If you happened to see the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds/Star Trek: Lower Decks crossover episode — “Those Old Scientists” — then you may wonder where that phrase comes from. The most obvious, and correct, answer is that the T.O.S. acronym you get from Those Old Scientists matches with The Original Series. But, that isn’t the end of the answer — the reference dates back to “No Small Parts,” the Season 1 finale of Lower Decks.
The title of the latest Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode, “Those Old Scientists,” is a reference to an early episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks.
In the cold open of “No Small Parts” — which first streamed back in October 2020 — the USS Cerritos crew discovers the people of Beta III are once again taking orders from the computer Landru, first seen in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Return of the Archons.”
When Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) complains about it, her first officer, Jack Ransom (Jerry O’Connell), says, “Yeah, I know. It’s always weird revisiting planets from the T.O.S. era.”
When Freeman asks what he means by “T.O.S.” Ransom responds, “It’s what I call the 2260s. It stands for ‘Those Old Scientists.'”
This wasn’t forgotten by the Strange New Worlds writers. When Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Mariner (Tawny Newsome) return to the Cerritos at the end of “Those Old Scientists,” Boimler thanks his best friend for “going back to the T.O.S. era to get me.” Mariner answers, “You picked that up from Ransom. Why does he always call it that?”
Of course, the callback to Season 1 of Lower Decks isn’t the last callback in “Those Old Scientists” and it doesn’t come close to reaching back the furthest.
There’s the artifact that sends Boimler and Mariner back in time which looks suspiciously like The Guardian of Forever. There’s the mention of Spock’s childhood pet sehlat which we first hear about in The Original Series episode “Journey to Babel” and is eventually seen in The Animated Series episode “Yesteryear.” There’s the Enterprise’s mission of bringing grain to Setlik II — with Setlik III being the future setting of a massacre proving formative for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Chief O’Brien.
And perhaps more glorious than any other callback in “Those Old Scientists,” there is Boimler’s exclamation while maneuvering himself on Captain Pike’s saddle, “Riker!”
Really, Boimler’s “Riker” moment is indicative of what makes “Those Old Scientists” so brilliant. It’s not just a hilarious callback — it actually makes sense. After the events of the Season 1 finale of Lower Decks, Boimler transfers to the USS Titan temporarily under Will Riker’s (Jonathan Frakes) command.
If anyone from that era of Trek were to make a Riker joke, wouldn’t it make sense that it was someone who served under him?
“Those Old Scientists” was released early over the weekend — timed to coincide with a number of exciting Star Trek announcements from San Diego Comic-Con. The next episode, “Subspace Rhapsody,” is expected to stream next Thursday, August 3, on Paramount+. Proving even bolder that this latest episode, “Subspace Rhapsody” will be a musical episode.