Oct 2, 2020
Star Trek: Lower Decks “Temporal Edict”
Hello, masochists! Time to watch Star Trek: Lower Decks and die a little inside.
This series has made a name for itself as that gummy ring left behind in the tub after you give Star Trek a bath, and in this week’s episode “Temporal Edict”, the show has outdone itself with its most flimsy, jokeless episode yet.
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We open with Boimler giving a recital on a neon blue electric violin to a bunch of bemused spectators. Mariner pushes him offstage, carrying a Flying V guitar and an amp, backed up by Tendi on drums, and begins playing a massive chugging riff. Said riff is so loud it shakes the tables on a nearby Klingon bird-of-prey, enraging its captain. Captain Freeman makes some hasty excuse to the Klingon and sends Shaxs down to find out what the racket is. Mariner finishes her song and struts offstage, so Boimler picks up where he left off, and Shaxs angrily bursts in and breaks his violin under the impression that Boimler was the one playing so loud.
After the credits, Commander Ransom is narrating his first officer’s log, expositing the premise of the episode, or so we think: in the middle of the narration, Ransom gets a message saying that the Cerritos is not going to Cardassia Prime to participate in peace talks after all. An admiral explains that they moved the peace talks to Vulcan because the Cardassians were “creeping everyone out”; instead, the Cerritos is going to Gelrak V to deliver some diplomatic gifts.
An enraged Freeman throws her PADD at the screen and yells at Ransom about how her ship is a laughingstock. Meanwhile, down in the brig, the lower deck ensigns are testing the strength of the force fields by shooting at Boimler and also making Boimler touch the force field.
With that out of the way, Mariner replicates everyone some margaritas. Tendi asks whether they ought not to report that they’re done so they can get a new task. Rutherford tells her that in the lower decks, you always exaggerate how long tasks actually take—you’d never get any breaks if you didn’t. (Wait, wasn’t this guy supposed to be a huge workaholic? Aw, man, that was an entire episode ago! Characters evolve!) Surprisingly, Boimler is on board with “buffer time” as they call it. He may not approve, but it is a lower-decks tradition.
Freeman stomps around the ship in a foul mood, stopping to yell at everyone goofing off in the bar.
She runs into an uncomfortable Boimler in the turbolift and demands to know what he’s been doing. He accidentally lets the phrase “buffer time” slip out, and Freeman demands to know what that is. Next thing you know, all lower deck personnel are getting a memo on their PADDs letting them know that their tasks are going to be timed with a big scary red clock from now on.
Soon, everyone’s running around the ship in a huff, stressed out and yelling at each other under the gaze of the tyrant clock. The only crew member who likes this new arrangement is Boimler, who’s requesting even more tasks and making up an annoying little song to sing as he does them. Mariner’s new slate of duties include an away mission commanded by Ransom, who’s yelling at everyone to hurry up and also yelling at Mariner to roll down her sleeves.
As Ransom explains, the Gelrakians have a society organized completely around crystals. They are super into crystals. Can’t get enough crystals. They live in crystals, have crystal weapons and ships, etc. The away team must give the Gelrakians the “honor crystal” the Gelrakians gave away on first contact to show that they come in peace. Only, when they get there, the poor Bolian crewman in charge of the honor crystal was so overworked, he switched its case with an honor log they were going to give to another race. Enraged, the Gelrakians wound the Bolian with a crystal spear.
Ransom rejects Mariner’s idea of stunning them and making a break for it. He wants to smooth things over somehow, but when he tries, the aliens stun him with an electrified net and surround Mariner with spears.
On the Cerritos, everyone’s still dashing around like they’ve got nanoprobes in their pants. Freeman is having to do everything on the bridge because her whole crew is too tired to remember their security codes. Shaxs reports that there are Gelrakian ships locking phasers on the Cerritos, but can’t work his console to raise shields. Soon the Gelrakians are boarding the ship. Freeman announces to the crew that they are to repel the intruders, but not at the expense of their timetables. “Multitasking, people!” she barks. Spear-wielding Gelrakians run roughshod over the crewmen trying to juggle their tasks. This apparently includes the security teams; I can’t imagine what job they could possibly be busy doing that would take them away from this.
