Star Trek: Lower Decks (season 1)
The first season of the American television series Star Trek: Lower Decks follows the support crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos in the year 2380. The season is produced by CBS Eye Animation Productions in association with Secret Hideout, Important Science, Roddenberry Entertainment, and Titmouse, Inc., with Mike McMahan serving as showrunner and Barry J. Kelly as supervising director.
|Star Trek: Lower Decks|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Original network||CBS All Access|
|Original release||August 6 –|
October 8, 2020
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 season. Lower Decks was ordered by CBS All Access in October 2018, with animation studio Titmouse beginning work by the following February. The main cast was announced in July 2019. Production shifted to taking place remotely by March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The season premiered on CBS All Access on August 6, 2020, and ran for 10 episodes until October 10.
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||1||"Second Contact"||Barry J. Kelly||Mike McMahan||August 6, 2020|
|Ensign D'Vana Tendi arrives on the USS Cerritos and is given a tour by ensigns Brad Boimler and Beckett Mariner. Boimler is asked by Captain Carol Freeman to report on any breaches of protocol made by Mariner. On a mission, Boimler catches Mariner giving equipment to local farmers. The pair are attacked by a farm animal which destroys Boimler's uniform and covers him in slime. Meanwhile, commander Jack Ransom unknowingly carries an alien virus from the planet surface to the Cerritos and it quickly infects much of the crew. Ensign Sam Rutherford is on a date with Ensign Barnes; they fight off infected crew members, but Rutherford loses interest because Barnes is not interested in the Cerritos's mechanics. Chief medical officer T'Ana uses the slime on Boimler to synthesize an antidote, receiving praise from Freeman. Boimler chooses not to report Mariner, to the chagrin of Freeman who is Mariner's mother and was looking for a reason to have her removed from the ship. Mariner thanks Boimler and decides to mentor him towards becoming a captain.|
|2||2||"Envoys"||Kim Arndt||Chris Kula||August 13, 2020|
|Boimler is assigned to a mission to transport Klingon general K'orin to the Federation Embassy on Tulgana IV. Mariner has herself assigned to the same mission, revealing that she is old friends with K'orin. The pair drink and reminisce while Boimler flies them to the planet. After they land, a drunken K'orin steals the shuttlecraft. While tracking down K'orin, Boimler feels he is unprepared for field work compared to Mariner, and threatens to quit Starfleet. They are offered assistance from a Ferengi whom Mariner believes is trustworthy, but Boimler cautions against this and is proven correct when the Ferengi pulls a knife on them. Boimler scares the Ferengi away. The pair find K'orin and leave him at the embassy before returning to the Cerritos. Boimler teases Mariner about the Ferengi, unaware that Mariner had staged the incident. Meanwhile, Rutherford transfers from engineering to other divisions hoping to have more time to spend with Tendi. He decides that engineering is where he wants to be, and she chooses to spend time with him while he works.|
|3||3||"Temporal Edict"||Bob Suarez||Dave Ihlenfeld & David Wright||August 20, 2020|
|The Cerritos is en route to Cardassia Prime for peace negotiations when it is re-assigned to instead deliver "diplomatic trinkets" to Gelrak V. This angers Freeman, who believes the Cerritos is not respected by Starfleet. The ensigns teach Tendi about "buffer time", a long-standing tradition in which the lower decks crew take time to relax between jobs. Boimler accidentally reveals this to Freeman, who institutes a time deadline for all tasks. The ship descends into chaos as the crew attempts to complete their work on time, and this causes the away team to take the wrong gift to Gelrak V. In anger, the people of Gelrak V attack the Cerritos. The crew is unable to respond until Boimler reminds Freeman that they need to be able to complete work in their own time. She halts the time deadlines and the crew are able to focus on repelling the attackers. Freeman later institutes a new mandate named "The Boimler Effect" that encourages crew members to take shortcuts, not blindly follow the rules, and build in "buffer time" whenever they deem fit.|
|4||4||"Moist Vessel"||Barry J. Kelly||Ann Kim||August 27, 2020|
