The first season of Star Trek’s first foray into adult animated comedy wrapped up earlier this month, and work on the second season of Lower Decks is already underway. Now the creator and showrunner is reflecting on that first season and dropping some more hints about where the show is headed.
Trek references in Lower Decks are for worldbuilding
One of the more interesting panels held over last weekend’s Virtual Trek Con 2 was with Star Trek: Lower Decks executive producer Mike McMahan. The panel covered a lot of topics related to the show and his rise through the ranks from being a PA on South Park to becoming showrunner on Rick and Morty.
McMahan is a superfan of Star Trek and talked about how important it was to him to stay faithful to his fellow fans when making new Trek:
You don’t want to betray anybody, but you do need to do something new. Deep Space Nine did something new, Voyager did something new, Enterprise… every one of these new shows does something new. It’s always, are you doing something new without betraying the Star Trek-ishness of it? For me, Lower Decks doesn’t betray Star Trek. We bend Star Trek rules. We are obviously a comedy, but at its heart, this show is Star Trek; everything from the design choices to the music to the words that the characters are saying.
One of the ways Lower Decks has tied itself into the Star Trek universe is through many references to the franchise, something TrekMovie analyzed for each episode. During his solo panel, McMahan explained why references were an important part of the show:
We get a lot of people saying, “Wow, there’s a lot of references in this show.” Some people misunderstand and think that we think that the references are funny. We don’t think the references are funny. We feel like criminals that have gotten away with doing a Star Trek show. And the lower deckers would be huge fans of all this stuff that happens in Starfleet. They would be learning about it at the Academy. They would be reading the logs. And this show is a celebration of all Star Trek stuff, for the characters in it and the audience watching it, and the guys writing it. We almost feel like, ‘Oh crap, we did it, we got a Star Trek show. Let’s have as much fun as possible.’ All these references for us, it’s worldbuilding. These are animated, two-dimensional characters. How could they not be excited about the Gorn? If they know everything about this ship, they know everything about Starfleet.
However, McMahan then acknowledged that there are some references that did get a little meta:
I think the one time they bend the rule is, I think it’s really funny—and I’m sure a lot of people don’t think it’s funny—where the characters are referring to events in Starfleet by the episode names from other series. So, there’s a character who’s like, “I’m half a rascal,” from the episode “Rascals.” But to me it’s kind of like, maybe people title their logs. Or maybe it was something that was referenced. It feels like you can make the episode titles diegetic, because Star Trek fans love their titles.
Expanding beyond TNG for season two
McMahan said that he “lives and breathes TNG,” and that’s why so much of the show is geared towards Star Trek: The Next Generation, but also built a basis to dip into shows like DS9:
When I found out I got to create a new Starfleet ship in 2380 and I got to use some of the visual lexicon of that era and that kind of storytelling, my first inclination was, ‘What is my TNG ship?’… Deep Space Nine is complex. TNG had to be: ‘This is new Star Trek, this isn’t TOS,’ but it has aspects of it that are going to be familiar. Deep Space Nine got to be its entirely different thing, it’s not even on a Federation station. That’s really cool, but you kind of don’t get that without TNG.
So the elements of familiarity are kind of what I built the Cerritos around. That being said… We’re constantly in the writers’ room talking about how can we get onto Deep Space Nine. What is going to make sense? We saw it for a flashback this season. I feel like Mariner would love Quark. They would get blitzed and wake up somewhere and have to find their keys. There are entire movies about other people… Like Quark and Mariner could be trying to get to a White Castle. Or Dude Where’s My Car-ing. I think they would be simpatico.
McMahan then talked about how they want to move beyond doing the TNG “greatest hits” in season two:
We’ve got all of season two written as well and that’s what we are working on for Lower Decks. The first season is kind of like we are playing the hits. Let’s do our trial episode. Let’s do our version of a movie. Let’s do a plague on the ship. Let’s do all these things that I love that feel like familiar area for Next Gen stories. But second season we start to bridge into Deep Space Nine-type stories and Voyager-type stories and even like an Enterprise-type story.
Watch the full panel
Virtual Trek Con was put together by the 7th Rule podcast, co-hosted by Ryan Husk and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actor Cirroc Loften (Jake Sisko). Watch the full Lower Decks panel here.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Lower Decks news and analysis at TrekMovie.com.