“Star Trek: Lower Decks” premieres today on CBS All Access, marking the first true “Star Trek” comedy series to ever air. But series creator Mike McMahan, the franchise has always been rich in comedy.
“I don’t even really consider myself to be the first one doing it,” McMahan tells Variety. “I just consider myself to be the first one doing this version of it. My favorite episodes of ‘Star Trek’ always have comedic elements to them because they’re character based and the characters are so lovable. Worf, Data, Geordi, and Riker — there’s so many funny moments with these characters.”
“Lower Decks” is an animated comedy set aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos, one of the less important ships in Starfleet responsible for things like “second contact” with alien species. It focuses primarily on ensigns Mariner, Boimler, Rutherford, and Tendi as they try to live their lives aboard the ship while also contending with crazy sci-fi situations. The show takes place in the same part of the “Star Trek” timeline as “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” and “Voyager.”
McMahan, whose other credits include “Rick & Morty” and “Solar Opposites,” has been a diehard Trekkie for a long time. He even famously created a Twitter account called @TNG_S8, which he used to describe humorous plotlines for a potential eighth season of “The Next Generation.”
And while the show is set in the “Star Trek” universe, McMahan credits shows like “Futurama” and the comedy film “Galaxy Quest” for informing his take on “Lower Decks.”
“I’m just having a blast, man,” he says. “It’s the best. It’s hard to describe how hard I nerded out over a designing a new Starfleet ship. I worked with an artist, and we came up with like 300 designs, and then kept whittling it down and whittling it down. It felt like I was getting paid to get away with a crime.”
The show is also rich with Easter eggs that eagle-eyed Trekkies will be sure to spot. For example, the final design for the Cerritos was ultimately influenced by another lesser-known ship in “Star Trek” lore — the U.S.S. Reliant. That ship was prominently featured in the 1982 “Star Trek” film “Wrath of Khan.” “I was like, ‘If I’m gonna get to do a “Star Trek” show, I want a little baby Reliant,” McMahan jokes.
“Star Trek: Lower Decks” is now available on CBS All Access, with new episodes dropping weekly.