Star Trek: Lower Decks: Second Contact
August 6, 2020 7:20 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

These are the voyages of the USS Cerritos... on an ongoing mission to do stuff around the galaxy that needs doing, to distribute agricultural supplies, to have really disturbing encounters with giant spider-things, to ignore that pesky insect bite that we got on the planet (because what could possibly go wrong?), to get drunk, to have parental issues, to deal with annoying cybernetic implants, to, uh [insert inspiring phrase here when I think of one]

Memory Alpha is sparse on details--I think that it may be hung over from that rager that we had last night in Waste Extraction--so I'll just sort of wing it:

- This is the first Trek animated series since Star Trek: The Animated Series. Guess they thought that Star Trek: The Other Animated Series was a little too on the nose or something.

- "Lower Decks", for the three or four people reading this who haven't seen every episode of TNG, was an episode of TNG that is basically the premise of this series, only serious. Poor Sito Jaxa. Whatever happened to her? VOY also had a couple of episodes in this vein, "Learning Curve" and "Good Shepherd."

- "Cerritos" means "little hills" in Spanish.

- Dr. T'Ana is a Caitan, a race originally seen in TAS with M'Ress and occasionally in the background in live action Trek. The previews of upcoming episodes also gave a glimpse of someone who looked like an Edosian, Arex's people. There was also a mention of "cetacean ops", which bodes well for non-humanoid crewmembers, something that TAS did well. Let's hope for a Horta crewmember!

Poster's Log:

Well, I'm happy, even though there weren't any major surprises; we knew the personalities of the main cast members well before today, and Mariner's "secret" was telegraphed parsecs away. Likewise, the plot was a familiar Trek one: minor detail early on leads to a big problem, with the solution coming out of left field. But it was still worth the wait IMO. TAS was very much of its time, with a more-or-less direct continuation of TOS with some additions (the aforemention M'Ress and Arex, some new shuttlecraft) and some other things that took advantage of the animated medium (more non-humanoid aliens, alien landscapes and architecture straight off of old SF paperback art). This is more obviously goofing off of Trek in general; the series seems to be set maybe a bit after the TNG/DS9/VOY era (MA pegs it as taking place in 2380, the year after Star Trek Nemesis), but there are copious references to the TOS era as well.

The show is also very much obviously the product of its creator, Mike McMahan, who is not only the writer of the Short Treks ep "The Escape Artist" and creator of the @TNG_S8 Twitter account, but a Rick and Morty veteran, and there's a very R&M feel to much of this, especially Boimler's close encounter with the spider-thing and the subsequent harvesting and utilization of the goo. Of course, there will be the inevitable grousing from the fans of previous iterations that This Isn't Real Trek, but I had fun.

Poster's Log, supplemental: Of the bridge crew, my early favorite is Shaxs; I'm looking forward to his evident desire to suggest an explosive solution to every problem.

Supplemental supplemental: MA is going with LD for the abbreviation; I'm still in favor of LOW, myself.
posted by Halloween Jack (36 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed this too. I wasn't initially sure where it fit into the timeline, so I put together the events between "Endgame" and Picard S1 with the help of Memory Alpha:

2378 - VOY "Endgame"
2379 - Star Trek: Nemesis
2380 - Star Trek: Lower Decks S1
early 2380s [2381 according to Picard press kit] - impending supernova of Romulan sun discovered; Picard promoted to Admiral and leaves Enterprise-E to lead Romulan evacuation effort
2385 - Short Treks "Children of Mars;" attack on Utopia Planitia shipyards; Federation plans for Romulan evacuation abandoned
2387 - Romulan supernova; Spock pulled into "Kelvin" timeline in 2258
2399 - Star Trek: Picard S1

Mariner's "secret" was telegraphed parsecs away.

You've got a better eye for that than I do, then. I was oblivious until the reveal.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:40 AM on August 6, 2020 [8 favorites]

Naturally the Star Trek CCG ended many years before this show came along but the title is represented on a card anyway, based on the eponymous episode. One of many cards attempting to re-balance the design choices in the original set, in this case by buffing your universal (non-unique, play-as-many-copies-as-you-want) personnel. Many of these cards were 'representative' of junior Starfleet officers, such as Sito Jaxa and Taurik, who were also from that eponymous episode.

This was a handy card for essentially the whole run of the game. Your Borg could inexplicably benefit, and if Ayala, Carey, and Screech were hanging out on Voyager you could enhance them as well.

Richard benefits from this card, Mortimer doesn't.
posted by StarkRoads at 8:31 AM on August 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Poor Sito Jaxa. Whatever happened to her?

