(written from a Production point of view)
A new work protocol eliminating “buffer time” has the Cerritos 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.
Ensign Brad Boimler is performing a concert and playing a lively medley on a violin while dancing in front of his crewmates. He finishes with most of his crewmates unsure how to feel about his performance, and he's about to perform another piece when Ensigns Beckett Mariner and D'Vana Tendi interrupt him and kick him off the stage. Mariner has an electric guitar, while Tendi has an electric drumset. Mariner counts the two of them off, and they both begin to play a heavy metal melody which is so loud that it's heard throughout the ship, and even outside the ship.
The USS Cerritos is being confronted by a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, and the Klingon ship's commanding officer angrily demands an explanation for the intense bass emanating from the Cerritos. Captain Carol Freeman lies and says she can't hear it, and that perhaps it is coming from the Bird-of-Prey. She mutes the transmission and demands that someone stop the loud music, and Shaxs rushes off the bridge.
Mariner and Tendi finish their song, Mariner throws her guitar to the floor, and she and Tendi walk off the stage. Boimler takes his place back on the stage and is about to play another piece, but as soon as he starts, Shaxs grabs his violin and breaks it in half, saying that the captain is complaining that he's being too loud.
- "First officer's log, stardate 57501.4. The Cerritos is en route to Cardassia Prime for the most amazing reason. Captain Freeman is going to be instrumental in brokering peace between the – uh, wait. Just… reading a little message here. Yada yada yada… oh. Oh no. The captain is not gonna be happy about this."
On the bridge of the Cerritos, Freeman is arguing with a Starfleet admiral who is informing her that their current mission to Cardassia Prime has been scrapped since no one wants to go to Cardassia Prime, causing the peace negotiations be moved to Vulcan. The admiral instead orders them to Gelrak V to deliver the inhabitants some "diplomatic trinkets." The transmission ends and Freeman angrily vents how she spent weeks preparing for the mission. Commander Jack Ransom tries to suggest that the move to Vulcan wasn't meant to offend her or the Cerritos, but Freeman believes that Starfleet doesn't take them seriously, and that the Cerritos doesn't do enough to get their respect, and believes that the crew needs to do something to show that they do not slack on the job.
In the brig, Ensigns Mariner, Boimler, Tendi, and Sam Rutherford are testing the strength of the force fields of the cells, and Mariner fires her phaser at Boimler, behind the force field. The force field successfully holds against the phaser, and Boimler angrily protests that Mariner almost killed him before she reassures him that the phaser was set to stun. They wrap up the task, and Mariner orders four margaritas from the replicator. Tendi seems confused that they are having margaritas when they should be reporting for a new task, but Rutherford and Mariner assure her that their superiors have no idea how long it takes them to accomplish their tasks, and that they creatively estimate how long their tasks usually take, giving themselves a little "buffer time". Boimler is the only one who doesn't care for the idea of buffer time, but admits that it is a lower decks tradition. Tendi gets a call from Dr. T'Ana asking her how long it would take to repair a biobed, and Tendi estimates roughly five hours. At first T'Ana does not appear satisfied with this estimate, but happily accepts the creative estimate. Mariner, Tendi, Boimler, and Rutherford continue to enjoy their margaritas, and buffer time.
Freeman is angrily walking the ship and scolding any crew she sees who are not working, or who are taking their time accomplishing their tasks. After she scolds the entire lounge for not working, an ensign moans about losing their buffer time. Freeman, never having heard about buffer time before, asks him to repeat what he said, but he runs away scared.
Freeman enters the turbolift where Boimler is, and she asks if he has anything to report. Boimler happily explains how he has kept himself busy with numerous tasks, while skipping buffer time, and as soon as he says this, Freeman halts the turbolift, and demands him to tell her what buffer time is.
In the crew quarters, Boimler approaches his bed nervously and Mariner asks him what is wrong, but Boimler denies that anything is wrong. At that moment, everyone in crew quarters receives a notice from Freeman that their buffer times will no longer be tolerated, and that all tasks they are assigned will be held to a strict deadline. Mariner suspects that someone told Freeman about buffer time, and blames delta shift. Boimler confidently says that they don't need buffer time and that they can all get things done early with the time given, and this inspires confidence in the lower decks crew.
