As I was waiting for the third season of Star Trek: Discovery to begin, I reopened my CBS All Access subscription and decided to binge Star Trek: Lower Decks. I’d seen the premier episode on YouTube back in the Summer and, while I thought it was fine for what it is, I figured I could wait a couple of months to watch it. Now that I’ve binged it I’m fine with deciding to wait.
This is not to say Lower Decks is a bad show, and that every “true Trek fan” should hate it for straying from the accepted paradigm. It’s actually a funny show and there are so many call backs to earlier shows in the series it’s clear that these folks have a deep love for all things Trek. A Gorn wedding makes a cameo appearance, for crying out loud! Perhaps the best deep cut Lower Decks made was a reference to the TOS Animated Series which introduced “Spock 2.” It makes me happy something this silly is now official canon. Lower Decks is entertaining. I’m just not sure it’s a sci-fi show. It’s more like an animated sit-com with Trek as the backdrop. This is fine. But for many episodes, entertaining as they were, I felt something was missing. I wanted more science fiction mixed into the comedy. Certain episodes, like “Veritas,” manage to strike that balance better than others. I know this show can make an adjustment, and I hope it does.
I think, perhaps, I’d have an unmitigated affection for Lower Decks had it come out before The Orville. This is a similar concept, a science-fiction comedy, but The Orville remembered it was science fiction—even with the presence of running gags. Again, this isn’t a statment about how “The Orville is great and Lower Decks sucks 1.” Both shows are well done, but The Orville just hits more of the right notes for me. But if you love deep cut references, you should not skip Lower Decks.
Here’s my top three distilled thoughts on the series.
First, it’s more Trek than the Kelvin movies. By far.
Second, the complaints that “Star Fleet Officers wouldn’t be that incompetent or silly” forgets the show’s genre. It is a sit-com. It’s best to think of Lower Decks the way friends get together to recount stories of past escapades. In the stories people and events tend to be remembered as more exaggerated expressions of reality. It’s just the way stories like this work. There’s a very good character call back late in the season which demonstrates this—it’s the same character fans already know, but his idiosyncrasies are exaggerated to fit the genre.
Third, given the my second thought, I think it would be interesting to see what these characters are like “played straight” in a live action setting. It wouldn’t be that difficult to do.
- Though I do think The Orville is Better Trek than Star Trek:Discovery. But Discovery is better Science Fiction than The Orville. It gets confusing. ↩