Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Lower Decks Episode 3 Digs Into the Starfleet Work Ethic

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Episode 3, "Temporal Edict," now streaming on CBS All Access.

Through two episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks, showrunner Mike McMahan has shown how the U.S.S. Cerritos differs from the flagships that we're used to seeing across the franchise. Nowhere is that more prevalent than "Temporal Edict," as we see the values of slacking off and breaking protocol, two major pet peeves for Ensign Boimler (Jack Quaid).

Boimler is in a happy place when we see him in the cold open. He's performing a combination violin and step dance routine to a barely-entertained crowd. But Mariner (Tawny Newsome), true to her character, interrupts him with a blaring electric guitar. The noise rocks the ship, as well as a neighboring Klingon vessel. Mariner gives the mic back over to Boimler, just in time for Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore) to lay the hurt on his violin, incorrectly blaming him for the disruption.

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After the credits, Ransom's (Jerry O'Connell) log provides some typical Trek exposition, with the Cerritos en route to Cardassia Prime to help broker peace negotiations. But they're taken off the mission, as the meeting moves to Vulcan, leaving the ship to deliver diplomatic trinkets to newest Federation inductee, Galrek V. This change does not sit well with Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), taking this as a larger indicator that she and the Cerritos are not taken seriously in Starfleet.

Fittingly enough, we cut to the Lower Decks crew not taking their jobs seriously. After testing the field integrity of the brig on poor Boimler, Tendi gets indoctrinated into the idea of "buffer time." It's a policy not foreign to Star Trek; infamously coined by Montogmery Scott and even coined "The Scotty Principle," it consists of inflating the estimated time to complete a task so one can get some leisure time in and come off looking good to one's superiors. Unfortunately, when Boimler spills this idea to Freeman, she locks down on everyone's work ethic, forcing everyone to complete and log tasks in a timely manner, as indicated by a menacing timer on every PADD.

One week later, things are not well aboard the Cerritos. Freeman's crackdown on buffer time has made the crew overworked and overtired, frantically sprinting to complete tasks they can't even remember how to do half the time. Though Mariner gets picked on Ransom's away mission to deliver the trinkets to Galrak, she still can't escape the long arm of Starfleet. The first officer dresses down her dress code and lateness as she questions the usefulness of their mission.

As the runabout touches down on Galrak, the crystal topography glimmers and gleams. But Mariner is far from impressed, especially at Ransom's attempt to show off landing the ship manually. However, once the gift exchange happens, things turn sour. The crew accidentally packed the wrong trinket -- another sign of the inefficiency from the new policies -- instead voraciously insulting the Galrakians with a fertility totem from their rivals on Malrok Prime. Furious, the natives attack, surrounding them with spears in a move straight out of TOS (and Mariner lampshading it so). The ensign suggests they hightail it off the planet, but Ransom is insistent on continuing diplomatic efforts, at least until he is promptly shocked and captured.

Taking the landing party's efforts as signs of war, the primitive Galrakians board the Cerritos, which has been rendered practically defenseless with exhaustion. Despite the onboard threat, Freeman suggests they channel the Enterprise's textbook multitasking and continue their work. Back on the planet, Ransom and Mariner use their time in prison to talk through their issues. She touts that he can talk the talk but can never walk the walk, while he chastises her for never thinking ahead or caring about anyone else. Their argument is interrupted by a high-ranking Galrakian, who announces one of them will be thrown into trial by combat. Win and they can go free; lose and the rest of the crew gets crushed by the planet's "adjudication geode."

Boimler seems to be the only one not phased by the new work policies, given going beyond the call of duty is his status quo. Though he's able to easily dispatch of some Galrakians with his phaser, he realizes he is the exception to the rule when he gets to the bridge. Even Freeman is frantic, manning every station and under the thumb of the clock herself. She blames herself for not being able to keep the ship together, and Boimler serves as the surprising shoulder to cry on. He points out that not everyone shares his discipline, and that giving the crew the incentive to loosen up and break the rules sometimes will incentivize them to do better. Fueled with his words, Freeman orders everyone to abandon protocol to dispel the Galrakians, which they do with ease once given the ability to.

Meanwhile, egos clash as Ransom and Mariner fight to represent the crew in a trial by combat. Once again, the ensign shows off her surprising depth, showing the scars she accrued over the years to indicate her experience in exploring strange new worlds and kicking butts. After she accuses Ransom of playing it safe, he shocks her and the audience by stabbing her in the foot, throwing himself into the fray. It was a choice well-made, as with bare knuckles and a bare chest, Ransom easily dispatches of the gargantuan Galrakian gladiator. The Galrakians are forced to let the crew go, as they contemplate what overly dramatic punishment they'll have next trial.

In the final act, the Cerritos and the away team heal from recent events. The Galrakians get the proper trinket, making peace with the Federation. Mariner gives kudos to Ransom for breaking protocol, even telling him he reminded her of what Starfleet is all about. But before things can get too sappy, he has her taken to the brig for failing to roll down her sleeves, which enrages her. Meanwhile, Freeman thanks Boimler for showing her the light. In his honor, she has created a new rule called the "Boimler Effect," which is all about taking shortcuts and preventing people from blindly following the rules. The ensign is simultaneously honored and crushed to have a rule about slacking named after him. A cutaway into the far future then shows that Boimler has been immortalized for his "negligence," considered the laziest officer in Starfleet history.

Lower Decks has understandably focused on the characters that reside in the titular underbelly up to this point. But "Temporal Edict" shines a light on the senior officers, giving moments of humanity to Freeman and Ransom, who were both seen as two-dimensional and egotistical up to this point. The episode shows that breaking the rules occasionally, even from the show's own unique format, breeds a great result. Thanks for the lesson, Boimler.

Star Trek: Lower Decks stars Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, Noël Wells as Ensign Tendi, Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman, Jerry O'Connell as Commander Jack Ransom, Gillian Vigman as Doctor T'Ana and Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs. The show premiered on CBS All Access on Aug. 6.


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