The newest Star Trek TV series, Star Trek: Lower Decks, is the first animated Trek series since the 1970s and while that old show for the most part lived up to Star Trek, this animated show does not, unfortunately. There are many reasons why Star Trek: Lower Decks is just not up to par with Trek standards, but the most glaring is with its humor, or lack of.
Star Trek: Lower Decks, which streams on the CBS All Access app, was promoted as a comedy that takes place on the starship Cerritos, an unexceptional Starfleet ship assigned to mundane missions throughout Federation space . The show focuses on a crew of young Starfleet ensigns who for the most part dream of being promoted to senior officers while burdened with humdrum tasks like cleaning the holodeck, changing carbon filters and so on. The problem is the show just is not funny.
It tries its best, sometimes too hard, to be humorous and slapsticky, but at best the show elicits a few chuckles or wry smiles that only Trek fans can appreciate. The show is saddled with trying to be funny while telling traditional Star Trek stories and the tone winds up being very inconsistent. Some story lines are kind of interesting and could have worked in a normal Star Trek episode but then they gets thrown off with uninspired sight gags and jokes that are not especially witty and ruin the story. Take for instance this episode called “Moist Vessel”. The Cerritos is supposed to tow an ancient generational ship that has a substance that turns inorganic material into organic ones, which would be useful for terraforming purposes. This substance is accidently unleashed on the Cerritos and uncontrolled growths of organic material threatens the ship. This would have worked in a regular Star Trek episode, but in this case the plot is used for cheap laughs, though it did provide a platform for some character study.
As for the characters, they are not outstanding except for Ensign Mariner (Tawny Newsome). Unlike her overeager shipmates, she is more of a disillusioned slacker who complains nons-stop about Starfleet life. This is an interesting way to go for a Star Trek character, except it leaves you wondering why does she still stay onboard the ship? Why not just quit Starfleet? How is it she is still allowed to remain on the ship? For that last question, there is more to her story; her mother is the captain of the Cerritos and she is especially hard on Mariner, but that is about it. Her partner is an overeager and over-annoying Ensin named Boimler (Jack Quaid whose talents are better used in The Boys), who comes off as those petty buttkissers that no one likes, so it he is hard to empathize with. There are a few more ensigns who are alien or enhanced with cybernetic parts, but they do not stand out at all.
Star Trek: Lower Decks would have benefitted with wittier and funnier scripts that went all out and perhaps even meta. Perhaps a different animation style would have served it better because right now the show looks so cartoony that you expect it to be stuffed to the bulkheads with outrageous, LOL moments and jokes or even oulandish scenes that would have been too expensive to film in live action.
The show is not the worse thing out there and some revamping would salvage the endeavor. It does have potential, so it may be worth keeping an eye on. However, if fans want something to tide them over in between regular Trek productions like Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery, they are better off watching The Orville, at least that show has better wit, humor and characters.
So a series as part of a franchise well known for possessing humor and wit has neither humor nor wit? That’s not a good sign.
It’s pretty shocked given that when Trek puts its mind to it can be hilarious. As bad as it was “The Way to Eden” was much funnier than the entirety of Lower Decks.
Ouch. That bad, huh?
Pretty much. One can only wonder how the next animated Trek show will be like.
Star Trek Lower Decks was ok, but not too sure about the slapstick tone of this animated series. Still it was a fun interlude while we wait for the start of Season 3 of Star Trek Discovery.
The slapstick tone does not match with the background of a Starfleet ship. It might have worked if the ship was a civilian craft or something even more insignificant like a garbage scow!
I have never enjoyed slapstick humor, especially the type where someone is brash and wild and makes fun of the practical person. I hate Ensign Mariner and how she treats Ensin Boimler. I was willing to give the show a chance since I liked the campy 70s animated series and I liked the TNG episode Lower Decks and I thought it could be a cool combo of them both, but this series is not for me!
There are so many things wrong with the show. You make an excellent point about the characters. They just don’t seem like Starfleet material. In the real Trek neither Mariner or Boimler would have made it out of freshman year at the Academy.
We haven’t gotten Lower Decks over here in the U.K. as unlike Discovery and Picard there doesn’t seem to have been an international roll-out. Although I’ll have to reserve judgement, this is as I feared – I was open to the idea of a Star Trek animated comedy but what I saw in previews just seemed generic and overly slapstick-y. I think a Trek comedy should be smart and satirical rather than just going for cheap laughs, but hey, I’ll still be interested to see it and hope it can improve…I can’t bare the thought of there being an iteration of Trek that I don’t like!
On the plus side, Discovery season 3 is merely a few weeks away and looks promising…and epic!
You’re not missing anything with Lower Decks. It’s not the worst thing in the world and does merit a viewing just to see what it’s like but as a comedy Trek deserves better.
Other Trek shows have shown that they can do comedy well and without going slapsticky.
Thankfully Discovery will be here soon and it looks great.
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