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"First Contact is a delicate, high-stakes operation of diplomacy. One must be ready for anything when humanity is interacting with an alien race for the first time. But we don't do that. Our specialty is second contact. Still pretty important. We get all the paperwork signed, make sure we're spelling the name of the planet right, get to know all the good places to eat..."
Ensign Brad Boimler, "Second Contact"
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Star Trek: Lower Decks is an American adult animated Work Com set in the Star Trek universe. Created for CBS All Access by Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty, Solar Opposites), it is the first animated series created for CBS All Access, and the first animated Star Trek series since Star Trek: The Animated Seriesnote . The series follows the exploits of the support crew serving on the Cerritos, one of Starfleet's least important ships, in the year 2380. This sets it between Star Trek: Nemesis (2379) and the prologue of Star Trek (2387), a period of relative peace for the Federation between the end of the Dominion War and the collapse of the Romulan Star Empire.

A group of four ensigns have been assigned to the U.S.S. Cerritos. Each of them is following a different career path and is a Bunny-Ears Lawyer at best. They are unappreciated by the senior staff and are the lowest-ranking members of the ship's crew, but they still manage to accomplish great things due to their friendship.

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It debuted on August 6, 2020, and its first season consists of 10 episodes. Outside of the US, Canada premiered it same-day on the CTV Sci-Fi channel and on the French sci-fi network Z, as well as on the Crave streaming service. International distribution for the series will be provided through Amazon Prime, with the entire series released on January 22, 2021 in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan, India, "and more", per the show's creator Mike McMahan. The show's second season is set to premiere on August 12, 2021. The show has been renewed for a third season.

See the season one trailer here and the teaser for season two here.


Tropes:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The characters and most of the settings are 2D, but the space battles tend to be CGI.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Aerith and Bob: Names like Jack and Carol sit comfortably next to Samanthan and Bradward. Played with, since the more unusual names are shortened to something more "normal", like Sam and Brad.
  • Affectionate Parody: This is a show that is best appreciated by Trekkies as a number of references, mythology gags, and Easter Eggs can only be appreciated by a super fan of every series. However, it also lampshades how miserable and dangerous being a Red Shirt on a Starfleet vessel probably would be, and pokes holes at many of the flaws of Starfleet.
  • Alien Sky:
    • Based on a holodeck simulation of the Adashake Center, the Orion sky is green.
    • The sky is yellow and the clouds are beige on the Galardonian homeworld.
    • Gelrak V has a green sky with green clouds.
  • The Alleged Car: While the U.S.S. Cerritos is a Cool Starship, she does have her malfunctions. The opening credits show the ship being prone to complete power loss, and in the series premiere, red alert somehow deactivates a certain emergency hatch.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: Mariner cries, "It's the 80s dude! We don't have psychiatric problems!" when ordered to attend therapy; a reference not only to the 2380s, when the show is set, but also to the 1980s, when mental health wasn't considered nearly the issue it is today, and many thought a starship with a counselor onboard was just wussy, as well as the era of the Trek show it most parodies (TNG) aired.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population:
    • Blue: Andorians, Benzites, Bolians, Taxors.
    • Green: Orions, Gelrakians.
    • Grey: Drookmani.
    • Purple: Galardonians, the inhabitants of Mixtus III. An unnamed purple species also works on the Cerritos.
    • Red: At least one of the two residents of Mixtus II has red skin.
  • Animation Bump: Ransom gets much more detailed animation when he rips off his shirt for the gladiator fight in "Temporal Edict."
  • Anachronism Stew: A flashback in "Cupid's Errant Arrow" shows Mariner had been in Starfleet as far back as 2369, but she and her fellow shipmates were in uniforms that wouldn't be in use until 2373. Alternately, they were discussing news from 2369 in 2373 as if it were current. Either way, the situation is odd, although we later see those uniforms are still in use on certain ships such as the Titan.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: Although a spacefaring civilization, the Gelrakians haven't developed any Ray Guns and still rely on crystal spears when attacking enemies. Crystal battle blades and crystal-embedded clubs are traditional for a Trial by Combat. Although the last may be because their leaders think that they're cool, and their starships are equipped with phasers (although possibly not photon torpedoes, since they're not crystal-based).
