Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 15

Sometimes, things sound better on paper than they do in reality. . . like communism or the Penrose stairs. But people try these things anyway, and Star Trek is no exception.

Question: "What is the goofiest idea used by Star Trek TNG?"


Andrew’s Answer: This one is a toss up for me. It’s either having children on board a ship they knew will go into combat periodically or it’s the entire bridge crew leaving the bridge during times of crisis to go chat around the Captain’s table in his distinctly-unready room. But in the end, I will choose the chat sessions. Seriously, what’s happening on the bridge while they are chatting with each other? Is the ship just in park? Did they call a time out? Better hope you don’t need to raise shields or return fire or keep track of whoever might be beaming over or joining the battle or leaving the battle while you’re sipping your coffee. And why do they need to do this anyway? Except for Worf, they’re all already sitting. They can all hear each other. And their seats swivel. Why not just hold these coffee klatches on the bridge. . . where they could still run the ship? Idiots.

Scott's Answer: From what I've heard, even some of the writers would agree with you about having children aboard the ship! For me, there are many small issues that are endemic to TV sci-fi in general (sound in space, ships facing each other on the same spatial plane, etc.)... however, I would have to say my problem is the away teams. Why do the away teams always consist of senior officers? Are there no field specialists? Even in the original series, we would occasionally meet the ship's anthropology expert or something. But on TNG, the away teams usually consisted of Riker, Worf, LaForge, and Data. I can understand bringing Data along but LaForge? Aren't there any field engineers who could beam down and report back? Same with Worf... are there any other security officers? And why did they always wear the same uniforms? Whether it was an ice planet or a forest planet, they never wore jackets or any kind of protective gear.

61 comments:

Commander Max said...

Goofiest idea? Other than the show itself.
The whole idea around the Feringi, then stating they are a villain that believes in capitalism.
Oh so horrible.

Saucer separation, it's only an idea that sounds good to movie people(and some of the audience). To engineers it's a nightmare, the F-14 was retired primary because the wing pivots. So much stress going through such a small point. Of course they will not last. I could only imagine the stress that connection goes through. Then there is the separation/connection itself. You will never make that connection manually.

Changing the command color to red, what difference would that really make. No matter what color your clothes are, cannon fodder is cannon fodder. They will have to change the color in the future, just to make somebody else happy.

The whole idea of a telepath, so we can tell what the other guys are feeling. So how do you fell a hostile intent, if it makes the guy your reading very happy to shoot at you.
That would be some really good satire.
"Captain they are very happy to see us, and would like to make contact."

"That's very good counselor, lower the shields and open a hailing frequency."

"Captain"

"Yes, Mr. Worf"

"Your reliance on 'feelings' is going to destroy the the ship in...5...4...3..."

I'll think of more later.

ScottDS said...

I always liked the idea of saucer separation (they even flirted with this idea for the first Trek film) but they only used it three times in the entire series and one of those times, it was as a diversion against the Borg!

Over the years, I've read tons of other silly things (not all of them specific to Trek), including:

-Is it smart to have glass coffee tables on a ship that regularly goes into battle?
-After a battle scene, there might be a scene in someone's quarters but there are no loose objects out of place (the ship was rocking yet there will still be a vase perfectly centered on a table)
-The artificial gravity never went offline
-Only our star system is called the Solar System (after Sol, the sun)... other systems should be referred to as the XYZ System and not the XYZ Solar System
-Computers and consoles that easily explode in a shower of sparks and smoke
-You never see the saucer through the conference room windows (obviously they couldn't afford this)
-Every world they encountered had one civilization on one continent run by one prime minister
-Whenever one character would talk to another via video, the "camera" always knew when to pan, tilt, and zoom
-Ever notice the turbolifts only have one set of doors when they should have two? (like today's elevators)

DUQ said...

I agree with both of you. Good call. There are a million other things, but these are some of the worst.

darski said...

