So far, this new Star Trek series has depended heavily on various easter egg references and name-dropping for its Trek cred.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 Episode 3 takes it even further by basing an entire script on the Scotty Factor (more on that later).
There’s also a first look at how unstable/insecure Captain Freeman can be. It’s a personality trait actress Dawnn Lewis noted during the Comic-Con @ Home Star Trek Universe panel, stating that, deep down, she felt the captain didn’t feel respected.
Then, of course, there’s the potentially catastrophic away mission where we get to see by-the-books Commander Ransom butt heads with the maverick ensign, Mariner.
Mariner: Rank means nothing right now.
Ransom: Rank means everything always!
Now, back to the Scotty Factor. For non-Trek canonists, the Scotty Factor is the exaggerated time estimation for completing a task the grunt crew give to management to make themselves look good when they get it done sooner.
On the Cerritos, the use of the Scotty Factor has morphed into a ship-wide unwritten policy of “buffer time” which generalizes its purpose from the original “miracle worker” impression to creating downtime between tasks.
Historically, Scotty tipped his hand to Kirk during the film, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, but he also counsels Geordi on the practice of padding estimates on Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 Episode 4.
It’s pretty predictable that Boimler is the weak link that brings buffer time to the attention of Freeman.
The result of his slip of the tongue is Freeman’s new work protocol that turns the crew into the fear-driven, time-managed minions of an Amazon warehouse.
And with the ship’s tasks reduced to meeting deadlines and quotas, the quality and accuracy of the work slips, not to mention the safety of the morale and well-being of the crew.
With the over-stressed and exhausted crew beginning to crack and flag, what could be a better time to visit an alien race with unfamiliar cultural rituals and hair-trigger sensitivity to taking offense?
Klingon Captain: What is the meaning of this intense bass? Are you mocking me?
Freeman: I don’t hear it on our side. It must be your equipment.
Klingon Captain: Engineer K’nagh! Today you die!
And we aren’t even talking about Klingons.
The entire interaction with the Galrakians (once again, my guess at spelling) is exactly the tragic comedy of errors I always imagined Starfleet crews more “average” than an Enterprise must experience.
Ironically, Freeman’s new work protocol, implemented to prove that the Cerritos is capable of more important missions than delivering diplomatic gifts, is the cause of the errors that demonstrate that the Cerritos isn’t even able to deliver a gift without inciting an interstellar incident.
Despite Ransom allegedly being a rules and regulations guy, I have a lot of questions about the protocols at play during this away mission.
For instance, when the Galrakians attack, why doesn’t the away team retreat into the shuttle? Or, to refer back to Mariner’s issue with flying down in the first place, why doesn’t Ransom order the Cerritos to beam the team back to the ship?
Once captured, why is Mariner left in the cell with Ransom? I thought, at first, that it was because she was in Command uniform, but when they show the team tied up under the Adjudication Geode, there are multiple other Command ensigns.
Possibly, she was kept with Ransom because she was observed to be a kick-ass fighter with the potential to make an interesting opponent for Vindore, the Galrakian champion.
Of course, the actual reason she’s left in the cell is so that she and Ransom can have their heated argument about their respective approaches to Starfleet and spark the antagonistic chemistry between them (à la Riker and Ro).
Ransom: I’m writing a speech that will convince them to let us go.
Mariner: A speech? Seriously? Permission to speak freely?
Ransom: You always speak freely. Nobody can stop you from speaking freely.
And sure, it turns out Ransom’s capable of improvising a bit, and he’s more than capable of battling the Galrakian champion.
(I’m probably the only one, but when Ransom stabbed Mariner’s foot, I was reminded, for some reason, of the knife fight scene in Adventures in Babysitting.)
For a guy who snacked on various members of the crew on Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 Episode 1, Ransom’s pretty freakin’ confident that he’s got control of any situation.
Not sure I needed to see him sweep Mariner up into his arms after the fight, conquering hero-style, but since he did stab her in the foot, it’s fair that he carry her back to the shuttle.
Ransom: You just earned an extra day in the brig!
Mariner: Joke’s on you, man! I love the brig! I’m going to my favorite place! Next time, I’m going to let somebody kill you! I wanna dance in your blood!
Ransom: Okay, that was kinda hot.
I’ll admit their interplay was amusing, but I’m pretty desperate for a single Star Trek show that doesn’t force some clichéd romantic relationship down our throats. (Looking at you, Burnash and Jurios.)
Here’s hoping that him sending her to the brig will nix that momentary lapse in Mariner-ness. Because she’s fun just the way she is, and I’d rather see her hash out her relationship with Freeman than canoodle with Ransom.
I do get off on breaking protocol. I’m good at exploring strange, new worlds, solving space mysteries, and kicking asses. Protocol is for people that need to be told what to do. Which I don’t!
Onboard the ship, Freeman’s over-the-top adherence to her new protocol is weirdly endearing.
Here’s a captain who just wants Starfleet to take her ship seriously, and the one time she comes up with a plan that seems to affect real change with the crew, it totally backfires.
But it’s hard to admit one’s mistakes, especially when you’re the captain.
Red alert! Repel all intruders but do NOT use it as an excuse to stop doing what you are doing. I want you to stay on track and on time. It’s called multi-tasking, people! They do it on the Enterprise all the time. I don’t want to hear any complaining. I only want to hear repelling of intruders and people getting their work done.
So the wake-up call has to be made, and it’s fitting that Boimler, the one crew member who thrived under the regime of the timer (also, the one who triggered the new protocol), should be the one to do it.
Obviously, no good deed goes unpunished. In another flash of deep irony, The Boimler Effect is born, forever branding Boimler as Starfleet’s most lazy and corner-cutting officer in perpetuity.
Boimler: How about we add a little thing about how important it is to blindly follow rules? If my name is going to be associated with this…
Freeman: No! The Boimler Effect is literally the opposite of that.
Boimler: But, I don’t know, I don’t know how I feel abou that and is it in ink? Is it already in the system? Is it… Wow, it’s on a plaque.
Overall, I can’t fault the choices made here to explore both Freeman and Ransom’s abilities as Command. After all, this is a series focussed on the Lower Decks. They are the heroes of the show.
And, given that McMahan is on record stating that he wants the characters to be relatable and flawed, I’d have to give him full marks for creating a crew that is believably screwed up.
It might be worth rewatching Star Trek: Lower Decks online if only to realize that Shaxs might be a better diplomat than Ransom.
Have you been assimilated by this new take on Trek?
Where would you take the Cerritos next?
Enter your personal log (and thoughts) into the comments below!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.