We were huge fans of Star Trek: Lower Decks’ first season—a very funny, near-perfect blend of endearingly flawed characters, wild space adventures (but also wonderfully mundane “day in the life of Starfleet” stuff), and Star Trek in-jokes galore. With season two almost upon us, we jumped at the chance to chat with the animated series’ stars: Jack Quaid (Ensign Brad Boimler), Tawny Newsome (Ensign Beckett Mariner), Noël Wells (Ensign D’vana Tendi), and Eugene Cordero (Ensign Sam Rutherford).
The season one finale saw Boimler finally achieving his dream: a transfer from the U.S.S. Cerritos, Lower Decks’ aging vessel specializing in “second contact” missions, to the Titan, a ship on the front lines of all the action captained by none other than William T. Riker (guest star Jonathan Frakes). Normally Boimler’s friends would be stoked for his promotion, but the fact that he left without saying goodbye infuriated Mariner, who’s still smarting when season two begins. Mariner’s also grappling with the awkwardly evolving relationship she has with her mother, Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), who happens to be the captain of the Cerritos. Meanwhile, the cybernetically enhanced Rutherford is recovering from a zap of amnesia after helping save the ship in the season one finale, and Tendi—well, we don’t really have a cliffhanger for Tendi, the least well-developed character among the core quartet. But that’s set to change in season two, according to Wells.
“In the first season, Tendi’s very wide-eyed. She’s soaking up everything like a sponge. She is a bit naive,” Wells told press over video chat at a recent Lower Decks roundtable interview attended by io9. “I think in the second season she maybe has her bubble burst a couple times but because of that, she gets to sort of take herself to the next level. You see her pushing back a little bit more, having a little bit more agency, and not only taking more risks but standing up for herself ... She’s having to run some things herself and take a little bit more control, and you get to see a little bit more of her dark side, her capacity to fight.”
Season one’s various storylines often saw Tendi paired up with Rutherford, and Mariner paired up with Boimler—but season two will break away from that and shake up the interactions between the characters. “Because you have the background of all the lower deck crew together, yeah, you will see us paired up a little bit [differently] ... I get to do a couple of moments [with] me and Jack Quaid, the Boimler-Rutherford duo happens a bit, the Mariner-Rutherford happens a little bit too,” Cordero told us. “So I think that ... now that you see the dynamic, it just sets us up to do about a million seasons. So we can keep mixing it up!”
For Mariner, there are some big changes ahead. “Obviously we know at the end of season one that she’s now working with Captain Freeman, and it’s not great for either of them, I can tell you that. They don’t love it. So not having the anonymity, not having her little secret of being the captain’s daughter, puts all of her stuff on blast. She has to do all of her sneaky little side missions in full view of the crew and the captain, so that’s rough,” Newsome said. “She had to drop some of the artifice of, like, being too cool for school a little bit, which we learned in season one, particularly at the end of it, was a facade. She does love the job, she just wants to do it her way. Season two—being on display with everyone knowing she’s the captain’s daughter, not being able to sneak around—that comes with, you have to drop the facade a little bit, otherwise why would you stick around? So I think she’s a little more direct, she’s a little more like ‘This is what I want to do and why,’ whereas last year maybe had, like, cool cover reasons for why she’s doing certain things ... So yeah, maybe she’s a little more honest, which sounds scary because she was very honest last year.”
We know who Mariner’s parents are, but beyond that, she’s a bit of an enigma, especially when it comes to her life before serving on the Cerritos. “I’ve seen all the theories,” Newsome said. “Was Mariner a child on the Enterprise? Is Mariner a time traveler? ... There’s all these things about, why has Mariner been all these places and worked with all these people? How old is she? Is she 1,000 [or] is she 25 like the rest of them? And the answer is, I’m not going to tell you. Some it’s because I don’t know, and some of it’s because we reveal a little bit in this season so it’ll be delightful when you find out. But look, you’re in it for the long haul with her. She’s not gonna tell you all her shit upfront—she’s just not. Like, the show or the character. So you just gotta keep watching.”
“[Last] season, we got all the set-up out of the way,” Quaid explained. “We don’t have to set up the world and the ship—you know these characters, and we just take you to insane places. For Boimler this season, he’s still on the Titan; you know, the Titan is a really important ship, whereas the Cerritos isn’t as much to Starfleet. The Titan is going on high-stakes missions, we’re fighting the Pakleds, and Boimler is a little bit out of his depth this season. He’s book-smart, he’s not really that great thinking on his feet, and that’s something he has to do a lot on the Titan. So there’s a little bit of ‘be careful what you wish for’ happening.”
Season two of Star Trek: Lower Decks premieres August 12 on Paramount+; the show has already been renewed for a third season.
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