Updated on July 7,2020
It's often said that the run of Star Trek shows and movies in the 80s and 90s represents the golden age of Star Trek...Especially on TV. However, with the upcoming launch of 'The Lower Decks,' the new Star Trek animated show (set to premier on CBS All Access on August 6), it could be said that we're on the precipice of another strong era of Trek. With 'Picard' and 'Discovery' already on air, and the fourth of the reboot films announced for production, there will be a lot of new Star Trek in our immediate future. In this article, we'll take a look at what we know about the latest offering in Star Trek TV.
What We Know About The New Star Trek Animated Show: The Lower DecksOne of the main reasons Star Trek TV has managed to endure for decades is that it's always willing to reinvent itself. This trait becomes even more important when there are multiple Star Trek shows competing for an audience at the same time. The TV shows have always managed to bring something new, while remaining true to the essential vision of the franchise. 'The Lower Decks' is an interesting concept that would like to explore the lighter side of the Star Trek mythos, while still being respectful of the concept. It's an ambitious idea, and it might prove difficult to realize.
Perhaps the success of films like 'Galaxy Quest' and shows like 'The Orville' have left Star Trek with a little space envy. Star Trek has always been a serious space drama. The film 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home' relied on a considerable amount of humor, and humor has been an element of individual series episodes, but the franchise has found its greatest success through engaging big ideas and delivering profound character drama. However, it's interesting to speculate how the comedy of 'The Lower Decks' will take shape.
It Isn't the First Animated Star TrekIf you're having a hard time wrapping your mind around an animated Star Trek, a good place to go to familiarize yourself with the concept would be the original Animated Series. Airing from 1973 to 1974, the Animated series is sometimes referred to as the fourth & fifth seasons of the original show that completed the "Five Year Mission" of the USS Enterprise. Most of the original cast lent their voice talents to the episodes, and the animation allowed the show a certain amount of storytelling freedom that wasn't available with the poor practical special effects of the time.
Star Trek shows have a history of needing a year or two before they fully come into their own and find their stride. A thing to keep an eye on with 'The Lower Decks' is how the series grows into its potential as an animated series. The production costs will be lower, and high concept ideas should be within reach of show producers. It will only be a question of whether they choose to engage them.
Mike McMahan and 'Rick and Morty'Star Trek executive producer Alex Kurtzman announced that Mike McMahan of 'Rick and Morty' would be the producer behind 'The Lower Decks.' Therefore, the best way to get an idea of the look and feel of the new Star Trek Animated show will probably be to go and watch a few episodes of 'Rick and Morty.' According to the still frames McMahan released at Comic-Con, the animation style of 'The Lower Decks' will be similar to 'Rick and Morty,' but purportedly, the humor will be appropriate for more of a general audience.
Kurtzman reported that McMahan's pitch included a desire to do a show "about the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other side." McMahan has a longstanding respect for all things Star Trek and even wrote 'The Escape Artist' Episode for Star Trek Shorts. The vision is that the show will combine adult comedy and Trek, but from a perspective that is respectful to the Trek universe.
It's Set In The Next Generation Era'The Lower Decks' will be set in the year 2380, which places it just after the film 'Nemesis' but before the show 'Picard.' The released promotional images have the crew wearing uniforms similar to those seen in 'The Next Generation' rather than the original series. Purportedly, one of the running gags of the series is that the ship has a holodeck that always fails. It's not hard to imagine how a failing holodeck could be the basis for any number of humorous situations.
The show will follow the adventures of the crew of the USS Cerritos, which is referred to as an inconsequential "California Class" ship. The Enterprise is referred to as a "Constitution Class" ship, and the "California Class" has no predecessor in film or television. The Cerritos is being kept somewhat under wraps, so it's possible that the ship itself will be something of a visual joke when the show finally launches.
Episode Number and LengthThe first season will be released in 2020 on CBS All Access and will consist of ten, thirty-minute episodes. The IMDb web page lists twelve episodes in production for season 2.
CharactersStar Trek wouldn't be Star Trek without well-realized characters that develop strong relationships with one another. The focus of 'The Lower Decks' seems to be on inconsequential ensigns rather than the traditional emphasis on captains and officers. The main characters are likely to be Ensign Mariner voiced by Tawny Newsome, Ensign Boimler voiced by Jack Quaid, Ensign Tendi voiced by Noel Wells, and Ensign Rutherford voiced by Eugene Cordero. Boimler and Mariner are both red-shirts. Tendi is a wide-eyed, green-skinned alien, and Rutherford has a cybernetic head attachment that is prone to malfunctions.
The show also will have a standard group of officers. Captain Freeman is voiced by Dawnn Lewis. Jerry O'Connell voices Commander Ransom, who is described as a kind of hyperactive Riker. Then there is the burly Lieutenant Shaxs voiced by Fred Tatasciore, whose solution to everything is to eject the warp core into space. Finally, Gillian Vigman voices Dr. T'Ana, a snarky character that bears a passing resemblance to Bloom County's Bill, the cat.
A Bold, New Star Trek Animated Show
There is certainly the potential for comedy in Star Trek, but the main obstacle Star Trek TV needs to avoid is offending the core fan base. That being said, a new animated series has the potential to attract a whole new demographic of Star Trek viewers. One of the reasons Star Trek has been able to maintain cultural significance since its original release in the mid-60s is that it's always able to reinvent itself, while still staying true to the philosophical exploration of the kind of divine society the human race might one day achieve.
All the reports and rumors indicate that Mike McMahan is a Star Trek fanatic who can recite nuanced details from all the preceding films and shows. It seems most likely that this show will avoid the kind of cheap shot jokes that belittle the Star Trek following, in favor of insider call-backs and the kind of philosophical humor that you see in things like 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.'
It will be interesting to watch this show develop and observe whether the ensigns remain the focus, or whether the traditional captain and officer drama will encroach upon the center stage. Either way, we're looking forward to it!
Star Trek Lower Deck Premiers on CBS All Access On August 6th 2020.