When it comes to ideas for a TV show, a humorous Star Trek cartoon doesn’t necessarily seem like a winner. But screenwriter Rafael Jordan says that the animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks compares favorably to live action shows such as Picard and Discovery.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, but I was really won over by the third or the fourth episode,” Jordan says in Episode 451 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I know it might be sacrilege to say, but it might be my favorite Star Trek thing right now. I think I would take this show over any future show. I need more of Lower Decks.”
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley was also skeptical of Lower Decks, but got more interested when he learned that it was created by former Rick and Morty showrunner Mike McMahan. “I saw that the creator of it is the guy who was sort of the big ‘sci-fi guy’ on Rick and Morty, the one who was most deeply familiar with the genre,” Kirtley says. “If I had known that I would have checked the show out a lot sooner.”
Fantasy author Christopher M. Cevasco likes that Lower Decks pokes fun at Star Trek while still maintaining a sense of reality. “It feels like a Star Trek show, even though it’s animated, even though it’s got way more humor than any of the other shows,” he says. “But it still remains true to the canon, and to the rules that have been established in the Star Trek world.”
The sheer volume of in-jokes and obscure references in Lower Decks will challenge even the most hardcore Trekkie. Writer Sara Lynn Michener says it’s clear that the show’s writers have deeply immersed themselves in Star Trek fandom.
“A lot of the jokes come directly from Star Trek Shitposting, and the members of the group were very proud of that,” she says. “We spent about two weeks trying to figure out, ‘OK, who in the group are the secret spies who actually work for this writing staff?’ Because we know that they are in this group.”
Listen to the complete interview with Rafael Jordan, Sara Lynn Michener, and Christopher M. Cevasco in Episode 451 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Rafael Jordan on casual viewers:
“I watched [Lower Decks] with my girlfriend, who is not a Trekkie. She just kind of casually watches the modern movies and whatever I force her to watch. But she really enjoyed it. She really liked it a lot, but admittedly I was pausing it every two minutes to say, ‘Oh, let me explain this. To really appreciate what’s going on here you have to know what they’re calling back to.’ And I think eventually she got irritated with me. She’s like, ‘Just play it already. I’m enjoying it fine.’ … They did such a great job of balancing obvious, overt callbacks to previous episodes with hidden little Easter eggs that were just a delight for the old school fans.”
Christopher M. Cevasco on characterization:
“At first the relationship between Mariner and Boimler was so frantic and adversarial and in-your-face—almost like Three Stooges routines, with them poking each other in the eye all the time—that it was maybe a little grating. But I think they pulled back from that level of antics and it became a more mature relationship. But yeah, I think they’re great characters. I’m really happy that they chose to make the Orion character be a very earnest scientist, rather than falling back on the typical Orion characters—like they didn’t make her some sort of dancing bar girl. And Rutherford is just amazing too. … So yeah, I think it’s a great bunch. I like all four of those main characters.”
David Barr Kirtley on humor:
“Star Trek 4 is one of my favorite Star Trek movies, but thinking back on it now it’s really a comedy. It’s as much a comedy as anything else, and more so than any of the other Star Trek movies. But I feel like Star Trek 4 is a comedy that works, and maybe part of the reason I was so apprehensive about this show is I feel like there’s been a lot of Star Trek humor that has not worked, particularly the later Next Generation movies. There’s a line—I actually wrote it down it’s so bad—in First Contact, where they’re talking to Zefram Cochrane, and he says something like, ‘So you’re all astronauts … on some kind of star trek?’ It’s one of the worst jokes in any movie I’ve ever seen.”
Sara Lynn Michener on redshirts:
“When somebody makes a redshirt joke in Star Trek Shitposting, everybody kind of piles on and makes jokes like, ‘Welcome, new member!’ Because it’s just been played out to death. [Lower Decks] is a very sophisticated show, where they did their research—or are just a part of these subcultures anyway, to start with—so they know that these things have already been done. People send me memes all the time that originated in Star Trek Shitposting three years ago—people who are not Trekkies—and they send it to me because they know I like Star Trek, and they have no idea that not only did I see that meme three years ago, but I’ve seen all 10 memes that reference it ever since. You just have to be like, ‘Thanks for sending me that, grandma!’ and move along.”