Interview: Mike McMahan On “Big” Season 3 Finale And The Future Of ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’

The third season is at the halfway mark and Star Trek: Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan is already working on season 4. On Star Trek Day earlier this month, TrekMovie had a chance to speak to the executive producer about where he sees the show going

Can you give us a production update, are you done with season 3?

We’re almost done with 3. There’s like tiny little nips and tucks and ship effects and phasers and disrupters that we’re fixing in the finale of season 3. Because they get big. The episodes get big at the end of the season.

And where are you on season 4?

In season 4, the writing is pretty much done. We’re seeing animatics come in, which is the black-and-white version of the episodes before they’re animated. And it’s awesome. We’re recording the actors. They’re getting to see how the season arcs are going. It’s really cool.

If you were picked up for season 5—or 5 and 6 since they usually order two at a time—when would you hope to see that happen based on where you are at for season 4?

Well, there’s always overlap. So, the sooner we get to pick up the better because then we can start hiring the directors we like and the writers that we like, and make sure that people can carve the schedule out. The best thing for us is to get a pickup by the end of this year to start writing at the beginning of next year. But I’ll take a pickup right now if CBS is handing them out. But we’ve got all [season] 4 to work on, we are hoping for [season] 5.

What’s your sense, are you feeling good about another pickup? Any hints?

I would like to hope I don’t have any hints whatsoever. We are fully in on 4. And we’re focusing on making that the best season possible. If it were up to me, I’d pick us up for 100 episodes, and we would just keep going forever. But you just have to keep your fingers crossed and hope that we get to make more Lower Decks.

With so much advance time on an animated show, you didn’t have any fan feedback for the first couple of seasons. Is the fan feedback now influencing the show?

I think the fan feedback—the most important thing is that people are actually watching and they’re liking it, and they’re engaging in the characters as much as we like them. When we’re writing a season, it’s before you guys have seen the season before. And we’re already fans of our own show. So we’re deciding paths to go down. And it often is just sort of an interesting metric for us to be like, “Oh, we did something that these folks are gonna love” or “Wow, we went in a different direction people don’t expect, but I think they’re going love it anyway.” You know, even on Rick and Morty, there’s so much on the Internet—like the Internet is almost like an infinite person writers’ room. There are so many ways that everybody wants the show to go, that all we can do is make the show that we want to make and hope that it’s something that resonates with the fans as well.

You say you want another 100 episodes, but being that it is a show about ensigns and lower deckers, is there a natural limit? How many seasons can you imagine? Is seven the magic number because of TNG?

I know, seven is always such a magic number. Although I did write at TNG season 8 for a little while on Twitter. I think for me, there’s a part of me that’s like I could go forever. I can make movies. I could explore how the show changes and always keep the thematic Lower Decks-ishness to it. But at the same time, if we had to have seven or eight perfect seasons, I can imagine that too. Either which way, I just want to keep writing Mariner and Boimler and Tendi and Rutherford and the crew. I just love spending time with those characters and however we can get to do it.

Looking at the new She-Hulk show doing well, can you imagine a live-action Star Trek comedy? And have you pitched one?

I haven’t pitched it. But I mean, I did make that Short Treks with Rainn Wilson, which was kind of a live-action Star Trek comedy, “The Escape Artist.” I think that Star Trek as an idea and as a format is incredibly diverse. And I think you could do anything with it. I think you’ve seen monster of the week. You’ve seen heavily serialized. You’ve seen all sorts of amazing stuff. I think that Star Trek is something that contains all sorts of genres in it. And I’d love to see more of that.

A closet full of Harry Mudds (Rainn Wilson) from “The Escape Artist”

More Lower Decks from Star Trek Day

For more about Lower Decks from Star Trek Day, check out our interview with Tawny Newsome. We have one final interview coming later this week.

And here is the clip of episode 8 of season 3 “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus,” revealed on Star Trek Day.

The third season of Star Trek: Lower Decks returned on Thursday, August 25, with new episodes dropping weekly on Thursdays, and streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America and is distributed concurrently by Paramount Global Content Distribution on Amazon Prime Video in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan, India and more and in Canada, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.


