Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season 4 Blu-ray Review

5 Stars Paramount+ animated comedy series really hits its stride in its fourth season.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 Review

Each new season of Star Trek: Lower Decks has improved upon the previous one, and the fourth season continues that winning trend.

Star Trek: Lower Decks (2020–)
Released: 05 Aug 2020
Rated: TV-MA
Runtime: N/A
Director: N/A
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Cast: Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noël Wells
Writer(s): Mike McMahan
Plot: The support crew serving on one of Starfleet's least important ships, the U.S.S. Cerritos, have to keep up with their duties, often while the ship is being rocked by a multitude of sci-fi anomalies.
IMDB rating: 7.0
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 4 Hr. 16 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Keep case with slipcover in first pressing
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 04/16/2024
MSRP: $28.99

The Production: 4.5/5

Each new season of Star Trek: Lower Decks has improved upon the previous one, and the fourth season continues that winning trend. Proceeding full steam ahead, the outstanding voice cast is fully immersed in their roles, and the production staff (led by showrunner Mike McMahan) has given them some exciting character development that pays off some long-running threads while giving the show some nicely earned dramatic moments that complement rather than work against the long-established overall comedic tone. A love letter to Trek fans, particularly those who came of age in the Rick Berman-era of production (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise), this season manages to work equally well for fans versed in every nuance as well as those newer to this universe. The show takes some big swings with some big callbacks to some of The Next Generation’s most cherished episodes, and delivers upon them in big ways.

The season begins with a big callback not only to the Voyager ship itself, but one of its most morally difficult episodes, reflecting a debate in fandom that continues to this day. Not only does the Cerritos crew survive the day, but the unthinkable happens: our Lower Decks crew of Boimler, Mariner, Tendi, T’Lyn and (after a short delay) Rutherford, are all promoted! When they all move up the latter to the rank of Lieutenant (Junior Grade), they quickly realize that at heart and in function, they are still near the bottom of the totem pole, and the show has a lot of fun showing the more unseen aspects of promotions in Star Trek, from navigating new room assignments to discovering that their years of experience has put them in a position to impart that learned wisdom to newly christened ensigns serving below them.

Through the course of the season, most of the installments continue in an episodic fashion, with a new twist added by McMahan: a season long minor mystery, with new clues often dropped during each episode’s cold open, leading to a two-part finale that allows the often-combative Mariner to make the big leap to the next level of maturity. Early in the season, Mariner’s supervisor, First Officer Ransom, correctly identifies her as being more than capable yet self-sabotaging, and declares that he won’t take the bait and won’t allow her to repeat that pattern under his watch. By season’s end, Mariner is forced to confront why she is the way she is, in a way that not only honors what this show is meant to be, but that of a beloved Next Generation episode that was responsible for inspiring this series. It dares to take a couple big dramatic leaps and that daring pays off; the show has spent so long developing these characters and honing it’s Trek bonafides that the (temporary) shift in tone feels justified and earned.

I never expected Lower Decks to take me on a journey that would have me doubled over in laughter while simultaneously attempting triumphant fist bumps, but that’s exactly what this season does. Don’t let the words “animated” or “comedy” fool you: this is as good as any Star Trek has ever been.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

Presented in its original streaming aspect ratio of 1.78:1, Season 4 of Star Trek: Lower Decks looks spectacular on the disc. I’ve never had any complaints with the streaming quality on Paramount+ and this disc is clearly based on the same source master used for the streaming counterpart, but as with the previous seasons of the show, the extra bandwidth afforded by the disc allows for a little more oomph in terms of clarity, sharpness and color reproduction. It’s a minor but appreciated improvement nonetheless, and will be more obvious to any viewers who have had less than stellar streaming experiences. The season finale in particular has some really detailed and atmospheric animation of a space nebula, which shines through on the disc.

Audio: 5/5

Presented in lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1, this is the same mix offered on the streaming version, offering a slightly fuller sound due to the extra space afforded by the disc. While the show generally is more front-oriented, with dialogue mostly coming from the center channel, the show isn’t afraid to let loose with the surrounds for its action sequences. While the conventions of the animated sitcom general favor faster-paced dialogue compared to its live action counterparts, it was nonetheless clear and easily discernible.

Optional English SDH subtitles are included.

