====================================================================== * "STAR TREK: MARK TWO" (C) Justin B Rye, 1993 (propagate freely) * (Beware: very long! Nearly 16 pages of 66 lines at 70 characters/line) PS - please note that this was written before the advent of Babylon 5! ====================================================================== Section 0: INTRODUCTION 0.0 CONTENTS Section 0: Introduction Section 5: Xenobiology Section 1: Technology Section 6: Stardrives Section 2: Astrogation Section 7: Transporters Section 3: Plots Section 8: Holodecks Section 4: Universe Section 9: Ideology 0.1 QUALIFICATIONS Before I begin, I should make a number of things (relatively) clear: A) Above all; I am not serious. I might criticise, but I wouldn't stop watching it. Well, what other SF is there with such a huge budget? B) My basic theme is the cracks in Star Trek's foundations. StarFleet Battles, the RPG & other tie-ins may have devised ways of ignoring the problems, but most of these excuses are more like extra flaws. C) Yes, TV is a low-IQ medium; it's easier to rely on action & special effects than on clever plots. But that needn't stop them making the background plausible. Or paying me to do it, if they're too busy. D) "Space Opera" (which Star Trek isn't exactly; see 0.3) is entitled to simplifying conventions like the prevalence of stardrives, Babel fish, & humanoids with added latex features; but it's nice if these all have rationales lurking somewhere or other in the background. E) It would never occur to me to object in this detail to, say, Doctor Who. This is partly testimony to Star Trek's success; but mainly to all those claims of profundity, worthiness & scientific accuracy. F) I'm an SF fan, not a Trekkie; if it's not been on TV, I reserve the right not to have seen it. If it has & I misquote it, my apologies. 0.2 SYNOPSIS As I have been saying since long before the appearance on UK screens of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (henceforth NG), the whole idea is a step in the wrong direction. The 3 major advantages that "Star Trek: The Original Series" (henceforth OS) enjoyed over its competitors were A) The central Kirk-Spock-Bones triple act worked well; in particular, Spock is a character likely to long outlive the original castlist. B) The surveying/troubleshooting Enterprise (and its transporters) was a useful plot mechanism, providing a new Strange Planet every week. C) The "United Federation of Planets" backdrop was less witless than was the norm on 1960s US TV. No, honestly. Compare "Lost in Space". NG, unfortunately throws out advantage (A) in favour of a new jumble of awful characters; "Deep Space Nine" replaces (B) with a space base. Only (C) remains; & by now the STU (Star Trek Universe) is a liability - decades past its sell-by date, & full of ludicrous inconsistent plot devices, each of which should have had rapid social effects. NG has to boldly stagger onwards under such a burden of implausibilities that it constitutes a monstrous insult to its viewers' intelligence. This rant is my attempt to demonstrate the problems, & (to give some semblance of constructive criticism) to offer solutions which could in theory be adopted either in a full-scale "Star Trek: Mark Two" remake of the original series (!) or as surreptitious revisions to ongoing NG continuity- compare the unexplained upgrading of Klingons from vaguely foreign-looking guys in OS to kipper-browed aliens in the movies. 0.3 SPACE OPERA Like most genre labels, it's often used loosely (to mean just "scifi set in space"). But Space Opera in its classic sense (cf Doc Smith/Van Vogt) is defined partly by manner (morally polarised epic melodramas & wild power fantasies), partly by distinctive scenery & props (cutlass- wielding space pirates in pseudo-archaic Galactic Empires). It is more concerned with conveying a mood than exploring new concepts, & is thus easier than most SF to put on a screen. In general the filming process pushes it towards Fantasy: Star Wars is hardly SCIENCE fiction at all. Dune & Flash Gordon may be better examples of traditional Space Opera. Clearly, Star Trek doesn't quite fit. The NCC1701 rarely has to face grandiose action-adventure crises where the fate of humanity hangs in the balance (although the NCC1701D's constant galactic diplomacy comes closer). Starfleet is slightly archaistic, with its naval traditions, technophobia (see 1.5) & bagpipes, but the plots are mostly generic SF adventure; less "operatic" than such rivals as Battlestar Galactica or Blake's Seven. However, the STU setting, which is what I'm discussing here, leans heavily on the supporting conventions of true Space Opera. 0.4 GLOSSARY OF ABBREVIATIONS OS1, 2, 3="Star Trek: The Original Series" (season 1, season 2, etc). ST1, 2, 3=the movies; thus "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" is ST5. NG1, 2, 3="Star Trek: The Next Generation" (season 1, season 2, etc). C20, 21 =Twentieth (etc) century. FTL=Faster Than Light; 3exp8 m/s. TP =Transport(er). LY =Light Year(s); 9.45exp15 m. NCC1701 =Original Series Enterprise UFP=United Federation of Planets. NCC1701D =Next Generation Enterprise STU=Star Trek Universe. ====================================================================== Section 1: TECHNOLOGY 1.0 QUASISCIENCE First I'd better explain this bit of SF-library jargon. Quasiscience is plausible "fictional science", consciously made up by an author for plot purposes, not to fool anyone. Quasisciences (like tachyonics) are okay in SF. But pseudoscience (eg astrology) is bogus science, peddled by loonies who actually believe in it & wish we did too. Why do people always muddle the two? A taste for pseudoscience is no more welcome in an SF scriptwriter than blindness would be in a TV cameraman. See 9.6. The trouble with Star Trek technology is its scrappiness... meaning both (A) UNEVENNESS- ie the way the major starfaring races mix archaic & "magical" devices (manual gunnery & replicated food) in an identical patchy manner, & at improbably evenly matched levels (see section 4.3) -and (B) INCOHERENCE in the quasisciences: each McGuffin, each Strange Form of Energy Never Previously Encountered, is explained (if at all!) by a separate line of ad hoc doubletalk, & a separate hitherto-unknown law of physics. This is the clumsy way to do it; the elegant approach, adopted in my revisions, posits as few novel scientific principles as possible, making each one serve several non-contradictory functions. Now on to some specific cases of STU technology with poorly designed quasiscience rationales, starting with the alltime classic example: 1.1 TRANSPORTERS Transporters are a last minute addition to the STU (a cheaper effect than shuttle landings); & it shows. The explanation given is that they break down matter into data & energy, "beam" that energy to the chosen destination & reassemble it as per data. This, unluckily, is the wrong kind of teleport. All they needed was a way to flick objects from A to Z skipping B; what they got is a souped-up long-range replicator which kills you & constructs a replacement elsewhere. For a full analysis of the technological and ethical ramifications (total-conversion cannons & transporter pattern resurrection, for a start) see section 7. Back to the drawing board. The "Star Trek: Mark Two" solution is to invoke a true A-to-Z teleport, using the existing STU idea of subspace (the medium of their FTL communications). MY transporter fields flick their contents through subspace like tiddlywinks, with no need for any matter-to-energy conversion or reconstruction. This alters the likely operating limits, but TOWARDS those evident in the STU: it makes sense that it's an open system requiring no receiver & not much power; but a transponder on the cargo helps, & subspace shields hinder it. It thus contradicts only plots like "Unnatural Selection" (NG2; best ignored). Further questions to be answered include whether potential energy gets conserved (so it's cheaper to teleport downhill than up), &/or whether disappearances leave a vacuum (appearances are even more baffling). 1.2 PHASERS As Roddenberry said at every opportunity, a TV cop doesn't pause in a chase scene to explain how his gun works. But then, nor does he use it to phone his mum; it has reasonable limitations. I'm not asking for explanations; just explicability. What kind of beam could function as: A) A non-thermal, almost-any-metabolism stunner with no ill effects; B) A localised cutting ray (its normal effect against starship hulls); C) A deathray, leaving a scorchless corpse for relatives to weep over; D) A beam of warmth, useful for heating up rocks or cups of coffee; or E) A no-mess no-fuss hygieno-vanisher, causing its victims to glow red & disappear, NOT leaving behind searing-hot clouds of reeking gases? The only plausible answer is to tie it in as a military application of transporters; Mark-2 phaser beams put a "transporter field" around the target & project it permanently into subspace (but an undersized field simply dissipates as heat). The field may in fact include & annihilate the phaser itself; watch those suicides in "What are Little Girls Made of?" (OS1), & ST2. I'm ignoring the questions raised (eg, NG3) in "The Vengeance Factor" ("knockback" with no recoil, plus A & E on a sliding scale- ie a difference purely of degree!); nor have I explained "stun" yet. Perhaps it's a neurological (or "psionic") side-effect of intense transporter fields, nullified somehow in normal transporters? 1.3 SUBSPACE FIELDS Firstly, is "subspace radio" instantaneous (to allow delayless chats with Starfleet admirals) or merely FTL (as implied by Uhura's cries of "our SOS won't reach anyone for weeks")? One might rationalise that it varies depending on what you can afford; starbase can manage tightbeam calls on the "ansible" level of subspace, while broadcasts have to use the slower (less "warped"?) levels... but it sounds horribly forced. The STU features many different impossible energy effects that show a family resemblance; tractor beams, deflectors, invisible forcewalls, shields, impulse drives, reactionless thrusters, ship gravitics (which never fail) & inertia dampers (which often fail, if not enough to turn them to smears). One new bit of quasiscience will suffice; they're all forces-at-a-distance propagated via subspace & powered by those trusty impulse engines. Inertial damping may be unnecessary for some forms of stardrive pseudoacceleration, & it's automatic for routine manoeuvres, whereas missile impacts & emergency turns tend to catch it unprepared. 