‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Animated Series Marks Significant Milestone

Last fall CBS announced a two-season order for an adult animated comedy for CBS All Access titled Star Trek: Lower Decks, to be developed by Rick and Morty writer/producer Mike McMahan. Not much has emerged since, but today the show took a significant step forward.

Lower Decks has first table read

This morning Mike McMahan took to Twitter to reveal that the first table read for the first episode of the show is today. He also showed a picture of an empty room, indicating he got there early.

A table read is when cast and crew get together to read the script as the episode is in pre-production. This is a significant milestone for Star Trek: Lower Decks and indicates that the premise for the show has been locked down and at least the first script has been written. More significantly, it implies that the show has been cast with voice actors. To date, there have been no announcements or revelations about a cast for the show, but that’s fairly typical for an animated series.

While the first script reading is a big step, there is still a ways to go before episodes can be completed. Typically for animated shows and movies, the voice work is recorded before the animation process begins.  In March, executive producer Alex Kurtzman talked to TrekMovie about Lower Decks (and the more kid-oriented Nickelodeon animated Trek series), setting expectations:

So, the animation takes about a year to turn around, it’s a very long process. Both of those shows are moving forward now, and have series orders and we will drop them when they are ready, but I would say 2021 or ’22.

Set phasers to hilarious

As of now, there are few details known about the show except that it will be a half-hour comedy focused on the support crew serving on “one of Starfleet’s least important ships.” In the original announcement McMahan stated: “As a life-long Trekkie, it’s a surreal and wonderful dream come true to be a part of this new era of Star Trek. While Star Trek: Lower Decks is a half-hour, animated show at its core, it’s undeniably ‘Trek’ – and I promise not to add an episode at the very end that reveals the whole thing took place in a training program.”

While it hasn’t been confirmed in what era the show will take place, it would not be surprising if it was the Star Trek: The Next Generation era as Mike McMahan is the author of Warped: An Engaging Guide to the Never-Aired 8th Season, which arose from his popular parody Twitter account @tng_s8 t about an imagined eighth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show also already has a fan in TNG star Jonathan Frakes who has said he saw some early work on the development of the show and called it “hilarious.”


Keep up with all the upcoming Star Trek TV projects here at TrekMovie.com.

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Luke Montgomery

meh. I really do not like the idea of a Trek cartoon. Mush less even if it is cannon. If its just something fun but not cannon, like comics, then it’s cool. But I don’t want to imagine that this has to be taken seriously as part of the larger overall 50-plus year story

Josiah Rowe

Couple of things:

1) It’s “canon”, not “cannon.” Nothing to do with big guns. Pet peeve.

2) If it’s “the idea of a Trek cartoon” that you object to, what about the 1973–74 animated series? The copyright owners have been inconsistent about whether that should be considered canonical or not, but elements from it (especially the episode “Yesteryear” have been referred to in multiple subsequent series.

3) If your objection is to the notion that something in a different medium “has to be taken seriously as part of the larger overall 50-plus year story,” I have a radical suggestion: you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Even if Alex Kurtzman comes out and says “Lower Decks is canon, just like every other Star Trek series and film” — you don’t have to accept it, or make it fit in, if you don’t want to. You won’t be excommunicated from the Church of Trek. You may find that some or most fans disagree with you, but that’s OK. Canon really doesn’t matter, unless you’re working on a project like Memory Alpha — and even then, it only matters because everybody needs to know the rules of the game. Because that’s all canon is, really: a game in which we put details from decades of TV and movie stories into a single imaginary narrative. You don’t have to play, and if you can find enough people who want to play with a different set of rules, you are free to do that.

tl;dr: Canon really doesn’t matter. Watch the show, or don’t. It’s OK.

Perfectly said!

Mark Calcagno

Yes, exactly this.

Star Trek has always been pretty inconsistent, apart from art direction. Vulcan was conquered, then it wasn’t. Lithium crystals turned into Dilithium crystals. Klingons are in the Federation, then they aren’t. 1701 can go Warp 14, but then Warp 10 is the fastest, unless it’s All Good Things, where the 1701-D can go Warp 13. First Contact with the Klingons? Not exactly the disaster we were led to believe it was.

In short, Star Trek is about the stories in this world, not about the history, but the people living it. It’s okay when a phaser comes out the torpedo tube, because what’s more important is Picard and Dathan on the surface of the planet.