|The Cerritos joins a joint mission with the USS Merced to tow a disabled generation ship. The ship carries terraforming material that converts inert matter to organic matter. Freeman gives Mariner the most disliked jobs in an effort to force her to transfer to another ship, but Mariner finds a way to make these tasks enjoyable. Freeman then promotes Mariner to lieutenant in an effort to bore her into transferring. During the mission, the terraforming material cripples the Merced and begins terraforming the Cerritos. Mariner works with Freeman to escape the terraforming and use environmental controls to return the ship to its previous state, as well as rescue the crew of the Merced. Meanwhile, Tendi's clumsiness prevents Lieutenant O'Connor's spiritual ascension. During the terraforming disaster, O'Connor nearly sacrifices himself to save Tendi's life. This act causes him to ascend with what appears to be painful results. Afterwards, Mariner is demoted back to ensign for making fun of an admiral's uncommon pronunciation of the word "sensor".|
|5||5||"Cupid's Errant Arrow"||Kim Arndt||Ben Joseph||September 3, 2020|
|Boimler welcomes his girlfriend, Barbara, onto the Cerritos. Mariner doubts that Barbara is sincerely interested in Boimler, and becomes obsessed with proving her hypothesis. The Cerritos provides support to the USS Vancouver in the controlled demolition of an unstable moon, as Freeman deals with the alien politics involved before it can proceed. Rutherford and Tendi are excited to tour the larger Vancouver with its state-of-the-art technology. After a brief competitive exercise, Lt. Commander Docent demands to transfer one of them to the Vancouver, against their wishes, resulting in a brief scuffle. Docent later admits he can't handle the exciting and epic adventures on board the Vancouver and was hoping to swap with them to a more boring ship. Mariner discovers that Barbara is under the influence of an alien parasite attached to Boimler, which she removes. Barbara leaves Boimler, while Mariner and Barbara find they have much in common and become friends. Freeman completes the demolition of the moon.|
|6||6||"Terminal Provocations"||Bob Suarez||John Cochran||September 10, 2020|
|The Cerritos finds itself in a standoff with the Drookmani over the salvage of an old Starfleet ship. Mariner and Boimler's friend, Ensign Fletcher, offers to recalibrate the ship's isolinear cores for them, so the two can leave work early to attend a concert. They return to find him the victim of an attack, with the shield core missing. Rutherford shows off his new holographic assistant, an anthropomorphic Starfleet badge named Badgey, to Tendi in the holodeck. The Drookmani begin to attack the Cerritos, now without shields, causing a holodeck malfunction. This results in Badgey becoming homicidal and attacking Rutherford and Tendi. They defeat him by changing the holodeck program to a tundra which freezes Badgey. Boimler and Mariner discover Fletcher staged the attack because he was unable to complete the work. The missing core goes on a rampage before being blown out of an airlock. It drifts to the Drookmani ship and disables it. Fletcher is rewarded for stopping the Drookmani with a transfer to the USS Titan, where he is fired a week later.|
|7||7||"Much Ado About Boimler"||Barry J. Kelly||M. Willis||September 17, 2020|
|Boimler volunteers to test Rutherford's new transporter upgrade, which malfunctions and leaves him "phasing". Tendi genetically engineers a dog with an array of freakish abilities. Both are transferred for medical care to "The Farm" on board the USS Osler. Other patients on board believe The Farm does not exist. Freeman is assigned to a covert mission, and Mariner's old friend Captain Amina Ramsey takes temporary command in their absence. To avoid being promoted by Ramsey, Mariner displays uncharacteristic incompetence, but is forced to confidently take control when the Cerritos finds the USS Rubidoux being torn apart by a hatching space-born entity. The patients on the Osler attempt a mutiny, but are betrayed by Boimler who recovers from his phasing and attempts to make peace. As the patients are about to blow him out of an airlock, they arrive at The Farm, which is a real, luxurious medical spa planet whose inhabitants receive the best care. Boimler tries to stay, but is sent back to the Cerritos. Ramsey parts amicably with Mariner.|
|8||8||"Veritas"||Kim Arndt||Garrick Bernard||September 24, 2020|
|Mariner, Boimler, Tendi and Rutherford are brought before an alien court by Clar, who demands they testify about the actions of the Cerritos' senior crew. Mariner relates a story about a mishandled standoff with the insectoid Clickets, who are aggravated by Mariner misunderstanding Freeman's orders. Rutherford recalls a high-stakes mission stealing a Romulan Bird of Prey from a Vulcan museum but has gaps in his memory due to his cybernetic implant. Tendi testifies about being mistakenly brought on a covert mission on the Bird of Prey to Romulus to steal a package. Clar doubts these stories, claiming that Starfleet officers should know what is happening on their ship, but Boimler assures him that Starfleet crew members make mistakes all the time (including antics with Q or boarding the wrong vessel), and accuses Clar of holding a drumhead trial. Clar clarifies that this is a actually a party celebrating his rescue from Romulus by the Cerritos, and he was just seeking an account of those events. The ensigns later ignore another encounter with Q.|