A week passes, and the crew of the Cerritos is starting to feel the effects of the strict deadline, and tasks that are normally completed in a comfortable manner of time start to pile up as crewmembers rush to complete tasks in any way they possibly can. The crew is overworked, stressed, and running through the ship from task to task. The only crewmember who seemingly isn't affected by the lack of buffer time is Boimler, who still manages to complete all his tasks early, and even requests more work.
Ransom is about to lead an away mission to Gelrak V and calls Mariner out for arriving late. Ransom simply tells her that they're on a strict timetable and says she should consider herself lucky that she's able to go on the away mission at all. Mariner tries to belittle their away mission, but Ransom ignores her and orders her to roll down her uniform sleeves.
The shuttlecraft Yosemite leaves the Cerritos and Ransom briefs the away team how the Gelrakians base their social structure around crystals. Upon meeting them, they must present them with the honor crystal that was given to the crew the Gelrakians first encountered to show their peaceful intentions. Ransom pilots the shuttlecraft into the atmosphere and lands manually. Gelrak V's surface is covered in gigantic crystals, but there is no difficulty in landing. Mariner quietly mocks Ransom's boastful demeanor, but Ransom is unamused by her behavior. They disembark the shuttlecraft and are approached by the Gelrakians. Ransom and Ensign Vendome approach the Gelrakians, and Vendome opens a chest to display the honor crystal, however the Gelrakians are appalled to see that the honor crystal is not in the chest that is opened, and that the chest in fact holds a wooden stump which is a fertility totem of Mavok Prime. Vendome doesn't realize that in his rush to complete his tasks he loaded the wrong chest for the away mission. As the Gelrakians are sworn enemies of Mavok Prime, they interpret the gesture as an act of war and immediately attack the away team.
Vendome is stabbed by one of the crystal spears that the Gelrakians are armed with, and Mariner immediately subdues many of the Gelrakians as more appear to attack the away team. Ransom orders a retreat, and the away team takes cover behind some of the giant crystals. Mariner bandages Vendome as best as she can as Ransom attempts to peacefully negotiate with the Gelrakians. However, he is immediately subdued and knocked out. As the Gelrakians surround the away team, Mariner notes how this reminds her of Kirk being in the 2260s.
The crew continues to rush to complete their tasks on the Cerritos, resulting in disorder and chaos throughout the ship, and multiple accidents. The disorder begins to affect the rest of the ship, including the bridge, when commands being input on the ship's consoles won't work. Freeman, annoyed that things aren't getting done, decides to start doing things herself. Shaxs informs Freeman that the ship's sensors are starting to pick up multiple Gelrakian ships approaching them. Ensign Barnes informs Freeman that the ships are locking phasers, and Freeman orders for the ship's shields to be raised. Shaxs tries to raise them, but the console won't comply, and the Gelrakian ships launch boarding pods. Freeman orders a red alert as the pods approach the Cerritos, and issues an order for the crew to repel all the intruders, but not to stop their tasks.
On Gelrak V, the away team has been imprisoned, and Mariner and Ransom are locked together in a cell, and as Ransom tries to plan a diplomatic approach to get them out of this, Mariner scolds him that he is unable to get jobs done, despite having the mannerisms of command. Ransom in turn scolds her for her habitual breaking of protocol blinding her to the consequences of her actions. He tells her that one day, her approach could get someone killed, but Mariner simply tells him that his approach landed them in prison. Ransom begins a speech to try and inspire the Gelrakians that they meant no harm, but is interrupted by the leader of the Gelrakians, Gernba. He tells Ransom that he and his away team are being held responsible for the lies of the Federation, and that they will have to prove their innocence through a trial by combat. One of the away team officers will need to face off against Vindor, a huge Gelrakian champion. Gernba informs them that if they win, they will earn their freedom, but if they lose, the away team will be executed by being crushed by an adjudication geode. Gernba gives them a blade of crystal, and informs them that they have one hour to choose who will fight Vindor. Ransom and Mariner immediately begin arguing over who will fight Vindor between the two of them.
The Cerritos is now surrounded by multiple Gelrakian ships, and the crew is still in disorder as they try to finish out their assigned tasks and repel the Gelrakian boarding parties. Boimler however is still unphased by the deadlines, and managing to get his work done. He comes upon some Gelrakian graffiti in the hall, and wonders just what happened to make the Gelrakians so hostile. He begins to clean the graffiti with his phaser, noting how it will mess up his schedule, when three Gelrakians surround him. Boimler is unphased, and stuns all three of the Gelrakians, wondering how the ship could be on red alert to their weaker forces.
