Assimilate This

Mike McMahan reveals why Lower Decks uses so much ‘70s Star Trek canon

Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1 is on Blu-ray. Here's a peek at one special feature.

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The sneaky charm of Star Trek: Lower Decks is epitomized by its hilarious fixation on the minutiae of the Final Frontier. Although the show’s season 1 finale offered a sufficiently epic climax, complete with a last-minute Next Generation cameo, the series has largely stuck to its phasers and delivered weekly episodes about smaller stories that could have unfolded in the background of previous Trek series iterations.

Along the way, Lower Decks created plenty of new Trek canon while also rebooting canon from 1973’s Star Trek: The Animated Series. In one special feature on the new season 1 Blu-ray, showrunner Mike McMahan gets into this element of the series in “The Lower Decktionary,” walking through various new canonical angles of Lower Decks. Here’s an exclusive clip from those special features, the “Lower Decktionary” entry on Starfleet’s Division 14, and our explanation for how it all connects to the 1973 series’ forgotten canon. Mild spoilers ahead for Lower Decks season 1.

In the Lower Decks episode “Much Ado About Boimler,” Brad Boimler is picked up by a previously unknown section of Starfleet called “Division 14.” And in this clip from the Lower Decks Blu-ray, Mike McMahan sheds light on that section, saying, “Starfleet has a lot of divisions and a lot of groups and a lot of secret things people don’t talk about. And you’re finding out about that.”

The basic joke of the Lower Decks episode hinges on the idea that, in previous Trek canon, we’re never quite sure what becomes of random “redshirts” who suffer bizarre and life-changing accidents in space. “Much Ado About Boimler” focuses on these overlooked Trek victims, making its story an underdog tale set within a Trek series already focused on underdogs. (As if to drive this point home, the episode has a genetically engineered dog, created by Tendi, that behaves nothing like a literal dog.)

Elsewhere in the clip, Juno Lee, one supervising director for Lower Decks, points out that the Division 14 “Specialist” was designed to be the exact same alien species as Lieutenant Arex, an Edosian navigator from the 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series.

“Characters from the original Animated Series fit in perfectly in our world, “ Mike McMahan explains. “They don’t have to be explained by a CG update that makes you understand how they could exist in a live-action show. “

Could this mean we’ll see more characters and alien species from The Animated Series in Lower Decks’ second season? If so, Lower Decks has made at least one reference to a giant clone of Spock from the TAS episode “The Infinite Vulcan.” Could said giant Spock crash Lower Decks in its sophomore run? Fingers crossed.

Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1 is out on Blu-ray, DVD, and Steelbook.

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