TL;DR – Super charming and a fun new direction for the franchise.
We are currently living in the middle of a new golden age of Science Fiction on TV, and one of the significant drivers of that has been Star Trek. With Discovery and then Picard, you feel that they are starting to get their groove back. However, when I heard there was going to be a more light-hearted animated series coming out, I felt a bit of trepidation. However, after watching the first episode, I can see I had nothing to worry about.
To set the scene, we open in on the USS Cerritos in 2380 (which for those playing at home is two years after the return of the USS Voyager and twenty years before the start of Picard). The Cerritos is a Federation Vessel that specialises in second contact, which is the follow-up mission after first contact, not as much glory but still significant. Ensign D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) has just come on board from Outpost 79, and this is her first placement on a starship. Her orientation guide is Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) a very straight-laced command track-captain seat hopeful Ensign. However, orientation is soon side-tracked as Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) decides to take D’Vana on a more personalised tour. This gets put aside when they go down to the planet to help the Galardonian High Council with a subspace receiver while things down quite go to plan back on the ship.
Let’s start with the animation style, which I know is probably going to be the most subjective part of the show. For me, I liked it because it had a lot it needed to accomplish and I think it pulled it off. To start with, it had to chart a very narrow course being both slightly stylised, yet still being familiar. This allows it to both sit in an animated world yet also feel like Star Trek, and the sound effects and visual cues all help bring this to life. I also liked the flow it had with the movement where it can go from very stationary to high impact in a moment’s notice.
Because this is just the first episode, we get hints of some characters and their motivations and how that is going to shape the season. I like the dynamic between Boimler and Mariner because they almost represent twin aspects of my own personality. Do you go full sass or full regulations? The more we see of them throughout the episode, the more interesting they become from the sort of odd opening, and I would like to see how that develops going forward.
The other thing I would like to give the filmmakers credit for is making a full-on Zombie episode feel like it works in the Star Trek context. An alien bite leading to something is straight out of the Star Trek rule book, but they present it in their own way. Indeed, this is a hallmark of that first episode, because it is FULL of references in the dialogue and animation. From bat’leth’s to Romulan whiskey to Cetacean Ops (which is a deep cut reference). A lot of care and effort has gone into getting those things right. Also, like, Deep Space Nine spent seasons alluding to what happened in the Holosuites, so it was interesting that they 100% ripped that band-aid off in the first episode and bumped that thirst quota up.
In the end, do we recommend Star Trek: Lower Decks – Second Contact? I would say, yes, yes we do. I saw a lot of promise in this episode, and it is good to look a starship that is not the flagship for a change. We got some interesting characters, I like the design of the California-class USS Cerritos, it was funny, and most of all it felt like Star Trek.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Star Trek: Lower Decks
Directed by – Barry J. Kelly
Written by – Mike McMahan
Created by – Mike McMahan
Based Upon – Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry
Production/Distribution Companies –
Starring – Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noël Wells, Eugene Cordero, Dawnn Lewis, Jerry O’Connell, Fred Tatasciore & Gillian Vigman