Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 has a ton of goodwill built up thanks to a first season that ranks as the best Trek we have seen in a while. The only worries we had going into the new season really stemmed from the possibility of an overarching story taking away from the goofy shenanigans and singular character-building moments that made Season 1 such an utter delight. With Bradward Boimler now part of the USS Titan and a new dynamic between Ensign Beckett Mariner and her mother, Captain Carol Freeman, was life aboard the USS Cerritos going to suffer a major change?
We are happy to report that Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 is exactly what we wanted out of a continuation of this arm of the franchise. While there are greater stories at play here, they aren’t the kind of sluggish mysteries that have been a millstone around Star Trek: Discovery‘s neck or the po-faced idiocy that has plagued Star Trek: Picard. As is this show’s strength, the larger stories are rooted in the characters and their individual growth and development. While the show might have throughlines, it never lets the plots overshadow the great character work that goes on in each episode.
And Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 is clearly interested in boldly pushing its characters where they haven’t gone before. The season kicks off with an episode that doesn’t touch base with Boimler until the very end. When it does, it gives a humorous moment that seems to imply Boimler’s dream job of being part of the USS Titan‘s crew is not exactly what he expected. The show has been so adept at laying bare what life would actually be like if you served in Starfleet, and it is clear that Boimler’s arc for the season will involve him reevaluating just what he wants to get out of his service.
Meanwhile, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 continues to give us a complex and growing character with its ostensible lead, Beckett Mariner. The first episode shows that she and her mother have been getting along in a civil manner by doing tons of “side missions” together, and it has led to Mariner getting preferential treatment since the end of Season 1. It is a stark change in the character as we met her in Season 1, but it is clear that things aren’t as cozy as it seems for either of them. By the end of the episode, a status quo has been returned but it has come with the type of humanistic understanding and maturity that used to be a hallmark of the Star Trek franchise.
But it’s not just the warm spirit of the franchise that Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 continues to get right. It also keeps rewarding fans of the property with references that aren’t just surface fun. Yes, it will make most fans pop when a hologram of Boimler being tortured by Cardassians says, “They keep showing me lights!”, but creator Mike McMahan understands Star Trek far deeper than that. At one point in the premiere (written by McMahan), Mariner comments on one of her fellow crewmembers by saying, “I know we’re not supposed to have interpersonal conflict, but I really hate that Andorian.” It’s a wonderful acknowledgment of the behind-the-scenes edicts that guided classic Star Trek. It’s a bummer that Alex Kurtzman is now the franchise’s godfather because McMahan is clearly the one that has a deep and abiding love for the property.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 continues to be the best Trek show since Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It’s goofy without being self-defacing, heartfelt without being saccharine, and continues to showcase the kinds of stories that were once the pinnacle of Star Trek storytelling. We really hope this show has a long life ahead of it and that rumors about a Lower Decks movie are also true because this is the only Star Trek show that actually feels motivated by the precepts that built the series. It will be a criminal day when Star Trek: Discovery ends up lasting longer than this, or another feeble attempt from Kurtzman tries to inject broken blockbuster thinking into the franchise. Star Trek: Lower Decks is currently the only Star Trek you should be watching.