  • Arch-Enemy: The Gelrakians (a crystal-worshipping society) consider the inhabitants of Mavok Prime (a wood-worshipping society) to be their sworn enemies.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • Accidentally stabbing a fellow recruit while drunk is a court martial offense even in the Mildly Military Starfleet. Yet Mariner never receives any sort of comeuppance for this action in the opening of the show.
    • Being an Ensign actually isn't the lowest of the low; the lowest-ranking officer is still an officer. Technically, the four protagonists should outrank all of the enlisted personnel on the ship and share quarters rather than have bunks. This may be a Mythology Gag, since the franchise has a long-standing tendency to overlook enlisted personnel and show ensigns in roles enlisted crew members would normally fill, often to the point a casual viewer might get the impression that Starfleet is structured like a police department where uniformed personnel are all officers.
    • It should be impossible for Mariner to serve on her own mother's ship in her chain of command. Possibly averted due to Starfleet's terminally sketchy status as a non-military organisation. Or maybe Starfleet just doesn't have the same hangups about nepotism these days (although with Mariner's and Freeman's acrimonious relationship, that isn't a problem here). "Crisis Point" suggests that no one outside of Mariner, Freeman and the unnamed admiral in the first episode knows this with Freeman suggesting she would Court Martial anyone who learns of it.
    • Shaxs's removing a tag-out sign from a turbolift while Mariner is working on it is horribly irresponsible. Not just for a military commander, but your average construction site foreman would smack him down for a stunt like that.note .
    • When Mariner is angling for a promotion to get off the Cerritos and start anew on the Sacramento, she starts calling Boimler "sir", claiming that she's supposed to anyway. But she and Boimler are the same rank (Ensign) and she has seniority (as she's certainly been a Starfleet officer longer than Boimler has), and they're not in any situation where he has operational authority over her. Ironically, Boimler is later promoted to Lieutenant, Junior Grade, so now he outranks her and she does have to call him "sir".
  • Bait-and-Switch: A commonly used trope on the series. A typical sitcom trope would be set up, like the fear of the boss yelling at an underling's request to transfer, only for it to be immediately subverted by him saying he's super happy for the underling and generally being supportive.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: While the series is trying to imitate Star Trek: The Next Generation's style, it is not afraid to have blood spray about, while the older series tended to be mostly bloodless.
  • Boring, but Practical: Second Contact may not be as glamorous as First Contact, but it's where the important diplomatic work gets done.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The four protagonists have their unique talents while also being quirky. The senior staff is implied to be the same way.
    • Mariner is an Action Girl who's incredibly knowledgeable about the galaxy, but also relentlessly insubordinate as well as prone to acting before thinking.
    • Boimler is a stickler for the rules and full of technical knowledge, but a Lovable Coward who has little practical experience.
    • Tendi is a Plucky Girl and The Heart of the team, but overly eager to please as well as easily impressed.
    • Rutherford is a Cyborg with incredible engineering skill, but horrible at making command decisions as well as interpersonal reactions.
  • Call-Back: The show doesn't really do these, preferring quick Continuity Nods and Mythology Gags. That said, the season one finale was loaded with them:
    • The computer-worshipping planet of Beta III is revisited almost a century after Starfleet's first visit in the TOS episode "The Return of the Archons".
    • An exocomp becomes a new ensign, after having been declared a sentient species sometime after the events of the TNG episode, "The Quality of Life".
    • The Pakleds are back, a species only seen once during TNGnote , and one of the most ridiculed, only now they appear to have upgraded to a major threat.
    • Riker comes in to save the Cerritos in the U.S.S. Titan, the same ship he was given command of at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis.
