Early Review: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Season 4 Levels Up But Keeps The Laughs

The fourth season of Star Trek: Lower Decks will debut on Paramount+ on Thursday, September 7 with the first 2 episodes. Paramount has provided the media with the first 8 episodes in advance. TrekMovie will post our detailed recap/reviews each Thursday, but today we have an early review of the season as a whole. 

[NOTE: Review contains light spoilers]

Noël Wells as Tendi, Gabrielle Ruiz as T’Lyn, Tawny Newsome as Beckett Mariner, and Jack Quaid as Brad Boimler (Paramount+)

Star Trek shows have a history of shaking things up in the fourth season. The Next Generation lost Wesley, Deep Space Nine added Worf and Klingons, Voyager switched out Kes for 7 of 9 and the Borg, whereas Enterprise finally found its mojo, courtesy of the late Manny Coto fully embracing the show’s Original Series prequel potential. Lower Decks continues this storied tradition with both the addition of a new character in newly transferred Vulcan officer T’Lyn (Gabrielle Ruiz) as a recurring fifth member of the gang and promotions for our favorite ensigns.

Changes to a winning formula on any TV show are both inherently risky and necessary. Keep things the same as always and you risk the show becoming stale as well as losing credibility by refusing to allow characters and situations to develop organically. Change them too much, though, and you risk letting the lightning out of the bottle.

Fortunately, the changes for season 4 are largely successful. The logical, deadpan T’Lyn—transferred to Starfleet and assigned to the Cerritos following her un-Vulcan behavior in season 2’s “wej Duj”—is largely partnered with Tendi and makes an excellent straight person for the exuberant Orion. As with Spock and Tuvok, the show derives a lot of humor from her Vulcan-ness, with a brief comment or look providing amusing contrast to her more emotional crewmates.

Jack Quaid as Boimler and Jerry O’Connell as Commander Jack Ransom (Paramount+)

Promotions-wise, as Boimler points out, they’re still the least-important mid-level officers on the ship and still get beyond their fair share of undesirable jobs. Gone, however, is sleeping in a corridor, with the gang receiving actual quarters (which, yes has plenty of comic potential), and actually getting to command missions. While promoting them could potentially upset the show—which lest we forget is called Lower Decks—it’s a change that feels organic. They’re simply too competent to remain ensigns forever (although that never helped Harry Kim), and promotions open new storytelling possibilities as well as allow the writers to examine other facets of the characters’ personalities. For example, it will come as no surprise to anyone that Boimler has issues delegating, whereas the reluctantly promoted Mariner’s unorthodox style creates issues when people have to follow her.

Another slight change is the introduction of a more overt story arc. While previous seasons have had arcs that become apparent throughout the season such as the Pakled attacks or Admiral Buenamigo’s automated Texas-class fleet, here there’s a lot more up front, with a mysterious ship attacking non-Federation ships. Who’s behind the attacks and why is a mystery that the Cerritos crew gets gradually entwined with as the season progresses.

Elsewhere, it’s business as usual, with Lower Decks’ now traditional affectionate sideways look at Trek. Kicking things off in episode 1 (“Twovix”) is a Voyager tribute, taking place on the legendary starship and featuring the return of some of that show’s more outrageous creations (macroviruses, transwarp salamanders, and yes, even Neelix’s cheese are all present and correct). The following episodes include a “Menagerie”- style menagerie; a visit to Ferenginar with the return of Rom and Leeta (with both Max Grodénchik and Chase Masterson reprising their roles); a Trek-first trip to Orion featuring Tendi’s family; a foul-mouthed Betazoid gift box, and the return of our three favorite malevolent A.I.s: Badgey, Agimus, and Peanut Hamper. Oh, and of course, chula—Deep Space Nine’s infamous “allamaraine” game. (Sorry, we kind of buried the lede there.) And yes, the fleet of ships fighting the Borg in the opening credits gets yet another addition—the most unlikely one yet.

Jerry O’Connell as Commander Jack Ransom, Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs, Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman and Paul F. Tompkins as Doctor Gabers Migleemo (Paramount+)

As always, the cast is uniformly excellent. Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noël Wells, and Eugene Cordero are all so in sync with their characters now that their performances are effortless. Jerry O’Connell and Fred Tatasciore—as Ransom and Shaxs respectively—get the most to do out of the supporting cast. (If we had one criticism to level at the show, it’s that Gillian Vigman’s Dr. T’Ana isn’t in every single scene… or the star of the show.) Mariner’s (ex?) girlfriend Jennifer is largely absent, and in the eight episodes made available to review, there are fewer cameos from Trek alumni than we’ve come to expect. This could be a sign that creator/showrunner Mike McMahan wants to see Lower Decks thrive through its own characters as the series matures, although the immature laughs are still there to be sure.

