Star Trek: Lower Decks Tawny Newsome Talks Mariner's Future, Season 4's Big Swings, and Strange New Worlds Crossover

Star Trek: Lower Decks' Tawny Newsome talks about Mariner's breakthrough and more.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 was a game-changing season for Beckett Mariner, voiced by Tawny Newsome. The season began with Mariner and her fellow lower deckers promoted to lieutenants junior grade. Despite her best efforts at self-sabotage, Mariner's commanding officer refused to demote her back to ensign, leading Mariner to commit escalating acts of unnecessary danger as she reckoned with trauma from her past, both fighting in the Dominion War and the death of her friend, Sito, while on a covert mission for Starfleet Intelligence. Ultimately, during a knife-rain delay in a life-or-death duel with a Klingon, Mariner unburdened herself and realized the best way to honor Sito's memory is to be the best Starfleet officer she can be.

It's a heck of an arc, and it should leave a lasting impression on Mariner through Star Trek: Lower Decks's future. had the opportunity to speak to Newsome – who is also writing for Star Trek: Starfleet Academy -- about Mariner's big season, what the future holds, and that live-action crossover with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

(Photo: David Livingston/Getty Images)

Before we get into Star Trek: Lower Decks, let's talk about the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds crossover. Technically, that wasn't the first time you got to dress up as Mariner since you did cosplay at Comic-Con. A significant difference between dressing up in costume at Comic-Con and getting the official Star Trek treatment? How vastly different were those experiences?

Tawny Newsome: It was vastly different. Bernadette Croft, the costumer for Strange New Worlds, is incredible. That whole team is incredible. That uniform felt so expensive. It was so perfectly tailored to my body. We filmed for a couple of weeks and then –you might be the first person I'm telling this, so I hope I don't get in trouble, but – we got COVID. Jack and I got COVID, and we had to shut down filming. I don't think we gave it to anyone else, thank God, but we had to shut down.

And so, then we came back a month later to finish filming it, and I was like, "That costume is not going to fit. I have not been doing the same activities in my life. There is no way." And when I put that costume on, it fit, I was like, "Oh my God, thank God. Thank God." I was so worried because it's down to the millimeter, it feels like. It was incredible.

Onto Star Trek: Lower Decks, when you signed up for the Star Trek comedy cartoon, were you expecting to have to go as deep and dramatic as that conversation with the Klingon during the knife rain? What was your reaction to reading that and realizing, "Oh, I've got to do that"?

I thought it was really well-earned. I think for a silly little 22-minute comedy that packs all the funny that it does, packs all the action, and all of the respect for canon that our show does, that's a lot. I don't think that we would've earned an emotional deep dive like that any earlier. I think we had to wait until Episode 9 Season 4, I really do.

I think that by doing that, we had so much energy and excitement and understanding of who Mariner is, and where she's come from, and why she's like this, it was like a little key that unlocked something huge. I saw it in the fandom. I saw people's reactions to be like, "This makes so much sense," that of course this would basically give her PTSD from the Dominion War and dealing with her friend dying. Of course, no wonder. She's not just acting out for no reason. This is a real reason.

I think that Mike and the writers played it really smart and really earned that moment. He told me he was going to do something like it, I think way back in Season 3. He told me his long game plan for it, and I was like, "Genius. This will satisfy a lot of the people who've been wondering why Mariner's acting the way she is." I was thrilled when I saw how the scene came together.

The way we recorded it, we did it a bit differently too. Mike and I read it together and we recorded it like it was a live-action scene. We weren't just doing repetition on each of the lines to get coverage. We were acting through the whole scene. It felt more similar to how you film live-action stuff.

When he told you about the scene, did he mention that it was going to tie into the original "Lower Decks" episode? I know you're a Star Trek fan from long before this. What did that mean to you, to see that line drawn?

Yeah, he did. I didn't know about the Locarno of it all, but he said, "My long game plan is to tie Lower Decks to the episode "Lower Decks," and make you friends with Sito, the ensign who died." And I was like, "That's genius. That's so smart. That will be so satisfying for the fans." And that's all I knew.

Then, to see that it was Locarno, I loved it because it's like Lower Decks is Wrath of Khan. Because I remember when I first saw Wrath of Khan, I was like, "That guy from that one episode is now the villain for this whole huge film that's become this critically acclaimed, heralded film?" And that's what Lower Decks did. We took that one guy who looks a lot like Tom Paris, for reasons we won't talk about, and we made him our big bad of Season 4. It's very fun.

You got to play Mariner on the other end of the spectrum too, after having that breakthrough, because you got that really sincere, inspiring speech to all the people stranded on that planet, the kind of speech you expect the captains on the show to give. Having played this character for so long, what did that moment feel like? Did it feel like, "Oh, she's arrived, she's fully formed now." Was it a little weird to play that sincerely after being on the other side of Mariner for so long?

No, it didn't feel weird because I feel like she's always had that in her. It's just her tactics weren't always as eloquent. For me, from a storytelling standpoint, it felt like the third beat of a very funny runner. That runner is, we've seen Ransom now twice throughout the season start his, "Though we come from different worlds," speech. I think we saw it first in episode 103, and then we saw it again in that episode where there was the volcano and the baby. He starts the cliche Kirk/Picard/Captain speech, "Though we come from different worlds..." And then we fade out and it's like a little Lower Decks-y joke.

Then I love that, in my mind, it's almost the third beat of that multi-series long runner is Mariner doing the real version of that speech. That just speaks to what type of show this is, that we can set up a long – and I don't know if that's what the writers were intending, but that's what I got from watching it – we can set up this long thing that's tongue-in-cheek, but then pay it off with something real and emotional. That's the magic of Lower Decks.

While also being a show where you can describe an episode as, "The one with the volcano and the baby." Which is its own sort of special, I would think.

But when you describe "serious Star Trek," you sound just as nuts. So, that's not unique to Lower Decks. The one where a Rumpelstiltskin chases Miles O'Brien around the space station? That's in an hour-long drama, my friend.

I don't know if you've seen scripts from Season 5 yet, I know Mike McMahan was deep into writing them, but how different do you think playing Mariner is going to feel after what she experienced in Season 4?

We're fully back. We just got back into the recording of 5. I've read the scripts, I've read almost all of them, and recorded I don't know how many, but we're in the middle somewhere, and it's great. I think the biggest thing that I've noticed is they've had to balance Mariner's need for pushing back against authority but doing it with the newfound responsibility of managing... What word do you use in the military? Managing ensigns.

Delegating? Organizing?


Commanding, I guess, yeah.

Leading missions. God, I would suck in the military. I'm like, "What do you do? You hold a rehearsal for your cadets, what do you do?"

She's got to balance that type of responsibility and that type of maturity with still her very Mariner-like tendencies of instigating a little bit of chaos, but also breaking rules that don't serve people in order to make Starfleet better. I think that has found some really nice fertile ground that we get to see Mariner behaving a little differently in season five.

Star Trek: Lower Decks is streaming now on Paramount+. Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 5 is currently in production.