Boimler enters the bridge to report his conflict with the Gelrakians, but is surprised to see Freeman running all around the bridge, trying to run the ship by herself. Shaxs sees Boimler, and immediately tackles him, but lets him go when he realizes he's not Gelrakian. Freeman angrily demands to know why he isn't at his post, accusing him of being part of the reason the ship is in the shape it's in. Boimler is surprised to see that the bridge crew is also abiding by the strict deadlines of Freeman, and are just as overworked as the rest of the crew, and Boimler protests that Freeman should not be running every station since she's the captain. Freeman only notes that she needs the crew working harder, faster, and stricter, as the Gelrakians start to break into the bridge.
Back on Gelrak V, Ransom pulls rank on Mariner that as commander, the trial is his responsibility and that he will be fighting Vindor. Mariner however simply retorts that she is good at her job because she breaks protocol so frequently, and that she doesn't need protocol to get the job done. She begins to show off her many scars that she's earned in her service. She notes that Ransom doesn't have any battle scars because he plays it safe. Mariner tries one last time to ask him to let her do what she's good at, noting that sometimes you have to do what's wrong in order to survive. Ransom admits that she's right, before stabbing her foot with the blade. He tells her that he'd rather die than let her put her life on the line, and that as the commander of the Cerritos, he won't let anyone hurt his team.
Ransom tears off his uniform and enters the arena to meet Vindor. The crowd is chanting Vindor's name, and as Ransom approaches, he throws his battle blade on the ground, saying that he will only need his hands for their fight. The trial begins, and Ransom uses his agility to dodge Vindor's attacks, and begins to fight him and puts on an impressive spectacle as he continues to dodge Vindor's attacks, and land multiple blows to Vindor, impressing even Mariner.
The Gelrakian attack on the Cerritos continues and Shaxs is holding back the Gelrakians from entering the bridge. Freeman begins to blame herself for the way things are and how she shouldn't have let herself believe she belonged at the Cardassia Prime peace negotiations when she can't even properly run her own ship. Boimler, however, tells her that she is a great captain and that her rules have resulted in one of the best weeks of his life aboard the Cerritos. Freeman doubts this since the crew is in disorder, but Boimler tells her that not everyone is like him when it comes to work aboard the Cerritos and that everyone has their limits. As much as he hates admitting it, it would be for the best if Freeman were to allow the crew to be more independent with their schedules. Freeman is unsure she's willing to bring back buffer time, but Boimler argues that buffer time gives the crew enough time to do their jobs properly. Boimler once more says to Freeman that she's a great captain, and asks for her to let them be a great crew. Inspired by his words, Freeman immediately discards the deadlines that she's assigned the crew and orders them to do whatever they need to take back the Cerritos. With buffer time back, the crew bands together and fights back against the Gelrakians.
Meanwhile, Ransom's fight against Vindor is going well in his favor. Ransom knocks Vindor to the ground and Vindor surrenders the fight. Gernba is annoyed by the outcome, but upholds his promise and has the away team released. As Ransom returns to the cell where Mariner is, she complains that he stabbed her, but didn't stab Vindor, questioning his priorities. Ransom just picks her up and leaves the cell with her. As they leave, Gernba decides they should probably stop resorting to the trial by combat or they will never be able to use their geode. Vindor suggests a fair trial with a judge, but Gernba decides that the next time they have a prisoner, a death race will be their next trial, and orders for crystal cars to be constructed.
On the Cerritos, the crew is wrapping up their fight with the Gelrakian boarding parties and the tide is quickly turning in their favor. The Gelrakians retreat to their pods and return to their ships, and Freeman gives Boimler an approving nod.
As the crew cleans up the Cerritos, Shaxs leads another away team to the planet where they display the honor crystal as originally intended. The Gelrakians apologize for their hostile actions, and Shaxs simply laughs it off, saying that he'd rather be with the Gelrakians than the "wood-worshiping freaks" of Mavok Prime.
