Published Oct 30, 2023
WARP FIVE: Lower Decks' Mike McMahan Details Season 4's Big Beats So Far
The series' creator/showrunner teases the final two episodes of the season is almost an Lower Decks movie tying together the entire season.
By Christine Dinh
SPOILER WARNING: Some discussion of Star Trek: Lower Decks - Season 4, Episode 9 "The Inner Fight" to follow!
Welcome to Warp Five, StarTrek.com's five question post-mortem with your favorite featured talent from the latest Star Trek episodes.
The fourth season of Star Trek: Lower Decks concludes this week, and we've been treated to a gamut of predicaments only the U.S.S. Cerritos could provide including bone-drinking adorable creatures, heightened emotions, a deep dive into Orion culture, and more!
As we head into the finale, the penultimate episode saw Captain Freeman assigning the Lower Deckers an overly safe mission to try and keep a self-destructive Mariner out of danger.
During New York Comic Con 2023, StarTrek.com had the opportunity to sit down with series’ creator/executive producer/showrunner Mike McMahan on everything that's happened thus far.
On the Lower Deckers' Promotions
McMahan reveals it was important to the series to find opportunities for the crew to connect despite their promotions at the start of the season. “It’s tough because you want to dive into these characters, but that does naturally separate them,” notes McMahan. “To me, the show is at its strongest when all four of them are together. Those are the hardest to write because you’re writing up to them within those stories as well.”
Credit is given to the incredible voice cast for building those connections with each other and the audience. “Luckily, no matter what we do, the cast is so amazing that they’re going to make those characters pop even when the stories aren’t focused on them,” McMahan shares. “I’m just really lucky to have a cast that I can break them apart and I can bring them together, and it’s always going to be awesome.”
On Being Cerritos Strong
What makes the advancement of Mariner, Boimler, Tendi, and Rutherford’s careers so special is that they have a bridge crew of senior officers invested in their development.
“I like that the bridge crew on the Cerritos clearly cares about everybody who’s working under them,” explains McMahan. “Sometimes when you have a boss like that, and you don’t know that they’re watching out for you, it can come across as they don’t think about you, they don’t care.”
That sentiment can be seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Lower Decks,” which serves as the basis of the hit animated series, and comes full circle as seen in this season’s penultimate episode, “The Inner Fight.”
“In Roddenberry’s future, in Star Trek, the higher ups do care about everybody,” McMahan continues. “We’ve seen that in other Star Trek shows as well. Ransom is really funny because he’s such a dumbass in the first couple seasons, that when you see that he’s actually pretty good at his job and he does care, it re-contextualizes him. I love seeing that.”
On Bringing T’Lyn into the Mix
“T’Lyn is so great to have because she adds this dryness, this comedic sort of deadpan-ness,” states McMahan. “The other Lower Deckers are all pretty loud; they’re all big. Then having that moment of deflation where T’Lyn can then say something cutting and funny or incisive… I just love that a Vulcan can just explicitly say what’s happening. It’s like walking right up to the fourth wall, but not quite doing that that I love.”
“Gabrielle Ruiz who plays T’Lyn just fits in with Tawny [Newsome], Jack [Quaid], Noël [Wells], and Eugene [Cordero]. It just feels great,” he adds.
In “Something Borrowed, Something Green,” after T’Lyn accompanies the crew on a personal trip to the Orion homeworld to document the little-known species, she tosses her PADD out the shuttle when Tendi worries about the Orions coming off poorly.
Commenting on that moment, McMahan remarks, “I love that T’Lyn is both clinical but is careful about people’s emotions even though she’s not expressing them. That’s really touching. It’s not her bag, but she respects it, and that feels really Starfleet to me.”
On Paying Tribute to Deep Space Nine Once More
In “Parth Ferengi’s Heart Place,” the Cerritos finds themselves interacting with Ferenginar and bringing back the fan-favorite couple Rom and Leeta. Through discussions with Starfleet higher ups regarding the Ferengi’s potential alliance with the Federation, viewers are treated to a twist where the Grand Nagus Rom and First Clerk Leeta are testing the waters to see if Starfleet will reflect their customs.
“It was fun to do that twist because we know what Rom is like,” states McMahan. “I wanted the audience to be like, ‘Oh, did McMahan write this wrong,’ and then they might fall for it too, which is tough. I just wanted to play to into Rom’s savviness and Leeta’s savviness. What did he pick up from his brother and what did he leave behind?”
“I really wanted to have a shout-out to Nog,” McMahan continues. “At the same time, this was a Rom episode, but to me, the reason Rom even wants Ferenginar to be in Starfleet is partially his experience on Deep Space 9, but really it’s from hearing from Nog. That was the thought behind that choice.”
Upon reference to the episode’s moment at the Dominion War Ferengi memorial to Lost Wages, McMahan explains, “I love Ferengi for joke-telling; you see it in Deep Space Nine all the time. They’ve clearly evolved from the first time we saw them on TNG, and Deep Space Nine did such a great job with Quark for playing him for comedy but also writing up to him and having episodes that really show him as being empathetic. Getting to tell Ferengi jokes in a comedy show; that was amazing, that was a blast.”
On What’s to Come from the Conclusion of Season 4
“What I’m looking forward to having people see in the final two episodes is the growth our characters go through, that even when you grow, you can slip and you can revert, but you still get another chance. You can still help yourself. You can still find who you’re going to eventually be.”
“And I’ve said this before, but the last two episodes are almost like a new Star Trek movie,” concludes McMahan. “It’s almost like a Lower Decks movie, and not like when we’re parodying movies, but really big episodes, especially the finale. It ties together the whole season, around the attacking ship, and I’m really excited for people to see what we did with them.”