New animated series adds humor to a familiar premise
The newest “Star Trek” series goes where no show has gone before. Well, almost.
NBC aired an animated version of the original sci-fi classic in the mid-1970s, “Star Trek: Lower Decks” also is a cartoon, but it injects mature humor into the late writer-producer Gene Roddenberry’s legendary franchise as it makes its CBS All Access debut Thursday, Aug. 6. The Roddenberry camp remains involved, but the show’s creator is “Rick and Morty” Emmy winner Mike McMahan, who also has been making Hulu’s animated science-fiction comedy “Solar Opposites.”
The late-24th-century “Lower Decks” characters have private lives as pivotal as intergalactic crises, Tawny Newsome (“Space Patrol”) voices Beckett Mariner, an ensign aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos — and a resourceful troublemaker who’s gotten several demotions. “Sliders” veteran Jerry O’Connell is heard as Commander Jack Ransom, who isn’t exactly by-the-book in his starship leadership. Jack Quaid, Noel Wells, Eugene Cordero, Dawnn Lewis, Fred Tatasciore and Gillian Vigman also have major speaking roles.
Newsome appreciates McMahan’s comparison of Mariner’s maverick spirit to that of the first “Star Trek’s” Kirk. The Second City alum notes that she hasn’t “done a lot of dramatic work in my career, so I don’t know that I thought ‘Star Trek’ would be in my future, because I hadn’t seen them do anything outright comedic. I had a medium-deep knowledge of ‘Star Trek,’ so with this being a half-hour comedy, it’s like, ‘Oh! This is my entry point into this world that I love.’ ”
O’Connell comes from a household already steeped in “Star Trek,” since wife Rebecca Romijn has played Number One on “Star Trek: Discovery.” He says, “I’ve really just been her ‘plus one’ over the last few years in going to conventions, and I’ve realized how dedicated the ‘Star Trek’ fan base is. I’ve never experienced anything like it. My wife and I both play Number Ones, basically the second-in-command, and it’s really fun. I think she thinks she outranks me, but I have to remind her that we’re equals.”
Though CBS All Access also has “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Star Trek: Picard” currently (and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” coming), McMahan thinks that gives him only a certain safety net with fans where “Lower Decks” — on which he’s also an executive producer, and which already has a second-season order — is concerned. (Nickelodeon also is planning the animated “Star Trek: Prodigy.”)
“I guess it’s helpful to be part of a pantheon of ‘Star Trek’ shows, but they’re all doing their own thing,” McMahan reasons. “My show wouldn’t exist without the other shows. Those were the proof that you can drill into what one person loves about ‘Star Trek,’ and if they really care about it, it’s likely that a lot of other people will, too.”