In case you didn’t know, the name Star Trek: Lower Decks took its inspiration from the Star Trek: The Next Generation final season episode “Lower Decks,” which parted company from most of the series to focus on recurring and one-off characters who enjoyed less prominent jobs on the Enterprise. That 1994 episode ends with the apparent death of Sito Jaxa (Shannon Fill), one of the Enterprise‘s Lower Deckers. In this week’s episode of the animated series, we learn Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Sito were best friends in Starfleet Academy.
“She didn’t sign up to be a spy. She… she wanted to explore.”-Mariner on the death of Sito in “The Inner Fight”
During a lull in her fight with the Klingon Lower Decker Ma’ah (Jon Curry), Mariner opens up about what’s been bugging her this season. During her unloading, she tells Ma’ah about how inspired she was by Sito, and how much it traumatized her to learn of her friend’s death.
We also learn that fittingly, it’s in large part the events of TNG‘s “Lower Decks” that inform Mariner’s ambivalent feelings toward Starfleet. She is still angry about her friend dying in an espionage mission. “She didn’t sign up to be a spy,” Mariner says. “She… she wanted to explore.”
The Lower Decks hero likewise talks about her experiences in the Dominion War and it’s clear that conflict chipped away at Mariner’s idealized view of Starfleet. When Ma’ah expresses envy that she got to fight the Dominion, Mariner yells, “Starfleet is supposed to be about puzzling together the mysteries of life, not fighting wars!”
By the end of “The Inner Fight” there is a big hint that Mariner might be reunited with her supposedly dead friend next week in the Season 4 Lower Decks finale. She’s transported to the mystery ship that has been attacking non-Federation vessels all season, and aboard it is Nick Locarno, voiced by Robert Duncan McNeill of Star Trek: Voyager fame.
In this week’s episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks we learn that in Starfleet Academy the Bajoran cadet Sito Jaxa – who dies at the end of the TNG “Lower Decks” episode – was Mariner’s best friend.
Locarno was the very first character McNeill played in Star Trek, three years before appearing as Tom Paris for the first time in Voyager. Locarno is a Starfleet cadet who tries to get his fellow cadets to cover for him in an investigation into an accident that cost another cadet’s life. One of the students Locarno tries to get to protect him is none other than Sito Jaxa, future Enterprise ensign and Mariner’s former best friend.
“Starfleet is supposed to be about puzzling together the mysteries of life, not fighting wars!”-Mariner on the Dominion War in “The Inner Fight”
Considering Sito’s prominent mention in Lower Decks, the appearance of Locarno, and the fact that in TNG Sito was presumed dead but her body was never found, it all points toward a big “not really dead” reveal. We’ll have to wait for next week’s season finale on Paramount+ to know for sure.