Star Trek Lower Decks coming Aug 6th

Adam Lenhardt

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Just watched the first episode. A decidedly mixed bag.

The series premiere is set roughly a year after Nemesis, USS Cerritos feels very much like a TNG-era starship. Despite being tonally very different from all of the other Trek series, aesthetically it definitely leans the hardest on TNG.

As with "Rick and Morty", the animation is beautiful. One of the advantages of animation is that the alien worlds the Cerritos visits are allowed to feel really alien, and the alien species don't have to be humans with pointy ears or bumpy foreheads. The chief medical officer is a Caitian, which is a nice nod to "Star Trek: The Animated Series". And the tactical officer is a Bajoran, which would seem to indicate than Bajor became a full member of the Federation at some point between 2375 and 2380.

Three of the four protagonists are relatively green new ensigns at the beginning of their careers, relegated to the lower decks because they haven't yet proven themselves capable of handling more. The fourth protagonist is a disaffected troublemaker, recently demoted back down to ensign and not happy about it.

Taken as a whole, the premiere felt like something halfway between a TNG episode and a "Rick and Morty" episode -- and less effective than either. The humor lacks bite, and the deconstruction of the Star Trek formula doesn't offer anything particularly new. I liked the structure of the premiere, focusing on the mundane issues of these four nobodies while the kind of episodic plot that would have driven a TOS, TNG, or "Voyager" episode plays out in the background. But for that to work long-term, the stuff the ensigns are up to has to be worth caring about.

Of the four main characters, I liked D'Vana Tendi the best. A young Orion female, the premiere marks her arrival on the Cerritos, her first starship posting after serving at a Federation outpost following her graduation from Starfleet Academy. Her genuine enthusiasm is infectious, and she's the only character who experiences that awe and wonder that Star Trek can conjure at its best.

The one main character I really disliked is Beckett Mariner. The daughter of a Starfleet admiral and a Starfleet captain, she behaves like a petulant child. Despite being far more experienced than the other ensigns, and probably more competent, she takes unnecessary risks and spends the whole episode nursing her grievances toward Starfleet. She also has a motor-mouthed manic energy that quickly grew tiresome.

The senior officers, threaded throughout the episode, didn't quite work for me. It makes sense that the leadership of one of the least prestigious assignments in Starfleet would be more flawed than the leadership of the Enterprise, so I didn't so much have a problem with that aspect. But the XO and the tactical officer, in particular, feel like cartoon characters rather than real people.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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I pretty much agree with Adam’s assessment. The show has potential and hopefully that will develop as the season unfolds, but I wish it were more “the comedy develops from the situation” and less “the characters are comedic constructions”. So far, The Orville has for me done the better job of hitting the right time for Trek-inspired humor, but I’m not planning on jumping ship anytime soon. I hope that now that we’ve been introduced to the characters that future episodes dial back the hitting you over the head elements of their personalities.
 

Jason_V

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I'm of two minds on Lower Decks: (1) it's an experiment for the franchise and I like how they're branching out into different mediums to tell different kinds of stories; and (2) I couldn't make it through the episode at 4 pm on a Thursday afternoon without falling asleep.

Is it enjoyable? Yes, sure, I guess. I didn't laugh, but that's not a fair barometer since my sense of humor is usually very different than most people's. I like the animation style and parts of the stripped down story. The voice cast didn't wow me or make me grit my teeth. The characters...eh. I know their personalities, but don't ask me their names right now.

I give everyone involved credit for trying something new. There was likely more originality in the concept and execution of "Second Contact" than in the entire run of some other 24th Century Trek shows. Flop or success, it will be an interesting entry in the Star Trek franchise. All the little touches which connect this show to the greater universe were fun to watch for: the TNG-style credits, for instance, made me smile. I appreciated them.

Now this episode: I was amused by how quickly the plot kicked in and then got resolved. The battle scenes were fairly interesting to watch, with lots of "stuff" happening on the screen. At the very least, the series is showing it's going to show things on screen that a live action TV series likely couldn't do because of budget and time. From a space walk to a feline officer to a giant "slug" and the phaser battles, this is how animation should be used. I am wary, though, that the social commentary the best of Trek is known for didn't really show up in the first episode.

Sure, Trek is about telling stories in space setting, but it's also largely about commenting on current day situations. I can stretch to find what "Second Contact" wants to say, but it would be just that: a stretch. Upward and onward to episode two next week.
 

Josh Dial

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I had sort of the opposite reaction to Adam and my fellow Josh.

I thought the animation was slightly uninteresting compared to Rick and Morty. I appreciated the visual gags in the background, but I thought the ship internals and alien locale looked a tad...simple. That said, I did like the overall aesthetic of the new California class. I expect the animation to improve from the pilot to episode two.

With respect to the comedy, while the jokes could have been punched up slightly, I did laugh fairly regularly, and I really liked the visual gags and the stylized tropes/archetypes. The "look" of the lantern jawed first officer with the perpetual five o'clock shadow says all you need to know about the character. Even his name, "Jack Ransom" is awesomely trope-y. Honestly, I saw shades of "What We Do in the Shadows" in the comedy, and I hope the show evolves along that trajectory.

