Star Trek Guide

Lower Decks FINALLY Brings Optimism Back To Star Trek

For the twelve years after Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled, there was no Star Trek on TV. The movies helped fans deal with the lack of new Trek, but any Andorian loving Trekkie will say that Star Trek works best on TV, so the fanbase was excited when Star Trek: Discovery was announced. However, a fair portion were let down when Discovery aired because it was much darker.

When Star Trek: Picard was announced, fans once again got excited, and once again a number of them ended up disappointed with the grim and gritty nature of the show. It seemed that Star Trek, once praised for its optimistic vision of the future, had lost its sense of hope. All seemed lost, but then a miracle happened; the U.S.S. Cerritos arrived.

Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now

Star Trek: Lower Decks is an animated series from former Rick and Morty writer and producer Mike McMahan. The series centers on Beckett Mariner, Brad Boimler, D'Vana Tendi and Sam Rutherford, four low-level ensigns of the Cerritos who, aside from Mariner, all have big dreams. The show is a comedy, and while some of the gags fall on the Rick and Morty side of humor, they never get as dark or gross as the Adult Swim series goes. What stands out instantly is that Lower Decks is clearly made by people who love Star Trek and understand how to have fun with the legacy of the franchise without making fun of it.

The four main characters all fit well into Star Trek tropes. They are intelligent, confident and love the work they do. Even Ensign Mariner, who has a love of sarcasm and tries to act like Starfleet isn't impressive, can't hide her excitement when she gets to ride in the latest shuttlecraft model with the new blast shields.

Ensign Boimler dreams of being a captain one day and believes that going against any Starfleet rule is a bad idea. This doesn't mesh well with Mariner's tendency to play it fast and loose, but this does set up a great television dynamic. Watching Mariner and Boimler find themselves mixed up in wild adventures on alien planets has been funny and exciting, but the real push of Lower Decks - the center of the sense of joy and hope that Star Trek is known for - comes from Tendi and Rutherford.

Tendi is an Orion who has been assigned to the Cerritos and couldn't be more excited. A medic, Tendi finds the fast pace wildness of Starfleet life exciting. She loves her work, and she can't wait to make a difference. Ensign Rutherford, a cybernetically augmented human, works in engineering and loves nothing more than spending time in the Jefferies tubes doing manual upkeep on the ship. He takes pride in his work and doesn't understand when other people aren't as excited as he is by how the ship works.

While Mariner and Boimler find themselves in more modern sci-fi comedy scenarios, Tendi and Rutherford have thus far given fans a look at the more common Star Trek stories, but with jokes thrown in. The important thing is that none of the jokes from either pairing are making fun of Star Trek. In fact, the jokes rely on the viewer loving Star Trek and knowing how the franchise is built around the concept of great people doing great things to make the universe a better place. Tendi and Rutherford would fit right in with Geordi and Data while Mariner and Boimler are clearly on the Kirk and Spock side of the Star Trek coin. These are characters who represent all that makes Star Trek great, and they do it with more laughs than usual.

After the darkness of Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard, it's wonderful to see a Star Trek show that not only accepts the hopeful future that Gene Roddenberry envisioned, but also revels in it. Star Trek: Lower Decks isn't bright and colorful because it's animated; it's bright and colorful because that's the kind of show McMahan created, one that understands how important optimism, intelligence and joy are to Star Trek and the franchise's fans.

Star Trek: Lower Decks stars Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, Noël Wells as Ensign Tendi, Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman, Jerry O'Connell as Commander Jack Ransom, Gillian Vigman as Doctor T'Ana and Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs. New episodes premiere Thursdays on CBS All Access.


More on this: 569 stories