Keep up with news for the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.

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I have a hail mary prediction- Dawnn Lewis will show up in PICARD S3 as Captain Freeman of the Enterprise-F.

Interesting. I wouldn’t hate it,

If that’s 20 years in the future, I’d say Co-captains Mariner and Boimler showing up on the Enterprise-F. However, that would be way too spoilery.

Lower Decks is horrible. The characters are nothing like the Starfleet Officers who have grown to love over the years. Their behavior is childish and unprofessional. I get that it’s a cartoon, but TOS did a cartoon, and Kirk, Spoke, and the rest did not act like spoiled brat children because it was a cartoon version.

Even the ship’s Captain is a Bufoon. She shows no leadership qualities at all.

The show is a disgrace to the legacy of Star Trek that showed humanity at its best – this show basically takes the early 21st-century childlike behavior we have all grown custom to seeing daily and applies to 24th century Trek characters.

Horrible, just horrible. THe show is painful to watch.

Oh, you’re one of those. I’m sorry you’re unable to enjoy this wonderful show. As for me, I can’t wait to see the next episode that’s set on DS9! Hope to see Garak and Quark!

You mean he is one of those who just happen to have an different opinion than you? Is that what you mean? I hope so, because you are coming across like you are personally insulting this poster.

IDIC. You love it, great! Please allow us who aren’t impressed by this series to have an honest differing opinion on this without getting personal about it. Thanks

Thank you.

This is just not my cup of tea (earl gray). To me, turning Trek into a full-time comedy dishonors the characters and what Trek is all about. Sure, Trek has had it’s fair share of jokes and some comic episodes, but this is way beyond that.

I think the intent was to insult me because anyone with a different opinion needs to be attacked. That’s what MSNBC, FoxNews, and our elected officials have taught us all. Never a conversation; just attack everyone.

I disagree on almost everything you’ve said. Yes, the characters are far from perfect but they are wonderfully geeky corny uberfans that provides for an in-world metalevel that’s just too awesome to be missed. I had my fair share of quibbles at the beginning but now, I don’t want to live without that precious contribution to IDIC anymore. I cannot even imagine life without Boimler, Tendi, Mariner, Ruthie, Shaxs, Billups or Migleemo anymore :-)

Learn to spell Spock as S-P-O-C-K and not S-P-O-K-E and your comment will have more credibility.

It’s not just a cartoon, it’s a comedy and a spoof. It’s exactly what it’s aiming to be and it’s doing a great job at it.

I guess when you look at Dali’s art you stomp your feet and whine because clocks aren’t supposed to melt?

Same comment for you as for Toncix.

Do you realize how unconfident a couple of you who can’t handle some differing opinions here on this series are coming across with these snide personal remarks? Why so sensitive? I mean, to an objective person it likely represents that you lack confidence in your opinions, right?

Maybe it’s just me, but as a Discovery fan, and knowing that’s it not well liked here, I am confident enough in my opinions on the series that I don’t ever feel the need to belittle someone who disagrees with me — because I am confident in my opinions on that show.

Point taken. I didn’t want to belittle the poster. But don’t complain about my snide remarks and then say I lack confidence in my opinions. That’s just being petty and vindictive. But I get it, I started it so I deserved that. I just feel that J. Williamson and yourself are not seeing this show in the proper context. Don’t take everything at face value. Anyway peace and IDIC.

Wow, a typo set you off like this?

IMO – If it’s a comedy and a spoof, then it should not be canon. It’s not Star Trek when the characters are clowns. For me, I find a lot of value in the leadership and behavior of Starfleet characters, and turning them into some kind of sideshow with ridiculous “easter egg” references and childish behavior is not something I enjoy watching. I can watch Beavis and Butthead or Rick and Morty for that.

No your general tone set me off. It’s OK that you don’t like it. Other posters don’t like it either. But instead of complaining about it and saying it’s painful to watch, just don’t watch it. Some people can still enjoy this and feel it’s Star Trek. Personally I take the big picture approach and don’t consider every little detail canon. But IDIC.

