SDCC19: ‘Lower Decks’ Panel Unveils An Animated Comedy By And For Star Trek Fans

We wrap up our detailed coverage of the Star Trek Universe panel at San Diego Comic-Con with the upcoming CBS All Access animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks. Creator and executive producer (and Rick and Morty writer/producer) Mike McMahan joined Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin on stage, and he brought along three members of his voice cast: Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, and Jerry O’Connell  (who also acted as moderator). We previewed some of the artwork and highlights over the weekend, but there was a lot more revealed during the panel.

Animated comedy set after ‘Nemesis,’ focusing on fun personal stories

Mike McMahan gave a general overview of the series:

Lower Decks is a half-hour animated show, so it feels like about the same length as a Simpsons episode. It focuses on four ensigns who are serving on a not important ship in Starfleet. And they have stories that I think feel very Starfleet. They are stories about working on a ship and who are working with. They are social and emotional stories mixed with sci-fi stories, because every Star Trek is about a family, and our show is also about a family, it is just not the same kind of family you have seen before… It takes place in 2380, right after Star Trek Nemesis. I am a TNG guy.

McMahan later explained his approach to the show and how it is focused on what would be the B-stories from other Trek series:

For me and TNG, I was there for the B-stories. You know: Riker is trapped on a planet with his transporter clone, great, I love that. But, Data and Geordi are writing a play and getting into a fight about it? That is what I want. I love that stuff. And to write a show that is primarily the kind of social stories on the ship that also has sci-fi, and a comedy at the same time. Animation helps it bridge from the first frame, that it is like, “Oh this is what I love,” but it is focusing and heightening a thing that I always knew was there, but wasn’t always the main thing in the show.

Creator Mike McMahan speaks at the Lower Decks panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019

A comedy for Star Trek fans that doesn’t mock Star Trek

McMahan also wanted to assure fans that the show is made from a love of Star Trek and has no interest in mocking Trek:

There is a lot of familiar Star Trek in it. It was really important to me that even though we are a comedy, the comedy does not come from punching down on Trek, or making fun of tropes. It feels like every episode is a Star Trek episode, but we are focusing on people in the ship who are funny, and you will love.

He also noted how the humor has levels, some of which will only play to more hardcore fans of Trek:

It’s funny enough and it’s clear enough that if you have never seen Star Trek before, this can be your first Star Trek, and then be like: “I guess there is some live-action Star Trek, too.” But if you love Star Trek, it is in a shared universe. So, there are jokes, and jokes that you guys will get, about like Odo’s bucket. You don’t need to know Odo and his bucket for you to believe the characters on the show know about it.

Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid on the Lower Decks panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019

Four main characters – a misfit family of ensigns

Tawny Newsome described her Ensign Beckett Mariner:

She is like what I think I am in my head all the time. She is always very irreverent and a badass and doesn’t follow the rules. I am actually a speed-limit driving total wimp. She is very good at all things Starfleet, she just doesn’t care. She has been demoted a ton of times. She should be way further in the ranks than she is. She is just kind of like a weirdo rock and roll party queen who just wants to ride her skateboard and eat her piece of pizza in peace, man.

Ensign Mariner of Star Trek: Lower Decks

Jack Quaid on his Ensign Brad Boimler:

I play Ensign Brad Boimler and that expression [on character preview] says it all. He is basically the opposite of Mariner. He is very by the book. He really wants to be a captain. He is very booksmart but constantly getting in his own way. He gets very in his head. I always say he would nail the written portion of the driving test with flying colors but once it actually got to him being in the car, it would be a complete and total disaster. And these two [Boimler and Mariner], they clash…Boimler is very “pearl-clutchy.”

Ensign Boimler of Star Trek: Lower Decks

Mike McMahan described Ensign Tendi (voiced by Noël Wells):

It’s her first day on the ship in the pilot, so we are going to explore this new niche of the Star Trek world through her eyes. She was a huge a Starfleet fan, even through Starfleet Academy. So being on the ship, every day just blows her mind. There is no job…she is in the medical bay, and there is no gross alien illness that she is not just absolutely thrilled to be dealing with. She is kind of like if I got to be on a Star Trek ship and I would be like “yeah, whatever. I will deal with anything, I just want to be here.” That is what Tendi is like. She is also hilarious and just a source of joy.

Ensign Tendi of Star Trek: Lower Decks

Mike McMahan described Ensign Rutherford (voiced by Eugene Cordero):

He is our engineer. Like Geordi La Forge he is amazing at engineering stuff. But, unlike Geordi La Forge, he does not solve the problems by the end of every episode. Because he is learning and sometimes science is about learning stuff and making mistakes. He has this cyborg implant on his head that he just got and it’s like when you get a new phone and they got rid of the button, do I swipe now? But that’s, but how he thinks. He is a TNG early adopter.

Ensign Rutherford of Star Trek: Lower Decks

Set on the USS Cerritos

Mike McMahan also took some time to describe the ship itself:

You guys all know that one of the most important characters on one of these shows is the ship. We have a brand new ship design and class, it is called the California Class. [shows image of standard TNG-style holodeck] This holodeck breaks all the time. It never works right. We are not going to show you the ship today, but I wanted to tell you it is California Class. We have a whole class of ship that operates at the same time as the larger classes of ship, but they do kind of like support work. So, we are going to be exploring. And the show takes place on a ship named [USS] Cerritos.

There still is a bridge crew

Even though the show is focused on the ensigns on the “lower decks” of the USS Cerritos, McMahan said it was still important to have developed a bridge crew for the show:

It was important to me that our ship felt like an operating ship in Starfleet and there were characters on the ship – senior officers – who consider it to be their show, even though it’s not. So, we have a fully fleshed out bridge crew.

He gave a quick summary of the senior officers for the USS Cerritos:

We have Lt. Shaxs (voiced by Fred Tatasciore), a big, muscly Bajoran who wants to eject the warp core all the time. We have Dawnn Lewis as Captain Freeman who is a stoic, ethically-bound, classic Starfleet captain. And then we got Commander Jack Ransom, who is sort of a hunky guy, played by this goofball [Jerry O’Connell]. He is kind of like Riker if you gave him a little bit of speed and a little less shame. And then Gillian Vigman plays Dr. T’Ana who is a Caitian. Dr. T’Ana is our head of medical. She is really, really bad at talking to people, but really good at solving sci-fi space mysteries.

