"Lower Decks" was the 15th episode of the final season and is one of the best episodes from that season. The teleplay was written by Rene Echevarria and the story was written by Ronald Wilkerson and Jean Louise Matthias.
The story follows four young ensigns through their daily routine of socializing and discussing their duties and working relationships with their superiors. Two of them learn they are up for the same position and promotion by a bar keep in Ten Forward.
The Enterprise brings aboard a Cardassian who has escaped his homeworld in an escape pod. We learn later he is working with the federation. The Enterprise officers hatch a plan to get him back to Cardassian space by making it look like he had stolen a Starfleet shuttlecraft and held a Bajoran captive. The one chosen for this mission is one of the young ensigns who also was featured in the episode "The First Duty." She is Sito Jaxa and she's asked to do the assignment, not ordered, for it is very risky. She accepts the assignment.
Her preparedness for the assignment is the main storyline and in the backdrop are the other ensigns, her friends, doing their part covertly to prepare her for the mission.
The highlight of the episode is when the captain questions her on her judgement and tells her if it were up to him, he would have had her expelled from the Academy for her involvement with the cover up of the death of a cadet. He then dismisses her. Later, Worf instructs Sito using a fighting match in which she's blindfolded, giving Worf the advantage. She tears the blindfold off after several losing maneuvers and yells that the match is not fair. Worf congratulates her on that acknowledgement and that she should stand up for herself when she thinks she's been judged unfairly. This leads her back to Picard and she tells him that she should be judged on her actions and job performance today. Picard tells her that he actually requested her to be assigned to the Enterprise to give her a second chance and that he is testing her preparedness for the task at hand.
I liked this episode because it was well-written and acted and gave us a glimpse of life aboard the Enterprise through the eyes of the non-regulars (who always seem to be acting alone on important assignments). It even gave us the captains' acknowledgment to the ship via intercom about the loss of a valued crew member and her bravery in carrying out a dangerous mission. That's something we didn't see throughout the series and I think is something we should have seen more of.