Star Trek: Lower Decks is an American adult animated television series created by Mike McMahan for the streaming service CBS All Access.
It is the ninth series in the Star Trek franchise, and was launched in 2020 as part of executive producer Alex Kurtzman’s expansion of the franchise.
Lower Decks is the first animated series created for All Access, and the first animated Star Trek series since the 1973-1974 series Star Trek: The Animated Series.
Star Trek: Lower Decks focuses on “the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships”, the USS Cerritos, in the year 2380.
- Tawny Newsome as Beckett Mariner:
- A human ensign aboard the USS Cerritos and the daughter of Captain Freeman.
- Newsome described the character as irreverent and a rule-breaker, though she is actually “very good at all things Starfleet, she just doesn’t care” and has been demoted several times.
- Newsome added that Mariner “just wants to ride her skateboard and eat her piece of pizza in peace, man.”
- Jack Quaid as Bradward “Brad” Boimler:
- A human ensign aboard the Cerritos, Boimler is a stickler for the rules and will need to learn how to improvise if he is to become a captain one day.
- Quaid described the character by saying “he would nail the written portion of the driving test with flying colours but once it actually got to him being in the car, it would be a complete and total disaster.”
- Noël Wells as D’Vana Tendi:
- An Orion ensign in the medical bay aboard the Cerritos, Tendi is a big fan of Starfleet, who is always thrilled to be working on a starship.
- She is new to the Cerritos at the start of the series, and helps introduce the audience to the setting and characters.
- Creator Mike McMahan believes he would act like Tendi if he ever got the chance to work on a starship.
- Eugene Cordero as Samanthan “Sam” Rutherford:
- A human ensign aboard the Cerritos, Rutherford is adjusting to a new cyborg implant.
- McMahan compared Rutherford to the Star Trek: The Next Generation character Geordi La Forge, saying they are both “amazing at engineering stuff” but Rutherford does not always solve the problem like Geordi because he is still learning.
- Dawnn Lewis as Carol Freeman:
- The human captain of the Cerritos. McMahan described her as a capable Starfleet captain whose starship is not very important. Freeman does not want her daughter, Mariner, to be on the Cerritos and is looking for a reason to have her transferred to another ship.
- Jerry O’Connell as Jack Ransom:
- Human first officer of the Cerritos, whom McMahan compared to Next Generation’s William Riker, if he was on speed and had less shame.
- Fred Tatasciore as Shaxs:
- A Bajoran tactical officer aboard the Cerritos.
- Shaxs /ˈʃæks/ is extremely aggressive with a warrior ethos and a willingness to go into battle; he has been described as a parody of Worf (a Klingon main character from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine).
- Shaxs dies in battle at the end of the first season.
- Gillian Vigman as T’Ana:
- A Caitian doctor and head of medical aboard the Cerritos.
- McMahan described her as “a good doctor, but she’s an unpleasant cat.”
- Including a Caitian in the series is a reference to Star Trek: The Animated Series which also starred a member of that species, M’Ress.
- Tawny Newsome as Beckett Mariner:
- Paul Scheer as Andy Billups: Human chief engineer of the Cerritos and the direct boss of Rutherford.
- Notable Guests:
- Haley Joel Osment as O’Connor.
- J. G. Hertzler as Drookmani captain.
- Jack McBrayer as Badgey.
- John de Lancie as Q.
- Kurtwood Smith as Clar.
- Jonathan Frakes as Captain William T. Riker.
- Marina Sirtis as Commander Deanna Troi.
In June 2018, after becoming sole showrunner of the series Star Trek: Discovery, Alex Kurtzman signed a five-year overall deal with CBS Television Studios to expand the Star Trek franchise beyond Discovery to several new series, miniseries, and animated series. While developing one of the animated series, Aaron Baiers of Kurtzman’s production company Secret Hideout brought Mike McMahan – the head writer of popular animated comedy Rick and Morty – to the production. Kurtzman was won over by McMahan’s love of Star Trek and his pitch for a series following “the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other end.” The series was marketed to different platforms and networks, before being picked up by CBS All Access, the streaming service that releases Discovery. It is the service’s first original animated series.
