Editor’s Note: This piece on Star Trek: Lower Decks was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.
In the last few years, we have seen a major resurgence of the Star Trek brand on TV. Once thought long dead after the cancellation of Enterprise, the franchise languished in the hell of canceled projects that never made it out of a writer’s room. However, over the last five years, we have seen a parade of new shows such as Strange New Worlds, Picard, Discovery, and Lower Decks.
Lower Decks is an animated television show from Mike McMahan, that stars Jack Quaid, Tawny Newsome, Noel Wells, and Jerry O’Connell. Lower Decks released its first season in 2020, and has released three more seasons. With Season 4 releasing on September 7th, 2023, Paramount+ announced that Lower Decks has been renewed for Season 5.
Many tend to think that animation is for kids, however, Lower Decks (much like Rick and Morty) is geared mostly toward adults, and it can be enjoyed by kids who are a bit older as well. Lower Decks on its surface is a comedy parody of Trek as a whole, set one year after Star Trek: Nemesis. It follows the crew of the California Class ship the USS Cerritos, who are the ones who follow the main ships like the Enterprise, and conduct “Second Contact.”
The USS Cerritos and its like are somewhat looked down upon by other Federation crews, and the show follows not the Bridge crew, but the “Lower Decks”—the cadets, cooks, engineers, and the like. The title of the show is taken from Episode 15 of the seventh season of The Next Generation, which also follows the lower deck crew of the Enterprise and the adventures they find themselves on.
However, Lower Decks is much more than just a comedy parody of Star Trek. It has the laughs and the silly situations its humorous cast of characters find themselves in. That being said, under this parody is a show that deeply respects the lore and universe it resides in. Mike McMahan loves Trek and all its shows and films.
So many parody shows end up being a mockery of what they are making fun of, laughing at it, instead of with it. Lower Decks on the other hand is clearly in on the joke and is laughing with Trek’s millions of fans—it’s not mocking them, it’s celebrating them.
The show is PACKED to the gills with Easter eggs from all eras of Star Trek, from the original series to Deep Space Nine. It also tells stories that while humorous, are very firmly Trek stories: we get away missions, rogue AI and bloodthirsty aliens, action, adventure, tension, and comedy. Lower Decks has it all!
Lower Decks was a program that was dreaded by many long-time Star Trek fans, who worried they would be the butt of jokes and that Trek would be mocked and tarnished, but thankfully all these fears were unfounded, and Lower Decks has gone on to celebrate the Trek fandom for four seasons and 40 episodes with more seasons on the way.
So board the USS Cerritos and laugh and cry with its crew as you explore the galaxy with them, boldly going where no one has gone before!
Lower Decks is streaming on Paramount+