Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Lower Decks and Behold

Looking back over my blog I feel like I have been woefully negligent. I haven't given nearly enough attention to the glory that is...

Star Trek: Lower Decks is, simply put, my favorite incarnation of anything Star Trek to have come out since 2005 (the end of Star Trek: Enterprise). 

Like The Orville, Lower Decks is simultaneously irreverently funny and absolutely in line with the finest elements that make Star Trek Star Trek. The show has a powerful sense of adventure, a wealth of science fiction ideas, and surprisingly well developed characters. In my opinion, this series approaches the range between serious Sci-Fi Action/Adventure to goofball Sci-Fi Comedy by leaning more heavily on the humorous side just as The Orville has progressively leaned in the other direction.

I personally find that awesome! It is a refreshing take on the Star Trek universe, which can sometimes take itself too seriously. Additionally, there have been numerous Sci-Fi Comedies, Sci-Fi Dramas, and Sci-Fi Dramedies but when it comes to the latter, it is very difficult to land successfully right down the middle. To make a quality entertainment media product, it's best to figure out which way you want go - more funny, more pathos, by what degree, and in what way?

It took three seasons for The Orville to realize where it wanted to be, partially because of Fox Studios and partially due to the usual growing pains most TV show go through early in their run. Star Trek: Lower Decks' creator, Mike McMahan, apparently had a very clear idea of where he wanted to and Paramount was willing to run with it. 

Even so, Star Trek: Lower Decks keeps getting better with every season. We keep learning more about the crew, their mission, the ship, new characters, new worlds, and old favorites from the previous series and films. What happened to the Betans after Kirk's Enterprise left? How did the Ornarans and Brekkians fare following Picard's visit? Easter Eggs to pretty much all of Star Trek abound in every episode and every single example is a loving homage to the show's in-universe history. Combine this with the bang-on comedy and you've got, dare I say it, 'The Best of Both Worlds'. A truly funny, truly good Star Trek.

I fell in love with Lower Decks so much my first thought was, of course, 'how do I game this'! I wanted to run a Star Trek: Lower Decks game so badly that...well...I did. I ran them badly. A few times now. Each time it kind of worked. They were nearly great. None were awful but...yeah.

In each attempt I focused on the 'Second Contact' idea from the show that I mentioned in this post. What I didn't do was center the games on low ranking officers, a key component of the Lower Decks series. I've never run a game where the PCs weren't the Command Crew and I find it hard to do so. For the most part I find it difficult to come up with a way to make that dynamic interesting. Not only have all the previous shows been about the Captain and other high ranking officers but I am against taking agency away from the players. The decisions as to what a Starship and its Crew do should be made by the players in my mind, not forced onto them by NPCs in command of your PCs. 

Riker's Beard! I wish there was an official, Modiphius sourcebook for Star Trek Adventures that could help me figure out how best to pull this and other aspects of the show off properly. Wait...What's this now?

Yes, my dream has come true! Pre-Orders for the Star Trek: Lower Decks Campaign Guide will be live very soon, with a PDF of the book immediately available with your Pre-Order. The physical book should be out for GenCon 2023. I am seriously excited about this and will very likely do a few posts on my thoughts on the book when it comes out. 

What other Lower Decks book could hope to be as cool as this? Huh? No way...

Holy Horta its raining AWESOME! Titan Books is putting out the Star Trek: Lower Decks USS Cerritos Crew Handbook in October of 2023! A book of advice from Mariner, Boimler, and their crewmates giving helpful inside info to new personnel assigned to the California Class USS Cerritos. 

I really hope it gives a more boots-on-the-ground description of what Support Fleet Ensigns do on the day-to-day. I think this kind of book could add a lot to a Lower Decks campaign, almost functioning as a companion text. 

The mix of Star Trek and humor is something perfectly up my Jefferies Tube (phrasing!). I've run sessions of The Orville and a Galaxy Quest campaign. I just need a little assistance with this one to get past my deeply dyed-in-the-wool views on how to run Star Trek. 

Season 4 of Star Trek: Lower Decks should be released in the late third or early fourth quarter of 2023. Season 5 has already been greenlit. There will also be a live-action crossover between two of the Lower Decks characters with Captain Pike and the Enterprise crew as depicted in Strange New Worlds. Wow. That's just wild.

What are your feelings on the series? Are you interested in the Star Trek Adventures sourcebook? Do you put comedic elements in your Star Trek missions? Let me know. 

Live Long and All That.

Barking Alien


  1. Pretty cool! I have also wanted to take on this as an RPG, even repurposing all the other published adventures for the tone and campaign frame of Lower Decks.

    1. Now that's interesting! I wouldn't mind reading your thoughts on that process and the results you got from it. Say, on your blog for instance? (Hint, hint)

  2. I avoided Lower Decks for a while because I didn't like the idea of a Family Guy/Rick and Morty style take on Trek. I thought it would be a cynical parody, always going for the easy jokes.

    I watched an episode on a whim just after series two started and I *loved* it, so went back to series one, and barrelled through them all.

    It turn out it's my favourite Star Trek since Next Generation. Yes it's full of jokes, but they are all knowing, loving jokes, like the slow flyby of DS9. But more than that, it's interested in telling real stories about genuine characters, so there's more to it than just comedy.

    I think it's ace.

    1. I had to think about whether Lower Decks is my favorite Star Trek since Deep Space 9 (my second fave of all the live action Treks - the first being TOS). I think...by Garth...I think I'm with you here Kelvin. It is really is my favorite.

      The Orville not withstanding. ; )