Star Trek: Lower Decks Review: "Second Contact" Feels A Bit Familiar

Star Trek: Lower Decks - "Second Contact
Just when you think you seen everything of how Star Trek can start, Lower Decks provides a refreshing innovative angle that's seldom ever seen outside of Discovery. It's a show that knows how to handle its own technobabble but retains its more traditional family theme without going over the top. By no means is the first episode at least trying to emulate previous shows and easily finds its own voice and establishes the characters seamlessly in its half-hour format compared to the traditional hour-long live-action counterparts. Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid have great chemistry even if it's behind the mic for Star Trek fans not taking to the more somber tones of Discovery and Picard. If the rest of the episodes are anything like "Second Contact," you'll be in for a real treat.

To say Star Trek: Lower Decks is influenced from the Adult Swim megahit Rick and Morty would be an understatement. The CBS All Access animated series comes from the mind of Mike McMahan, who worked on the Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland animated television series. Lower Decks refers to the ensigns who are the lowest-ranked officers in Starfleet. They act like paid interns, but with the most hazardous grunt jobs with their life dealing with the hazards of deep space. Like an episode of Rick and Morty, the episodes don't waste a single minute giving an opportunity for every character to shine. There are many colorful characters that help make it feel more like a well-rounded series than just a traditional Star Trek series where the primary focus is always the senior officers. Lower Decks gives us an opportunity to know the 99 percent of the U.S.S. Cerritos right away. It's the kind of underdog show that wins you over.

"Second Contact" -- Pictured (L-R) Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler and Nol Wells as Ensign Tendi of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. Photo Cr: Best Possible Screen Grab CBS 2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
"Second Contact" — STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. Photo Cr: Best Possible Screen Grab CBS 2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Directed by Barry J. Kelly and written by McMahan, John Chochran, Ben Joseph, Ann Acacia Kim, Ben Rodgers, M. Willis, and Garrick Bernard, "Second Contact" takes the crew to a remote planet where they help its local inhabitants, with two primary storylines in the pilot (likely going to remain the structure of the series throughout). The first is how the distrustful Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) tasks Ensign Boimler (Jack Quaid) into monitoring (i.e.: spying) on his similarly ranked officer, Ensign Mariner (Tawny Newsome) due to her past issues with insubordination. Boimler is best described as vanilla as a by-the-book Federation officer can get. Mariner is a genius with intuition, but Starfleet rules and regulations often stand more in the way of getting things done. Not that she's amoral by any means, but if she has an opportunity to help someone else, don't look for her to wait for the ink to dry before orders become official. She serves Starfleet's ideals, but hardly respects the chain of command and barely understands why it even exists for something as trivial as providing farming equipment to the local inhabitants.

"Second Contact" -- Pictured (L-R) Ben Rodgers as Lt. Commander Stevens and Jerry O'Connell as Commander Jack Ransom of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. Photo Cr: Best Possible Screen Grab CBS 2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
"Second Contact" — STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. Photo Cr: Best Possible Screen Grab CBS 2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Meanwhile, as with any pathogen-related scenarios in Star Trek, a senior officer gets bitten by a local insect. In this instance, Commander Ransom (Jerry O'Connell) neglects the effects of the bite before he goes all 28 Days Later, starts raging, and infects others with his bite. They spit black bile, which apparently doesn't infect the host as long as they're not bitten, which is different from the 28 Days Later franchise. Unlike other Trek franchises, the solution doesn't come because of a sudden brainstorm. It just runs itself out full-cycle, which is convenient since it's mainly a comedy show.

Last thing to note: while the series is largely an ensemble, the main characters Mariner and Biomler make the series work because of the characteristics given. Make no mistake: Mariner is Rick, the overachieving, underappreciated genius who joined Starfleet to live out her Kirk fantasies. She knows her Federation regulations like the back of her hand (or mind), but will never flaunt them since she sees them more as annoying formalities. Boimler is definitely her Morty: young, innocent, and incorrigible. He can learn a lot from her like Morty does from Rick- as annoying as he can be many times. It's an advantage Boimler sees while interacting with Mariner that no other senior officer ever sees. Think Mariner as Rick toned down to 6-7 and Boimler as a little more sure-of-himself Morty. I look forward to seeing the series more as it progresses. Bonus points to the use of using classic Star Trek: The Next Generation font.

About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.

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