The USS Cerritos will never be the same.
In the Season 2 finale of Lower Decks, the status quo of the trekkiest Star Trek series changes forever — again.
In the Season 1 finale, the crew had to be rescued by Will Riker and the USS Titan. In the Season 2 finale of Lower Decks — “First First Contact” — the scrappy crew of the Cerritos saves not only a more prominent and fancier Starfleet ship but the civilization of an innocent planet, too. This finale was a banger, but a last-minute twist means the direction of Lower Decks Season 3 is unclear.
Inverse caught up with actors Jack Quaid and Paul Scheer (Ensign Boimler and Lt. Commander Billups, respectively) to get their take on the journey so far and where Lower Decks might boldly go next. Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks, Season 2, Episode 10, “First First Contact.”
After the entire crew stripped the hull of the USS Cerritos down to almost nothing and saved Captain Gomez (Lycia Naff) along with the USS Archimedes, everyone is celebrating — even though they’re a little sad that Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) is leaving. Despite almost dying to save the ship, Boimler is also obsessed with party decorations.
“He's still trying to get the captain to notice his ‘Captain Freeman Day’ banners despite the fact that he saved the ship,” Boimler actor Jack Quaid says with a laugh. “He’s had a lot of wins this season, but, you know, he still has a long way to go.”
Bradward Boimler’s arc across Season 2 was notable. It started when he was duplicated by a beaming accident on the USS Titan in episode 2, “Kayshon, His Eyes Opened.” In reference to various transporter duplicate stories from Star Trek series past — from “Second Chances” on TNG to “The Enemy Within” in TOS — one of the resultant Boimlers was slightly more confident. At the same time, “our” Boimler remained his skittish self.
“His worst nightmare happened to him,” Quaid says. “He got demoted again. But then, he embraced the idea that he’s a Lower Decker, and I think that made him more confident. He’s starting to realize that getting promoted isn’t everything, and his friends matter much more. And that's been awesome for me to see, especially knowing where he came from in Season 1.”
Another character who experienced a surprising amount of development in Season 2 was Chief Engineer Andy Billups. Although Billups is technically part of the bridge crew, comedian and voice actor Paul Scheer points out that Billups is the underdog at the cool kids’ table. He comes from a kooky royal family, but he’d rather be left alone with his warp core.
“I do believe that engineers are truly Lower Deckers,” Scheer explains. “They are not on the bridge. They are always down in the bowels of the ship. As much as you love Scotty or as much as you love Geordi, they’re not the first people you think of when you think of the starship’s bridge. They’re getting their hands dirty.”
This season shook up Billups’ backstory. In the episode “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie,” this supporting character got the spotlight. It turns out, Billups comes from a culture that uses faux-medieval, Renaissance Fair-esque nomenclature to describe 24th-century technology. This kind of intentional anachronism wasn’t exactly new to Star Trek canon, even if it felt transgressive.
As a longtime Trek fan since childhood, Scheer thinks the reason Lower Decks works is that it’s unafraid to mock the weirder parts of Trek canon. Scheer compares Lower Decks favorably to the humorous John Scalzi novel Redshirts or the film Galaxy Quest.
“If you’ve never watched Star Trek, this is an ensemble comedy that takes place in space,” Scheer says. “You don’t need to know anything about Star Trek. Like you don’t need to know the rules. What are the ‘rules’ of The Office? Or What We Do in the Shadows? You don’t need to know those things.”
That’s not to say fans aren’t well-fed by Lower Decks’ constant references. “If you are a Star Trek fan, it pays off huge dividends,” adds Scheer. “Mike [McMahan] has made it an entry point show. But it’s also a companion show that jokes around with some of the more silly or questionable beats from the other shows.”
By the end of the Lower Decks Season 2 finale, the crew of the Cerritos is thrown into chaos. Even though Captain Freeman rejects her promotion, she’s then framed for destroying Pakled Planet. The final scene of the episode sees the beloved captain arrested, and the words “to be continued” hit the screen. Neither Scheer nor Quaid can reveal what will happen with Captain Freeman and the crew, at least not yet. But, apparently, Lower Decks Season 2 will lead right into Season 3.
Quaid says he’s actually already begun recording Season 3 and promises it will be “even bigger and even better” than Season 2, and that fans can expect the series to continue to push Star Trek into new directions.
“The first episode of season three has my favorite line I’ve ever said on the show,” Quaid reveals. “I’ve read a few things that have hit me really emotionally in Season 3. I think fans have another big season to look forward to.”
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 and 2 are streaming on Paramount+. Season 3 is expected in 2022.