Star Trek: Lower Decks
Star Trek LD logo.svg
Genre
Created byMike McMahan
Based onStar Trek
by Gene Roddenberry
Voices of
ComposerChris Westlake
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes20
Production
Executive producers
Running time25 minutes
Production companies
DistributorParamount Global Distribution Group[1]
Release
Original network
Original releaseAugust 6, 2020 (2020-08-06) –
present (present)
Chronology
Preceded byStar Trek: Picard
Followed byStar Trek: Prodigy
Related showsStar Trek TV series

Star Trek: Lower Decks is an American adult animated television series created by Mike McMahan for the streaming service CBS All Access (later rebranded as Paramount+). It is the ninth Star Trek series and was launched in 2020 as part of executive producer Alex Kurtzman's expanded Star Trek Universe. Lower Decks is the franchise's first animated series since the 1970s series Star Trek: The Animated Series, and its first comedic series. It follows the low-ranking support crew of the starship Cerritos beginning in the year 2380.

Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noël Wells, and Eugene Cordero voice "lower decks" crew members of the Cerritos, with Dawnn Lewis, Jerry O'Connell, Fred Tatasciore, and Gillian Vigman providing voices for the ship's senior officers. Work on an animated Star Trek series began in June 2018. McMahan joined as creator and showrunner by that October, when Lower Decks was ordered for two seasons by All Access. The series is produced by CBS Eye Animation Productions in association with Secret Hideout, Important Science, Roddenberry Entertainment, and animation studio Titmouse who began work by February 2019. The main cast was announced that July. Production on the first two seasons shifted to taking place remotely in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The series features many connections and references to past Star Trek series.

Star Trek: Lower Decks premiered on CBS All Access on August 6, 2020, and its 10-episode first season ran until October 2020. A second season was released on Paramount+ from August to October 2021, and a third season is scheduled for the third quarter of 2022. A fourth season was ordered in January 2022 and is expected to be released in 2023. The series has received mixed reviews from critics, as well as several accolades including a Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Award nomination.

Premise

Star Trek: Lower Decks is set in the late 24th century in the Star Trek universe, in which Earth is part of the multi-species United Federation of Planets. The Federation's military and exploration division, Starfleet, operates a fleet of starships that travel the galaxy establishing contact with alien races; Lower Decks focuses on one of Starfleet's least important starships, the USS Cerritos.[2] Unlike previous Star Trek series, whose principal characters are typically starship captains or other senior officers, Lower Decks focuses on the missions and adventures of the "lower deckers", low-ranking officers with menial jobs, while the captain and other senior staff appear as supporting characters.[3]

Episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally released
First releasedLast releasedNetwork
110August 6, 2020 (2020-08-06)October 8, 2020 (2020-10-08)CBS All Access
210August 12, 2021 (2021-08-12)October 14, 2021 (2021-10-14)Paramount+
310[4]2022 (2022)[5]TBA

Season 1 (2020)

Main article: Star Trek: Lower Decks (season 1)

Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1 episodes
No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
11"Second Contact"Barry J. KellyMike McMahanAugust 6, 2020 (2020-08-06)
22"Envoys"Kim ArndtChris KulaAugust 13, 2020 (2020-08-13)
33"Temporal Edict"Bob SuarezDave Ihlenfeld & David WrightAugust 20, 2020 (2020-08-20)
44"Moist Vessel"Barry J. KellyAnn KimAugust 27, 2020 (2020-08-27)
55"Cupid's Errant Arrow"Kim ArndtBen JosephSeptember 3, 2020 (2020-09-03)
66"Terminal Provocations"Bob SuarezJohn CochranSeptember 10, 2020 (2020-09-10)
77"Much Ado About Boimler"Barry J. KellyM. WillisSeptember 17, 2020 (2020-09-17)
88"Veritas"Kim ArndtGarrick BernardSeptember 24, 2020 (2020-09-24)
99"Crisis Point"Bob SuarezBen RodgersOctober 1, 2020 (2020-10-01)
1010"No Small Parts"Barry J. KellyMike McMahanOctober 8, 2020 (2020-10-08)

Season 2 (2021)

Main article: Star Trek: Lower Decks (season 2)