|9||9||"Crisis Point"||Bob Suarez||Ben Rodgers||October 1, 2020|
|To prepare for an interview with Freeman, Boimler creates a holodeck program using the crews' private logs to produce an accurate simulation of the Cerritos. Freeman sends Mariner to therapy, where she insists she is fine. Later, Mariner spitefully takes over Boimler's program to create a movie-like experience where she plays the villainous Vindicta. She invades the simulation of the Cerritos with her friends and kills the crew. Boimler and Rutherford join the holographic crew to fight against Vindicta, while Tendi leaves the simulation after being disturbed by Mariner's behaviour. Mariner ultimately crashes the simulation of the Cerritos and then fights a holographic recreation of herself, causing her to realize her true feelings for her mother and Starfleet. Concluding this "therapy" has worked, she leaves the holodeck. Boimler completes the simulation and accidentally discovers that Freeman is Mariner's mother. With this knowledge, Boimler panics and fails in his interview with the captain.|
|10||10||"No Small Parts"||Barry J. Kelly||Mike McMahan||October 8, 2020|
|Boimler inadvertently reveals to the crew that Mariner is Freeman's daughter. The Cerritos picks up new crew members, including an Exocomp named Peanut Hamper. They receive a distress call from the USS Solvang, and find it destroyed by the Pakled, who have become a threat while being ignored by Starfleet. They begin tearing apart the Cerritos. Rutherford plans to disable the Pakled using a computer virus developed by Badgey. Peanut Hamper refuses to deliver the virus, forcing Lieutenant Shaxs and Rutherford to fly a shuttle to the Pakled ship. There, Badgey uploads the virus but also engages the ship's self-destruct to kill Rutherford. Shaxs takes Rutherford's cybernetic implants and sacrifices himself to help Rutherford escape; the latter loses his long-term memory. When more Pakled ships arrive, the Cerritos is saved by the USS Titan, captained by William Riker. A funeral is held for Shaxs. Freeman makes peace with Mariner and proposes they work together to bend Starfleet regulations. Boimler accepts a promotion to the USS Titan.|
Cast and charactersEdit
CBS All Access officially ordered two seasons of Star Trek: Lower Decks, a new animated series, in October 2018. Mike McMahan was set as showrunner for the series, and announced in July 2019 that the first season would consist of 10 episodes and be released in 2020. Executive producer Heather Kadin said in January 2020 that the season would be ready by May 2020, but would be scheduled for release around the other Star Trek series being made for All Access. By late March, work on the season was taking place remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing staff to work from home. McMahan said that, at the time, delivery of the series had not been affected by the pandemic. It took around a day for everyone working on the series to be set-up to work from home. In July, CBS All Access officially scheduled the season to premiere in August 2020.
The series' writing process begins with the writers room discussing the series' main characters in the lower decks of the USS Cerritos to determine what emotional stories and character arcs they want for the characters in each episodes. The writers then come up with science fiction ideas that align with those arcs. McMahan felt that much of the first season involved the crew attempting to "figuring out what the show was and then we got it" in the last three or four episodes.
By the end of the first season, McMahan felt that though the series was still focused on the "lower deckers" as was initially intended, he had found that they needed to explore the Cerritos' bridge crew more in order to tell better stories. This includes Captain Freeman, who is revealed in the season to be the mother of main character Beckett Mariner. McMahan based this relationship on that of his own mother and sister, with the latter being the namesake for Mariner. They try to keep their relationship a secret in the season, which plays out until it becomes public knowledge in the season finale. McMahan described "Crisis Point" as a "kind of classic Marvel Comics sort of story", with a lot of film tropes and homages to the Star Trek films. The episode lets the audience see Mariner's relationship with her mother play out in a visual way, while also letting Mariner see that herself, and it ends with an emotional breakthrough for the character that allows her to work with her mother in the season finale, setting up a new dynamic for the pair in the second season.