  • Canon Immigrant: Downplayed example, but the U.S.S. Titan is an interesting case. While she was already confirmed to exist multiple times, her design was made for her own self-titled series in the Star Trek Novelverse. It's in this series that this design for the Titan finally makes a canon appearance.
  • Canon Marches On: The Bajoran earring has gone from a violation of uniform code to an accessory important enough to act as a memorial.
  • Cat Folk: T'Ana is a Caitian, a humanoid feline species first seen in The Animated Series.
  • Continuity Nod: It gained enough entries for its own page after just two episodes.
  • Continuity Porn: The series has a huge amount of it with virtually every frame filled with Easter Eggs, references, and homages.
  • Continuity Snarl: Slight one. Mariner's flashback to Deep Space 9 shows her and her friends wearing Star Trek: First Contact-era uniforms, yet they are discussing the events of "Descent", which occurred during TNG's sixth season, before those uniforms were introduced.
  • Cool Starship: Although she is decidedly one of Starfleet's less glamorous vessels, the U.S.S. Cerritos, the setting of the series, qualifies. Ensign Tendi, in particular, squees as soon as she comes aboard.
  • Cosmic Entity: Assuming that Lieutenant O'Connor's interpretation of the visions he experienced during his ascension is correct, then the universe is balanced on the back of a giant, smiling koala.
  • Covered in Gunge: Frequently.
    • In "Second Contact", many people are covered in Bad Black Barf from the zombies, while Boimler gets covered in milkable Giant Spider spit. Gunge B turns out to be the cure to Gunge A.
    • In "Envoys", Boimler, Mariner, and their shuttle quickly get soaked in Mariner's ramen broth and Klingon bloodwine.
    • In "Moist Vessel", Mariner gets a face full of lubricant when the turbolift ascends with her on top of it.
    • In "Cupid's Errant Arrow", Boimler spills beer all over Brinson after he trips on Jet's foot.
    • In "Terminal Provocations", Mariner bumps into T'Ana in the mess hall, which causes the latter to face plant into a plate of nachos; the Caitian complains that it's extremely difficult to remove cheese from fur in the sonic shower.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas:
    • The holodeck recreation of the Adashake Center on Orion depicts a beautiful Shining City with elegant architecture, and its residents are dressed in toga-like clothing.
    • The Gelrakians don't wear togas, but there are crystals everywhere on their planet and in their culture, plus their technology is crystal-based.
  • Deconstruction: The series takes a look at how horrifying and traumatizing some of the events that happens in a typical weekly Star Trek show by presenting them from the perspective of your typical low-level grunt or Red Shirt. This includes opening a story with a Zombie Apocalypse on the U.S.S. Cerritos. Played with as the protagonists are, with the exception of Boimler, entirely unfazed by this.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: A great deal of the show's humor would not make sense to you if you were not an enormous fan of the franchise with knowledge of every single series. Jokes are made at the expense of TOS, TNG, DS9, and VOY. Many of these require knowledge of specific episodes' plots and the holes thereof.
  • Deconstructive Parody: It should also be noted that a lot of the jokes in the series make fun of the plotlines that are typical for the series. For example, Boimler goes into a lengthy speech about how he's going to die if he leaves Starfleet (See Mythology Gag) or how Mariner deals with an Energy Being that attempts to take over the ship.
    • And yet while elements of the Trek 'Verse are deconstructed, the show pulls a Decon-Recon Switch of sorts by revealing the reasons why Starfleet does what it does and how they keep it all working. That there are logical reasons for "buffer time", or that Starfleet has a contingency plan to treat the unfortunate Red Shirts who survive the occasional transporter accident or alien infection.
  • Denser and Wackier: By virtue of being a comedy, Lower Decks is far more zany and silly than any past Trek series.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Downplayed. The Bully and Wimp Pairing of Mariner and Boimler is Played for Laughs, yet it's also clearly shown to have a negative long-term impact on Boimler's self-worth. Mariner does get a fair amount of Pet the Dog moments with Boimler, however, and she does try to keep him out of real danger regardless.
