Star Treks: Lower Decks was an unexpected gem. I’ve never been a big Star Trek fan, and I assumed it would be something like Star Wars: Clone Wars, which is much more serious, but also quite juvenile. Halfway through the pilot, I could tell that this show was so much more. Lower Decks is made of entertaining characters with interesting backgrounds, and throws them into a previously unexplored but familiar environment. The concept is, by itself, an amusing idea. Who is plumbing Spock’s toilets? Who is dry-cleaning Kirk’s uniform? Lower Decks answers these questions, and expands on the Star Trek universe.
The USS Cerritos (which I assume is named after the comedically boring city of Cerritos, California) has the typical cast of characters; a headstrong captain, a dashing first mate, and a clever but sarcastic doctor. But these are not our main cast. Instead, the show follows the quirky adventures of Beckett Mariner, an ensign with a taste for mischief, and Brad Boimler, another ensign who is desperate to please anyone above his station. Mariner is a loveable troublemaker, who believes that the brig is the best place to be. Her character is really what makes the show compelling. She leads her crewmates, and the audience, through the world of Star Fleet, and positions the narrative from a new and exciting perspective. There are interesting points made about difficult topics, like the consequences of foreign diplomatic intervention that I absolutely did not expect from a comedic, animated show. Bradward Boimler is her perfect counterpart. The two are dissimilar in most ways, but bond over the Lower Decks traditions. In a really interesting dynamic, they both somehow play the straight man to the other’s crazy. Over the series they grow to be each other’s best friend, and provide most of the quick and witty banter. What I most appreciate about this show is its ability to walk the fine line of animated television between crudeness and childishness. The only show in recent memory that rivals this feat is Bob’s Burgers. The show is made up of fast paced action and ‘blink and you miss it’ punchlines. It has a drier humour than most television, and, importantly, does not fall into the Family Guy trap of relying on dirty lines when wit can’t be found. While I think this sets it up for a slightly younger audience, it does not by any means come across as children’s television. In fact, I think children could be traumatised by it (especially scenes like the ones where ‘Badgey’, still coming to grips with his own sentience, goes on a murderous hunting spree).
The main failing of Lower Decks is that, if you were a Star Trek fan, you could be entirely disappointed. While I think this is my favourite version of this universe, I understand that it does not carry the same atmosphere of past Star Trek content. Lower Decks is far more suited for a viewer like me, who knows enough about Star Trek to understand the jokes, but wouldn’t care if they insinuated Kirk was a Vulcan.