Star Trek's Strange New Worlds/Lower Decks Crossover Caused Some Initial Confusion For The Cast

One of the bigger "Star Trek"-related surprises to come out of the 2022 San Diego Comic Con was that the animated series "Star Trek: Lower Decks" (about to begin its third season on August 25) and the most recent "Trek" iteration "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" (which just concluded its first season) are going to have a crossover episode

This is an odd notion for several reasons. For one, "Lower Decks" takes place in the mid 2380s — after the events of "Star Trek: Voyager" and the "Next Generation" movies — while "Strange New Worlds" takes place in the late 2250s, prior to the events of the original series. This, of course, would present no serious obstacles to "Star Trek" writers, who can easily open up a time portal or invent a temporal nexus where characters from all across history can meet; Kirk (William Shatner) and Picard (Patrick Stewart), while separated by 87 years, still managed to meet in "Star Trek: Generations." 

Secondly, the two shows possess drastically different tones. "Strange New Worlds" is a straightforward, story-of-the-week, classically-bent "Star Trek" series about optimism and diplomacy. "Lower Decks" is a crass slapstick comedy show about the more demeaning jobs on a Starfleet vessel, and a crappy one at that. One is about clear-thinking, peerless commanders. The other is about shallow, scattered novices. 

Thirdly, and most baffling for the cast, is how are the shows going to interact if one of them is animated? It turns out the "Lower Decks" voice cast will play themselves in live-action. But Anson Mount, who plays Captain Pike on "Strange New Worlds," initially thought it was going to be much different. He assumed it would be a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" scenario.

Roger Rabbit

For those unaware of one of the biggest hit films of 1988, Robert Zemeckis' "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is a noir film set in 1947 in which the day's hottest cartoon stars lived in the real world, and were hired by studios as actors. The film features state-of-the-art technology that allowed cartoons to interact with the real world. Mount admitted his confusion during SDCC – not only did he think he'd have to act with animated characters, but that they, like Mickey Mouse, would be tiny beings. He said: 

"Oh, I thought it was going to be Roger Rabbit, I can tell you that. I was like, we're gonna have animated characters running around, following us around. How? Are they gonna be small, are they gonna be big? Then [showrunner] Akiva [Goldman]'s like, no no no no no no no, that's not what we're doing. And once they explained it to me I was like, 'Oh, that's actually kind of brilliant,' the way it's being done."

Celia Rose Gooding, who plays a young Uhura on "Strange New Worlds," addressed the tonal balance between the two shows, commenting that the comedy of "Lower Decks" is not necessarily meant to undercut the messaging and complexity of "Star Trek." Indeed, they complement one another. Gooding said:  

"'Lower Decks,' I think something that's really special about that specific iteration of Trek compared to ours is that it's so comedic and light, and it has a way of making even incredibly high-stakes situations incredibly comedic and incredibly digestible. And when I heard that we were gonna collab with them I was super-duper excited, because that's probably one of my favorite new Trek shows, besides ours of course."

Loosening up

Gooding also talked about working with Jack Quaid and Tawny Newsome, who play ensigns Boimler and Mariner on "Lower Decks." Because their show is primarily a comedy, they brought a comedic sensibility with them to the bridge of the Enterprise. Gooding talked about how their looser attitudes toward "Star Trek" bled into the on-set tone on "Strange New Worlds." In a way, the visiting "animated" characters provided a relatively serious crew a chance to play the straight man. Gooding said: 

"Yeah, it was incredibly exciting to read, and Tawny and Jack are both class acts and incredible comedians, and I think they gave all of us permission to show up to work in a way we haven't before. I didn't feel comfortable riffing and doing my own thing, and they showed up guns blazing and it was really awesome to work and collaborate with them."

The actual date and story of the "Lower Decks"/"Strange New World" crossover as not yet been announced, other than to say it will be part of the second "Strange New Worlds" season, set to be released in 2023. Also slated for release that year will be a fifth season of "Star Trek: Discovery," the third and final season of "Star Trek: Picard," and the back half of the first season of "Star Trek: Prodigy." Just bushels and bushels of Roddenberries.