The replicator system... totally cool idea until they mention that it relies on the sewage processing system.

I'll be back later...

Tennessee Jed said...

In theory, I could buy into children on board, if one recognizes this as a "far outpost of civilization, seek out new worlds" kind of a mission rather than primarily a military one. On another level, it helps screenwriters by giving them extra potential for stories involving families or just children.

tryanmax said...

I realize that Data was a one-of-a-kind (I know, not quite) built by an eccentric genius (and that budgets are limited). But really? They have a sophisticated artificial life form at the ship's helm and absolutely no vestiges of any other robotics anywhere? No service droids? No bending units? Not even a Roomba? I'm not buying it.

darski said...

@ Tryanmax... they did deal with bots that had achieved sentience in "Quality of Life". the implication was that robotics/AI was continuing.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, An excellent list. I thought the saucer separation was pretty stupid, personally. It doesn't make any sense that in the middle of a crisis, you would take the time to split your ship in half... losing have your power.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Speaking of glass, how about the idea of using forcefields instead of windows? Uh, the power goes out and everyone dies. Not very smart.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, You don't like the idea of recycled poop?

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks DUQ!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I just think it's insane that they would put kids on a ship which is going to be patrolling the Romulan and Klingon borders.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Good point, especially about the bending units! A society like that would be crawling with robots to do the dirty work no one else wanted to do. In fact, I suspect there would be many more robots than people. But no.

ellenB said...

I think everything listed above was pretty silly. I particularly agree about Councelor Troi. They never really fleshed out what her powers are. And if they are as great as her mother makes them seem, why wouldn't every captain have a real telepath on board?

AndrewPrice said...

darski, But that was a messed-up one-off again. They really are missing the robots who would do the cleaning, the repair work on the outside of the ship, hauling away the garbage, physical labor on lawns or assembling, etc.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, Yeah, they really didn't develop that well. Here powers kind of grew or shrank as needed in the plot. And you're right, if they had real telepaths who could tell you exactly what the other guy is thinking, why wouldn't every single star ship have one?

K said...

The obvious straightforward character reversals from the original.

The decisive virile military commander replaced by the metrosexual commander who needs staff meetings to make decisions.

The character attempting to come to terms with his emotions while attempting to maintain his normative logical nature replaced by the logical machine striving to develop emotions.

This is linear conceptualization and is either lazy or boring. It supports the notion that the change in the character of the two shows was driven more by a political agenda rather than good story telling.

AndrewPrice said...

K, Good point. It's like the just inverted the original show whether it made sense to do that or not. It also does show a good deal of contempt for the original show.

Anonymous said...

Hands down, the universal translator. The language of every alien species is "translated" into perfect English, including slang and idioms. Only Enterprise took language differences somewhat seriously, but TNG did have a good language episode where one species spoke entirely in metaphors.

Star Wars handled language differences much better by having protocol droids "fluent in over 6 million forms of communication" and more than one lingua franca ("basic" and Huttesse).

(Though how in the world did Han Solo ever understood Chewie's grunts and growls and howls?)

-- Big Mo

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I agree. At least in TOS the translator was awkward and sounded like a computer translation. But in TNG, it got everything perfectly when we can't even do the same on our own planet -- and most of our languages have similar roots.

I did like that episode about the metaphors, except that the whole thing made no sense if you really stopped to think about it. Kind of a chicken and egg problem, i.e. what language did they have before they created the metaphors? And obviously, things like "when the walls fell" mean that they have some other language ability beyond just metaphors. Still, it was well written and I enjoyed that one.

Anonymous said...

Close second for me is the techno-babble. To get or keep a star ship moving, TNG engineers rerouted pathways and re-programed nodules and tapped data pads while uttering techno-nonsense.

Scotty, of course, could bypass an energizer like a Christmas tree; and to jump-start the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo used a Fonzie punch.

-- Big Mo

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, "a Fonzie punch" -- LOL! Nice! :)

The techno-babble does get kind of funny onc you realize they are using patterns to create it all.

