Since it began in the ’60s, Star Trek has been defined by its fictional technology. In lots of instances, Gene Roddenberry proved his prescience with the likes of combadges, PADDs, universal translators, holodecks, and replicators: technology that all exists today in one form or another.
Something that humanity might never be able to create, though, is the Genesis Device (first seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), which has now been brought back to the franchise thanks to the Lower Decks finale. As seen in the finale for the latest season of the Star Trek series, Nick Locarno (a Star Trek character from the TNG episode ‘The First Duty’) acquires a knock-off version of the Genesis Device from the Ferengi.
As we witness in the best movie in the franchise, the Genesis Device is created as terraforming technology that can bring life to lifeless planets. In The Wrath of Khan, the titular villain wanted to transform this into a weapon of great destruction to lure Admiral Kirk into his clutches. Similarly, Locarno isn’t after Genesis so that he can bring life to the galaxy. He wants it to give legitimacy to his threats.
Ultimately, like the Genesis Device seen in The Wrath of Khan, this one explodes and Locarno’s fate is the same as Khan’s: killed in a quest for revenge by a weapon too powerful for any single person to harness.
The return of the Genesis Device is a brilliant reference for long-time fans of the show, and we loved watching it be brought to life through Lower Decks’ brilliant animation. But it’s much more important than a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter egg and could have long-lasting implications for future Star Trek timline.
When the Genesis Device explodes at the end of Lower Decks season 4 it creates a new, stable planet (unlike the Genesis Planet seen in The Search for Spock) which The Federation intends to use to give a home to galactic refugees. So, while The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock showed that the Genesis Device was still unstable, we now know the technology has been refined and can fulfill its promise.
With the Genesis Device now having the power to give life to dead planets and create new ones, it officially becomes cosmically significant again. Surely, beyond Khan, Kruge, and Locarno, there are other villains out there in the galaxy who will seek to acquire this god-like power.
Or, perhaps, with Starfleet now understanding that the Genesis Device can be used to create planets to serve the greater good, it will itself attempt to recreate the technology to make more planets to give homes to the displaced. That would certainly help to solve problems it’s encountered in episodes like ‘The Ensigns of Command’ or ‘Journey’s End’.
But, as with the best of Star Trek, there’s still a moral dilemma. Creating new planets for good or evil changes the destiny of the galaxy beyond comprehension. Should any one person or organization, have that power? It sounds ripe for exploration in some future season of some future show. Hopefully, now that Genesis has been revived, it won’t simply be forgotten again. The consequences of what we see in the Lower Decks season 4 finale are too grand — and fascinating — for that.
For more on Star Trek, check out our guide to the Lower Decks season 5 release date. Or, see what’s going on with Star Trek Legacy and Strange New Worlds season 3. You can also see our ranking of the Star Trek captains, and learn about what else is new on Paramount Plus before checking out our list of the best TV series ever.