|Star Trek: Lower Decks|
|Created by||Mike McMahan|
|Based on||Star Trek|
by Gene Roddenberry
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Distributor||CBS Media Ventures|
|Original release||August 6, 2020 –|
|Preceded by||Star Trek: Picard|
|Related shows||Star 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 first animated Star Trek series since the 1970s series Star Trek: The Animated Series. It follows the low-ranking support crew of the starship U.S.S. Cerritos 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 also providing voices for the series. Work on an animated Star Trek series began in June 2018, with McMahan joining as creator and showrunner by that October when Lower Decks was ordered for two seasons by All Access. Animation studio Titmouse began work by the following February, with the main cast announced in July 2019. Production on the first two seasons shifted to taking place remotely by March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Star Trek: Lower Decks premiered on CBS All Access on August 6, 2020, and its first season ran for 10 episodes until October. A second season is in production and is set to premiere on Paramount+ in August 2021. A third season has been ordered.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is set in the Star Trek universe in the year 2380, 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 the support crew of one of Starfleet's least important starships. Unlike previous Star Trek series, whose principal characters are typically starship captains or other senior officers, Lower Decks focuses on "lower deckers", low-ranking officers with menial jobs; the captain and other senior staff appear as supporting characters.
|First released||Last released||Network|
|1||10||August 6, 2020||October 8, 2020||CBS All Access|
|2||10||August 12, 2021||TBA||Paramount+|
Season 1 (2020)
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"Second Contact"||Barry J. Kelly||Mike McMahan||August 6, 2020|
|2||"Envoys"||Kim Arndt||Chris Kula||August 13, 2020|
|3||"Temporal Edict"||Bob Suarez||Dave Ihlenfeld & David Wright||August 20, 2020|
|4||"Moist Vessel"||Barry J. Kelly||Ann Kim||August 27, 2020|
|5||"Cupid's Errant Arrow"||Kim Arndt||Ben Joseph||September 3, 2020|
|6||"Terminal Provocations"||Bob Suarez||John Cochran||September 10, 2020|
|7||"Much Ado About Boimler"||Barry J. Kelly||M. Willis||September 17, 2020|
|8||"Veritas"||Kim Arndt||Garrick Bernard||September 24, 2020|
|9||"Crisis Point"||Bob Suarez||Ben Rodgers||October 1, 2020|
|10||"No Small Parts"||Barry J. Kelly||Mike McMahan||October 8, 2020|
Cast and characters
- Tawny Newsome as Beckett Mariner:
A human ensign aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos and the daughter of Captain Freeman. Newsome described Mariner as an irreverent rule-breaker who has been demoted several times, though she is actually "very good at all things Starfleet". The character is named after showrunner Mike McMahan's sister, Beckett Mariner McMahan.
- Jack Quaid as Brad Boimler:
A human ensign aboard the Cerritos, Boimler is a stickler for the rules and will need to learn how to improvise if he is to become a captain one day. Quaid said the character would "nail the written portion of the driving test with flying colors but once it actually got to him being in the car, it would be a complete and total disaster."
- Noël Wells as D'Vana Tendi:
An Orion ensign in the medical bay aboard the Cerritos, Tendi is a big fan of Starfleet, and is thrilled to be on a starship. She is new to the Cerritos at the start of the series, and helps introduce the audience to the setting and characters. McMahan said he would act like Tendi if he ever got to work on a starship.
- Eugene Cordero as Sam Rutherford:
A human ensign aboard the Cerritos, Rutherford is adjusting to a new cyborg implant. McMahan compared Rutherford to the Star Trek: The Next Generation character Geordi La Forge, saying they are both "amazing at engineering stuff" but Rutherford does not always solve the problem like Geordi because he is still learning.
- Dawnn Lewis as Carol Freeman:
The human captain of the Cerritos. McMahan described her as a capable Starfleet captain whose starship is not very important. Freeman does not want her daughter, Mariner, to be on the Cerritos and is looking for a reason to have her transferred to another ship.