The senior officers for the USS Cerritos on Star Trek: Lower Decks

Having too much fun recording

Jerry O’Connell, who has an extensive career in both live-action and voice acting, had high praise for his time working on Lower Decks:

I don’t think professionally I have had as much fun as being in a recording session with Mike McMahan. And I just know that you are all going to have as much fun watching it.

While animated shows often have actors record their dialogue individually, Tawny Newsome revealed that she and Jack Quaid sometimes record together as their characters are often teamed up:

It’s insane, it’s so great. We love doing it together too. Occasionally Jack and I get to record together which is so ridiculous. I don’t think we say most of the words that are on your fine script. Allow us to apologize, sir. What we tend to do is riff and play off of each other. Who knows what you will use, but the freedom to do that is as an actor and an improviser, that is such an amazing gift to be trusted with it. It makes it even more fun.

Jack added:

My favorite parts of our riffs are the last ten seconds where we are like: “There is no way this is getting in the show,” but someone was like, “Keep them going, let’s see where this goes.”

Jerry O’Connell moderates the Lower Decks panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019

The unusual pitch that lead to ‘Lower Decks’

Executive producer Heather Kadin discussed the serendipity that resulted in Lower Decks:

A lot us in our office are huge fans of Rick and Morty…And our colleague [Secret Hidout VP] Aaron Baiers said you have to meet the guy who runs Rick and Morty – Mike McMahan – because he is a massive Star Trek fan… So, Mike McMahan came in and said: “I don’t know if you guys would be interested in doing the kind of Star Trek like I want to do. I am a lifelong Star Trek fan, but I am curious to do a show on what happens on the lower decks of a ship.” And we were like “yes!” We were blown away.

Alex Kurtzman gave some more detail on McMahan’s unusual pitch:

You can hear [the love of Trek] from the way Mike is talking about it. We knew it the second he came in to pitch the show. He said: “You guys probably don’t want to do this, but I want to do a show about the people who bring the yellow cartridge to the replicator so a banana can come out the other side.” And I said, “Stop, we have to get you an office, right now!”

Expanding Star Trek into animation to make the world a better place

Currently, The CBS Star Trek group is developing two animated Star Trek series. In addition to the more adult-oriented Lower Decks for CBS All Access, they are also at work on a more kids-oriented show for Nickelodeon, which they actually started on before McMahan came in with his pitch. Alex Kurtzman explained why now is the time for Star Trek to branch out into animation:

Obviously, [Star Trek: The Animated Series] is a huge fan favorite. As we looked to expanding the world of Trek and you see that animation is at this incredible renaissance right now. Some of the best stories that are being told, are being told in the animation space. Between [Spider-man: Into the] Spider-verse and Rick and Morty you have got such an incredible moment. The thing that is so fun for us is we get to experiment with different animation styles and different tones.

Kurtzman also took on the notion that Star Trek can be limited:

I think people have perceived that Trek is limited in what it can be. Our thesis it has to be what it has always been to everybody, but it can also be more. It can expand. It has to be a show for the fans, first and foremost, but we want to bring in so many other people. Part of that is bringing them in younger, because there has never been an initiative to get to kids when they were younger. Trek is an amazing thing that teaches you how to be a better person in the world and has incredible values and talks about importance of diversity and the importance of caring about other people and all these really, really essential things that people should be hearing about and knowing about early in their lives, so we can make the world a better place. So, you take that and add Mike McMahan, and you get something really weird.

Heather Kadin and Alex Kurtzman during the Lower Decks panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019

More SDCC 2019

Check out the rest of our San Diego Comic-Con 2019 coverage, and stay tuned to TrekMovie for more from the Star Trek Universe panel and beyond.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Wait this is canon? If not, and it’s just a goofy animated series, why care about when it’s set? Looks fun though. I’ll check it out.

Please don’t let this be cannon. I love the concept as entertainment… but like the comics, audio books or novels. NOT a real show.

I honestly doubt it’s going to be canon. It might be treated like an in-universe holonovel, but it won’t be canon. I do expect the ship to show up in more realistic form in Star Trek Online, though.

Why not?

They’ve set it at a point in time where Picard will have locked down broad strokes for the Federation, Starfleet and the surrounding alien polities.

Lower Decks can be itself and provide some science stories as its B plots without creating a lot of restricting canon.

I agree TG47

I think it will be fine if it’s canon. I don’t think it’s going to be any big stories given the premise and just reference a lot.

My issue is it’s a comedy series. If it’s canon, they either have to limit themselves to what jokes they can make (ie: they can’t have a Starfleet Captain doing over-the-top silly things, and they can’t have known characters pop up for comedic purposes)– OR — you are suddenly face with the concept of these wild, zany Starfleet officers actions being part of the actual mythology.

Off the top of my head, an episode could revolve around a character mistakenly wiping out an entire civilization when he acquires Q-like powers and the crew making jokes about it.

Is that something we want to be canon? Prefer it to be non-canon, then Trek veterans can show up in their official roles in self-deprecating ways. We could have Burnham show up in her time jumping suit and shout “Ex Machina!” as she resolves the entire plot of the episode in one fell swoop and disappearing.

The advantages of being non canon, and disadvantages of canon are very clear.

I mean, we had a Q completely remove all the men from a ship and it was a joke. The action isn’t the joke, the resolution is the funny part.

Also your Burnham reference is poking fun at Trek, it’s not the tone this show seems to be going for.

Then i’m not sure what the point of this show is, considering there’s a canon animated series coming to Nickelodeon. This SHOULD be a non-canon, off-the-wall comedy where anything can happen.

And your reference to Q is one thing– it was a one time thing that was undone. I’m referring to some form of genocide that is permanent and laughed at, because that is black comedy gold.

Lol that’s a great idea and as much as I’d like to see it I’d doubt they’d go that far even if the show is noncanon .

Get over the obsession with “canon”. Star Trek has a massive history with mountains of plot holes and canon issues yet its survived just fine.

This looks like some good fun and what ST needs to expand and evolve into more than standard ship plus crew encountering whatever alien, planet of the week trope.

