CBS All Access
August 6, 2020
Episode 1 – “Second Contact”
First day on the Cerritos for medical assistant Ensign Tendl, given tour by Ensign Mariner, who shares a unique tie to the bridge and Ensign Bolmlier. They take a tour of the holodeck, where we learn that Bolmlier desires to be on the bridge and not one of the lower decks personnel. Mariner, however, rebels against authority.
Ransom meets with the aliens on a planet and, unbeknownst to him, brings back a highly contagious alien virus that turns the shipmates into zombie-like creatures.
Mariner and Bolmlier visit the planet. Bolmlier thinks he catches Mariner illegally showing Starfleet technology to the aliens. Turns out it’s farm equipment. A spider monster escapes, pursuing them. Mariner jumps on it and rides it all Starship Troopers style.
It captures Bolmlier and starts feeding on him…
Will Bolmlier escape? Will the virus turn all the crew on the Cerritos into Night of the Living Dead?
Watched this a couple times and debated whether or not to review it. Decided in favor of it based on potential. This has a better concept than Picard. I like the animation and sound and, although badly cliched, the story shows an attempt at a complete story in 25 minutes. Also, they introduce us to some crew tension and characterization along the way.
The biggest complaint I have is it doesn’t go far enough with the edginess. It’s like Rick and Morty lite meets Harley Quinn censored with a faint Star Trek backdrop. Don’t know which one of the dozen-odd producers to blame for putting on the brakes, but blame has to start at the top.
Seems like too many hands in the cookie jar. A bunch of producers are listed, including associate producers and even at least one assistant to the producer. Yikes, that much administrative oversight and input for a 25 minute creation is dubiously helpful. Oh, and profanity is bleeped out .. why? I guess so it can have a TV-14 rating?
“Coarse language” is the viewer warning. Coarse?
So, Picard can have people launching f-bombs at him, but Lower Decks can’t say “shit”? They are going to take s**t for this. Live action trek can have more edgy language and subject matter than an animated series?
Then there is the logic behind the story, which you need to throw completely out. If the virus is so contagious how did none of the First Contact crew get infected? How can a first officer (Ransom) be so utterly incompetent? The Captain can’t veto what crew members are assigned to her ship? Why isn’t an officer assigned to supervise the lower deck crewmates on an away mission? We have lower decks in charge of … lower decks?
If you can forgive all this and just enjoy the craziness that transpires, you’ll be OK.
This is a comedy, so will give the story a bit of break logic-wise. I smiled a few times, never actually laughed. They need to make us laugh if they are going for the absurd. They have so many opportunities here to exploit the absurd. Potential is there, again, or I wouldn’t bother watching.
They also spoiled the opening three minutes via the virtual Comic Con (see: SECOND LOOK: Star Trek: Lower Decks video clip from first episode courtesy Comic-Con@Home).
Now for the positives.
I like the concept that we’re seeing a side of a Star Trek crew we almost never have seen explored. Sure, we’ve seen them. These people are usually just background, crowd noise, the extras at Ten Forward, only here on this show they are the stars. They are the ones who save the day. They aren’t just red shirt cannon fodder. The underdogs are the ones we can count on.
I’m going to try and stay with this one. Yes, I have several concerns, but think there’s a worthy concept here to explore. Star Trek is all about exploration, so let’s hope they find some original stories in the galaxy going forward.
There are a lot of great stories that can be told withing this framework. Will they execute? I’m not sure after only one episode, but am compelled enough to stick around for a few more episodes to see how it develops. Will they rely on cliches and muted edginess or tell some really fresh, funny stories?
Put all of this together and the pilot is a recommendation with an asterisk or two. If what is described isn’t the type of Star Trek for you, it’s understandable. The first episode isn’t the train wreck that some predicted. I see a side of Star Trek here that Gene Roddenberry would like. He was all about the humanity and would have enjoyed a series exploring the unsung heroes in the lower decks. Whether or not we get that series here remains to be seen, but the potential exists.
Will be back reviewing episode two next Thursday, same place, about the same time.
Episode rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️