Spoiler Warning: Spoilers will be present for the Star Trek: Lower Decks trailer, as well as for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise, including the most recent seasons of Picard and Discovery.
It was announced only a few days ago that Star Trek will be having a big presence at this summer’s big Comic-Con@Home event – the event will not only replace Comic-Con in the USA this year, but from ViacomCBS’ perspective, also fill a role usually served by Star Trek Las Vegas, the big Star Trek convention at which Star Trek: Picard was announced and other big announcements have been made. It was a huge surprise, then, when the trailer for Lower Decks was published on YouTube, as I felt certain they’d be saving that for Comic-Con@Home, which is taking place in only a few days’ time.
In case you haven’t seen it, I’ve embedded the trailer below. When you’ve seen it, I’ll take you through my thoughts on what’s included – or you can skip the full trailer and just read what I have to say!
Have you watched it yet? This is your last chance to avoid spoilers if you want to see it first! Okay, let’s go through what we just saw!
My first reaction was side-splitting laughter for pretty much the entire trailer! Lower Decks looks like so much fun, a perfect blend of Star Trek with comedy series like The Simpsons or co-creator Mike McMahan’s last project Rick & Morty. Both of those animated shows have clearly influenced Lower Decks, and if the series as a whole can succeed as well as the trailer did then I think we’re in for a fun time.
The aesthetic of Star Trek’s 24th Century was present throughout. I talked about this before, but the design of the USS Cerritos is clearly influenced by the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation. It manages to look like a less-important version of that ship, and although there’s been some criticism of its split-level design (which I think gives it a USS Reliant or Nebula-class vibe personally) it really does succeed for me as being a well-designed vessel.
The shuttlecraft Yosemite was also seen in the trailer, and sported a design similar to shuttles from The Next Generation’s era. We’d seen a Discovery-era shuttle in the Short Treks episode Children of Mars, which was a prologue to Picard released in January. That design is fine, but I said at the time that it would have made more sense to use a familiar design from The Next Generation than reuse one from Discovery. Aesthetic and design choices are very subjective, and while I like both designs, it’s nice to see something closer to that seen in the 24th Century here. I also liked its “blast shield” – I’m sure that’ll come in handy for something!
We got our first look at most of the crew in action for the first time. It seems that at least two of them – I think Ensigns Mariner and Tendi – are new to Starfleet, probably having just graduated from the Academy. This may be their first posting aboard a starship. The disappointment they experience – seen plastered across their faces – when being assigned dirty, minor roles aboard the ship is clearly going to be a big part Lower Decks’ comedy and where much of the humour is going to come from.
Ensign Boimler seems to be the Starfleet “fanboy” we heard mentioned during the initial pitch for the series. He’s caught by Ensign Mariner recording a pretend “captain’s log” in what looked like a closet aboard the Cerritos. These two characters seem to have an incredibly fun dynamic, playing off each other’s strengths and weaknesses to make a fun duo. There also looks to be a personality clash – Boimler seems anxious and by-the-book, whereas Mariner seems much more laid-back and outgoing. As the two human main characters, putting them together and making them the focus was perhaps inevitable, but I hope we’ll see more of the other two ensigns as well; they didn’t feature as prominently in the trailer.
Despite Lower Decks’ premise of featuring unimportant crew members on an unimportant ship – “rarely going where no one has gone before”, as the show’s tagline hilariously puts it – they do seem to have some adventures. At one point, Ensign Rutherford was seen fighting Borg in what I assume was the holodeck or a training room. Rutherford may be an ex-Borg himself, or he could be a human who’s been augmented in similar fashion to Discovery’s Lieutenant Detmer (the helm officer).