- Jerry O'Connell as Jack Ransom:
Human first officer of the Cerritos, whom McMahan compared to Next Generation's William Riker, if he was on speed and had less shame.
- Fred Tatasciore as Shaxs:
A Bajoran tactical officer aboard the Cerritos. Shaxs dies sacrificing himself for Rutherford at the end of the first season.
- Gillian Vigman as T'Ana:
A Caitian doctor and head of medical aboard the Cerritos. McMahan described her as "a good doctor, but she's an unpleasant cat." Including a Caitian in the series is a reference to Star Trek: The Animated Series which also features a member of that species, M'Ress.
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. While developing one of the animated series, Aaron Baiers of Kurtzman's production company Secret Hideout brought Mike McMahan—the head writer of popular animated comedy Rick and Morty—to the production. Kurtzman was won over by McMahan's love of Star Trek and his pitch for a series following "the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other end." The series was marketed to different platforms and networks, before being picked up by CBS All Access, the streaming service that releases Discovery. It is the service's first original animated series.
All Access officially ordered two seasons of the animated series, titled Star Trek: Lower Decks, on October 25, 2018. McMahan was set to create, write, and executive produce the series 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. It is the first animated Star Trek series since the 1973–74 series Star Trek: The Animated Series. 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". That July, McMahan announced that the first season of Lower Decks would consist of 10 episodes and be released in 2020.
By late March 2020, work on the series was taking place remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing staff to work from home. In May, McMahan said animation was "uniquely suited for this moment" since the series' animators could continue work on the series from home. In July, All Access scheduled the series to premiere in August 2020. A third season was ordered in April 2021, ahead of the second season premiere in August 2021.
The series was announced as focusing on the support crew of a starship, rather than the main bridge crew usually focused on in previous series in the franchise. It is set in 2380, one year after the film Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), aboard the California-class starship U.S.S. Cerritos. Discussing the direction of the series in June 2019, Kurtzman called it a "love letter" to Star Trek that would be appropriate for audience members aged "11 to 70". He explained that things that would typically be the "A story" of a 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", which he felt would make the series a unique addition to the franchise. When putting together the series' writers room, McMahan wanted to hire writers from different comedic backgrounds and with different levels of interest in Star Trek due to the different elements the series would need to balance. The series' writers include M. Willis, Chris Kula, Ben Rodgers, Ann Kim, and David Wright. Star Trek author David Mack served as a consultant on the series to ensure the series would fit within the franchise's canon. McMahan hoped that references to The Animated Series specifically would honor it as the franchise's first animated series, and make it "even more canon than it was before".
McMahan chose to set the series after Nemesis due to his love of the 1987–1994 series Star Trek: The Next Generation (Nemesis is a Next Generation-era film). The series is named after the Next Generation episode "Lower Decks", which McMahan said was his favorite episode of any Star Trek series, and which also focuses on the lives of lower-ranking starship personnel. The episode was the first thing that McMahan showed the writers room when they started work on the series. For Lower Decks, McMahan was inspired by the more social side-stories in The Next Generation, but wanted to include science fiction and comedic elements as well, and he felt that animation allowed this mixture of tones. He explained that the series' humor would not be about "punching down on Trek" and was more focused on telling Star Trek stories where the characters happen to be funny, and added that the series would feature jokes and references specifically for fans of the franchise that newcomers likely would not understand but hopefully would still find funny. The California-class starship was created specifically for the series as a type of support starship that works alongside the larger starships seen previously in the franchise. McMahan described the mission of the Cerritos as "Second Contact", so after Starfleet has made First Contact with a new 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". He suggested that these support ships have been present throughout the franchise, but just "haven’t been important enough to have screen time yet".
