JJ Abrams set the tone for the last decade of Star Trek when he rebooted the franchise back in 2009 with his feature film. That has led to a lot of decisions that have set the series on a pretty unenjoyable path. Thankfully, Star Trek: Lower Decks has been righting a lot of the wrongs that have occurred in Star Trek over the last eleven years. It is fair to say that Star Trek: Lower Decks is even saving the series from itself.
Now, the upcoming episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks is coming out with no reservations on its feelings towards the JJ Abrams films and the era of Star Trek that they have inspired. The preview for next week’s episode, which you can watch over at StarTrek.com, showcases a plot that seems tailored to take a jab at the NuTrek era of stories, movies, and television shows.
In the preview, the Lower Decks crew looks like they are going to have a traditional holodeck adventure. Ensign Brad Boimler has programmed a simulation that replicates the bridge and crew of the USS Cerritos. Ensign Beckett Mariner finds this to be incredibly boring, so she decides to hack the program and create a feature film called Crisis Point: The Rise of Vindicta. And as soon as her movie gets going, it becomes a pretty apparent parody of the JJ Abrams feature films.
The most obvious allusion to the JJ Abrams films is a visual one. We see some swooping shots of the USS Cerritos and the images are covered with lens flares and smears. The JJ Abrams films became notorious for becoming inundated with lens flares and this stylistic decision has carried over into Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. You can see the lens flare gag and distorted angle from Star Trek: Lower Decks in the featured image at the top of this page, as well as in this shot from the episode preview:
For reference, here are some selected shots from the JJ Abrams-directed Star Trek: Into Darkness, as well as shots from Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard:
But the preview is not only taking shots at the visual style of the JJ Abrams films and modern Star Trek shows. The story of Mariner’s simulated film looks to center around the character of Vindicta, who is “revenge personified.” All three of the modern Star Trek movies have centered around villains seeking revenge. This has been pretty clearly inspired by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan which Mariner has repeatedly referenced throughout the first season of Star Trek: Lower Decks.
The idea that Star Trek became focused on villains seeking revenge because of the JJ Abrams films is going to be very fun to see Star Trek: Lower Decks take some shots at. In fact, the entire idea of the Star Trek: Lower Decks creative team doing a pointed satire and meta-commentary about the new era of Star Trek sounds incredible. The show has more than proven its heart is in the right place, so this likely won’t be a cruel and malicious takedown.
Still, it is incredibly validating to see an official Star Trek property potentially agree with some of the criticisms we’ve lobbed at modern Star Trek. If the episode ends up making a lot of the same points about how the current era of Star Trek has been failing, we will consider it an even greater win than it already has been.