If you think I have an obsession with canon, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Why is it that so many people can’t understand a plan, clear argument? Smdh. Stoopido.

This, one million times over.

Thank God, for one small respite in this era of Trump: Blowhards puff up their chests with narcissistic pride and pound their virtual podiums declaring others their mental inferiors while simultaneously exposing to all their total inability to expertly proofread their own copy.


Agree as well. Their situations will likely not be universe shattering. They are likely not going to come up with the next spore drive or be involved in the 2nd Dominion war or something.

And that’s pretty disappointing. Would love some wild stuff. Even as much as i like DSC, mocking the spore drive would be fun.

They can certainly mock the spore drive. To them it was a failed experiment from a century ago. They just won’t be coming up with a new version of something universe-shattering LIKE the spore drive. Pretty sure nothing that happens on this show will have an effect beyond their own show.

It’s cannon

It’s canon. A cannon is a cannon.

Everything they’ve said leads me to believe this is canon. It shouldn’t be a problem. Trek has done comedy episodes before, and it doesn’t sound like anything in this show is seriously going to shake up the status quo. It will just be a fun little addition to the canon.

That’s disappointing. Serious limitations on the comedy if this is canon. I was hoping for some Rick & Morty level craziness.

I’m thinking it will be more Simpsons levels of craziness.

Ah. I am far less interested if that is the case.

Well you know, you could wait to make that judgement for when you actually see it.

My thing is, we’re in the silver age of Star Trek at last, this is a time when, like back in the nineties, the Golden Age of Trek, we have a lot more material to choose from. Don’t like Discovery? Short Treks? Picard? Section 31? Lower Decks? The Nickelodeon series? Well, maybe you’ll have one that you will like…there’s a lot on the horizon to choose from and I’m betting you’ll find something you love. (I personally am excited about Picard more so than anything)

I haven’t made a judgement, have I? I said I was less interested.

If you bothered to pay attention you’d know I’m really enjoying Discovery, am totally pumped for Picard, and am dying for a 1701 spinoff.

You misunderstood me. I wasn’t saying that YOU don’t like Discovery…I was listing all of the shows coming out…you see there’s a good chance that out of all of those shows, you’ll find something you might not like…but there’s still a good chance that you’ll find the opposite. In other words, there’s gonna be something for everyone, you may not like one show but most likely you’ll like another. And it pleases me to learn you are excited about Picard and the Pike series.

And the “judgement” you made was that you are less interested. But I honestly don’t care either way.

“A lot to choose from” is not necessarily a virtue. Google “cereal aisle syndrome.”

I would much rather they focus on a single project or two and do it well.

Precisely. There is no need to get all strung up about the show being canon. That is taking the STEU far too seriously. There is room for all the genres in a canonical universe. It’s NOT a big deal.

Agreed. I think people seem to be misinterpretting my attitude towards this. It’s disappointing but not earth shattering. It will restrict the show from being what I was looking for, that is all. Not unlike those who wish DSC hadn’t been a prequel.

I’d be in for making it canon but either way I’m excited to see it.

I am willing to play it more loose with the canon (loose cannon ;)

Don`t get me wrong, I like the Prime Time Continuity and all, but … look at the Marvel Stuff (or DC for that matter ;), the have different universes in Comic, Series and movie form … Iron Man from the MCU shares similarities with Iron Man from the Ultimate Comics etc.

I pretty much see the Star Trek Universe as a Meta Universe with a certain set of characters, and depending on the form, they CAN be re-interpreted…! We can have more than one Actor play Pike, we can have the new and the old Enterprise design.

So… I can beleive that a version of the USS Cerritos XD and it´s crew exists in our dear Prime Timeline. But the events taking place must not translate 1 to 1 into that universe. Just like some elements of TAS where canonized and others not.

Purists, please leave the pitchforks alone XD

My biggest issue with there being a million different versions of Superman, is that once you find yourself liking one…they reboot the bloody thing all over again.

That’s what has always made franchises like Star Trek, Doctor Who and only a handful of other ones actually more unique for me, I know that when I’m watching it, every other show from Star Trek that ever happened, still happened in the universe of whatever episode I’m watching.

When I’m watching a Batman movie…it’s different. You know that in any universe that will come out there’s no Jack Nichelson Joker or the dead guy who’s name escapes me from The Dark Knight…the Joker from Suicide Squad was terrible and nothing like the Joker as I think of him as. So no, I have to disagree with you there. The closest I’d like to see Star Trek using different universes for different show is if they make a show set in the Kelvin Timeline or Mirror Universe…only because those are well established…I’m not interested in seeing yet another.

I can understand that. But eventually there will be diversification – which may not be a bad sign. This is when Characters become more, popcultural legends. Icons. Everybody knows Figures like King Arthur or Robin Hood or Frankensteins Monster, or for that matter Batman. They sink into the collective memory and are open for all kinds of interpretation…

Just enjoy it for what it is and don’t get too hung up on its place in the wider franchise… ;)

I’m not usually hung up on canon, but I want a series that is just absolutely bonkers, not a slightly funny animated series.

It’s still might be very bonkers. I mean the holodeck could make things silly, not to mention storylines involving aliens with Q powers…Think of the Superman animated series. It was a pretty straight show for the most part, it was fairly realistic for the world it was set in, and the tone was overall serious. But when Mr. Mxyzptlk showed up, the whole world turned upside down…the episode was absolutely ridiculous, and it was perfectly legit.

I think the character designs for Lower Decks ARE completely bonkers. Dude, I’m expecting it to be bonkers…it might be a more grounded bonkers, but it’ll be bonkers, and totally ridiculous.

Yes, but I want an episode where, for example, the characters beam off a planet in haste while being chased by Borg and at the end of the episode they realize they forgot their dog, who’s now been assimilated, and they just remark “well sh*t.” And then the borg dog lives on the ship and there’s a recurring joke about it trying to assimilate the crew and every now and then it succeeds, but nobody seems to mind.

What i’m hearing sounds like dark humor is out the window, bonkers antics are not on the table, and they’re going “just kinda silly.” If it’s not canon there’s so much more you can do.

I mean, could be good, but not what I really wanted.

That’s actually not a bad idea at all.

