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Star Trek is boldly going where it has gone before.
CBS All Access has handed out a two-season, straight-to-series order for Star Trek: Lower Decks, a half-hour animated comedy from Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty) and franchise captain Alex Kurtzman. An episode count and premiere date have not been determined for the series, which marks CBS All Access’ first animated offering. With the project, producer CBS Television Studios will launch an animated arm (CBS Eye Animation Productions), which will oversee the series alongside Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment. Katie Krentz, who signed an overall deal with CBS TV Studios earlier this year, will oversee CBS Eye Animation.
Lower Decks, which will focus on the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships, marks the Star Trek franchise’s second animated series. Star Trek: The Animated Series — featuring the voice cast of the original series — ran for two seasons and 22 episodes from 1973-74. (Watch a clip, below.)
All told, Lower Decks — which was taken out to market before landing at CBS All Access — becomes the third series on the platform’s rapidly growing Star Trek franchise. It joins Star Trek: Discovery (returning for season two in January) and the Patrick Stewart-led Picard show. Additionally, CBS’ subscription video-on-demand platform is in the midst of rolling out a four-episode shortform spinoff called Short Treks, which serves as a bridge to the new season of Discovery. Additional series are expected to join the Trek universe.
Kurtzman, who was tapped in June to oversee the Star Trek franchise as part of his $25 million overall deal with CBS TV Studios, will executive produce Lower Decks alongside Secret Hideout’s Heather Kadin, Roddenberry Entertainment’s Rod Roddenberry, Trevor Roth, Katie Krentz and McMahan. Aaron Baiers, who brought McMahan to the project, will serve as a co-executive producer.
“We couldn’t have imagined a better creative team to work with on CBS All Access’ first original animated series than Mike McMahan, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment,” said Julie McNamara, executive vp originals at CBS All Access. Star Trek: Lower Decks is a fantastic complement to our growing lineup of original series and our ongoing expansion of the Star Trek universe on CBS All Access.”
For his part, McMahan is a lifelong Trekkie. In 2011, he started a Twitter account in which he posted episode plots for a fake season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. That led to an offer from publishers Simon & Schuster to pen a readers guide to the fictitious eighth season of the show, Warped: An Engaging Guide to the Never-Aired 8th Season. On the TV side, McMahan recently served as head writer on Adult Swim’s Emmy-winning animated hit Rick and Morty. Lower Decks is his second animated series pickup this year. He also co-created Solar Opposites alongside Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland. That series, which landed with a two-season, 16-episode order, will premiere in 2020.
“Mike won our hearts with his first sentence: ‘I want to do a show about the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other end.’ His cat’s name is Riker. His son’s name is Sagan. The man is committed,” Kurtzman said. “He’s brilliantly funny and knows every inch of every Trek episode, and that’s his secret sauce: He writes with the pure, joyful heart of a true fan. As we broaden the world of Trek to fans of all ages, we’re so excited to include Mike’s extraordinary voice.”
Krentz, meanwhile, joined CBS TV Studios this year to help build the studio’s animation pipeline. She previously spent five years as senior director of development at Cartoon Network, having worked on Steven Universe and countless others. Before that, Krentz spent six years at 20th Century Fox TV, where she worked on animated hits such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill, Futurama and Bob’s Burgers.
Lower Decks is CBS TV Studios’ second animated series, joining Showtime’s Our Cartoon President. For CBS All Access, meanwhile, Lower Decks joins a slate of originals that also includes The Good Fight, Strange Angel, One Dollar, No Activity and the upcoming Tell Me a Story.
McMahan is repped by ICM Partners. Kurtzman, who will serve as showrunner on season two of Discovery, is with CAA and Gendler Kelly.
Animation continues to be in high demand as multiple streamers have made big investments in the space in recent months. Netflix recently picked up Disenchantment for two seasons (through 2021); Adult Swim renewed Rick and Morty for a whopping 70 episodes; Bob’s Burgers creator Loren Bouchard earned a two-season order for Central Park at Apple; and BoJack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg is adding to his Netflix slate with Tuca and Bertie, starring Tiffany Haddish, and Amazon’s Undone, among others.
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