  • Drama Bomb Finale: The season 1 finale, "No Small Parts." The beginning of the episode has Dayton, a quirky captain we've seen before, fussing over her new ship and sixty seconds later it has blown into shreds by a Pakled ambush. The Cerritos warps right into the debris field, finds no survivors, and the captain barely averts the same fate while being severely injured. In order to save the ship, Security Officer Shaxs sacrifices himself and Rutherford loses his memories of the whole season. While there is still plenty of humor, it is an episode that is just as high-stakes and dramatic as any other Star Trek season finale.
  • Drinking on Duty:
    • Buffer time margaritas, baby! Downplayed in that it's probably non-intoxicating sythenhol since they got them from the replicator, though it wouldn't be out of character for Mariner to replicate actual alcohol for a single drink.
    • In "Cupid's Errant Arrow", Boimler orders a beer in an attempt to impress Brinson, despite still being on duty.
  • Episode Title Card: Unlike Picard and Discovery, Lower Decks features episode names, and it even uses the exact same font from TNG.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: Parodied in "Second Contact." After the crisis is over, the captain and her senior staff joke about the paperwork as they leave Sickbay — but the camera stays on the four ensigns who are still utterly shellshocked by the events of the episode.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: Everyone aboard the Cerritos gets these in "Temporal Edict", including the senior staff when they have to correct the mistakes made by the harried crew. The only person who doesn't is Boimler because his workaholic, rules-following nature allows him to excel in an environment with tight deadline pressure.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: The Anabaj procreate by injecting their eggs into another person's throat.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • There's a bit more Lampshade Hanging on this being an element of the Trek Verse. Mariner has a much more cosmopolitan view of the galaxy due to being raised on starships, while Boimler has only been to five planets total (counting Earth and Vulcan) and only knows species from books. As such, he often makes numerous mistakes in interacting with aliens that Mariner avoids. This is shown most prominently in "Envoys" when Boimler assumes a Ferengi is leading them into a trap and is a greedy monster just because he's Ferengi. It's actually a set up by Mariner to boost his confidence. Subverted in "Terminal Provocations" when Fletcher calls Doctor T'Ana "just a cat in a coat," to which Mariner agrees.
    • After the Dominion War, there is lingering resentment towards the Cardassians because no one in the Federation wants to go near the Cardassian homeworld, which is why the peace negotiations have been moved to Vulcan.
      Admiral: Nobody wants to go to Cardassia Prime. The Cardassians are creeping everyone out.
    • In "Crisis Point", Tendi is upset because of the stereotypes associated with Orions, who often happen to be pirates and are famous for their seductive "slave girls", etc. Though her protest does border on a Suspiciously Specific Denial.
      Tendi: And for your information, many Orions haven't been pirates for over five years!
  • First Contact: Explicitly averted. The U.S.S. Cerritos and her crew are among those charged with carrying out "second contact," the follow-up work with a species and their homeworld after it has been discovered and contact has been made by one of Starfleet's premier front-line exploratory ships.
  • Foil:
    • Boimler and Mariner serve as direct representatives of this with them having polar opposite personalities.
    • Delta Shift is considered this to the protagonists, who are Beta Shift.
    • In "Terminal Provocations", the character of Fletcher is introduced as the worst elements of both Boimler and Mariner combined. Despite his affable demeanor, he's a Dirty Coward who always claims it's Never My Fault, and he doesn't care about any rules while relying on his friends to bail him out. Mariner says that she's different because she would never endanger a fellow crewmate with her rule-breaking (well, except Boimler). Fletcher gets fired from Starfleet.
  • Foreshadowing: When Shaxs introduced Rutherford to the security team, he said something about no greater honor than to die beside (the team) in battle. Shaxs dies getting Rutherford to safety in the season finale.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The four ensigns straightforwardly map to the four humors.