Huh…that’s a very specific thing to want to see…you should write them a letter, pitch the idea…it’s very good. I could see that being in the show even if it is canon.

I really expect there to be dark, grown up humor. You know, like “Dead Space”, funny, but with a consciousness how tragic and deadly life (in space) can be. I don’t speak of Grittiness for the sake of it. But there are shows that pull that balance between joy and humor and the tragic of existence of wonderfully. Just think of things having consequences. No reset button.
I think nobody wants Tom&Jerry or ACME level realism here, where the comic figure explodes and is well and alive in the next scene…. If this Series is like that (which I really do not expect) I might skip it actually.

It’s on screen, so yeah, why not.

I mean what difference does it make?

If you end up not liking the show, you could just pretend it doesn’t exist in your own mind. Besides, it’s not like this show would actually crossover with other Trek shows…not unless they get someone to play them in live-action. I could see animated versions of previously established characters appearing in Lower Decks, but that’s about as close to a crossover as we’ll probably see I bet.

The setting of the show is very important to us that care about canon. And I do and I want it to be canon.

I see it kind of like this…what if, at some point, we get some kind of reference to the Impossible Missions Forces being involved in the Eugenics Wars…just some random line of dialogue that references “Mission: Impossible.” What would that mean?

Well in my mind that would mean that the Mission Impossible franchise was set in the same universe as Star Trek. Would that be silly? Not to me It wouldn’t…I mean who really cares anyway right? They are so far apart as franchises so what possible effect could one have on the other. Star Trek is set hundreds of years in the future, while Mission: Impossible is set in the present day more or less, so it’s not like it would be a big deal. Both fandoms could be happy with their franchises they way they are and have always been.

Both franchises are CBS properties, and therefore even the potential for a crossover is vaguely possible, if time travel was thrown into the mix…but most likely that would never happen, because both franchises are so different, and a time travel story for Mission: Impossible may be a bit too sci-fi for that franchise. But hey, Detective Munch from Homicide and Law & Order appeared in an episode of “The X-Files”, so anything is possible.

Back to Lower Decks; it’s such a different show, it’s not going to be an issue at all. I don’t think it will anyway. At least I’m having a hard time understanding why. Now sure, if the show is just nonsensical and couldn’t possibly make sense in the world of Star Trek that’s one thing. Teen Titans Go! is the type of show that comes to mind when I say that. Clearly Teen Titans Go! couldn’t be part of the universe that “Batman: The Animated Series” was part of, because it was waaayy to cartoony. But if the Lower Decks show is (and I think it will be) intelligent and not too cartoony; then it should fit fine into canon. I mean I see the Filmation Star Trek just as canon as any other version, so why not this one too? Are we really gonna just be biased because it’s a little more funny and cartoony then what we’re used to? I don’t think so. But that’s just me.

Note: And yes, I already know that Mission Impossible is a fictional TV series in the Star Trek universe as established in “Future’s End,” but I was just trying to make a point, and besides, who’s to say what the Mission Impossible TV show of the Star Trek universe was even about. All we know is that it was about secret agents.

Here’s the thing. If I don’t like something I don’t need to pretend it doesn’t exist. That’s what nutso fans do. I can just not watch it, and let other people enjoy it, who enjoy it.

I don’t pretend STIV doesn’t exist. Unfortunately it is part of canon as terrible a movie as I think it is. I just don’t watch it.

That reminds me of the great “Tommy Westphall” Problem.

I think making it canon, but actually set on the holodeck would be the way to go with it. That way they can pull off whatever nonsense they want without being something that’s unbelievable. Star Wars can do anything it wants because it essentially operatic space fantasy, a fairytale.
Star Trek is science fiction that is at least meant to allow its audience to believe that what they see could potentially happen sometime in the future.

“Star Wars can do anything it wants” there is still sth called inner consistency. They can invent what they want, as long as it does not contradict established (invented) rules or events (of course there is always retconning stuff). You can’t just make a movie and say “So, Han Solo was always a shaved Wookie.” People would really not accept this. So no, they can not do anything they want.

Looks trendy and stylish, just like what you’d expect from CBS.
Four characters…
Strong woman of color.
Smart woman of color.
Confident man of color.
Foolish looking white man.

…yep…just what you’d expect from CBS.

And you’re clearly the foolish man because all of these characters look silly. It’s a comedy. Relax your bu++hole and stop being so triggered by diversity.

Dr. Grumpy Caitian, I presume?

Yeah XD who knows, what popcultural references we are in for … maybe an Alien Race named Haroldans, who are constantly in Pain and can barely hide it.
Or a traveller like clairvoyant character named Clarence XD

I call her Dr. Purrrlaski

Purrrlaski. NICE.

I know her hair is wrong, but I hope Ensign Tendi is an Orion so we can put an end to the horrid slave characterisation.

Good point GQMF.

And how do we know that black is the only possible hair colour for Orions?

Perhaps green hair is a rare recessive like true redheads/gingers in humans.

It’s also worthwhile to not that in Mike McMahan’s Harry Mudd Short Trek, clearly the Orion women was in charge. So, perhaps McMahan is already on board with turning that regrettable characterization of female Orions.

Maybe she just dyed her hair. My hair doesn’t grow blue either…

This is not trollig: my complaint would be that Aliens are under-represented in this series. You could make 4 out of 5 characters alien without problems :D after all no budget is needed for make up etc.*

That said, I actually am interested in seeing some light shed on other aspects of the orion race besides Piracy and Slavery…

*Sorry, not sorry, I also scratch my head everytime I come across fanfiction that compulsively writes high ranking officers as cheesy cookie cutter americans like “Captain Jackson, Commander Bishop, Captain Powers, Admiral Shepard, Captain Connor etc.” (I invented those, hope you know, what I mean) … XD

Yes I noted that the characters were weighted to the human side (2/4 bridge officers, 3/4 ensigns ).

That said, given that this is the first intentionally humorous Trek show, the creator may have been cautious about how much he wanted to play on personal vs. species characterizations.

A Bajoran, a Caitian, and an Orion seem like safe choices.

On your second point, I agree that there is too heavy a bias to American leaders, regardless of this being an American show. Picard is the only captain that was supposed to be from somewhere other than the area of the continental former U.S. states.