All Access officially ordered two seasons of the animated series, titled Star Trek: Lower Decks, on 25 October 2018. McMahan was set to create, write, and executive produce the series alongside Kurtzman, Secret Hideout’s Heather Kadin, Rod Roddenberry (the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) and Trevor Roth of Roddenberry Entertainment, and veteran animation executive turned producer Katie Krentz of the newly formed CBS Eye Animation Productions. It is the first animated Star Trek series since the 1973-1974 series Star Trek: The Animated Series. In January 2019, Kurtzman said the series would not be “Rick and Morty in the world of Star Trek” and would have its own tone, but would “skew slightly more adult”. That July, McMahan announced that the first season of Lower Decks would consist of 10 episodes and be released in 2020.
Kadin said in January 2020 that the first 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 series 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, and added that writing on the second season had already begun. Work on the series was continuing remotely in May and McMahan said the first season would be ready for release in 2020. He said animation was “uniquely suited for this moment” since the series’ animators could continue work on the series from home, and explained that the biggest challenge of production during the pandemic was safely recording the voice actors using remote recording equipment in each actor’s house. In July, CBS All Access officially scheduled the series to premiere in August 2020. After the series premiered, Kurtzman reiterated that work on its animation and writing was “barrelling ahead, full steam ahead”, in contrast to the live-action Star Trek series for which production was delayed due to the pandemic.
The series was announced as focusing on the support crew of a starship, rather than the main bridge crew usually focused on in previous series in the franchise. It is set in 2380, one year after the film Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), aboard the California-class starship USS Cerritos. Discussing the direction of the series in June 2019, Kurtzman called it a “love letter” to Star Trek that would be appropriate for audience members aged “11 to 70”. He explained that things that would typically be the “A story” of a Star Trek episode would be taking place in the background of each Lower Decks episode, so “huge, crazy, crazy shit is going on in the background and that’s super peripheral to the story that you’re actually focusing on”, which he felt would make the series a unique addition to the franchise. When putting together the series’ writers room, McMahan wanted to hire writers from different comedic backgrounds and with different levels of interest in Star Trek due to the different elements the series would need to balance. The series’ writers include M. Willis, Chris Kula, Ben Rodgers, Ann Kim, and David Wright. Star Trek author David Mack served as a consultant on the series to ensure the series would fit within the franchise’s canon.
McMahan chose to set the series after Nemesis due to his love of the 1987-1994 series Star Trek: The Next Generation (Nemesis is a Next Generation-era film). The series is named after the Next Generation episode of the same name, which McMahan said was his favourite episode of any Star Trek series. The episode was the first thing that McMahan showed the writers room when they started work on the series. For Lower Decks, McMahan was inspired by the more social side-stories in The Next Generation, but wanted to include science fiction and comedic elements as well, and he felt that animation allowed this mixture of tones. He explained that the series’ humour would not be about “punching down on Trek” and was more focused on telling Star Trek stories where the characters happen to be funny, and added that the series would feature jokes and references specifically for fans of the franchise that newcomers likely would not understand but hopefully would still find funny. The California-class starship was created specifically for the series as a type of support starship that works alongside the larger starships seen previously in the franchise. McMahan described the mission of the Cerritos as “Second Contact”, so after Starfleet has made First Contact with a new civilisation and invited it to join the Federation the crew of support ships like the Cerritos arrive to find “all the good places to eat [and set up] the communications stuff”. He suggested that these support ships have been present throughout the franchise, but just “haven’t been important enough to have screen time yet”.
Kurtzman stated in June 2019 that the series would mostly focus on new characters, but there was potential for characters from previous Star Trek series to appear at some point. The next month, McMahan announced the main cast and characters for the series: 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 Tendi, and Eugene Cordero as 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”. 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 organising to have Tompkins cast for a guest role in the series’ second season. A month later, Paul Scheer was revealed to have a recurring guest role in the first season as Chief Engineer Andy Billups.
Animation and Design
Independent animation studio Titmouse provides the animation for the series, with a style similar to Rick and Morty. Work on the animation had begun by the end of February 2019. McMahan wanted to honour the previous Star Trek series by including alien designs from throughout the franchise. He particularly wanted to reference The Animated Series to acknowledge it as the franchise’s first animated series and make it “even more canon than it was before”. The uniforms worn by the crew of the Cerritos are based on unused designs for the film Star Trek Generations (1994) which McMahan said look similar to costumes used in all Star Trek series.
