Turning inner space into outer space

October 18, 2020

Lower Decks may finally be the new Star Trek we grow to love

Riker and Troi in the Lower Decks finale

Now that its first season has ended, Star Trek: Lower Decks finds itself in a strange new world — a new Star Trek TV show with good reviews.

Discovery and Picard have not fared well with the critics. The biggest problem is that these shows don’t feel like the Star Trek we’ve come to know and love over the years. In the end, what critics and fans want is Star Trek: The Next Next Generation.

Picard, despite the presence of the main character in TNG, plus the presence of three others, didn’t cut it. For one thing, this version of Picard (the character) is old and tired. For another, he’s no longer the captain of the best starship in the fleet — he’s merely the leader of a band of renegades.

Lower Decks, on the other hand, takes us back to the TNG days with no apologies. Their ship isn’t as great as the Enterprise, but it looks and functions the same. Although it’s played for comedy, the feel is like good old TNG.

At least three of the old TNG characters have shown up, and they are young and vital — like they were before.

The first reviews for Lower Decks, based on the first four episodes released to critics, were mostly not good.

Alan Sepinwall, for Rolling Stone: “Whatever the reason, Lower Decks is the latest disappointment in the Star Trek stewardship of CBS All Access and producer Alex Kurtzman.”

Mike Hale, for the New York Times: “There are several Prime Directives being violated there, one having to do with lazy joke writing.”

By the time we get to the finale, things are looking better, Swapna Krishna, writing for Vulture (part of New York magazine), says “Mike McMahan and his team deliver a funny, heartfelt, and satisfying conclusion that holds a lot of interesting implications for the second season of the show.”

And: “All in all, this was a strong and well-written first season.”

At Comic Years, Joshua M. Patton sums up the shift in feelings toward Lower Decks:

“Humor is subjective, of course. So, while more than a few scenarios in this series didn’t work for me, there were plenty that did. The holodeck episode and the episode about the Starfleet medical colony were two particularly standout episodes. They were able to leverage the idea of Starfleet as something less-than a force for good into some great comedy. However, the Star Trek: Lower Decks finale episode is the pinnacle of the season, perhaps intentionally so.”

Assuming that Lower Decks will continue to improve in Season 2, there is much to look forward to.