Star Trek: Lower Decks, or, The Animated Series: The Next Generation
Talk about your strange new worlds. Star Trek: Lower Decks departs from the straight space opera science-fiction of the Star Trek tv universe to date to transverse the quadrant of comedy. Rick & Morty co-producer/writer Mike McMahan helms this zany, just short of over-the-top series which is not so much the feared parody but an obviously affectionate homage.
Probably inspired by the TNG season 7 episode of the same name, Star Trek: Lower Decks has at center a group of ensigns aboard the starship Cerritos. The Cerritos is a California(!)-class ship specializing in “second contact” missions on which the crew must, as Ensign Boimler puts it, “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,” etc.
The time period follows that of Star Trek: Nemesis, thereby sandwiching the series choronolgically between Voyager and Picard – odd to think that this show could actually reference the Romulan refugee crisis backstoried in Star Trek: Picard, but no such dark grimness will pervade Lower Decks. And the crew is excellently multi-species in the fashion of the TNG/DS9/Voyager era: an Orion ensign, a Bajoran security officer and, awesomest of all, a chief medical officer from Cait, homeworld of The Animated Series’ M’Ress.
Outside the toxic types among Star Trek fandom who haven’t liked anything since Voyager (and some since The Original Series), Lower Decks became a fast favorite in its first season and is steadily building a devoted fandom of its own.
Star Trek: Lower Decks – Cast and crew
In the spirit of Lower Decks, we list the cast and crew in order of call sheet rather than rank…
Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) – High on recklessness and low on discipline, Mariner is generally too subordinate to rise in Starfleet’s ranks yet is too resourceful and moral to be anything but a credit to Starfleet. Marnier’s personal mission, along with just plain ol’ helping out and/or partying whenever possible throughout the quadrant, is to get a promotion for her buddy…
Ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) – If ever a Starfleet cadet was “by the books,” it’s Boimler. As sycophantic to the senior officers as Mariner is rebellious, Boimler is one hardworking earnest ensign. Unfortunately his naivete appears boundless. As for his way up the chain of command, Boimler can only be stopped by … well, Boimler.
Ensign D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) joins the Cerritos crew in season 1, episode 1, immediately and enthusiastically bonding with her lower deckmates while wholeheartedly plunging into any task needing doing. This pretty much sets the tone for Tendi, the eternal go-getting optimist.
Ensign Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) is another enthusiastic member of the Cerritos of the workaholic engineering variety, the sort that gets off on recalibrating this or that matrix. He’s often the victim of his Vulcan cybernetic implant, but by season 1’s conclusion, this is no longer an issue.
Meanwhile, the featured commanding officers’ lineup looks like so:
Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) – The captain of the Cerritos is focused, hardworking and serious about her job, though she worries the Federation considers her crew a joke. She’s rather concerned about her daughter’s lack of respect to Starfleet’s manner of doing things…
Commander Jack Ransom (Jerry O’Connell) is in the Kirk/Riker mold, a Number One whose prowess in hand-to-hand combat – if not necessarily in leadership – is very nearly matched by his braggadocio. An interesting love/hate work(?) relationship with Mariner befits the Riker model well.
If Ransom is this Trek’s Will Riker, then Chief Security Officer Lt. Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore) is definitely the Worf. Shaxs’s the dude who’s never met a full spread of photon torpedoes he didn’t like. Shaxs commands respect through a combination of sheer size and an attitude that screams, “I’m pissed off – don’t talk to me!” (In fact, a holodeck simulation screams this very thing and is found very realistic.)
Chief Medical Officer Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman) – Star Trek Guide has opined elsewhere that the doctor is nearly always among the given ST series’ strongest characters (think McCoy, the EMH, Phlox, Bashir…) and wow, does Dr. T’Ana earn her place on this list. Foul-mouthed, no-nonsense and given a diet of nearly all killer lines, this doctor may be the secret MVP of Lower Decks. This is one very good kitty – just don’t tell her we said so.