Star Trek Lower Deck comedy rule # 1: don’t laugh at Star Trek

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Daring to go nowhere with the crew of Lower Decks. CBS Interactive

Mike McMahan has a question for Star Trek: Lower Decks star Tawny Newsome. “What’s our # 1 rule whenever we make Star Trek jokes?” ” he asks. Newsome tries to remember. “Shall we go to lunch first?”

“No,” laughs McMahan, writer and producer of Rick and morty, Solar opposites and Star Trek: Lower Bridges, which premiered Thursday on the CBS All Access streaming service.

“It doesn’t hit Star Trek. ”

McMahan is keen to stress that while Star Trek: Lower Decks may be a Rick and Morty-style animated comedy set in the Trek Universe, it isn’t making fun of Trek. In fact, Newsome and McMahan opened up about their love for all things Star Trek on a Zoom call ahead of its August 6 release. (Disclosure: ViacomCBS is the parent company of CNET.)

McMahan describes Star Trek as “the basis of science fiction”. It lasted his entire life, and he’s inspired by Trek’s utopian vision of a human race acting in harmony to explore the cosmos.

“It’s almost like science fiction comfort food,” he says.

The utopian ideals of Gene Roddenberry’s longtime creation are certainly an interesting contrast to a previous show McMahan worked on: Rick and Morty. Fans love to dissect If Adult Swim’s sci-fi comedy about mad scientist Rick and his nephew Morty Morty is a study on nihilism. But the creation process begins the same way: “Rick and Morty and Lower Decks [episodes] both start in a very sci-fi place and then they fly off from there, ”McMahan says.

Rick and Morty is a harder show to write, McMahan admits. “Every episode has to be, you know, the most fucked-up mind-twisting episode ever … [And on top of that] Rick has a portal gun that can take him anywhere, so you’re still trying to figure out why he left it on the toilet. ”

Emmy nominated Rick and Morty is available to stream in the United States on HBO Max.

HBO Max

Although he commands Lower Decks, others were in charge of Rick and Morty. The show was created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, and the editorial staff had to think of things that would make these two laugh. But do they like Star Trek?

“Harmon is a huge Trek fan,” says McMahan. “He’s the kind of guy who’s consumed so much media and tidied up all these different iconic, mythologically broad ways of telling a story, making TV laugh, and making people laugh. I don’t know Justin had that much connection to Star Trek, I think he was more into horror movies… I know he loves Sliders and Farscape for some reason. ”

Lower Decks certainly has a hint of the anarchic spirit of Rick and Morty. When the show opens with a main character’s leg slit open by a drunken colleague waving a Klingon bat’leth, you know you’re not on the Enterprise. When you follow a group of galactically unhappy losers on a smaller ship, you’re even in non-Starfleet parlance (beep, of course).

“I thought it was going to be cut,” Newsome says. The star of Netflix Space Force and the Yo podcast, Is This Racist? had fun giving voice to Ensign Mariner, possibly Starfleet’s craziest character (“I have to put this on a T-shirt,” she laughs).

Ensign Mariner (right) boldly goes too far.

CBS All Access

When he got the chance to host a Star Trek show, McMahan immediately opted for the familiar Next Generation era of his youth. “I remember looking at Data and Geordi,” he recalls, “like, they’re my guys. As much as he loves the characters and campiness of The Original Series, the ’90s era of Trek shows felt right at home – and also proved that it was possible to tell stories beyond. the Enterprise. “With Voyager and Deep Space Nine, it became like a genre,” McMahan says. “The TNG era is kind of a Star Trek genre, and [for creators] it’s just a playground. ”

For the look and feel of the show, McMahan analyzed hundreds of variations of the USS Cerritos and uniforms. But while the animated format leaves a lot of freedom in portraying this fantastic future, it does come with some limitations.

“Everything you see on screen isn’t just a choice, it needs to be carefully tracked, drawn and moved,” McMahan says. “That’s why when you watch those old Looney Tunes the background repeats over and over again when they’re running. And special effects are handled differently – shining in a cartoon doesn’t look as magical as in live action. But then you can meet alien races that don’t need to sit an actor for 13 hours to apply a prosthesis. ”

CBS All Access will release Lower Decks on the streaming service on August 6. The first season will span 10 episodes, available every Thursday.

Lower Decks joins a list of live Trek shows on CBS All Access, including Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the upcoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

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