Premiering in August of 2020, Lower Decks is different than the other Star Trek shows we’ve talked about in this series so far. But also not as different when you get into the details.
It’s not set on Enterprise, but many of them haven’t been. Lower Decks is set on the U.S.S. Cerritos. Of course, it’s animated. But that’s not the big difference. No, the real difference is, in my opinion, why Lower Decks works so well. Let’s discuss.
We should start, as I always do, with the characters. The four main characters, Beckett, Brad, D’Vana and Sam, are all beautifully flawed. They’re neurotic, annoying, party lovers. These aren’t characteristics we usually see in Star Trek characters. Sure, Kirk was a man whore and Picard had a stick up his ass. But they were never what I’d call relatable. I can relate to D’Vana in particular. She’s socially awkward and loves her work. She gets way too excited. But the people who can up with her energy are rewarded for it.
There’s something great about looking at a character and seeing parts of yourself reflecting.
Lower Decks also shows a different part of the world than we’ve ever seen. This, I think is really where the show differs from the others. The main characters have always been mostly bridge officers. And, you should excuse me for saying, they’re kind of bitchy about it. We can even see this in an episode of Next Generation when Picard sees what his life would have been like if he hadn’t gotten into a bar fight while he was in the academy. He finds himself no longer a bridge officer and quickly realizes something. His friends are kind of dicks. And yeah, if you watch through the show, our beloved characters are not nice to the people who work under them. I think it’s great to see the lives of the grunts. The people who are doing the day-to-day work. Not the people living in the posh cabins and making the big decisions.
Finally, Lower Decks manages to do something that I always want to do. Something some of my favorite writers manage to do well. It has a sense of levity, but it can still bring emotional gripping moments.
It’s important for a character if they’re going to be funny, to have a depth to them. No one’s the comic relief all the time in the real world. That buddy you’ve got who always makes you laugh? There’s no way she’s always like that.
Creating a character like that is hard. You’ve got to start carefully, making sure that we see their pain without really seeing it. The best way to handle it is small warnings, little signs that are only really visible in hindsight.
It’s hard, and it takes a lot of editing. But if you can manage it, it’s great.
We’re almost done with this series. It’s been a lot of fun. Next week we’ll be talking about Picard. But if there are any Star Trek shows I missed that you’d like me to cover, let me know in the comments.