JayMar

Personally I happen to like TAS, especially “Yesteryear.” Yes some are cheesy but entertaining even to an 80 yr old like me. I prefer those early treks more than anything made by JJ Abrams or containing the political commentary of today. I will not watch Discovery nor do I plan to watch the new Piccard. I have every movie, book, comics, and all TV series. That will keep me busy for a little while.

Chancellor Gowron

It’s all an interconnected web. You can ignore Lower Decks if you want, but the other shows won’t ignore it. Ideas introduced in this show will appear in the other shows.

moauvian waoul

Couple of things:

1) 3 things is not a couple. Pet peeve.

Luke, think of it this way: The mere existence of Lower Decks gives us Trekkies a unique new window into Star Trek that we’ve only ever glimpsed briefly until now. Look at present-day Earth: we have procedural dramas and soap operas and situation comedies and on and on and on–each showing us a slice of daily life. This will be a slice of Trek life, making that universe seem a little more real and fleshed out.

At least, that’s how I’m approaching it. :)

Garth Lorca

The mere existence of “Powerless” didn’t open a unique window for DC TV either. Just because it exists doesn’t make it worthwhile or anything…some “slices” of certain universes just aren’t worth checking out.

That said, I DO look forward to this one (and the other CGI cartoon)…

ML31

The thing about “Powerless” is that the show ended up being nothing like the pilot that was a hit at Comicon previous to airing. God only knows why things were changed for the worse but they were.

Holden

Trek cartoons are a part of canon already (TAS). Beyond that, of course, part of the appeal of this project is McMahan’s involvement with ‘Rick and Morty,’ which is as smart about time travel and alternate realities as any recent Trek iteration (though some of that might be Harmon’s influence). Why couldn’t that “fun” be part of canon?

Joe

I will be halfway interested in the Nickelodeon show if it is done like Star Wars: The Clone Wars but a flat out comedy like Futurama, no thank you.

Dillan

I think it’ll be more like the producers’s previous show, Trollhunters.

Tezna

That would be good. Trollhunters is an awesome series.

I don’t watch Futurama all that much, but I did catch ‘Mobius Dick’ this morning before work – damn near perfect mash up of several TOS/TNG movies, funny as hell. It won’t kill the franchise to loosen the corset a little….

Mark Calcagno

It’s INCREDIBLE

Eric Cheung

I’m loving the diversity of show concepts in this new era of Trek. In the 1990s, the only truly different Trek show was DS9. Now, we get a look at many more facets behind the Trek future, beyond elite Starfleet personnel. I’m loving that the kids show focuses on civilians who find a derelict Starfleet vessel. It reminds me of the fan-film series Star Trek: Aurora. I love that there’s a Picard show which does not appear to follow a Starfleet crew at all, possibly including Picard, as he’d be post-Starfleet. I’m looking forward to the Section 31 show, and to where season three of Discovery takes us, now that they too might not exactly be beholden to Starfleet rules and regulations, or even a command structure.

PEB

THIS! This so much!! There’s really so many facets of life to explore in the Trek universe that fall outside of Starfleet and the Utopian Federation. Just think about how many possibilities for shows and comics and video games there are when you branch outside of Starfleet a bit.

Alec Grimes

And DS9 took chances like Discovery…and I still believe DS9 is the best written of all The Trek series. It got a lot of hate…bit damn…the writing was top notch !

Marja

DS9 is my favorite, from the father-son affection of the Siskos to Jadzia’s sense of fun to grumpy Odo and snarky Quark and stubborn Kira to the best villain in Trek, Gul Dukat, and those crazy Ferengi, DS9 is the best-rounded of all the series and the one I go back to again and again.

I love that Discovery has taken chances with being “dark” and it is so interesting because of that, and the crew are a new “family” to love.

Bring on “Pike’s Enterprise” and have another Trek property for us to enjoy. Greedy much? Yes. Yes, we are!

ML31

Glad to hear this! This is the one show mentioned coming down the pipe that I am actually genuinely excited for. My guess is it would be set in the TNG era. That era is far more rife for laughs and as the article said, it seems McMahan is more of a TNG guy than TOS guy. Now I hope it’s clever and funny! Would be a casting coup to get Stewart to voice Picard in a cameo here and there as he has done for Seth from time to time over the years. One wonders if Frakes has seen scripts because he may be guest voicing Riker? I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to this one.

Tom Kalivoda

just curious why, you think Tng timeline is rife with laughs. Ds9 had some funny moments, but TNG was never funny

ML31

DS9 is in the same time frame as TNG, is it not? I just feel like the entire era feels to have way more joke material than TOS does. Not that a TOS era set comedy couldn’t be funny too….