1.4 WARPDRIVE FTL travel is of course impossible, but an essential Space-Operatic convention. The problem with warpdrive's quasiscience basis is that it hasn't got one; it was given no coherent explanation or indeed jargon. The first OS pilot talks about "hyperdrive" & "the time warp" (not to mention "rockets"); the second calls it a "space warp". ST1 introduces a Star-Wars-hyperjump effect, plus that mysterious visual smear - used in-atmosphere in ST4, so it can't be warp. See 6 for more about "warp speeds", & established SF stardrives; for now, note that in the STU: * They can't hop "through" barriers, webs, walls, etc via hyperspace. * Scenery remains visible en route (planets as well as those "stars"). * Aristotelian rather than Newtonian laws of motion apply - see 2.3. * Trips have a similar (brief) duration for passengers & friends back home on Earth; relativity is somehow evaded, rather than exploited. * General STU technology shows no signs of any time- or space-warping techniques (such as skiing holidays in the closet over lunchbreak). Devising a drive rationale consistent with both my subspace-teleport theory and STU evidence is easy. If the whole ship can flick itself a metre forward through instantaneous subspace every picosecond that's a pseudovelocity thousands of times faster than light! There are no time dilation or inertial effects, as you aren't accelerated; it feels like you're just moving impossibly fast with an imperceptible flicker. Some details remain to be worked out (Why that warp-10 theoretical maximum? What's "warped"? How about collisions?) but this would do for a start. 1.5 CYBERNETICS OS computers, whether servile or insane, were always standard voice- interactive Space Opera "Artificial Brains", with black box internal workings. Nobody considered the possibility that AIs had any rights to UFP citizenship - okay, so they live in boxes, show little imagination or emotion, & sometimes go mad; but cf Medusans, Tellarites, Vulcans & Humans! NCC1701 ran into plenty of perfectly humanoid androids, not to mention gynoids (the feminine). What makes Data so special? See 3.1. By NG, things have regressed in some ways. Computers are now largely key-operated, without Genuine People Personalities, & have obtrusively fallible workings. NCC1701D's computers are notably full of squatters, such as the holo-Moriarty (see 8.2), nanites, & alien data-viruses (no wonder, when Geordie takes so long to think of pressing "reset"- watch "Contagion", NG2). The cybercliche stories call unwelcome attention to the relative datedness of OS, fit the STU poorly, are very predictable for anybody who read any 80s SF, & are still remarkably technophobic - for instance you know that the Borg are evil BECAUSE they're cyborged. Why then are UFP computers so primitive? Haven't they got subspatial (instantaneous!) processors? If they're still advancing in NG, why was OS cybernetics barely ahead of our own? The natural answer for a Space Opera universe is that AI in OS had gone as far as it safely can; when you trust computers to make your decisions, your race ends up ruled by a computer-deity. This should have remained true in NG; extra progress is an anomaly, like Data's Starfleet rank (an AI giving orders?). 1.6 BIOTECHNOLOGY The STU's attitude to biotechnology is equally conservative. Genetic engineering, cloning, elective surgery etc are distrusted- perhaps due to the Eugenics Wars, though this only explains it for Terrans. Again, the convention of limitations on (so-called) "dehumanising" technology is a fair one in Space Opera; Star Trek isn't trying to be cyberpunk. NG still treats biotech with superstitious dread, but muddles things on occasion (see 5.2). The trouble appears to be a total lack of soft- (quasi)science "vetting". So in NG2 "Up the Long Ladder" talks rubbish about cloning; "Unnatural Selection" features anti-genetic-engineering alarmism, plus "the DNA for wrinkles". Possibly the worst offender is "Evolution" (NG3), which mixes accurate but irrelevant ("educational") astrophysics scenery with a plot based on the C19 "ladder-of-creation" misinterpretation of natural selection; the idea that if I "do enough evolving" I'll eventually become "superior" on some absolute scale. 1.7 JARGON Lots of STU quasiscience terminology is fairly obscure and/or silly. And why not? Here are some examples, with my suggested explanations. WARP FACTOR- everybody has a different theory about what's warped. My guess is it's the scale of subspace-to-realspace distances; see 6.3. PHASERS- what does "P.H.A.S.E.R." stand for? Does STU physics involve subspace particles called "phasons"? Or is it just "Phaser, TM"? PHOTON TORPEDOES- what have explosive coffins got to do with photons? My favourite theory is that they were invented by Professor Photon. DILITHIUM- frequently just called lithium in early OS1; perhaps DiLith (two-stone) allows you to surpass MonoLith (ein-stein)... Sorry. STARDATE- a nice bit of atmosphere (also useful for episode production codes). Inventing a unit whose size varies with the circumstances is a handy trick that might profitably be applied to distances as well - even Blake's Seven's "spatials" are better than using imperial units! ====================================================================== Section 2: ASTROGATION 2.0 VISUAL EFFECTS It's not fair to criticise 60s TV for its poor special effects, but it is reasonable to ask whether they base their attempts on a sensible mental model of what space combat could look like. In the case of Star Trek, as the visual effects get better & better at representing their mental model, it becomes more & more apparent that the answer is "NO"; astrogation in the STU is riddled with peculiar assumptions. However, my complaint here isn't primarily that NG visual effects are an insult to our intelligence; it's that greater realism, applied in moderation, would make them so much MORE exciting & imaginatively appealing. 2.1 SENSORS STU vessels are well lit in the depths of interstellar space, as are the nightsides of the planets they audibly whoosh by; meanwhile phaser beams, tractors etc appear as glowing lines, despite the lack of air to scatter the light. I trust you recognise this as "artistic licence" -though ST1's underlit ships were an aesthetic improvement. But do you ever wonder how anyone spots Klingons approaching at 100c? Forget mere Doppler effects; the image should arrive time-reversed, after they do! So who needs cloaking devices? FTL vision must be standard in the STU; as in "Tin Man" (NG3), when they watch a nova 3.5 light-hours away. Maybe the best available rationalisation is that both the viewscreen shots & the somewhat mysterious "external views" show scenes as viewed not by human eyes, but by radarlike subspace-sensors; which would also help to explain how Spock can always tell that "we are being scanned". 2.2 VELOCITIES What exactly ARE those diverging "stars" that the USS Enterprise is always flying through? If they're really stars, this implies speeds of a million-plus times lightspeed; yet they keep zooming past even (eg) in "The Galileo Seven" (OS1) when the NCC1701 is in a parking orbit... Well, maybe they're hydrogen molecules, or some subspatial equivalent. Next consider the speeds & distances entailed in intersystem travel. In general, if you can see one another, then you're flying dangerously close. Nevertheless, we commonly see starships sitting nose-to-nose, practically immobile relative to one another (even whilst accelerating under warpdrive; as for instance in "The Survivors", NG3). Maybe these views are computer-enhanced, & largely conventionalised to suit human psychological needs? Let us pretend so; I will hypothesise furthermore that the "stars" are added as a false-texture speed indicator by their Viewscreen Computers. Similarly the atmospheric sound effects. Then there's combat. Fights can occur at warp 8 ("Journey to Babel", OS2), but nobody exploits manoeuvres like the Dewarp-&-Backstab-Your- Pursuers tactic or has trouble with the ranges during head-on charges. FASA's STU wargame simply outlaws warp factor changes, treating it as if it were all slower-than-light; a blatant cop-out. Note ("Balance of Terror", OS1) that plasma bolts, phaser beams & so on move much faster than starships, while the beam of a hand phaser is so slow you can see it move! We must assume ships' phasers are souped up with some kind of extra subspace field, which may explain their visibility in scanners. 