Star Trek: Lower Decks
- Brian Donaldson
- 29 January 2021
Star Trek's return to animation is a hectic hotchpotch of laugh-free scenes and over-the-top chaos
No doubt an unfair public perception, but Trekkies (are they still called that these days?) might not be renowned as lovers of quicksharp, snarky comedy. Don't they prefer the dry sardonic wit of a Spock, or the mother-in-law-gags style of Harcourt Fenton Mudd? Quite what the committed fan will make of the first animated Star Trek series since the early 70s is up for debate, with its humour and pacing frenetically pitched somewhere between Archer and Futurama.
While there are numerous references to the old-school members of Starfleet (plus cameos from Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes), Star Trek: Lower Decks strikes out to be its own thing. Set, as the title suggests, in the lesser known area of the USS Cerritos, we meet maverick rule-breaker Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), nerdy regulation-adherent Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), hyper medical officer Tendi (Noël Wells), and a recently converted cyborg Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) as they attempt to halt rampaging zombies, stop arms sales to aliens, and indulge in messy encounters with 'rectal insectoids'.
Sadly, there's a real strain to the humour as it approximates what's traditionally amusing in workplace sitcoms: sharp zingers, mumbling confusion, and ultra-awareness of pomposity and inefficiency. Neither loathsome nor likeable, Lower Decks settles quickly into bland conformity, with the obvious tension between individuals played for all its worth and gory action sequences with explosions, vomiting and wounding able to be as over-the-top as they can get away with, what with this being animation. While it sounds as though Lower Decks might be pitched at a certain kind of grown-up, it's clearly not one who can hear a swear word without blood coming from their ears given that the bleeper is out in full force here. Star Trek fans may or may not go for this, and it's unclear how long outsiders will care to look in given its lack of genuine laughs, plots that are almost impossible to follow and characters that are barely fleshed out.
All episodes available now on Amazon Prime Video.