A frenetic, and reverent addition to the Trek-verse
Lower Decks marks a change of tack for an episodic jaunt through the Trek-verse. Beyond the cartoon aspect, something not glimpsed since the 1970s effort Star Trek the Animated Series, there is a different focus and level of frivolity not seen in any of the classic (TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT), or current day (Discovery, Picard) shows. Inspired by the Star Trek The Next Generation Season 7 episode of the same name, we take our eyes off the bridge (mostly), and go down into the Jeffries tubes, focusing on some crew a few rungs below the command staff.
The year is 2380 (shortly after Star Trek Nemesis fyi), and the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos are continuing Starfleet’s mission to explore the final frontier…kind of. This is not the flagship, but instead one of the fleet’s support vessels. Think the team that makes second contact rather then first, or offers logistical expertise. If you’ve ever sat through an episode of Star Trek and though, well what happens after Picard and Co. warp away, you get your answer here. In keeping with this focus, we follow a small team of ensigns at the bottom rung of the ladder. The talented but chaotic Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), the keen and do-gooder Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), and the infectiously enthusiastic engineer Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) and scientist D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells). They have to juggle their duties with their social lives, all while the ship is being rocked by a multitude of anomalies, alien encounters, and grappling with their place at the opposite end of the hierachy to the occasionally glimpsed command staff, made up of Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), Commander Jack Ransom, (Jerry O’Connell, Lieutenant Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore) and Doctor T’Ana (Gillian Vigman).
We basically play in the TNG sandbox but instead of seeing the graceful diplomacy, the stirring heroics, the front line endeavors, or galaxy impacting conflicts of a top tier crew, we’re focusing on the (mis)adventures of this motley bunch. Familiar in terms of the types of missions, A and B-storylines, but reworking them with playful, but still engaging results. It’s true to the Trek mythos that has been cultivated for decades, while also playfully riffing off it with irreverent gags, obscure references, and occasionally plunging even deeper into alien cultures and events glimpsed in other Star Trek shows. With its young and keen cast, there is something more relatable and still inspiring about what unfolds. An infectious enthusiasm stemming from this second string Starfleet team.
With Trek-verse shows like Discovery and Picard darkly delving into the past, present, and future, Lower Decks is a lighter, refreshing and more digestible effort. Some of it does feel a little too breezy at times, as the episodes zip along not leaving much time for any emotional impact to really sink in. But overall themes about family, friendship, and character, strongly permeate the show. There’s so much warmth and affection, it’s hard not to be charmed.
- Includes all 10 episodes of season 1; Second Contact, Envoys, Temporal Edict, Moist Vessel, Cupid’s Errant Arrow, Terminal Provocations, Much Ado About Boimler, Veritas, Crisis Point, and No Small Parts
The release also contains nearly two-hours of extra features that are surprisingly well considered and cover some great aspects of the show:
- Crisis Point: The Rise of Vindicta Trailer: A trailer advertising the holo-movie effort seen in the episode Crisis Point
- Faces of the Fleet: A rundown of the creation of the main cast
- Hiding in Plain Sight: A fun rundown of the various Easter eggs/references tucked away in the show, accompanied by information from cast and crew
- Joining Starfleet: A overarching look at the development of season one
- Aliens Among Us: Showcases the various aliens see in the episode Envoys
- The Animation Process: A look at the technical side of composing an episode
- The Main Titles: Overview of how the intro sequence was put together, visually and audibly
- Art Design: Goes into the style/aesthetic for the show
- The Holodeck: Interviews with cast and crew about their views on this interactive future technology
- Division 14: An overview of the special Starfleet group introduced in the show
- Deck Dynamics: One of the key aspects of the show is the focus on these lower ranked personable, much of the comedy and conflict comes from how they play off the people and orders that come from the top of the command structure. This featurette dives into these relationships and how it defines much of the show
- The Music of Lower Decks: You’ll hear some familiar tunes and music inspired by previous incarnations as you watch Lower Decks, so it’s nice to see a featurette that explains how they bridge this new show to the old, as well as discuss the differences with scoring an animated vs live series
- All in the Family: An overarching look at the dynamics of the cast over the 10 episodes and how the show fits into (and draws from) the existing Trek family — *Avoid watching until you’ve seen all 10 episodes!*
The Bottom Line
Some may suggest Lower Decks tilts toward younger viewers, but it actually feels more like a enthusiastic love-letter penned by those of us who grew up during The Next Generation’s golden years. A reverential and irreverent blast of fun that serves as a love letter to the Roddenberry’s franchise, while charting its own frenetic and fun course.
Star Trek Lower Decks Season 1 is available on Blu-ray and DVD from May 18th