"Star Trek: Lower Decks" is back for a fourth fun season Source: Paramount+

Review: 'Star Trek: Lower Decks' Season 4 Leans into Franchise Fun

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

The Starfleet slackers of the U.S.S. Cerritos are back for new interstellar adventures as the "Star Trek" animated adult comedy warps into a fourth season. The ever-scrapping Mariner (Tawny Newsome), career-minded Boimler (Jack Quaid), trusty engineer Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), and Orion scientist Tendi (Noël Wells) are up to their usual tricks, and saving the galaxy (usually despite themselves) along the way.

The 10 fresh installments offer a season-long story arc involving a mysterious alien ship that preys on various races, turning a power beam onto one vessel after another and leaving only wreckage behind. No one, whether battle-hardened Klingons, stealthily suspicious Romulans, avaricious Ferengi, or even the innocuous Bynars, are spared.

As the cosmic carnage continues, the four main characters – make that five now that a new lower decker, the Vulcan T'Lyn (Gabrielle Ruiz), has been added – go about their usual grunt work and misfit misadventures, which takes the Cerritos from an alien menagerie where unexpected dangers lurk, to a star-encircling ring world, to the terrors of a Ferengi honeymoon getaway.

Source: Paramount+

The season doubles down on the mix of the novel and the nostalgic by reintroducing a classic legacy starship, complete with a bevy of onetime adversaries and a new riff on an old plot device that calls out a controversial episode from the 1990s "Berman Era" of the franchise. In another wink, an episode from late in the season makes oblique fun of the idea of the "clips episode" by showing us flashbacks from a number of previously unseen, and uniformly ludicrous, adventures.

The show has always stuffed its episodes with callbacks and Easter eggs, but this year the fan service sometimes moves from the periphery to the show's narrative spine – a risky move that promises fresh takes on intriguing ideas but also risks lapsing into mere recycling of the greatest hits from past "Trek" series. One episode in particular rests on a plot device that "The Next Generation" used once or twice to good effect; here, despite winking at fans, the storyline seems a little stale.

That's not to say the deep-cut wit of the show has dimmed. Sharp-eyed viewers will catch visual references from the franchise's various epochs and incarnations, while the dialogue remains littered with name-dropping shoutouts to beloved legacy characters, a couple of which turn up this season.

Source: Paramount+

Four seasons in, "Lower Decks" is also starting to have its own canon to draw from. Familiar foes fetch up this time around, right along with the faceless enemy that's cruising the galaxy and spreading chaos. What's more, there's some character growth happening here (including promotions for our heroic ensigns!) and a hint of romance between two of the show's four main regulars. Between the recent "Strange New Worlds" episode "Charades" and a standout half-hour from this new season of "Lower Decks," it's clear that "Trek" can toss out the occasional rom-com and have a great time doing it.

"Those Old Scientists," the "Lower Decks" crossover that proved such a sensation in the recently completed second season of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," turns out to have been a preview for Season 4's unflagging energy, as well as its unabashed tendency to lean hard into past glories. For all that, the show proves it has an eye for today's issues, as it satirizes conspiracy theories and those who spin them, while also mocking "Trek" for its own genre shortcomings.

Situation report: "Lower Decks" remains the same zippy, saucy take on "Trek" it's been for three (now four) seasons and counting. Buckle up! It's going to be a boisterous ride.

Season 4 of "Star Trek: Lower Decks" premieres on Paramount+ on Sept. 7.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Read These Next