Um, TOS-A was not conceived as a comedy, but as a (sort of) continuation of the original show. So there’s a big difference in what the producers intended, there.

That said, “Lower Decks” is not for everyone. If it offends your sense of what Star Trek is supposed to be (as opposed to being a mostly loving satire of it), you probably shouldn’t watch, or just not take it so seriously.

The characters are nothing like the Starfleet Officers who have grown to love over the years. Their behavior is childish and unprofessional…this show basically takes the early 21st-century childlike behavior we have all grown custom to seeing daily and applies to 24th century Trek characters…The show is painful to watch.

I could not agree more. Well said!

Thank you.

I respect that you don’t like the show and it’s not up to your standard of Star Trek. However, I don’t understand why at this point your bothering posting such a comment. The show isn’t new. I think it’s a safe bet to say the vast majority of people reading the article have already formed their opinion of the show. What you don’t like about the show is the core of the show so there isn’t any room for discussion.

It’s a bit like walking into a bar and shouting that you don’t like drinking alcohol. It’s cool that you don’t and there is many good reasons not to drink … But let me enjoy my beer

So don’t watch it.

Also, I’m sorry you don’t like the characters as much as… er… Spoke.

Even if the show goes on for 7 seasons, there will only be 70 episodes… so it’s never too much… even TOS had 79…

And TOS episodes have a double amount of runtime.

My thoughts too. That would be basically 7/4 seasons. On the other hand the show would air 7 years.

A She Hulk-like Star Trek sitcom? Man, that is when I would say…THE LINE MUST BE DRAWN…HERE!…and drop Star Trek entirely as a fan.

LDS I can tolerate, but a live action sitcom that Paramount again tells me is canon, well that would be jumping the shark territory for this fan.

No f’ing thank you! Enough already!

So an animated sitcom is fine, but a live action sitcom is too much? I don’t really see the distinction, but whatever.

The idiot studio suits who know nothing and can barely remember to wear their underwear UNDER their pants don’t care if it would make sense or not. They’re just trying to get as broad a fan base as possible. You know, money!

And, reality, if it’s not making money or getting subscribers then they’re not going to make it anymore. In the end it’s a numbers game.

And, in many ways, shows like Lower Decks are bringing in more viewers. I have several friends who are not Trek fans, but have loved Lower Decks when I’ve showed it to them (a few have even subscribed to Paramount+ to watch it). A few have chosen to watch the Berman era, some haven’t. Some love the Kelvinverse and have viewed both classic and nuTrek, others say they just like the Kelvin because they don’t have to know the whole franchise to watch it. Same with The Orville. I know people who can’t make it through a single Trek episode who love Orville and make a point to watch it one premiere night when it’s airing on Hulu. Each of these people are in the core demos for advertisers, which makes Paramount happy in the end – although most pay extra for the advertising free tiers.

In the end we’re all entitled to our opinions and I respect those who don’t necessarily like the new Trek and those who do. I just think this is the way of the future and I’m just going to choose to enjoy the fact there are new stories and not dwell on if it’s how I would have gone or not. I still have my DVDs/streaming of the older shows if I want to revisit them.

True!

Or you could just chill out and let people enjoy it

Dude, those of us who really like Discovery really could have used you in the comments section on the last 200+ Discovery articles here. ;-)

Several of us have been saying the same thing to the anti Discovery regular complainers too.

One thing to offer constructive criticism, but another to drop in multiple times per thread just in case we all forgot how awful some people personally find it.

(Discovery has never quite hit the mark for our household, but some of us hang in watching it. Picard though had the distinction of turning off one of our teens to the point that they won’t risk watching a new season of any live-action Trek until the entire season is over.)

I could do a Star Trek live action comedy series, but def not with breaking the fourth wall. Thats where I would draw the line.

The great thing about comedy is that it can take many forms. TV has adopted the single camera sitcom model and run with it, supplanting the three camera live studio/fake live studio approach, for instance. And plenty of shows skirt the line as dramedies rather than zany all-out sitcoms. That’s what our lives are like. I grew accustomed to the very formal/stylized way people talked and acted in the Berman Era shows. There are real pros and cons of how those shows approached dialogue and human interactions. But it’s more believable to me to imagine humans, even enlightened humans, in the 24th century will talk and act more like they do in Lower Decks than TNG.

