Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 Review: Animated Excellence Continues

Roughly halfway through the seventh and final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, an episode simply titled “Lower Decks” premiered. Meant as a one-off focusing on junior officers aboard Starfleet’s U.S.S. Enterprise instead of the senior staff audiences came to know and love over the previous six-and-a-half seasons, the episode almost immediately it became a fan-favorite. Talk of a spin-off, first among small groups of fans in-person and later online never crystallized into anything substantive or substantial for the better part of three decades until, in quick succession, Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard, both successful standalone series released on Paramount+’s streaming platform, became popular enough for another spin-off, Star Trek: Lower Decks, to become a reality.

Far from the serious-minded, dramatic live-action show fans expected or even wanted, Star Trek: Lower Decks, a half-hour animated series created and executive produced by Mike McMahan (Solar Opposites), had to overcome initial fan resistance to its reliance on verbal jokes, in-universe references, and physical humor. Irreverently focusing on four junior officers, Bradward Boimler (Jack Quaid), an over-eager, risk-averse, rule-following ensign, Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), Boimler’s practical opposite in attitude and worldview, D’vana Tendi (Noël Wells), a medical/science officer and one of the first members of the green-hued Orion race to serve about a Federation starship, and Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), an engineering savant outfitted with cyborg implants. Despite Mariner’s initial reluctance, the four become fast friends and, as expected, audience stand-ins and viewpoint characters about the non-flagship U.S.S. Cerritos, a second-tier California class starship tasked with more mundane Federation missions.

Even as Lower Decks has focused primarily on the junior foursome and their misadventures aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos and on off-starship planetary missions, the series has made more than enough room for the senior staff too, including Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), later revealed as Mariner’s mother, Jack Ransom (Jerry O’Connell), the U.S.S. Cerritos’ Kirk-inspired first officer, Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore), the gruff, broad-shouldered, a Bajoran security chief, and T’Ana (Gillian Vigman), the chief medical doctor and the first Caitian (a bipedal feline species) to appear on a Star Trek series since Star Trek: The Animated Series in the early 1970s.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Mining The Mind's Mines - 303


After three shenanigan-filled seasons, the fourth season makes several, potentially momentous alterations, including much-coveted promotions for the core four from ensign to Lt. junior grade, meaning in effect, they can lead away missions (or components thereof). That, in turn, creates a cascading effect, first on the respective relationships among the core four, as each grapples with either getting what they openly wanted (Boimler, Tendi), what they’ve stated they didn’t want (Mariner), but maybe actually did and do, and what, at least for one (Rutherford), feels seriously unobtainable unless circumstances dictate otherwise.


Season Four also weaves in the emergence of a galactic threat, usually at the close of multiple episodes, that remains a mystery throughout the eight out of ten episodes available to press. Fans, of course, should expect the resolution of the who and the why behind the threat, but as always with Lower Decks, they can also expect a narrative swerve or three along the way. We might even get a cliffhanger setting up the already confirmed season five. Given, however, the ongoing strikes by the WGA and SAG/AFTRA, the premiere of season five will remain unclear for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, Lower Decks fans can expect weekly doses of the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos doing what they do best, delivering outrageous, laugh-out-loud jokes, physical gags, and enough in-jokes to keep Ph.D. students in pop culture occupied for the next year or two. Even the episode titles, from the premiere, “Twovix,” to the second episode, “I Have No Bones Yet I Must Flee,” and on through episode five’s “Empathalogical Fallacies,” a spotlight episode featuring season three’s breakout Vulcan character, T’Lynn (Gabrielle Ruiz), and on through “Parth Ferengi’s Heart Place,” a consistently hilarious side-trip to the Ferengi home planet on a Federation mission (travel guide duties), and on through “A Few Badgeys More,” and the aptly named “Caves,” there’s not a single weak episode in the batch.

Lower Decks: Season 4 premiered Thursday, September 7th, on Paramount+. Subsequent episodes will be released every Thursday at midnight Pacific and 3:00 a.m. Eastern Time.