I find this weird for a show that is supposed to be about not just a unified humanity by a multiplies Federation. And at a certain point it limits Tree’s global appeal.

Frankly, most of the characters from Earth are from the former U.S., and other than in TOS, most actors from outside the U.S. have faked American accents.

It really seems a blind spot. I wonder if Kurtzman needs to reach out to bring some writers from outside the US into the teams that are creating the series and the writers rooms for the various shows.

Yes, we see greater diversity in terms of gender, race and sexual orientation, but they are all still very American in perspective.

There was a time when, to make a living, Canadian writers and some from other countries, relocated to LA and formed the core of writers rooms on many popular US shows. Now, many have successful careers at home. So, TPTB would need to get creative to reach out and bring writers from outside the US in.

To be honest every human in Star Trek seems to be culturally american I would like to see some diversity there aswell, they only focus on “race” wich is irrelevant.

Though it’s hard to disagree with you, Denise, it could be justified, that by the time of Star Trek, many cultures will become homogenized. Though we did see them represent cultures like Native American, African, Irish, French, as characters expressed their love of their cultural heritage through direct practice (Chakotay), display of relics and iconography (Sisko), folk tales and traditions (O’Briens) and lifestyle (Picard).

What i’d really like to see them do is not just *show* different cultures, but explore how these cultures have evolved from the present through the time period they are set– what will Asian culture really be like 2380, for example? What does African culture mean to an African American in 2268? What do Hispanic traditions entail in 2364? What does Russian’s cultural heritage mean to them in 2275 beyond drinking vodka and occasionally shouting “Das Vidanya!” every now and then?

There’s a good reason why they never properly shown civilian life on Earth. For one, the risk of insulting other cultures would be too big. For two, it would age poorly. In 1966, 1996 looked like a distant future – and where’s Eugenic wars now? ;)

As far as that risk goes, every year that passes, stories from 90s Trek that were TRYING to be progressive get more and more problematic, and make me cringe. Episodes that make r*pe jokes, play up homosexuality for laughs… or episodes that just go too soft on the issue.

That Dax was never really used to explore the issue of transexuality is a real shame. They touched on it VERY briefly and VERY subtly (but it was more about homosexuality), and even when they did explore controversial issues they tended to take the easy way out and not make any judgements for fear of upsetting bigoted viewers…

I’m glad they’re finally willing to make statements, and let those who get offended be d*mned.

Yeah. Showing different cultures 300 years into the future is problematic. It’s a similar but more difficult proposition than getting into what civilian clothes of the future or what popular culture of the future will be like. It means speculation that only a decade later could seem disastrously wrong.

Pretty much everything Trek does is predict a future that looks silly within 10-20 years. The nature of a series set in “our future.”

Yeah sorry, but if earths culture became homogenized there wouldn’t only be american elements. And seeing how even today there are some cultural differences inside a countries border, I don’t think there will be a homogeneous earth culture in just a few hundreds of years.

Picard for example is not french at all to me. I live on to borders to France right now, I have a bunch of french friends + acquaintances and I travel this country a lot. I do notice some things that are just so differnt from the people in the country I currently live in. But Picard is not even close to anything. Maybe he could pass as an american with a french great great great grandfather whose hobby is british culture.
Giving them a cultural heritage is fine and all, but they never actually(!) show having one. Culture is more than tales, traditions, relics, hairstyle etc. Behaviour, mindset, manners, even gestures etc are also formed by the culture you grew up in and that’s something you don’t see in the humans of Star Trek. If anything in Picard it sometimes only comes through that Patrick Stewart is a british actor, but that’s all the diversity you can really spot.

And there is one thing: Why do you mention african americans? Why not a person who actually is from an african country? As a person with parents who grew up in Tanzania I don’t notice anything in the african americans I know that’s reminding me of anything I know from family and freinds who grew up in an african country. To me they’re just regular americans who happen to be black. How can “african culture” mean anything to people whose roots lay many generations in the past, to people who usually don’t even know where thier roots lie and who usually don’t know much about a single country in africa? I mean even to me the culture of my parents doesn’t mean that much. I grew up in Switzerland, I grew into the swiss culture, I would not fit into Tanzania I would have to adapt to thier culture first(tbh I’m not really interested in doing that) and it would be hard even with my knowledge. I eat the food, I grew up with some of the folklore and stuff, I own some Items that have cultural significance wich is way more than african americans have yet I notice huge cultural differences between me and my parents and that started when I was just a child. And that is only one generation apart!

Uhm, Afterburn, the US isn’t the only multicultural country now, and there is no reason to believe that future human society would reflect a single American-derived melting pot.

Canada is very multicultural, and Russia which you mentioned is another enormous multicultural country where Europeans, Central Asian and Asian cultures meet.

More to the point, it’s bizarre and frankly alienating that practically all the human characters have a ‘home’ set in what is now the continental United States. Picard is really an exception that defines the rule. Is it really true that in the aspirational future the best of Starfleet will always come from the former US?

For successful global branding, TPTB need to look at having characters identified as being from outside the US, and even from distant Federation colonies with their own diverse identities.

As I’ve mentioned before, casting actors from outside the U.S. is a bit wasted when they all are given American identities and put on American accents.

Having more creators, writers, directors etc. from outside the US may be needed to extend the reach of the franchise. It will likely be a legal headache with the guilds, but it would make Trek resonate better.

“For successful global branding, TPTB need to look at having characters identified as being from outside the US”

I have to disagree. Many US series are globally successful, so is Trek. It’s no problem when everyone is american that’s what we know might happen when watching a show or movie from the US. The problem is when they say they embrace diversity and that one person is supposed to be from a specific country but all you see is another person being american(that’s where Picard still fits in). It would be nice to see some actual diversity among humans in Trek but it’s not something that makes someone decide if they watch or don’t watch a show. Just cut the crap about diversity when you don’t deliver that’s all.

The O’Briens weren’t. Bashir wasn’t. Sulu, Chekov, Uhura from TOS. Picard and Troi from TNG. Harry from Voyager. Hoshi and Reed from Enterprise. Georgiou from Discovery. And this is just from the top of my head late at night. I heartily agree that non-Americans are quite under represented. But there have been a number of non-American characters in Star Trek.

Sulu said he was born in San Francisco in that really really bad movie that one time. Which makes him American. But point taken.