Star Trek: Lower Decks season 2 episodes
No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
111"Strange Energies"Jason ZurekMike McMahanAugust 12, 2021 (2021-08-12)
122"Kayshon, His Eyes Open"Kim ArndtChris KulaAugust 19, 2021 (2021-08-19)
133"We'll Always Have Tom Paris"Bob SuarezM. WillisAugust 26, 2021 (2021-08-26)
144"Mugato, Gumato"Jason ZurekBen RodgersSeptember 2, 2021 (2021-09-02)
155"An Embarrassment of Dooplers"Kim ArndtDave Ihlenfeld & David WrightSeptember 9, 2021 (2021-09-09)
166"The Spy Humongous"Bob SuarezJohn CochranSeptember 16, 2021 (2021-09-16)
177"Where Pleasant Fountains Lie"Jason ZurekGarrick BernardSeptember 23, 2021 (2021-09-23)
188"I, Excretus"Kim ArndtAnn KimSeptember 30, 2021 (2021-09-30)
199"wej Duj"Bob SuarezKathryn LynOctober 7, 2021 (2021-10-07)
2010"First First Contact"Jason ZurekMike McMahanOctober 14, 2021 (2021-10-14)

Season 3

Main article: Star Trek: Lower Decks (season 3)

A third season was ordered in April 2021,[4] and writing was completed by mid-October.[6] Newsome began recording voice overs for the season in early June 2021,[7] and had completed this by March 2022.[8] The season is scheduled to premiere in the third quarter of 2022.[5]

Cast and characters

Main article: List of Star Trek: Lower Decks characters

Production

See also: Production of season 1, season 2, and season 3

Development

In June 2018, after becoming sole showrunner of the series Star Trek: Discovery, Alex Kurtzman signed a five-year overall deal with CBS Television Studios to expand the Star Trek franchise beyond Discovery to several new series, miniseries, and animated series.[18] Aaron Baiers of Kurtzman's production company Secret Hideout brought Mike McMahan—the head writer of popular animated comedy Rick and Morty—to a general meeting about animation in Star Trek. Baiers and McMahan had been television assistants together when McMahan was running the Twitter fan account @TNG_S8, suggesting stories for a theoretical eighth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. McMahan was asked what his dream Star Trek series would be,[19] and pitched a series following "the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other end".[20]

After winning over executives with his initial pitch, Secret Hideout moved forward with McMahan's series.[19] It was marketed to different platforms and networks before being picked up by CBS All Access, the streaming service that was releasing Discovery, who officially ordered two seasons on October 25, 2018. Titled Star Trek: Lower Decks, it was the service's first original animated series and the first animated Star Trek series since the 1973–74 series Star Trek: The Animated Series. McMahan was set to create, write, and executive produce Lower Decks alongside Kurtzman, Secret Hideout's Heather Kadin, Rod Roddenberry (the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) and Trevor Roth of Roddenberry Entertainment, and veteran animation executive-turned-producer Katie Krentz of the newly formed CBS Eye Animation Productions.[20] In January 2019, Kurtzman said the series would not be "Rick and Morty in the world of Star Trek" and would have its own tone, but would "skew slightly more adult".[21] That July, McMahan announced that the first season would consist of 10 episodes and be released in 2020.[2]

(L-R) Creator and showrunner Mike McMahan promoting Lower Decks at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con with executive producers Heather Kadin and Alex Kurtzman
(L-R) Creator and showrunner Mike McMahan promoting Lower Decks at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con with executive producers Heather Kadin and Alex Kurtzman

By late March 2020, work on the series was taking place remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing staff to work from home.[22] In May, McMahan said animation was "uniquely suited for this moment" since the series' animators could continue work on the series from home.[23] In July, All Access scheduled the series to premiere in August 2020.[24] A third season was ordered in April 2021 for the rebranded Paramount+, ahead of the second-season premiere in August 2021.[4] The third season was confirmed for a late-2022 release when a fourth season was ordered in January 2022, which is expected to be released in 2023.[5][25]

Writing

The series is set in 2380, one year after the film Star Trek: Nemesis (2002),[12] and, unlike typical Star Trek series, focuses on the support crew of a starship rather than the main bridge crew.[20] McMahan set the series shortly after Nemesis, the last Star Trek film in the Next Generation era, due to his love of The Next Generation.[10] The series is named after the Next Generation episode "Lower Decks", which also focuses on the lives of lower-ranking starship personnel and which McMahan said was his favorite episode of any Star Trek series; the episode was the first thing McMahan showed the Lower Decks writers room when they started work on the series.[15] McMahan was inspired by the social side-stories in episodes of The Next Generation,[10] with Kurtzman explaining that the "A story" of a typical Star Trek episode would be taking place in the background of each Lower Decks episode, so "huge, crazy, crazy shit is going on in the background and that's super peripheral to the story that you're actually focusing on". Kurtzman felt this made the series a unique addition to the franchise.[26]

