Before Alex Kurtzman gave his update on upcoming Star Trek projects, the highlight for the crowd attending the Star Trek Universe panel was being able to see the next episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks (titled “Caves”) before its debut on Paramount+ this Thursday. Creator and showrunner Mike McMahan appeared after the episode aired to talk about season 4 and give an update on how work is going for season 5.
Final episodes of season 4 are “ultimate Lower Decks“
Episodes 1-8 were released to the media for reviews before the season even began, McMahan revealed they deliberately held back the final two episodes to avoid any possible leaks:
“The last couple of episodes for this season are a big swing and I am really proud of them and I cannot wait for you to see them. We held them off [from the press] because I don’t even want a breath of what happens in them to get out. And it just feels like the ultimate Star Trek, the ultimate Lower Decks. I hope you guys really like it. I don’t want to say anything. It’s so tempting. All I will say is there has been a season-long runner with a ship that has been attacking other non-Federation ships in the quadrant that pays off in the last two episodes. Some people on Reddit have gotten close, but they are not there yet. So even they will be fed.”
There was a hint that one of the big things they are keeping under wraps was the inclusion of a legacy character (or characters). McMahan hinted at that earlier in the panel, when he was speaking more broadly about how they handle legacy characters:
“When we have characters from other Star Trek show up, that’s always a huge deal because if they’re going to be on screen, there’s such a gravitational pull of emotion and attention that we have to be honoring them. But we also have to be building and respecting what they created before. And it’s in a comedy environment that we can never punch down. I never want to make fun of these performers. I love their work and you you want them to be able to be a part of the fun. You don’t want them to be like Superintendent Chalmers showing up and being like, “What’s all this fun in Star Trek!” Because they are fun too. There’s a couple episodes of season 4 that we have not released to the press because there’s some really cool stuff coming.”
Season 5 writing almost done: more homeworlds and T’Lyn, no Peanut Hamper
McMahan’s update on the progress of season 5 was specific and optimistic:
“I’m writing the finale of season five right now. And next year is going to be awesome.”
In response to a question about visiting homeworlds (like Orion in season 4), McMahan indicated there’s more of that on the way:
We do have plans [to visit more homeworlds]. I love in Lower Decks going to monocultures and making them less monocultural and getting to see more. I loved doing that on Orion as well. I couldn’t believe [we hadn’t visited Orion before] with Orions being as iconic as they are. I love how Tendi isn’t like other how other Orions had been depicted. And we do a lot more on Orion in season 5, actually. So, I love being on Orion. Ferenginar was a real Deep Space Nine thing, we were honoring Deep Space Nine. They’d done a good job, but I really wanted to see sort of what the initial steps of Rom and Leeta’s leadership was. And I love Chase Masterson. That was kind of the impetus. Getting the work of Chase was why we went to Ferenginar. But yes, I would love to very carefully—if the planet is one you didn’t think we were going to dive into, those are the ones I want to go to.”
Season 4 brought Vulcan officer T’Lyn (voiced by Gabrielle Ruiz and based on Lower Decks writer Kathryn Lyn, who cosplays as a Vulcan) aboard the Cerritos. McMahan is happy fans like T’Lyn and gives credit to Gene Roddenberry and Leonard Nimoy for creating aliens that are still relatable. He talked about developing her character and why she’s been such a great fit:
“… we wanted a Vulcan Mariner … that’s kind of how we were calling it like, what is a Vulcan who doesn’t fit in with other Vulcans like? What does a Vulcan seem like when she shoots from the hip? Adding her to Lower Decks is something I had wanted for a really long time. Gabrielle Ruiz plays T’Lyn so deadpan and so perfectly that it feels like something that just fits into Star Trek and a comedy at the same time. And she said genuine and fun to watch. Writing T’Lyn lines is the best because you write it and then you go back and you’re like, ‘How can I make this even drier? I got to dry this out until everything else is lugubrious and this is just sand.’ We love T’Lyn and we love that you love T’Lyn and there’s lots more fun stuff in this season and in season 5 that been writing. Thank god you love T’Lyn, because she’s sticking around.”