Humor-wise, season 4 more than equals its predecessors, running the gamut from winking to gross-out (one episode features both a clever riff on Trek’s tendency to repeatedly use the Planet Hell set for the bulk of alien worlds as well as a fairly yucky broken bone gag) to slapstick (look out for fun with both knives and grapplers) to the plain silly (there’s a great, brief scene involving a Romulan Warbird). As the show has progressed, the humor has evolved slightly, moving away from some of the more absurd situations (think the pilot episode’s Boimler-suckling spider or season 2’s infamous mating Mugatos,) and finding more laughs from the characters themselves, such as Tendi’s awkwardness regarding her Orion heritage or Shax and T’Ana’s romantic escapades. (We get further examples of both.) With the high gag count, not every joke will land for every fan, but there’s more than enough to keep all but the most humorless viewer amused.

One area that Lower Decks has never been short on is Easter eggs, and, as usual, there’s a wealth on show here. Voyager fans are likely to be very satisfied with episode 1, and elsewhere there are knowing references to everything from Slug-o-cola to Malcom Reed, not to mention assorted callbacks to earlier episodes of Lower Decks (check out the boxes of belongings the group members carry when moving quarters, which contain numerous items relating to their earlier adventures). Elsewhere, there are references to everything from Twin Peaks to the cult British comedy Garth Merengi’s Dark Place. This volume of Easter eggs should surely come with some kind of health warning.

Jerry O’Connell as Commander Jack Ransom and Carl Tart as Lieutenant Kayshon (Paramount+)

Over the course of its first three seasons, Lower Decks made a name for itself by finding the perfect balance between being a great Star Trek show in its own right and affectionally poking fun at some of the franchise’s sillier aspects. And that’s something it continues to achieve with ease in season 4. This is a Trek show firing on all cylinders. If you’re one of the fans for whom Trek is no laughing matter, there’s little here that is likely to change your mind (and honestly, Trek’s always been funny, you may be watching the wrong show). For the rest of us, season 4 is classic Lower Decks, combining laughs with great Trek storytelling. But is a little (or a lot) more Dr. T’Ana really too much to ask for?         

Lower Decks returns next Thursday

Season 4 will arrive on Paramount+ on Thursday, September 7, the day before Star Trek Day. Here is the official synopsis for the new season:

In season four of Star Trek: Lower Decks. an unknown force is destroying starships and threatening galactic peace. Luckily, the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos isn’t important enough for stuff like that! Instead, Ensigns Mariner, Boimler, Tendi, Rutherford and Provisional Ensign T’Lyn are keeping up with their Starfleet duties, avoiding malevolent computers and getting stuck in a couple caves – all while encountering new and classic aliens along the way.

And here is the trailer released in July at Comic-Con:

Here’s an alternate link to trailer on StarTrek.com for international readers


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

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Agimus? Agimus where?

I think he downloaded himself into your coffee maker. Be careful.

He can take over my Keurig mini, I hope he has fun.

From what I am seeing from the stills and clips, they are mainly in the command and action areas of the ship — and are no longer on the “lower” decks. So the concept for the show has changed significantly, and title no long really fits what we are seeing. This is just and obvious observation — I am not saying this is either good or bad.

I have no strong feelings one way or the other.

“If I don’t make it, tell my wife…hello.”

Yes, and when you only see 2 or 3 pieces of a 1000 piece puzzle, you can make out the entire image! You got skills dude. Go on YouTube and make some content. You’re gonna be rich.

Maybe our friends are going to be the officers in charge of some new lower decks people, in which case it would still be about lower decks? Or maybe 100 different other scenarios that you can’t possibly predict, making your assertion irrelevant as well as annoying? I dunno.

Kind of like Scrubs season nine.

There was no Scrubs season 9. The show ended perfectly after 8 seasons, so you must be mistaken.

What do you mean? Of course there was a Scrubs season 9. All the scrubs got promoted at the start of the seaon; it ruined the premise of the show for me. Thankfully, it was cancelled before season 10 could *really* jump the shark!

What you are describing sounds like some sort of fever dream no one who loves the show would ever admit even thinking about. Fortunately, Scrubs only had 8 seasons and it’s a moot point!

There are also only 3 Die Hard movies.

That’s fair, but I think it’s more likely than not that this reflects what we are going to see on most eps this season. I would take that bet to Vegas, but I rather doubt you would be confident betting the opposite case.

It’s not about where they are; it’s about who they are and it’s told from their perspective. This looks like it hasn’t changed. So no, the concept hasn’t changed, but the way they’re approaching it is.

Makes sense! That’s a much better response/reason versus Silvereye’s sort of head in the sand approach where we should ignore what we are seeing and reading.

Sorry I hurt your feelings. Time to put your big boy pants on and move on.

Why fill a comment section on a show you hate? What’s the point.

T’Ana is responsible for what is my favorite line ever in Trek, and that’s saying a lot: “Hey! Migleemo! Read the f***in’ sign!”

C’mon y’all, this is LDS we’re talking about! Was there ever any doubt?

WAS THERE EVER ANY DOUBT?????