They’re still ALL culturally american, some props or background hirstory can’t change how you see them act. I advice you to travel to another country, you will notice a lot of different behaviour if you really observe people. You don’t even have to understand them talk or see thier home to notice that you’re sourrounded by people whose behaviour is formed by growing up in an entirely different culture. Once you talk to them you’ll notice even more.

For example people who come from a culture like the one in the US who move to swiss/austria/germany have huge problems adapting to people being cold, distant and also very direct and straightforward. It’s no untrue cliché and literally everyone will show this behaviour to some degree.

Those things can’t be shaken off easily, there were scenes where for example Hoshi would have reacted or said something very different or at least you would notice her struggle going against her japanese background. Work with japanese people from actual Japan and you’ll know what I mean.

I think it would be good when Star Trek showed, that people can get along with those differences that actually exist in real life and don’t only accept people who only look different or are aliens.

Good job Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin for listening to the fans by keeping it in the prime universe. And for exspanding the Star Trek franchise.

Why would they not keep it Prime? discovery is Prime, Picard is prime. everything CBS has done is in the Prime. Only Paramount went into Kelvin.

And this is EXACTLY why they shouldn’t listen to the fans.

I have to admit my first thought about this show was that I would not even be remotely interested in what I was thinking as a stupid comedy. Now I’m thinking that I may have to give it a try. I may be pleasantly surprised. As for the canon issue, I can buy the in universe holonovel explanation or maybe even canon to a lesser degree like what Star Wars has but I don’t know about canon equal to the live action series and movies but I guess we’ll see.

Joe, I too had effectively no interest at all when this was first announced.

But I’m intrigued and it sounds as though it will be a lot of fun.

In terms of things that I don’t want to see as canon, Tarantino Trek is very much further up my ‘don’t do it please’ list. I can’t see how something that he would have creative control of would align with aspirational Trek.

By the way, I’ve just realized that we still have no idea where this will run in Canada or other countries outside the US.

I hope that it’ll be on something we already have from BellMedia.

If people think “Foolish looking white man and smart strong woman of color” are not a topic, they should look at white house and congress. I would prefer this to be canon over your current goverment. How much more over the top can reality get.

So having THREE black characters on a main cast of six, which is a gross overrepresentation anywhere but in Africa, but NONE of the many, many other ethnic minorities of Earth, such as (the majority of) Asian people, is something to celebrate? And let’s drop this “of color” BS – it’s clear these are mere stand-ins by now, shallow tokens to satisfy the virtue signalling requirements of the Beltway elites and nothing more. If this was actually about representing the many kinds of people of Earth, they would put in a little more effort than “drop in yet another bunch of black females, give everyone a bland Anglosaxon name and call it a day” (their attempt on Picard to be more original than this is duly noted, but I suppose the GIGO rule still applies!) Bottom line, if THIS is the divurrrrsity we should teach our kids about, I am offended ;)

Wow, who cares what skin color they have? My skin color does not represent me, my character does. Gender or ethnicity are the least factors which decides whom I can identify with. In the end all those characters are Americans anyway.

They’re suppose to be global in the case of Humans. Star Trek ignores so many groups of people while claiming diversity. Where is a South Asian character (Bashir is racially mixed and clearly was playing on his British heritage)? There are over 1.1bn people in India alone! Where are the Pacific Islanders? Arabs or Persians?

tezna, I agree that more diversity is needed, and that needs to include nationalities other than American.

Bashir was by the way mixed African, not South Asian. Alexander Siddig was born in Sudan to a British mother and Sudanese father although they employed a South Asian actor to play Cashier’s father. I didn’t mind the received British accent, mainly because unlike the other British actors on Trek (other than Stewart) he wasn’t obliged to do an American (Tyler, Lorca) or faked accent (Troi).

The South Asian currently on Trek is Tyler, who Discovery left behind. However with the American from Seattle emphasis, his South Asian identity is fairly invisible.

”Bashir was by the way mixed African, not South Asian.“

Sorry, this isn’t correct. Ron Moore has publicly described Julian Bashir as a “British person of Pakistani or Indian descent”. We’re the largest minority community in Britain, y’know ;) So Bashir was just meant to be one of our descendants, as Moore confirmed.

Also, the actor that played Bashir’s father is indeed Indian, and Bashir’s mother (the character, not the actress) even had an Indian first name.

Can Star Trek even represent those people? Do you think they want to be represented by Star Trek. Isn’t it a bit respectless and patronizing to say in the future you all will adopt American culture and values. I come from a culture very similar and dependent from the US and even I see politics in Star Trek, that are in conflict with my constitution and my ethics.

You, sir, do not have a Vulcan soul.

That smiley confuses me, but if you are serious, than YOU are the problem here.

Why? He’s right – the American perspective of “diversity” is absurdly skewed towards Africans and Latins, not reflecting the actual reality of the world. You’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of Africans between Carpathians and Bering Strait. I see more black people on TV in a week than I see IRL in a year. Meanwhile, how many Vietnamese there are on TV? How many Greeks? How many Finns? Turks? Koreans? Kazakhs? Uygurs? Slavs?

Yes you’re correct, he’s absolutely right, and I humbly apologize.

If you can’t understand why Blacks and Latinos are getting more representation these days above other minorities, then I can’t help you. Such a shame you’re not smart enough to figure it out.


Seriously, you have a real problem if you think diversity in media is about being 100% accurate to population statistics and representing every single minority. I mean really, you’re citing Turks, Finns, Uygurs, and Kazxakhs? For real?


Vulcan Soul,

If you think the African continent is the only place on the surface of the Earth where countries where whites are the minority with respect to blacks exist, then you and your ignorance are the problem and NOT 3 black characters.

You worry about this a lot, don’t you?

It seems some groups are offended when they make jokes about minorities (because “we” always did that) and get called out for it.
… but when “their” group is the butt of a joke, they are offended too….

