Warning! The following contains spoilers for the Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 premiere “Grounded.” Read at your own risk!
Star Trek: Lower Decks recently returned for Season 3, and as is often the case with its episodes, the premiere was chock full of references to past works in the franchise. “Grounded” took references to another level though, and made some pretty cool nods to the movie First Contact. That even included James Cromwell returning as Zefram Cochrane, and a recreation of the “Magic Carpet Ride” scene. It was all so perfectly executed that fans may be shocked to find out that showrunner Mike McMahan and others weren’t entirely sure they’d get to use Cromwell or the song before working on the episode.
Mike McMahan was kind enough to speak to CinemaBlend for the premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3, and answered some questions about the season and what else is happening in his corner of the franchise. Knowing that stories often develop before the details can be worked out, I was curious if he and the writers already knew they’d get James Cromwell to return as his iconic character ahead of working on the episode. McMahan shared the details behind the scenes, his love for First Contact, and the larger theme of “Grounded”:
Lots of Star Trek fans love First Contact, especially with all the time-traveling goodness that occurs within it. Lower Decks didn’t tackle any time travel, but rather an elaborate adventure that took Boimler, Mariner, Rutherford, and Tendi all around in an effort to clear Captain Freeman’s name. In the end, it was all unnecessary, but fans had a chance to see Bozeman, Montana, and the attraction it became after the world made official first contact with Vulcans.
Mike McMahan wasn’t only able to get James Cromwell back in the franchise. He was also able to use a licensed song to recreate one of the movie’s famous scenes. McMahan revealed to CinemaBlend that while acquiring Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” for the episode might seem like the easier thing between that and Cromwell, it also wasn’t guaranteed:
The money came through, however, and Star Trek: Lower Decks was able to effectively recreate an homage to Zefram Cochrane’s ride with Will Riker and Geordi LaForge (both of whom will appear in Star Trek: Picard Season 3). The episode also saw other key ships from the movie featured, which were reconfigured to serve as amusement rides for anyone who wanted to visit the spot.
Overall the episode was a promising start to Season 3 of Star Trek: Lower Decks, which has a lot of fun things coming down the stretch. In addition to the rest of the season, the series will crossover with the much-acclaimed show Strange New Worlds, which will feature characters like Jack Quaid’s Boimler and Tawny Newsome’s Mariner in live-action (something Mike McMahan pitched to happen since Picard Season 2). It’s a bright future for a series that made news at one point for one of the franchise’s raunchiest scenes to date, and hopefully, things are only getting better.
Anyone with a Paramount+ subscription can check out Star Trek: Lower Decks right now, and tune in for new episodes on Thursdays. You can also check out all the other great Trek shows on Paramount+ (opens in new tab), which showrunner Mike McMahan heavily encouraged in an impassioned speech earlier this year.
Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
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