Star Trek is in the midst of a renaissance, and there are currently three (soon to be four) ongoing television series on the air. Among them is Lower Decks, an animated series more focused on comedy than the usual Star Trek pomp and philosophy.
It’s also one of the best, maybe even the best, Star Trek shows ever developed. For the simple reason that it is unlike any other Trek show that came before it.
When Paramount first announced that it was commissioning a Star Trek animated series, I was skeptical. The last time that happened we ended up with Star Trek: The Animated Series. The animated series ran for two seasons, aired on Saturday mornings, and was… (at least in my opinion) not great.
I was worried that Lower Decks might not be the same anymore, especially given the very valid reviews people had of the other two series of Paramount Trek: Star Trek: Discovery, and then later Picard. Like the two series ‘penchant for lame plot twists at the end of the season, and drawing too much inspiration from JJ Abrams’ films.
But Lower Decks had some great people working behind the scenes, especially showrunner Mike McMahan. If you’re not familiar, McMahan is a writer and producer for Rick & Morty, and creator of the satirical “TNG Season 8” Twitter account:
Riker infiltrates a cult of saboteurs in the neutral zone. Worf demands an honorable death when the crew learns that his middle name is Ashley.March 3, 2013
The very first Lower Decks trailer didn’t give me much confidence either, but it didn’t take long for the series to win me over once the episodes started hitting CBS All Access (now Paramount Plus).
A new hero appears in the background
In fact, I know exactly when Lower Decks turned out to be different from all the other generic adult-focused streaming animated series. Right at the end of the third episode, when he revealed who was Starfleet’s most important officer.
No, not Picard, Kirk, or any of the other obvious candidates. It’s Miles O’Brien, a background character from The Next Generation who was elevated to a bridge crew in Deep Space Nine. Not a minor character by any means, but definitely not the kind of person who would dominate the history books.
And I’m not going to lie, the fact that Mariner’s response to Q’s unexpected appearance was to start berating him really tickled me. This is one of my favorite Q moments, just behind that moment he got hit by Sisko.
Humor: The Last Frontier
That’s when I realized something crucial about Lower Decks – its whole premise is to make fun of the Star Trek franchise. Paramount did what should have been impossible and put on a show that was essentially a parody of himself. And 100% hot to boot.
It’s Galaxy Quest without any risk of copyright infringement, and spread out over the course of a TV series rather than 102 minutes.
Over the past season and a half, Lower Decks has proven that self-deprecation is what it does best. Because let’s face it, despite taking itself so seriously, Star Trek can be pretty darn ridiculous at times.
Need I mention the time Voyager turned Paris and Janeway into bizarre lizards? Because The lower decks made, and at the same time canonized the series acronym “VOY” which is used to easily differentiate it from other Trek shows on the Star Trek wiki, Memory Alpha.
Lower decks aren’t for everyone
Not everyone will agree with me and my reverence for the lower decks. For one thing, asking nerds to discuss a topic they’re passionate about is always going to heat up. And that’s exactly what he did when this feature was discovered by other members of the Tom’s Guide team.
They’ve had a number of issues with Lower Decks as a concept, with one of my coworkers stating that “the only thing stopping Lower Decks from being the worst series in Star Trek is the fact that Picard exists.”
Among the issues that my colleagues have had with Lower Decks is the fact that the episodes of the series usually have no core messages – a staple of Star Trek from the very beginning.
Likewise, another Tom’s Guide staff member said that the fact that Lower Decks doesn’t offer anything new and significant to the canon, instead of existing to verify the name of other items from previous series, is the main obstacle preventing them from enjoying the show.
Which, ironically, is one of the main reasons I love the show so much in the first place. I hope I’m not the only one with this opinion, especially since Paramount was confident enough to renew Lower Decks for a third season months before Season 2 even aired. I just hope it didn’t. is not the last.
Fun for new and old fans
Even as a standalone series, Lower Decks is a fairly welcoming space comedy. You don’t have to have watched a whole bunch of Treks to enjoy it, but it helps. Especially given the show’s habit of recalling characters and moments from the rest of Trek.
If you like Star Trek, you should definitely check out Lower Decks. It’s an absolute treasure of a series, and it’s so rare that a major franchise is so willing to poke fun at itself.
After all, if The Simpsons and Family Guy can go on for decades, there’s no reason Lower Decks can’t last multiple seasons. As long as the series does not fall into the trap of staying beyond its reception, when the jokes stop being funny.
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