2.3 MANOEUVRING All movement in the STU is 2-dimensional. Starships, including newly met aliens, only operate on the plane, never exhibiting pitch, roll or yaw, let alone diving or climbing. Everyone agrees which way is "down" (Borg vessels fly the same way up as the NCC1701D), & goes into orbit round planets at similar odd angles. Moreover, motion is not only pre- Einsteinian, but Aristotelian! Drives producing constant thrust induce a constant velocity, not acceleration, so you can do warp-9.8 hairpin turns without slowing down ("Encounter at Farpoint", NG0); but if you are powerdrained like the shuttles in ST4 you swiftly coast to a halt. The paradigm is one of roughly WW1-style naval warfare, with ships limited to 2D movement through a resisting medium. Cloaked vessels are metaphorical submarines; ST2 adds one solitary "submerge-&-resurface" tactic (and boasts of this "3D thinking"); while NG tries to make its manoeuvring look a little more flexible. But none of this rises to the level of Battlestar Galactica's WW2 aircraft-carrier warfare metaphor, or Star Wars' aerial dogfight paradigm, let alone treating all three dimensions as equally useful, & no particular direction as "down". Is it too late to start imperceptibly phasing in this kind of imagery? ====================================================================== Section 3: PLOTS 3.0 AMNESTY I'll pardon such offences as "Spock's Brain" & "Shades of Gray" (OS3 & NG2), on the grounds that American TV has a statutory minimum cheese content. Besides, any real "Star Trek Mark Two" (say, a C21 remake for holovision!) can start from scratch, omitting unworthwhile plots. I'll confine my comments to defining some types of plotline to beware of. 3.1 CONTINUITY BUSTERS One of the perils of OS's planet-per-episode format & its improvised continuity was the temptation to throw in oneshot plot devices, to be discovered one week & forgotten the next. Such dangling plot threads were all very well in the short term; they could be woven by fans into interesting Trekkie novels. But their cumulative effect when magnified by NG's projection of the timeline is terrible. Whatever happened to: * The android factories in "What are Little Girls Made of?" (OS1) etc? * The good/evil fractionation technique from "The Enemy Within" (OS1)? * The standard issue lie detectors they used in "Mudd's Women" (OS1)? * The artificial youth-extending virus (& antidote) from "Miri" (OS1)? * The panacea spores they encounter in "This Side of Paradise" (OS1)? * The whole antimatter universe out of "The Alternative Factor" (OS1)? * The universe-switching technique devised in "Mirror, Mirror" (OS2)? * The memory-scanning tricorder described in "Wolf in the Fold" (OS2)? * The assorted spare Earths explored in "The Omega Glory" (OS2) et al? * The subcutaneous transponders used during "Patterns of Force" (OS2)? * The friendly demigods met in "Spectre of the Gun" (OS3) & so forth? * The telekinesis-inducing concoction in "Plato's Stepchildren" (OS3)? * The metabolic accelerator drug discovered in "Wink of an Eye" (OS3)? * The bodyswapping machine demonstrated in "Turnabout Intruder" (OS3)? * Or indeed, how about cloaking devices? If the UFP can steal them off the Romulans ("The Enterprise Incident", OS3), & has captured (ST4) & allied (NG) Klingon craft, why should Starfleet still have to BORROW cloakable vessels, as in "The Defector" (NG3) & "Unification" (NG5)? 3.2 CAUSALITY BUSTERS You may notice 3.1 omits all the oneshot STU time-travel techniques; discussing continuity is futile when plots breach causality! But they could attempt to assume a consistent system of STU chronophysics. Eg; * STU history is mutable; incautious timetravellers can abolish their home future (see "The City on the Edge of Forever", OS1). And yet: * How do cautious timehoppers avoid it (stealing air others would have breathed, etc)? Remember; FTL drives are (ipso facto) time machines! * Why in "All Our Yesterdays" (OS3), ST4, "Time's Arrow" (NG5) & so on do they invariably act as if the future were safely deterministic? * Why do alternate timelines diverge so little? Why was Wesley Crusher born (identical) in both "Yesterday's Enterprise" timelines (NG3)? * [ --- This section censored by Starfleet Military Intelligence --- ] * Why does the pilot in "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (OS1) get amnesia when nobody else does? Why does he see the Enterprise vanish? (Etcetera) Nb; traditional time-paradox dogma can stand little real scrutiny. Why SHOULD an autoassassin "vanish"? A can of worms better left unopened. 3.3 ONESHOT REVISIONISM This is a recurring strategic error in the battle for plausible STU continuity. What happens is that a scriptwriter notices a logical flaw in previous plotlines & pointedly avoids it on this one occasion, in a counterproductive & inconsistent fashion. Memorable examples include: * The ST2 "Kirk manoeuvre" (see 2.3)- supposedly 3D, but unconvincing; after all, why should they bother "resurfacing" before the attack? * The crippled vessel in ST6 that loses artificial gravity for once. * The "Picard manoeuvre" in "The Battle" (NG1)- a sudden burst of warp acceleration, producing unprecedented image-lag effects (see 2.1). * The Universal Translator failure in "Darmok" (NG5); if the grammar's too (infeasibly) alien to handle, why is the vocabulary no problem? Such revisions call attention to the stupidity of the rule to which they are the one exception, while preventing the use of simple blanket explanations- eg if it weren't for ST2, I could claim all the apparent two-dimensionality was just a further viewscreen conventionalisation. 3.4 SEQUELITIS Formularisation is compulsory in commercial TV, & has struck ST:TNG hard. The NCC1701D now has less time than ever to explore strange new worlds- half the season is prebooked for return visits to the Klingons or Cardassians, & guest spots for Barclay, Ma Troi, Q, Old Uncle Tom Cobbley & all. Not that I want to see any fewer Romulan Warbirds, Borg mother[---]ships etc; I just regret this inevitable loss of novelty in favour of the kind of petty continuity that OS tried so hard to avoid. ====================================================================== Section 4: UNIVERSE 4.0 SCALE If this were not Space Opera I should object to the whole notion of interstellar imperialism; Earthlike worlds are too selfsufficient for centralised "empires" to be likely, however FTL your drives. At least the UFP is federated, albeit ruled from Earth (Sector 001; so where is Sector 000?). Or to be precise, from San Andreas City; which explains why the entire galaxy keeps a 24-hour day & Pacific Standard Time! Let me point out some facts, all of which were readily available in the 1960s, & should be no obstacle to writing good Space Opera plots: * Even if the universe were infinite you'd have to travel insanely far before you could expect a coincidental "duplicate Earth" to turn up. * Weirdness doesn't correlate with remoteness of origin; intergalactic invaders need not be especially alien (but see 5.1 on panhumanism). * The galactic CORE is 30,000 LY away; the RIM is 20,000 LY the other way; but the nearest "Galactic Edge" is the extraplanar FRINGE- only 500 or so LY from Sol, travelling axially. If Monty Python songs get these details straight as a matter of routine, why can't Star Trek? * The universe is 3D - frontiers are surfaces, not lines. Nor are any of those assorted "Galactic Edges" clear-cut or permanently fixed. * Space (asteroid belts included) is very empty. Random encounters are unlikely, & you'll never pass close to two asteroids at one time. On the other hand, there's enough dust to be awkward for FTL travel. * Famous-name stars are all gigantic (like Rigel, 1000 LY away) and/or near Sol (like Tau Ceti, only 12 LY), & thus unlikely places for the Enterprise to find inhabited but unexplored "strange new worlds". By the way, how many inhabited planets ARE there in the Rigel system? * The universe is very old. If empirebuilding is simple & popular, the galaxy should belong to somebody already. Picture a race of Borgoids as powerful as the Organians... ruling ever since the Triassic. 4.1 GALACTOGRAPHY (PHYSICAL) The UFP's scale is very hazy. If they're really at the edge of known space when they meet Romulans at Tau Ceti ("Whom Gods Destroy", OS3), Klingons at Capella ("Friday's Child", OS2) & Apollo at Pollux ("Who Mourns for Adonais?", OS2) it is only dozens of LY wide. Yet in "Miri" they were exploring hundreds of LY out; in other OS1 plots they were "thrown 500 parsecs" (in "Arena") or "at the other end of the galaxy" ("The Menagerie"). Vagueness is all very well, but this is ridiculous. Even NG4's "Best of Both Worlds" puts the UFP's outermost colony only one day's travel from Earth, while Saturn is about half an hour away! As for the Galactic Edge Energy Barrier... even charitably assuming that this means the extraplanar fringe, not the distant galactic rim, & pretending that the stars run out there at some abrupt boundary, any mere glowing fence (as this is shown) could be simply hopped over! & see "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (OS0); who built those robot mining bases, restocked "every 20 years", beside an uninvestigated Barrier? 4.2 GALACTOGRAPHY (POLITICAL) It would be pleasant to get some inkling of where the Bajorans, Borg etc live, relative to each other or to the galaxy. All we know is that the Romulans, UFP & Klingons have common borders, each with a Neutral Zone. The Klingon one was set up by the Organians ("Errand of Mercy", OS1)- who seem to have vanished between OS3 & ST1; maybe the Klingons' added prosthetic foreheads are Organian repellent? Regardless, all the rules about trespassing in Neutral Zones seem rather biassed; when the USS Enterprise does it, it is always legally in the wrong - even when their incursion is met by a welcoming committee of previous intruders. And how big is the Romulan-UFP border? By the NG era the two empires have been expanding competitively for some 200 years; the frontier has to be millions of square LY. So how can Starfleet stop cloaked Romulan Warbirds infiltrating, nuking Earth & blaming the Klingons? One story ("Redemption", NG5) even showed a UFP blockade of the Romulan-Klingon border, with "a net of active tachyon beams" strung between a fleet of 23 ships - that's at most 253 narrow connecting lines, many parsecs in length, leaving no gaps big enough for ANY vessels to sneak through!? 4.3 GALACTIC PALAEONTOLOGY The STU is notable for its lack of historical backdrop; all it's got are the unexplained Romulan/Vulcan split, some little-known Preservers (see 5.1), & dozens of purely local, empireless Godlike Beings. But... something seems to have synchronised the development of the main local races, so humanity didn't run into NG Romulans prior to developing the impulse drive. An explanation would be reassuring to pedants like me; & if done in terms of ancient wars & relics of dead empires, it would also add atmosphere. Perhaps (improvising wildly) the local superpower recently collapsed in civil war, leaving scattered humanoid ex-slaves? 4.4 CHRONOLOGY The "stardate" system kept the OS dateline cleverly obscured, whilst giving the impression of accounting for relativistic problems like the impossibility of a universal standard of simultaneity. The fans based their own estimates on circumstantial evidence such as the following: * "Miri" (OS1) has a parallel Earth where the 1960s were 300 years ago -but on the one in "The Omega Glory" (OS3) they were millennia ago! * "Tomorrow is Yesterday" & "Space Seed" (OS1) imply a C22 dateline, as do Flint's birthdate plus age in "Requiem for Methuselah" (OS3). * "The Squire of Gothos" (OS1) watching Earth by telescope from 900 LY away (!) adopts Regency (1810s) fashions, making it at least 2710. Somehow the consensus developed that it was C23, & in "The Neutral Zone" (NG1), Data finally specified the date as 2364 ("old calendar"). Working by such benchmarks as McCoy's OS & NG ages, & disregarding 70s novelisations etc, fans can now produce a tentative series chronology: 2250? UFP founded thanks to Garth of Izar ("Whom Gods Destroy", OS3). 