Another highlight from the weekend TREKtalks2 fundraiser event was a short fun panel with Star Trek: Lower Decks showrunner Mike McMahan. The executive producer gave a bit of a preview of the upcoming fourth season along with more insights into how the show has evolved.
Season 4 highlights
McMahan spoke excitedly about the work going on right now:
We are working hard on season 4. I think it’s our best season yet. It’s our funniest. It’s our most dramatic. It’s our most T’Lyn-filled. I’m just loving it.
The Vulcan T’Lyn was first introduced in the fan-favorite season 2 episode “wej Duj,” and she showed up in the final moments of season 3 as a new crew member assigned to the USS Cerritos.
McMahan had a few more clues to drop about season 4:
There’s an amazing episode where we go to Orion, which I have been dying to do for so long.
There’s a very romantic episode. It’s almost like a Valentine’s Day episode. But I’m not going to reveal if kissing happens in it because it will give away what happens.
There’s a wedding in season 4! Brace yourself. Get on your Worf wedding attire and look forward to that. The wedding of the season is coming.
Who could it be getting married? Perhaps Shaxs and Dr. T’Ana are going to tie the knot. The ship’s chief doctor and security officer have been an item since season 2. In season 3 we saw how they used the holodeck to spice things up.
When asked if the character of Peanut Hamper is returning, Mike also confirmed that too:
In season 4 you will see more Peanut Hamper… I don’t think she will ever get another full standalone Peanut Hamper-style episode, but you get a really fun good Peanut Hamper story in season 4.
The character of Peanut Hamper the Exocomp was introduced in season 1 and returned for her own standalone episode is season 3, “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption.” That episode ended with Peanut Hamper being stored at the Self Aware Megalomaniacal Computer Storage at the Daystrom Institute alongside AGIMUS (voiced by Jeffrey Combs). The return of Peanut Hamper could mean that AGIMUS will make another appearance as well.
Easter eggs started as just an inside thing
Lower Decks is known for sprinkling in many references and nods to Star Trek, but McMahan said this started out just as something the team did for themselves:
When we first were putting in the Easter eggs, it was really for me. It was for the writers and for the artists to be like, “Wow, we get to do a Star Trek!” We’re not doing a thing called ‘Star Blek.’ So we’re like, “Let’s just fill every frame with Star Trek stuff all the time because we love it.” And then when the show started airing, there’s this whole like mini-economy of websites that are like who can dig through and find all the Easter eggs first, which we actually didn’t anticipate, but makes a lot of sense, in hindsight. We were just hoping people would see the show.
Now when we write an episode like that I’ll be like, “Okay, do we want to ruin somebody’s day with how many Easter eggs are going to be in this episode?” And sometimes it makes sense. Like if you go to a Collector ship, the guy collected a bunch of stuff. My favorite thing now is when we put something new in, and then it shows up again in a later episode. Like aliens that we’ve met, and they start showing up in the background, and then it’s like Easter eggs on Easter eggs.
Changing the approach to character development
The third season was notable in how much it explored the characters on the show. McMahan talked about how his approach to character development has changed as the show has progressed, moving some characters into new directions. He cited Rutherford as an example:
Some of the characters I thought were going to go in different directions and as I learned more about them, they’re kind of more surprising stuff would crop up. Like, I had a whole plan for Rutherford and then I kind of found a more exciting plan for Rutherford. And a lot of it is working with these actors, and how they embody the characters inspires you in ways that the original sitting on your laptop and writing ideas down just doesn’t quite give you. Being open to finding that stuff is really where the best stuff comes from.
The showrunner also revealed that he originally planned to ‘reset’ the characters as the show went on (along the lines of other animated comedies like The Simpsons):
The original plan was: Let’s make this look like a primetime animated sort of comedy where nothing ever changes and do a reset. Do that a lot comedically and kind of like episodically. But let’s take the character somewhere. Let’s see them go and change and learn about themselves. Because the main thing about Lower Decks is self-discovery, right? And if you’re not discovering things about yourself, then what’s the game? What are we doing? What are the stories we’re telling? The more you learn about these characters with them, they’re just more charming and the more lovable they are. I just love it. I’ve been having a blast doing it. So it was part of the plan, but I learned as we were going at the same time.
Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.