If you’ve watched “Those Old Scientists,” Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2, episode 7, then you probably noticed the outline of a Koala hovering out in space during the opening credits.
Here’s the Strange New Worlds Koala…
So why is the energetic outline of a friendly Koala hovering out in space? The answer is that it’s a specific reference to another Star Trek series airing on Paramount Plus, Star Trek: Lower Decks.
A Koala is first referenced in the fourth episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1. In it, a Lieutenant named O’Connor transcends to a higher plane of existence. In the process, he reveals to Ensign Tendi that “the universe rests on the back of a Koala”.
The idea of a celestial Koala soon became a running gag on Lower Decks. It’s later referenced in another episode by Ensign Brad Boimler after a near drowning in Cetecean Ops. He tells Tendi that when nearing death, he saw a Koala. Tendi suggests he keep that to himself.
Later we learn that this “Koala” resides on a black mountain, somewhere in the afterlife.
It begins when Lieutenant Shax returns from the dead and reveals what it’s like in the afterlife, Shax says he went to a spiritual battleground on a black mountain. There he was forced to face three faceless apparitions of his father, after which the surviving father made him eat his own heart.
Shax makes no mention of the Koala, but later that year, Lieutenant Commander Steve Stevens is turned into stone. When he’s brought back to life, he says he saw “a koala sitting on a black mountain.”