2254 Original pilot episode, "The Cage": NCC1701 under Captain Pike. 2267! Start of the OS "5 year mission". Kirk is 34 (as of OS2 =2268?). 2275? Beginning of the Star Trek Movie era: ST1 (NCC1701 refitted). 2285? ST2 (Kirk 50), ST3 (NCC1701 destroyed), ST4 (NCC1701A built). 2290? ST5 (?) & ST6. Original crew are reaching their retirement age. 2345? NCC1701C destroyed by Romulans ("Yesterday's Enterprise", NG3). 2364 Start of NG (introducing NCC1701D); McCoy turns up aged 137. 2370 NG6; Scotty turns up aged 72 (plus 75 in a transporter beam). 4.5 QUASIHISTORY There were a range of fundamental flaws in the OS "future history", most of which the ST:TNG "Scriptwriters' Bible" inexplicably retains. A) FOOLISH C20 PREDICTIONS - too big, too specific, & too early. Eg: 1968! Orbital-nuke silo explodes on launch ("Assignment Earth", OS2). 1992! Khan (born in a 1950s genetics lab!?) attempts world conquest. 1996 End of Eugenics Wars; Khan flees in an interstellar (!) vessel. 1999? Voyager 6 falls into a black hole (returning in ST1 as V-ger). B) INCONSISTENT PESSIMISM. C20 "nuclear & biological holocausts" are followed by C21 "genocidal wars" (as in "Encounter at Farpoint", NG0). All known ethnic stereotypes survive this feeble apocalypse intact, as do the works of Raymond Chandler, Golden Gate Bridge, ozonosphere etc; but does this really (as Trekkies always claim) count as "optimism"? C) IMPOSSIBLY FAST INTERSTELLAR EXPANSION. Suspended-animation vessels are obsolete by 2018, & ships have reached the Galactic Edge by 2070 (thus the 200-year-old debris in "Where No Man Has Gone Before", OS0). Some C21 colonies aren't rediscovered until NG, proving FTL drives are easily available. Zefram Cochrane "of Alpha Centauri", who "discovered the Space Warp", disappears aged 87 in 2120ish ("Metamorphosis", OS2). Yet the Romulan War ("Balance of Terror", OS1) is fought circa 2170 on sublightspeed impulse drive only; & "The Cage" places the invention of warpdrive between 2236 & 2254. None of which makes any sense at all. D) THE WHOLE THING BEING SET TOO SOON. Time has to be allowed for the recovery from WW3; for spacetravel to develop; for known space to grow (at colony ship rates) without fragmenting, while derelict craft drift light-centuries; & for humans to encounter & grow accustomed to dozens of alien races. Space Opera is more safely, & more frequently, given a dateline well beyond 2500; Dune, for instance, is set in 29,391 AD! ====================================================================== Section 5: XENOBIOLOGY 5.0 MAJOR RACES I thoroughly approve of the "inconsistent" revised Klingons; forget all those fan theories about Klingon/Human hybrids, I'll accept them as an improved visual effect. "Tlhingan" is the best made-up language I know of- Esperanto sucks; trust me, I'm a linguistics graduate. But: * Why in that case do the NG Romulans still customarily speak English? * Why "Vulcan", "Romulus" & "Remus" - names from Roman mythology? For some reason NG stubbornly refuses to name the Klingon homeworld, but the Tlhingan for their ex-allies' planet is "Romulus" -not likely to be a human loanword, as humans & Romulans hadn't yet communicated! * Why the subtle but total reversal of their racial characteristics, from (OS) devious cowardly Klingons & duty-bound warrior Romulans, to (NG) honour-bound savage Klingons & scheming cowardly Romulans? * Why don't Romulans have any detectable Vulcanoid psychic powers? How exactly DID they get to Romulus (without FTL drives)? Why was Spock surprised by their Vulcan appearance in "Balance of Terror" (OS1)? * Has Vulcan been "conquered" (Bones, in "The Conscience of the King", OS1) or not (Spock, "The Immunity Syndrome", OS2)? If Vulcan culture is so "logical", why is it entirely composed of ritual mumbo-jumbo? * Can Betazoids read Ferengi minds ("The Price", NG3) or not ("Menage a Troi", also NG3)? Own up, Deanna; it's all bluff, isn't it? 5.1 PANHUMANISM However hard the Enterprise tries to boldly go where no man has gone before, it always finds people already there. Terran colonists on the planet Norma Major are fair enough; but how does everyone else, eg all the various stagnant computerised societies, come to look so humanoid? The excuses given are as scrappy as ever, & come in two main flavours: A) "PARALLEL EVOLUTION"- a supposed natural trend towards humanoidism, as used to explain the Vulcanoids in "Who Watches the Watchers?" (NG3) or those (English-speaking!) paraRomans in "Bread and Circuses" (OS2). The idea is that sentient races become similar due to sharing a niche- as have sharks & dolphins. But these latter began with common design features (spine) & restrictions (streamlining), while ETs share little beyond a need for manipulatory appendages. Starfaring elephants, squid & centaurs might be expensive but their absence needs a better excuse. B) PREHISTORIC TAMPERING by aliens; eg the Preservers who spread Earth humans (like the Amerinds of "The Paradise Syndrome", OS2) through the galaxy millennia ago, or the DNA-graffitists who interfered in various primordial soups 4 billion years before ("The Chase", NG6). Neither of these oneshot revisions explains why Ferengi should look so much like Vulcans despite their underlying biochemical differences. What the STU needs is well-established Ancients tampering MILLIONS of years ago. 5.2 CROSSBREEDS: HOW? Spock's father Sarek is an ET; his ancestors "spawned in a different ocean" (OS1, "The Man Trap"). Amanda has better chances of having kids by a horseshoe crab- it may have copper-based blood, like Vulcans, but unlike the average alien it at least has a DNA-based genetic code (the MEDIUM, let alone the language)! If she manages to conceive, how can a green-blooded mongrel baby gestate in a human womb? Yet we saw Spock's birth in ST5, with no sign of biotechnological jiggery-pokery. Nor is he the only healthy, seemingly fertile hybrid in the STU. We've met... * Saavik, who is, I'm reliably informed, a Vulcan/Romulan (big deal). * Deanna Troi, who is of course a half-Human half-Betazoid half-wit. * Keylar, an engineered (but isn't that taboo? See 1.6) Human/Klingon. * Alexander, Worf's son by Keylar, whose hybrid background is ignored. * Other natural-born quarterbreeds, such as Devinoni (a 1/4 Betamax). * Bayel, a Klingon/Romulan (with a remarkably complicated forehead). * Sela, who is a Human/Romulan, & seemingly an unplanned pregnancy! What next - a Gorn/Ferengi? A Tholian paternity suit for Riker? This is all inconceivable, to coin a phrase. The simplest revision would be to downplay the differences between pseudohominids (eg no green blood; & pale blue was likelier, anyway); blame them on the Ancients' genetic experiments. Contrariwise, the non-humanoid races should be as varied as the effects budget can handle (I for one want to see Muppeteers!). 5.3 CROSSBREEDS: WHY? Spock's dilemma (repress his human emotional half, or have fun?) was dramatically justified. But NG crossbreeds seem to be there largely to illustrate the very right-wing doctrine of "Genetic Determinism". Some races are innately rational, or dull-witted, or vicious; & if you are half Klingon, like Keylar, then efforts to resist your sociobiological programming are futile; you'll still be a belligerent sadist at heart. In the case of a fictional interstellar hybrid, it may be true. But weren't all those cooperating alien species originally a metaphor for tolerance between the different earthly "races"? Aren't they implying that these also have genetically enforced psychological peculiarities, such as (say) duplicity, or aggression, or a natural sense of rhythm? ...Well, if not, then what are they trying to tell us? (See section 9) ====================================================================== Section 6: STARDRIVES 6.0 WARP FACTORS In OS1 even warp factor 3 was hurrying ("The Squire of Gothos"); but the NCC1701 has been known to run in circles at 10 (OS3, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"), or occasionally exceed 15 (OS2, "By Any Other Name"; OS3, "That Which Survives"). Warp-10 as an ultimate limit is a purely NG conceit. Is it meant to be a fluke that we count in base 10? The actual scale is deliberately hazy. How quick IS "warp factor 2", compared to lightspeed, "warp factor 8", "transwarp", or NG "warp-2"? Trekkie orthodoxy was always that "warp factor X" equals X cubed times the speed of light. Thus warp factor 1 is lightspeed; 8 is 512c (10 LY a week, which severely restricts the UFP's radius- see 4.1); & 15 is a respectable 3375c (Proxima may be a daytrip but the galactic core is 9 years away). Warp factor 0.1, by the way, translates as a wretched 300 km/s. In NG, though, as transwarp-capable Excelsior-class ships do the menial jobs, I presume the scale has been readjusted so the new-style "warp-8" is much faster than the old-style "warp, factor 8". 6.1 WARP SPEEDS Naturally, when actual distance or time figures are given they imply ludicrously high or low speeds. In "Amok Time" (OS2) 2.8 light DAYS is a big diversion; in "Obsession" (OS2) 1000 LY is trivial. The missiles in "The Changeling" (OS2) take 5 seconds or so to travel 90,000 km (so "warp factor 15" is 0.06c!). Yet in "That Which Survives" (OS3), Spock describes 990.7 LY as 11.33 hours travel at warp factor 8.4 (766,000c, or 9 light days per second). I can forgive such anomalies in OS... but recent stuff is, for all its claims, little better. Just two examples: * In ST5 they go to the galactic core (30,000 LY) in a couple of hours (that's 100 MILLION c!), crossing no political boundaries en route. * "The Price" (NG3) hinges on ranges to two distant quadrants, one 20 years travel further than the other. But they're only 200 LY apart! 