‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ explores strange new worlds to great effect

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LONDON: Ever wondered what happens in the hallways of Starfleet’s high-tech spaceships while Captain Kirk et al are off saving the galaxy? Curious about what the 99 percent of the crew who are usually off screen get up to? Well, wonder no longer. Originally created for CBS All Access, new animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks” has launched internationally on Amazon Prime Video, offering a glimpse into a hitherto unexplored corner of the long-running show’s universe. While recent “Star Trek” shows have taken the franchise in a more adult direction (the excellent “Discovery” and “Picard” have included the first F-bombs in Trek history), “Lower Decks” takes a decidedly more comic approach.

Ensigns Mariner, Boimler, Tendi and Rutherford serve aboard the USS Cerritos — but the closest the quartet get to the action is when they share a turbolift with one of the senior staff. While the captain and her officers get the lion’s share of the important missions, Boimler (voiced by Dennis Quaid of “The Boys” fame) and Mariner (“Space Force” star Tawny Newsome) usually wind up delivering supplies, cleaning spilled coffee, or dealing with the administrative side of meeting new alien species. It’s a clever riff on the tried-and-tested “Star Trek” format — though readers of John Scalzi’s “Redshirts” will recognize the premise at least — and there is some fun to be had by gently mocking many of the series’ tropes.

As far as adult animation goes, “Lower Decks” is far from breaking new ground. The short, sharp episode arcs are easy to follow, and boast more than a few genuine laughs (and no shortage of Trek easter eggs), but the humor is on the safe side of risqué, and the visual style feels safe and familiar. For the “Star Trek” universe, however, the kind of self-awareness that comes from mocking its own source material represents a welcome surprise. In true “Star Trek” spirit, “Lower Decks” is seeking to explore strange new worlds.

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