My “Second Contact” with Lower Decks
When I first learned about the existence of Star Trek: Lower Decks, I was extremely hesitant to watch it, having found that the original animated Star Trek series, with its chunky animation and new music, just wasn’t on a par with TOS (sorry, fans of that first animated show). Nonetheless, I did wonder how the new series would be, beginning with its initial episode: “Second Contact”.
Encountering the Episode
When I finally sat down to watch the first episode of Lower Decks… I didn’t even make it to the end. This wasn’t Star Trek as I recognized it; it simply wasn’t what I’d been expecting. This was a set of new characters, and they spoke strangely, acted rude, and the animation was weird. So, I turned it off, harshly disappointed.
Late last year, alone in the house while my wife was out for the evening, I considered what to watch. Okay, okay… There it was, still waiting for me: Lower Decks. Why not? Let’s give it one more chance. Was I about to have a similar change of heart to the many who had despised Enterprise when it first aired but, upon rewatching that show years later, actually liked it?
Similarly with my eyes refreshed and now open, I rewatched the pilot of Lower Decks and, much to my surprise, I found myself laughing… out loud! Whereas I’d been expecting serious Trek, I now looked at this series as comedy. I listened to the dialogue more closely, and it was fast and snappy. The animation was silly and in the style of Rick and Morty, which seemed appropriate, since the executive producer of the series, Mike McMahan, was a head writer for that animated show; it just seemed the style of this show would mimic that one… and I just couldn’t stop watching this one.
It seems that, if we like something so much and someone pokes fun at it, we first take offence. We become so defensive of what we like that, if it is ridiculed in any way, we go on the attack. We defend without question, even missing the joke that the ridicule is trying to offer. But when you can make fun of yourself, that is the best comedy.
The story of “Second Contact” takes place two-and-a-half years after the return of Voyager, so the references to prior Star Trek series work as almost a pop culture treatment, with frequent name dropping and so on. In the episode’s closing dialogue by Mariner (Tawny Newsome), her mentions of virtually everything that means something to a fan of Star Trek tie Lower Decks in with prior Trek shows and give it its canon acceptance.
I do think the violence in this first episode is a bit much. There are also some bleeped curse words and cartoon nudity, but you know what? This is more Adult Swim than Saturday morning cartoon. And that’s fine; we are adults, and we can handle it.
In this pilot, as it should be, the tone of the entire series is laid out for all the future episodes, in one way or another. Ultimately, I loved it! Although I would have originally rated this episode one out of five, I now score it four-and-a-half, and it inspired me to binge-watch the rest of the first two seasons of Lower Decks. I’m so glad I gave it a second chance!
A third season of Star Trek: Lower Decks is scheduled to debut this summer, and the show has been renewed for a fourth season as well.