The Trouble with Tribbles set a precedent which Voyager, TNG and especially DS9 picked up on when it came to embracing comedy every once in awhile. They results were divisive, but we did get some gems like The Magnificent Ferengi, His Way, Someone to Watch Over Me, Trials and Tribbleations and Body and Soul.

It’s a fine line to walk, but I think there’s room to explore the idea and still be true to what makes a Star Trek show both true to the premise and a quality series. Whenever anyone tries to look down their nose at comedy, I remind them that of all the medical shows that have been made, the one series that HCPs always bring up as being most true to life is Scrubs.

I do see your point about comedic aspects of a show. Of all the new shows minus LDS I say SNW is by far the funniest and I love that one the most.

Honestly I’m still waiting for a comedy of any kind. Live action or animated.

Tbf if “The line must be drawn… here!” was shot exactly the same today in Picard S3, some folks will still scream that Picard is not the Picard that they once remembered.

You have a point there.

With the right person or people in charge a Star Trek comedy absolutely could work. Season 1 of The Orville was about 35-40% comedy and the bulk of their gags landed. You get talented funny writers to do a flat out comedy and I think it could fly. The key, of course, is who you get to run it and write it. That is where Secret Hideout has failed in nearly every opportunity.

Comedy is incredibly subjective, far more so than drama, and it gets far less respect despite being harder to make. The fact that you rate The Orville as funnier than Lower Decks just proves the point. It’s not an invalid opinion, but there are so many others who think exactly the opposite. I personally think the jokes in LD land and most of the ones in The Orville’s first season don’t.

Paramount has made Trek’s first comedy something that works for enough of the fanbase to garner both passionate plaudits and a 4 season commitment thus far. That’s objectively a success.

The thing is the bar for “success” now days is stupendously low. You speak about subjectivity… There is yet another example of it.

Space sharks with freaking lasers on their heads.

While I love most Star Trek, especially all the classic shows, TOS-ENT, I’m still shocked how much I love Lower Decks lol. I was originally a little hesitant about it because animation+comedy doesn’t exactly scream Star Trek to me. Yes we had TAS, it was also cancelled in season 2 with just 22 episodes. So I was really afraid this thing was going to be a major dud.

But the complete opposite happened, I fell in love with this show probably by episode 3 in the first season. Lower Decks was only the third Star Trek show I can say I truly loved out of the gate. The other two were TOS of course and Voyager. We’re three seasons in and I’m still loving it!

So please Paramount, give Mike McMahan his 100 episodes! It’s one of the best things in the franchise for me. Or at least seven seasons….and a movie!!!!

Although I have major issues with this series as you know, I do think it’s success and following warrants a 100 ep run.

Yeah it definitely feels like if any new show can make it to 100 episodes it would be this one. And McMahan seems like he’s up for it and probably have more ideas he knows what to do with.

Animation is built for longevity if a show catches on. It doesn’t need to be as popular as a live action show since costs are lower, even as the cast gets more expensive over the years. Lower Decks has more variety in what it animates and that affects the budget, but it’s never going to break the bank. If it remains as popular as it has been, it’s easily in the same boat as The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, Rick & Morty and Futurama – poised for as long a run as the creatives are game for.

Yeah that is what is so great about animation. It can go on for decades. I don’t know if I want LDS to go that long lol, but I can see ten years easily if enough people are still watching.

There are over 700 episodes of Trek out there they can reference so of course they can.

Actually we’re over 800 episodes now! :)

It will be over 1,000 by the 60th anniversary! Wow.

But the new stuff doesn’t hold the same nostalgia for the fangasm crowd that seems to be the bulk of the LDX fanbase.

Most people seem to also love SNW, right? There some pretty heavy fangasms there too! And many fans really love maybe 4 episodes of Picard lol. And I don’t know if the bulk of the fanbase likes LDS, but certainly most here, agreed.

👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍

Completely agree! Lower Decks is amazing. McMahan gets Star Trek so well. I’m hoping it stays on for a long time!

