the story: Crew is assigned for follow-up contact with new species.
rating: *** (out of ****)
review: The unspoken truth about Star Trek fandom is that it can often (okay, nearly always) be ruthlessly protective. Often this manifests itself as preferring older material (and of course rejecting newer, which has been a thing since at least the start of Next Generation). So when Lower Decks was announced and subsequently revealed as an “adult animated series,” it faced the immediate and obligatory fate of instant, summary rejection. But, well, lighten up!
I think it can actually be seen as a response to Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville, which is roundly regarded as a comedic Next Generation. In Lower Decks our perspective is a crew of a Starfleet ship tasked with less glamorous assignments but just as prone as any ship or crew we’ve followed before in getting into a heap of trouble very quickly and easily. Like The Animated Series before it, this translates first and foremost to a more visually dynamic presentation.
Our main guides are Mariner and Boimler, two junior officers who lead the support team on a support starship. “Second Contact” is really about them coming to terms with the nature of their relationship, which at this point is not romantic but merely working together. Mariner has seen more, and been to more planets (Boimler counts Vulcan and...Earth among the whole five he has thus far visited, which for those keeping score at home is like counting places you’ve lived rather than outright visited), and so her perspective is kind of like Kirk’s while Boimler’s is sort of fresh-out-of-the-Academy, Harry Kim style. Until he learns how valuable her perspective really is.
But for me it’s actually more interesting how we glimpse Mariner’s backstory. Her mom is ship’s captain, her dad an admiral. It really is like a Voyager throwback with Mariner and Boimler; just imagine what it would’ve been like for Tom Paris to work closely with his dad!
Of the command crew we spend the most time with first officer Jack Ransom. Suffice to say but usually it’s the admirals who come off looking this bad, though here it’s all in good fun!
I don’t know if the whole series is going to follow this template, if we’ll get healthy servings of character work with all the comedy, but I would certainly prefer it that way. Some fans forget that Star Trek at its core spends most of its time confronting wacky scenarios. At least this time the approach is wacky, too. This is not at all a bad thing.
>franchise - A fresh take on Star Trek for sure!
>series - A good introduction to Lower Decks.
>character - Excellent use of at least two members of its cast, Mariner and Boimler.
>essential - Here’s where I’m really going to be monitoring Lower Decks, in its ability to produce truly standout material. Will this format be capable of it?
Jerry O’Connell (Jack Ransom)