The fourth season of Star Trek: Lower Decks wrapped last week with a cinema-grade finale titled “Old Friends, New Planets,” which TrekMovie (and many fans) are calling the show’s best season ending yet. Not wanting to let the excitement cool, showrunner Mike McMahan is eager to drop hints on his plan for season 5 and beyond.
Season 5 takes the lower deckers in new directions
One of the more challenging aspects of writing Lower Decks has been allowing the characters to grow, evolve, and move up in the ranks while still maintaining their inherent “lower decks” chemistry. This topic has come up in some of a series of post-finale interviews Mike McMahan gave, who confirmed that next season the animated comedy (which has already been written) will continue to be less about the big missions and glamorous assignments and more about the crew figuring out who they are as people. Mariner, for example, will show signs of having worked through her grief over the loss of Sito Jaxa. Speaking to Collider, McMahan described Mariner’s new outlook on life:
“Season 5, Mariner is much more joyful. She’s still Mariner; she’s still chaotic. She’s still hilarious, but she isn’t weighed down by the weight of not having spoken about Sito.”
The final scene of the season finale featured Tendi being recalled to her home planet and boarding an Orion ship. McMahan is quick to assure fans that this is not an attempt to drop the character. Speaking with Inverse, he confirmed:
“Tendi will return. Tendi is not being written out of the show… this isn’t a bad thing for Tendi. She is going to go and kick some ass.”
He assures us this is an attempt to develop her character in a way that doesn’t depend on her getting a promotion, and may not depend on her being in Starfleet at all. Speaking with The Mary Sue, McMahan hinted:
“Tendi’s been trying to figure out is she Starfleet or is she the Mistress of the Winter Constellations? And, at the end of this episode, she’s like, ‘No, I’m D’ Vana Tendi. I’m something new that that exists in both. And my sister wants me to come back to Orion. Well, she might’ve bit off a little more than she can chew.'”
T’Lyn, a more recent addition to the crew, grew in popularity among fans in season 4 and will be a major player in season 5. While guarded about details, McMahan told Collider:
“There’s some really, really fun, funny stuff for her in season 5. I don’t want to give away too—how can I say this? T’Lyn’s story in season 5 involves her and another character in an interesting way, and you see T’Lyn embrace science and Starfleet more than I think people anticipate.”
Mike promises that in addition to T’Lyn, we’ll see more of Ma’ah, the Klingon lower decker who rose to captain in the season 2 episode “wej Duj” and returned in season 4, helping Mariner out in episode 9. Calling Ma’ah “the Klingon Boimler,” McMahan says in a ScreenRant interview that he sees potential there too:
“Ma’ah is not on the same path as T’Lyn, but I love Klingons, and I love Ma’ah, and you get more. This is not the end of Ma’ah.”
Fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will recognize the pattern of gradually expanding the show’s supporting character list. Having a deep bench of interesting recurring characters was one of DS9’s greatest strengths, and Lower Decks has already seen the same kind of benefit from it.
Season 5 will return episodic focus
With the stories getting bigger in scope each season and the characters growing in new and exciting ways, McMahan is also careful to point out what areas the show shouldn’t change and needs to stay close to its original concept. Lower Decks originally focused on more self-contained stories, contrasting sharply with the highly serialized Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. But with season 4, the writing team experimented with a full-season story arc. McMahan, in The Mary Sue discussion, insisted that won’t be a permanent trend:
“We know season 4 took some serialized elements we had done before and kind of ramped them up across the whole season more… But there is a little bit of serialization in season 5, but not to the extent that you saw this season. This one’s was a special take on it.”
Is it fan service if he is serving himself?
Going forward, the writing will still maintain the same deep love for Trek lore, the same Easter eggs, and the same deep cut reference jokes that have made Lower Decks work so far. Mike McMahan insists that these touches aren’t “fan service” and are the reason the show works so well. He’s a fan himself, making the show he wants, and other fans get it. He summarizes his view in a recent episode of The 7th Rule podcast:
“If you love Lower Decks, it’s kind of a proof of like, a super-fan can kind of make a show for themselves, and… the things that could read as fan service to other people, yeah, it’s sort of fan service to me. Like, I’m a fan of the thing I wanted, the stories I wanted to tell, and the way I wanted to tell it. My initial theory was, ‘Well, if I’m happy, you’ll all be happy’ and most of the time that works.”
A release date for Star Trek: Lower Decks season 5 has not been announced but is expected to be in 2024. Seasons 1-4 are currently streaming on Paramount+.
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