“TNG was never funny”

I don’t think you’ve watched TNG in a while.

● “Starship Mine” – Act I
● “Timescape” – Teaser
● “Data’s Day” – Pretty much the whole episode
● Almost any episode with Lwaxana Troi (and especially the last act of “Ménage a Troi”)

I mean, it wasn’t The Orville (our friend ML31 would argue that The Orville isn’t, either!), but when Star Trek: The Next Generation wanted to tickle your funny bone, it usually resulted in a memorable episode.

TNG was a dry sense of humor. Very dry, downright dusty dry.

Tiger2

Agreed, TNG had a lot of comedic moments within the show. They didn’t do a lot of ‘comedic’ episodes like you found on DS9 and VOY but they definitely kept it light with a lot of fun character interactions. Data provided most of them but even Worf had plenty. Riker was the one who cracked all the jokes. And of course you had supporting characters like Q and Lwaxana Troi show up to lighten things up (not counting Q Who of course ;)).

Tezna

Don’t forget ‘Qpid’
Worf: I MUST PROTEST!I AM NOT A MERRY MAN!

Marja

UGH. I did NOT like that episode. I hate clunky humor.

Much better was Data’s Ode to Spot. Now that was funny, at least to cat people!

Tiger2

Really? QPid is still one of my favorite episodes. Watched it again a few months ago.

ML31

For me, at least, it was the only Q episode that worked. It showed that Q works best as comedy relief.

ML31

The only funny tings in TNG were “Captain I protest, I am NOT a merry man!” And Worf smashing Geordi’s lute like Belushi. Beyond that… Not much to laugh at.

Rife for laughs….lets face it, TNG was largely the bureaucratic face of the Federation that took itself way to seriously.
Hey, Starfleet officer, what do you do for fun? I enjoy the 18th century symphony, and study Klingon archelogy on the side.
Hey, Starfleet enlisted crewmember, what do you do for fun? (___________) Fill in the blank, Lower Decks!

tacotuesday

A very long process indeed! Wow. Looking forward to more details in the coming years.

bassmaster22

No one asked for this show but we’ll get it anyway. It’s all about the $$$.

Kirk's Other Brother Not Named Sam

Someone literally did ask for this show: CBS. Two seasons of it to be exact. For the purpose of making money — same as any other TV show.

ML31

No one asked for Spock to pull an adoptive sister out of thin air or a prequel show that looks like it belongs 50 years AFTER Nemesis either. But here we are.

Okay, I’ll play. Nobody asked for Sybok, fountain of youth planet, Nexus, space hippies, Voyager, and temporal police, either. It’s always about the dollars.

MattR

The production of EVERY official Star Trek film, television, book, product, attraction, etc. has been about money.

PEB

I’ll keep up the thread: No one asked for Uhura to flirt with Scotty. No one.

TG47

Did anyone in the 60s think that their lives were incomplete without pastel-coloured purring puffs that irritate Klingons?

Legate Damar

Did anyone ask for any of the shows?

Marja

I am laughing so hard right now!

Yes! It’s true! They made a product — one that generations of us have absolutely LOVED. And the world is better for it, too!

Thank you Desilu, NBC, Paramount, CBS, and CBSAA, and any other Trek creation companies I’ve forgotten.

My life has been a little better because you all made a product that told a great space/science/fantasy adventure story that has given hope and ideas to millions of people!

— A fan for 51 years and still loving it

Holden

Yeah, technically, nobody asked for a Star Trek series in 1966. I know some then wanted more intelligent sci-fi on 1960s TV, but which of them would have imagined the series we were given. Point is most fans don’t really know what they want.

They know exactly what they want. The opposite of whatever Trek is at any given moment!!

3ill

I personally asked for it.

Danpaine

While I wouldn’t necessarily consider anything regarding this as canon, it may be good for a few laughs – I’d give it a chance.

TG47

After watching The Escape Artist, the Short Trek featuring Harry Mudd, I’m more than willing to see what McMahan does with this.

I’m wondering about the animation style though. I don’t mind 2-D, but the drawings for the 8th season book cover aren’t something that appeals to me.

Josiah Rowe

There’s no reason to expect that the show’s art style will be anything like the cover (and interior illustrations) of “Warped”. Those illustrations are by comics artist Jason Ho. I don’t think he’s associated with “Lower Decks”, though it seems he is a Trek fan:

http://jasonbot.com/?cat=42

TG47

Thanks…

It sounds as though McMahan has a strong visual sense based on what Rainn Wilson has said about the script for The Escape Artist.