Same people may say “Just leave Politics out of my favourite TV Series already” – but drool with sheer delight and are full to the brim with Schadenfreude, when “SJWs” are ridiculed in Family Guy etc…

PS: and do`t tell me otherwise, I can detect Schadenfreude, “my” people invented it after all XD

I am not going to pretend that I am completely colour blind BUT I would hope that someday that will be the case. After I watched several episodes of DS9 or Voyager, I looked beyond the ethnicity of the actor – so when I see Captain Sisko I see a Starfleet Captain and when I see Lt. Tuvok, I see trusted Vulcan Tactical officer and second in command (while still noting he is Vulcan). I honestly see the actor’s skin colour as irrelevant. I would imagine that most Trek fans feel the same way, but maybe I am wrong.

Yeah, it actually took me getting to the point of counting them to realize DS9 has only one white male character out of a cast of 9 total cast members (and he’s not even American), or that Voyager has only 2 (also out of nine).

It’s not something I ever noticed becuase these were just characters to me. Sadly, many Trek fans today go to the lengths of scrutinizing the ethnicities, genders, and sexualities just so they can claim CBS is anti-Straight White Male, even though it’s been a pattern in Trek for decades.

You could even claim that O’Brien was not the typical strong, square jawed, sexually virile white male character they’re looking for.

If this is canon set right after Nemesis, why they have TNG-like unifora?

more iconic/eye catching and simpler lines?

If First contact is set right after TNG, why do they have completely different uniforms? Oh, they got new uniforms.

I don’t know. Why are the Discovery uniforms so drastically different? Why does that show get a pass for their sartorial choices but Lower Decks does not? Personally, if a pass were to be given I would give it to LD just because of the nature of the show to begin with.

My guess would be that he doesn’t get why a uniform set AFTER the grey uniforms would go back to the TNG style, but we’ve seen from Picard that this is clearly the case.

That said, it does seem odd– if this is canon– for them to so drastically change uniforms so quickly: from TNG’s stlye in 2364, to the Voyager style uniforms in 2371, to the grey movie uni’s in 2373, then to the black topped uni’s here in 2380, to the more Voyager style uni’s some 15 years later in Picard. That’s 4 *major* uniform redesigns (rather than subtle tweaks like in season 3 of TNG) in just over 15 years (not including the Picard redesign).

When I first saw these images my first thought was that the show was set DURING TNG, and they were retconning the TNG era uni’s, and I kind of liked that idea, because I rarther like this design.

Still, uniform design is the last thing I really care about, canon or not. Just be a good show.

Dunno, but I loathe the FIRST CONTACT uniforms and thus have no problem with it.

When this show was first announced, I rolled my eyes at it. Watching this panel, though, I’m not only interested in it but legitimately excited to see it.

Also: they’ve got a Caitian!!!

It’s funny, I feel quite the opposite. It’s not at all what I was hoping it would be upon announcement.

I feel similar. I thought it would be more edgy and bold, by now it seems pretty generic.

When I heard that it was from one of the creators of Rick & Morty… well, I wasn’t actually lookin for a R&M clone, but something with humor at the same ridiculous level of crazy. Unafraid to go to dark and twisted places, unafraid to make bold narrative decisions, make fun of itself, and even its own fans.

This sounds a lot more like Family Guy in space. In short– it sounds like The Orville. ML31 will be happy.

Except The Orville was NEVER Family Guy in Space. Not even close. If this show has the comedic chops of the first few seasons of Family Guy it will be a tremendous success. If it is half as good as that it would still be a success. I was a bit disappointed they said they weren’t going to make fun of some of the Trek tropes out there. TNG would be rife for that. But there is still massive potential here.

I never found Family Guy funny. Not a single joke ever landed for me. MacFarlane is just not a good comedy writer. And to be honest, I could not care any less if this show is a success or not. If I don’t like, I won’t watch, and everyone here who likes that sort of thing can be happy watching without me. Fine by me, no hard feelings. Just not for me.

And I’d love for them to mock TNG and other shows even the ones I liked. But they’ve got to do it right– it’s got to actually be funny, not just a watered down silly comedy cracking dumb jokes– for me to enjoy it.

I really like the comedy on Rick & Morty, it’s really out there, it takes chances, it goes for broke every time whether it works or not (and contrary to many fans beliefs there are a lot of times it just doesn’t work) and has a dark tone that I can appreciate. The Simpsons or Family Guy in Space is not something i’m interested in (and before people jump down my throat, what I mean by that is the level and genre of comedy, not that I think it will be a literal version of those shows in space).

I’ll check it out. Maybe it’ll surprise me. But my interest level severely dropped now that it seems to be a neutered comedy.

I will reserve judgement once I see the show. All I care about is if the show is funny. If the jokes work, I don’t care if they are broad, sophisticated, kid friendly or bathroom type. I don’t care if the jokes are “organic” or forced (a frequent complaint from others regarding Orville’s first season). Funny is funny. Family Guy had a kind of humor that worked quite well. Not all the gags landed but many did. And, like many shows before, it has been on so long it is a mere shadow of its former self. I haven’t seen much R&M. I found the show kinda amusing but really hard to watch.

I was super interested in the show the instant it was announced. And am STILL interested. More so than any of the other green lit shows. Including Picard.

The best thing they could do is revise the original animated series. Reanimate everything. Replace some of the Doohan/Barrett guest voices, then continue the series beyond the original run with new soundalike voice artists.

And as long as they’re doing that, they could actually make the show watchable! That would be awesome.

Thanks for the great coverage of the SDCC Trek panels. As someone said, almost too much information haha but it is all good. As for Lower Decks, I originally counted this as one series I would probably not watch, simply due to lack of interest. But like others, after reading this story I am actually a little interested now and will definitely tune in to at least a couple of episodes just to check it out. Thanks again for all the great coverage.

Agreed! And it feels like we are in a golden age of Trek. I can’t remember a time where this was this much to discuss, speculate on, geek out over, and debate, and we’ve got it all in one week, too!

Kurtzman, above, stated: “…It has to be a show for the fans, first and foremost, but we want to bring in so many other people. Part of that is bringing them in younger, because there has never been an initiative to get to kids when they were younger….”