AndrewPrice said...

Mo, Plus, it drives me nuts how much they achieve by just "reversing the polarity." Yeah, sure.

ScottDS said...

Re: the universal translator, it never seemed to work for units of measurement or profanity. Wouldn't the Klingons' use of "kelicam" convert to "kilometer"? Same with "petaQ".

And with respect to K, I've heard Picard called many things but "metrosexual"? (And seriously, can we drop that term from the vernacular? I ranted about this on BH years ago - it seems to be a catch-all term for anything one finds offensive.) :-)

As with all the politically objectionable stuff, the buck stopped with Roddenberry.

PikeBishop said...

Back in '86 when I first heard "They were going to have families on board" a great part of my Trek loving soul just died. That plus lukewarm reviews of the first couple episodes and the sheer mediocrity of the ones I did see (it was during a writers strike remember.....) meant I didn't waste much time with "Liberals in Space."

That being said,

1. The counsellor on board. I at first thought she was going to be a diplomat "consellor" but then I heard she was a "tell me about your toilet training" and "was your Mother an attractive woman" kind of counsellor.....Lame

2. Families, Families, Families....and related to that....Will Wheaton.

3. the seperating ship, even for this non-engineer was ludicrous. So in a hostile environment we will leave our women and children even more unprotected! Great plan there.

4. The metrosexual, call a commitee meeting of the senior staff during a battle captain. Note: I am currently going through the first season episodes of TOS and there were several times Kirk did solicit the advice of the senior staff on several occasions (Balance of Terror, Space Seed), but they were never like Picard's.

5. BUT I did kind of like the idea of splitting Kirk's persona into two seperate characters for Next Generation. It was kind of ludicrious that Kirk beamed into possible danger on every unknown planet, so letting Riker romance the women and get into fist fights while Picard remained the brains was kind of a plus.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Good luck with ending the use of "metrosexual." It's not like we even invented the word. The word was invented by metro's themselves to show how they were better than us uncouth mouth-breathers in fly-over country. They tagged themselves.

That said, I don't see Picard as a metrosexual either. I see him as a wuss.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I had the same experience. When I heard they were going to have families on board, I knew right away this was not going to be genuine Star Trek and a little piece of my enthusiasm for the show died right there.

Good list. You are right that TOS did have a conference room and they used it a couple times. But they typically only did it when there was no immediate danger, when they needed to be around the computer, and when they needed different department heads together at the same time. Picard did it during every emergency. Plus, when Kirk and them got back to the bridge, most of the bridge crew was still there running the ship. Team Picard, on the other hand, leaves the bridge completely devoid of human life.

Some alien should have beamed over and taken over the ship. All they'd need to do would be block the door and the ship would be theirs.

PikeBishop said...

Andrew: Another thing that just caught me about TOS, espcially in the first season was its sense of realism. On more than one occasion a female yeoman was moving in the shot, serving coffee, just like you would imagine on the bridge of a sea-going vessel, during an exceptionally long and grueling shift near the wheelhouse. Uhura sipped hers and put it up on a shelf near her station, and Sulu kep his in reach. Once a yeoman even served sandwiches on the bridge. That bridge looked "lived in" as opposed to Picard's abandoned for a staff meeting one.

ScottDS said...

Andrew - To be fair, every time I think of the term "metrosexual," this guy pops into my head. Meet Chad... and his hair helmet :-)

I'm also trying to think of more answers to the question but we seem to have much of it covered already!

Here's one: whose bright idea was to invite an android, a man with a visual prosthesis, and an empath to a poker game?!?!

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, That's true. The TOS Enterprise had a very lived-in feel. It seemed like a ship which people used. The sets were Spartan, but they very much fit with the image of a naval vessel.

