Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Lower Decks #1
Something fans have been joking about for years is officially a part of continuity thanks to Star Trek: Lower Decks. The series’ first tie-in issue properly canonizes a humorous onomatopoeia strongly associated with the franchise.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is an animated comedy show set in the Star Trek universe that takes a humorous look at the lives of Starfleet ensigns who rarely get a chance to shine. The series follows a quartet of workers on the ‘lower decks’ of the USS Cerritos, a ship largely responsible for managing relations with new planets after first contact is made. Star Trek: Lower Decks isn’t so much a workplace comedy as it is a loving tribute to the Trek franchise that pokes a bit of fun at some of the most well known Trek staples. From broad jokes to deep cut references, Lower Decks has something for casual and hardcore Trek fans.
Not content to simply joke about the history of the franchise, a tie-in issue to the cartoon series made one well-known meme a part of Star Trek canon. In Star Trek: Lower Decks #1 by Ryan North and Chris Fenoglio, it’s just another average day in space for the members of Starfleet. The bridge crew is handling a dispute between the Catullans and the Satarrans as Ensigns Boimler, Mariner and Tendi relax by engaging in a simulation in the holodeck. However, Mariner isn’t too keen on Boimler’s choice of a Dixon Hill fantasy and implores her friends to try something with a bit more edge. Mariner switches out Boimler’s hard-boiled detective scenario with a program of her own design, which results in several little variations of the Enterprise zapping the team, each one making a little « pew pew » noise.
As the comic’s annotation confirms, this makes ‘pew’ the canonical noise made by Star Trek ships, or at the very least a very specific version of them. For years, fans have used the onomatopoeia to describe the distinct sound of the Enterprise and other various ships lasers. While it’s always been a good way of mimicking Star Trek’s signature sound effect, it’s rarely gotten the opportunity to materialize in such a fun manner.
Onomatopoeias are a storytelling trope that dates back all the way to the Golden Age of Comic Books. Fans may recall the distinct ‘BANG’ and ‘POW’ sound effects were so tied to comic books they even appeared in the 60s Batman television show. Star Trek: Lower Decks #1 is highly aware of the medium it’s in and used the longstanding tradition of visual sound effects to incorporate a fan joke. And even though it’s only for a couple of holographic ships, there’s an absolute delight in making this joke an official part of the Star Trek canon. Sure, Starfleet might not refer to the sound effects themselves, but thanks to Star Trek: Lower Decks, fans can rest easy knowing that « pew, pew » is officially the sound of Starfleet’s weaponry, at least in Mariner’s simulation.