Title: Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season 1
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: May 18, 2021
Price: $28.99 (List $37.99) Order from Amazon
The CBS All Access animated comedy series Star Trek: Lower Decks has been streaming exclusively on Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) since August 2020. The 10-episode first season premiered episodes weekly until October 2020. Season Two, debuting in August, wraps up in October 2021. And a third season has been slated.
On May 18, the series released to Blu-ray Disc and DVD for the first time. The disc editions from CBS Home Entertainment (which includes a Limited Edition Blu-ray SteelBook – see photos below) have a total run time of 4 hours, 11 minutes (251 minutes). And, each edition includes a bunch of bonus material much of which is exclusive to the physical media. Here’s a review of the Blu-ray presentation.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is a somewhat tame but hilarious series created by Rick and Morty producer Mike McMahan. You can definitely see and hear Rick and Morty’s influence on the sci-fi franchise series, from the writing, characters, pace, and editing of the animated situational comedy.
The name of the main Starfleet vessel in the show, USS Cerritos, comes from a somewhat obscure city (at least outside of Los Angeles) that may be more widely known by a local radio jingle about the Cerritos Auto Square. The insignificant name of the ship (in contrast to Starfleet ships such as Enterprise, Excalibur, and Challenger) may be emblematic of the series as the crew of the Cerritos are more or less distracted, if not capable, underachievers.
Lower Decks is the first animated Star Trek series since the original 70s animated series that actually starred most of the original live action cast including William Shatner Leonard Nimoy, and Nichelle Nichols. Compared to the original animated series, Lower Decks is a more humorous take on the futuristic worlds Gene Roddenberry created in the early sixties.
Looking back, Star Trek: The Animated Series was actually really well done in terms of storytelling and animation (the show can currently be streamed in HD with a Paramount+ subscription). However, Lower Decks is a different animal in the Star Trek kingdom, and the first of its kind, offering comic relief to the more serious live action series (although each live action series had its own brand of humor, with TNG in particular offering memorable interactions between Picard, Riker, and Data).
What’s great about watching Star Trek animated series (either the original or Lower Decks shows) is seeing the brightly colored shirts of the crew, each representing a different crew division. Of course, we know what happens to the red shirts in the original TV series (they eventually meet their demise before the episode is over), but in Lower Decks some of the main characters wear red including Ensign Beckett Mariner and Ensign Brad Boimler. In fact, in Star Trek: Lower Decks red shirts represent the Command Division, while yellow represents Operations and blue the Science divisions.
On Blu-ray Disc and streaming, the video image in Lower Decks is presented in 1080p resolution at 16×9 aspect ratio. The imagery is extremely sharp and colorful, as would be expected from a contemporary animated series. Since this is Blu-ray, not 4k Blu-ray, HDR is not a spec that is available to expand the color range (there is yet to be a Blu-ray Disc with HDR, although some digital movies stream in HD with HDR). You can, however, boost color even more by turning on “artificial” HDR on your TV (if you own an HDR TV) or by simply boosting color saturation (available in the settings of most TVs).
It’s hard to say anything negative about most animated series and movies on Blu-ray. Blu-ray allows a maximum video bitrate of 40 Mbps so it can clearly out-stream anything from Netflix or Prime. There was never a moment in watching this show on Blu-ray where you question the quality of the AVC-coded Mp4 video.
The sound on Star Trek: Lower Decks is provided in English DTS-HD 5.1 Dolby Digital audio and there are some fun surround sound effects. The voiceovers from actors such as Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noël Wells are hilarious in this series.
There are some good audio moments, one of which is the repeated sound of the USS Cerritos jumping into warp speed.
The show sounds particularly good with headphones, where the audio is typically centralized (between left and right ear speakers) but orchestral music and sound effects fill the entire space.
There are some spatial effects here and there. Meaning, sounds that are designed to be other than frontal or left and right. For example, in Episode “Crisis Point” at 17 minutes there are the slight effects of the USS Cerritos falling apart after crashing.
If you love Star Trek, the disc editions of ‘Lower Decks’ are a must-have with exclusives you won’t find anywhere else. These include “Hiding in Plain Site” (a look at the Easter Eggs found in Season One), “Lower Decktionary” (10 episodic looks at creating the series), a full-length Animatic, deleted scenes and extended animatics.