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.