When a new animated Star Trek show first was announced, I was intrigued. When it turned out that Lower Decks was a comedy, I was skeptical. When I first tried it, I was in a bad sensory space and the bright colors and rapid-patter dialogue was too much for me.
Eventually, I managed to watch a few episodes with my television set to black-and-white (a thing I do with my devices when my sensory threshold hits a certain low point) and it didn’t take long to get hooked by its artful trick of reverent irreverence.
(You can’t be this good at poking fun at Star Trek unless you dearly love Star Trek. My favorite deep cut remains the giant Spock skeleton.)
It’s frustrating, then, just how much I’ve been struggling with this latest season. The reasons for this, I guess, basically are political.
In a year where we finally saw a canon character (Pelia in Strange New Worlds) utter the words “no money, socialist utopia”, I’m disappointed that Lower Decks repeatedly has gone all-in this season on the idea that it’s be completely fucking stupid to want to just remain an ensign.
This season saw our titular Lower Deckers all promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade, despite at least Mariner’s initial protestations to the contrary. In the latest episode, she’s talked out of her most recent resistance to the change by a Klingon, arguing that to deny her new rank would be to dishonor an old friend.
It’s no secret that my biggest personal problem with the way we’ve constructed our society is that we’ve very narrowly defined the terms by which someone is judged to have value. To be of worth.
We’re meant to adhere to a very strict sense of how to be “of use”, else deemed surplus and discardable unless we somehow can produce value for someone else by, for instance, just becoming a bed in some private-equity firm’s institutional warehouse.
In any prospective no money, socialist utopia, you should be able to settle at whatever level suits you best, without being prodded or pressured or shamed over it. Yes, even if you’ve joined Starfleet, an organization that does things nobody else does and which you should be able to join without having any ambitions for some late capitalist, normative career advancement.
There should be room for this in Star Trek.
It’s okay to want to remain an ensign, and it should be okay on Lower Decks to want to remain Lower Decks.
Cue the chant.