6.2 ALTERNATIVE STARDRIVES SF authors have invented a wide range of variably preposterous FTL drive rationales, which fans refuse to keep distinct. In this section, to help show how incoherent warpdrive is, & in the interests of sheer pedantry, I classify them into three separate types. Nb - few of them actually move the ship, as such; they just make it possible for motion to be fast, & should also require rockets or something for propulsion! 6.3 WARPS Less useful than they sound. Each creates some kind of envelope of localised distortion (but NOT a discontinuity: that's teleportation). * Physicswarp; the one warpdrive entitled to ignore the light barrier. * Gravitywarp; somehow or other converts your "forwards" into "down". * Inertiawarp (as in EE "Doc" Smith); leaves you bouncing off photons. * Timedilation; faster for passengers but not for external observers. * Timecompression; the opposite of timedilation. Feels no faster, but looks FTL. Cancels out with the above if you try to combine the two. * Spacecompression; squashing a dimension relative to the ship, or in real terms stretching the ship (cf Harry Harrison "Bloater Drive"). * Spacefolding; fold at M, so A & Z are neighbours. The discontinuity still separating them, albeit often forgotten, must be crossed by a jumpdrive (= Teleport) or wormhole (= Hyperspace); qv respectively. 6.4 TELEPORTS Methods of going from A to Z instantly, skipping intervening points; no subjective time passes en route (not very STU). Teleports vary not so much in their rationales as in their built-in dramatic limitations: * Megajumping; instant magical relocation to an arbitrary destination. * Jumproutes; similar, but risky except on established (mapped) paths. * Stargating; requires a convenient network of preexisting tramlines. * Closed-jumping; transmitter-to-receiver only. Hard to explore with. * Stutterjumping; constant tiny hops (A-C-E-G-I-K-M-O-Q...); see 1.4. 6.5 HYPERSPACES Shortcuts through implausibly convenient "dimensions" (usually sic); the defining characteristic is that travellers experience journey time OUTSIDE normal space (as shown on screen in Star Wars & few others). * Newtonspace; where c=infinity (or c=3 km/s, useful in its own way). * Macrospace; on a different scale (macrospace metres= real parsecs). * Swiftspace; a compressed TIMEscale; epic treks in seeming eyeblinks. * Metaspace; a true "higher spatial dimension" through which shortcuts (as if over wrinkles in Flatland) may (or may not) become available. * Wormholes; (temporary) purpose-built shortcuts from A to Z via beta, gamma, delta & epsilon that can be arbitrarily short. STU wormholes, however, are very rarely useful; see ST1 & "The Price" (NG3). ====================================================================== Section 7: TRANSPORTERS 7.0 BASIC MECHANISM It is generally accepted among non-Trekkie SF fans that the STU's "transporters", hereinafter abbreviated to TPs, are an insanely gross piece of quasiscience best kept decently offstage. Unfortunately, the Trekkies have trouble grasping this, & insist on plots that focus on infeasible TP phenomena. My suspension-of-disbelief glands can't take very much more of this, so in the hope of scaring scriptwriters into avoiding the subject I am obliged to go into the awful details. The TP's operational specifications are roughly as detailed below: RESOLUTION: unlimited. Inter- & intra-atomic bonds are reconstituted correctly. Indeterminacy has apparently been abolished in the STU. PROCESSING: formidable. Whole (sentient!) landingparties are routinely shifted across from "in tray" to "out tray" in a matter of seconds. RANGE: in "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (OS1), the sergeant is beamed down while the Enterprise is 5 minutes past Earth & receding at warp 8. LOAD: see ST4; 2 whales plus 400 tonnes of sea-water are no trouble. MOTION: somehow permits you to move in transit (while you aren't made of matter!?) without coming out as mince. This shouldn't be legal. In fact, won't any change after you're scanned be lost in transmission? 7.1 STAGES OF OPERATION A) The target is located by orbital-range sensors, & scanned down to subatomic structure, to provide a "TP pattern" (a spying device). B) It is carefully disassembled ("energised") by remote control, with a matter-to-energy total conversion system (a weapon, perchance?). C) This energy is sucked up from its previous location & temporarily stored in the TP mechanism (a handy long-range energy-vampire). D) The TP pattern file is consulted to guide materialisation; copies are kept, & files are editable (see "Unnatural Selection", NG2). E) The appropriate quantity of energy is sent from the TP mechanism to its intended destination, wherever that is (ZZAP! Another weapon). F) The energy is assembled into matter ("materialised") according to the pattern (a replicating machine; BlibbleBlibbleBlibbleBlibble). 7.2 SAMPLE SPIN-OFFS If TP was in use by 2209 ("Realm of Fear", NG6) its society-smashing practical applications should have transformed the UFP long before OS! A) INFORMATIONAL- If you can scan it, you can own a copy; run stages A & F above, using ship's energy banks. Unshielded equals piratable. * You can try reading an enemy's mind by long-range neuroanalysis, or alternatively you can summon up & torture a copy in your holodeck. * TP pattern files can be sent by subspace radio modem ("The Vengeance Factor", NG3; NCC1701D reads a planetary database from in warp), or indeed by post; thus communication is equivalent to transportation. * Simplify your redundant DNA for easier data-compressed transmission! B) TRANSPORT- Turbolifts are obsolete. If I was Picard, I'd program my alarm clock to beam me up out of bed, into uniform, onto the command seat, with a freshly brewed cup of Earl Grey sitting on the armrest. * If transponders are necessary, just beam them down onto your cargo! * Most sorts of freight or passenger craft are obsolete; go by phone. * Patrol/survey craft are still necessary, but inessential equipment (like Wesley) can be stored as data & useful energy instead of mass. C) ECONOMIC- Junk matter (tablescraps, spacedust, Romulans, stars) can be converted into vast amounts of energy & fed into your warpdrive. * Any item can be produced if you have the data & the energy; chicken sandwiches, gold ingots, Galaxy class starships, Romulan ribosomes, megacredit notes, functional cloaking devices, Mona Lisas, dilithium crystals, spare Datas, industrial-scale TPs, Tasha Yars, & so on. * Only shielded TP patterns & raw mass/energy can remain "valuable". D) MEDICAL- You can edit files in transit? Who needs surgery?! Abolish infections; cancel wounds or wear & tear; & replace failing neurons. * Why should anybody die (and stay dead) if they have TP backup files? * Don't call it surgery; it's a beauty salon makeover! "Okay Doc, edit my body into a latest-model warpshuttle with holodeck-computer grade brain, & built-in facilities for TP-editing plus ROLLING backups!" E) MILITARY- Attacked by Romulans? Insert chunks of FTL antineutronium into their engines! Convert every 10th atom into energy & just leave it where it is! Subtract the fire button from their control console! Seize their ship by beaming guerrilla nanites into its TP computers! Suck them straight up into your batteries & throw away the pattern! * What do you mean, they'll have shields up (cf "Menage a Troi", NG3)? They TP through shields - tacitly in "A Taste of Armageddon" (OS1) & "Encounter at Farpoint" (NG0); explicitly in "The Wounded" (NG4). * Otherwise, resort to throwing hideous things at them. Beam up & then redirect their missiles! If you TP enough neutronium to one spot you get a huge explosion and/or a black hole! Antimatter is as cheap to create as matter! If they shoot back at you, put mirrors in the way! * The shuttlecraft manoeuvre out of "Best of Both Worlds" (NG4) can be refined; eg "Deja Q" (NG3) implied that shuttles are transportable. * If they blow away your deflector dish, just beam on a replacement! * If you ever resort to selfdestruct, don't use puny explosives; fill the whole region with a smooth 50/50 blend of matter & antimatter! 7.3 THE REPLICATOR ARGUMENT The STU TP's first line of defence against such uses goes like this: "Ah, yes, pattern materialisation is indeed how STU replicators work; but they are only a little-developed offshoot from TP technology, & so they don't have the resolution to duplicate anything at all complex." This, in my humble opinion, is sheerest hogwash; replication is simply transportation minus the magic remote-scanning-and-disassembly stages, & has to be perfected BEFORE TP. If, as in "The Enemy" (NG3), your TP can assemble a live Romulan in sickbay, beamed from the planet below, then despite the episode's claims it must (as PART of this process) be able to assemble Romulan ribosomes in sickbay out of data & energy. 7.4 THE SOULS ARGUMENT Shouldn't the monistic materialism of TP clash with the STU's normal mystical dualism (personified by Deanna Troi)? Doesn't TP imply that a mind is nothing but a functional arrangement of matter/energy? Wasn't McCoy right to moan that TPs don't actually TRANSPORT you at all? They just rip you apart & build a replacement elsewhere! Does it matter? Do TPs conserve identity? Orthodox TPs (unlike my own "Mark-2 TPs") imply there are no "souls" in the STU. I'll gladly accept psionic phenomena (ESP, psychic healing, etc) as a convention in SF; but be consistent! The STU TP's second line of defence is a superficially neat piece of logical judo, using the monism/dualism clash to excuse the limitations on gross uses of TP in the orthodox STU. It goes something like this: "Ah, yes, TPs are indeed souped-up replicators; but sentient entities have immaterial souls, which can only be transmitted, not duplicated." That's as useless as a theory can get; contrary to the evidence, over- complex, internally confused, & no solution to the original problem! 