This review contains spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 episode 7, “Those Old Scientists,” as well as spoilers for Star Trek: Picard season 3, both currently available for streaming on Paramount+.

“Those Old Scientists,” the crossover between SNW and Star Trek: Lower Decks, isn’t just a chance to see half of Beta Shift in live-action. It’s also an insightful meta-examination of the state of the Franchise, and a key entry in one of the best storylines of the current Trek renaissance. Written by Kathryn Lyn and Bill Wolkoff and directed by Jonathan Frakes, this episode is an instant Starfleet classic. Yee-haw!

“Those Old Scientists”

In “Those Old Scientists,” Ensigns Bradward Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) travel back in time over a century to visit the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). As viewers of Lower Decks might imagine, this causes both of the Starfleet-obsessed Ensigns the chance to gush over the personal heroes they’ve long idolized like never before.

The episode taps into this element of the crossover by providing multiple shots from the POV of Boimler, collapsing the distance between the viewer and the Beta Shifter to provide a unique glimpse of what visiting the Enterprise might really be like. This ensures the energy of the characters is passed along to the viewer throughout the episode, and gives us the chance to geek out right alongside the Cali Class characters.

This contagious enthusiasm came directly from the enthusiasm the actors have for the material themselves. In the “Those Old Scientists” episode of The Ready Room, hosted by Wil Wheaton (and also currently available for streaming), it was revealed that Newsome was awed by the set during her time there. 

“My favorite thing to watch on that set was [Newsome] touching things,” said Quaid. “Just [her] being in awe of actually being on the Enterprise. And [she] was Mariner, in that moment. But the amount of things [she] broke on that set…”

“Yeah, it was a lot,” conceded Newsome.

The episode used a variety of tools to bring the animated characters to live-action, including animated segments, spectacularly accurate costumes, fantastic detail (like the poster in the cold open) and a score by Nami Melumad that paid homage to the work Chris Westlake has done on Lower Decks. Combined with the unique versatility of Strange New Worlds as a series, a seamless amalgamation of the two shows was achieved where there could have been the equivalent of a soda-machine “suicide.” 

Orions Revisited

The Orion were first introduced in the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage.” While Orion went on to appear in several additional shows, including Star Trek: Enterprise, the first fully realized Orion character didn’t appear until Lower Decks. Historically, the Orion are infamous for being pirates who engage in the trafficking of sentient beings. 

However, Ensign D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) continues to subvert these expectations by proving to be a kind, selfless, enthusiastic scientist who is steadily coming into her own, almost certainly to become Starfleet’s first Orion captain. This storyline was emphasized in Lower Decks season 2’s “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris” and season 3’s “Hear All, Trust Nothing” and “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus.”

But one of the unique facets of Trek’s varied roster of ongoing shows is the ability to concurrently unfold stories like this across time, and at various scales. At the time period during which Lower Decks is set, Tendi is one of only a few Orion who are part of Starfleet. But by the 25th Century of Picard season 3, many of the crewmembers aboard the USS Titan-A, which is eventually renamed to be the USS Enterprise-G, are Orion. Much later, in the 32nd Century of Star Trek: Discovery season 4, the presence of an Orion cadet confirms that the association between at least some Orion and Starfleet will last far into the future.

For this reason, the Orion scientists who are contemporaries of Pike and his crew play an especially interesting role in “Those Old Scientists.” Perhaps the title of the episode refers to these characters as well as the Enterprise crew.

A quote from another crossover, the 1998 Star Trek: The Next Generation/X-Men novel Planet X by Michael Jan Friedman, speaks to the themes of the unfolding Orion meta-narrative. In a line directed at Jean-Luc Picard, Ororo Munroe addresses Jean-Luc Picard: “Being accepted for what we are… it has always been a dream to us, a goal we could hold up but never realistically hope to attain,” she says. “I hope you understand the wonder of a society that judges each being on [their] merits … This is the true miracle of your Federation, Captain. This is your greatest achievement.”

Hopefully, a sequel to “Those Old Scientists” will be possible, as it would be especially interesting to see Tendi get the chance to travel back in time and visit her great-grandmother, perhaps shedding more like on the name “Mistress of the Autumnal Constellations” in the process.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds x Lower Decks

Jess Bush as Chapel, Anson Mount as Pike, Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga, Rebecca Romijn as Una, Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura, Christina Chong as La’an, Ethan Peck as Spock and Melissa Navia as Ortegas appearing in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Paramount+


With the emphasis on fandom in the episode, surprise-releasing “Those Old Scientists” early at San Diego Comic-Con 2023 (and streaming on Paramount+ shortly thereafter) was a nice cherry on top of this delicious sundae. Hopefully, this episode will bring fans of Lower Decks to Strange New Worlds, and vice-versa.

Is this what Star Trek has become? I certainly hope so, because I could watch a whole lot more of it.

Miss any of our earlier SDCC ’23 coverage? Find it all here!


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