Special Features: 4/5

Before I move on to the bonus features, a quick spoiler warning: the list of participants in the features will give away guest stars in the season finale, which could reasonably be considered a spoiler given that the episode offers the answers to a season-long mystery that had mostly played out in the background up until that point. There’s really no way around that discussion in order to give the disc’s features a fair assessment. The best spoiler-free assessment I can give of the bonus features is to say that while there is not an exhaustive quantity of them, the quality is definitely there, and the commentaries and featurettes dive into what are the most notable parts of the season and provide ample coverage of how those moments came to be. It’s a great array of features. If you’d prefer not to be spoiled, please skip the rest of the special features section and instead move directly on to the “conclusion” section of this review.

Audio Commentaries – Five audio commentaries are included on the set, covering the premiere, the finale, and three other key episodes. Showrunner Mike McMahan is well-spoken and passionate about his work on Lower Decks and leads each track with passion and insight. Those tracks also feature the key players of each noted episode.

  • Audio Commentary on “Twovix” by Jack Quaid, Mike McMahan, and Brad Winters
  • Audio Commentary on “Something Borrowed, Something Green” by Tawny Newsome, Noël Wells and Gabrielle Ruiz
  • Audio Commentary on “Parth Ferengi’s Heart Place” by Noël Wells, Eugene Cordero, Chase Masterson and Mike McMahan
  • Audio Commentary on “The Inner Fight” by Dawnn Lewis, Tawny Newsome and Mike McMahan
  • Audio Commentary on “Old Friends, New Planets” by Robert Duncan McNeill and Mike McMahan

Lower Decktionary: Setting Up Season 4 – This season’s installment of Lower Decktionaries focuses primarily on the decision made with the season premiere to promote the main characters at the start of the season rather than the end. The initial plan had been that things would remain status quo for the season with the promotion coming in the final moments of the last episode, but McMahan and the writing staff wisely came to the conclusion that beginning with this development would allow for the season to be filled with interesting and humorous stories about how everyone adjusts to their new roles. Historically on Star Trek, promotions have happened in ways that don’t fundamentally alter what we know about the characters, making it a particular treat to see how our protagonists navigate the changes in their day to day routines. (In hindsight, not waiting for the next season to delve into this proved a particularly fortuitous decision. As of this writing, news has just broken that Paramount+ will be ending the series with the upcoming fifth season, making it especially appreciated that McMahan took the time to tell these stories while he still had the platform to do so.)

Old Friends – The season finale brings back key guest stars from two important Next Generation episodes, “The First Duty” and “Lower Decks.” It’s always a pleasure to see Robert Duncan McNeil and Wil Wheaton returning to Trek, but what makes the finale and this featurette so enjoyable is the return of Shannon Fill as Ensign Sito Jaxa in a touching flashback that goes a long way to explain how Mariner went from an enthusiastic cadet to the troublemaking officer we know her as. Fill left her acting career following her appearances on TNG, and it took a group effort from the Lower Decks staff and the studio to track her down to reprise her role. It’s better to hear her tell you herself about the path she took in life, but suffice to say, it is one of the more inspiring and uplifting stories you’ll ever see on a Star Trek bonus feature. Being away from Hollywood and Star Trek, Fill had no idea that the original “Lower Decks” episode had gone on to be seen as one of the most beloved episodes of the series, and watching her reaction to McNeil and Wheaton telling her how meaningful her part had been to the Star Trek community is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve seen in a long time.

It would have been nice if Paramount had included those two Next Generation episodes as bonus features (the way they had previously included a related Original Series episode on the disc for the first season of Strange New Worlds), as well as Lower Decks’ amazing crossover with Strange New Worlds, but given that those inclusions would have necessitated an extra disc, it is understandable that they have opted not to.

Overall: 5/5

For fans of Star Trek: Lower Decks, it doesn’t get much better than this. The new Blu-ray set includes a top-notch audio-visual presentation of the season’s ten episodes, along with a selection of very satisfying bonus features. Recommended!

 

Josh’s fate as a physical media enthusiast was probably sealed the moment he figured out how to operate a top-loading VCR before he even knew how to walk. Since graduating with a degree in film production, he has enjoyed a career focused on the archival and distribution side of film and television. These days, Josh thinks of himself as a proud father of twins first. He would like to thank his wife for her unwavering support, and for every typo she’s ever caught.

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Sam Favate

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Sam Favate
It was a terrific season. We can only hope season 5 lives up to it, especially since it will be the last (which still seems unfair).
 

Nelson Au

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Joined
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Messages
19,207
I did not realize this release was coming out and for some reason, I thought I already have it in my collection. So when I saw the review, I was confused because it says the released date is August 5, 2020. At any rate, thanks for the review effort Josh. I placed the other and should have it today.
 
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