With the success of Star Trek: Discovery and Picard, CBS continues to expand its offerings within the Star Trek universe, this time with a new animated comedy series: Star Trek: Lower Decks. The series boasts a unique angle: it focuses on telling the stories of the lower-ranking crew members, with all the big dramatic events of a typical Star Trek episode happening in the background. As Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome, Space Force) says in the new trailer, "We're not really elite. We're more the cool scrappy underdogs." That sounds like a Star Trek series the fans can get behind.
This is the first animated Star Trek series since the Emmy-award-winning Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) which ran from 1973-1974. That show served as a sequel to the live action Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS)—effectively a fourth season—with many of the original cast members returning to voice the characters. Among the new characters introduced were a three-armed, three-legged alien crew member named Arex, and a Caitian (a cat-like alien) crew member named M'Ress. The 22 episodes included a sequel to the famous "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode from TOS, in which the breed is genetically altered to not reproduce—with the tradeoff being that they grow extremely large (or rather, clusters of tribbles are able to function as a single whole).
Star Trek: Lower Decks is a different beast. It's part of a five-year overall deal Discovery co-creator and showrunner Alex Kurtzman signed with CBS to expand the franchise. Kurtzman tapped Rick and Morty head writer Mike McMahan to spearhead the project. “Mike won our hearts with his first sentence: I want to do a show about the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other end,” Kurtzman told Variety back in October 2018. “His cats name is Riker. His sons name is Sagan. The man is committed. Hes brilliantly funny and knows every inch of every Trek episode, and thats his secret sauce: he writes with the pure, joyful heart of a true fan."
Kurtzman was adamant from the start that Star Trek: Lower Decks would not be in the same R-rated vein as Rick and Morty, although it would "skew slight more adult" than TAS. Since late March, production has been taking place remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic—something that is easier to do on an animated series. The biggest challenge, per McMahan, was figuring out how to record the voice actors with remote equipment in their private homes.