The third episode of the new Star Trek series is now available online. New Star Trek series I hear you say. Picard season 2? Discovery season 3? No, it is the new animated web series Star Wars Lower Decks. Developed by Mike McMahan it is named after the similarly titled episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation. In that episode we got a glimpse of the lives of the supporting personnel on a starship – the lower decks as it were. This animated series follows that premise and doles out a significant amount of humor on top. The constant clash of interests and personalities between the ‘lower decks’ characters and the ships command staff is fun to watch. Blended with plenty of references to how Star Trek is perceived in popular culture and you end up with a feeling similar to The Orville, which is a warning to CBS.
Star Trek getting in touch with its roots
Star Trek Lower Decks is seen as a departure from Discovery and the Kelvin-universe reboot movies. It harkens back to the TNG era which comparatively found a better balance between drama and comedy. I was skeptical of watching Lower Decks after its first episode, but now that I have seen three am totally hooked. It is easy to feel the appeal of Lower Decks when watching it. It doesn’t beat around the bush setting up the plot. The series is set onboard the U.S.S. Cerritos, one of Starfleet’s least important ships. A quip that is continued when their official assignment is handling ‘second contact’. Lower Decks centers around two characters: Ensign Brad Boimler (voiced by Jack Quaid) is a wannabe captain. He goes so far as to keep his own captain’s log. Boimler completely lacks practical skills and does not have an overabundance of confidence either.
His foil is Ensign Beckett Mariner. Whereas Boimler pretends to be a stickler for the rules Mariner breaks them all. She gets into trouble at every conceivable opportunity and prefers to overnight in the brig. Much to the chagrin of her mother Captain Freeman. After Boimler confesses his desire for leadership he becomes her next pet project. So far three episode she has gone so far as to stage incidents to increase his confidence when he suggests a solution. The backdrop to Boimler and Mariner are a selection of odd characters. Ensign Tendi is the rookie ensign always keen to be assigned new duties in the medical bay. Ensign Rutherford is a cyborg assigned to engineering and is reminiscent to a young Geordi La Forge. Both Tendi and Rutherford offer the viewer characters they can relate to. Their blossoming relationship is a prelude to that of Boimler and Mariner.
Star Trek Lower Decks S01E03 review
In Star Trek Lower Decks S01E03 “Temporal Edict” we see just how a second contact mission goes awry. Captain Freeman takes action towards the lower decks propensity of inflating the time it takes to perform a specific duty. As a consequence everybody is on the clock. Ensign Mariner decides to escape her duties by assigning herself to a second contact away team lead by Jack Ransom. Ransom is the gun-ho first officer of the Cerritos. He seems to be made from the same mold as Kirk and Riker, but ten times more over the top. Mariner does not have an easier time in her first contact with the people of Gelrak V after they mistakenly bring a twig instead of a ceremonial crystal offered to the first contact team. Meanwhile onboard the Cerritos order is breaking down when the crew becomes tired, even Captain Freeman has to pitch in.
The dénouement comes when Ensign Boimler suggests to Captain Freeman everybody should be able to loosen up to perform their duties. On the planet Mariner and Ransom are faced with a trial by combat. Mariner suggests she should fight the Gelrak champion as she has the scars to proof that fighting dirty is sometimes the only way. Ransom doesn’t take kind to that argument and wounds Mariner in the foot. Bare chested he takes on the champion and wins. In the end he convinces the Gelrak people bringing the twig was just a mistake. They are let go and the boarding party on the Cerritos withdraws. After everything has settled down Captain Freeman institutes the Boimler rule. Everybody is allowed to take up “buffer-time” or take a break whenever they want. This is the antithesis of what the stickler ensign Boimler believes.
The last joke and where to go from here
A last joke shows a statue of Boimler in the far future in which he is remembered as lazy and corner cutting. Also, Chief Miles O’Brien is depicted as the most important man in Starfleet’s history. It is this humor that makes Lower Decks fun to watch. That is not to say there are no downsides. There have been plenty of attempts at jokes I did not like. Mariner’s desire to humiliate Boimler touch upon bullying. So far there has also not been an overarching storyline, the U.S.S. Cerritos is just fling around. With just 10 episodes in this season I hope the show will be able to create a distinguishing storyline that allows it to set itself apart from Picard and Discovery. With 6 more episodes to go I think this show is well capable of tying us over until Discovery returns with season 3 on October 15.