The writers would often look to previous Star Trek series to find similar characters and situations to those that they were proposing for Lower Decks, to ensure that their comedic storylines were not straying too far away from the franchise. The character of Badgey began as a sketch of a Starfleet badge made by McMahan that he felt could act similar to the hologram version of Professor Moriarty from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The writers room then discussed what purpose Moriarty served in that series and how they could apply those ideas to Badgey in Lower Decks. Similarly, McMahan described the character Ensign Fletcher as a dark version of Reginald Barclay from The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager where Fletcher ends up moving in the opposite direction as Barclay but fills the same role as "not a great officer".
The season is filled with many references to other Star Trek series, which McMahan described as "just texture and details that we love". There are also non-Star Trek Easter eggs, such as the registry number for the Cerritos being based on McMahan's mother's phone number. "Temporal Edict" ends with a statue of the most important Star Trek character according to McMahan, Miles O'Brien from The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. McMahan explained that O'Brien is "the original Lower Decker, moving from an enlisted crewman all the way to professor of engineering at Starfleet Academy ... those of us who spent years watching him grow across two television series know he is, without a doubt, the most important person in Starfleet History." An element of the series that McMahan enjoyed was being able to go revisit aliens and locations from standalone episodes of previous Star Trek series, which was a way to bring back elements from earlier in the franchise without impacting on the existing Star Trek canon. This is what led to the writers' decision to feature the Pakleds as the "big bads" in the season finale. The Pakleds were introduced in the Next Generation episode "Samaritan Snare" and "used to be sort of a joke", according to McMahan, but are shown in the finale of Lower Decks to have been amassing power and are now a threat to Starfleet. McMahan also saw this as a way to address the modern "re-rise of fascism", with a group that "got too powerful, and now they are actually dangerous and people are paying with their lives for not taking them seriously".
The series' design team worked with CBS and John Van Citters, vice president for Star Trek brand management, on the design of the USS Titan for the season finale. The ship had never been seen on screen before, but had appeared in video games and on book covers, and McMahan wanted to "make sure we got it right because there are fans out there for who the Titan is a favorite ship". McMahan was also very specific about the designs of existing Star Trek characters William Riker and Deanna Troi in the finale, down to Riker's height and Troi's larger-than-normal pupils. McMahan hoped that the appearance of the Titan and these characters would feel like "one day in a bigger story about those guys".
McMahan announced the main cast for the series in July 2019: 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 D'Vana Tendi, and Eugene Cordero as Sam 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.
When asked about potential cameo appearances by members of the Next Generation cast in August 2019, McMahan acknowledged that those characters are in the Star Trek universe at the time that Lower Decks is set, and as a fan of that series he wanted to include them but in a way that did not "mess up the show". He knew that he wanted to include the character William Riker in the series, and had previously met actor Jonathan Frakes while working in Toronto, Canada on the shorts series Star Trek: Short Treks when Frakes was also there working on Star Trek: Discovery. Frakes told McMahan that he was open to reprising his role as Riker from The Next Generation in Lower Decks. McMahan thought it would be natural to have Riker appear in the series if the Cerritos needed help from the USS Titan, so that was written into the season finale. He also felt that they could not feature Riker without the character Deanna Troi also appearing, with Marina Sirtis also reprising her role from Next Generation. McMahan described Riker in Lower Decks as an "enhanced" version of the character, and encouraged Frakes to let Riker be a "wild, insane character", which Frakes had wanted to do with Riker for years. John de Lancie also reprises his Next Generation role of Q. Additionally, several previous Star Trek actors play new characters, including Kurtwood Smith as Clar and Kenneth Mitchell as Seartave.
In June 2020, Newsome was asked by a fan on Twitter if comedian Paul F. Tompkins would have a guest role in the series given Newsome was a frequent guest on Tompkins' podcast Spontaneanation. Tompkins expressed interest in the idea, and McMahan responded to say that he was organizing to have Tompkins cast for a guest role in the series' second season; Tompkins ultimately voiced Dr. Migleemo, Mariner's therapist, in the first season. In July, Paul Scheer was revealed to have a recurring guest role in the first season as Chief Enginee Andy Billups. Other recurring characters in the season include Jessica McKenna as Ensign Barnes as well as the Cerritos computer, writer Ben Rodgers as Lieutenant Stevens, Sam Richardson as Ensign Vendome, Marcus Henderson as Lieutenant Jet Manhaver, Tim Robinson as Ensign Fletcher, Jack McBrayer as Badgey, and Lauren Lapkus as Ensign Jennifer. The human name Jennifer was improvised by Newsome for the Andorian ensign during recording.
