And while Rick & Morty is not my kind of show, episodes of Film Theory and TV Sins have shown that there is more it than questionable gags. There is some heart and commentary in there…though it took a while to start doing that. There’s thought put into it, and one of the show’s writers created the show we’re looking at tonight. So maybe Star Trek: Lower Decks, the Star Trek parody set in the alternate 24th century of the Prime timeline (as opposed to the Classic timeline…long story), can tap into that. I have heard this has not been proven in the pilot episode appearing on CBS All Access, but since I lack…access…I wouldn’t know. However and I don’t know for how long, CBS has posted the first episode, “Second Contact”, on their YouTube channel. Since I’m not sure this is going to be good or how long they’ll keep it up (I don’t think they have Picard‘s pilot episode up anymore) I didn’t wait for Saturday Night Showcase. Plus this is a full-on review that we can watch together before I respond. So let’s watch the episode and I’m curious what you folks think but of course I’ll have my thoughts as well.
First a brief introduction: Star Trek: Lower Decks takes place on the USS Cerritos, a ship responsible for second contact with a new planet. I guess they’re supposed to see how the planet’s reacted to the first contact and begin discussions or however it works. That’s not a bad idea but it also doesn’t focus on the bridge crew per usual. Instead it’s about the other people running the ship. The usual guess is that it was inspired by an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation also called “Lower Decks“, that focused on some of the less exciting jobs on the ship as other crew members discuss the current mission and get pulled into it. It’s also a great idea for a show and the two together could be okay. I’m however not convinced it needed to be a parody since these are ideas that would work well on their own. Given the other Star Trek shows made for CBS All Access have often included swearing and some rather disturbing scenes I feel it best to warn you we might get more of that here as well. Let’s find out and finally get to the episode.
I mean…I didn’t hate it. Necessarily.
I did really like the intro. As a parody of a 24th century Star Trek series intro (TNG, DS9, and Voyager) it works really well. This does feel like a show set in that period, though they upped the look of transporter effect. Visually it’s perfect, and that’s actually important in a parody. I know the creator is a fan of science fiction and maybe even this franchise (which would put him one step above the producer, Alex Kurtzman) so there is clearly some love for the series here.
It’s when you get to the characters that I start getting a bit more iffy. D’Vana Tendi is easily my favorite and I wish this were more about her. This is the kind of character anime otaku would be calling “best girl” and “must be protected”. She’s so fun and lovable. “I got to hold a heart!” I love that line. It looks like the show might be pairing her with Sam Rutherford based on that final scene in the bar but that may not necessarily happen. I was with him until he stopped a make out session not because they were in the middle of a zombie-ish nightmare (and yet I had no problem with everything else they did on their date despite said nightmare) but because of something really lame. It kind of made him look like a putz. Maybe have the not-zombies banging on the door and they go “maybe later”, and continue with their date/escape. Otherwise I wonder if the malfunctioning cybernetics are going to be a recurring issue. As a supporting character in the main cast he kind of works.
However, the two main focus characters, despite this being Tendi’s first day on the Cerritos, are on the two worst characters of the main cast, and that sounds harsher than I intend because that title official belongs to the bridge crew. Brad Boimler I kind of like actually. A stickler for rules and someone who is clearly not as cool as he wants to be learning that the people he admires may be not worth admiring (though that last part doesn’t feel like Star Trek–but this is a parody) I could get behind. He would be a better support character while making Tendi the focus but that’s not going to happen. I’m sure she and Rutherford will do more (though Rutherford is rather boring) but he may also work out as a focus character. He has a good arc to go with. Beckett Mariner on the other hand is the type of person that would have been thrown off of the Orville for being a screw-up, and they have Gordon Malloy. She is dialed so high that I don’t see a character arc in her future. She’s always going to be obnoxious, like everything I don’t like about Miko from Transformers Prime but worse. Not quite Kicker levels so I don’t totally despise her, but just enough that I plan not to really like her. Then again, considering her parents I can kind of understand why she is the way she is so maybe she’ll tone down with Boimler’s influence as much as he could technically benefit from her influence. Otherwise she will not be a good character.
Then you have the bridge crew. I know they’re supposed to be jerks for parody purposes (and SF Debris has been know to deservedly take shots at the Season 1 TNG crew and Captain Janeway) but going by this first episode it seems a bit much, kind of like Mariner. The captain is obsessed with protocol and I have to wonder if she insisted her daughter change her last name or if she simply took her father’s. We don’t get to see them together and it’s not a very interesting reveal given that there is zero interaction between them. It’s like they just wanted to reveal why Mariner was such a jerk. T’Ana was rather busy, Ransom is already worrisome given the last name the writers gave him, and Shax we didn’t see do anything except punch his monsterized crewmates. I don’t even think he had a line in this episode.
So I am not a fan of the comedy but maybe…and it’s a big maybe given the current record for Star Trek…this show could surprise me, find a groove, and make these characters work. The comedy itself is dumb but the parody is hit or miss and yet hasn’t wasted all its potential just yet. Not that I’m going to know outside of reviews because I’m still not wasting money I don’t have on CBS All Access. Still, this may be the least offensive Star Trek show on the platform…and this had a dude being sucked dry of his moisture while naked. My expectations are granted not very high at this point, but there is room to go down so time will tell. As of this writing episode two is up there.