RogerBW's Blog

Star Trek Lower Decks season 1 19 October 2021

2020 science fiction comedy, 10 episodes. On the USS Cerritos, the bridge crew think they're the stars of the show, but we follow the ensigns as they go about their daily grind (plus adventure).

There's a lot here that reminds me of the first season of Star Trek Discovery: the premise seems to be "what if Star Trek happened, but everyone in it were a horrible person?". I found the first few episodes very hard work to watch, with flaccid comedy aimed at all the usual easy targets (especially anyone smart or who ever tries to do their job properly). It was only later in the season as things opened up a little that it rose above that execrable start and managed to start saying something mildly interesting about the tension between rule-following and improvisation, and the need for both of them in unexpected situations.

Yes, all right, we do still get rather too much of Boimler, who always tries to do the right thing and always fails and is punished for it (except when it would "funny" for him to try to cheat, and fail and be punished for that). But we also get Mariner the self-proclaimed rebel whose greatest enemy really is herself, Tendi the wide-eyed enthusiast for all things Starfleet (i.e. Boimler without always being the butt of the joke), and Rutherford the engineer who just wants to be left alone to get on with engineering.

There are also lots and lots of continuity references for the dedicated fan; if I knew Star Trek better these would probably annoy me just as they did in The Mandalorian, but since my reaction is mostly not "I recognise that" but rather "that's an interesting-looking thing" they serve to break up the backgrounds. At the same time the writers don't go for the really cheap shots like expendable security personnel.

The stories are brutally episodic: if something vaguely positive happens it will be reset by the end of the 22-minute show, and knowing this meant that I at least met every positive development with a groan. Still, even this lightens a little by the end, with some suggestion that at least some of the drearily repetitious sources of tension may have shifted a bit for the next season. (I think this may also be best watched in a block, rather than a week at a time; even when it gets good, it's not smart comedy.)

It's an odd blend of dreary punching-down humour and genuine interest.

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