It’s been a relatively quiet couple of weeks on the comedic galactic frontier since Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 10 brought a truly spectacular season to a close with a hugely satisfying underdog victory.
The final battle saw the prodigal ensign, Becket Mariner, unite Starfleet’s workhorse California-class ships to take down the rogue A.I.-controlled experimental drone Texas-class ships.
Speaking with TV Fanatic via phone, Tawny Newsome, Mariner’s voice and soon-to-be IRL portrayer of the USS Cerritos’s butt-kicking alpha-on-Beta-Shift, looks back on how far Mariner’s come from her days of squirreling away contraband and subverting authority.
Over the first thirty episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks, Newsome sees Mariner’s growth marked by key moments.
“Look at where she was with her mom in Season 1. If you look at Crisis Point I (Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 Episode 9), for instance, [it was] a really disturbing holodeck movie where she was taking out her anger on everyone and on the crew, and she needed an outlet because she was so angry.
“Then you look all the way to Crisis Point II (Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 8), which wasn’t even about her: it was Boimler kind of fiddling around and wondering what the meaning of life is and, y’know, it’s frustrating for her, and instead of raging out, she is patient with him.
“And then, of course, when she finds out why he’s on this meandering quest for the meaning of life, she’s really supportive. She’s like, ‘Hey, I want to be there for my friend,’ which I think shows a huge leap in emotional intelligence over the course of two and a half seasons.
“Other big moments… I was just thinking about the incredible [arc] from the end of [Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 Episode 1], the pilot, where she is jumping around in the bar, grabs Boimler in a headlock, telling him she’s going to be his mentor, to the end of Season 3 where she’s doing the same thing but the inverse of it with Ransom.
“She’s saying, ‘I want to stay in Starfleet. I want to be mentored. I want you to mold me, command me…’ which is just such a cute way to keep to what’s true about this character.
“She’s chaotic and kind of pushy, but to show the growth from ‘Hey, I know everything, and I’m gonna show you the ropes!’ to ‘Hey, I actually don’t know everything, and I’m here to learn!’ is such a beautiful thing to get to play. She can go so many places now with this new perspective.”
“She just needed structure. She’s like one of those hyperactive dogs. They just want a good trainer. They want to be trained. They cause a little trouble to get people to freak out.”
Considering how long Mariner’s been kicking around Starfleet, is there anything in her backstory that explains why she never got the structure she craves?
“That’s a good question. You’d have to ask the writers because I know there are a lot of fan theories, and I know there are a lot of things Mike and I have talked about in private.
“I’m not exactly sure what’s made it into canon yet or what isn’t going to be revealed. We know that she’s super confident, she’s a Starfleet brat, and she comes across with a ‘seen it all’ quality, but clearly, she hasn’t seen it all. She’s got stuff to learn.”
In the final (non-stinger) scene of the Season 3 finale, T’Lyn, the Vulcan misfit from the cruiser Sh’vhal first seen on Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 Episode 9, joins the Cerritos as Tendi’s new study buddy.
We shared with Newsome how we described T’Lyn as the Mariner of the Sh’vhal lower decks and asked how things will play out now that she’s hanging with the OG Mariner.
Newsome thought on this for a moment before answering. “Yeah… a Mariner-style Vulcan doesn’t work. Vulcans are no match for humans and Orions when it comes to grit and spunk because there’s just no way a Vulcan can out-Mariner a Mariner.
“You’re going to see a lot of stuff in Season 4 that shows the dynamic of the three of them — the three women — that is some delightful kind of Three Stooges energy that makes me so happy because we get to see Tendi in a different way.
“I love that Tendi gets to be a Mariner against T’Lyn. T’Lyn kind of becomes her little buddy, who almost becomes a little Boimler-esque.
“T’Lyn’s a great character because she shifts and morphs in different pairings. We see different sides of her, and then she brings out different sides of our main four. It’s really cool.”
At San Diego Comic-Con 2022, Newsome and co-star Jack Quaid crashed the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds panel with the news that Mariner and Boimler would be crossing over in live-action form in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2.
Understandably, there’s a lot that Newsome can’t talk about, but she shares what she can.
“I’ll tell you what stuff I’m allowed to tell you. We’re on the Enterprise. Jack and I worked on the Enterprise set. We get to interact with the main crew. I won’t say exactly who, but definitely the main crew you’re used to seeing in Strange New Worlds, with a couple of exceptions. Jack and I tend to have scenes with most people.
