The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3, Episode 1, “Grounded,” which premiered August 25 on Paramount+.
The main difference between star wars and star trek is a philosophical difference. star wars is about how every political system will eventually fail its people, a tendency Andor continue to. star trekon the other hand, suggests that the “perfect” system can be built, exemplified by the Federation – which makes it curious that the Star Trek: Lower Decks The Season 3 premiere is an expression of a deep distrust of Starfleet’s abilities.
Yet, considering the context of most star treka thread of distrust of political institutions, especially Starfleet, runs through it, even in the season finale of Strange new worlds. The first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery dealt with a series of corrupt Starfleet officials, including the favorite “evil” government agents in Section 31. The first season of Star Trek: Picard showed a Starfleet infiltrated by enemies, and the second season showed how fragile this supposedly perfect system really can be. Since star trek is always a reflection of the socio-political era in which it was created, that makes sense. At least in the United States, distrust of public institutions is incredibly high. However, “Grounded” takes these notions in other star trek shows and infects Lower decks crew with her. Specifically, Ensign Mariner, voiced by Tawny Newsome, is suspicious because her mother was arrested, falsely accused of a terrorist attack.
The crew then engages in a series of classics Lower decks hijinks in order to mount a rescue mission, getting Mariner’s mother out of the brig. Naturally, things gradually get worse (i.e. funnier and funnier) until his mother has to step in to save them in the end, having been cleared of all charges. The biggest gag of the series is that, despite all the distrust of Starfleet, the utopian institution unraveled the mystery with surprisingly little effort. It’s this kind of meta commentary on the franchise that makes this series an underrated gem. While “serious” shows are all caught up in modern mistrust of institutions, Star Trek: Lower Decks reminds his fans (and perhaps their Trek colleagues) that Starfleet is, ultimately, a force for good in their universe.
The decision to tell these suspicious stories of institutions in the star trek The universe is a source of controversy for some fans. Part of their enjoyment of these stories is that the future is so fictionally perfect. In previous shows and movies, even when Starfleet gets it wrong, they’re usually quick to come back. However, from Star Trek: Into the Darkness, a modern anti-institutional perspective has imposed itself through successive histories. Again, given the realities of today’s world these stories comment on, this trend makes sense, if only to keep the allegory relevant to modern audiences. Yet part of the reason why some Trek fans turned to The Orville for their Trek-like the stories is that it looks more like the Brannon Braga era of the final frontier. (It also makes sense since Braga is a producer on the show.)
One of the great details about Lower decks is that, without completely breaking the fourth wall, the crew is a fan of star trek. Sure, to them it’s “Starfleet history,” but the story they love most happens to be the story that audiences have seen on screen over the last 50 years of the Starfleet. franchise. The downfall of this episode being that Starfleet still (mostly) has it together is even funnier given that context. Subverting fan expectations creates drama, but double subversion like this makes comedy even better.
Star Trek: Lower Decks can be a scandalous series, and the main goal of the show is always to make people laugh. Yet it still brings together classic star trek-style adventures, including the old “crew steals the ship” gag. Making it a real gag is an inspired choice and promises that Lower decks will continue to deliver this season.
Find out what the Star Trek: Lower Decks team is up to next when new episodes debut Thursday on Paramount+.