While Trekkies anxiously await the third season of Star Trek: Discovery, they can rest assured that there is an animated series set to boldly go where no animated show has gone before, all the while keeping itself within the vaunted Star Trek canon.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is an animated comedy from the mind of Rick and Morty writer/producer Mike McMahan, who won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program for his work as a supervising producer on the episode “Pickle Rick,” so you know he’s got chops.
“Within Lower Decks, there is a proper in-canon Star Trek show,” McMahan told Inverse. “It takes place during the TNG era. It’s on a ship that feels like it’s always existed there and the bridge crew is dealing with big, never-before-seen Starfleet Star Trek-type stories.”
So every episode has a thing like that happening in it. And then, on top of that, we’ve got A stories and B stories that are emotionally driven from the point of view of the lower deckers on the ships. So it was an area of storytelling that people had covered every once in a while on Star Trek, but never built a show around.
I like that Lower Decks is set during Star Trek: The Next Generation. That’s the version of Trek I grew up watching, so I’ll have a built-in familiarity with it. But what if you’re new to the franchise? Can you still enjoy the show without watching any of the myriad Star Trek shows that have come before?
“It was important to me that if you know everything about Star Trek and you watch this show then it fits into canon and doesn’t break Star Trek. In fact, it grows it,” McMahan continued. “And if you know nothing about Star Trek, then all of the canon in Lower Decks feels like mythological, broad understandable sci-fi stuff. So you can still enjoy Lower Decks even if it’s your first Star Trek show.”
Lower Decks was supposed to premiere on CBS All Access at some point this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up some hurdles.
“I can’t give you a specific answer on when that’s coming out, but we’re still working on it and we’re on track for when we have planned, which is this year,” McMahan said. “Animation is kind of uniquely suited for this moment. We didn’t shut down production. Safely recording the cast was really our biggest challenge because we don’t want them leaving their houses. So getting remote setups and stuff was something we had to solve, but it seems like we have.”
Speaking on The Next Generation, star Jonathan Frakes recently spoke to IGN during a Star Trek: First Contact watch-along and talked about the uniquely unprofessional way his character William Riker, Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s second in command, would always sit in a chair when he walked into the room by swinging his front leg over the back and mounting the thing. It is known, of course, as the Riker Maneuver:
“I do [it] when the chairback is below the danger zone,” Frakes said. “I measure twice and cut once. That started in Ten Forward because the backs of the chairs were so low, it was easy. And then I thought, this is really a hotdog, @$$hole thing to do.”
Nobody’s going to let me do this. And then nobody stopped me! It’s such a cocky, unattractive, kind of bad cowboy move… Whoever did the YouTube compilation of Riker sits down, it went viral and was even more embarrassing, and made me strangely even more proud.
You can pull that kind of thing off if you’re 6’3” like Frakes. I guess they don’t teach proper sitting etiquette at Starfleet.