Previously, on “Star Trek: Lower Decks”, Captain Freeman was unceremoniously arrested for blowing up Pakled Planet. Meanwhile, Rutherford began to unlock memories that hinted at the real reason he wears an implant, Tendi was moved out of sickbay and into Science Officer Training, and Peanut Hamper, the exocomp with the mathematically perfect name, betrayed her shipmates and went off on her own.
If all of that sounds like gibberish, then you haven’t been watching the adult animated comedy set in the “Star Trek” universe. All those events occurred in the season two finale, entitled “First First Contact”. The question is if you didn’t watch the first two seasons of the show, should you? I’m glad you asked.
What To Expect in Season 3
Season 2 ended with a cliffhanger in the tradition of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Season 3 picks up right where “First First Contact” ended; Freeman is preparing to go to trial and her daughter Mariner is getting tired of sitting on her hands, doing nothing. Like the first two seasons, the key art for season 3 is an homage to a classic “Trek” movie, this time “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”. The initial teaser trailer also gave us TSFS vibe and indicated that perhaps the lower deckers were planning to steal the Cerritos, as Kirk, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, and McCoy heisted the Enterprise a century earlier. Kirk was reduced in rank from Admiral to Captain for his actions; how much lower can a lower decker go?
But LD is an homage to all of “Trek”, with creator Mike McMahan referring to it as a “Rosetta Stone of all the different ‘Star Trek’ properties” and unifying every series and film. Listing every reference to the “Trek” legacy contained in season 3 would be doing a disservice to the series and its audience. Part of the fun of watching it for long-time fans is picking out those Easter Eggs that the writers have carefully crafted into the episodes, some subtle, some blindingly obvious.
I will say that “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” makes its presence felt in the very first episode with several references, including a visit to Sisko’s Creole Kitchen in New Orleans. The heavy use of that series shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen the official trailer, in which DS9 itself makes an appearance.
That flyby of the station, which lampoons the opening credit sequence of the DS9 series itself is emblematic of the kind of in-joke the writers of LD excell at. And the episode it’s taken from, which comes about halfway through the season, doesn’t stop there. The “A-plot” of the episode takes place almost entirely on the station itself, which is sure to please fans of that series.
Classic characters abound in the season, too. In past seasons, we’ve learned that DS9’s Chief O’Brien will become the most important figure in all of Starfleet history, we’ve seen Tom Paris, the helmsman of “Star Trek: Voyager”, on a collector’s plate and in person, and even the omniscient Q returned to make a brief cameo. In season 3, the writers double-down on the appearance of “legacy” characters, all portrayed by the original actors. Again. there’s no need to spoil the surprise, but watch the trailer closely and you’ll see that DS9’s Martok makes an appearance.
But old-school “Trek” isn’t all that LD has to offer. Mike McMahan and his team have created some pretty terrific characters of their own, and they each have an arc lasting from a few episodes to the whole season. Mariner’s attempt to clear her mother’s name has unforseen consequences for her, Rutherford continues to unlock new memories that were previously hidden from him, Tendi gains a mentor, and Boimler decides to make a life change.
Is It Any Good?
Mike McMahan and his writers know how to tell a fast-paced and entertaining story. Each episode is under half an hour, and they manage to tell stories that are rich in “Star Trek” history, funny, and satisfying. The writing, assisted by the voice acting, helps you to quickly learn who the characters are an fall in love with them.
If you’ve never watched “Star Trek: Lower Decks” before, there’s no harm in starting with season 3. A newscast at the very beginning of the first episode gets you up-to-speed on what you need to know about the season 2 cliffhanger, so you’ll be ready for what comes next. But it may be a better bet to go back to the beginning. Each season is under 5 hours long, and easy to binge, and you’ll get a richer experience from season 3 if you’ve gotten to know the characters from the beginning.
And if you don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of previous iterations of the franchise, that’s okay, too. People who have watched the other series will be rewarded with a dense population of references that they’ll enjoy, but there are plenty of jokes for people who are just casual fans or lovers of good animation and hilarious gags, too.
“Star Trek: Lower Decks” season 3 continues the fun and hilarity of the previous two seasons, and maybe even goes a little bit farther. It lovingly teases the canon and honors it at the same time, while creating bold new stories for “Trek” fans of every stripe to enjoy. You can watch season 3 exclusively on Paramount+ starting Thursday, August 25.