    • Mariner: Choleric. Mariner is hot-headed, aggressive, and impulsive. She exhibits Blood Knight characteristics which are tempered by her rebellious nature. Mariner also shows leadership expertise when on away missions and, despite her laziness, is excellent at taking charge when the situation requires it.
    • Boimler: Melancholic. Boimler is introverted, moody, and rigid. His away missions often end with him becoming overly self-critical and he falls into depressive moods often. He is deeply insecure, but his perfectionist qualities and devotion to the Cerritos give him some strengths.
    • Tendi: Sanguine. Tendi is outgoing, sociable, and optimistic. She's easily the friendliest of the four ensigns and beats Rutherford to this position by being more outgoing and extroverted. Sanguine personality traits are also associated with youth, and Tendi is the rookie on the ship.
    • Rutherford: Phlegmatic. Rutherford is calm, stable, and patient. The simple satisfaction he takes from his job in engineering is all it takes for Rutherford to be happy. These traits ended up crashing his date with Barnes who was annoyed by him being more interested in running a diagnostic than in having sex during a ship-wide crisis.
  • Genre Shift: This is the first Star Trek series that is primarily a comedy, and only the second series to be animated.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Ensign Tendi is a downplayed example, being an Orion, but not treated as a sex object.
  • Guttural Growler: The Taxors communicate through guttural tones, and they ferociously growl when angered.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: In "Moist Vessel", Lieutenant O'Connor confesses to Ensign Tendi that he was merely pretending to want to ascend so that people would notice him more, and he hoped this would boost his Starfleet career.
    O'Connor: Well, since we're gonna die here, I'll just tell you I was never going to ascend. I was faking.
    Tendi: What, why?
    O'Connor: It's hard to stand out in Starfleet. This gave me an edge. It was my thing. I was the ascension guy.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: One of Ensign Mariner's favorite holodeck programs is an all-nude Olympic training facility. Later, Ransom mentions that he had her cleaning the biofilters out of the holodecks, which apparently amounted to removing the various "bodily fluids" the users have left behind.
    Ransom: I've got her cleaning [bleep] out of the holodeck's [bleep] filter!
    Freeman: Ugh, people really use it for that?
    Ransom: Oh yeah, it's mostly for that.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Dr. T'Ana (Caitian) and Shaxs (Bajoran) repeatedly express an interest in each other and T'Ana even asks Mariner if she could get Captain Freeman to sign off on them entering a relationship. Sadly, Shaxs is killed later that same day before they can actually hook up.
    • Tendi, like most Orion women, seems to have a thing for humans, hooking up (briefly) with O'Connor and carrying an obvious torch for Rutherford.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Much of the series' humor comes from the fact that common elements of Trek are shocking.
    • That the ships can regularly get into horrifying disasters like a Zombie Apocalypse and this is considered to be a normal part of the ship's duties.
    • That the holodeck will most definitely be used by someone (or probably most someone's) for porn. note 
    • Mariner basically spells out in "Temporal Edict" that the story is a parody of a Kirk-centric TOS episode.
      Mariner: Ah, circled by spears. This is a classic. What am I, Kirk? Is this the 2260s?
    • The head Gelrakian breaks down all the usual tropes associated with fighting a giant alien in an arena.
    • Ransom calls the Kirk-era the "Tee Oh Ess" period, standing for Those Old Scientists.
  • Last-Name Basis: Apparently this has come back into vogue in the 2380s, as characters almost never refer to each other by first name, not even close friends.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: Played for laughs. In the far, far future of the Federation, Miles O'Brien is considered the greatest hero in Starfleet history.note 
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Zig-Zagged all over the place.
    • Mariner has apparently been promoted a number of times and has served on five starships. She always self-sabotages so that she can be busted back to ensign and thus avoid any responsibilities.
    • Boimler is an eager young ensign with aspirations of making it to captain. His efforts to fast-track himself are frequently thwarted by Mariner. Until he accepts a promotion to the Titan under the command of Captain Will Riker.
