One Of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Best Episodes Led To Its Crossover With Lower Decks

While the above headline refers specifically to "Spock Amok" (airdate: June 2, 2022), the fifth episode of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," the phrase "one of the show's best episodes" could conceivably apply to any of the episodes to date. "Strange New Worlds" is a startlingly good show which started rather strong, a rarity for a franchise whose shows notoriously get off to rocky starts

In "Spock Amok" — a play on the original series episode "Amok Time" — the crew of the Enterprise finds themselves on shore leave, left to pursue their romantic interests. Commander Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) and Lt. Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), the "serious" characters, learn to have a little bit of fun by playing "Enterprise Bingo" (don't ask). Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) spends time in a bar, contemplating her feelings for Spock (Ethan Peck). And Spock aims to have a romantic evening with his lover T'Pring (Gia Sandhu), leading to a strange mind-meld mishap that sees the two characters swapping bodies. Until they can figure out how to undo the mishap, they must take one another's jobs for a short while. Shenanigans, as they say, ensue. Captain Pike (Anson Mount) must also take the time to display his diplomatic skills, revealing how committed the character is to nonviolence and negotiation. 

"Spock Amok" is a wonderful blend of humor and some very "Star Trek" ideas about working well with others. 

It turns out, it was the strength of "Spock Amok," and a great deal of unspoken showrunner camaraderie, that led to the highly anticipated upcoming crossover episode between "Strange New Worlds" and "Star Trek: Lower Decks."

They were wearing Lower Decks t-shirts

As "Strange New Worlds" aired, Mike McMahan — the creator of the more directly comedic animated series "Star Trek: Lower Decks" and big fan of "Spock Amok" — seemingly found himself in a potentially awkward position. "Lower Decks" is, for attentive Trekkies, a treasure trove of references and callbacks to other Treks, so McMahan might naturally be concerned that "Strange New Worlds," a show that takes place a century prior to "Lower Decks," would have the potential to alter what he was doing. He, however, feels he doesn't quite have the clout to simply call up his fellow showrunners Henry Alonso Meyers and Akiva Goldsman, or "Trek" honcho Alex Kurtzman. It turns out, he needn't have worried, as they were already keeping an eye on him. 

In a recent interview with Fangirlish, McMahan revealed, perhaps surprisingly, that it was the "Strange New Worlds" people who initially approached him about the possibility of a crossover. 

"'Strange New Worlds' came to us! I love the thought that I could call up Henry and Akiva at 'Strange New Worlds' or Kurtzman and be like, 'Hey! Here's what we're going to do with your show!' But no, they have always been huge fans of 'Lower Decks.' I know Henry wears the 'Lower Decks' t-shirts in the writers room of 'Strange New Worlds.'

The "Lower Decks" t-shirts are numerous, and one of them is a subtle jibe at "Star Trek: Discovery." The U.S.S. Discovery evidently issues its crew specific workout t-shirts that say only "DISCO," an abbreviation of the ship's name. It's quite a silly garment to see on a "Star Trek" show. Not to be outdone, McMahan depicted crew members of the U.S.S. Cerritos, the ship on "Lower Decks," sporting "RITOS" t-shirts.

The crossover

The "Strange New Worlds"/"Lower Decks" crossover episode, to assuage confusion, will take place in live-action. Worry not. The logistics even briefly confused the actors

Not only were the "Strange New Worlds" writers fans of "Lower Decks," but they had already worked tangientially with McMahan. As it turns out, McMahan was brought in to punch up the comedy for "Spock Amok," which was written by Kurtzman and Goldsman, as well as a few other episodes that required an injection of humor. The cast and crew of "Spock Amok" took well to the episode's comedic tilt, and felt that it would be fun to do more. Lots more. As McMahan put it: 

"And you know the first thing that happened was that first season, Henry had me kind of punch up a couple of the scripts to add a bit more humor to the dialogue, in some of the funnier episodes uncredited and we had such a blast doing that together. I got to do a bunch of stuff on 'Spock Amok.' ... [B]ecause the cast is so charming and the Enterprise as a place is so comfortable, I just got to play in their playground for a minute. And that lead to them being like, "Well, what if we had Tawny and Jack on the Enterprise? They look like their characters, they're great screen actors, it was such an easy yes to say."

Tawny and Jack are Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid, who play the lead characters Ensign Mariner and Ensign Boimler on "Lower Decks." And while Quaid doesn't have a frazzled purple hairdo like Ensign Boimler, he certainly looks just enough like the character that one can squint and see him in live-action. 

A charm offensive

McMahan also elucidates a little bit as to what is going to go into the upcoming crossover, and how pleased he was that such a project came together at all. Tactfully, though. McMahan wasn't about to let any spoilers or plot details slip; the public doesn't yet know how the two time frames will intersect. Although Jonathan Frakes (a longtime "Trek" veteran as actor and director) will direct, McMahan says that he and one of the "Lower Decks" screenwriters were heavily involved in the creative process:

"Kathryn Lyn co-wrote the episode. She was the writer on 'Lower Decks' who wrote, 'wej Duj,' which made me really happy, and then I got to do a ton of punch up. I got to direct some of the animated portions. I got to sit in the edit for a bit like, you know, I've been really heavily involved. Those guys are so collaborative. But it's really the thing they built. It's the world of the Enterprise in 'Strange New Worlds' in that era that my characters are going into that really makes it feel special. It's like a charm offensive. You're going to be grinning the entire time."

"wej Duj" — a Klingon phrase meaning "three ships," and presented on screen in Klingon script – was an ambitious episode from the second season of "Lower Decks" wherein the action cut between the U.S.S. Cerritos, a Klingon vessel, and a Vulcan vessel, each one with its own miniature story and set of characters. It seems being a lower-ranking officer on all three ships is kind of awful. 

A date has not yet been announced for the episode, but it will fall in with the second season of "Strange New Worlds," set for release in 2023.