We saw several glimpses of the Klingons in the trailer, including one who seemed to be serving in Starfleet. Taking a look at Federation-Klingon relations after the end of the Dominion War is potentially interesting, though I’m unsure how much detail we’re going to get. It did seem as though the USS Cerritos may be headed to Qo’nos or a Klingon colony though, as there was another scene set at an outdoor area emblazoned with Klingon insignia. It was suggested in Voyager’s finale that the Klingons may have moved away from their alliance with the Federation by the early 25th Century; they’ve also been major antagonists in Discovery, so I wonder if Lower Decks plans to go down that route.
There were a race of purple-skinned aliens with ridged heads that I didn’t recognise. It’s possible they’ve been seen in another iteration of the franchise and I’m just not remembering them, but they may very well be brand new in Lower Decks. A planet or moon seemed to be breaking up near their homeworld – this could be one of the USS Cerritos’ second contact missions.
At least one story is going to feature some kind of battle or combat situation, as we saw the USS Cerritos’ bridge crew and the ensigns teamed up together, fighting an unseen opponent. Action is great and all, but it’s definitely going to be nice to see some of the slower, less exciting side of serving in Starfleet. It looks like we’ll get a mix of both!
The USS Cerritos is described at one point as “falling apart”, which I think adds to the sense that this is an unimportant vessel in the fleet. It also opens up possibilities for both drama and comedy as parts of the ship break down and/or need to be repaired. In the aftermath of the Dominion War – Lower Decks is taking place approximately five years after the conflict ended – it makes sense that Starfleet may not be back at full capacity, and some ships may have been in service longer than they otherwise should be.
The animation style seems to borrow at least some elements from Rick & Morty – which makes sense, as some of the team behind Lower Decks worked on that show. I’m thinking of the characters’ mouths and the way they speak in particular, as well as the design of one of the large aliens or alien-plants seen trying to eat Ensign Boimler in one sequence. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing; Rick & Morty is popular with many people, and it’s not unfair to suggest that Lower Decks is aiming itself squarely at Rick & Morty’s audience, at least in part. Any new show has the potential to bring in new fans to the wider Star Trek franchise – something it will need in order to survive into the future.
I’m a little surprised by the choice of uniforms. They’re neither the kind seen beginning in First Contact and used for the back half of Deep Space Nine, nor are they the style that debuted in Picard earlier this year, used in the show’s flashback sequences. The combadges are different too – they’re a simple silver Starfleet emblem similar to those used in Discovery. Of course Star Trek is no stranger to changing things up – The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine both went through two styles of uniform, and Deep Space Nine went through two styles of combadge too. I like the uniforms overall, and they fit well with the bright colour palette that the show is using. The choice of combadge is perhaps not one I’d have opted for – but it may have been designed to stand out better against the uniforms.
I’m very worried that there’s still no international release date! ViacomCBS is cutting this very close – with the show set to air in three-and-a-half weeks, fans outside the United States need to know how and where we’re going to be able to watch it. This should have been taken care of ages ago and announced along with the show’s US premiere date. In the 1980s and 1990s it was commonplace for release dates to vary wildly from country to country, but you can’t get away with that in 2020. If Lower Decks premieres in the USA and there’s no international release, people will just pirate the show. It often seems as though ViacomCBS places very little value on Star Trek’s international fans, despite the fact that the number of Trekkies outside of the US has to be at least equal in size, if not larger, than its American fanbase. This continues to be disappointing, and it’s a mistake that a major corporation should not be making if they want to remain successful.
Other than that, my biggest concern right now is that Lower Decks will fall victim to something I’ve termed “The Simpsons Movie phenomenon”. At least here in the UK, 2007’s The Simpsons Movie put literally every single one of its good jokes, one-liners, and even visual gags in its trailers and television ads. The film was heavily marketed, meaning I’d seen the trailers a dozen times or more by the time I got to watch it, and because I’d already seen practically all of the funny moments from the entire film I came away seriously underwhelmed. If, however, Lower Decks can keep me entertained even half as much as it did with this trailer, it’ll be a great show.
Star Trek: Lower Decks will debut on CBS All Access on the 6th of August in the United States. There are no details yet of its international release. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.