    • Freeman plays the trope the straightest, as the Cerritos is seen as a pretty low-grade command that involves often unglamorous missions. Captains of cooler starships often make cracks at her.
  • Lizard Folk: The Anabaj are humanoid aliens with a long forked tongue, a frilled-neck like a chlamydosaurus, and their ability to climb up vertical surfaces is lizard-like.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: Since an animated series doesn't have the same limitations as a live-action series (which traditionally relied heavily on Rubber-Forehead Aliens), the Cerritos is a true Federation melting pot, featuring nearly every Federation race, and a few non-Federation ones.
  • Location Theme Naming:
    • Of the California-class ships we've seen (Cerritos, Merced, Rubidoux, Alhambra, and Solvang), they've all been named after obscure second-tier cities in California. The San Clemente, mentioned in "Crisis Point" but revealed to not be a real ship, also fits the pattern. The mentioned but unseen Sacramento, named after a more well-known city, is considered a more prestigious posting by Boimler.
      • The shuttlecrafts on the Cerritos (Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Redwood, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite) are all named after national parks in California.
    • The U.S.S. Vancouver's shuttlecraft are all named after neighbourhoods in Vancouver, BC (Marpole, Fairview and Kitsilano).
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The premise of the series, on multiple levels.
    • The lead characters are all ensigns, the lowest officer rank in Starfleet, and they carry out often menial or dangerous tasks aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos. They're even literally bunked on the lowest deck, not counting the nacelles. It's zig-zagged, though, as the vessel's captain and senior staff do also feature in prominent roles.
    • The Cerritos herself also counts, being described as "one of Starfleet's least important ships" doing the mundane work that happens after the main characters of the other shows do their thing.
  • Mildly Military: Even more so than what is typical in the Trek Verse. The Lower Deckers are a goofy offbeat bunch with more than their fair share of orders-defying antics. Surprisingly averted with Mariner, though, as her shenanigans have apparently gotten to the point that she is about to be cashiered and her own mother is actively seeking a reason to kick her off the ship. Although the fact she's in her own mother's chain of command is its own Artistic License – Military.
  • More Hero Than Thou: Mariner and Ransom get into a scuffle over who should go up against the Gelrakian champion to save their crewmates, much to the bafflement of the Gelrakian leader who keeps reminding them that they're arguing over a fight to the death. It ends when Ransom stabs Mariner in the foot.
  • Mundane Utility: The Cerritos crew use phasers as all-purpose cleaning and removal tools.
  • Mythology Gag: Has its own page.
  • National Weapon: The chief weapon of the Gelrakians is a crystal spear.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: At the end of the first series finale, Shaxs is dead, the Solvang has been destroyed and her entire crew killed, Rutherford has lost his implant and is suffering from amnesia, and Boimler has been promoted and has transferred to the Titan.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: The villains of the Season 1 Finale? Pakleds. In the original episode they were introduced back in TNG, they were seen as slow, easily gullible, and only were as strong as whatever tech they managed to steal. But here? They've stolen tech and weapons from several warp-capable organizations and were able to connect them all together to make ships that can easily severely damage, slice apart and even outright destroy Federation ships. Not only that, but these batch of Pakleds are much more confident and aggressive, even fully willing to beam onto the Cerritos and fight in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Now Which One Was That Voice?: The main titles and the end credits list the name of the actors, but not the characters they voice. The only exception are characters reprising their roles from the old series, who get special mention in the closing credits.
  • Oddball in the Series: This is the only Star Trek series which is predominantly comedic and its main protagonists are Starfleet ensigns who aren't senior officers.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: In "Veritas", we learn that Dr. Crusher's romance with a Scottish candle ghost is common knowledge among Starfleet. One has to wonder who leaked that to the public.
  • Pet the Dog: Mariner sets up a situation to help Boimler recover his confidence after his horrible day in "Envoys", even letting him get away with mocking her in front of the rest of the crew later. In "Cupid's Errant Arrow", she goes to extreme lengths to protect him from a girlfriend she's convinced is a secret alien and/or robotic menace.
