As you may be aware, the Start Trek franchise is finally taking a real stab at a show that doesn’t take itself so damn seriously. I mean, yeah, I get that it’s wonderful to have a show about the future that’s utopian and not the now-far-more-common dystopian hellscape, but even a utopia needs to get the piss taken from it every so often. The show Lower Decks intends to do that, and I’ll let our pals at iO9 handle full reviews because I just want to talk about the fact that an actual car shows up in the pilot episode.
Of course, by “actual car” I mean something that’s very much not an actual car, because not only is it fictitious, and won’t exist until several centuries from now even if it wasn’t fictional, it’s animated, so it’s just a bunch of drawings of a fake car that’s from the future.
Still, it has actual (again, not actual actual—why am I explaining fiction here? Get a grip, Jason) wheels, which, for a vehicle on a Star Trek show, is pretty rare.
Here’s what it looks like:
Huh. That’s kind of small. Hold on. Computer! Zoom and enhance!
That’s a little better. Let’s try again. Computer! Uh, focus in on the coordinates with, um, the car, and zoom and enhance! Maximum resolution! Engage!
Oh good, much better.
Okay, so, let’s see what we’re looking at here: it’s very much a utility vehicle type of design, with an open cab that I think seats four roughly human-shaped beings and with a short open truck bed at the rear.
It’s got large wheels with lots of suspension travel and looks to be made to handle off-road use, which I suppose is smart since it may be used on planets without developed road networks.
If it looks kind of familiar, that may be because we’ve seen a vehicle like this at least once before in Star Trek, in the 2002 movie Star Trek: Nemesis that, if I recall, kind of sucked? I don’t really remember, to be honest.
The Nemesis vehicle, the Argo, was very similar in overall design, but a bit different in details. Still, I think the Lower Decks truck thing is pretty similar.
Having an open cab is kind of a strange choice for a multi-use, multi-planet ground vehicle when you think about it. If this thing could end up on all kinds of planets with all kinds of environments and climates, wouldn’t you want to have an enclosed cab that could be heated or cooled as needed?
I mean, hell, at least a windshield would be a good idea, so you don’t get any weird alien bugs slamming into your face, which could cause all kinds of problems. Hell, the plot of the first episode here revolves around problems from an alien insect!
The front end design is quite different from the Argo, too, with a larger, more prominent intake area for, presumably, cooling air and some lights, which of course would be useful. There’s no evidence of signal lights or anything like that, which I suppose makes sense given that these are not really designed for established road networks.
Maybe the lights are advanced enough to interface with local planetary databases and configure themselves to blink in whatever crazy alien color aliens like to use to indicate turns or other maneuvers.
Man, I’d love to be an exoturnsignologist.
The instruments and controls seem to consist of a Starfleet-standard LCARS display in the center (perhaps with provision for Apple ShuttlePlay or Android Starship) and a yoke-like steering assembly that may also control throttle and brake.
If I had to guess what powered these things, I’d go with some kind of microfusion reactor to produce electricity instead of batteries— they seem to use those things for everything from little computers to vibrators, probably. I’d imagine that these would provide power for these things for years and years of hard use.
The power from those reactors would power some suitably futuristic version of electric motors, likely one powering each wheel. Honestly, this type of machine would be absolutely trivial for Federation industry to crank out— hell, we could basically build this thing today, albeit with batteries.
Aside from the open cab, I think these are smart vehicles to have available on a starship, and it always baffles me why wheeled vehicles weren’t more common on every other Star Trek show. How many times have we seen a team of Starfleet crewpeople in dress shoes and hot polyester pants beam down into the empty outskirts of some settlement or colony or whatever, and then have one of them look down at their little tricorder thing and announce “oh, no biggie, we just have to walk five kilometers to the south” or some shit?
Why don’t any of them start bitching about how would it have killed them to beam them down some bikes, at least? Why don’t they always beam down with a little vehicle to get around? Hell, they even had one on Firefly, and that was in a universe with much less advanced tech:
So, good for Lower Decks for including several good old wheeled vehicles on the show. We always sort of knew humble machines like these had to still have some role in this utopian future, and I suppose it’s fitting that it took a show about the unsung parts of the Star Trek universe to give old-school cars a place.
Maybe we’ll get to see more alien cars! It’s happened at least once before, after all.