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Star Trek Lower Decks poster

Star Trek: Lower Decks

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What it’s about:

An animated Star Trek satire set in the year 2380 about the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos, a ship that specializes in “second contact.” Unlike previous Trek series, this one focuses on “lower-deckers,” the ensigns with the most menial jobs on the ship.

Names you might know:

The show was created by Mike McMahan, who was a writer and producer on Rick and Morty and also created the show Solar Opposites. Voice talent includes Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, and Jerry O’Connell, plus cameos galore from Star Trek stars of the past and present.

Why it’s worth your time:

Lower Decks manages to simultaneously be a send-up of Star Trek and a love letter to it in every frenetic breath. While the show’s edgy humor targets Trek tropes, characters, and history, it has heart. No matter how ridiculous the stories, you’ll find yourself rooting for the main characters and very much enjoying the ride.

The jokes come rapid-fire, but don’t worry if you’re not a Trekkie; many of the swipes they take are broad enough even for those of you whose understanding of Star Trek is purely peripheral. For diehard fans, there are Easter eggs everywhere: in the dialogue, the storylines, and the incredibly detailed visuals. The parodies include the movies as well as the TV shows. In the episode “Veritas,” Ensign Rutherford distracts museum guards by doing his version of a “fan dance” in homage to a much-mocked scene in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, when Uhura does the same so Kirk and company can sneak past guards on a rescue mission. Occasionally they lay it on a bit thick, but most of the episodes slow down enough to let their characters and stories shine through.

The show is funny and smart, whether or not you get all the constant references to Star Trek’s past, but it would be nothing without its well-drawn (!) characters. The four “lower deckers” are Beckett Mariner (Human), a rebel with against-protocol rolled-up sleeves who stashes contraband all over the ship and has been demoted a few times; Brad Boimler (Human), a by-the-book fussypants with a true, deep passion for regulations; Samanthan “Sam” Rutherford (Human with a cybernetic implant), a sweet-natured engineering nerd; and D’Vana Tendi (Orion), who works in medical and is thrilled and excited about absolutely everything. Best pals Mariner and Boimler are loaded with baggage, while Rutherford and Tendi ooze lovable optimism and enthusiasm. The senior officers still get plenty of onscreen time, but the scene-stealer is Dr. T’Ana, a Caitian who spouts the best one-liners, mostly because she looks like a cat and can get away with them. (“Congratulations, you look like a f***ing scratching post!”)

The takeaway:

An action-packed sci-fi comedy set in a Star Trek universe that it both reveres and lovingly mocks. If you’re on the fence, check out the opening sequence, which captures the tone perfectly.

Watch it with:

The more friends, the better. Watching solo is fun, but watching in a group inspires bigger, longer laughs. Not that kid-friendly due to language, adult themes, and occasional VERY dark plot twists. If your household has both Trek and non-Trek fans, this show might just bring them together.

Worth noting:

Long before he was officially a part of the Star Trek universe, show creator Mike McMahan ran a still-active Twitter account called TNG Season 8 that posted wackadoo suggestions for plotlines for Star Trek: The Next Generation’s hypothetical 8th season. He’s also an Emmy winner for the “Pickle Rick” episode of Rick and Morty.

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