In a Gelrakian jail, Ransom is trying to write a speech to convince the aliens to let them go. He and Mariner snipe at each other unfunnily. A leader-type alien shows up and offers them a classic trial by combat against a huge dude named Vindor. If they win, they’re free; if they lose, then their away team will be crushed by a huge “adjudication geode”. To the alien’s surprise, Mariner and Ransom start fighting over who gets to take on the gigantic guy in combat.
Boimer is happily running through his daily tasks on the alien-besieged Cerritos, grumbling momentarily at the inconvenience of having to clean up graffiti. A few aliens corner him and he shoots them with the phaser he was using to clean graffiti off the wall.
He goes to the bridge for some reason and finds Freeman running all the stations, being on the same strict timetable that everyone else is. The spear-wielding aliens have almost pushed through the door to the bridge, which scares Boimler, even though he still has a phaser.
On the planet, Mariner and Ransom are still fighting. Ransom pulls rank, saying fighting huge aliens is the XO’s responsibility, and Mariner responds by showing him all the scars she got in high-concept fights just like this one. Inspired by Mariner’s willingness to break protocol to get the job done, Ransom stabs her in the foot so she can’t fight.
Ransom throws away the crystal sword he just stabbed Mariner with, preferring to fight with Kirk-style two-hand punches (don’t worry, he makes sure to note the reference out loud). Bargain-bin Jerry Goldsmith music plays in the background. This whole fight is played completely straight with absolutely no funny or interesting spin on it. Soon Vindor is handily defeated.
On the bridge, Boimler tells a despondent Freeman that the ship ran better when it wasn’t so scheduled, and suggests that maybe the crew should be given a certain amount of discretion to perform their tasks. Inspired, Freeman gets on the intercom. “I am authorizing the crew to break any rule, abandon any protocol, and cut any corner to defend the Cerritos.” With this encouragement, the crew members easily overpower the Gelrakians, mostly by throwing their PADDs at them and such.
On the planet, Ransom is just as easily beating Vindor, assuaging his ethics by belting out, “I demand a peaceful negotiation! I respect your sovereignty!” between two-hand punches. Mariner watches Ransom from her jail cell and tries to tamp down her arousal. Vindor submits and the leader frees the away team peevishly. “We’ve got to stop doing trial by combat,” he mutters, “or we’ll never get to use the geode.” Vindor proposes a regular trial, but the leader instead thinks next time they should do a death race with crystal cars.
Meanwhile, with everything back to normal, Ransom visits Mariner in sickbay to ask for a heads-up before she files her report, because he needs enough time to pack up his free weights (“There’s a ton of ’em”). Mariner says she’s not filing a report. Ransom asks why, and I really have to transcribe Mariner’s next line verbatim, so I can look at it and reassure myself that I’m not losing my mind:
Mariner: You talk about yourself a little too much, but stabbing me, breaking protocol… that was actually pretty cool. Sometimes I forget what Starfleet’s all about, and today you reminded me. Plus, this is gonna make a good scar.
What does she mean by this? What could she mean by this? Since when does Mariner give a fuck “what Starfleet’s all about”? Good God. I put more thought into the sticky notes I leave on my lunch.
Oh, speaking of terrible writing: Freeman calls Boimler into her ready room and announces that she’s written Boimler’s suggestion that saved the ship into official Starfleet protocol as the “Boimler Effect”. Basically, the Boimler Effect (what is the “effect” here?) says that crew may have as much “buffer time” as they want within reason and also bend rules as necessary to complete their jobs. This makes the by-the-book Boimler very uncomfortable, but she’s already put it on a plaque [??].
Boimler’s friends console him, saying that Starfleet is always making up new rules that no one ever remembers. Cut to “The Far Future”, in which a teacher leading a multispecies classroom says, “…which is why we will always remember the Boimler Effect, so named after Brad Boimler, the laziest, most corner-cutting officer in Starfleet history.” She then moves on to talking about an even more historically significant member of Starfleet: Miles O’Brien.
So, that’s another episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks in the can. That tingling sensation in your extremities is entirely normal. Next week’s episode is called “Moist Vessel”. I’m guessing, based on the name, that it’s going to be extra quote-unquote “adult”. (I need more quotes for this.)