The idea of "Family" has become a recurring theme on "Star Trek" shows as there are parents who bring their children on board the ships they serve. The most notable cases are Beverly (Gates McFadden) and Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), who, as mother and son, serve as the chief medical officer and helmsman on the U.S.S. Enterprise-D on Next Generation; and Benjamin (Avery Brooks) and Jake Sisko (Cirroc Lofton), who, as father and son, are commander-turned captain and journalist on Deep Space Nine. On Lower Decks, it's mother and daughter combination of Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) and Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), and their relationship on the Paramount+ animated series that's become a primary focus of the series, rather than an auxiliary one with its live-action counterparts. It's also the major point of contention entering the season finale "The Stars at Night' which saw Mariner abandon her position at Starfleet to become an archaeologist following the fallout with her mother after she reassigned her daughter to Starbase 80 during the events of "Trusted Sources." Creator Mike McMahan spoke to Bleeding Cool about their contentious relationship, transporter doppelganger William Boimler's future, and a dream crossover.
Freeman & Mariner's Fight Entering Star Trek: Lower Decks S03 Finale
Bleeding Cool: We hit another roadblock with Freeman and Mariner. Is this latest spat entering a point of no return?
McMahan: We're not entering a point of no return. Capt Freeman and Mariner and everybody in 'Lower Decks' use expression as characters in a Star Trek show, and they're trying their best. They make mistakes and can be emotional. Star Trek has always been about emotional people. It hasn't always been about parents and kids who don't see eye-to-eye. Occasionally, the captain of the Cerritos and Mariner have a much longer and harder past to go through. Their contentious relationship is a tough thing for the captain to deal with. It came to a breaking point where it was a culmination of Mariner's behavior leading to the perception that [Mariner] was working not only against the captain but also the crew itself. What is considered the breaking point? Not only does the captain want the ship to seem great to this reporter, but she also has to work on her ego. Mariner didn't only seem to subvert the captain but also the crew. This broke the trust, causing things to spiral. Going into the finale, it's both of them grappling with Mariner getting the [negative] perception from everybody while the captain deals with the repercussions of being wrong.
Is it part of Freeman's nature to have this distrust of her daughter?
[Mariner]'s a bit of an overachiever as an officer. Freeman is putting up with her the most because she believes in her the most. It's Mariner who keeps pushing it. The question you have to ask is, "Why is Mariner so self-destructive, especially in this idealized Star Trek future?" The franchise is about imperfect people who want to be better. Both Freeman and Mariner express that.
In "Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus," we see how Brad's transporter twin William Boimler fakes his death and ends up in Section 31 delivering a sinister laugh. Will we see a dramatic change in him compared to Data's evil twin, Lore?
All I can say is that it's classified. Will Boimler will still be more like Thomas Riker instead of Lore. We have seen the Mirror Universe many times in Star Trek, and moving forward, anything to do with William Boimler, I will subvert what you expect from it. I've seen people putting out theories online. Every time they're out there, I know exactly what I shouldn't do. I wouldn't want anybody to be bummed out that called it.
Speaking of theories, what's the wildest theory you've heard out there?
I'm not looking online too much. I wish there were insane wild theories back when I was at 'Rick and Morty.' I saw some of it when I was a writer's assistant and was like, "We're going to do that now. We're not going to now", stuff like that. So many things people respond to me on Twitter and say how much they love the show or watch it with their family. I like seeing adult kids watching it with their parents, and it recreates my experience watching Star Trek with my mom. Obviously, 'Lower Decks' isn't made for kids. If you're 19 and you're watching with your parents, that's very cool.
Do you find yourself having to pull back from something so outlandish, perhaps entering 'Rick and Morty' territory?
I wouldn't say I had to dial stuff back because this show is different. When you're in the writer's room, you're trying to figure out emotional stories, sci-fi, and comedy. You're not dialing back, but the ones that ultimately you get shooting to screen and the actors interpret the way you're trying to figure the funniest [take], but also the structured stuff and have that balance that. No one is putting a lid on us. Nobody is saying the show shouldn't be funny, right? We all want a balance of comedy and structure.
Are we going to see another cliffhanger as we saw last season, or are we seeing closure for this arc?
This season is more closure, less of a cliffhanger, and more of a promise of the tone coming into the next season. Season four is already written, and we're working on it now. Some threads get tied up in the finale, and then at the end, you get a good sense of where we're going to be starting, but with real changes in where our characters are attitudinally and where other characters will end up at the end of the show.
ST: LD Dream Crossovers
With the crossover with 'Strange New Worlds', and guest stars you already had with The Original Series, Deep Space Nine, Next Generation, and Voyager, were there any legacy actors you tried to get for 'Lower Decks' but couldn't?
It would be fun to get someone from the Kelvin Universe and try to cross those streams a little bit, but I have not managed to navigate that kind of web of studio diplomacy to do that. Season four is going to be great, with returning characters some people haven't seen in a long time coming up. I don't want to give away too much. I'm looking forward to reactions when people see a familiar face and voice show up.
If anyone from the Kelvin Universe could, it has to be Karl Urban, given the mutual connection from 'The Boys.'
There are a couple of things I like. I love 'Enterprise' and [would] love there to be more of a chance to cross over with characters from that show, but it's tough because of the timeline. It only makes sense if it fits. It would have to be surprising and fun, like when they found Scotty in that Dyson Sphere, having trapped himself in the pattern buffer [in TNG]. I'm just trying to figure out a cool way to get all of my geeky things to happen [laughs].
The season finale of Star Trek: Lower Decks premieres Thursday on Paramount+.