We all know the stories of the Enterprise (in its various guises, eras and even timelines), but we rarely get a glimpse at the lesser vessels that aren’t boldly going where no one has gone before – and instead, are boldly going where someone else has just been. The crew of the USS Cerritos specialise in the far less important and sexy ‘Second Contact’ with the inhabitants of strange new worlds, but the real drama is to be found on the lowest rungs of the Starfleet ladder, way down with the support staff of the Cerritos, whose occupation of the lowest parts of the ship gives this Trek-themed animated comedy its name.
The early signs on the series weren’t good; the style evokes the way-past-its-prime Family Guy and an out-and-out comedy had never actually been tried in Gene Roddenberry’s Trek universe before (even fourth Trek movie, The Voyage Home, had a serious, even sombre message accompanying its fish-out-of-water story).
And yet, somehow it works. The crewmembers we follow throughout the series – rebellious Beckett Mariner, ambitious bag of nerves Brad Boimler, cybernetically enhanced tech wizard Sam Rutherford and optimistic, endlessly upbeat new arrival D’Vana Tendi – all have a decent amount of development across the series and they’re a likeable bunch most of the time. Their superiors, however, are another matter – arrogant and dismissive, it’s fascinating to see how the upper deck staff treat the almost second class citizens that operate beyond the ship’s bridge.
It’s genuinely funny at times too, with a surprisingly adult edge – some graphic violence and (bleeped) language taking us beyond the final frontier that we’re used to. There are times when it seems like dialogue is way too rushed in its delivery – and entire scenes that feel like endless shouting – but the comedy is well supported by some genuine, unexpected drama. There’s some lovely references to Trek lore too, with some excellent cameo appearances from some very familiar faces.
Some of the lesser elements are a bit underdeveloped – as an example, an early twist that reveals a relationship between the ship’s captain and Ensign Mariner seems to suddenly become a big reveal for the other characters towards the end of the season, but I’d honestly not realised that the other characters were all still in the dark about it at that point.
The anarchic tone throughout is clearly something that was a concern for Trek purists in advance of the show, but not being a die-hard fan myself, I didn’t see the problem with it; I thought the more familiar elements were well integrated and for the most part, it feels like canonical Trek, albeit from a point of view we’re not used to seeing, with a much more comedic tone than we’re used to as well.
The final episode is an excellent swansong for the first season and even leaves us with a bit of a cliffhanger in terms of one character’s position; with the recent news that the show has been renewed for two more seasons, I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing the overarching story develop further – and for more slices of episodic, amusing fun in the Trek universe.
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