  • Pig Man: The Galardonians are humanoid porcine aliens.
  • Planet of Hats:
    • The Gelrakians base their entire social structure around crystals. Their planet is so rich in this substance that giant crystalline deposits dot the whole landscape, their symbol of peace is the honor crystal, the people wear crystal jewelry, their weapons are made out of crystal, their space ships feature enormous crystals that jut out from the top and the bottom, and a humongous adjudication geode is used as a method of execution. The Gelrakian boarding party covers the Cerritos in "crystal graffiti," and a few invaders demand crystals when attempting to break down the doors to the bridge.
    • The inhabitants of Mavok Prime are described as a wood-worshiping civilization. Their fertility totem is a piece of wood.
    • Discussed in "Crisis Point", where Mariner tries to put all sorts of Orion stereotypes on Tendi. She gets called out for the stereotypes, even if most members of the race are exactly as she depicted.
  • Pointy Ears: The inhabitants of Mixtus II and III have pointy ears.
  • Purple Is the New Black: Outer space has a purplish hue when seen from the Cerritos windows (such as the ship's lounge or crew quarters).
  • Reality Ensues:
    • In "Second Contact," it turns out swinging around a bat'leth while drunk could very seriously injure someone.
      • The senior staff won't necessarily notice the contributions of lower-ranking crew members, and the "lower decks" just have to suck it up.
      • Being a rule-breaker in a military organization (no matter how much it denies being so) will tank your career prospects. Mariner is one mistake away from being cashiered and has zero respect from her own mother.
      • Commander Ransom is understandably freaked out at the prospect of having unintentionally eaten his crew mates.
    • In "Terminal Provocations", the team gets Fletcher transferred (and promoted) to the U.S.S Titan in hopes the superior officers there will straighten him out. Instead, he's court martialed in a week for his gross stupidity and laziness.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Ensign Beckett Mariner is usually presented as the cooler and more capable of the two between herself and Ensign Brad Boimler, and often brags about her skills and puts down Boimler's apparent lack of them. However, while Mariner may be more physically capable and street-smart than Boimler, he's the one out of the two of them who actually consistently cares about doing right by Starfleet, while Mariner holds strong resentment for its bureaucracy and what she feels are its glory-seeking ways, despite serving on a Starfleet vessel. The captain of the Cerritos also trusts Boimler more than Mariner due to the latter's recklessness and willful disregard for protocol, although it's made more personal by the fact that Mariner is the captain's daughter, and Captain Freeman tries to use Boimler to find information she can use as an excuse to get Mariner thrown off the ship.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens:
    • Tendi is Orion and has green skin, but is otherwise identical in appearance to the human characters.
    • Rutherford technically isn't even an alien, but a cyborg, with his cybernetic enhancements resembling the appliances worn by Borg characters.
    • Shaxs is Bajoran, with the tell-tale ridges on the bridge of his nose being his only alien feature.
  • Scotty Time: Referenced in-show as "buffer time," used by most of the crew to extend out deadlines so there's no rush and get multiple tasks done at the same time. It's then Deconstructed when Captain Freeman finds out and — thinking her crew is being lazy and hurting her reputation — issues new orders that all tasks be done on-time and as quickly as possible. The Cerritos immediately falls into chaos because the crew becomes overworked and get overwhelmed when emergencies pop up that cannot be handled with a large task backlog. There's also the fact that the people setting the schedules clearly had no idea how long they'd take in the first place since they were always fooled. The ship even gets raided by lower-tech aliens wielding crystal spears because of it. By the episode's end, Freeman resumes letting "buffer time" happen.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In the title sequence, the Cerritos is hit once by Borg phaser fire, and then it immediately retreats.
  • Self-Deprecation: Lower Decks gleefully and lovingly pokes fun at the franchise's own inherent goofiness. Such as taking pot-shots at the presence of children aboard the ship in The Next Generation when Rutherford manages to get every child aboard the Cerritos sucked into space during a training simulation... which shouldn't even be possible.