And keeping up with Trek tradition of season 4 and when shows start to find their Trek mojo sounds like another tradition McMahon has kept alive; although for me it’s been there all along. Also laughing at the fact the review specifically highlights TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT and now LDS as all examples of season four goodness but Discovery’s fourth season is nowhere to be mentioned. 😂😆😃😐😒😥

I tease because I love.

But T’Lyn is now part of the group, they’re all getting promotions, we’re going to meet Tendi’s family, Rom and Leeta are back AND we start the season with a Voyager tribute???

You already had me at T’Lyn. ♥️

Anyway, I’m so excited now we do the Lower Decks chant!!!!

L-O-W-E-R D-E-C-K-S
(EVERYBODY!!!)

L-O-W-E-R D-E-C-K-S
(Seriously just me?)

L-O-W-E-R D-E-C-K-S
(Any time now people)

L-O-W-E-R D-E-C-K-S
(Wow no one has jumped in yet .. this place is even worse than TrekC*RE)

L-O-W-E-R D-E-C-K-S
(I guess it’s just the LDS haters on the board right now. Probably the usual suspects from Reddit, YouTube, 4chan, Trek B.B.S, Facebook, Twitter, Trek B.B.S again, every anti woke site and of course my girlfriend). The show still exists haters, IT STILL EXISTS ! Hope you all rot in Pakled h-e-l-l… not my girlfriend though. She might be reading this.)

Anyway, I’m hyped yet again for this season and lower deckers craziness!

The Great Koala keeps providing. 🐨

Okay:
L-O-W-E-R-D-E-C-K-S
Happy now?

They’re simply too competent to remain ensigns forever…

Good one, Potter!

Wow, niiiiiiccccceee!

I’m getting excited now. It sounds like another great season not just of LDS but they just keep hitting it out of the park IMO in the last year with Picard season 3, SNW season 1-2, Prodigy season 1 and LDS season 3. I definitely had my issues with all these shows and seasons (OK, I really didn’t say a single negative thing about Prodigy ;)) but it’s been some of the best Trek since the 90s…and I liked pretty much all of Star Trek throughout the 90s (Star Trek V was in 1989 and Nemesis was in 2002…yeah OK Threshold was in 1996).

And speaking of Voyager, love hearing this: “Voyager fans are likely to be very satisfied with episode 1.” Wow even more exciting. Voyager is getting so much love these last few years, this episode and season 2 of Prodigy just sound like it’s going to be a great time for a fan! :)

Lastly, I love how much Trekmovie has always supported this show. Even at the start at first season when other sites were a bit more hesitant about what it was, you guys were fans from the jump, stayed completely positive about it and happy to know the positivity continues next season. It’s why I love coming here, due to how optimistic you guys always are about everything Star Trek (the comments section is it’s own thing ;)).

A Darkplace reference? Sign me up!

Also, a little ‘off topic’ but I rewatched the season trailer again and laughed at how much T’Lyn gave zero reaction when Mariner got stabbed in the Orion bar. Just so on the money.

She’s a Vulcan alright! 😁

LOL, I got that reference. ;)

It’s lede not lead

Also they mis-spelled “Marenghi”, if we’re pedanting about it.

Not much Freeman, then? I’m looking forward most to seeing her again and if they give her any character development.

If only LD got 10 hours a year like the other Trek shows instead of 5, maybe then you’d see more Dr. T’Ana…

Oooh, can’t wait to see Tendi and T’Lyn together!

Same! I’m so excited to see then together!

A “Darkplace” reference? Please tell me that means Matt Berry will be voicing a doctor called Sanchez.

I watched the new trailer released just today and … where’s agimus I want to see the evil supercomputer man

Also I’m waiting to see the season before I have any comments about the lack of Jennifer Sh’reyan. But from this I’m kinda ticked off about it.

Glad they dropped the Mariner ‘girlfriend; that didn’t work and went against character. The Boimler / Mariner is much more interesting and doesn’t reek of pandering. Very much looking forward to season 4; the one nu-Trek show which is consistently well-written.

They dropped her? Have you seen it?

Whom were they pandering to ? Lesbians?

Pandering 🙄

Sure explains why the relationship wasn’t even focused on much at all and mostly felt like a joke.

I didn’t specify. But perhaps you’re on to something?

“against character” dude she literally said she liked women too back in the second episode of the series itself. And again in the second season.

Also there is literally no indication of Boimler and Mariner. Literally none. There’s no context of Boimler being into anyone. In Cupid’s Errant Arrow he was being controlled by a parasite on the back of his head, it doesn’t really count.

Also as a member of the LGBT community, calling it pandering is the dumbest effing shit, it’s not like there are LGBT relationships in every single show that dominates screentime. Oh wait. There isn’t. Incredible.

I’ll check out that ep. Thanks. As for Mariner – Boimler, I’ve seen plenty of relationships like that in real life where it’s basically furtive flirting (though I agree with you that Boimler seems pretty immune to her charms). : D