How Star Trek: Lower Decks Lovingly Skewers Classic Trek Movies

The latest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks is a deep tribute to all eras of Trek movies, and sends them up in the loving way only this show can. We have the inside scoop from the showrunner.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 8 - “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus"
Photo: PARAMOUNT+ ©2022

This article contains some Star Trek: Lower Decks spoilers.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 Episode 8

“To me, a Star Trek movie is one where you’re telling a story so big that it can only be on the big screen,” Star Trek: Lower Decks showrunner McMahan tells us.. “But it doesn’t have to be self-important. It doesn’t have to broadcast all the things that proclaim what Star Trek has to be at all times. I think Star Trek can carry its own legendary status and that’s when you get a Star Trek movie that maybe thinks it’s all-important when all it had to be was just Star Trek. That’s what Boimler tries to do here.”

McMahan is referring to the holo-program that Boimler puts together in this episode that includes representations of the bridge crew and invites his fellow Lower Deckers to join him. However, when a personal crisis causes Boimler to lose sight of the film, it’s up to his friends to rally together and help him find his way in true Star Trek fashion. Remember when the crew of the USS Enterprise did that in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock? The same spirit of crewmanship emerges in this episode, but that film influenced this episode in a less obvious way, as well.

“I had read that when Star Trek III and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home were made that a certain Star Trek actor had to have contractual parity to Leonard Nimoy,” McMahan says. “So, he got to make a Star Trek movie as well. The inspiration for this is that in the first season, Mariner got to make a Starfleet movie that everyone liked. This season? Boimler gets to make his movie as well. That’s contractual parity!”

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Parity .. .or parody?

Of course, McMahan is referring to William Shatner’s turn in the Director’s chair in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which received little critical acclaim. 

“Listen, we all know that you get a great Star Trek movie and then you get a less-great Star Trek movie,” McMahan jokes about the old odd/even numbered Trek movie myth. “I love ALL Star Trek movies but I had heard that they go back and forth.”

This is the sequel to Mariner’s holo-program Crisis Point: The Rise of Vindicta from season one, episode 9 (aptly titled “Crisis Point”). Mike talks about it and the reasoning behind the sequel. 

“We wanted to make a movie that challenged the idea that there were any good or bad Star Trek movies,” McMahan says. “They’re all good Star Trek movies because you get to be in Star Trek for two hours. If you’re lucky, in a theater. That’s my opinion on it, having watched a ‘bad Star Trek movie’ like a hundred times I just don’t believe there are any bad ones. I mean, it’s better to be watching a Star Trek movie than a fucking regular one.”

As a result, Boimler’s “movie” contains multiple references to the first five original crew films, including such deep cuts as Rutherford getting excited about the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Commodore 64-style graphics used in this episode, or the top of the Regula One Space Station jammed on top of an asteroid. There are even details like the unknown laser barrier device that was seen in The Wrath of Khan and even in Airplane II – a film that also starred William Shatner. But perhaps the biggest one comes at the end of the episode, which pays a special homage to Star Trek: Generations, in which Captain Kirk sacrifices himself. The guest star at the end, with valuable advice to Boimler on how to face death is the cherry on top of the episode.

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“It’s just really fun, I loved to make the movie … affectionate,” McMahan says. “People are going to recognize things [even if] they can’t place [them], but they’ll still know because they’ve seen it before.”

Star Trek: Lower Decks drops every Thursday on Paramount Plus.