I would counter that notion that ‘Trek, even TOS, reached young viewers like nothing before: I watched “The Devil in the Dark” one Sat. afternoon, from the living room couch in my parents’ house while half a dozen younger cousins were sitting on the floor in front of me – mesmerized by the terrible deaths occurring – and when Spock frantically asked Kirk to KILL IT, now…. the kids there on the floor, shocked and scared the Horta would attack him if he didn’t, all chimed in saying the same thing. Yet, after the story unfolded to where they knew this was a mother protecting her children, it was a stunning revelation to me to watch them all yell DON’T KILL IT! DON’T KILL IT! when the miners came running in at the climax of the episode. That showed me the tremendous power of television and a GREAT story – where the cover is NOT the book, and we should always read the text to know what a book (or someone we just met) is all about.

I would remind ALL producers and writers of every new Star Trek T.V. episode and movie of that aspect of the optimism and LOVE for what ‘Trek is all about. Ladies and Gentlemen of ‘Trek (Paramount, CBS Television): the writers of ST: Discovery got it RIGHT ON TARGET when they gave Paul Stamets the line to Silvia Tilly in Season 2 that she will make a terrific Captain because SHE [DOES] EVERYTHING OUT OF LOVE. That’s what happened at the end of the horta story – Kirk and the miners came up with a great way to mine like never before with the hortas as PARTNERS – and we even have a novel (non-canon, but still amazingly hopeful, and FUN:) where one of Mother Horta’s children joined Starfleet and became a Geologist (go figure) aboard the Big-E under Kirk’s command. Again – HOPEFULL, WITH LOVE – that’s the bottom line with all ‘Trek. Use that, and you won’t go wrong.

Mr. Kurtzman: remember the HOPE and the LOVE in all future ‘Treks….. and know everything we’re seeing now gives us that hope and love, just like the ones which came before. Live long and prosper, sir.

He’s not saying that Trek wasn’t good for kids or that kids never watched it. He’s saying that the franchise never specifically targeted kids before.

Chancellor Gowron,

Re: franchise never specifically targeted kids before

Then who were they targeting with the Filmation series on Saturday Mornings? Chopped liver?

Those 22 episodes were targeting kids. The other 740 episodes were not.

Legate Damar,

Ergo “the franchise” DID specifically target kids before, and the assertion that it never did is as false as saying the TMP kids’ meals never targeted kids as well.

Eugh, cartoons again.

Did we not learn from the debacle that was TAS?

I….I don’t even know if I could even watch it.

Eh okay, one must be fair to those involved in making it. I’ll give it a chance.

I’m not a cartoon guy by any means, but I’ll give it a shot.


TAS was a welcome addition to my childhood, as well as the first Trek our kids watched.

We have the whole set, and the stories were compelling enough that our kids – raised on 3D animation and high energy preschool and kindergarten shows were enthusiastic about TAS in the primary grades, wooden 2D animation notwithstanding.

TAS was terrible, but that was also 40 years ago. Animation has improved a lot sense then, and this will probably have better voice actors as well. The TOS cast was fine as their usual characters in that, but Doohan wasn’t nearly talented enough to play every single guest character.

Chancellor Gowron,

The Filmation effort did not win the only Emmy as a series for Trek because it was terrible. Educate yourself, and try to understand art in context.

I don’t care that it won an Emmy. The animation was awful. Most of the guest cast was just Doohan doing stupid voices. The writing was pretty bad for most episodes. It wasn’t a good show.

Chancellor Gowron,

It was the best that could be managed with a 1973 network television animation budget for solely manually composed animation and manually composed scripts, which is why it was recognized, as best, by its Television Academy peers. The fact that you don’t care, only reveals the depths of the vacuum in which your supposed valid art critique was derived, and your inattention to addressing such details betrays an unwillingness to do the work it takes to be taken seriously as its critic.

Your declaring it inferior to the way present day broadcast aired animation and scriptwriting are handheld by computers, every step of the way, is just an uninformed and undeserved, attempt at a validation that personal preferences certainly don’t require just as readily as they don’t successfully masquerade as valid art criticism.

Looks and sounds a lot like Space Charter from earlier this year. One of the characters names even sounds like the main duo’s names combined (Shatts and Xark)

I’ve loved Jerry ever since Stand By Me and even now he does GREAT voice acting as Superman in the current run of DC Animated films

This is sounding like it’s got massive potential! THIS is the greenlit show I am most jazzed about. Cannot wait for this show to become available. I honestly do not care if it’s canon or not. But I think it would be great if it was! In fact, I’m thinking it very well could be considering it’s its own thing apart from everyone else. Their misadventures will be so minor it won’t really affect other shows or the rest of the universe.

It’s so nice to finally see the character designs and read the bio descriptions; they seem to go hand-in-hand. This makes me doubly enthused about the show, even though I’ve never watched Rick & Morty.

This sounds like it could be a lot of fun. But I must take exception with the stated notion that making fun of Star Trek and its tropes is beyond the pale. No, it isn’t. Futurama‘s “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” was a near-perfect expression of how you can love this franchise and mercilessly poke fun at it (and its most loyal fans) simultaneously. If the producers of Lower Decks are serious about passing up this kind of humor, I fear they’re literally turning their backs on a gold mine.

Totally looking forward to Picard, more Discovery etc….but *really* can’t wait for LDecks. Laughed out loud several times just at the character descriptions. Reminds me of the way my Trek friends and I love to riff irreverently on our beloved Trek shows & movies. Make it so, Lower Decks!

“For me and TNG, I was there for the B-stories. You know: Riker is trapped on a planet with his transporter clone, great, I love that. But, Data and Geordi are writing a play and getting into a fight about it? That is what I want. I love that stuff.”

Whereas I have always said that the single best predictor of the quality of a TNG/DS9/VOY episode was whether the writers treated us to a single, coherent A-story, or whether they bifurcated the script into pointless B-stories.

Think of TNG’s greatest hits: episodes like Darmok, Yesterday’s Enterprise, The Inner Light, All Good Things, Tapestry, First Contact, Q-Who, etc. All linear A-stories. Only “Best of Both Worlds” really pulled off a B-story, and that was a weighty one concerning Riker’s career. It succeeded because they had a two-partner to fully flesh it out.

Conversely, think of the “parade of horribles”: episodes like, I don’t know, “Imaginary Friend” or most of the Lwaxana or Ferengi episodes. All very B-story-centric.

So no, I don’t intend to treat this as “canon.”

I think it would be awesome of this show were something Geordi might show Data as an example of how humor works. Something Ryker watches that Deanna thinks is stupid.