Warning: This interview contains spoilers for the season 2 finale of Star Trek: Lower Decks!
With Star Trek: Lower Decks season 2’s finale, the animated comedy series increased the ante by losing a shocking Star Trek: The Next Generation-style cliffhanger: Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) is arrested by Starfleet Security and charged with blowing up Pakled Planet. This leaves her daughter, Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), and the crew of the USS Cerritos wondering what will happen to the ship and their beloved captain.
Screen Rant talked to Star Trek: Lower Decks creator and showrunner Mike McMahan on season 2’s cliffhanger, the rise of ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) and the long-awaited debut of Cetacean Ops. Plus, McMahan dropped some fascinating clues about what’s coming next Star Trek: Lower Decks season 3.
Screen Rant: Mike, what a great finale to a great season 2. I loved the TNG-style cliffhanger in the end.
Mike McMahan: Right ?! Getting to do it with the TNG font on the screen and Chris Westlake’s score, I was like … [triumphant laugh].
Let’s talk about that cliffhanger. I go out on a limb and guess Captain Freeman did not destroy Pakled Planet?
Mike McMahan: Well, listen man, there’s a lot in this galaxy that would hit you in the eye. And Captain Freeman, she’s known for wanting to make a big splash. But it seems * a little * out of character. [laughs] So I would not be surprised if you are right.
When I look back at the last two episodes, I definitely see a pattern where episodes 9 and 10 of the season are just the biggest. “Crisis Point” and “No Small Parts” in season 1 and this year, “Three Ships” and “First First Contact.” You really know how to ramp things up to end a season.
Mike McMahan: Thank you. What happens is that we do all these episodes, we do all this character work, we try to do all this, and my number one goal for the penultimate and ultimate episodes is: Let’s do something that breaks form and is a little more cinematic for the penultimate episode. How to get the movie episode [“Crisis Point”], how to get “Three Ships”, which is my pitch for Paramount: let me turn it into a movie! And then to the finals, I’m always like, “What feels like a finale? What wraps everything up? What introduces new ideas? And what makes the audience say, ‘Holy shit! I love this show!'”
From your tone, I hope we hit it off because I really love this finale. I mean getting Cetacean Ops in there alone was my dream! I have to do it. I’ve been waiting my whole life to do that.
And I would never have guessed how horny dolphins are for swimming with humans.
Mike McMahan: They’re so horny in reality! I just need to get rid of real whales. And it’s not dolphins, it’s Beluga whales. Also horny. Mammals are horny. That’s our whole business.
You know what, that’s probably Gene Roddenberry’s second message.
Mike McMahan: Yes, his second vision. Hey listen, endless combinations, right?
In episode 9, which was great, you also introduced new Lower Deckers on other ships. Will we see T’Lyn (Gabrielle Ruiz) again in season 3?
Mike McMahan: You’ll see T’Lyn again, but her story does not take her to Cerritos soon.
Season 2 felt a lot like Boimler’s time to shine. He never stopped being the Boimler we love, but he kept rising to the occasion and saving the day.
Mike McMahan: Thank you. We all love our lower tires and our goal for each season is to feel like we are moving them forward. I have often said that Lower Decks is more about personal discovery than space exploration. You know, at the beginning of the season you have classic Boimler, but when he gets split [into Brad and William Boimler] and [Brad] coming back to Cerritos, it’s the first moment where it’s like, “Wait a minute, I’ve grown a little.”
I think Boimler always had it in him, and I think Mariner always saw it, but when he started to get that confidence, and when he started to be a little less of a person playing the game Starfleet and only [began] do the right thing and be in Starfleet, Boimler is a guy you can really get behind. Mariner has always known it about him, which is why in the pilot episode she wanted her and him to be cha’DIch.
And what a great moment at the end of episode 9 when the other Lower Decker comes up to him and asks him to be his mentor.
Mike McMahan: Cadets. Yes, I really love that moment. And you see [Commander] Ransom look at them. Ransom is a good guy at heart. Although he’s lying about being from Hawaii, which is not cool.
Well, apparently everyone in Starfleet is lying about being from Hawaii, so …
Mike McMahan: You’re either lying about being from Hawaii, or you’re talking about Riker being from Alaska. It’s always one of two things.
I also really like the slow burning story you tell about Rutherfords that has been going on since season 1. Will Rutherford learn why he got the implant in season 3?
Mike McMahan: There’s an episode in season 3 that answers a lot of questions about the implant. Many things that Rutherford thought he knew were not right. There are many things that are connected. Just like you see, the implant works a lot in the first and second season. There is something about the implant that has not been discovered yet.
And remember, this is Rutherford’s second implant. He lost his first at the end of the first season. So it’s not just part of the implant story, but it’s about Rutherford himself and why he needed the implant. Because no one else has them. There is a reason [Rutherford has it.] It’s a bit of my Julian Bashir, kind of backstory. Not one-on-one, but that was a bit what got me excited [about Rutherford’s backstory].
Speaking of which Deep Space Nine, and Dr. T’Ana told Tendi she did not know who Jadzia Dax was, you stabbed me a little in the heart.
Mike McMahan: [laughs] The funny thing is that every time everyone knows everyone, of course someone should not know it at some point and it will be Dr. T’Ana. It is so funny.
I mean, it makes sense. Of course, everyone knows who Spock is. I understand it.
Mike McMahan: Yeah, it’s like, Tendi is us, and Dr. T’Ana is probably our parents, you know what I mean? They’re still the Trekkies, they just do not know who Tilly is [Mary Wiseman] is, do you know what I mean?
To quote you, season 2 ends with some bills for season 3. Cerritos needs to be rebuilt again. It was great to remove the ship from the hull.
Mike McMahan: It’s based on one of my favorites [Star Trek:] Enterprise episodes, which is the “Minefield” episode where debris gets stuck on the hull pavement. But when I did that with the whole ship, I thought, “No one has ever done our girl [the Cerritos] it was wrong before on a Star Trek. “In the movies, they crash them, but no one has ever had to remove the ship.
When season 3 starts, I guess Cerritos will have a new captain, at least for a while. Which seems like the Marines’ worst nightmare. What’s next for her?
Mike McMahan: The next thing you’ll see we tackle in season 3, and I want to be careful how I say this, is: How does Mariner not only handle her mother, who is no longer the captain of Cerritos but bring unreliable of Starfleet, [put] on trial, and being taken away from Mariner. Marines are always told, “You’re lucky I’m not kicking you off the ship.” But what happens when your mother has been kicked off the ship by Starfleet? That’s all I really want to say about it.
Thanks for talking to me. It’s going to be a long year, or how long it’s until season 3.
Mike McMahan: Thank you very much. The entire season 3 is written. We’ve seen animatics. It continues to be an explosion. I can not wait for you to see it.
Next: Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 End & TNG Connection Explained
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