TV Party Tonight! #113

TV Party Tonight! #113

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2
[Blu Ray]

What can I possibly say about Star Trek that hasn’t been said already. If you don’t know what it is, get a clue and get on board. I was very late to the party but have since gone very deep. Star Trek is a warm fuzzy place I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave.

For a franchise that has done so much over so many years the idea of a Lower Decks show sounds like a breath of fresh air. There are so many possibilities in a setting where the focus is on the doe-eyed little people who keep the ship running. Also, for as funny as Star Trek can be (reaching its highest comedic zenith with Enterprise) it’s never been a comedy show. It’s been a cartoon, but not a cartoon for adults. Enter: Star Trek Lower Decks.

Look, Star Trek has gotten weird over the years ever since Alex Kurtzman took over. There was a feeling with that show that the creator and writers have no clue what makes Star Trek so great. The show has rhythm, but no soul. Same with Star Trek Picard. And, unfortunately, Lower Decks suffers from a lot of the same pitfalls. But, there is a lot Lower Decks does right, so let’s talk about that first.

Lower Decks is an animated show and the whole point of an animated show is to do things you couldn’t do in live action. Lower Decks gets that. They can explore with settings, creatures, monsters in a way that is much easier more believable than if they had to rely on CGI or makeup. Some things just don’t translate to live action, and everything in Lower Decks looks and feels like it fits right in there. Another thing this show has going for it is that it’s a full-on treasure trove of references for Star Trek fans, and it treats ALL Star Trek as cannon: the original movies, Enterprise, the original Animated Series, all of it. And that’s because this show is being driven by true fans who have a deep love of the series and know that the show has been great, flaws and all. So, it’s truly a love letter to the franchise. Also going for it is some phenomenal voice acting, particularly Dawnn Lewis, Tawny Newsome and Noel Wells. They don’t sound like actors doing quirky voices (like everyone else in the series), they sound like professional voice-over actors. Finally, Lower Decks is episodic and doesn’t follow the long form format of Discovery and Picard which has been exhausting. Way to go.

The part where Lower Decks doesn’t quite hit its mark is on character development, particularly in its protagonist Beckett Mariner, who is perplexing and frustrating. She is at all times the smartest person in the room, the most capable, most connected and also the most narcissistic and unempathetic. She can do the hardest job but wants the most menial ones, which is fine if she weren’t always so full of contempt for everyone and everything in Starfleet and unimpressed with everyone. We’re supposed to like this person? Also, what’s intended to be endearing and charming is just highly erratic, disturbing, dangerous and immature behavior by her part that is constantly putting everyone in danger. Everyone on the Cerritos should be worried that Mariner is on board. You just don’t ever feel like there’s a situation Mariner won’t be able to handle and that makes her boring, not to mention that there never seems to be any consequences for her actions. This is the PROTAGONIST of the show. Also guys, saying random things really fast doesn’t make them funny, so just stop it, OK?

Unless the writers can figure out how to write Mariner better, they should focus on the other characters and do more world building. This is exactly what Season 2 does, so congratulations to Lower Decks for correcting its course a little bit. While this season is still chock full of references and plays with the ridiculousness of Star Trek, it also tries to have its characters function within this world. This season has some of the best episodes yet in New Trek, like The Spy Humongous and Where Pleasant Fountains Lie, simply because the team is working together instead of antagonizing each other.

Lower Decks has a lot of potential and seems to be led by talented people. As with any good show, you expect it to improve each season and season 2 definitely does that. Here’s hoping the upcoming season 3 will stay on this improved course.

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