Killed in her escape pod on her way back to Federation space. There were plans to bring her back on DS9 as a shell-shocked PTSD survivor, but the writers felt that would undercut the dramatic ending of "Lower Decks", so that idea turned into the "Hard Time" episode where O'Brien becomes suicidal.

I need to watch LOW before I can comment further.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:19 AM on August 6, 2020

Just finished watching this. I liked it! It's fucking hilarious, and still very, very Trek. Haters gonna hate, but this this is a fun bit of Trek silliness!
posted by SansPoint at 11:37 AM on August 6, 2020 [8 favorites]

It suffers a lot from a complaint some people had about PIC - specifically, the use of 21st century slang/jargon. It works a lot better in animated form, but I think the show will end up feeling more dated than other Trek series a couple of decades from now.

I enjoyed it more than I thought I would after watching the most recent trailer. Well constructed, an obviously-loving homage to TNG-era trek. I already love pretty much ever character (PLEASE GIVE US MORE DOCTOR T'ANA) except, perhaps weirdly, Boimler. One thing that carries over, humor-wise, from its Ricky and Morty roots is the habit of characters talking over each other, like, a LOT. As someone who struggles with both some hearing loss and difficulty differentiating overlapping conversations, this makes part of the dialog mildly inaccessible to me, even with CC on.
posted by hanov3r at 1:06 PM on August 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

Prediction: Michael Dorn guest appearance. Too many mentions of Worf for it NOT to happen.

I too enjoyed it. A solid pilot for a franchise that has struggled with having solid pilots since before it even got on the air. They know what they're doing continuity-wise—the tiny tedious Trek nerd inside me never once cleared his throat—and, so far, even tonally. And I smiled warmly at the use of the TNG font for the opening credits ^-^

The relationship between the two leads seems to be built on the venerable straight man/troublemaker comic tradition, which was probably smart, especially for Trek's first extended venture into the strange new world of comedy. I reallllly wonder how serialized this show might become, because the timeframe limits them quite a lot, as might the chosen style of humor.

Seconding hanov3r's comment about the characters in general: I think I'm more interested in about seven or eight of these characters after one half-hour than I was in anybody on DISCO four hours in. The underdog factor undoubtedly helps there, but this script deserves credit for making the time to let them interact.

It may be telling that I didn't think of The Orville once while watching this, though of course I've thought about it in conjunction with LOW while waiting for its premiere. Maybe the timing was correct here: Orville has by now become pretty much its own thing, even if it remains heavvvily derived from TNG, so LOW won't necessarily step on its toes. (Not to mention, of course, the fact that LOW and The Orville exist in this weird new landscape where every streaming service seems to need a clone of every other service's successful shows—cue Galaxy Quest: The Series, only on Amazon…) At any rate, the timing may well have been largely coincidental, but if not—and it's weird to see myself typing this—good strategy, CBS.

I wonder how smart it might have been, though, to go with a Rick and Morty alum. Not that I'm averse to that general style of animation and humor, mind you; I'm wondering more about others' reception of this show. Obviously Trekkies will watch it almost no matter what, but casual viewers who are turned off by Rick and Mortyness may not find enough other stuff here to tough it out, and viewers who are all about the Mortiness already have Rick and Morty and Solar Opposites, and may find that the high proportion of Trekiness in LOW dilutes the Mortiness too much. Y'know, like how nobody liked Nickelback because they tried to appeal to two fairly opposed crowds simultaneously. No telling, I suppose, but it'll certainly be interesting to see how this show evolves and under what circumstances it ends.

I still miss Other Space
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:30 PM on August 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm happy to see hear Tawny Newsome in more stuff lately (shoutout to Bajillion Dollar Properties), and agree with other comments that this feels a bit like Final Space without Mooncake.

I also miss Other Space
posted by Marticus at 3:35 PM on August 6, 2020

That was pretty enjoyable. I could watch more of that.

I like that it's Trek set in roughly post Voyager time. I don't want more prequels.

I am on the record as being a proponent of doing different styles of stories in universes (I still want to see a Star Wars rom com). It's the Star Trek as a place philosophy.
There's plenty of space for this alongside the more serious shows.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:27 PM on August 6, 2020 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I was a little worried by the suggestions during the theme song (clipping the ice spire, noping out at Wolf 359, having some alien sucking on a nacelle) that it was going to be basically anti-competence porn, which would make it _weird_ for Trek, but the actual show is still pretty competent, just not in the usual Trek-ish ways.