Also, contrary to Adam's position, I think the deconstruction of the Trek formula absolutely offers something new. The franchise has tried this over and over in their B and C plots (thankfully jettisoned in DISCO). It almost never worked. Having the A story (the outbreak) happen in the background while the main characters had the plot sort of happen "to them" was interesting. It's almost an actual deconstruction in the vein of Jacques Derrida.

I also disagree with Josh's comment about The Orville better hitting the Trek-inspired comedy. I don't want to reopen now-classic case of The Orville v Star Trek, but I think The Orville's brand of comedy is wholly divorced from Star Trek, and (for obvious reasons) much closer to Family Guy's sense of humour. In fact, I can't think of a single joke from The Orville that is Trek-inspired (or Trek-adjacent-inspired). The premiere of TLD was filled with it, however. For me, the best "Trek" joke was Mariner's comment about being in a Klingon prison and having to fight a yeti for her shoes just because he was a dick.

I also liked the joke about doors not recognizing com badges.

Oh yeah, and the joke with Mariner saying Boimler is her Cha'Dich, implying that he's going to get in a lot of battles "for" her.

Lastly, I liked the fun dig at Star Wars with the bit about sand getting everywhere.

It's clear TLD is made by total Trek nerds (another reference to "Cetacean Ops"!) , and I'm here for it.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I did love the bit where the guy was on the date and they were running for their lives, and how he was shocked that his date wasn’t interested in the turbo lift doors security protocol.

It’s gonna take me a little while to get all the names down.

It felt very pilot-y to me, and I’m rarely a big fan of pilots. I expect that I’m going to warm up to the show significantly as they get going.

I’ve never seen Rick & Morty but I hope the segment of that show’s fan base that’s legendarily toxic doesn’t carry over here.

I certainly liked enough of what I saw to want to keep watching. And this is where I’m glad CBS is giving us one a week instead of the full season dump they did for Twilight Zone. Having a little time between episodes for discussion and rewatches will make it much easier for me to savor it and get into it.
 
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jayembee

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My wife and I watched the pilot last night, and both of us thought it was hysterical. What I said, and she agreed with, is that it was the kind of irreverent (in a good, loving way) silliness that I would've liked to see more often in any of the regular Trek series. This kind of thing tends to go better as a once-in-a-while thing, but with only 10 half-hour episodes a year, I don't think it'll wear out its welcome. At least it won't if Viacom/CBS doesn't decide to double-down and do another, similar series.

It's also nice to see a Trek series that isn't just more of the same. It's carved out its niche well.
 

Neil Middlemiss

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My wife has watched it while I was in the room and it just hasn’t done it for me. I know it’s nit picky but there’s something about that frantic style of animated comedy that rarely works for me personally.
Try harder, Josh ;)

Seriously, give it a serious go because the rewards are enormous. Plus, you'll be able to better appreciate the insightful commentary offered up by your namesake.

And to pull it back to Star Trek, I am about to head downstairs to watch the premiere episode. Looking forward to another way to enjoy the Trek universe!
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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I’ve never seen Rick & Morty but I hope the segment of that show’s fan base that’s legendarily toxic doesn’t carry over here.
There is a nihilistic undertone to "Rick and Morty" that attracts that segment of the fanbase that isn't present in this show. I think that segment of the R&M fanbase will hate this show.
 
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Neil Middlemiss

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There is a nihilistic undertone to "Rick and Morty" that attracts that segment of the fanbase that isn't present in this show. I think that segment of the R&M fanbase will hate this show.
I am so glad that I ended up liking Lower Decks, as association with that element of R&M fans would not be welcome.
 
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Bryan^H

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My wife has watched it while I was in the room and it just hasn’t done it for me. I know it’s nit picky but there’s something about that frantic style of animated comedy that rarely works for me personally.
Same here. I really tried, because my friend wanted me to like it so much!
 

Nelson Au

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Hey guys, this is probably the first Star Trek project I had no immediate interest in watching! I briefly skimmed the comments to avoid learning too much as I might as well watch it. It’s Star Trek and I want to support it. But ever since the news broke of its development, it just never got me excited.

From what I understand, it’s not my kind of Star Trek, or what I feel a Star Trek series should be. I also agree that not all Star Trek has to fit into that model of TOS or TNG. Star Trek has done comedy before, but never as the basis of the series as a comedy. That feels like Galaxy Quest.

I think I might watch it Sunday evening. I’ll let you know.
 

Greg.K

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I'm trying to decide if it's worth re-activating CBS All Access for this. Maybe so since they are offering a free month again, but I might wait until the last minute to do it.
 

Bryan^H

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I thought it was. Episodes like “Yesteryear” certainly are, as they’ve been referenced in other series.
Roddenberry said no, and he created Trek so unfortunately that is the end of that. Pity, such a fantastic series too.
 

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