I have loved Star Trek since watching the original run of The Original Series as a child back in the ’60s.
I have loved comedy since I was in my 30s, watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus on PBS stations before cable was a thing.
I have loved animation for almost as long, getting hooked on Japanese Anime back in the ’80s.
All of this combined into the perfect storm for me for an episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. I have been looking forward to this ever since I first caught wind of it on my Facebook timeline. The episode I’m referring is, of course, “Those Old Scientists”.
Yes, you are talking to a rabid fan of the animation, Star Trek: Lower Decks (don’t judge me!). It happens to be a very clever nod not only to the 1960 series TOS… (”Those Old Scientists”, get it?), but everything up until its own inception, which, considering Star Trek’s history is as complicated as mapping out a timeline for the Star Wars universe, is a pretty incredible feat of engineering.
Scotty would be proud.
What everyone should be aware of is that you don’t need to be a fan of the Lower Decks series to fully appreciate this episode of Strange New Worlds, but knowledge of it will completely enrich your viewing pleasure. If you are a fan of the irascible team of Mariner and Boimler, inflate that pleasure with a bicycle pump until it explodes happiness all over the room and you will get a small taste of the fan squeeing! and giggling that occurred in my living room as we watched this insanely fun crossover romp between series.
The episode starts out in the Lower Decks cartoon format, then, as one of our (really Boimler’s) favorite portals activates, it throws Ensign Boimler into the “real universe”. True to his character, he faints. Then, in a wonderful double-take, Captain Pike’s “The Final Frontier” opening monologue that accompanies every episode is done in the animated universe.
The flip-flops between animation and the “real world” then stabilize in the Strange New Worlds (real) universe for the bulk of the episode, where things turn from the animation’s inborn, comedic nods to Star Trek’s timeline history and boldly go forward with the serious problem of getting Ensign Boimler back to his proper time and universe. There is a subtle, underlying thread of comedy that does not detract from this, but is very welcome to both the uninitiated and fans of the Lower Decks series.
So, if I were to squee about more that would not give away the rest of the plot, I would start off with the fact that Jonathan Frakes of Next Gen fame directed this episode. His directorial experience with the Star Trek franchise makes him one of the most enjoyable directors to helm difficult, complicated and endearing episodes that will be long remembered after both series are gone.
The care and continuity in crossing over these episodes is immediately apparent in the human aspects of Ensigns Mariner and Boimler – from keeping his blue-tinted hair to how Mariner rolls her uniform sleeves up. I think the thing I love the most about seeing the animated characters in human form is the fact that they voice the actual cartoon characters and even if you close your eyes, you can see them in the Lower Decks animation style. And the way the actors effortlessly merge their Lower Decks character’s personality quirks into reality are just as endearing. Boimler is still a bumbling, nervous and socially-awkward yet likable guy and Mariner still hates rules, throws in with Boimler to break them and still rambles and talks too fast – even making a joke that the people in the SNW universe talk too slow!
By the way, I am still getting over the shock of how tall actor Jack Quaid is as he towers over L’An. And on the subject of the actor in discussion with the Head Boss-Man of SciFi Radio, Gene told me the actor is also the voice of Clark Kent/Superman in the new animated series, My Adventures with Superman. I found this a crazy sort of irony in Quaid playing both characters – one wants to be a super spaceman and the other really IS a super spaceman!
Here’s to the Star Trek franchise taking wonderful, future risks with nutty yet universe-enriching crossover episodes in the future. I’ll drink an Orion Hurricane to that – don’t hold the delaq.
Kristine Cherry is a lifelong geek who comes by it honestly on her father’s side of the gene pool. She costumes, writes fanfiction, was the TimeSiren of SciFi Radio’s Corsair’s Closet Doctor Who podcast. She is currently writing her own series of fantasy death goddess eBooks via https://whocate.info