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Yes, Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Space Lamps are Super Important to the Show

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Warning: Full spoilers follow for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3.


As creator Mike McMahan’s Star Trek: Lower Decks finishes its third season this week, the showrunner is keeping his eye on the important things – like picking out the correct desk lamps for the season finale’s big briefing room scene.

“It's funny – I love Star Trek lamps, but I don't love Star Trek chairs, so I often have them change the chairs, but keep the lamps,” laughs McMahan. “I don't know who this is of value to, but a lot of that goes into every single shot of our show!”

The thing is, that eye for nerdy Trek detail is of value to a lot of fans, and it’s part of what makes the animated Lower Decks such a fun show. (The lamps in question are cartoon duplicates of those seen in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, of course.)

Now, as Season 3 comes to a conclusion with the space-battle extravaganza "The Stars at Night," McMahan is discussing the finale as well as some high points from the season, including the USS Cerritos’ visit to Deep Space Nine and the upcoming crossover between the animated Lower Decks and the live-action Strange New Worlds.

The Old Bad Faith Admiral Scenario

Vice Admiral Les Buenamigo (Carlos Alazraqui) became a recurring character this season as a friend to the Lower Decks crew… until his true motivations were revealed in the finale. He has secretly been developing a new class of AI-powered starship, the Texas Class, that would replace the Cerritos and its fellow California Class ships. And not just that, but it turns out he’s a pretty bad guy who doesn’t care who gets hurt so that he can achieve his goal.

Of course, this is a tried and true Star Trek trope, the official/ambassador/admiral/captain who shows up for an episode or two but is either corrupt or incompetent (or both). Let’s call it the Admiral Cartwright syndrome.

“I think in all of these shows the ship feels like a place where all of your favorite found family lives, and the captain feels like a parent,” McMahan tells IGN. “And then when the admiral comes in, it's like your dad's boss or something, or your mom's boss, and you don't want to see their boss. Your mom and dad are your boss. So there's always kind of a weird feeling about that.”

Not just that, but Gene Roddenberry’s pseudo-rule about no conflict among Starfleet personnel can be bent when you bring in one of these guys. And that just makes for good storytelling.

“They're a way to have somebody come in and create conflict, because we don't want them to just appear and be like, ‘Hey, everything's going good, I'm going to take off,’ although that does sound very nice,” laughs the showrunner. “I really like, in this episode, that Captain Freeman is like, ‘You're not one of those bad faith admirals?’ So I like creating the idea that captains in Starfleet know that there's that kind of admiral you might have to deal with. And that feels kind of true to life to me too. … Kirk was great and Picard is great because they know when to follow protocol and when to break it. There's a long history in Star Trek about celebrating the rules, but also knowing when to bend and break the rules. And that there's flawed characters, and getting the right flawed characters in Starfleet, is a blast.”

Return to Deep Space Nine

Lower Decks featured the first full return to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine this season in the episode “Hear All, Trust Nothing.” While the space station of the title had been glimpsed briefly on the show in the past, this was the first time we actually saw a story unfold on DS9 since the show ended back in 1999. Indeed, even actors Nana Visitor and Armin Shimerman returned to their roles as Kira Nerys and Quark for the episode.

But one does not simply tell a new Deep Space Nine story. As McMahan explains, there is a process in place so that all the Star Trek shows that are currently happening don’t step over one another in terms of continuity. It starts with getting the OK from Trek production company Secret Hideout.

I really wanted the episode to make you go, 'Wow, I love Deep Space Nine.'


“The bigger thing is making sure I talked to everybody on Picard,” says McMahan, “and everybody about … does it affect the other shows currently? But also, does my perception of Deep Space Nine in canon match with everybody who's been also working in and around Star Trek for the last 20 or 30 years?”

The question also became how do you tell a story that feels like a DS9 story?

“I really wanted to do a thing that felt like… like going to Deep Space Nine is like going to a national park where you want to be there, you want to enjoy it, you want to see what's going on, but you don't want to change it too much,” he says. “You don't want to leave yourself there too much.”

The showrunner always wanted a show that would take place in this era, post-Dominion War, so essentially after TNG, DS9 and Voyager ended. “To see what people are doing, get one more TNG-era show,” he laughs. He describes this episode as being like finding one more present behind the Christmas tree.

“I had grown up watching TNG, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, and I just wanted one more,” says McMahan. “I wanted to see an extension of all that stuff that I loved. And so I'm getting to do that [with Lower Decks] all these years later.”

Ultimately, Lower Decks and the DS9 episode in particular clearly come from a place of love for the franchise.

“I really wanted [the episode] to make you go, ‘Wow, I love Deep Space Nine, I should go re-watch Deep Space Nine,’” he says. “That was my main goal because nobody does Deep Space Nine better than Deep Space Nine can. I'm not [DS9 showrunner] Ira [Steven Behr]. You know what I mean? And I never would want to pretend to be. I want to honor what they did and spend a day there for fun, but I would never pretend that I could do what they did.”

Lower Decks: Strange New Worlds

And then there’s Strange New Worlds, the most recent Star Trek series which we learned over the summer will feature a crossover with Lower Decks… despite one being live-action and the other animated, and despite the shows being set about a century apart. McMahan has had a hand in the writing of the episode, which will somehow see Lower Decks’ Mariner and Boimler meet up with Strange New Worlds’ Captain Pike and Spock.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Images

“When [SNW co-showrunner] Henry [Alonso Myers] first floated it to me, we had a lot of talks about how does this feel [like] Lower Decks but always feel [like] Strange New Worlds,” recalls McMahan. “I talked to [SNW co-showrunner] Akiva [Goldsman]. I talked to our cast. We figured out kind of the most fun way to do it that felt like nobody's show was taking over the other one, that it was a really cool merger. And then they let me take a bunch of passes on the script to make sure that… It was funny. I think the first time I went through and just did a tightening pass, like I always do on Lower Decks scripts, of all the Lower Decks parts of it — all the Lower Decks-ishness and all the characters. And then after, they had me go through, and just for fun, do a pass because they wanted the tone to all feel like it fit. So I got to do a pass and write lines for Uhura and Spock and Pike. This dream gig. I told my wife I couldn't believe I was writing a Spock line!”

As for whether or not Lower Decks might return the favor and host Captain Pike and the gang next, McMahan’s hailing frequencies are on mute for now.

“Let us get this first one done, dude,” he laughs. “Come on. We're working as hard as we can.”

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