There’s a moment in one of the new episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks that encapsulates how far the show has come in terms of establishing itself within the Trek universe: No spoilers for Season 2, but at one point the character names Mariner and Boimler are put onscreen right next to two others — Kirk and Spock. Mariner and Boimler, of course, are nowhere near the iconic status rightfully granted to the characters originated by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, but seeing their names in that context… doesn’t feel wrong. It’s hard to find a better indication as to how the show has managed to find a way to fit with the franchise.
Star Trek has never been afraid of big swings, whether it be developing new takes on the established universe or creating whole new alternate realities to revisit the original cast. But Lower Decks was perhaps one of its biggest risks, as it brought together two relatively alien concepts to Trek — animation and comedy — in an unprecedented way. Yes, Trek has always been open to jokes, and yes there was the animated series in the 1970s, but there was a concern around Lower Decks’ original premiere that the show might slip into satire of the franchise’s most beloved aspects.
Instead, Lower Decks continues to successfully thread the needle when it comes to capturing what makes people love Trek while making sure to have some fun, and Season 2 is infused with a whole new level of confidence on that score. Largely still devoted to stand-alone episodes (with some character-based arcs stretching across episodes), the new season features no shortage of deep-cut references to The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, while also exploring heightened adventures that the more serious live-action series might not necessarily take on.
Season 2 doesn’t move immediately to revert the choices made at the end of Season 1, which saw Boimler (Jack Quaid) transferring to the U.S.S. Titan, under the command of William T. Riker. (Jonathan Frakes returns to voice the TNG legend with just enough jazzy spin to make the character stand out; the most special of Special Guest Stars.) No spoilers on how things do eventually change for Boimler, but I will say that holy crap, it’s such a joyous choice for those who know their TNG lore. That was a deliberate bit of phrasing, by the way, because while other Trek properties (::cough cough:: the abysmal Star Trek: Nemesis) might forget key details like “didn’t Data already have a twin brother?”, Lower Decks not only remembers but finds a way to craft a great joke about it.
Image via Paramount+
A key part of what makes the comedy of Lower Decks work is the show’s engagement with the idea that the heroes of the traditional Trek shows are also heroes to the rest of the universe, including the crews working away on less-impressive ships — it’s the perfect entryway into crafting jokes about established canon and characters, because those cracking the jokes are also huge fans of what they’re joking about. To get really meta about it, that’s because that’s exactly how you might describe the Lower Decks writers, as led by Mike McMahan, as he said in a recent interview with Collider:
I’m such a fan of Star Trek that it’s important to me that we are as funny as we can be without breaking Star Trek at all times and without being mean about Star Trek. With the network and with the studio, the conversations are mostly when I’m pitching an episode, I’ll be like, “Here’s what inspired this episode.” And it’s always coming from a thing that I love about Star Trek.
Every Trek series needs a bit of a shakedown cruise, and while Lower Decks Season 1 was pretty strong on its own merits, every aspect that worked then is now elevated for the second season. For as much as the general love for Trek permeates this show, Lower Decks really has begun to come into its own with its own characters and its own unique spin on what makes a story work in this particular vision for the 24th century. That’s because it never loses sight of that most beautiful and important of Trek qualities: Hope. Hope for the future, and hope that a better one might be built with help from our friends.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 premieres Thursday, August 12 on Paramount+. New episodes will be released weekly.
KEEP READING: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Creator on Bringing Comedy to the Franchise, Season 2 Hints, and the Fate of Future Cameos
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About The Author
Liz Shannon Miller
(377 Articles Published)
Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by Vulture, Variety, The AV Club, The Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of “X-Files” trivia. Follow her on Twitter at @lizlet.
From Liz Shannon Miller