This author has previously written about how, in Trek’s post-capitalist society, prestige is the only currency that matters. The characters on “Star Trek: Lower Decks” serve on board a utilitarian ship that handles less-than-important missions, causing the captain and the crew to approach other, more prestigious Starfleet vessels with a hint of embarrassment. Serving on “more important” ships is what draws career advancement as well as exposure to more exciting adventures. There’s a reason why admirals are so often untrustworthy in “Star Trek.” Having reached the peak of their careers, admirals resort to extreme — often shady — scientific projects just so they can be noticed by their professional peers.
The general argument made throughout “Star Trek,” then, is that fame, like money and power, corrupts. The thirst for recognition can lead one to commit criminal acts.
It’s ironic, then, that “Star Trek” characters should be so readily recognizable. Picard, for instance, knows all about Captain Kirk (William Shatner) when the characters meet in “Star Trek: Generations.” In an episode of “Lower Decks,” the showrunners reenacted the same Picard/Kirk scenes from “Generations,” but with Ensign Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Admiral Sulu (George Takei) in their places. Of course Boimler knew who Sulu was.
In “Star Trek,” fame is the ultimate goal, but it’s also meant to be rejected. In retirement, a successful Starfleet officer aims to be instantly recognizable by an incoming class of cadets … but incredibly modest about their achievements.
By coincidence, the acquisition of fame has happened only to the characters audiences are familiar with. It happened to Kirk, to Picard, to Sisko, to Janeway, many of their officers, and will likely happen to others.
This strikes me as unfair and limiting.