In sickbay, Dr. T'Ana finishes treating Mariner and asks if Mariner would like her to get rid of the scars on her body, but Mariner declines the request. Ransom approaches her and asks her to give him some time to get his things in order before she reports him for assaulting her on the planet, expecting a court martial. However, Ransom is surprised to hear that Mariner will not be filing a report as he'd feared, and Mariner admits that while he's a little narcissistic, his break of protocol actually impressed her. She admits that Ransom reminded her of what Starfleet was all about. She also admits that the stab wound on her foot will make for a great scar. They smile at each other, but immediately afterward, Ransom has Mariner detained. When asked why, Ransom cites that she never rolled down her sleeves as he'd ordered, and was in violation of the dress code. Annoyed at the charge, Mariner kicks in protest as security drags her away to the brig; she shouts that she loves the brig, and as she threatens to let someone kill him next time they're on an away mission, Ransom can't help but think that her behavior is hot.
Freeman is in her ready room, and Boimler enters at her request. She commends him for opening her eyes and says that if it weren't for him, the crew would still be blindly following every rule in the book. She then lets him know that they are instituting a new ship-wide mandate known as the Boimler Effect. Boimler is honored that the rule is named after him, but that is quickly turned to embarrassment when he realizes the rule is about encouraging shortcuts and preventing people from just blindly following the rules, and that the crew will be able to build in buffer time when they desire. Boimler tries to change the rule to indicate that it is important to still follow the rules, only to be disappointed when he finds that the rule has already been carved into a plaque.
Boimler later laments how he has a rule named after him about not following the rules as he likes, but Rutherford and Tendi simply assure him that new rules are always being made, and that in time, no one will remember what the Boimler Effect is.
Far into the future, a school professor is teaching her class about how important the Boimler Effect is, and how it was named after Brad Boimler for his lazy methods and instances of cutting corners. The professor then starts teaching about perhaps the most important figure in all of Starfleet history: Chief Miles O'Brien.
"This ship is a joke!"
"Well, then we're the funniest joke in all of Starfleet."
- - Carol Freeman and Jack Ransom
"You never admit the actual amount of time it takes to finish a job. If you did, your days would be packed."
"Isn't that lying?"
"No. It's creative estimating. When you get an assignment, you exaggerate how long its gonna take, then you're a hero when it's done early."
- - Sam Rutherford and D'Vana Tendi
"Tendi, how long will it take to repair a biobed?"
"Oh, that would take about five... hours."
"Excuse me? … That's great!"
- - T'Ana and Tendi
"Look at us! Lower decks, breaching protocol together. Friendship!"
- - Beckett Mariner, as she, Tendi, Boimler, and Rutherford enjoy a margarita after completing a task
"I thought you said it was tradition, I thought you said nobody cared."
"They didn't. There was no way the captain noticed we were padding stuff out. Somebody ratted! I bet it was delta shift."
"Ugh! Delta shift is the worst. They think they're so much better than us, just because they're so much better than us!"
- - Tendi and Mariner, when Freeman cuts "buffer time"
"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 multitasking, 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!"
- - Freeman, as the Gelrakians board the Cerritos
"Permission to speak freely?"
"You always speak freely. Nobody can stop you from speaking freely!"
- - Mariner and Ransom
"You're a great captain. Let them be a great crew."
- - Brad Boimler to Freeman
"You'll be fine. Want me to clean up those disgusting scars?"
"Uh, no way. No. These are my trophies."
"Congratulations, you look like a *bleep* scratching post."
- - T'Ana and Mariner
"…which is why the Boimler Effect is something we will never forget. So named after the laziest, most corner-cutting officer in Starfleet history, Brad Boimler, seen here with one of the great birds of the galaxy. Anyway, let's move on to somebody even more important, perhaps the most important person in Starfleet history, Chief Miles O'Brien."
- - A far future professor
- "First officer's log, stardate 57501.4. The Cerritos is en route to Cardassia Prime for the most amazing reason. Captain Freeman is going to be instrumental in brokering peace between the– uh, wait. Just… reading a little message here. Yada yada yada… oh. Oh no. The captain is not going to be happy about this.
- "Personal log: I've completed all of today's assignments ahead of schedule, and have requested more. Space: The funnest frontier?"
- The concept of "buffer time", as explained in this episode, is similar to Montgomery Scott's admission that he would often pad his estimates of how much time was needed for repairs "by a factor of four" in order to maintain his reputation as a "miracle worker". (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; TNG: "Relics")
- When in the turbolift, Boimler can briefly be heard humming Jerry Goldsmith's theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, later used for Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Ransom mentions meeting "horned gorillas", "sentient tar", and "spores that make you hook up with your best friend's sister". These are all references to threats encountered in episodes of previous series: The horned gorilla refers to the mugato, first seen in TOS: "A Private Little War"; the sentient tar is most likely a reference to Armus, the malevolent entity who killed Lieutenant Natasha Yar in TNG: "Skin of Evil"; the spores are a reference to TOS: "This Side of Paradise", in which some members of the USS Enterprise crew were infected with spores that made them happy at the cost of their ambitions.