For most of the first season, Quaid and Newsome recorded their lines together with McMahan. They were encouraged to improvise during recording. During production on the season, the pandemic forced all further recording, including ADR, to take place remotely. This became one of the biggest challenges for the series during the pandemic, with recording equipment needed in each actor's house. Newsome already had a recording studio at her house that she used for the series.
Independent animation studio Titmouse provides the animation for the series, with Barry J. Kelly serving as supervising director for the series. Work on the series' animation began by the end of February 2019.
The score for the season, composed by Chris Westlake, was originally going to be recorded with a 60-person orchestra in a traditional recording studio, but, due to the pandemic, each musician was recorded individually from home and then mixed together. The pandemic also caused the timeline for the series' release to be moved up, which meant Westlake had around two months less time to work on the season's score than he was expecting. He was still able to write original music for each episode of the season.
Westlake included several references to previous Star Trek music throughout the season, including an homage to fight music from the original Star Trek series for a scene where Ransom fights an alien using the same fighting style as that series' protagonist James T. Kirk. For "Crisis Point", Westlake wrote "movie-fied" versions of his Lower Decks theme, paying homage to the composers of the Star Trek films such as the nautical, French horn-based sound of James Horner from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). The series also features a direct homage to a scene from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) where the crew slowly circles the Cerritos, with Westlake acknowledging the music that Jerry Goldsmith wrote for that scene. In "Temporal Edict", Boimler can be heard humming Goldsmith's main theme from The Motion Picture and The Next Generation.
The series was promoted during the "Star Trek Universe" panel at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, where the series' main cast and first look images were revealed. Further details about the series were discussed at a panel specifically for Lower Decks at Star Trek Las Vegas 2019. A trailer and poster for the series were released in July 2020, with Allie Gemmill of Collider calling the trailer "a ton of fun and then some" and comparing its adult-oriented tone to that of Rick and Morty. This was followed by a "Star Trek Universe" panel at the 2020 Comic-Con@Home convention where McMahan and the cast discussed the series and revealed its opening scene.
At the end of July, All Access released a new trailer celebrating "23 weeks of New Trek" and featuring footage from both the first season of Lower Decks and the third season of Star Trek: Discovery; the 23 weeks include both series, with Lower Decks premiering on August 6 and running for 10 weeks, followed the next week by the premiere of Discovery which then runs for 13 weeks. Animation studio Titmouse released a shirt with a unique design on it alongside each episode of Lower Decks, with the designs only available for one week each. Fans who bought all ten designs received a bonus eleventh shirt.
The season premiered on August 6, 2020, on CBS All Access in the United States, and ran for 10 episodes until October 8. Like previous All Access Star Trek series, each episode of the season was 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 had not been secured by the time of its premiere in the U.S. and Canada.
The series was originally intended for release later in 2020, following the release of the third season of Star Trek: Discovery, but the premiere date for Lower Decks was moved up after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the post-production timeline for Discovery and forced that series to be delayed. McMahan explained in August 2020 that negotiations for international distribution could not be similarly moved up, and so the official release of the series outside of the U.S. and Canada would have to wait until those negotiations were completed. Amazon Prime Video was revealed, in December 2020, to have picked up the streaming rights for the series in several territories—including Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and India—with the full first season released on the service on January 22, 2021.
In September 2020, ViacomCBS announced that CBS All Access would be expanded and rebranded as Paramount+ in March 2021. Existing episodes of Lower Decks from this season will remain on Paramount+ along with future seasons of the series.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds a 65% approval rating with an average rating of 6.89/10, based on 40 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 15 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Christian Blauvelt of review website IndieWire declared the show to be "the continuation of the Next Generation era fans have been looking for" and possibly "the most Trek series ever." However, most other reviews were less enthusiastic, with Mike Hale of The New York Times saying that Lower Decks felt "caught in between [...] fan service and half smutty workplace sitcom." He also criticized the show for "lazy joke writing", citing an overreliance on sexual innuendo. Noah Gittell of The Guardian stated the show left "no lasting impression", saying that it moved through its plot points too rapidly for viewers to become involved. 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|
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