I keep saying that Lower Decks is their take on the Orville because you can have a lot of references and comedy which would’t be possible on a serious Star Trek live action show. Altough the unfluence of The Orville can be found IMHO in Strange New Worlds too, when it comes to humor.

What I think is ironic is that third season of the Orville felt much more serious and dramatic than what SNW felt in it’s first season minus 2 or 3 episodes. SNW is a really light hearted show with fun comedy, but not as broad as LDS obviously. But I think they are both really fun with a lot of good humor!

I don’t think he knows Star Trek well so much as he seems to understand the fan base. The modern fans just want references to old shows and the mechanism to do that doesn’t matter nearly as much. Case in point… When I peruse the internet about LDX at least 80% (a conservative estimate) of the positive comments are about the little bits that appear in the background or the direct references to past Treks. Almost nothing was said about “This joke was hilarious” or “That gag really worked!”,

To start off, Lower Decks is my favourite Trek of the Kurtzman era, if feels the most consistent and (I know people will grumble, say “who cares!”) feels most canonical with the franchise. Long may it continue.

Now on the season count. For me, Star Trek should always be a 7 season run (TNG/DS9/VOY) all struck the right balance during the Berman era. Was such a shame ENT was cut short with 4 seasons, especially how bloomin’ good season 4 was. I know I’m in the minority here, but if we had to have another prequel again, I’d have much preferred an ENT revival/season 5 over SNWs. Bringing back Manny Coto too!

Since we already got a TOS and TNG-revival and VOY did come back in some form by 7 and Janeway, I think the revival of ENT might be possible.

I would love a season 5 of Enterprise too. I’m actually going to rewatch that entire show soon because my girlfriend really likes it but haven’t seen all the episodes yet. She’s not a huge Star Trek fan but getting into it a little more lately. So we’re starting at the beginning but I will try to leave out TATV if I can ha ha.

Count me in with an Enterprise season 5 too! I don’t know if I would take it over SNW since I’m really enjoying it but definitely over another season of Discovery. I would’ve said Picard too but yeah season 3 is a hard one to pass up now.

And I agree with you about Lower Decks, it does feel the most consistent in canon out of all the new shows and probably why it’s become more popular. It really sticks to landing.

I would love to see an Enterprise revival as well. But I don’t want Secret Hideout to do it. Enterprise can be revived when new people take over. It will likely have a far better chance of being decent.

A couple of thoughts…

First, I had just seen an interview with Braga and Berman and they just claimed that the reason they stopped at 7 seasons was because the cost of retaining the cast was becoming prohibitive and the studio was pushing for features. They claimed that they were willing to continue the show as it was. I’m sort of of the opinion that these days of mini-seasons show durations ought to be measured by episodes rather than seasons.

And is She-Hulk doing well? I all hear is it getting panned.

It’s doing well. the thing is the people who like it, tune in each week, watch it, and enjoy it and that’s that. It’s not blowing anyminds. However the panning comes from the “useal suspects” who hate on just about anything that doesn’t feature a white hertosexual male as the star

I’m hearing a decent amount of the same refrain for both Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk though – that they grab the viewers’ attention for the first couple episodes then inexorably plod in the middle stretch. That was definitely my take on Hawkeye and Moon Knight, and after not really loving the other shows all that much I have to say Marvel has given me my first experience of true “franchise fatigue.”

Yep me too! I’m watching She Hulk but like Ms. Marvel, it’s starting to feel a bit tedious now. I didn’t even bother watching Moon Knight because my brother told me it’s just slow and uninteresting.

It feels like I’m watching MCU out of habit, not because I been enjoying a lot of it lately. Fatigue is definitely what I’m feeling.

For me since Endgame I’ve lost nearly all interest in the Marvel U. IMHO they have indeed hit the dreaded “franchise fatigue”. But they have been creatively bankrupt for quite some time now. Yet the features still do awfully well. I’m wondering how long that will last if they keep churning out the mediocre stuff they have been.

No, if one takes the time to read the actual critiques that is not in any way shape or form what the panning is about.