So I had that McMahan might have had some role in the cover for his book…

…but it’s true enough that authors often are the last to be asked about cover art.

Houseofquark

I’m surprised to see the negative reaction. Ferengi, Klingons, Vulcans, and Cardassians can be and often are pretty hysterical. This show could be a fun way to dive into the Trek universe. For the record, I absolutely think Discovery is terrible. I am not all sunshine and rainbows but the idea of adult animation exploring this universe is pretty interesting to me.

In the context of Starfleet’s enlisted personel, this should be funny. When my son was in the Navy, I discovered that the folks below decks had a wicked sense of humor through social media, allbeit very salty humor. It’ll be worth a look.

Marja

Yiss, yiss, indeed we do ..!

Andrew SD

I’m sure it will be funny. Every time I see the cover of Warped I laugh literally out loud.

Gorkenspork

Can we get Kevin Conroy as a completely incompetent ensign who thinks he’s the biggest genius ever? Maybe one who likes bats and dark places? …maybe?

So, the adventures of Demoted Barclay?

Alec Grimes

Lol. He took a dig at the final episode of Enterprise. Truly a God awful episode where their last mission was actually a holodeck training program for Riker.
I swear…who ever wrote that episode and whoever approved it…need their butts whupped for that travesty of a finale.

Marja

Agreed. I always skip that one.

Tiger2

To be fair, nearly everyone takes a dig at the final episode of Enterprise. ;)

Not me. I like it just fine. Well, except for the stuff with Trip.

ML31

Yeah. I still consider Terra Prime to be the ACTUAL series finale. And it ended on quite the touching note.

Picard’s Patty

Do…not…care!

Maurício

Does CBS consider STD as a “adult” series ?

ML31

It feels to me that STD is squarely aimed at tweeners and up.

Fabio

I really do not care how cool a comic or satirical cartoon about Star Trek can be. The real mission should be to take the classic animated series and turn it into something modern, relevant, complex and interesting, using ALL the Star Trek universe. For everything else there are The Simpsons or Family Guy.

Jay

The more Star Trek, the better. They have to select what to portray and how to portray a good Star Trek story. Also the format and the appropriate narrative for the current generation/audience. This is not my format to see Star Trek, but we should all be more welcoming to more Star Trek, in any new format…to live long…and prosper!

ML31

Agreed. Not all the Treks planned to come down the pipe are my cup of tea. I’m a fan so I’ll probably try to catch all of them. But some, like this one, I look forward to more than others. Like the Section 31 show.

3ill

If CBS comes out with a diverse slate of new Trek show ideas and you hate them all, maybe the problem is with you and not the franchise.

TG47

Uhm, 3ill it depends on whether the core ideas of the brand are retained across the diverse slate or menu of products.

Discovery had such a rough start, even for a Trek series, that a good portion of its historic audience is doubtful whether the new powers that be, either at CBS or Secret Hideout, actually understand the key foundations of the brand.

Yes, the Star Trek brand has different dimensions, and it makes excellent strategic sense to emphasize these across a slate of niche offerings, but we still are hearing messaging that doesn’t quite indicate that they ‘get it’.

Dumping on fans for saying that TPTB are still missing the point isn’t constructive in my view.

Instead, I’m hoping that the new global marketing team can set up some focus groups (including outside the US) that can help them to better describe the brand back to the creatives.

Last thought, the writers and editors of the Relaunch Trek novels have already accomplished what many of us are looking for.

They basically work like a writers room. It’s been more than 15 years since they had to stick to episodic novels where nothing changed at the end. I found the old novels often boring because of this, but many published since 2002 are excellent.

It was rough at the start, but it works across all the Trek series and timeperiods.

Different writers have different styles. Some story arcs are very serial and other books work as stand alone. Some are darker, others lighter. Some focus on exploration and science. Others on politics. There is even an author who is a professor of sociology who focuses on those aspects. Readers can get to know which of the authors they like best.

But it works, and still feels like Trek.

There are books and trilogies that many of us would love to see brought to the screen (e.g. Destiny). There are new characters and characters that have grown phenomenonally that we would love to see brought to life (Lt. T’ressa Chen – half Vulcan human first contact specialist who is estranged from her Vulcan half; Captain Ezri Dax)

CBS and Secret Hideout could learn a great deal from the Relaunch book experience.