The main setting of the series is the starship USS Cerritos, a "California-class" ship. This ship class, created for Lower Decks, is a class of support starships that work with larger starships like those seen previously in the franchise,[10] but are not "important enough" to have appeared on screen before. McMahan described the mission of the Cerritos as "Second Contact": after Starfleet has made first contact with a new alien civilization and invited it to join the Federation, the crew of support ships like the Cerritos arrive to find "all the good places to eat [and set up] the communications stuff".[15] McMahan wanted California-class ships to be named after Californian cities, and chose the city of Cerritos because he otherwise only knew it for local Cerritos Auto Square car dealership advertisements. He wanted to give the city "one more thing other than just being the home of the Auto Square".[27]

McMahan did not want the humor to be "punching down on Trek" and focused on telling Star Trek stories where the characters happen to be funny.[10] Writers from different comedic backgrounds and with different levels of Star Trek interest were hired.[15] Kurtzman described Lower Decks as a love letter to Star Trek,[26] and it is filled with many references to other Star Trek series. McMahan said these were there to "create a rich, vibrant, fun expression of the world of Star Trek in that era" rather than just be Easter eggs for fans to pick through. It was important to the team that these not distract from the emotional storytelling and also fit within established canon,[28] with Star Trek author David Mack consulting on the series to ensure that it fit into the franchise.[15][29] McMahan hoped that references to The Animated Series specifically would honor it as the franchise's first animated series.[15] The characters often use the real-world titles of past Star Trek episodes when referencing those events, with McMahan explaining that the personal logs of famous characters are given similar in-universe titles to the episodes they are from. The franchise established that "Star Trek characters watch Star Trek" in the series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise, where the events of an earlier mission are recreated with a hologram,[30][31] and McMahan felt many events from past series would be common knowledge within Starfleet. Acknowledging this allowed the main characters to be "geeks for Star Trek", which let Lower Decks be a "Rosetta Stone" connecting all previous Star Trek projects.[31]

Casting and voice recording

Kurtzman stated in June 2019 that the series would mostly focus on new characters, but there was potential for characters from previous Star Trek series to appear at some point.[26] The next month, McMahan announced the main cast and characters for the series, including ensigns serving in the "lower decks" of the CerritosTawny Newsome as Beckett Mariner, Jack Quaid as Brad Boimler, Noël Wells as D'Vana Tendi, and Eugene Cordero as Sam Rutherford—and the ship's bridge crew who believe "the show is about them, but it's not"—Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman, Jerry O'Connell as first officer Commander Jack Ransom, Fred Tatasciore as security chief Lieutenant Shaxs, and Gillian Vigman as chief medical officer Dr. T'Ana.[2][12] Voice overs for each episode are recorded before any animation work is done, with the different recordings edited together into what McMahan described as an "old-timey radio play version of the episode". Initially, actors were recorded together such as Newsome and Quaid, but this stopped during production on the first season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[28][32] This became one of the biggest challenges for the series during the pandemic, with a need to use remote recording equipment in each actor's house.[23] Newsome used a recording studio that she already had at her house.[32]

Animation and design

Independent animation studio Titmouse provides the animation for the series.[24] Their process involves the "board teams" drawing a rough version of the episode in black-and-white based on the initial "radio play" version of the voice actor recordings. These are put together as an animatic which the animators use as a basis for the final animation with full details and colors.[28][32] Juno Lee served as supervising director for the first season, with first-season episodic director Barry J. Kelly taking over as supervising director with the second season.[33] Titmouse CCO Antonio Canobbio guided the overall animation style for the series.[34]

The main characters of Lower Decks (L-R): D'Vana Tendi, Sam Rutherford, Beckett Mariner, and Brad Boimler. Creator Mike McMahan wanted them to have a "prime time look" similar to series like The Simpsons,[28] while the uniforms were based on unused designs for the 1994 film Star Trek Generations.[15]
The main characters of Lower Decks (L-R): D'Vana Tendi, Sam Rutherford, Beckett Mariner, and Brad Boimler. Creator Mike McMahan wanted them to have a "prime time look" similar to series like The Simpsons,[28] while the uniforms were based on unused designs for the 1994 film Star Trek Generations.[15]

