“It’s carnivorous moss? Are you kidding me?”

The Lower Decks is a show suffused with a huge amount of honest love and respect for Star Trek the long-running, massive intellectual property and Star Trek, the hyper-diverse, futuristic, post-scarcity society as a concept.  Anything out of the extensive 57 year history after the original series including the eight shows that have followed the first is fair game for the writers of the Lower Decks to reference.  Though there’s sometimes savage needling and mockery of Star Trek ideas, it’s done with a reverence for the legacy of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, deep appreciation of the source material and high regard for the legions of fans. From the start, perhaps owing to its animated nature, Lower Decks has always been cruder, kinkier, funnier and more graphically violent than the typical, live-action Star Trek fare. S4E8, Caves is no exception.

Kid Cudi and Paramount+ put on an impressive show for the Star Trek Universe panel at NYCC’23. The Cleveland, Ohio born musician, who has been a Trekkie since he was a kid, has teamed with the studio to produce a Star Trek-influenced line of clothing and outerwear.  Star Trek: Lower Decks creator, Mike McMahan and series Executive Producer, Alex Kurtzman helmed the informative panel, and much was made of the fact that on the 50th anniversary of the first Star Trek animated series, two well-vaunted animated shows are currently in production. Strong fan demand has pulled Star Trek: Prodigy out of the scrap yard in a manner very similar to the way massive audience mail petitions forced the hand of NBC after the original series was first cancelled in 1968.

This reviewer was saddened by the notification that the fifth but final season of Star Trek: Discovery is forthcoming. However, in addition to a new season of Lower Decks, new episodes of Strange New Worlds with Anson Mount as Captain Pike and his crew of oddball, horny, super-hot, trekking space-nerds are in production. Mr. McMahan was very pleased to announce and promulgate the existence of two fresh Star Trek IP’s, a new show focused on Starfleet Academy where the main characters would be cadets and a film focusing on the Federation’s somewhat sinister Secret Service, Section 31.  

Fanboyfactor.com and this reviewer were given a sneak peak of of Lower Decks season 4, episode 8: Caves. Written by Ben Rogers and directed by Megan Lloyd, S4E8, Caves stars Jack Quaid, Noël Wells, Eugene Cordero and Tawny Newsome as the reunited, recently promoted, Lieutenant junior grade officers of the California class USS Cerritos who have been dispatched together on an away mission to study life signs in a cave.

“I had a cave-baby with the doc. I didn’t tell you that?”

Moments after beaming down on their mission to study space-moss, a tremor collapses the entrance to the cave, leaving the landing party consisting of Beckett Mariner, (Newsome), Brad Boimler (Quaid), Sam Rutherford (Cordero) and D’vana Tendi (Wells) trapped. Hailing frequencies are blocked by the composition of the minerals surrounding them, but Rutherford thinks he can boost the signal of their communicators. As Sam attempts the repair, Starfleet’s version of campfire tales kicks off with the friends killing time by sharing cave-oriented anecdotes, however, skulking in the shadows, something dire lurks in the darkness all around them, hanging on every word.

Will the team be able to re-establish communications with the Cerritos? Will they be able to remain clear-headed in an unstable, claustrophobic trap? Will the party discover the true nature of the space-moss surrounding them before it’s too late? Will Boimler understand the meaning of the mercurial, shape-changing Vendorians he encountered? Will Rutherford feel comfortable with Doctor T’Ana ever again? Will the friends be devoured before Tendi gets to tell her story? Watch S4E8, Caves to find out.

“I didn’t love peeing in the corner.”

Star Trek: Lower Decks is a giant mash note, a love letter to all things Trek.  As Star Trek goes, the series is ridiculously violent, over-the-top, silly, satirical, comical, cartoonish and crass. There is a calculation that the crew of the Cerritos, a ship specializing in “second contact” missions, are a bit more gruff, rough and less polished than the officers of fleet flagships like the Enterprise and as such, operate in the blue far more often. Dialogue on Lower Decks is interrupted by the bowdlerized beeps of censors as often as it is by red alerts triggered by sensors. However, there is also great warmth, the typical Trek embrace of diversity and a focus on family, both those found by circumstance and those formed by genetic relations.

The writers and animators who make Lower Decks are taking advantage of the streaming format and its penchant to allow for repeat and binge watching by cramming in an absurd amount of Easter eggs in each episode. The Vendorians themselves are eggs, a reference to the original animated series from 1973, where they first appeared. With liberal use of the pause and rewind buttons few of the inserted homages will be missed.

This reviewer’s mother was a Trekkie back in the day and as such, grew up watching Star Trek. I am intimately familiar with virtually all things Trek. This is a very good example of Star Trek media. Every time this reviewer watches the Lower Decks, he can’t stop smiling.  However, one does not have to be a Trekkie to like the Lower Decks. It is extremely well made science-fiction with solid world-building behind it, snappy dialogue, chortling comedy, clean animation and deep characters. Episode 8 is great. Season 4 has left this reviewer wanting more, with only two episodes remaining.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is streaming now on Paramount +

Star Trek (the original series) was created by Gene Roddenberry.
Star Trek: Lower Decks was created by Mike McMahan.

By Dan Kleiner

Dan Kleiner is a strange visitor from another planet who resides in Brooklyn, New York with two cats and his amazing girlfriend. When not plotting world domination, he spends a great deal of his time watching movies and anime of all sorts, reading comic-books and book-books, studying politics and history and striving for the day when he graduates as a Class A-Weirdo.