Links and references
- Tawny Newsome as Beckett Mariner
- Jack Quaid as Bradward Boimler
- Noël Wells as D'Vana Tendi
- Eugene Cordero as Sam Rutherford
- Dawnn Lewis as Carol Freeman
- Jerry O'Connell as Jack Ransom
- Fred Tatasciore as Shaxs
- Gillian Vigman as T'Ana
- Neil Casey as Gernba
- Kevin Michael Richardson as
- Gelrakian #2
- Sam Richardson as Vendome
- Jessica McKenna as
- Michelle Wong as Starfleet admiral
- Nolan North
- Paul Scheer as Andy Billups
- Unknown performers as
- Andorian student
- Borg student
- Caitian student
- Human in towel
- Two Ferengi students
- Two Human students
- Various Cerritos personnel
- Various Gelrakians
2260s; acid; adjudication geode; admiral; Algolian; Andorian; anti-grav sled; arms; atmospheric hydromounds; autopilot; away mission; away team; baby; Bajoran; bark (botany); bark (sound); barn; barnacle blade; baryon sweep; bass; beam; Benzite; Benzite tactical officer; best friend; biobed; blade; blindness; blood; Boimler Effect; Boimler's mother; Bolian; Borg; Borg drone; boys; break; bridge; brig; buffer time; bull *bleep*; Caitian; calibration matrix; California-class decks; captain ("cap'n"); captain's ready room; Cardassia Prime; Cardassian language; Cardassians; Cargo Bay 4; Cerritos, USS; champion; charm; chief; child; clocks; clouds; club; combadge; commander (rank); commanders (title); comms; constitutional crystal; court martial; criminals; crystal; crystal car; crystal graffiti; cyborg; dance; day; death; death race; Death Valley; deck; delta shift; dilithium; diplomatic; doctor; drum; electric guitar; electric violin (violin); engineer; ensign; Enterprise-E, USS; environmental suit (Gelrakian, Starfleet); earrings; "Essence"; eyes; face; far future; Federation; Ferengi; fertility totem; field integrity; fights; first contact; first officer; first officer's log; fist; freaks; free weights; friendship; Gelrak V; Gelrak V moons; Gelrakian; Gelrakian boarding pod; Gelrakian ceremonial blade weapon; Gelrakian gong; Gelrakian horn; Gelrakian hoverbike; Gelrakian language; Gelrakian net; Gelrakian platform; Gelrakian ship; geode; gifts; girl; "godspeed"; great birds of the galaxy; guitar amplifier; guy; hands; hero; hiss; history; honor; honor crystal; horned gorillas; hospital gown; hours; Human; idiot; impulse manifold; ink; invasion; job; joke; judge; killing; Kirk, James T.; Klingon; Klingon Bird-of-Prey (unnamed); Klingon Defense Force uniform; K'noch; lieutenant; lieutenant commander; lies; lightweights; locations; "lower decks"; lying; ma'am; Magus III; margarita; Mavok Prime; Mavok Prime natives; medical tricorder; minute; mockery; mom; month; mysteries; Nanibia Prime; Napean; O'Brien, Miles; officer; "one of these days"; Orion; PADD; personal log; phaser; phaser accuracy; phaser bank; piercing; place; planet (unnamed 1, unnamed 2); plaque; protocol; psycho; rank; ranking officer; Ransom's best friend's sister; Ransom's ex; reading; red alert; regulation; report; "Requiem for a Hug"; root; scar; schedule; Scottsdale; scratching post; sedan; sentient tar; sex; shadows; sickbay; sir; sister; sleeves; space; spear (Gelrakian spear); Spock; spores; stardate; Starfleet; Starfleet insignia; Starfleet uniform (2350s-2360s); Starfleet uniform (early 2380s); student; stun; summit; swords (battle blade); tactical; Tentacle guy; things; time; towel; tradition; trial (trial by combat); Trill; trinkets; trophies; turbolift; type 2 phaser; Type 6A shuttlecraft; universal translator; Vulcan (planet); Vulcan (species); war; warp nacelles; week; "with all due respect"; wood; worship; wound (stab wound); Yosemite
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