Star Trek is set to introduce a new series unlike any from the franchise before. Mike McMahan is developing Star Trek: Lower Decks, an animated comedy focusing on the crew of the USS Cerritos, one of the least important ships in Starfleet. At San Diego Comic-Con 2019, CBS All Access revealed that Star Trek: Lower Decks is set in the year 2380 of the Star Trek timeline. That’s one year after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, the latest story told in the timeline (at least until Star Trek: Picard debuts early next yet). ComicBook.com spoke to McMahan over the phone about Lower Decks and asked him about how such an unconventional Star Trek show fits into Star Trek canon. He started by explaining the thought process behind setting the show in 2380.
“I was a [Star Trek: The Next Generation] guy and when I grew up, that was the Star Trek I really loved. I like all Star Trek, but that's the one that feels most like home to me. I wanted to choose a year that was kind of untouched, was kind of blank slate, that didn't touch on anything that they might be doing for whenever Picard takes place but also doesn't get in the middle of anything that was like, ‘Oh, this was happening during the Dominion War.’ Or, you know, ‘This would be happening during [Star Trek: First Contact].'
“For me, it was like what was a little spot where our characters on a less important ship could be having adventures and doing their thing that wouldn't break anybody else's favorite show. Everybody else, there's so many fans. There are people who are huge fans of Deep Space Nine. I love Voyager and Enterprise and everything that came around there, those shows are all amazing. I didn't want anybody to feel like I was trying to subvert their favorite show by what we were doing. Also, because it was my favorite era, I was like, ‘I'm going to slip in at the very end and get to do just one more little piece of that era. Just one more little growing of the world, just in this different format.’”
As to whether that means the USS Cerritos will visit specific locations from that era of Star Trek, McMahan remains tight-lipped. “I don't want to say yes or no to anything, but it is my goal to feel like everything should be new and familiar,” he says. “I don't want to step on anything. We're still figuring the season out, and we're working on it, and I would love it to be a mix of the familiar and the new.”
McMahan gave a similar response when asked about the possibility of actors from that era lending their voices to Lower Decks. “I cannot answer that at all,” he says. “I'm a huge fan of everybody from that era. I'm dying to work with everybody. The voice actors that we have right now are just such a joy. Getting to build new Star Trek is really my dream. As we're building it out, and as we're finding the voices of our characters, the thing that is getting me more and more excited is creating this new Starfleet family that are going to feel like classic characters to people, those that have seen Star Trek, and who haven't.”
But McMahan makes it clear that he sees existing within Star Trek canon as a boon and not a burden. “It's important to me that canon and Star Trek really go hand-in-hand,” McMahan explains. “It's important, to me. It's not worth making a Star Trek show unless you are at least trying to make sure that it fits into the canon because the canon is part of why I and everybody else loves Star Trek. It feels like, that is what is kind of the original shared world of all these different shows. Now you're seeing it in the Marvel movies and the DC movies and all of that, but in the very beginning you had [Star Trek: The Original Series] and then it became TNG and all the other series reference each other, and the movies reference each other.
“To me, that was the original fandom and if you're not trying to fit into that stuff and not being careful, it's kind of not worth doing. That's part of the joy of doing it. It's not a constraint. So the trick with Lower Decks is that our characters are, our stories and our characters are definitely in canon. Ours, they're just a little bit more aware and self-referential. Our guys might talk about the characters from the other shows that they've heard about because they are as big a fan of Star Trek as I and my writers are. They don't get to do as important stuff. It's almost like our characters are aware that they're in canon, and some of them are geeking out over it.”
What do you think of the approach Star Trek: Lower Decks is taking toward canon? Let us know in the comments. Star Trek: Lower Decks is expected to debut in 2020. More information will be revealed on Sunday during the Star Trek: Lower Decks panel at Star Trek Las Vegas.