Star Trek: Lower Decks is the first Star Trek animated comedy series to adhere to franchise canon, and with that privilege comes unique challenges. The goal is always to make the audience laugh, while at the same time upholding and honoring the lore that exists as part of the era of the franchise established in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Trying to strike that delicate balance can create a lot of debate, apparently to the point where a seemingly simple 10-second sequence can inspire weeks of conversations amongst the creative team before anything even gets animated.
In the exclusive behind-the-scenes clip seen above from the upcoming Blu-ray, DVD, and limited-edition Steelbook release of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 (in stores on Tuesday, May 18), we learn quite a bit about how much thought went into the show's hilarious opening credits. Specifically, co-executive producer Aaron Baiers pointed to the bit in which the USS Cerritos arrives at, and then retreats from, a massive Borg and Romulan space battle, which caused some long Trek-ethical discussions about the best way to handle that moment and still get a laugh.
I think we had a conversation about that Borg piece for weeks and weeks. They're still Starfleet. They're still The Federation. So like, would they really turn their back on their colleagues that are at war with the Borg? And so, really, it started as there was one ship that was fighting the Borg, and now I think there's 3 or 4 or 5 ships?
Star Trek: Lower Decks fans know the USS Cerritos wouldn't stand a chance in this battle, so the key to justifying the characters' decision to fall back was ultimately to make the battle so big that any fearless obligation to enter the fray would've been wholly illogical. After all, the Cerritos does do some good for The Federation, even if its successes at times are almost entirely beholden to blind luck.
Ultimately, the blink-a-few-times-and-you'll-miss-it Borg sequence, not to mention the rest of the opening credits sequence, fits the mold that creator Mike McMahon had for Star Trek: Lower Decks. McMahon spoke in the segment at various points about how the sequence represented his ideal vision of what an animated sci-fi comedy could be while still adhering to Star Trek rules.
At the very beginning of the show I wanted it to be clear that we were on a Star Trek show. Specifically, a TNG-era show. But at the same time, I wanted there to be little hints in it that we were also a comedy at all times...and so for me that meant beautiful images of the Cerritos gliding through celestial events and planets and things happening in space, but then the Cerritos not handling it very well... [The Cerritos is] slowly rising into the frame in a huge Romulan/Borg battle and then turning around because that is not their fight! They're going to call a better ship that is going to take care of it. All these little moments that just really feel like they are evocative of the TNG-era of Star Trek.
TV creators are just like us. An explanation of the main credits is just one of the many bonus features found on the upcoming release of Star Trek: Lower Decks that aren't available on Paramount+. Fans who purchase the set will have access to tons of special features, with deep dives taken regarding tons of easter eggs that are embedded in the series, with commentary from the producers, writers, and cast. There's even an exclusive trailer for the in-universe movie Crisis Point: The Rise Of Vindicta, so maybe they'll produce an entire version of it for Season 2.
Star Trek fans can pick up a physical copy of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 on Tuesday, May 18. After learning how much writers-room time was spent on such a short piece of the credits sequence, it should surprise no one that Mike McMahan, who co-created Hulu's Solar Opposites, has thoughts on whether the Shlorpians would ever appear in the Trek universe.