Mike McMahan has made a name for himself in adult animation. He created Solar Opposites, the underrated Hulu Original about aliens attempting to navigate everyday life on Earth. He wrote some of the best episodes of Rick and Morty, including The Rickshank Redemption and The ABCs of Beth.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is not his best work thus far.
One [Note] And [Over]Done
One of my biggest complaints about Solar Opposites also applies to Lower Decks: it’s nothing new.
Lower Decks is a workplace comedy set in space. The main characters are a neurotic rule-follower and a notorious rule-breaker who’s secretly good at her job. They’re accompanied on screen by The New Girl, The Nerd, The No-Nonsense Authority and The Toxic Masculine.
Very little about their interpersonal dynamics or their struggles in the workplace stand out. In fact, despite being set on a Star Fleet vessel and a rotating set of new worlds, the problems the characters face could have been pulled from any episode of American Dad.
The premise of the series presents such a juicy opportunity. An irreverent adult animation set in the vast and established Star Trek universe? My god, yeah, we should be eating this up.
Instead, the show very rarely interacts with the Star Trek universe, other than the occasional forced name-drop or an aesthetic overlay on a tired trope.
The showrunners should have either committed to lampooning Star Trek or embracing the noble adventure action of the franchise. Walking the line between them is difficult, and Lower Decks does neither well. Or at all.
Family Guy did a better job interacting with the Star Wars universe than this franchise-approved cartoon does with its own franchise.
The Final Verdict
Lower Decks is a soulless Seth MacFarlane show re-skinned to appeal to Star Trek fans. Except Seth MacFarlane shows engender a chuckle here and there.
Rick and Morty‘s overwhelming success means that the adult animation genre is going to try and mimic the things it does well.
McMahan would have done better to try and forge a new path instead of riding the swell of his R&M success.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is Utterly Skippable. Lower Decks is currently streaming exclusively on CBS All Access.
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