Is Lower Decks the most Star Trek of the recent reboots?

8 min readAug 5, 2023

Yes. Sort of.

I’ll explain myself, before even more Star Trek gets issued.

With a new season four launching in September, Lower Decks is set for at least another comeback some time in 2024.

But what about the show. Well, its pacing is quite different from other Star Trek shows. It aims at humour more than drama. And it’s a cartoon, although not the first of its kind — cue the two seasons of Star Trek: The Animated Series back in 1973.

So what makes it more Star Trek?

The ethos.

The characters aboard the Cerritos actually abide by the Star Trek creed and are punished accordingly for breaking it. This creed doesn’t just apply to the Prime Directive, but also in the way crew members are ranked and in the way species are left to their own devices.

The most frustrating part of watching Star Trek: Discovery is the way in which it subverts the message of unity to imply that everyone in the galaxy should be part of the same club; aka the woke crowd. The first season starts off with Michael Burnham pushing her way into Klingon space and starting an encounter that shouldn’t have been.

For all its flawed masculinity and bit-part racial roles (which were still fairly considerable given the context of the time) the original Star Trek series did something right. It painted the Federation as a peaceful mission of discovery through space, hoping to further the knowledge of humanity and any other races who wanted to share their knowledge with our species. If it came across an area of space it wasn’t welcomed in, the Enterprise left the ailens to their own devices. The whole point was to explore space peacefully, without infringing on anyone’s rights.

Lately, however, that same woke ideology has been spun into a much more problematic, and divisive, Federation, namely with Discovery. The picture the show paints is of a crowd of people who are more liberal and diverse than the other people, who don’t want to join them. To not be part of that crowd is to be on the side of wrong. Michael Burnham just keeps antagonising people until they see her point of view. Yes, Kirk and Picard did this, but only when someone was in mortal danger. Discovery doesn’t care whose toes in steps on.

To be fair, this has been less relevant in later seasons, with season four of Discovery having a really good meaningful connection between the alien antagonists and Star Fleet, which felt very Star Fleet. It was almost enough to overlook their very silly ideas about what leaving the galaxy looks like, which was a very confused mess of sci-fi nonsense.


Another problem with Discovery, which Lower Decks has improved on, is the issue of rank. The decision to centre around a character other than the captain was an interesting one, but it ultimately falls down if that character then tells everyone on the ship, including the captain, what to do, especially when they’re supposed to be in custody at the time.

Lower Decks is starting to break this rule too, to drive plot, with the four lower deckers appearing more and more on the bridge. But by and large they’re never given the helm.

The Michael Burnham character also never stops talking and it seems that everyone eventually just goes along with her, as she keeps speaking until she’s taken over the situation. To be fair, that’s a fault of Star Trek in general and I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Captain Kirk didn’t become a larger than life figure himself. But in a show that is hopefully improving on the originals it seems to be largely trying to have minorities repeatedly talk over any white, male superior looking figure. The show reads as a ‘who is the wokest character’, with Adira and Gray’s relationship being the most emblematic of this.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no agenda. I am quite happy to see anyone command a star ship. That’s rather the point of Star Trek; inclusivity. But at times Discovery feels like characters are competing on woke points, trying to trump each other. And while it’s refreshing not to see a white male being a sexual predator (as Kirk could often be) I don’t feel as if this is truly representative of a twenty-third century morality. Inclusion doesn’t mean anyone’s point is more valid because of who they are. It just means we all play on the same field.

New frontiers.

This is by far the biggest problem I’ve had with Star Trek recently and why I loved the originals, despite the aforementioned problems. The original 1966 version was about a ship on the brink of unchartered space. Each week brought a new philosophical problem or concept of life and the universe. Often it would be some allegory pulled from the past, and many of those didn’t quite work or became rather cheesy, sedated versions of a science fictional concept. But then you got something new the next week.

Star Trek: The Next Generation gave us some better stories individually, but became too much about the characters, as later shows continued to do.

Now it’s just about the characters. The villains are as predictable, by and large, as the famous Marvel sky beam that ends every film. They’re two-dimensional evil entities that couldn’t fill an original episode, let alone pad out an entire season, but they do.

There is no exploration of space, really. Unfortunately, I feel that’s a reflection of our current era. Back in the sixties, space was a new frontier being broadened daily and the unknown became interesting to most households. But fundamentally, the majority of people don’t care about deep space. It makes a pretty screen saver, but that’s about it.

So the focus has shifted to a character drama involving the same old characters and patterns.

Picard has been particularly bad at this. Three seasons of the Borg did nothing to further our fascination or interest, but merely delivered the same increasingly watered down version of this once terrifying and fascinating villain.

One thing I will say in Picard’s defence however, and that’s the look it gave us on humanity in season one. Faced by an attack, the human race, supposedly enlightened, becomes xenophobic towards androids. It’s something that the 2000’s Enterprise explored with aliens, so it’s not new in Star Trek. But it does paint more of a background to the amazing Star Fleet crews who are the exception to humanity, not the rule. They along stick to their convictions, not just in good times, but when faced with fear, as most of us are unable to do.

But back to the main point. Strange New Worlds is exploring new frontiers weekly and I’ve liked the episodic feel of the seasons, although a lot of its big moments have been done by previous crews before (such as stealing the Enterprise in this latest season). I’ve also become tired of Spock backstories that try to shock us by showing that Vulcans have emotions. It’s all been done before. Although at least they didn’t make it into a season arc story, like Discovery, and tried to rewrite the past with a Burnham/Spock tie that felt very disingenuous.

Lower Decks is a different feel in that the California class ship is on support missions, and yet still the show manages to make each episode feel like an exploration of something new, even if its new dimensions into Star Fleet itself. It’s more of a character show, but it doesn’t feel as overwhelming as other shows, even with the number of obligatory references for fan service.

All in all.

Lower Decks is a stab at a different concept within the Star Trek universe, which has to be praised at a point where most of the lore has been mined away like so much dilithium. Being a cartoon, it also doesn’t try compete as much with the live action version, which also helps its different pacing and feel.

But what’s most rewarding perhaps is that simple lesson-learnt feeling of each episode, which feels very much like the old Star Trek. Is it a little too self-reflective? Sure. A little too much talk-really-fast-for-comic-effect, in the style of the best American sitcoms? Yes. But for the three sins listed above, it commits all of these the least out of the new reboots. It doesn’t try to overpower viewers by how woke it is; characters just are who they are. Sexuality, gender, race or ideology doesn’t define them or what they can achieve. Which to me is very Star Trek.

What would I like to see in more Star Trek.


The reason I’ve watched any of the latest seasons is purely in the hope that new science fiction ideas might emerge. I’d like to see a ship go boldly into the black and discover things that make me go ‘oooh’.

But it doesn’t have to be Star Trek to do that. I don’t necessarily need the franchise. I have enjoyed the philosophy and ideology; it makes me feel hopeful that we too could aspire, as a race, to create a world where we worked towards everyone’s betterment, just because it’s the decent thing to do.

But what we’ve got recently, mostly, is the trimmings of Star Trek. Just mentioning Spock, Kirk or the Enterprise isn’t enough. The show used to be about explorers, before it got so big that it became all about itself.

I’ve stayed watching it because there’s little else out there that offers that final frontier tang. But I’m open to suggestions. And I still do most of my searching in books, where ideas come more fully fleshed and less watery.

Star Trek is just one frontier. That said, some of the new stuff is alright. I think someone might be getting the hang of it soon.




A literary student by nature (and training), with a splash of ad experience, I’m setting out to make passion my career — reading, writing and SF.