Responding to a fan saying how much they liked Peanut Hamper, McMahan got into how they developed the character but indicated she isn’t part of season 5:
“People hate Peanut Hamper but they don’t realize yet you have to love to hate Peanut Hamper. I love Kether Donohue, who plays Peanut Hamper. What I wanted to see was, every once in a while we put in a heel—you know the wrestling term of a ‘heel.’ I think the reason that Peanut Hamper stands out so much is it’s so weird to have a heel in Star Trek. But it really magnifies the goodness and the capability of the other characters around them. Plus, I like seeing a heel slowly go and transform into being a hero. It’s just a classic story… We just finished the Peanut Hamper trilogy, so to speak. I don’t have plans to bring her back yet. But just like how the Pakleds came back in Lower Decks, nobody is ever gone in Lower Decks. They live in my brain, like it’s a living world and I love working with Kether, so someday she might show up again.”
On promotions and Moopsy
McMahan also dug into season 4 a little, explaining why the lower decks ensigns got promoted right out of the gate:
“We weren’t originally going to promote them this soon. When we started talking about season 4, I was like, ‘Let’s end the season with them getting promoted. I have a bunch of fun ideas.’ And then it was like, if I already have fun ideas, and it is hard to write a show, why don’t we just do it at the beginning of the season and not delay it? So doing it at the end of the first episode, it opened up all these storytelling opportunities. But they’re still lower decks. They’re Lieutenant Junior Grade. The word ‘junior’ is in their title. Lower Decks is all based on being in your 20s and early 30s. You’re getting your first jobs. You’re meeting your best friends you didn’t know you were going to meet. You’re still yourself and you’re learning about yourself at the same time and having the responsibilities… All this season is examining what it’s like when you are still lower decks but you are moving forward and what are the challenges that creates and what comedy does that create and what crazy sci fi adventures come from that?”
The second episode of season 4 featured the cute but terrifying little monster named “Moopsy,” who became an instant hit with fans. McMahan talked about what it was like seeing the fans’ enthusiasm and offered some insight into the making of the Moopsy:
“We never know what you are going to love… Watching the meme happen live, I think it’s the voice. It’s the little kid voice coming out of such a scary creature. It’s also the way the artist animated the movement the Moopsy… It’s an adorable little kind of baby arctic seal creature that drinks bones… and what does drinking bones look like? I told the artists, ‘Make it look like a kid going to town on a Capri Sun.’ And they nailed it. And when it came, people were like, ‘I like Lower Decks, but I love the Moopsy.’ I love to watch it grow beyond the power of what it was… I love that people are enjoying the show and love it so much that they’re finding these things they want to celebrate… When something like that lands, it feels really great and everyone on the production feels it and it’s just awesome.”
Wants another live-action crossover
The most recent season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds saw a live-action crossover episode when Lower Decks characters Mariner and Boimler arrived on the USS Enterprise, played by Lower Decks actors Jack Quaid and Tawny Newsome. McMahan worked closely with the Strange New Worlds team on that episode and thanked them “for letting me goof around with you guys so much.” He also said it was very “meaningful” to the Lower Decks team to see Boimler and Mariner interacting with the iconic characters from Strange New Worlds. McMahan’s biggest regret was that due to a COVID scare, he couldn’t be on set during filming. He was quite “jealous” seeing all the pictures sent to him as it was happening and hearing about all the fun everyone was having with director Jonathan Frakes. On stage at NYCC, he suggested to Alex Kurtzman that they do it again with the following exchange…
McMahan: Can we do one more crossover so I can come?
Kurtzman: Yeah, absolutely.
McMahan: I’m going to keep pushing so I can be on set.
More from NYCC
Check out our earlier coverage of Alex Kurtzman’s comments during the panel. We will have more coverage of Star Trek points of interest from NYCC 2023, including the Kid Cudi partnership and an update from IDW on Star Trek comics.
Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.