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STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS 1×03 “Temporal Edict” review

Neil reviews the third episode of CBS All Access’ series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. The series streams new episodes weekly in the US.

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Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access)

Star Trek: Lower Decks airs new episodes weekly on CBS All Access in North America. International air dates are yet to be confirmed.

Synopsis

A new work protocol eliminating “buffer time” has the Lower Decks crew running ragged as they try to keep up with their tightened schedules. Ensign Mariner and Commander Ransom’s mutual lack of respect comes to a head during an away mission.

Review

Three episodes in and I feel like I’m really starting to get to grips with Star Trek: Lower Decks. The series has quickly developed a formula which brilliantly bases itself in classic Trek episodes.

We get an opening teaser, unrelated to the rest of the story, as a self-contained gag. This week poor Boimler (Jack Quaid) is emulating TNG’s Data and performing a classic concert for the crew in very much his own style. He’s interrupted by Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Tendi (No’l Wells) who turn it in to a rock concert which angers the Klingon’s across the way.

It’s a short, perfect blast of humour which reminds the viewer this is Star Trek, but not as we know it.

The main bulk of the episode then splits up the core cast once again to tell a story on the USS Cerritos and another centring on an away mission. Written by Dave Ihlenfeld & David Wright, “Temporal Edict” switches things up by separating Mariner from the rest of the group and leaving Boimler to fend for himself on the ship.

Elsewhere we’re still focussing on Tendi and Rutherford as a paring. There’s very little room for romance as the ship is ransacked by Gelrakians but there does seem to be a fixation on keeping these two together to tell B-plot storylines.

Let’s rewind for a second. The third episode of Lower Decks sheds some light on what it’s like to be a lower deck-man in Starfleet. We spend some time watching the team work on odd jobs and building in what they call “buffer time.” Buffer time is when they slack off, drink margaritas and avoid new assignments.

Of course it’s Boimler who squeals to the Captain and leaves the rest of the crew working to second to complete tasks and move on to the next. As well as playing in to the comedy trappings of the story, Boimler’s characterisation is really at the heart of Lower Decks. He’s the most classically Trek character in the cast and really provides the link between the old and the new.

Without Boimler – and Jack Quaids pitch perfect performance – I don’t think Lower Decks would be as successful as it is at melding the world of Trek with the comedy world.

Separating out Mariner for this episode allows her character to take charge a little more. Rather than balancing her against Boimler as co-anchor she’s able to speak out against Commander Ransom (Jerry O’Connell) and act as more of a foil.

Their mission to Galrek V is beyond hilarious. It’s packed with jokes and references. Seeing Ransom fight in a Shatner/Kirk style with the scene played against a very familiar sounding piece of score was absolutely the highlight of the episode.

Ihlenfeld And Wright’s script perfectly balances the kind of crass humour – “he’s got wood!” – which fans of this style of cartoon will be familiar with and jokes which are pulled right from Trek lore – “Am I Kirk? Is this the 2260’s?”.

The end of the episode, in which we flash to the future to hear about the impact of the so-called “Boimler-Effect” is a perfect example. It ties in to the story-of-the-week by poking fun at Boimler but does so using the Trek trope of name manoeuvres and procedures after the officer who originated them. then to throw in a huge guffaw for the audience the class goes back to learning about the most important person in Starfleet history… Chief O’Brien!

We’re beginning to see Star Trek: Lower Decks hitting its stride. Like any show in its first season we’re seeing experimentation as the writing team tries to work out what works and what doesn’t within the format. What is encouraging to see is that there is far more working here than not. Lower Decks seems to be embracing its format rather than merely dipping its toe in, afraid to take the plunge.

Verdict

“Temporal Edict” is another solid episode in a blossoming first season. It finds the writers continuing to experiment with the format but also landing on some strong foundations on which the show can build itself.

8/10

Star Trek: Lower Decks stars No’l Wells as Ensign Tendi; Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford; Tawny Newsome as Ensign Mariner and Jack Quaid as Ensign Boimler.


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