In Review: Star Trek Lower Decks – Second Contact (Episode 1)

"It's Star Trek, but not as we know it"

Synopsis: It’s Star Trek, but not as we know it. There was of course Star Trek: The Animated Series (officially canonical), but this is something different altogether. We follow the U.S.S. Cerritos and the action is focused on the junior ranking crew, chiefly Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), D’Vana Tendi (Noel Wells) and Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero). There’s a lot going on in episode 1, as we meet the new crew and see how they shape up in a crisis.

 

Story

Whatever else may or may not be true about the show, the writing of the plot was good. It certainly packed a lot in, keeping a quick pace and giving resolution to the central arc. What worked was having two events. The virus contracted by the gung-ho First Officer, and the strange, giant space spider thing that Boimler (Jack Quaid) gets “attacked” by, which means he needs rescuing by Mariner ( Tawny Newsome). That proved to be mildly humorous, but that’s as far as it went. Boimler and Mariner had the most screen-time in this debut. Their relationship had a fun dynamic and once you found out Mariner is Captain Carol Freeman’s (Dawnn Lewis) daughter it made perfect sense.

As a silly sub-plot seeing Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) go on a date provided some light relief, and insight into his character. His medical bio-enhancement going wrong was a funny idea too, but more could have been made of it. having another Caitian as the ship’s Doctor T’Ana (Gillian Vigman) was a nice nod to M’ress from TAS, and her quick-thinking saved them all from the zombie-virus. Other silliness was the hollow deck scene, which played on the ideas we’ve all had about what Starfleet personnel might get up to there, in their spare time.

Voices

The voices were distinct and the actors really seemed to know the characters. Good deliveries meant that strong characterisation able to come through well. Boimler’s uncertainty in himself and his being a stickler for protocol was evident, as Quaid made sure he got in enough bumbling and panic. That felt realistic and was a notable aspect. This was the strongest aspect of the show and ultimately allowed viewers to form a much better opinion of who these characters are than their physical appearance.

Animation

An advantage of using this style is that the writing can be adventurous. There’s no need for a massive budget for effects and costumes of new species. It meant it was easy to have plenty going on. The ship itself looked a fair representation of a drawn version of any ship from TNG onwards. It was quite enjoyable and refreshing to see a new version of Star Trek as a cartoon, but be able to place the era and the timeline easily. Really the animation is all to do with preference. It did suit the tone of the show, so some points picked up for that.

Overall

For the show to really appeal to long-term fans there had to be much more adult humour, and more Star Trek references from the off. It would be good to see more crude humour and a darker aspect to the jokes. Many fans might have expected similar things to the likes of Family Guy, where deaths can occur, fantastical elements appear that aren’t explained by the plot and there are jokes to do with pop-culture. That wasn’t to be, and the show was in some ways more traditional Star Trek.

As a first episode goes, it wasn’t terrible. Saying that, it didn’t wow either. It would have been good to see them really push the boundaries with stuff, humour-wise. What’s clear is that they still want the younger audience and seem to be setting things up so that people will actually talk about what went on, instead of just what was funny. Things might pick up. They’ll need to if it’s any chance of reaching warp-speed. As it is, it’s cruising at impulse.

7.3
Star Trek: Lower Decks in Review -Episode 1
  • Story
    7.1
  • Voices
    8.1
  • Animation
    7.0
  • Overall
    7.1
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