Saturday, August 22, 2020

Lower Decks, Season 1: Temporal Edict

 Lower Decks, Season 1
"Temporal Edict"
Airdate: August 20, 2020
3 of 10 produced
3 of 10 aired


Mariner accompanies Commander Ransom on an away mission, while the rest of the crew struggles with the captain's desire for efficiency.

Stabby stabby!


Matthew: Praise first - I like the character arc for Mariner here. Is it a very Star Trek story? Not really. She should have been cashiered out of the fleet a long time ago, and the fact that her parents keep her in strains my credulity. But with that said, I like the way it was presented here, being a loose cannon who thinks she gets better results than those who follow the rules. I also like the idea of giving her a crush on Ransom, who represents that which she is rebelling against. It's a classic reversal of expectations with a romance. I enjoyed the idea of his fight with the alien, especially with two fists. It was a knowing wink at Trek Fu, the kind of humor I can really get behind. I even like the idea of "buffer time," which is in keeping with Scotty's equation from the movies.

Kevin: Yeah, the deep cut references continue to come fast and furious, but are still surprisingly satisfying as well. The clear reference to Scotty's method of maintaining his miracle worker status, and a classic shirtless Kirk fight are great references and I think the show riffs on them well. And again, I think they manage to tie in some solid character work. It makes sense to trust the crew to get their jobs done without micromanaging them, and for all his bravado, Ransom made a point of saving the day without killing anyone. Boimler responds to the events of the episode exactly as you expect he would, which is nice since it's consistent and I know enough about his character already to have those expectations.

Matthew: But while I like "buffer time," I dislike where this story went with it. Now, controlling people's actions via computer timer is a good sci-fi allegory idea - it gets at some very real workforce optimization tech-bro BS that is happening in our modern Amazon warehouse workplaces. But it makes Captain Freeman out to be borderline incompetent when she implements the strategy to such obviously bad effect. How in the world did she get this job? In canon Trek (which we will define as TOS-ENT), she would have been busted down within days. We're not talking about Jellico-being-a-dick here. He was being put forward as a contrast to the more genial atmosphere that the Enterprise had taken on, but  to be frank, he got positive results with his approach, and it was completely believable as a viable approach to command. This is just an obvious management disaster, which I guess was being played for laughs, but it assassinates her character. This show feels enough like Star Trek to make me think I should care about this. And since I do care, it irks me. I also disliked Ransom stabbing Mariner in the foot. She could seriously have bled to death within minutes.

Kevin: It's starting to coalesce for me that show is closer to the loving parody end of the spectrum than straight narrative. It's worked for me so far, so I'm not saying that as a critique, but just because I think it's important to meet a show where it is. Shakespeare and soap opera have different rules and ways of telling a story (though maybe not THAT different) but criticizing the latter for not being the former is silly, and I've enjoyed both immensely over the years. By the same token, I think while calling themselves Star Trek gives them quite a bit of narrative boundaries, the animated nature and tone do give them a little leeway to, if not ignore the lines, certainly color just a smidgen outside of them. And stabbing Mariner in the foot is a good example of what I am talking about. In a live action show it would strain credulity, but in the animated format, it doesn't grab my attention in the same way. It's kind of like Homer choking Bart. The animation gives the narrative some elasticity to play with reality. I don't think treating the presentation as "literal but animated" is what the creators intended. I get that they are trying to have their cake and eat it too, but I've certainly been entertained enough to let them keep trying.

Kevin: I also enjoyed the trailer and button at the end a great deal. I think three in row confirms my theory that the teasers are standalone vignettes and should be taken as such, and Shaxs breaking Boimler's violin really made me laugh. It's Comedy 101 in terms of set up and twist for a joke, but dang if it didn't work. And I like both the reference to Chief O'Brien per se, and per an interview with the creator, something of an affirmation of the show's point of view.


Matthew: Jerry O'Connell got more of a spotlight with Ransom here, and I enjoyed his delivery on his serious and comedic lines, especially during the fight. Tawny Newsome was also less annoying for me, here, with slightly slower and thus more relatable delivery of lines. Jack Quaid's Boimler continues to amuse.

Kevin: I agree. His riff on the Riker/Kirk bravado was well done, and while I've always enjoyed Newsome's Mariner, she definitely got some shading here that showcases her talent.

Production Values

Matthew: Ship and planet designs continue to impress with their emphasis on lighting, fidelity to "Canon Trek" design principles, and comprehensibility. This show is so much easier to follow than the computer generated Screen Barf of STD and STP. I thought the fight was well choreographed.

Kevin: Nothing much to add here, except the 'great bird of the galaxy" on O'Brien's shoulder made me laugh very loudly.


The things that take me out of my Canon Trek Happy Place still prevent this from surpassing a 3. I like the characters and I don't dread every episode. In fact, as I admitted to Kevin, I even look forward to it. This was a mostly entertaining story that bugged me in terms of "believing" it as Trek. If it didn't have a Star Trek label, I'd probably give it another point.

Kevin: While I certainly wouldn't have thought I would enjoy a whole series of Star Trek parody at the outset, I have to say, I think they've done a decent job keeping the plates spinning so far. I think it helps that for what we've seen so far, the show's 'canonicity' isn't really that important. The show isn't retconning history or even altering the TNG/DS9/VOY era status quo. So to the extent the tone feels occasionally unrealistic, it doesn't bother me, since it's easy to treat this like, say, one of the novels. Several of the novels have been very good literature for their own sake, possessed a deep understanding of the Trek universe, but ultimately, remain pleasant what-ifs for the canon. If the characters themselves were less obviously Trek characters or the evident love for the franchise was not oozing out of every pore, I might be less charitable. For the moment, even if this is outside the box of classic Trek, it's clearly being done by people who know and love the box, not people who think they are smarter than the box or the fans of the box because the box is boring and too talky. Returning to this episode, it's another fun, pleasant entry that shades in a little more of the characters (and gave me Boimler being competent which I asked for last week) so I agree with the three for a total of six.

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