7.5 MYSTERIES * How can TPs fail to notice "stowaways" ("Dagger of the Mind", OS1), McCoy's extra "katra" (ST3), & the sentience of "life, but not as we know it" if they have to distinguish souled from soulless cargoes? * What ARE souls? Matter, or energy, or an emergent property thereof? * Who needs them? They aren't necessary for physical existence, life, happiness, or Turing-testable intelligence; personality, memory etc are mere biochemistry (hence Pulasky's patent mindwipe: "Pen Pals", NG2). The Ferengi can't sell them, the Borg can't use them to power reactors (by embryo-farm soul-vampirism)... so what good are they? * What things have souls? Data? Data while deactivated? Frozen bodies? Ova? Embryos? Babies? Wesley? Morons? Neandertals? Chimps? Tribbles? Viruses? Brain-parasites? Symbiotes? Copies of the Moriarty program? How many souls has a two-headed man got? Or a split personality? Or a pregnant woman? Or a Borg vessel? Or one Borg? Or Locutus? Or Q? * Mark-1 TPs are the perfect experimental apparatus for testing these questions; so why aren't the answers common knowledge in the STU? Or at least, why does nobody tell TP-phobes that souls aren't affected? * How does any of this stop me using TP as outlined in 7.2, to abolish money, starships, ageing & that pesky Romulan Star Empire? 7.6 PER ARDUA AD ABSURDUM The big problem for dualism is: what causes a soul to appear? Deanna can detect both Worf & Data, so it's not just human embryology; which implies the answer "The creation of any suitable brain". Hmmm: doesn't this include copies of Data's brain assembled by a replicator? For all we know, Dr Sung built him using TP in the first place! & if any brain created by TP matter-to-energy assembly summons a fresh soul... where does the disintegrated original's soul go? Won't it assume it's dead?! Or do TPs send "bereaved" souls a sort of forwarding address ("Don't worry, your body's over here")? If so, it's another gross subsystem... "Oy, Romulan soul! Your body went that-a-way! Wesley, you're promoted; kill yourself & transmigrate your soul into yonder Romulan commander's empty carcase! Or on second thoughts, let me help- TAKE THAT!" (So how did anybody discover the need for this extra TP subsystem, then?) ====================================================================== Section 8: HOLODECKS 8.0 GENERALITIES Holodecks are less relevant to my theme, being an added rather than inherent flaw in STU plausibility, but I like lambasting them anyhow. Now, given highly advanced forcefields, holography & continuous use of imperceptible transporters, controlled by a super-AI, I'll swallow the holodecks as a feasible technology. The obvious spin-off applications are, as always, what make it preposterous. Holodecks are too close to omnipotence, which (like Utopia- see 9.4) makes for low-quality plots. 8.1 PSEUDOMATTER Objects created by the holodeck are supposedly made of pseudomatter, which evaporates when removed from the holofield. Pseudomatter is real enough to eat; real enough to fool Geordie's vizor; to reflect Krieger waves ("A Matter of Perspective", NG3); to feel wet; to kill you; even to step out through the doors ("The Big Goodbye", NG1)... but it's not "REALLY" real. Yet we know that orthodox STU replicators could build a visually convincing "puppet" from spam! Add holograms for detail, move it with forcefields & transporters; if it runs away, it drops dead. So who needs the extra quasiscience involved in the idea of pseudomatter? 8.2 ILLUSTRATION PROGRAMS * PORN- the obvious use for a holodeck, though I would expect standard holodeck etiquette to involve (A) conventions and/or restrictions on the simulation of real people, (B) security codes so nobody else who sneaks in can sabotage your program, & (C) a VACANT/ENGAGED sign. * HORROR- program it with the collected works of Cronenberg, Lovecraft & Giger, then let it improvise. Whatever you do though, don't go in. * MINDWARP- try the collected works of Sheckley, Watson & PK Dick. If you enter, don't expect ever to be sure you've got back out again... unless of course you realise you are evaporating. I suspect this is where the C24's SF fans have gone, leaving nobody who can recognise & short-circuit the scifi-cliche plots the Enterprise runs into. * BANQUET- have a slap-up meal; come back outside; & keel over dead as the food evaporates from your innards, & your metabolism goes crazy. * DOG BITE- if a holo-simulation rabies virus "simulatedly" invades & reprograms one of your cells, you are left with genuine hydrophobia. * THE GREAT ZOMBINI- simulation hypnotists are likewise a bad idea. * TORTURE CHAMBER- you get the picture. * FRAUD- fabricate any evidence you want. The premier abdicating in your favour, your enemy molesting children, you walking on water... * MEMORY EXTENSION- if the ship runs low on memory capacity, you can create vast upgrades made out of pseudomatter on the holodeck. (?!) * BRAINS TRUST- simulate Lao Tze, Bacon, Einstein, Surak etc. Either (A) actually take their advice or (B) throw custard pies at them. * TURING TEST- tell the computer to simulate Alan Turing, then ask him whether he really is an intelligent being or "just a simulation". * MORIARTY- remember NG2's "Elementary, Dear Data", swiftly followed by "The Schizoid Man"? The NCC1701D's databanks held (A) a sentient mind seeking a body & (B) Dr Graves' expert-system for transcribing sentient minds into android bodies. Another reason for replicating Data (7.2C). And I wonder: has Moriarty got a pseudomatter brain? Or is his head hollow & his neurochemistry purely a holodeck emulation? 8.3 MILITARY APPLICATIONS If even Starfleet's guaranteed-safe recreational holodecks can kill, imagine the potential of a battleship with a holodeck built onto its hull: Holocaust Class. This "openplan holodeck" could easily provide: * Guns- any size at all: they may be illusory, but the effects aren't. * Camouflage- forget mere "cloaking devices"; this can disguise you to the eye, to radar, or indeed to the touch as anything or nothing. * Armour- any type, any amount, right in the way of incoming missiles. Or if you can't swallow "openplan holodecks", how about... Holoheart Class. Gut a ship of all its contents bar holodecks, then SIMULATE the absent rooms. Use the saved space for extra-huge engines, computers, & guns; the crew (if not the "Away Team") can contain as many geniuses & heroes as you like. No need to tell them what's really going on... ====================================================================== Section 9: IDEOLOGY 9.0 DODGY SUBTEXTS As Trekkies regard STU philosophy with near-religious adulation, & constantly praise its contribution to Global Niceness, it may come as a shock to them that I regard it as deeply suspect. Roddenberry picked the wrong subgenre of SF for preaching neophilia & tolerance: a Space Opera setting suits Kirk's human-chauvinism, black-and-white ethics & anti-intellectual distrust of technology much more naturally than any rational conceptual extrapolation. Space Opera isn't an automatically evil & fascistic genre (read Iain M Banks' technosocialist "Culture" novels!), but it takes an effort to make it intelligent & xenophile. 9.1 GUNG-HO REPUBLICANISM Remember Kirk's little lectures on Liberty, Individualism & Mom's Apple Pie? His personal endorsement of US involvement in Vietnam ("A Private Little War", OS2)? The episode ("The Omega Glory", OS2) where he gets to recite the constitution of the USA? And speaking of which, there's the "Constitution-class" starship, "USS Enterprise", with its US-Navy rank structure... yes, it's the good old U F of P: a cultural melting-pot in which every bridgecrew (like a war-movie platoon) is a careful blend of token minorities! ...Spotted the subtext yet? 9.2 UNCONSCIOUS RACISM I have already (5.3) expressed doubts about the STU's "multi-racial community" metaphor; if the intended message was that differences are only skin-deep, why all those bad-guy species whose differences are as profound as they could get? Why the organism-chauvinism & contempt for clones (1.5-6)? If the UFP is so tolerant & equal & cosmopolitan, why is it run by English-speaking Terrans? When was the last time anybody detected any menacing entity heading straight for, say, the Andorians' homeworld? (er, Andora?) How is it Q can declare that he's come to put humanity on trial without the Klingons, Androids, Betazoids & so forth saying "I'll be off, then!"? & above all, what about those stereotyped comic relief foreigners, like Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, or that planetful of appalling stage Irishmen in "Up the Long Ladder" (NG2)? 9.3 CALLOUS ABSOLUTISM Judging by Kirk's interpretation, the Prime Directive says "never be helpful to aliens unless it's convenient, profitable, or fun"; cf the Monroe Doctrine. By NG times it has become an absolutist dogma, which you may furtively break but can't appeal against, that Charity is Evil (those aliens whose planet is about to explode ought to learn to stand on their own two feet- "Pen Pals", NG2). It also seems to have become more universally applicable. The Prime Directive used to crop up only in connection with "primitive" societies; but in the NG1 drugs episode "Symbiosis" it forbids dropping hints to spacefaring races who beg for UFP aid. All For Their Own Longterm Good... Surely, by the same logic, Starfleet has no right to interfere in Romulan expansionist policies? Note also that the Prime Directive is based on the (inferred) ethics of the benign alien observers imagined by UFO-cultists. The oddity of this is highlighted in the episodes when the Enterprise becomes a UFO; like "First Contact" (NG4), with its brave UFO-spotters vs a Malkorian government coverup. But hang on; C20 Terran Ufologers never WERE being watched by the UFP! Are we the only STU race with such sad delusions? 