Lower Decks (S2 Review): The Best Star Trek Series of the Last Decade is Underrated

Lower Decks continues the long tradition of Star Trek shows which don’t hit their stride till Season 2 or beyond. Read on for more of my thoughts…

This season begins where the last one left off: Beckett Mariner is outed as Captain Freeman’s daughter, Bradward Boimler now serves on The U.S.S Titan under Captain William Riker, Sam Rutherford suffers from memory loss, and D’Vana Tendi… continues as she was.

I was a big fan of Lower Decks season 1. It wasn’t a perfect show but its charms outweighed its flaws. Season 2 improves on the first in almost every way! The Cerritos crew lessens its personal conflicts in lieu of working together– like classic Star Trek; those internal crew conflicts which remain are are handled with superior nuance to season 1; individual episodes are more memorable; the over-arching plots are carry more dramatic weight; and the writing has increased in confidence!

Lower Decks season 2 deepens its core cast in meaningful ways, on both an individual and collective level. Mariner (for instance) lets down some of her barriers this year and allows her friends/ family to become closer with her. It’s a struggle for her, and progress is slow, but she’s becoming more well rounded.

Mariner is usually right, and she’s a self-proclaimed “Maverick” but Lower Decks also lets her make a fool of herself. Such struggles and character growth are why she’s a WAY more compelling lead than someone like Michael Burnham (from ST: Discovery). Also, unlike Burnham, disobeying orders often gets Mariner in trouble (put in the brig, forced to do bad jobs, earning the frustration of her crewmates, etc).

Lower Decks' Season 2: 'Strange Energies' Easter Eggs | Heavy.com
Ensign Mariner and her mother, Captain Freeman being cordial

Good ol’ Boimler is more confident this year and isn’t so easily pushed around; Tendi (my favourite) has a mysterious backstory I want to know more about NOW; and Rutherford is growing into the meta-commentator of Lower Decks, voicing the audience’s concerns. I’m happy with all these progressions and look forward to seeing where they continue.

NOTE: Rutherford and Tendi are the most nerdy characters on any Star Trek series– and that’s saying something. Their positivity is infectious and makes me happy.

Character dynamics in S2 are solidified and expanded upon to force new challenges and room for growth. We even get more time with the 4 core characters interacting as a group! Last season the main 4 mostly paired up (Mariner and Boimler/ Tendi and Rutherford) and rarely interacted. This year they change up the combos once in a while– even acknowledging how weird they feel switching up the formula.

Beyond the main characters, Lower Decks season 2’s biggest accomplishment is making me care more about the bridge crew. Season 1 cast them as these mysterious people who did the important jobs while Lower Deckers got stuck with the dullest of work. This year stripped back the officers’ thinly rendered veneers of “Star Trek commander stereotypes” and gave them actual character traits. They still aren’t so well developed as the main cast, but they’ve come a long way.

Star Trek: Lower Decks' Creator Talks Joining Legendary Franchise - Variety
This image perfectly sums up everyone’s personalities and dynamics.

The Cerritos is quickly becoming one of my favourite ships in the Star Trek canon! These aren’t Starfleet’s best or brightest, their missions aren’t glamorous, and they’re sorta dysfunctional… But they’re passionate about their work and they aren’t incompetent fools. They’re some of the most “average” recurring humans on a Star Trek show (besides maybe Keiko O’Brien and Jake Sisko). This makes them some of the franchise’s most relatable characters as well.

Lower Decks season 2 solidified the dimwitted Pakleds as The Cerritos’ primary recurring enemies. I find it fitting that D-tier Star Trek villains would be the arch-nemeses of a D-tier starship. Many episodes this year feature The Pakleds’ hilariously stupid– yet somehow legitimately dangerous– antics (in some capacity).

The action of Lower Decks continues to blend fast-paced combat with fast-paced comedy. The set-pieces are large, colourful and good fun! S2’s pacing of the action even improved this year. Season 1 had this hyper, almost manic energy which sometimes took away from the gravity of the situations. Season 2 strikes a better balance between genuine-feeling danger and satirical mockery of the craziness on display.

LD’s comedy continues to be largely referential in nature. The deeper your Star Trek nerd lore goes the better a time you’ll have. Lower Decks is clearly a show written by passionate ST fans (who don’t take things too seriously). That’s all fun and good for Star Trek fans but I worry it might be a bar of entry for franchise inductees.

It’s unfortunately hard for me to judge the humour of Lower Decks for casual Trekkers. I find the jokes hilarious because I know exactly why they’re supposed to be funny. But I can’t say with certainty most people would “get” the humour without some context. Some stuff is obvious enough, like when they make jokes about Kirk or Spock– characters even the most novice of Trek fans should know a little about by now– but there’s a lot of deep cuts too. I’ve seen every episode of every ST show to date (except for the Animated series in the 1970s) and even I probably miss a lot of gags.

Star Trek: Lower Decks (S02E08): I, Excretus Summary - Season 2 Episode 8  Guide
Like this new character (Kayshon) is a lot funnier if you’ve seen ST: The Next Generation’s “Darmok” episode

Lower Decks makes me laugh out loud quite a lot though. And that’s uncommon. Maybe I just watch a lot of mediocre comedies? I dunno. I quite enjoy the series’ sense of humour though. Try the show out, even if its lore seems intimidating. You might like it too!

Even if you’re not a fan of the humour, Lower Decks offers a generally uplifting experience. The stories are often positive and idealistic plots about working together, bettering ourselves as human beings, and finding strength in our differences. Our world needs more content like this…

I know a lot of people wrote this show off at the start– ’cause how dare Star Trek be a comedy? But franchises need to evolve to stay fresh. The Golden age of Trek from the 80s-90s will always be there. That doesn’t mean we must like all the new stuff (I have mixed relationships with Discovery and Picard) but I’m glad we get anything at all. Whether it’s like “our” trek or not isn’t necessarily relevant. It’s best to get people in the door, right?

Lower Decks Season 2 feels more like a successor to classic Trek with every episode, and does a Pretty Darn Good job at that.

What’s your favourite Star Trek series and why? What did you think of Lower Decks season 2? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

REVIEW METRIC: Don’t bother; If you’re bored; Worth a watch; Pretty darn good; Must see; Watch it A.S.A.P.

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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