The past few weeks have not been kind to the crew of the USS Cerritos. Nor have they been particularly kind to audiences watching Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Between the gratingly unfunny humor and the continual emphasis on how ‘badass’ Mariner is, the first season of this animated Star Trek spin-off has been painful to watch.
Unfortunately, for anyone still watching and hoping for genuine entertainment, “Temporal Edict” does nothing but disappoint.
Aboard the Cerritos, the Lower Decks crew reveals to Tendi the existence of ‘buffer time.’ It’s an unofficial period of time taken by crewmembers to relax and breathe in between tasks.
Though buffer time is kept a secret from the Command crew, a chance ride by Boimler on a lift shared with Captain Freeman leads the purple-haired ensign to reveal its existence to his superior.
As a result, Captain Freeman institutes a strict schedule policy that attempts to make the crew more efficient, but instead causes them to work to the point of exhaustion.
While her friends scramble aboard the Cerritos to complete their work, Mariner is assigned to an away mission under the command of Jack Ransom.
Tasked with the delivery of diplomatic gifts to the crystal-obsessed Gelrakians, the away team is soon held hostage after offending the Gelrakian envoys with the presentation of a culturally insensitive gift.
After Ransom and Mariner bicker over who will represent their team in a trial by combat, Ransom incapacitates Mariner and proceeds to deliver a beat down to his alien opponent.
However, the offensive gift has also led the Gelrakians to lead an assault on the Cerritos.
The crew is quickly overwhelmed by the alien boarding team due to their exhaustion from adhering to Freeman’s intense schedule, but after Boimler is able to convince Freeman to restore the concept of buffer time to the ship, the crew rejoices and uses their newfound free time to fight back against the Gelrakians and force them from the ship.
Though “Temporal Edict” is not as egregiously offensive to the Star Trek universe as previous episodes, the episode still fails to put forward anything unique, exciting, or particularly humorous.
To its credit, the humor in this episode feels less like overextended comedy sketches based on an intentional misunderstanding of Star Trek, and more like safe, generic comedic bits. Multiple characters receive ‘nut shots’, a Gelrakian discusses the absurdity of the Gelrakian judicial system.
And the self-aware, Marvel-Esque quips help drive the story forward. It’s not that they’re especially ‘bad’ jokes, it’s more that they’re just tired, low-effort attempts at soliciting laughter.
There is one aspect of the series’ attempts at comedic writing that needs to be done away with altogether: the self-referential humor.
When previous Star Trek lore is mentioned, such as Cardassia Prime, the USS Enterprise, or even Miles O’Brien, the series does nothing to build upon the reference. Instead, these references exist solely for audiences to point to the screen and exclaim “Hey, I get that! I know what he’s talking about!” which feels like nothing more than an attempt to earn brownie points with legacy Star Trek fans.
Last week, special mention was made of just how annoying the character of Mariner was.
In this episode, it becomes clear that this character exists solely as a representation of the types of people, particularly young individuals on social media, to act as if they know everything in any given situation.
Throughout her entire mission with Ransom, Mariner does nothing but criticize his commands and negatively insult his decisions under her breath.
When the two are captured by the Gelrakians, Mariner insists that she fight for their survival over Ransom because, in her own, unironic words, she’s “good at exploring strange new worlds, solving space mysteries, and kicking asses.”
Mariner continues to be presented as highly-skilled and able to conquer any situation, which leads to her feeling like a Mary Sue, as neither she nor the Cerritos ever feels as if they’re in real trouble.
One personality trait of Mariner that unfortunately shines through in this episode is her inability to be genuine.
Mariner’s every word, every action, and every relationship is coated in an obnoxious layer of irony, as if the show is signaling “This is so dumb, right? I know, but play along.”
If recent years have taught the world of pop culture anything, it should have been that most fans want genuine stories that treat their fandom seriously. The unbearable irony Mariner attaches to her personality feels like nothing more than a desperate ploy by CBS to appeal to ‘casual’ viewers by playing to their assumptions that Star Trek is “lame”, alienating long-time fans in the process.
Surprisingly, a highlight does exist in this episode, in the form of Jack Ransom, the USS Cerritos’ First Officer. Though he’s shown as a bit brash and vain, Ransom’s actions throughout the episode prove that he has been assigned as First Officer for a reason.
The best Ransom moment was easily his unhesitant stabbing of Mariner’s foot to prevent her from being able to fight in the Gelrakian arena, as it displays the quick-witted thinking most Starfleet officers have displayed in previous series.
On that note, it should be mentioned that Star Trek: Lower Decks still feels a bit confused in its identity.
If the series is meant to make viewers dislike the Command officers and support the Lower Decks crew, why are characters such as Jack Ransom and Shaxs put forth as exciting and competent examples of actual Starfleet officers?
If the point of Mariner’s character is to juxtapose ‘rulebreaking’ against Starfleet’s ridged protocols, why does Captain Freeman end up encouraging the Cerritos crew to break the rules? In its attempt to appeal to the general public, Lower Decks fails to provide any meaningful narrative.
With three weeks down and seven left to go, Lower Decks still seems to be stuck trying to decide whether it wants to appeal to hardcore Trekkies, average audiences, or both, but so far, it’s failed to do either.
- Seeing a competent Starfleet officer, Jack Ransom, in action.
- Mariner. Just everything about her.
- Uninspired references made for the sake of making a reference
- Does Star Trek really need this many jokes surrounding genitalia?