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All in good fun: Reviewing season one of ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’

The final installment of the animated show’s 10-episode first season premieres today on streaming service CBS All Access.

Courtesy of CBS All Access

Ten weeks in a pandemic year may feel like an eternity in some ways, but with regard to the 10-week, 10-episode season one run of animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” it started and raced to the finish line in what seems like the blink of an eye.

“No Small Parts,” the 10th and final episode of the first season of the CBS All Access original series drops today, pitting the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos against one last set of obstacles before CBS transitions its streaming service’s latest Starfleet offering to a new season of “Star Trek: Discovery.”

“Lower Decks” episodes run a half hour each and the show has thus far gotten mixed reviews from both viewers and critics. Often funny, though not particularly graceful in its approach, the series isn’t heavy in plot. It follows a group of four ensigns who help keep the Cerritos operable, typically working menial tasks away from the eyes of senior officers. What’s unique in the show’s narrative structure compared to previous "Star Trek" offerings is that it typically keeps core characters from performing tasks on the ship’s bridge. What drives the point further is that the Cerritos is a support ship in the Federation which doesn’t often see action.

One episode, titled “Veritas,” exploits the core characters for how little they know or interact with their ship’s senior leadership team, spearheaded by Captain Carol Freeman who is voiced by Dawnn Lewis (“A Different World”). A plot thread in the episode follows D’Vana Tendi, an Orion ensign voiced by Noël Wells (“Saturday Night Live”) who serves in the medical bay of the Cerritos. She goes from cleaning the conference room — with a lint roller — to being recruited for a black-ops mission as “the Cleaner,” never quite understanding what she’s meant to do. Though she manages to exceed the expectations of her senior officer and complete her task, which involves intense hand-to-hand combat.

Courtesy of CBS All Access

The show centers around ensigns Beckett Mariner and Bradward Boimler, voiced by Tawny Newsome (“Space Force”) and Jack Quaid, respectively. In many ways, Mariner is the heart of the show while Boimler is its conscience. Mariner is the ship’s definitive rule-breaker. Her dialogue is often razor-sharp and she frantically dumps dialogue which ranges from how wrong Starfleet is on a variety of issues to dropping Easter eggs and references related to previous “Star Trek” series and films. She wishes to remain anonymous, thus serving as an ensign indefinitely. Boimler, meanwhile, is a suck-up who wants to do everything the Starfleet way and get promoted through the ranks. Quaid (“The Boys”) embodies his character with an honest edge that makes him both insufferable and endearing.

Eugene Cordero’s (“Kong: Skull Island”) Ensign Sam Rutherford is a less-refined and de-aged Geordi La Forge from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Rutherford works in engineering like La Forge, utilizing a cyborg implant in his face. He’s also socially awkward, yet likable, and tends to fire up his charm when he’s paired with Tendi. If Mariner and Boimler are the show’s yin and yang, Rutherford and Tendi are obnoxious teenagers feeding each other’s personalities.

Jerry O’Connell (“Jerry Maguire"), Fred Tatasciore (“Frozen”) and Gillian Vigman (“New Girl”) round out the voice cast. O’Connell’s Commander Jack Ransom, in particular, is a delight when interacting with Mariner. Vigman’s Doctor T’Ana is an unpleasant and grouchy cat called a Caitian. The doctor tends to get a lot of the show’s best one-liners.

Created by Mike McMahan, who is joined by fellow co-executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Heather Kadin, Trevor Roth, Katie Krentz and Rod Roddenberry, the chief executive officer of Roddenberry Entertainment and the son of the late Gene Roddenberry, “Lower Decks” is the first original animated series offered on CBS All Access. It’s also just the second animated show in “Star Trek” existence, following the shortly lived “Star Trek: The Animated Series” from the 1970s.

The series is part of “Star Trek” canon, taking place after the film “Star Trek: Nemesis” from 2002. How the Cerritos and its crew operate on the periphery and don’t take their missions too seriously is what makes the whole operation work. They're chronic underachievers. Adventures and episodes are for the most part very standalone, ready to be consumed by either the most hardcore “Star Trek” fan or a casual viewer who just wants to laugh.



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