This week, Star Trek: Lower Decks debuted on CBS All Access. The show is the first adult animated comedy set in the Star Trek universe. But what does that format mean for its characters? Many animated comedies don't allow their characters from growing out of familiar molds. For example, how long has Bart been in school on The Simpsons? Does the format mean that the ensigns aboard the USS Cerritos in Lower Decks will remain ensigns forever? ComicBook.com put the question to series creator Mike McMahan during an interview ahead of the Star Trek: Lower Decks series premiere on Thursday.
"The fun to me of serialization is giving it to you when you least expect it and making it feel like you're watching something where every season the show is reinventing itself," McMahan says. "We do want to see growth. We do want to see the journeys that these characters go on, and we're experiencing it while we're writing it and it's funny the amount of times that Tawny [Newsome] just improvises something in the booth where I have to go back to the writers' room and be like, 'Well, we got to change a bunch of stuff because she was right, that was awesome.'"
But there's a particular arc that McMahan wants to traverse with these characters. It's one specific to the Star Trek universe rooted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode from which the series takes its name.
"The thing I would love the most is if we had enough seasons of this show and enough stories that you could see, where does a bridge crew come from?" he says. "How do we expand on the original TNG episode of 'Lower Decks'? What if that just kept going? And what if we saw, Riker wasn't always Riker, Picard wasn't always Picard. You get a lot of those flashback episodes, but not everybody can become who they are because you get stabbed in the heart by a Nausicaan. You become who you are because of a million little things that happen on a million little days, and they all build up.
"All that's the exciting thing from a linear perspective. When you're starting with these characters, they're at the bottom of the ship, and even when we're writing, it's the same thing that happened with Morty. He started off knowing nothing and being an idiot. That's not what our characters are, they start off with knowing a little bit more than Morty, but now in Rick and Morty he is more aware of these sci-fi adventures he's going on and the same sort of thing is happening with our guys where you can't retell a story, so it ends up becoming more complex, and the characters have to grow."
New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere on Thursdays on CBS All Access.