The Capstone of Star Trek

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

I haven’t been interested in anything Star Trek in years. I mean, we’re kinda Voyager here. Yes I’ve heard great things about Discovery, I can appreciate the ideas behind Strange New Worlds retro-forward work. It’s just that I’m tired of Star Trek despite the fact that like many a geek, it was formative in my life.

But now Trek seems over-saturated and overdone. I mean it’s not Star Wars level and definitely not Marvel, but you know, haven’t we kind have done all of this? Do we have to keep rehashing things? What the hell is up with the various Spock plots and time travel? Can’t we, I dunno, move on for awhile?

So you’d think I’d be incredibility indifferent to the animated Trek dramedy, Lower Decks. I mean I even tried to get into it twice, and though I appreciated it, the show just didn’t do it for me. Well, didn’t do anything until a friend got into it, and I gave it one more spin.

Then I was hooked. On a Star Trek show.

If you’re not familiar with Lower Decks – and maybe you are, it’s fine – it’s an animated half hour show set in “recent” Star Trek continuity, the 24th century of the imagined future. The show doesn’t involve glamorous front-line flagships, but the Cerritos, a class of starship used for support, transport, “second contact” and less spectacular activities. The story also focuses on four friends who are “Lower Deckers,” relatively new spacefarers of low rank stuck with uninteresting and menial tasks, even if those drag them into adventures.

It’s Star Trek from the bottom up, but it doesn’t stop there.

The show is steeped in Trek lore, sometimes carrying concepts and even entire past episodes to their logical-if-ridiculous conclusions. People are used to strange energies evolving others into insane gods or temporarily switching bodies. First contact with aliens has to be followed up by someone doing the real work of shuffling around annoying diplomats and hooking planets up to communications network. For that matter, what do you do with all those monomaniacal computers endlessly plaguing alien civilizations – oh and has anyone checked up on those societies lately?

It’s every Trek trope and plenty of obscure lore falling on capable-if-neurotic shoulders of the Lower Deckers and the Cerritos crew. In many ways it’s akin to the Venture Brothers, which seemed to be a parody of cartoons, but was more of a heartfelt homage. Lower Decks just operates with a more defined property, the entire Star Trek janky extended universe.

It’s probably the most Star Trek of any Star Trek if you get my drift. I enjoy it because it’s not just another Star Trek show but an extrapolation by some talented writers.. The decades of continuity sort of roll downhill to the back-of-the-line Cerritos and the Lower Deckers.

It’s a kind of capstone for Star Trek, summing so much if it up in a way both funny and sometimes touching.

However, when it is done, I also can’t see Star Trek interesting me again. Lower Decks really does feel like a capstone, that there’s nothing more to do beyond this. Maybe that’s why the fact there’s even a Lower Decks RPG resonated with me – it feels like Trek has been done so often it’s best in everyone’s hands.

Thus I approach Lower Decks with a kind of bitersweet sadness. I’ve got the same Trek rush I got with TOS and Net Gen – but also it’s the end of that as well. I also know people will try to keep Trek going as its an institution – I just won’t be interested.

But I’m glad to have Lower Decks as a way to rediscover and close out a love of Star Trek.

Steven Savage

Well At Least It’s Done And Quiet

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

I’ve discovered some interesting “minichannels” online, New Ellijay and Retrostrange.  New Ellijay serves a local town as well as carries various shows and music.  Retrostrange digs into weird films, instructional videos, and more.  Both also carry old films and serials that are easy to get ahold of and broadcast due to being public domain, etc.

I find such things interesting because old and historical and odd media fascinate me.  However something else struck me about watching old movies and long-ago-ended television series.

They’re done.

The movies will not be part of a gigantic sprawling cinematic universe that both requires a flowchart and requires you to navigate angry fans wanting a director’s cut.  Oh they might get remade or something, but they’re done.

The television shows are over.  They’re not going to continue forever.  They’re not going to jump from streaming service to streaming service with their future uncertain.  You know what you’re getting, even if it’s frustrated at a sudden stop.

(My friends who are on a Columbo marathon probably appreciate this).

Right now in an age of remakes, cinematic universes, reboots, streaming-jumping, and more knowing something is finished is a great comfort.  You’re getting a certain predetermined experience then you can go on – you can even check online info to find what you’re getting into.

They’re also not being hyped.

You’re not listening to endless commentary about these old shows and films – unless you run into an obsessive fan.  You’re not facing trailers of trailers to remind you of trailers.  There’s no breathless news and updates about the properties dropping into your social media.

It’s refreshing to see things that aren’t being endlessly tossed against my consciousness like fastballs.

I get the other benefits of these channels and other services with older, “finished” properties.  It’s not just history and culture and curiosity, it’s a lack of some very annoying elements of our culture.

Steven Savage

One Piece: Long Live The New Flesh

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

Unless the rock you’re hiding under doesn’t have streaming, you know that Netflix did a live-action season of the famous anime/manga One Piece.  I found this a curious choice because of the cancellation of Cowboy Bebop.  Ditching a retro space adventure for an over-the-top tale of superhuman piracy felt like choosing a pretty heavy lift.

Of course, I had to check it out, if only for morbid curiosity.  To get me invested One Piece would also be a heavy lift.

One Piece is something I tried to get into several times, across several dubs, and through an issue or two of the manga.  Despite its popularity – and my own love of fun weirdness – It never reached me, and it’s hard to say whyOne Piece should have checked several of my boxes, but apparently left its pen elsewhere.

So, I sat down, watched a few episodes – and found myself really enjoying it.  I dare say I was charmed by it, enough I was disappointed when I had to stop watching.  What was it that made me appreciate this show but not other incarnations?  Beyond, you know, having over two decades of episodes and a wallet-endangering amount of manga?

I realized it was the fact it was live-action and the actors were into it.  There were other reasons, but over and over I kept coming back to the cast.

Iñaki Godoy’s take on Luffy, the ever-cheerful elastic protagonist is charming and sincere – you aren’t sure how much he’s acting.  Emily Rudd’s Nami is relatable, the sane woman among a demented piratical sausage fest.  Jeff Ward’s theatrical pirate Buggy the Clown steals every scene, a sort of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia take on the Joker.  Everyone in the cast does great, embracing their roles with a gusto that suggests a scenery-intensive diet.

I realized that, for me, One Piece worked better live action.  No offense to the fine voice actors associated with it, nor Oda’s manic creativity.  The manga and animated One Piece didn’t connect with me on a human level.  I suspect it was a mix of the art style and over-the-topness were a barrier to me feeling connected to the work.

The live-action One Piece was different.  Gody’s little expressions and accents made Luffy a person.  Mackenyu’s Zorro, the I-hunt-pirates-but-these-are-my-friends bounty hunter projected amusingly straight-faced deadly cool mixed cold befuddlement.  Jacob Romero cries a single tear in a scene that says more than his motormouth character Usopp could say with words.  These weirdos were alive and I was enjoying it.

There is something about a good actor whose voice, expressions, gestures, and postures let them become a character.  The cast seemed to be channeling the characters, making them flesh.  For me they became people.

I’ve often wondered how different media work when translated to others, but would argue animation is perhaps the easiest medium to transfer a creation to.  Seeing One Piece I’m left wondering if that’s always the case, and find myself rethinking assumptions about what form fits what kind of works.

I’m only a few episodes in.  The show has room to disappoint me – but the cast and characters certainly didn’t.

Steven Savage