Star Trek Finally Gives Scotty's "Miracles" A Name
Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Lower Decks episode 3, "Temporal Edict".
Star Trek: The Original Series' Scotty (James Doohan) has a reputation as a "miracle worker" and Star Trek: Lower Decks finally gave his tried-and-true method a name: "creative estimating" AKA "buffer time". However, by the end of "Temporal Edict", the third episode of the first Star Trek animated comedy series, the whole concept of buffer time was unfairly credited to Ensign Brad Boimer (Jack Quaid), much to his chagrin.
Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott was the Chief Engineer aboard Captain James T. Kirk's (William Shatner) Starship Enterprise and Scotty set the standard by which every engineer in Star Trek is measured. Scotty maintained the starship's engines and kept the vessel in fighting shape during the Enterprise's original five-year mission as well as through every Star Trek movie starring the TOS cast. Scotty was also present when Kirk was lost in the Nexus and presumed dead at the start of Star Trek Generations. But besides his distinctive accent and love of Scotch, Scotty is best known as a "miracle worker", a reputation he slyly cultivated.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
However, although he was a skilled engineer, Scotty was no magician, and he knew it. The "miracles" he performed (usually getting the Enterprise's warp drive active just in the nick of time to save the ship from some calamity) were because Scotty always over-estimated to Kirk how long it would take to accomplish a task. So, when he actually got the work done far sooner than Kirk expected, the Captain marveled at his "miracles" and the engineer looked like a hero. Scotty even tried to teach this trick to Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) on Star Trek: The Next Generation when he guest-starred in the season 5 episode "Relics". Geordi had actually never heard of this trick Scotty employed but he learned a valuable technique for dealing with his own Captain, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), from his predecessor.
Star Trek: Lower Decks shows that Scotty's modus operandi did finally become standard operating procedure in the 24th-century Starfleet, at least aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos. The Lower Deckers considered buffer time "a tradition" and they routinely utilize Scotty's creative estimating in their daily duties, which also gave them ample time to relax and drink frozen margaritas after a job well done. But when Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) learned of the existence of buffer time, she furiously banned the "Lower Decks scheduling deceit" and forced the Cerritos' crew to perform and log tasks exactly in the specific time allotted.
Within a week, buffer time's elimination was a disaster aboard the Cerritos. The crew was run ragged trying to perform their duties within their set parameters and it led to exhausted Starfleet Officers making numerous mistakes. One critical error led to the Cerritos being invaded by hostile aliens with crystal swords and spears (a TOS easter egg), but Starfleet's crew was too focused trying to complete their tasks to repel the hostiles. It was only when Boimler, a stickler for the rules who frowned on creative overestimating, realized resuming buffer time was what the crew needed that the crisis was averted; Captain Freeman lifted her buffer time ban, which prompted the crew to fight back and send the aliens packing from the Cerritos.
So, Scotty's tried-and-true system of creative overestimating helped save the U.S.S. Cerritos over a century after he first started using it aboard the Enterprise. Unfortunately, Star Trek: Lower Decks didn't actually mention Mr. Scott by name in "Temporal Edicts" but any Trekker immediately understood that the premise for the episode was referencing Scotty. However, Star Trek: Lower Decksyanked the credit (and the blame) for the Cerritos' problems away from Scotty and, instead, gave it to Boimler, so that buffer time is now known as "The Boimler Effect" - a system of being lazy that apparently lasts into the far future, which would appall the hapless Ensign.