TNG Enterprise looked like a cruise ship. And what's worse is that unlike TOS they tried to delve into the characters, but they never really bothered to give a sense that these people actually lived on the ship. Everything is clean and perfect and things like food only appeared when it involved a plot point.

Heck, in Kirk's world you even saw them use towels on several occasions and even toss them into a hamper if I remember correctly. Did that ever happen on TNG? Not that I recall.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, When I think of metrosexual, I think of the pretty-boy actors of the current generation.

That is a pretty silly poker game if you think about it. I guess they're on the honor system?

ScottDS said...

Andrew, not to go completely off-topic but when it comes to the pretty-boy actors, I wonder how much of it is them versus how much of it is the movies that are being made and the stories that are being written.

I'm not saying the kid from Twilight could play Rambo but if scripts like that were still being written, could these actors rise to the challenge?

Or are those movies not being made because those actors couldn't do it? It's almost a chicken-and-the-egg thing. (I know, we've kinda talked about this before.) :-)

mycrofth4 said...

Hands down, the goofiest idea on ST-TNG was always letting the aliens shoot first.
Just once, I would like to see the standard TNG encounter with an unknown starship where Picard gives his standard diplomatic greeting, Worf warns that they are charging weapons, Picard tells him to raise shields and then they wait for the aliens to take the first shot...
... which blows the Enterprise into billions of bits of space dust!
The closest they ever came was when they first ran into the Borg.

obiwan2009 said...

Well Andrew, you really stole the words from me regarding how TNG didn't seem military at all, even though the crew were part of a sci-fi naval force.

The second part I had the irritation with was the Federation governing structure in the TOS films, and TNG where supposedly they were beyond the use of money in the Federation. I was like what? If people don't own private property, and they don't use a representation of material and/or labor value, then it's no wonder that the Federation is in a deep #$%^ for so many of the movies, it's like the producers are trying to exemplify the fall of communist systems with the Federation!

At least the other galactic governments have the brains to use money in the form of "latinum".

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Most of the pretty boys can't handle the roles. That is why guys like Bruce Willis and Liam Neeson keep finding work in those roles.

AndrewPrice said...

Mycrofth, Yep, very reckless. It really relies on the assumption that anyone they meet will be an inferior species, because otherwise they would get blown apart. And don't forget, this is the same captain who lost the Stargazer pulling that garbage. I guess he learned nothing?

AndrewPrice said...

obiwan, That's a huge joke to me. They claim there is no money, but then society hasn't changed a bit? How does that work? Who is doing all the garbage jobs? How do they keep managing to buy antiques? The whole thing is just a political line inserted without a moment's thought.

Commander Max said...

The no money thing is definitely a stupid idea. It displays a complete lack of understanding of human nature. That's why we have money because none of us place the same value on the same thing.
Of course they are beyond religion as well.

But for some reason they still have rank(what, people still have ambition, and want some reward), and tradition. The non-interference rule is treated like a belief(but they are not supposed to believe in things anymore).

They have a device like the transporter, but they didn't use it to fullest potential(I'm going to put that subject up on my blog one of these days).

Shield harmonics? Clearly a literary cop-out, for some reason it's a huge weakness. An enemy could keep shooting at you and eventually find the frequency, or worse there are frequencies that are less effective than others. So why doesn't some engineer spot the weakness, and program the shields to change frequency continuously, in it's most effective bands? For some reason somebody has to do it manually.

The warp core, for some reason somebody farts and you suddenly have a warp core breach. One would assume the primary power for the ship would much less prone to failure. Especially since it's producing levels of power well beyond the earth's sun.
Lets put that unreliable reactor on our flagship, after all we are not getting paid for it. As long as the ship doesn't leave the spacedock everything will be fine, and be sure to take the Mexican food option out of the replicators.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, All solid points. The whole no-money thing is just a laugher. How exactly do they exchange things that can't be replicated? Like land or antiques? Is Picard's brother just giving away his wine? Is it first come first serve or do they run a lottery? And why do they keep rank? Why should anyone respect rank in a world where there is no need to respect rank? Where do they get these people who want to be servants and low-level flunkies?

