Lower Decks boldly goes where no Star Trek show has gone before – into the realms of animated satire.
With a world that is tunnelling towards a more tongue-in-cheek approach to life in general, Lower Decks seemed like a sure-fire winner of a series. However it has proven itself to be divisive amongst the hard-core Star Trek following whose loyalty to the original series’ plots and courageous character line-up found the Lower Decks experience to hit below the belt.
I will say that it’s not a show for everyone. I probably am not the first one to say it either. But for those interested in a light-hearted sci-fi adventure that takes heavy inspiration from the likes of Rick & Morty and Netflix’s Final Space, then this is definitely the show for you.
Mariner, Boimler, Rutherford and Tendi are members of the support crew on board the USS Cerritos, a lesser known Starship of the Starfleet. Throughout the series we watch as they struggle to keep up with their Starfleet duties and keep their heads down as the ship is thrust into a different classic sci-fi scenario every episode.
The focus of the support crew is not an entirely new concept to the Star Trek universe. During the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, an episode titled “Lower Decks” is featured, and focuses on a group of lower ranking officers on board the Enterprise. The episode offered a freshness to a series that had chewed out the majority of its plot lines already and was successful as a small filler arc.
Lower Decks takes this concept one step further by giving us an entirely different ship with entirely new characters. It’s a wise decision, as the characters can use this new setting as a playground for their own hairbrained schemes without causing too much exterior damage to the entirety of the Star Trek universe. It feels contained and unique, but not detached from the original canon.
After watching the first episode I was left with the feeling that these junior officers which appeared so enticing in the trailer were still in the midst of finding themselves. Which, after just one episode, is perfectly fine. You can’t always expect magic from a pilot.
In short, the two leading characters are Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), a try-hard underling who does everything in his power to get noticed by the starship commander, and Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) a free-wheeling, adventurous and gut driven officer who plays loose and fast with the rules of Starfleet. The contrast of these characters is very much the driving force behind the Lower Decks.
Along with Boimler and Mariner, there is Tendi (Noël Wells), the new medical officer who boards the USS Cerritos in the first episode, and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), an engineer with a newly installed Vulcan implant. Together these four make up the key lower decks squad that propels the show foreward.
One aspect I noticed very quickly was that the dialogue was fast. So fast, it sometimes sounded as if it was deliberately being sped up so there’d be time to fit everything in. The breeziness of character interactions left much be to desired as audiences were left well in the dust after trying to keep up with the pace these characters articulated their sentences. Funny dialogue aside, there just wasn’t enough time to laugh.
Lower Deck is a slow burn of a comedy. The first few episodes are dedicated to the characters attempting to find themselves in a rampant mess of alien invasions on board the ship and creating some semblance of a storyline. But if you make it through that, you’ll find a comedy that will constantly surprise you with its intelligence and wit.
A highlight for me would definitely be the finale. The season is wrapped up with a satisfying conclusion that brings together all the elements that were once drifting around the plot like loose threads.
With Season 2 of Lower Decks just around the corner, and the show having finally found its mojo, it’s looking like a show that will have much more fluidity and drive in the future. With fully fleshed out characters, hopefully they can now take deep breaths between dialogue and pull through with the series’ more charming side. If the writers can pull that off, then beam me up, Scotty!