9.4 UTOPIANISM Life in 2370 is perfect. We know, because they never stop saying so. * Everybody is legally equal. But the legal system is that of the USA (with attorneys), & Starfleet officers are more equal than others. * There's no poverty, & no capitalistic economics ("The Neutral Zone", NG1). So what are all the obsessive traders & gamblers doing, then? * There are no drugs- Guinan isn't licensed. But is Picard's Earl Grey decaffeinated? Why don't they use harmless customised wonderdrugs? * All races & cultures are equal. Everybody has only been Americanised (rather than, say, Iranianised) because they genuinely wanted to be. * There are no sexual hangups... so what's happened to homosexuality? * There is no racism... so where are all the Hispanics, Arabs, & co? * There is no crime, or terrorism... for ominously unspecifed reasons. * People live to 140 (see 4.4). But octogenarians are considered "past it", not expected to lead active lives; see "The Survivors" (NG3). * There is no sexism. But women are still subordinate; see 9.5 below. ...And so on. OS by contrast displayed rampant capitalism, alcoholism, intolerance, sexism etc; the movies (eg, the start of ST3) hinted that it was a militaristic bureaucracy. But by ST:TNG, the UFP has become a 1980s-American vision of paradise, with revealing blindspots. Note for instance the peculiar sanctity with which Starfleet officers' ranks & duties are imbued. Acting Ensign Crusher may not see how he's entitled (as in "Pen Pals", NG2) to issue commands to people bigger, smarter & more experienced than he is, but it's simple enough; he outranks them. 9.5 RESIDUAL SEXISM Uhura is, despite her soft-focus, as close as Star Trek has got to a sympathetic female, content in a non-"girly" career with no man in her life. It's been downhill ever since; name the highest-ranking woman on the NCC1701D! Dr Crusher (nee what?) is a mother-figure; Deanna too is a sexual stereotype, & outside their ordinary chain-of-command. Notice also that aliens, especially superbeings like Q, are invariably male. 9.6 NEW AGEISM Quasisciences (1.0) work well in SF; pseudosciences don't. "The New Age" is the latest Californian fashion in parareligious tosh, seeping into NG whenever Deanna opens her mouth. (Any New Agers offended by my comments should remember: let go of your judgemental mindset, sucker!) It's a bizarre (but profitable) syncretistic mishmash, incorporating: TECHNOPHOBIC MYSTICISM! Reviving "naturally dead" corpsicles (see "The Neutral Zone", NG1) is wrong; clones, cyborgs, autopilots etc are all "unnatural"; & even Data (the NG Spock-figure) PREFERS irrationalism! MATERIALISTIC HEDONISM! Awkward to mix with the above? Nonsense- read this mail-order brochure! Buy psychic crystals (as advertised in, eg, "Home Soil" NG1)! Maximise your own physical wellbeing- live in sheer individualistic luxury ("Justice", NG1; "Captain's Holiday", NG3) on a planet full of bronzed Californianoids where nobody who matters has to do any work! Never mind your consumer society's impact on the 3rd World, or the environment! After all, we can probably fix that later! MENTAL LAZINESS! Don't think- just go with the flow; eastern mysticism minus the ascetic selfdiscipline! Solve problems by positive thoughts ("Where No-one Has Gone Before", NG1), or waiting for them to go away (every other NG1 plot)! Equally facile solutions are offered for such real-world problems as drugs, terrorists, or 'Nam Vet psychosis ("The Hunted", NG3: the answer, apparently, is to storm the White House!). CALLOUS IDEALISM! Evil doesn't exist- or if it does, it has a right to ("Skin of Evil", NG1)! Pain doesn't hurt, it's a learning experience! No need for charity towards disaster victims; "victim consciousness" dogma says they brought it upon themselves by putting out bad vibes! PURE GULLIBILITY & appetite for junk-science! Hence their inability to tell genetic adaptation from technological progress (1.6; superbeings are always "highly evolved", as in "Transfigurations", NG3). And then there's Deanna's psychobabble "advice", with plugs for (late-C20) fad therapies like "directed dreaming". At least for once it's free. 9.7 CONCLUSION OS was a respectable effort (for the 60s) to produce intelligent SF. It at least TRIED to make sense, & featured US TV's first interracial kiss. NG has bigger budgets but less integrity: it reuses the setting not because it was good, but to guarantee an audience for minimal risk & creative investment. So it can't imperil its ratings by depicting a world where most humans aren't WASPs, women are as important as men, & moral codes can be irreconcilable (Xyzons torture babies! Terrans eat dead meat!). The diversity-stifling corporate control of the media has formularised Star Trek into a soap-opera using scifi special effects; a genre in its own right, supplanting SF in the minds of the viewers & in the ecosystem of big-budget TV productions. Resistance is futile... ====================================================================== Appendix A: FOOTNOTES ====================================================================== A collection of explanations and addenda that were originally left out back in 1993 just to save some space. 0.1: Babel fish are the "Hitch Hiker's Guide" spoof version of Universal Translators. "Trekkies" is the commoner name for the people who PREFER to be known as "Trekkers"... just as "Whovians" no doubt hate it when I call them "Whoers". 0.3: Do I have to explain that EE "Doc" Smith and AE Van Vogt were "Golden Age" SF authors? 1.0: "McGuffin" is Hitchcockian jargon for a black-box plot device. 1.2: For examples of (C), try "The Conscience of the King" (OS1) or ST6. 1.3: "Ansible" is a widely used LeGuinism for "instantaneous communicator". I should also like to publicise my own label "gravity- carpet" for the system of deck-adhesion apparently in use on all scifi starships. 1.5: "Genuine People Personalities" are another "Hitch Hiker's Guide" reference. 1.7: I've heard "official" answers to some of these, but I'm doing Star Trek the favour of ignoring them. 2.2: The technical term for a spaceship sound-effect device is "Voosh-Whee Simulator" (from the "Travellers" cartoon in WhiteDwarf). 3.1: Remember that the whole message of "Balance of Terror" (OS1) was that such "secret weapons" are only a temporary advantage; next time they met, Starfleet would have cloaking technology & the Romulans would have, say, quark bombs. 3.3: There is a useful distinction to be made between the kind of "continuity" that refers BACKWARD to previously introduced concepts (often taken to the extreme of fannish in-jokes) and the kind that refers FORWARD to developments planned for later seasons (eg the failed attempt in "Conspiracy", NG1). The last and least important kind of "continuity" is the sort of pointless trivia dealt with in the "Nitpicker's Guide" books - give me a "Kneecapper's Guide" any day! 3.4: The bane of round-robin universe-design is the phenomenon of Concept Erosion, of which the Borg are a perfect example. As introduced in NG2, they were a threat which should soon have been consuming all of Starfleet's resources; but each time they turn up, they are diluted further by writers who have clearly failed to grasp the point that the Borg are tougher AND SMARTER than anyone else. Oh, and Uncle Tom Cobleigh is a character in the folk-ballad "Widecombe Fair" - I've no idea what he's doing in this rant. 4.0: All right, San FRANCISCO. The Python song I'm thinking of is in "The Meaning of Life". And if you really want scenes set in cobbled space, don't use asteroid belts, use planetary ring systems! 4.2: "Prosthetic foreheads" is a wilfully obscure reference to a "They Might Be Giants" lyric ("We Want a Rock"). 4.5: Technophobia-inducing conflicts (Clone Wars, AI Wars etc) are a popular trick for Space Opera backgrounds. But they make me wonder how things are going in the alternate histories where the good guys won... 5.0: One more question: have they standardised on the stereotype that alien nomenclature is always simple, or did Spock really have an unpronounceable first name? My reasons for disliking Esperanto are a bit technical, but if you're genuinely interested, see Ranto. [*] 5.1: Norma Major is in fact the wife of our glorious leader [now ex- PM], but she certainly ought to be a planet. For a start, yes, there is a constellation called Norma. 5.2: That's Muppeteers in the Larry-Niven-meets-Jim-Henson sense. Remember, they don't necessarily have to share scenes with live- action oxygen-breathers! 6.1: And how fast is impulse drive - as fast as warpdrive (as in "The Menagerie", OS1), or slower than a drifting asteroid (as in "The Paradise Syndrome", OS2)? 6.3: Bloater Drive is from "Bill, the Galactic Hero". Oh, and don't forget the Douglas Adams Probabilitywarp. 6.5: Hyperspace is usually visualised as a mere "alternate universe"; if it was a real extra dimension, it would be a whole continuum of different "universes". 7.0: Actually, TPs have begun to look more feasible since people started talking about nanotechnological assembler/disassemblers. But once you've got THOSE... 7.2: If (say) megacredit notes are claimed to be unreplicatable, I'll just replicate the printing press instead; and if corpses are replicatable, how about TEMPORARY corpses? After all, practically the whole OS crew have been dead at one point or another! 7.3: Incidentally, what WOULD Picard get if he asked for "a cup of Earl Grey"? 7.5: These questions are hardly academic; they are the obvious criteria for giving entities voting rights, or letting them in your church! 7.6: For the benefit of non-Latin-speakers: per ardua ad absurdum = "through hardship to the ridiculous". 8.1: "Pseudomatter" is my own term, but the concept is clearly established in NG1 (it took several seconds for that hologangster to evaporate), and come to that in "Practical Joker" (STTAS1 - ha, you thought I'd forgotten the ANIMATED series!)... 8.2: As the holoTuring would soon realise, a computer capable of emulating specific geniuses (!) deserves to be promoted to captain. 9.1: I hasten to add that the USA is a perfectly fine country, as countries go. But I hardly expect Lincoln to be remembered as "an early Earth President" ("The Savage Curtain", OS3). 9.2: There is for a change one English-accented character who isn't a baddy; but despite his taste for tea, identification with Horatio Nelson, and willingness to take seriously a woman named Vache, he's supposed to be French! Deanna, meanwhile, is an alien, & therefore speaks with an Americanoid accent - even though the actress is a Londoner! 9.3: Note for those ignorant of American history: that's the C19 President Monroe, not Marilyn. 