  • Ship Sinking: A few episodes implied a pairing between Shax and T'ana, which the latter referenced in the season finale that the former died in.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Badgey from "Terminal Provocations" is a parody of Clippy, the notoriously loathed "virtual assistant" from the 1997-2003 versions of Microsoft Office.
    • The character of Saul Rubichek is likely a reference to Saul Rubinek, who played Kivas Fajo in the TNG episode, "The Most Toys".
    • In the first episode, when asked what sand is, Boimler explains that it "gets everywhere".
    • The planet where sentient rats, which look suspiciously like Anticans, eat sentient lizards might be a dig at V, a series in which sentient lizards ate people.
    • Peanut Hamper rolling through space recalls Wheatley at the end of Portal 2.
  • Shown Their Work: While most of Star Trek lore might still be technobabble, the show makes a point of referencing all the different aspects introduced over the years, from famous faces like Sulu and Troi, to lesser known facts like the Cetacean Ops and Gary Mitchell.
  • Sickly Green Glow: In the main titles, there's a Space Battle between a dozen Romulan warbirds and six Borg Cubes; the lights of their vessels and their disruptor/phaser fire glow green.
  • Small Reference Pools: Downplayed: Ensign Boimler is described as being born in Modesto, California, a town some actual native Californians haven't heard of — although fans of American Graffiti, whose director George Lucas also hails from the city, may have.
  • Spiritual Successor: It's a direct homage and named after the TNG episode of the same name, although with a much different tone.
  • Suicidal Pacifism: Strangely zigzagged - the command crew seem oddly reluctant to open fire with the Cerritos’s ship borne weaponry, even in situations where it would be completely justified, to the point where the Cerritos doesn’t fire it’s weapons even once during the first season. On the other hand, on a personal level, the entire cast and crew seem to have zero issues engaging in multiple intense unarmed, melee and phaser fights with hostile forces and characters.
  • Telepathy: The Anabaj can read other people's thoughts.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: The female characters (except for T'Ana) are drawn with eyelashes and lips, whereas the male characters (except for some aliens like the Galardonians and the Taxors, whose lips are visible) lack these features.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: While Cerritos is being basically drawn and quartered, the Titan rides to the rescue, under the command of one Will Riker with the TNG theme in full effect.
    • That said, there can also be a small Took a Level in Badass as they rock with the end theme from the TNG movies as they make 3 v 1 the hard way look laughably easy
  • Thin-Line Animation: Showrunner Mike McMahan is also a producer on Rick and Morty, so it's no surprise that Lower Decks shares a similar animation style.
  • Title Drop: "Lower decks" is said on two occasions in the series premiere. The first time, it was a derogatory address of Ensign Tendi, dismissing her as beneath the Lieutenant's notice. The second time was Mariner chanting it in the bar with a sense of pride. The phrase continues to crop up throughout the series as an identifier of the lower-ranked members of the ship.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The villains for the first season finale are none other than the Pakleds, who have spent the last few decades stealing whatever starship tech they can from powerful races they encountered, including the Borg. They wipe out at least one Federation starship that we see (the Solvang) before they encounter the Cerritos.
  • Unusual Ears:
    • The Galardonians have tube-like ears.
    • A few Gelrakians have very long earlobes.
  • Unwinnable Training Simulation: Lieutenant Shaxs' standard starting simulation for new recruits is hand-to-hand combat with a dozen Borg drones, which he specifically designed so that he can assess how they handle defeat.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Vendorians can change their form at will.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: One of the lower decks staff has only ever been seen wearing a towel wrapped around his waist in the hallway bunks.

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The Janeway Protocol

When Rutherfold undergoes an advanced command training simulation, he does so badly that he somehow kills 105% of the crew. And when he undergoes a basic simulation, he ends up killing all the kids on the ship, which has literally never happened in the simulation before.

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