In January 2020, Discovery composer Jeff Russo expressed interest in also composing the score for Lower Decks, but said that may not be possible due to his workload and the large number of Star Trek series being produced at the same time. He suggested that he could oversee some other composers for Lower Decks and the other Star Trek series if Kurtzman asked him to. In July, Chris Westlake was revealed to be the composer for the series after previously working with McMahan on Solar Opposites.
The first 10-episode season of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiered on 06 August 2020, on CBS All Access in the US. Like previous All Access Star Trek series, each episode of Lower Decks is 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 US and Canada. The series had originally been intended for release later in the year, 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 it to be delayed. McMahan explained that negotiations for international distribution could not be similarly moved up, and so the official release of the series outside of the US and Canada would have to wait until those negotiations were completed.
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 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.
A special episode of the CBS All Access Star Trek aftershow The Ready Room, hosted by Star Trek: The Next Generation star Wil Wheaton, was released following the premiere of Lower Decks.
Another aftershow episode was released following the sixth episode of the series’ first season.
Wheaton hosted a virtual panel for the 2020 New York Comic Con after the series’ first season finale which was recorded and released as a third aftershow episode for the series.
- Work on an animated Star Trek series began in June 2018, with McMahan joining as creator and showrunner by that October when Lower Decks was ordered for two seasons by All Access.
- Animation studio Titmouse began work by the following February, with the main cast announced in July 2019.
- Production on the first two seasons shifted to taking place remotely by March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Series
You can find a full index and overview of the Star Trek franchise here.
Production & Filming Details
- Creator(s): Mike McMahan.
- Juno John Lee … (10 episodes, 2020).
- Barry J. Kelly … (4 episodes, 2020).
- Kim Arndt … (3 episodes, 2020).
- Bob Suarez … (3 episodes, 2020).
- Aaron Baiers … co-executive producer (22 episodes, 2020).
- Heather Kadin … executive producer (22 episodes, 2020).
- Katie Krentz … executive producer (22 episodes, 2020).
- Alex Kurtzman … executive producer (22 episodes, 2020).
- Mike McMahan … executive producer (22 episodes, 2020).
- Rod Roddenberry … executive producer (22 episodes, 2020).
- Trevor Roth … executive producer (22 episodes, 2020).
- David Ihlenfeld … producer (10 episodes, 2020).
- Robyn Johnson … co-producer (10 episodes, 2020).
- Ben Kalina … supervising producer (10 episodes, 2020).
- Benjamin Kaltenecker … line producer (10 episodes, 2020).
- Chris Kula … co-executive producer (10 episodes, 2020).
- Chris Prynoski … supervising producer (10 episodes, 2020).
- Shannon Barrett Prynoski … supervising producer (10 episodes, 2020).
- Bradley Winters … co-producer (10 episodes, 2020).
- David Wright … producer (10 episodes, 2020).
- Jennifer Ray … supervising producer: Titmouse Canada (3 episodes, 2020).
- Melissa Beery … line producer (2 episodes, 2020).
- Mike McMahan … (created by) (22 episodes, 2020).
- Gene Roddenberry … (22 episodes, 2020).
- Garrick Bernard … (10 episodes, 2020).
- John Cochran … (10 episodes, 2020).
- Ben Joseph … (10 episodes, 2020).
- Ann Acacia Kim … (10 episodes, 2020).
- Ben Rodgers … (10 episodes, 2020).
- M. Willis … (10 episodes, 2020).
- David Ihlenfeld … (1 episode, 2020).
- Chris Kula … (1 episode, 2020).
- David Wright … (1 episode, 2020).
- Music: Chris Westlake.
- Editor(s): Todd Raleigh.
- Production: CBS Eye Animation Productions, Secret Hideout, Important Science, Roddenberry Entertainment, and Titmouse, Inc.
- Distributor(s): CBS Television Distribution.
- Original Network: CBA All Access.
- Release Date: 06 August 2020 to 08 October 2020.
- Running Time: 25 minutes (per episode).
- Rating: PG.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.