Decks Captain Freeman Shaxs Ransom T'ana

Throughout both Star Trek: The Original Series and The Next Generation, Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Captain Picard often initiated First Contact with planets that were never seen again. This was largely due to the more episodic nature of television in the 1960s and 1980s, in which most Star Trek episodes hit the reset button every week. TNG began to change this trend by sometimes referencing the events of past episodes, but they rarely revisited a planet from a previous story.

It wasn’t until late Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that the franchise truly embraced more serialized storytelling.

While the idea of Second Contact in Lower Decks may have been conceived as a joke, it’s a smart idea for Starfleet ships to check up on previously visited planets. Captain Kirk, in particular, would often show up on a planet, introduce the inhabitants to completely new ideas, and then leave them to their own devices. The Prime Directive is meant to prevent this sort of interference, but the course of a planet’s history can be changed by the simple presence of a Starfleet crew. Considering it had been nearly twenty years before anyone had checked on Ornara or Brekka, perhaps Starfleet should have more Second Contact ships like the Cerritos of Star Trek: Lower Decks.

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