McMahan wanted the series' animation style to reflect the look of "prime time animated comedy" series that he grew up with, such as The Simpsons and Futurama, as well as previous comedy series that he had worked on such as Rick and Morty. This included a "prime time look" for the characters based on the "every-man vibe of The Simpsons" which meant that even the alien characters felt human and grounded. However, he did want the backgrounds and environments to be more detailed than is traditional for prime time animation,[28] reflecting the designs of the Next Generation era of Star Trek for the series' sets, starships, cinematography, and character movements.[35] The team tried to follow the same rules that would apply to a live-action Star Trek series that was set in 2380,[28] and used the wiki encyclopedia Memory Alpha as well as other fan resources to ensure they were staying accurate to the original designs of the era. The animators also watched episodes of The Next Generation while they were working on the series,[35] which uses the same blue font as The Next Generation for its credits.[28] The opening title sequence features the Cerritos flying through Next Generation-like situations with a sweeping musical score, but with twists such as it being sucked into a vortex or immediately turning around after arriving at a battle.[36] The uniforms worn by the crew of the Cerritos are based on unused designs for the film Star Trek Generations (1994).[15]

Kelly said the Cerritos was designed to stand-up as a model alongside the live-action starships already seen in the franchise, with some adjustments then made to fit the animation style of the series.[35] It is a Next Generation version of the USS Reliant from the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), McMahan's favorite Star Trek starship. The California-class starships seen in the series feature the same colors as the uniforms, with yellow for engineering, blue for medical, and red for command (the Cerritos is yellow).[37] For interiors of the Cerritos such as the carpet, walls, and ceiling, elements of the LCARS computer system from The Next Generation were included in the design,[35] with "those swooping shapes [being] part of the overall architecture of the ship".[34] The particles of transporter beams were also drawn to be "little pill-shaped tubes" in the LCARS style,[36] while actual LCARS displays are featured throughout the ship as well. Michael Okuda, who designed the LCARS system for The Next Generation, consulted with the animation team on the series' LCARS designs and colors.[35]

Music

In January 2020, frequent Star Trek composer Jeff Russo said it may not be possible for him to compose the score for Lower Decks due to his workload and the large number of Star Trek series being produced at the same time. He suggested that he could oversee some other composers for Lower Decks and the other Star Trek series if Kurtzman asked him to.[38] In July, Chris Westlake was revealed to be the composer after working with McMahan on Solar Opposites.[39] McMahan said Westlake's score sounded like a traditional Star Trek score that fit within the fast-paced, comedic style of Lower Decks.[32] Westlake felt it would be funnier if sincere music scored the comedic series, which is why the main theme includes a choir. He wrote six or seven different main theme ideas that were narrowed down to two, with one being energetic and the other having a slower, more stately feel. The final theme is "between" these two.[40] A soundtrack album featuring music from the first two seasons was released by Lakeshore Records on October 8, 2021. All music composed by Chris Westlake:[41][42]

Vol. 1 (Original Series Soundtrack)
No.TitleLength
1."Main Titles"1:10
2."Romulan Prison"0:44
3."Leg Day"2:17
4."Strange Energies"1:08
5."The Time of His Life"0:39
6."Riker's Plan"3:15
7."Stay Alert, Stay Alive"2:42
8."Mistress of the Winter Constellation"3:38
9."The Black Mountain"0:48
10."Mariner's Secret"2:17
11."A Compromise!"1:44
12."Delicate Dooplers"1:39
13."Ejecting the Warp Core"2:48
14."Stumbling on History"0:42
15."City Escape"2:15
16."Pakled Spy"0:46
17."Making Tendi Laugh"1:09
18."Lord Agimus"1:01
19."Marooned"2:23
20."Agimus Reigns"3:55
21."Temporal Black Hole"2:20
22."The Lower Decks"0:39
23."I Am Available for Chess"1:05
24."A New Officer"2:14
25."Red Alarm"2:49
26."Death Battle"2:04
27."What Are Your Orders, Captain?"1:38
28."Departing Space Doc"0:30
29."Getting Desperate"4:37
30."I Can See"0:51
31."Into the Unknown"2:42
32."Standing Down"1:26
33."Don't Date Barnes"1:14
34."Welcome to the Cerritos"1:21
35."Humble Farmers"3:30
36."Finding the Cure"2:45
37."Swords and Spears"3:01
38."Ransom vs. Vindor"1:21
39."Saving Lives"2:44
40."Failed Ascension"1:01
41."Division 14"1:39
42."The Farm Cures All"1:45
43."Saying Goodbye"1:57
44."The Cleaner"1:26
45."The Cerritos"1:27
46."Today You Die!"4:48
47."The Real Mariner"1:58
48."Self Destruct Timer"1:30
49."Pakled Attack"1:19
50."Badgey Gets Loose"2:37
51."Memory Loss"1:35
52."End Titles"0:53
53."Bonus Track: batlh vIpoQ!"0:50
Total length:1:42:00