And funny! Genuinely funny! Who'd have thunkit.
posted by Kyol at 7:01 PM on August 6, 2020 [6 favorites]

The more I think about it the more I like the notion that the Enterprise-D was an outlier W/R/T depicting Starfleet and the Federation as super-enlightened and competent. Even in TNG itself we're shown many examples of other Starfleet ships in distress and blowing up, and umpteen evil corrupt admirals. So if showing what things are like when you're not the best and brightest jewel of the fleet is what this show is all about, sign me up.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:11 PM on August 6, 2020 [7 favorites]

I always love a good straight man / funny guy comedy, ever since reading a stack of Gordon Korman novels as a kid.

This one also speaks directly to what is, in my opinion, the core moral conflict of a lot of Trek, especially current Trek: When is it correct to obey the rules for the greater good, and when is it right to break the rules because the situation demands it?

Discovery season 1 comes down hard on the "obey" side-- Burnham gives a whole speech at the end!-- but Lower Decks, and some of the Short Treks, seem to say the opposite. I'm interested in where Lower Decks comes down on the issue, once there's a season of it.
posted by 4th number at 7:18 PM on August 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

posted by sixswitch at 8:03 PM on August 6, 2020

There's a new episode of Wil Wheaton's Ready Room for this as well, and as with the Ready Room episodes he did for Picard, it's really good and absolutely worth watching! It's available on CBS All Access if you sort of scroll down from episode 1 in the episode selection menu, or it's online here. I'm not normally the kind of person who watches behind-the-scenes content for stuff, but it's just a lot of fun to see Wil's enthusiasm for the show and to learn a little bit about how the creators of the show are thinking about it.
posted by Syllepsis at 10:22 PM on August 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed this and it felt more like Trek than DISCO ever has. It wasn't hilarious but less cringe-worthy than the trailer made it out to be. I'm okay with it being mildly funny, somewhat wacky and about as Trek-like as it was here. That's a good combination. I liked the references and I liked the characters. Pleasantly surprised.
posted by crossoverman at 4:48 AM on August 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Trek is ripe for lampooning, so I hope this show tips a little more toward funny as it goes along. I agree with the sentiment that the fast, overlapping dialogue (especially from Mariner) kills some jokes and clever references. Overall, I think this was pretty promising for a first episode.
posted by briank at 5:00 AM on August 7, 2020

Something I forgot to put in my post: you can get the LoDe main characters as duty officers in Star Trek Online.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:28 AM on August 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised at how much less zany and slapsticky the show was than I expected! I think I assumed that huge aliens would use the ship saucer as a pizza cutter, or planets would get knocked into one another like pool balls, or something daft like that. Mostly, the show felt like it fit in canon, which is impressive and well-appreciated. I'm also surprised by how much I liked all the in-jokes. I expected cloying in-jokes, but I didn't feel these ones were cloying. Perhaps because it made sense why the characters would make them.

What I didn't like is that it had such a conventional narrative arc for a cartoon-aimed-at-adults. I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly what I mean, but something about it felt extremely unambitious, as if it were an episode of American Dad set in the Star Trek universe. Something about Boimler learning a lesson and choosing to stand by a newfound friend instead of reporting her... it's all so uninteresting and rote and a little immature. Polygon has a very negative review of the first four episodes that suggests that this problem just continues to deepen.
[V]iewers who wanted to see the Star Trek setting used to deliver space adventures, with no stakes, introspection, or larger cultural relevance, may have finally gotten their wish [...] McMahan seems to be striving to keep Lower Decks as inoffensive as possible, leaving it feeling entirely superfluous. [...] it feels utterly devoid of any nutritional, philosophical, or even real comedic value.
posted by painquale at 10:34 AM on August 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm glad y'all enjoyed this! I thought it was dreadful. The funny bits weren't funny enough, the main space zombie plot was terrible. The voice acting was just trying too hard, everyone speaking too loud and fast and forced I guess trying to amp up the fun? I was all for an animated Star Trek lampooning but this just seemed dumb to me. Even Orville when it was trying to be funny landed the jokes better.

I'm gonna keep watching a few more episodes to see if they find their feet. I don't want to shit in your cheerios, so I promise this will be the only negative post I wrote about the show.
posted by Nelson at 11:17 AM on August 7, 2020

NPR's review is pretty positive, and mentions that they're "officially" encouraged to use "ST: LDS" as shorthand.
posted by hanov3r at 12:21 PM on August 7, 2020

I dunno, look what happened to Spock when he took too much LDS in the '60s!
posted by briank at 12:44 PM on August 7, 2020 [7 favorites]

All I want to know is why were they both in just their underwear when the Starfleet uniform definitely includes an undershirt/tank top.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:52 PM on August 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

That Polygon reviewer seems to have decided ahead of time what the show should be: "Creator Mike McMahan could have used Lower Decks to tell meaningful, funny stories about questioning authority by setting up a harsh divide between Starfleet’s ranks." Usually, the solution for wanting to see a particular story is to make that story yourself; McMahan, for example, created the TNG S8 Twitter account. The next line of the Polygon review said something about sticking up for the redshirts, which MeFi's Own jscalzi has already done.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:11 PM on August 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Agreed, most of the complaints I've seen are related to what the show is not rather than what the show actually is. I'm just glad to have a Star Trek that is interested in teaching me about the characters and making me interested in them, something that both Disco and Picard both had a lot of trouble with.