And you're absolutely right about the replicators. Here they have this device that could do virtually anything the way they describe it and they use it to make coffee or fake booze. Yeah, right.

Anthony said...

The holodeck. Every third episode the holodeck 'overrode its safety protocols' and either trapped people in a virtual world or turned some virtual character into a real life villian.

The only reason the holodeck kept running is not because it made sense for the characters but because it made things easier for TNG's lazy writers.

PikeBishop said...

The holodeck was a copout in another way as well for the writers, it gave them a chance to play dress up but in ways that did not have anything to do with their actual mission.

Say what you want about the gangster episode or the Nazi episode of TOS, but they were actual planets and actual societies that had to be dealt with. Other than the safety protocol mishap (yawn), the holodeck episodes were just flights of fancy that were in now way grounded to the set of reality.

Also, perhaps we are being a bit hard on the writers here. As has been pointed out here and cross referenced on BH, Roddenberry, by the 80s had swallowed his own Kool aid, and actually beleived that humanity would be perfected: everyone would have enough to eat, no racism or sexism, we don't use money anymore, and we don't even mourn the dead anymore! My God, how do you write good drama with absolutely no human conflict?

AndrewPrice said...

The holodeck was a real cop-out for the writers. Here they are in a spaceship which can go anywhere and do anything and yet they need to invent a fantasy generator to help them come up with plots? Give me a break.

Commander Max said...

So if somebody brought up all of these points to the creators of STNG. All they would say, "We didn't of that, it's just a tv show".

rlaWTX said...

When I watched TNG, I was still in HS and didn't think about improbabilities, so I missed a lot of this - except when my dad was in a mood and would start in on whatever he saw, which didn't happen often. But in retrospect - excellent points!
I especially think that sending your senior staff on every odd little away mission was nutty. On one of those guys not wearing "red shirts" could have been killed - then where would the Enterprise be? But that kinda goes for TOS too - gotta keep your stars in the picture...

I can understand the kids on board - since it was kind of a dual mission ship - except that they never seemed to be totally out of reach of Earth... [if they were truly far, far way, then by simple human nature they'd end up with kids on board somewhere...]

[BTW I think Jason Statham is "pretty" and he kicks butt too - just sayin' :) ]

ScottDS said...

Andrew, et al -

I believe the creator of Babylon 5 once complained about the idea of a holodeck. After all, you're in space and are able to experience the vast wonders of the cosmos, yet you need virtual reality for entertainment?

Having said that, while it may have been used one too many times as a plot device (and I'm the first to defend the good holodeck episodes), any space-faring vessel with families on board would no doubt have a plethora of recreational devices and activities.

Mike Zimmerman said...

I don't mind the idea of the holodeck, but I very often find myself saying, "Oh, shoot, another holodeck episode." I don't like when it's the center of attention -- and I really dislike the 1920s private eye (what's his name?) episodes, just on general principle.

But if we're looking for general little nits to pick (and it's seems we are!), I often wondered why the away teams don't have visual communication with the Enterprise. What? Really!? They're always having to describe what's happening, which seems so silly. Is there a reason for this from a plot/writing standpoint? It just seems odd that by the late 80s/early 90s they hadn't envisioned that they would all have tiny cameras built into their communicators, or something like that.

There was one episode in particular, where Geordi tied his visor into the communication somehow, in an *experimental* fashion, and Capt. Picard just went nuts marveling over how amazing it was that he was seeing these distorted electronic "images" (as Geordi sees them) transmitted live from the planet's surface. It was like he never dreamed he'd live to see such a thing.

So, every ship-to-ship communication, even with vessels manned by alien species they've never encountered before, involves beautiful visual communication -- not to mention being able to *electronically transport living beings* to and from the planet's surface at the drop of a hat -- but seeing live, distorted video transmitted from the planet's surface constitutes some sort of scientific breakthrough? HUH!!??

