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‘Lower Decks’ star reveals her character’s surprising link to Captain Kirk

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Throughout the first episode — “Second Contact” — she also demonstrates a habit for breaking Starfleet protocol in order to do the right thing.

Star Trek’s dynamic and multifaceted personalities have always allowed it to stand apart from other sci-fi franchises. Trek is so obsessed with talking about personality dynamics, several episodes see people split into two halves, or outright duplicated. In the Final Frontier, talking to yourself about your problems can manifest itself quite literally.

The newest Trek series, the animated comedy Lower Decks, introduces a character who brings together multiple distinct Trek influences while managing to shine in her own right. Inverse caught up with Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan and actor Tawny Newsome to discuss how they brought the wise-cracking, hard-drinking, fun-loving Ensign Mariner to life.

Light spoilers for Lower Decks episode 1, “Second Contact,” ahead.

In the very first scene of Star Trek: Lower Decks, Mariner is drunk on Romulan Whiskey. Throughout the first episode — “Second Contact” — she also demonstrates a habit for breaking Starfleet protocol in order to do the right thing. Case-in-point, one of the biggest plot pivots of the entire episode involves Mariner giving impoverished aliens farming supplies by circumventing the Federation’s red tape.

She drinks hard. She makes risky decisions to help aliens in need, damn the rules. Sounds a little like Captain Kirk, right?

According to McMahan and Newsome — the answer is yes. But also, no.

“That’s a big compliment!” Newsome says of Mariner sharing Kirk’s occasionally devil-may-care morality. “She is a little mercurial. I’m less familiar with The Original Series, but it feels right to draw upon what I do know of Kirk. That permission that men have gotten to swagger throughout the franchise, that’s useful to Mariner, too.”

Still, that comparison is very much intentional. In one of the trailers for the forthcoming episodes of Lower Decks, Mariner is surrounded by alien spears and jokes, “What am I, Kirk? What is this, the 2260s?” Sure, Kirk had to deal with an improbable amount of medieval weapons for a 23rd-century space explorer, but the joke also is a perfect example of how Mariner’s personality works.

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