Fan theories abound about whether the crossover will involve time travel or take place on the holodeck.
“I don’t think I can say that. I can say that Boimler and Mariner are really on the Enterprise. They really are there. I know I’ll get flagged for saying that specific word, so what I can say is me and Jack — as Mariner and Boimler — we set foot on the Enterprise.”
Since there are no costumes for Star Trek: Lower Decks, did Newsome get a uniform to take home from her live-action adventure?
“They did not let me keep the uniform, but I did steal the com badge, and then I found out that Jack stole his too. ‘Cause those com badges were made specifically for us! They don’t wear them. They have different ones, y’know?
“Ours are specifically made to look like they look in our cartoon. Nobody else can use them! This is mine!”
Will this crossover lead to future collaborative missions, or is this a one-off, self-contained narrative?
“Hey, that’s a good question. That really could go either way.
“The beauty of Strange New Worlds is that they’re all kind of self-contained episodes, but stranger things have happened.
“There could be more to it. It’s as self-contained as all of their episodes are. It does not take as part of a huger arc too much. That’s just kind of their show.”
Speaking of other ships, and with T’Lyn’s presence as a provisional ensign, basically on exchange to the Cerritos, we asked Newsome about what non-Starfleet fleet ship she could see Mariner serving a stint on.
“I think she’d probably be useful to the Ferengi because I feel like — for all her bucking of Starfleet — she’s at her best when she’s using Starfleet effectively as a tool and using their morals and the things that they believe in.
“I bet if she could take that to a culture of creatures that don’t share those same values, she could help them by using what’s great about Starfleet to help out. I think she’d be at her best, then.
“I also think she’d be fun as hell on Q’onoS or being on a Klingon ship just because she seems to get along with Klingons really well. Not since Jadzia Dax have we seen such a non-Klingon accepted as well as she is.”
Starfleet’s Prime Directive is the guiding principle in all their exploration and interaction with other species and cultures. That being established, does Newsome see Mariner as having a Prime Directive of her own?
“Y’know, that’s a tough one ’cause this is the sort of thing that’s then going to get [blown up]. If I make a joke — which is my first instinct — my first instinct is to go, ‘Mariner’s Prime Directive is PARTY PARTY ALL THE TIME, AND EVERYONE GET OUT OF MY WAY.’
“But if you print that, those nasty boy Trek accounts that hate Mariner are going to be like, ‘This is why this character is terrible!’ as though I presented it seriously.
“So first of all, let me say ‘Fuck you’ to them, and [laughs] that’s the context for that quote, ‘Everybody get out of my face.’
“But the real answer, I think, is really nuanced, and I don’t know that she knows yet. I think that she’ll figure it out in Season 4 now that she’s recommitted to Starfleet. I think she can figure out her Prime Directive.”
Star Trek: Lower Decks premiered at the end of the summer of 2020, the third series launched since Star Trek: Discovery brought Trek back to television after a twelve-year hiatus after Star Trek: Enterprise ended in 2003.
How much of Mariner’s existence does Newsome credit to Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham?
“We credit our whole show and every show that comes after it to all of Discovery because, without the success of Discovery, none of us would exist. And that’s just the truth, point blank, period.
“If they weren’t as good at what they do, no one would’ve said, ‘Let’s make more Star Trek.’ No one would. They would’ve been like, ‘Well, that was a fun try, and it didn’t go well, so I guess we’ll just stop doing this.’
“And now we’ve got five series. There are probably movies happening. I don’t know what’s going on with that Kelvin-verse movie, but that’s around.
“So all of that is credited to Discovery, and that show – without shade to any of the rest of the cast – is carried by Sonequa Martin-Green. She is the heart of it.
“Her significance is as the first black woman lead of a Star Trek show. Starting as a non-captain, the first non-captain lead of a Star Trek show.
“The first show back in [over a decade] to bring back a beloved franchise and to say, ‘and we’re going to do it with a black woman, and she’s not the captain, and it’s a prequel. They took big swings, and it paid off.
“Now we get to have all this Star Trek. I’m forever grateful. We’re all in their debt.”
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 is locked in to drop in 2023! What do YOU think is in store for the Cerritos and its intrepid crew?
Until then, catch Newsome as Mariner in LIVE-ACTION on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2, coming at you sometime after Stardate 76466.2 (which is, you guessed it, also sometime in 2023.)
And if you’re needing that Lower Decks fix NOW, all three seasons are streaming on Paramount+. Warp me!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.