According to a write-up in Den of Geek, Star Trek: Lower Decks has revealed a disgraced Starfleet Cadet not seen since 1992 as its latest full-blown villain. The penultimate episode of the fourth season has uncovered Robert Duncan McNeill’s Nick Locarno as the big bad of the upcoming season finale, a character who has been long forgotten since his days on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Producers from the expanded Star Trek universe had previously made efforts to sweep Locarno under the rug due to elongated discussions regarding the morality of his actions in The Next Generation, leading to a recasting for Robert Duncan McNeill in the role of Lieutenant Tom Paris.
Robert Duncan McNeill returned to Lower Decks as his other Star Trek character, the disgraced cadet Nick Locarno.
Though Robert Duncan McNeill has endured a number of jokes and references to his dual casting both on and off the screen, the Star Trek franchise would have you believe that the 58-year-old actor never appeared in the 1992 The Next Generation episode titled “The First Duty” over 30 years ago. McNeill even appeared in a 2021 episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks as Tom Paris, bringing his characteristic blend of lone-wolf behaviors and standoffish attitude to the Lower Decks crew.
…Star Trek: Lower Decks never forgets even the most minor details in the vast canon of the franchise, with the animated series frequently making mention of small one-off characters and forgotten storylines…
In Nick Locarno’s first on-screen appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation several decades ago, he led the elite Nova Squadron, which Wesley Crusher joins after displaying his talent as a cadet. Unfortunately, due to a failure in leadership, a Nova Squadron member dies while performing a routine training exercise, resulting in an internal investigation of the entire unit. While Crusher and company resolve at first to remain silent in solidarity with their leader, Patrick Stewart‘s Jean-Luc Picard eventually causes Crusher to cave, reminding him of his duty to the truth as a Starfleet Officer.
Having been ousted from the Academy before his graduation for reckless negligence, Locarno departs the Academy in disgrace, never to be seen in the Star Trek franchise again. That is, of course, until the latest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, titled “The Inner Fight,” which sees Nick Locarno emerging from the shadows, delivering his trademark snark just before the episode ends. This cliffhanger sets up fans for a big season-finale adventure next week, with the franchise seemingly coming full circle.
It has been routinely stated that Star Trek: Lower Decks never forgets even the most minor details in the vast canon of the franchise, with the animated series frequently making mention of small one-off characters and forgotten storylines, sometimes even offering something of a fourth-wall break in the form of a humorous aside.
We don’t know Nick Locarno’s intentions on Lower Decks, but they won’t be good.
While the series doesn’t necessarily appeal to every Star Trek fan, it has undoubtedly made strides in winning over fans of previous iterations, with “The Inner Fight” serving as the latest example.
The Season 4 finale of Star Trek: Lower Decks is set to premiere on Paramount+ on Friday, November 2. Fans of Robert Duncan McNeill’s performance will finally have a chance to reconnect with the long-forgotten Nick Locarno. In contrast, younger fans may be left with an excuse to dig back into the history of Star Trek to catch the disgraced pilot’s original appearance.