9.7: I remember the days (up until about 1985) when the BBC used to produce SF, as opposed to kiddy fantasy spoofs or half-hearted technothrillers. This will never happen again while they can get hot and cold running Roddenberry. ====================================================================== Appendix B: POSTSCRIPTS ====================================================================== Well, now it's 4[-plus] years later, and I'm a bit happier; a certain new SF series has done almost everything I was hoping for. I can't claim to have inspired J Michael Straczynski to create Babylon 5, but at least he's made me look like a rather good prophet. Publishing this before season 4 may prove unwise, but see my Y2k rant for an excuse. [*] 0.1: Okay, now I've stopped. In fact, I stopped as soon as I saw the B5 pilot (on video). Not that it was perfect, but JMS had clearly devised his background & themes FIRST, and THEN started setting plots in that universe. When B5 uses Space Opera shortcuts, it may not give excuses right away, but it at least hints that it acknowledges the questions raised. 0.2: The preemptively plagiarised format of Star Trek: Deep Space Franchise serves to demonstrate how much more you'd have to do to make Star Trek (R) worth bothering with. Star Trek: Voyager discards advantage (C), too, which would almost have been a good idea if they'd thrown the bathwater away with the baby - but they've LOST the Romulan warbirds while KEEPING transporter technology. 0.3: B5 is true Space Opera, and knows how the genre works; it's televised SF for New York SF-readers, as opposed to scifi-flavoured TV for Kansas housewives (sorry, Ximena, but I don't think you count as a Kansas housewife). 1.0: B5 quasiscience is much less uneven & more coherent. The Minbari may have artificial gravity - a spin-off of their fancy drives - but Earth hasn't; a point which is immediately evident from the design of the station (this was my first clue that I was going to like B5). DS9's circular construction is purely decorative, copied blindly from SF cliche. 1.1: B5 has no transporters. Would you believe I've heard it CRITICISED for omitting such an essential scifi ingredient? Star Trek really does addle the mind. New evidence of this (March 1999): an amusingly lame flame asserting that "Yousound like you are trying to convince yourself that ST Technolgy is actually science-fiction and not fact"... 1.2: It was a long time before we were told how B5's "PPGs" work, but they were always obviously explicable. 1.3: Tractor beams and jumppoint disruptors have turned up in the B5 universe, but they're still considered a big deal. Communication apparently involves tachyon relays through hyperspace, which sounds about right. 1.4: B5 "jump drive" is rather complicated, but well designed & well introduced. Do you realise it was season 2 before we saw a vessel in transit? 1.5: There is quite a lot of technoparanoia in B5, starting with the smuggler in the pilot - part of the Vorlon conservative influence? By the way, Ken MacLeod seems to have adopted my word "gynoid"! 1.6: Mind you, "Evolution" is a gem compared to episodes like "Genesis" (NG7). 2.0: B5's policy of abandoning model-shot FX has proved extremely successful; it can now afford to have space battles every week that knock Star Trek's best efforts into a cocked hat. 2.1: B5 space combat still features improbable lighting and voosh-whee effects, but avoids the FTL doppler problem. The USS Voyager, on the other hand, is so well lit you can see its REFLECTION in nearby ring systems! 2.2: Precise speeds are still mysterious in B5, but we know all combat is STL (often with combatants a long long way apart), and hyperspace obeys entirely different rules. And they do think of the obvious anti-pursuit strategies! The weaponry involved is much more plausibly violent-looking, too; none of that "shields at 30%" nonsense, which always reminded me of D&D hit-point based combat. 2.3: B5 is always at least as three-dimensional as Star Wars, & often gloriously Newtonian; Starfuries can turn round and fire backwards! 3.0: There's no pardoning cheese like Voyager's; & yes, I am thinking specifically of "Learning Curve" (STV1)... See also my essays on SF Chronophysics [*] and Xenolinguistics [*]. 3.1: B5 has scrupulously avoided continuity busters - even the magic Back-to-Life machine wasn't forgotten! Meanwhile Star Trek has jury- rigged an excuse for Starfleet's lack of cloaking devices: they signed a treaty (why?!) which gave precise blueprints for the kind of machine they promised never to invent. 3.2: Even as a self-appointed chronophysics pundit, I found B5's time- travel superplot very impressive. On the other hand, the Star Trek movies (as well as NG7's "And Good Riddance" - sorry, "All Good Things") have been getting stupider and stupider. 3.3: The STU barely aspires to retrograde continuity, let alone anterograde foreshadowing. Big Mysteries are never resolved because the writers never had any plausible solution in mind (X-Files syndrome: the truth is NOT THERE), and everybody's Character Reset buttons get pressed after each episode. 3.4: ST8 subjects the Borg to further erosion. Practically the first two things we learned about the Borg were that they're (a) sexless & (b) decentralised! The only explanation for the "Borg Queen" is that they've heard of "hive-minds" (and watched "Aliens") but know sod-all about real hives. 4.0: The parochialism of the star names in B5 "known space" clashes somewhat with the scale of Morden's galaxy-carving proposal, & there are still cobbled-space asteroid belts, but JMS does relatively well. 4.1: The "quadrants" stuff is all late NG revisionism. Naturally, it's even rubberier for DS9, which appears to be next door to everyone; but B5 could do with some exposition on life in the colonies, too. 4.2: While it might be nice to see proper starcharts, B5 has the hyperspace excuse to hand; who says these empires occupy a continuous volume in normal space? 4.3: The B5 Universe has a backplot, measured both in years and in aeons. Nobody ever explicitly asked Kosh whose handiwork the panhumanism and Level Playing-Field are, but... 4.4: Compare the B5 timeline, which fades in smoothly from a vague C21 to a well-documented C23. 4.5: Star Trek continues to confirm and contradict previous historical references at random... A) Do you think perhaps Federation historians meant IMRAN Khan? B) ...And we've still got a holocaust or two to fit in before 2001! But that never stops the Trekkies burbling stuff like "it's within all of us to hope that our future is as bright as what we see on ST"! (Yes, that's my March 1999 correspondent again.) C) ST8's C21 warpdrive conflicts with stories as recent as "A Matter of Time" (NG5). D) B5 is set rather early too, but makes it clear that Earth's isn't a very widespread empire. 5.0: B5's dozen-odd recurring races are all pretty good, and the Pak'ma'ra are classics. All we need now is some non-bipeds... 5.1: Notice that the USS Voyager, way beyond the reach of the NG6 Kilroy-was-Hereans, still meets races that look like bad-hair-day Klingons. 5.2: I'm not joking about horseshoe crabs; they have a copper-based respiratory pigment (haemocyanin in place of haemoglobin). If you think that's weird, sea cucumbers have yellow-green blood (vanadium- based). 5.3: STV has introduced another human-Klingon hybrid. Why oh why? Xenobestiality is a very bad idea; if conception is at all possible, ET-STDs are a certainty! Should your plot NEED hybrids, the Valen triluminary device is a better approach. 6.1: The entire scenario of STV hinges on the idea that they can't sustain speeds much over a kilocee. Compare the 40-megacee drive they discovered in "Descent" (NG6)! 6.2: The stardrive in B5, although referred to as "jump drive", is in fact a classic hyperspace (apparently a Macrospace). 6.3: "Space-warps" may have become a fashionable subject for pop- scientists, but they don't resemble the STU's warpdrive in the least. Note also that wormholes should look spherical, not like tunnels! 7.0: As time goes on, the STU tries fitfully to mutate the mechanism of TPs from purely informational to (in some sense) "analogue". See, guys? You should have thought about it earlier. 7.2: An afterthought on TP pattern files: why not wear an amulet so designed that its pattern is a TP computer filing-system COMMAND, "beam me back down and then self-destruct"? 7.5: We've now seen permanent TP duplication ("Second Chances", NG6). 8.1: I notice Holodecks are also being changed in midstream to exclude the concept of pseudomatter, which would be an improvement if they could bear in mind the point that a purely holographic machine-gun is no good for shooting Borg with- & contrariwise, one you can carry out the door is better than a phaser. 8.2: STV hovers on the brink of considering the questions I raise, but without ever quite managing it. 9.0: B5 has some themes I don't care for, but it evades criticism by refusing to endorse any cause unequivocally. Witness its handling of the Vorlon/Shadow war. 9.1: JMS doesn't show the USA as dominating Earth, let alone the universe; the "Us/Good/Americans vs Them/Evil/Aliens" dichotomy is one I'm glad to see the back of. 9.2: Bizarrely, USS Voyager's token black officer is also its token Vulcan (raising the question of why all the rest were melanin- deficient). 9.3: B5 has several times pointed out the questionable ethics of the Prime Directive (usually via the elitist Minbari), and indeed made alien abduction jokes. (Note the unhelpfulness of ST8's second-hand title...) 9.4: Although the STU is free to discard Roddenberry's utopianist straitjacket, I have yet to see evidence of democratic elections, a free press, or Starfleet officers with unconventional opinions, let alone crime, poverty, drug addiction, evil corporations, bad laws, discrimination, biassed journalism... the Earth Alliance is far more interesting! The next step is some sign of subcultures cutting across racial boundaries - let's see some punk Drazi &/or G'Quonist humans! 9.5: USS Voyager's female captain is a cardboard Competent Bizniswimin; the Queen B is a ludicrous piece of misogyny. Still, this is one of the areas where B5 is itself open to criticism, since its aliens are patriarchal by default. 9.6: The X-Files strikes me as the perfect disproof of postmodernism, which holds that today's media-literate audiences are sufficiently sophisticated to play around with genre boundaries (like "fantasy" & "documentary") without getting them hopelessly mixed up. JMS uses religions as MATERIAL, maintaining a clear quasi/pseudoscience divide. 9.7: By now even the fans should see that the Star Trek Universe is being strip-mined beyond sustainable limits. Death to the Star Trek Collective! Long live the Resistance!