Star Trek: Lower Decks S1 E3 is completely misnamed.
Titled “The Temporal Edict” and centres around the idea that when Captain Freeman discovers that the crew of the USS Cerritos is actually using the concept of “creative estimating” to complete tasks, she puts a stop to it. Referred to as “buffer time”, this has a drastic effect on crew performance and during a crisis, it’s up to the perpetually-frazzled and schedule-driven Ensign Boimler to save the day.
You see, I actually think this episode should have been titled: “The Way of Kirk.”
If there was ever an episode of any other iteration of this franchise that proved how influential Captain Kirk was to the history of Starfleet, it would be this one.
Normally, I’d spend my time looking for the Easter Eggs, but instead, I’m just going to run down all the instances when we could have answered the question: “What would Kirk have done?”
Let’s take it away, but be warned: there may be some spoilers ahead.
#1 – “The Miracle Worker”
The running joke in TOS is that Scotty was a miracle worker. In fact, in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kirk asks his chief engineer how long until the Enterprise can be refitted to be taken out again.
Scotty replies: “Eight weeks, Sir. But you don’t have eight weeks, so I’ll do it for you in two.”
Kirk asks: “Mr. Scott, have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?”
“Certainly, sir.” Comes the reply. “How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?”
That’s the heart and essence of this episode.
Now, technically, this is more of a homage to Scotty than it is to Kirk, but that’s the essence of Kirk’s command style. His officers and crew know that he expects the best so he doesn’t have to demand. Freeman’s frustration with her “crew of slackers” is the complete opposite of this which not only makes it funny, but the first reason why Captain Kirk is so important to Star Trek!
#2 – “Surrounded by Spears?”
When Mariner and First Officer Jack Ransom – who, in himself, is such the archetypical, Alpha Starfleet officer, that you know has to be Kirk-inspired.
However, with that said, when the landing party encounter goes nacelles-up, and are surrounded by spear-wielding natives, Mariner’s line is obviously a Kirk legacy line.
“Surrounded by spears? What am I, Kirk? What is this? The 2260’s?”
I mean, there couldn’t be a more blatant Kirk reference than that. But, that’s exactly the whole point of this episode. Kirk’s influence throughout Star Trek is so prominent, that if you want to laugh at the franchise, you are obliged to bring Kirk into the series at some point. Kirk is a classic and classics never go out of style, even when you’re making fun of them.
#3 – “The Kirk Maneuver”
Getting back to Ransom – and we will for the next one as well – have you ever noticed his knee-rest pose? His shoulders are squared and his head is angled in that perfect chin pose? Watch episodes of TOS and you’ll see Kirk in the exact same position. It’ll vary; sometimes he’ll be resting on his knee, or the camera will frame his chin in the right way, accented by that half-grin. In any event, you’ll always see the squared shoulders, giving Shatner that perfect camera moment. Of course, in some cases, you’ll see all three in the right moment, reserved for when Kirk is ready to pontificate or make some observation about the nature of man, the rigours of command or some such. Ransom does this while in captivity, facing off with Mariner or when he’s engaged in the trial by combat.
N.B.: Jonathan Frakes does the same thing, to an extent. After all, Kirk was to be the inspiration for his character, but with Picard as the restraining influence to his own “cowboy” style of command.
#4 – “I need my scars!”
I loved the face-off between Mariner and Ransom, arguing over who gets to take on the brute in the trial by combat. Mariner starts going through all of her injuries, listing scars one by one, where they were from, how she earned them and why they were so important to her. Later, when Dr. T’Ana asks if she wants them removed, Mariner declines.
I just can’t help but be reminded of Kirk’s speech to Sybok in Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country, when he refused Sybok’s influence by claiming “I need my pain!”
The reference here is obvious. Injuries are a badge of courage and Mariner doesn’t waste any time in showing Ransom how they qualify her to go out and fight the beast. It’s a yet another reference to what Kirk has added to the fabric of this franchise.
#5 – “Kirk-Fu”
If you’re like me, then you have the internet meme of all of Kirk’s fighting moves: the flying drop-kick, the judo-throw, the karate-chop, etc. But the one – my absolute favourite one – is the double-fisted hammer blow. You remember that one, right? When Kirk clasps his fists together and just hammers the back, the kidneys or the side of the head of his opponent, no matter how large or small. It was the mother haymaker of all haymakers and it never failed.
Of course, completely unrealistic, but damn, it looked cool.
So, when a bare-chested, muscle-ripped Jack Ransom goes into the pit, guess what you see him copying? Is it cool? Hell, yeah. It’s pure Kirk-Fu and, in my opinion, it’s the best part of the episode.
Look, I may be a bit biased, but the references were so blatant in this episode. But, we forget about the different types of comedy like satire, or in this case, hyperbole. This is a farce and in the heart of farce there lies enduring elements. These are the things that make shows like Star Trek so great because they are features that stand out. It’s easy to make a caricature of them because they are what we remember most.
It’s good to laugh at these things and have fun with them because they can never be forgotten. They are classics and, like I said, classics never go out of style.
The same will hold true for other classic characters. In fact, I can see this being a trend of the Lower Decks Writers’ Room: which character will they base an episode around and make fun of next? In this episode’s case, it was a great formula.
I’m looking forward to the “The Schlock of Spock” next. Or, maybe: “The Joy of McCoy?”