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Star Trek LD - Season 1 - Episode 03

Star Trek LD - 1x03 - Temporal Edict

Originally Aired: 2020-8-19

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.

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 8

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Problems
None

Factoids
None

Remarkable Scenes
- Tendi: "Wait, don't we have to report that we're done so we can get a new task?" Mariner: "Don't sweat it baby girl, like many things, commanders have no idea how long it takes to balance a phase variance." Rutherford: "You never admit the actual amount of time it takes to finish a job. If you did, your days would be packed." Tendi: "Isn't that lying?" Rutherford: "No. It's creative estimating. When you get an assignment, you exaggerate how long it's gonna take, then you're a hero when it's done early!"
- Freeman demanding that Boimler explain buffer time.
- Ransom: "I'm picking up an increase in atmospheric hydromounds." Mariner: "Yeah, they're called clouds, man."
- Mariner: "Hey guy, is this what you wanted to do with your life? Just capture people? Is that what you dreamt of when you were a little whatever you are? Are you fulfilled by that?" Guard: "Yes." Mariner: "Wow. All right, uh, well, do you know what? That means you're lame. You're a loser."
- Ransom injuring Mariner so she can't fight in the duel.
- T'Ana: "Want me to clean up those disgusting scars?" Mariner: "No way, no these are my trophies!" T'Ana: "Congratulations, you look like a fucking scratching post."

My Review
This episode is both wonderful comedy and a fantastic commentary on workism: the cult of hyperproductivity that has afflicted modern society. Captain Freeman becomes obsessed with squeezing as much productivity out of her crew as possible, so she imposes the equivalent of an excessively rigid implementation of the Agile/Scrum-style management fad on the crew, complete with down-to-the-second time tracking like something out of bad Silicon Valley companies or the dystopian Amazon fulfillment centers.

This parody of modern surveillance capitalism might seem especially out of place in the socialist utopia of the Federation, but that's precisely what makes it such inspired comedy. Even in the real world, it isn't just low income people exploited by abusive employers who are worked to the bone. In fact some of the most strict adherents to the cult of hyperproductivity are the more affluent among us who put in excessive numbers of hours working out of a desire to appear as productive as possible since the image of being among the idle rich has long since become passé. As such, it makes sense that people in the Federation would struggle with this impulse too.

The story even peppers the plot with other delightful details that reflect modern commentary on micromanagement fads, such as Tendi's naive discomfort with juking estimates to get more break time, Boimler's bootlicker stance, and Mariner immediately blaming delta shift for the higher workload rather than punching up towards the real villain of management. Indeed, this is among the most class-conscious episodes of Star Trek ever written and the result is exactly what we see in the real world when middle managers mire us in micromanagement, multitasking, and continual interruptions. People get exhausted and the quality of their work declines. Crucially, the crew commits a serious and easily-preventable diplomatic error because they had been so overworked.

The conflict with the aliens could've been written better though. It is stated that they're new members of the Federation, but they also spend much of the episode trying to kill members of Starfleet. It's hard to imagine the Federation would allow a member world to have laws that punish diplomatic offenses with executions. Vindor even suggests reforming their legal system towards something less crazy at the end of the episode and his suggestion is quickly quashed in a glib joke.

The interplay between Mariner and Ransom worked much better, though. The begrudging admiration they develop for each other by the end of the episode was great character development for both of them. It is remarkable that Ransom's lack of scarring was neither because he fails to take risks, nor because he had the scars removed as it may have seemed at first. He is apparently just that good in a combat situation, much to Mariner's surprise and at times girlish glee. Last but not least, what a tease opening the episode with a captain's log outlining a mission to Cardassia Prime only to have it yanked away seconds later. It sure would be nice to see how that unfortunate planet is doing five years after the Dominion War. All things considered though, this is the best episode of the series so far.

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