AndrewPrice said...

Max, That would be my guess. In fact, I've heard that a lot -- "it's just a tv show". Yeah, but why is that an excuse?

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I used to do that all the time, just poke fun at the show scene by scene as I watched. I didn't want to... but I couldn't help myself. :(

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I can see where a holodeck would be very recreational, though I suspect the two biggest programs would be boss-killing and sex programs.

But that doesn't mean the show should have used it. They literally had infinite possibilities being on a spaceship, yet they still felt that wasn't enough? Huh?

Now, I did enjoy a couple of the holodeck episodes, but it still struck me that this was uncreative writers.

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, Dickson Hill... that's the guy.

You know, that's a great point about the lack of visual communication. Aliens had that. The modern US Army uses that to a degree. You would think it would be very easy to send back pictures along with voices through the communicators.

Kit said...

Wesley.

Just Wesley.

Kit said...

"Scott, I can see where a holodeck would be very recreational, though I suspect the two biggest programs would be boss-killing and sex programs."

Pretty much.

You know, I think they even touched on that problem.

Kit said...

We should have a "Questionable Who" involving Doctor Who though I wonder if there are enough Doctor Who nuts here to answer.

Kit said...

"Max, That would be my guess. In fact, I've heard that a lot -- "it's just a tv show". Yeah, but why is that an excuse?"

Ah, the good ole MST3K Mantra.
LINK

I think the only time its ever really worked was . . . on MST3K!

Kit said...

"TNG Enterprise looked like a cruise ship. And what's worse is that unlike TOS they tried to delve into the characters, but they never really bothered to give a sense that these people actually lived on the ship. Everything is clean and perfect and things like food only appeared when it involved a plot point."

Another reason to like FIREFLY. The Serenity felt VERY lived-in.

Kaylee's lights, the couch in the "living room", everything seemed to have a personal touch.

Kit said...

This isn't "boss killing" holodeck fantasy, more in the area of "annoying-character killing", but its close . . .
VOY LINK

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Of all people, I think Spielberg got it right in Minority Report when Cruise takes the pre-cog to the virtual reality place so he can tap into her vision. When he gets there, people are using the virtual reality rooms to kill their employers or for all kinds of sex stuff. That's human nature.

The Serenity definitely looked live in and that gave it a lot of credibility.

AndrewPrice said...

On Doctor Who, sadly, I suspect it would just be you and me.

obiwan2009 said...

Mike, the holodeck private eye was where Patrick Stewart assumed the role of Dixon Hill, a fictional comic book character based off movie serial character Dick Tracy. I didn't like how often the holodeck things happened, but I do believe in one episode they had to deal with someone who admittedly was addicted to adventures in the holodeck.

obiwan2009 said...

Andrew and Max, at least according to earlier Star Trek episodes, the replicator sounded like a decent idea, you simply rearrange molecules into something that fitted your desire, the elements were the number one requirement. However, the replicator, like the holodeck, became a redundant, and I feel overused feature, in the sense that they waved it in your face every few episodes to hope you would gasp in awe at it. After a while I felt, well, shut up about it already, I know exactly what it does!

As for the holodeck, I would add in addition to the sex and boss-killing, simply engaging in simulated combat would be the third big addiction with such technology. Being as young as I am, and remembering seeing people play some Call of Duty or Halo game through apartment windows on their big screens on the way home from study, there's no doubt it my mind that people could hog a holodeck playing some futuristic first person shooter of killing Klingons or Romulans just to show that they are battle ready...

AndrewPrice said...

obiwan, They would definitely be playing violent videogames. I think what you would get with a holodeck would be exactly the kinds of games people play now, which are a reflection of our worst natures. But they cleaned that up in TNG and pretended that people would be watching Shakespearean plays and dining at French cafes. I guess there would be some of that, but I think the videogames and sex would be the most common.

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