* "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
  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

  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.

  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.

  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.

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
  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:

  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).

  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?

  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.

  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.

  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?).

  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.

  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
  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.

  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".

  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.

  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
  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.

  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)?

  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.

  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.

  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
  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.

  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?

  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!?

  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?

  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).

  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"?

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
  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?

  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.

  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!).

  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
  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".

  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!

  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!

  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.

  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.

  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
  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?

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).

  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!

  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.

  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!

* 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?

  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
  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.

  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?

* 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?

  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
  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.

  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?

  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)?

  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?

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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

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"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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-

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-

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

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

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!