‘Star Trek’ fires ahead with animated comedy ‘Lower Decks’

An emblem on a uniform from the Star Trek series, here seen at a preview for a Christie’s auction in 2006. (AFP pic)

The “Star Trek” franchise is giving “The Orville” a run for its money with a comedy spin-off that, this time, can riff on its source material with brand approval intact.

“Star Trek: Lower Decks” is to revolve around the experiences of support staff on a not-quite-stellar Starfleet ship, and CBS has ordered up two seasons’ worth of content.

Yet it could be something of a risky move, given that CBS’ ongoing prequel series “Star Trek: Discovery” has struggled to win over some sections of the franchise fan community — continuity issues frequently raised as an objection.

Simultaneously, Fox’s unofficial spoof “The Orville,” without complicated existing lore to deal with, and freed of fan expectations, debuted two weeks earlier than September 2017’s “Discovery” and won itself an approving fanbase in the process. Can “Star Trek: Lower Decks” do as well, or even better?

The move fits into a plan outlined by CBS TV Studios president David Stapf earlier in the year, when he proposed “that there should be a ‘Star Trek’ something on all the time on [CBS] All Access” (then in conversation with Deadline, and as now recalled by WGTC).

And CBS may well have the talent in place to pull it off. Mike McMahan is not only lead writer on Emmy-winning animated comedy adventure series “Rick & Morty,” but also, as the network noted in its announcement, a committed Trekkie — his “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fan account, based around an unofficial, unproduced season storyline he had created, ended up as an official “Star Trek” book.

Both his cat’s and son’s names are references to the world of “Star Trek” and he’s already involved in the writing for “Discovery”‘s inter-season collection of one-offs, “Star Trek: Short Treks.”

His recruitment also adds another wrinkle to the “Star Trek” / “The Orville” and CBS / Fox rivalry: McMahan already has another sci-fi animated comedy in production, “Solar Opposites,” which features extraterrestrials in America instead of humans in outer space, and is a Fox TV co-production.