The series has a similar animation style to Rick and Morty. The series' design is intended to reflect the Next Generation era of Star Trek, including the series' sets, starship designs, camera angles, and character movements. McMahan explained that the crew created artificial boundaries for themselves to ensure that they were consistent with the live-action films, even though they had the option to be different due to the possibilities of animation. They used the wiki encyclopedia Memory Alpha and other fan resources to ensure they were staying accurate to the original designs of the era, and the animators watched episodes of The Next Generation while they were working on the series. Most of these influences from the 1990s Star Trek series like Next Generation apply to the Cerritos and other starships, while the animation team had room to show "how far [they] can push Star Trek with the designs of different planets, which Kelly described as lush and overwhelming.
The uniforms worn by the crew of the Cerritos are based on unused designs for the film Star Trek Generations (1994). Supervising director Barry J. 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. 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). 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, with actual LCARS displays also featured throughout the ship. Michael Okuda, who designed the LCARS system for Next Generation, consulted with the series' animation team to discuss their LCARS designs and colors.
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. The next month, McMahan announced the main cast and characters for the series: a group of ensigns serving in the "lower decks" of the Cerritos, including Tawny Newsome as Beckett Mariner, Jack Quaid as Brad Boimler, Noël Wells as Tendi, and Eugene Cordero as Rutherford; and the bridge crew of the ship that believe "the show is about them, but it’s not", including Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman, Jerry O'Connell as Commander Jack Ransom, Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs, and Gillian Vigman as Dr. T'Ana.
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. 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.
Independent animation studio Titmouse provides the animation for the series, with Barry J. Kelly serving as supervising director for the series. The first step of the animation process involved 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 drawings are then put together as an animatic version of the episode. The final animated episode with full details, backgrounds, and colors is then created based on the animatic version.
In January 2020, Star Trek: Discovery composer Jeff Russo expressed interest in also composing the score for Lower Decks, but said that may not be possible 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. In July, Chris Westlake was revealed to be the composer for the series after previously working with McMahan on Solar Opposites.
McMahan said Westlake's score sounded like a traditional Star Trek score that fit within the fast-paced, comedic style of Lower Decks. Westlake wanted the music to be sincere, feeling it was funnier to take the music seriously than to make it comedic. This is why the main theme includes a choir. Westlake wrote six or seven different main theme ideas for the series that were narrowed down to two: a slower, more stately theme; and a more energetic theme. The final theme is "between" these two.
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. 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.
Star Trek: Lower Decks premiered on August 6, 2020, on CBS All Access in the United States. Like previous All Access Star Trek series, each episode of Lower Decks is broadcast in Canada by Bell Media on the same day as the All Access release, on the specialty channels CTV Sci-Fi Channel (English) and Z (French) before streaming on Crave. International distribution for the series was not secured by the time of its premiere, due to negotiations being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In September 2020, ViacomCBS announced that CBS All Access would be expanded and rebranded as Paramount+ in March 2021. Existing episodes of Lower Decks' first season will remain on Paramount+ along with future seasons of the series. In December, 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 internationally by ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds a 67% approval rating with an average rating of 7.15/10, based on 45 reviews. The site'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." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, gives it a score of 59 out of 100, based on 17 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".Arab News described the series as taking a "more comic approach" than other Star Trek adaptations, said the show gently mocks "many of the series' tropes", and argued that the visual style is "safe and familiar" but is far from "breaking new ground" as an adult animation.
|Critics' Choice Super Awards||Best Animated Series||Star Trek: Lower Decks||Nominated|||
|Best Voice Actor in an Animated Series||Jack Quaid||Nominated|
|Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series||Tawny Newsome||Nominated|
A special episode of the CBS All Access Star Trek aftershow The Ready Room, hosted by Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Wil Wheaton, was released following the premiere of Lower Decks. Another aftershow episode was released following the sixth episode of the series' first season. Wheaton hosted a virtual panel for the 2020 New York Comic Con after the series' first-season finale which was recorded and released as a third aftershow episode for the series.
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