Sound

Once the animation is completed, the last element of the series is the final sound design. McMahan noted that the same level of care was applied to the series' sound design as its animation in terms of honoring "legacy" elements from previous Star Trek series. Sounds from earlier in the franchise that were studied and replicated include those for existing technology, such as the noises made by different phasers, the different sounds made when making or receiving a call using a Starfleet badge, or the sound of the ships' warp core. They also include the general "room tone" of different areas of the ship, such as the bridge, different hallways, and crew quarters.[35] General sound design was also required, such as for the sound of characters' footsteps. Once the sound design is completed, these sounds are mixed with the voice recordings and score in a final mix for the episodes.[32]

Release

Home media releases for Star Trek: Lower Decks
Season Home media release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
1 May 18, 2021[43] November 29, 2021[44] December 8, 2021[45]
2 July 12, 2022[46] TBA TBA

Star Trek: Lower Decks premiered on August 6, 2020, on CBS All Access in the United States.[2][24] Each episode is broadcast in Canada by Bell Media on the same day as the U.S. release, on the specialty channels CTV Sci-Fi Channel (English) and Z (French) before streaming on Crave.[47] In September 2020, ViacomCBS announced that CBS All Access would be expanded and rebranded as Paramount+ in March 2021.[48] The first season remained on Paramount+ along with future seasons.[49] International distribution for the series was not secured by the time of its premiere, due to negotiations being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.[50] In December 2020, Amazon Prime Video was revealed to have picked up the streaming rights for the series in several territories—including Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and India—with the first season released on the service on January 22, 2021. The series is distributed worldwide by Paramount Global Distribution Group.[1]

Reception

Critical response

Critical response of Star Trek: Lower Decks
SeasonRotten TomatoesMetacritic
167% (45 reviews)[51]59 (17 reviews)[52]
2100% (10 reviews)[53]N/A

Star Trek: Lower Decks has an 83% approval rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes,[54] while Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, has assigned a score of 59 out of 100 based on reviews from 18 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[55]

For the first season, Rotten Tomatoes reported a 67% approval score with an average rating of 7.1/10 based on 45 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Fun, but not very bold, Lower Decks flips the script on Star Trek regulation just enough to stand out in the franchise, if not the greater animation landscape."[51] Metacritic assigned a score of 59 out of 100 based on reviews from 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[52] Rotten Tomatoes reported an 100% approval score for the second season, with an average rating of 8.2/10 based on 10 reviews.[53]

Accolades

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2021 Annie Awards Outstanding Achievement for Music in an Animated Television/Media Production Chris Westlake (for "Crisis Point") Nominated [56]
Critics' Choice Super Awards Best Animated Series Star Trek: Lower Decks Nominated [57]
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Series Jack Quaid Nominated
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series Tawny Newsome Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Animated Series Star Trek: Lower Decks Nominated [58]
Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance (Television) Dawnn Lewis Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) James Lucero, James Singleton, Jeff Halbert, Michael Britt, and Amber Funk (for "No Small Parts") Nominated [59]
Women's Image Network Awards Outstanding Actress Animated Program Dawnn Lewis Won [60]
Tawny Newsome Nominated
2022 Golden Reel Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Animation Series or Short James Lucero, James Singleton, Mak Kellerman, Michael LaFerla, and Michael Britt (for "Strange Energies") Nominated [61]
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form "wej Duj" Pending [62]

Tie-in media

Aftershow

Main article: The Ready Room

A special episode of the official Star Trek aftershow The Ready Room, hosted by Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Wil Wheaton, was released following the premiere of Lower Decks.[35] Wheaton returned for further aftershow episodes, which were released following key episodes of the series.[32][63]

Video games

A free-to-play mobile game based on the series was revealed in February 2022, titled Star Trek: Lower Decks TBD (or Star Trek: Lower Decks The Badgey Directive). Developed by East Side Games and Mighty Kingdom for iOS and Android, it features the series' rogue artificial intelligence Badgey and is set for release later in 2022.[64] In April, the mobile strategy game Star Trek Fleet Command launched a Lower Decks-themed expansion, adding the Cerritos, Mariner, Boimler, Badgey, and a new function called "Below Decks Abilities" that allows players to select a support crew with "additional abilities that can combine to provide... benefits to player ships".[65]

References

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