It's a light-hearted look at what being a peon in the Starfleet machine is like, and how weird it would be to live in Star Trek's world. They had me at "hot banana."
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:24 PM on August 7, 2020 [11 favorites]

Agreed, most of the complaints I've seen are related to what the show is not rather than what the show actually is.

Well, that is pretty much a given in 2020, when all the dumb people want to grind the axes they have brought to the party. I can read a story about tort reform in the New York legal system and commenters ask why this story mentions nothing about Planned Parenthood funding in Oregon. Minutes ago I looked at a news story about a local homeless encampment which may be relocated in September and the first comments all were demands that the prime minister, entirely unconnected to the story, should be subject to a recall election (which do not exist in this country, but whatever).

I'm just glad to have a Star Trek that is interested in teaching me about the characters and making me interested in them, something that both Disco and Picard both had a lot of trouble with.

It's early days for Lower Decks, but I grant it has a bit more spark than Picard, which seems kind of all over the shop. I think Discovery has improved considerably in its two years this far, and I actually find myself looking forward to the next season, which is not a feeling I have experienced with Trek since sometime in the last century.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:23 PM on August 7, 2020 [9 favorites]

NPR's review is pretty positive, and mentions that they're "officially" encouraged to use "ST: LDS" as shorthand.

I thought Battlestar Galactica was Star Trek: Latter Day Saints.
posted by rodlymight at 5:24 PM on August 7, 2020 [27 favorites]

Hmmmm... might have to reactivate my CBS all access account to at least give this a try. Also might try Picard again. I was so freakin lost the first time I watched it.

Thanks to those doing these ST threads.
posted by kathrynm at 7:16 PM on August 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

I can understand people hating it for the humour since that's so subjective (I find the Orville unbearable because of some of its humour) but it was nice to get Star Trek that was competently written, with actual related A and B plots, consistent characters, and character development. I wouldn't be surprised if because it's animated they "simplified" the script, as it were. There's nothing wrong with complexity but the new Treks can't do it well.

Didn't care for the stills but the design style in motion is good.

I've pretty much given up on Picard and Discovery since they follow the new Doctor Who model of writing, crude melodrama, inconsistent characters, and utter absurdity. Lower Decks is welcome. Hopefully the Pike show will be good but colour me totally fucking skeptical.
posted by juiceCake at 5:34 PM on August 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

I came into this cold, and it wasn't what I expected. A little bit more over the top.

Mariner's status - could be a great vehicle to explore nepotism and special treatment in Starfleet, like a Wesley Crusher who's less of a goody two shoes on a command track instead of sciences... or not. Playing it strictly for laughs would be a wasted opportunity.
posted by porpoise at 6:10 PM on August 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

I watched the free one. It's about what I figured: enjoyed it, would have watched it if it was free, not motivated enough to pay to watch it. Mariner's overexcitement might be the best part of it all. And making fun of serious Trek.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:30 PM on August 14, 2020

I have enjoyed the 8 episodes of Lower Decks far better than Discovery or Picard. This feels like Star Trek, even as a comedy, while those other shows feel like they don't really want to be Trek.
posted by JHarris at 10:27 AM on September 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

This just showed up on Prime in the UK. Awful.
posted by biffa at 10:16 AM on January 31, 2021

No spoilers but it gets better.
posted by Nelson at 4:43 PM on January 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

It just seems so wrong in so many ways, but from the limited amount I watched i imagined someone saying 'Wouldn't it be hilarious if we had modern American arseholes, but on star trek, with non-stop babble' and then somehow getting it made. The answer being 'no'. What changes stylistically that stops it from being awful?
posted by biffa at 5:53 PM on February 4, 2021

The writing got better. Also they started leaning more on interesting plots and less on dumb gags. Still American arseholes though, not to mention Californian spaceships.
posted by Nelson at 11:22 AM on February 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you missed it last year, the launch of Paramount+ brings it back: Star Trek: Lower Decks | Series Premiere | Full Episode | Paramount+.
posted by channaher at 2:42 PM on March 4, 2021

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