When Star Trek: Lower Decks premiered in the summer of 2020 — so way back that its streaming residence at the time was referred to as CBS All Access, moderately than Paramount+ — it appeared caught between two doubtlessly incompatible targets. On the one hand, the animated sequence, run by Mike McMahan, wished to satirize all of the most ridiculous concepts the Star Trek franchise had launched since the mid-Twentieth century. And on the different, it wished to inform real, thrilling Star Trek stories, set a decade or so after the occasions of the numerous Nineties spinoffs.
Parody and sincerity can work hand in hand — see, as an illustration, Galaxy Quest, which concurrently mocks all issues Star Trek and is healthier and extra poignant than all however a handful of official Star Trek movies — but it surely’s laborious. And the mixture actually wasn’t working in these early episodes. At the time, I lamented that each one the Next Generation Easter Eggs and stabs at rip-roaring journey “appear to be holding McMahan again from making Lower Decks the wildly irreverent — and, extra importantly, really humorous — comedy it so clearly aspires to be.” But Next Generation and Deep Space Nine took a whereas to seek out themselves, and so did Lower Decks. As the sequence’ fourth season begins streaming as we speak, it’s turn out to be a spotlight of this present part of TV Trek.
McMahan and his collaborators haven’t made any radical adjustments over the years. The present now’s basically the identical present it was from the begin(*), specializing in a quartet of extraordinarily junior officers on a third-rate Federation starship. It’s simply higher at integrating its severe and foolish sides.
(*) This contains the one part I don’t love, and that also seems like a carryover from McMahan’s work on Rick and Morty: Lower Decks might be extraordinarily gross, with a number of graphic imagery of disgusting, oozing aliens doing issues which can be disagreeable to take a look at. Tonally, it doesn’t match with most of the different issues the sequence is attempting to do.
Much of the credit score is because of the work that the writers and the voice forged have performed in establishing its central characters(*) as individuals who have heroic traits in addition to idiotic ones. So, as an illustration, overeager Starfleet historical past nerd Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid, who between this, The Boys, and My Adventures with Superman is the busiest actor in style TV at the second) is ready to do nice issues every time he manages to cease overthinking each resolution. Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) has all the traits of being a big-deal officer akin to all of Boimler’s idols, however she’s allergic to the concept of duty, in half as a result of her mom, Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), is captain of their ship. D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) comes throughout as a candy, susceptible cinnamon roll, however she’s really a member of a legendary household of Orion pirates, maybe more adept with violence than anybody else in the crew. And Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) appears approach too hung up on nerdy engineering trivia, however he’s additionally a genius able to constructing a synthetic intelligence highly effective sufficient to threaten each the ship and the total galaxy.
(*) Late in the earlier season, the foremost foursome turned one thing of a quintet with the arrival of T’Lyn (Gabrielle Ruiz), a Vulcan science officer who finds her task to the Cerritos beneath her. The new season basically provides her equal storytelling weight to anybody on the present who isn’t Boimler or Mariner.
It’s an efficient stability, and the extra we’ve gotten to know each the foremost characters and the extra senior employees (together with Jerry O’Connell as smug first officer Jack Ransom, Gillian Vigman as the catlike ship’s physician, Paul Scheer as the chief engineer, and Paul F. Tompkins as the completely ineffective ship’s counselor, amongst others), the higher that Lower Decks
In the new season, a number of of the characters obtain promotions, from lowly ensigns to solely barely much less lowly lieutenants junior grade. It’s in some methods a delicate distinction, since everybody remains to be doing the form of grunt work the extra senior officers need no a part of. But transferring even one rung up the organizational ladder results in the terrifying actuality that Boimler and a few of the others at the moment are in a place to provide orders to the individuals who nonetheless rank beneath them. The present has a lot of enjoyable with this new stage of duty, with out having to deviate an excessive amount of from the fundamental premise.
And, as at all times, Lower Decks stays an obsessive Trekkie’s name-dropping greatest good friend. The season premiere is named “Twovix,” and capabilities as a sequel to “Tuvix,” a Star Trek: Voyager episode notorious for the way Captain Janeway resolved a Trolley Problem state of affairs the place a transporter accident merged two crewmembers into one new being. (Lower Decks doesn’t mince phrases about what it thinks of Janeway’s actions.) Later episodes embody Tendi taking two of her associates to go to her household on Orion, and Boimler and the others touring the Ferengi homeworld (in an episode with cameos from two Deep Space Nine characters). And extra broadly, episodic plots have a tendency to include, and touch upon, acquainted tropes from all through all of Trek, like Mariner and Ransom inspecting a menagerie of assorted alien races, which Mariner retains insisting is a jail.
“Twovix” isn’t really the first time this yr that we’ve seen members of the Cerritos crew. Back in the spring, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds did a crossover episode of kinds, the place Boimler and Mariner by chance traveled again in time and spent an ungainly day inadvertently inflicting issues for Captain Pike and the remainder of the Enterprise crew. It was a testomony to the versatility of Quaid and Newsome that they had been capable of make the live-action variations of those characters really feel true to how they arrive throughout in two dimensions. But it was additionally a mark of how far Lower Decks has come. Strange New Worlds is the platonic excellent of a easy Star Trek present — like Lower Decks, it’s introduced again the Mission of the Week format that Discovery and Picard unwisely discarded — and whereas it has room for comedy, it most continuously goals for drama. The level of the episode was that Boimler and Mariner are too ridiculous and clumsy to belong on the Enterprise, however the indisputable fact that they had been capable of co-exist with Mr. Spock for even an hour of tv was exceptional, and an honor well-earned by a present that’s actually come into its personal.
The first two episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season Four are streaming now on Paramount+, with extra episodes releasing weekly. I’ve seen the season’s first eight episodes.