Star Trek Guide

Lower Decks' SECOND CONTACT Is An Important Addition To Star Trek Lore

Star Trek: Lower Decks introduces "Second Contact," which is actually an important and fascinating addition to the franchise's lore. Created by Mike McMahan (Rick & Morty), Star Trek: Lower Decks is the first half-hour animated comedy set in the Star Trek universe. Centering on the hapless crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos, Lower Decks will explore the humorous side of the final frontier in the post-Star Trek: The Next Generation era.

Since Star Trek: The Original Series, the overall mission statement of every TV series in the franchise has been to seek out new life and new civilizations. This was a key component of the voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise, whether it was the 23rd-century vessel commanded by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) or Captain Jean-Luc Picard's (Patrick Stewart) U.S.S. Enterprise-D, which was the flagship of the United Federation of Planets. Both Enterprises handled countless instances of First Contact with alien races, solved delicate problems, and conducted diplomatic relations on behalf of the Federation. On Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Kathryn Janeway's (Kate Mulgrew) eponymous starship also engaged in numerous First Contact missions with the races the crew encountered while they were lost in the Delta Quadrant for seven years. Going all the way back to the arrival of the Vulcans on Earth as seen in Star Trek: First Contact, the business of First Contact has been a crucial part of humanity's progress as a galactic power in the Alpha Quadrant.

Ingeniously, Star Trek: Lower Decks' "Second Contact" (which is also the title of the series premiere) highlights the purpose of a starship like the U.S.S. Cerritos, which is described as "one of the least important ships" in Starfleet. The opening scene of "Second Contact" wastes no time in hilariously introducing both Lower Decks and the concept of Second Contact when Ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) enters a fake "Captain's Log" and describes the Cerritos' mission to make Second Contact with the Galardonian High Council. Contrasted against First Contact, which is "a delicate, high-stakes operation of diplomacy," Boimer describes the Cerritos' specialty of Second Contact: "Still pretty important! We get all the paperwork signed, make sure we're spelling the name of the planet right, get to know all the good places to eat..."

Amusingly, Star Trek: Lower Decks' Second Contact is a logical innovation that highlights an important and previously overlooked component of Starfleet's greater mission. The episodic nature of TOS and TNG usually had the Enterprise moving onto the next mission after solving whatever problem arose in every episode, and only occasionally did Trekkers see the mighty starship return to deal with further matters after it established First Contact. Once the Enterprise does the tough part of diplomacy, it makes perfect sense that a secondary ship like the Cerritos takes over and does the dirty work, handles the admin, and deals with the petty details Captain Picard doesn't need to be bothered with.

Previously, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine highlighted aspects of Second Contact (without actually calling it that). Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) and his crew spent years negotiating the myriad details regarding Bajor's entry into the Federation, which still hadn't happened by the time DS9 ended its 7-season run. The concept of Second Contact is an encouraging sign that even though Star Trek: Lower Decks is taking an extremely lighthearted approach to the final frontier, the comedy series is also going to be adding some positive things to Star Trek lore and will be bringing some interesting new ideas of its own to enrich the venerable franchise.

Star Trek: Lower Deckspremieres August 6 on CBS All-Access.