Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 19

Life is full of accidents, and Star Trek is no different. And sometimes, accidents mean everybody else steps up in rank! :) Let’s suppose that Kirk and/or Picard met with such an untimely terminal incident.

Question: "Who would have made the better replacement: Spock, Riker, Data or McCoy?"

Andrew's Answer: Interestingly, we’ve seen three of these four in action at one point already, with the odd man out being McCoy, who should NEVER be given command of anything. Spock and Data both had trouble relating to their crews and found themselves assaulted. Riker had trouble making big decisions. Riker would probably be a fun commander, the guy you want to work for, but I think he would get you killed eventually. Between Data and Spock, I think the easy choice is Spock because while he is logical and tends to play the odds, he also grasps the need for intuition and the occasional desperate move. Data doesn’t. So I would choose Spock.

Scott's Answer: I suppose I will have to go with Riker. He usually came across as a natural leader, knew when to talk, knew when to fight, and inspired loyalty among the crew. On the other hand, I might be a little biased because the writers regularly hinted at Riker getting a command of his own one day, possibly as early as the first season. It's clear this was always on their mind, in case Patrick Stewart decided to leave the show. As far as getting people killed, every Starfleet officer seemed to have that problem! Having said that, if the choice were between Spock and Data, I agree with Andrew: Spock is the logical answer.

Thoughts? Anyone you think would be better?


LGD said...

We saw Riker get his Captain's shirt more than once. After The Best of Both Worlds he shouldn't have been able to slide back down in rank. Picard should have been followed recuperating longer and promoted to Admiral at the end of that plot arc.

Riker meanwhile should have kept the Enterprise. He was even given the perfect foil of a First Officer in Lt. Commander Shelby. What a great respect-hate-admiration plot arc the producers of the era could have followed if they'd only had the brains to split the show in two at that point.

shawn said...

Doctors have enough of a god complex as it is, but also being a starship captain? Recipe for disaster.

Spock and Data- too logical, can't really think outside the box.

That leaves Riker who has demonstrated that he knows when to say "Fire".

Tennessee Jed said...

I kind of remember a show devoted to this topic, where Kirk attempts to show Spock and McCoy how they each must rely on the other. Still, Spock would get the nod if it came right down to it. Doesn't Riker become a captain at some point?

darski said...

In the incident where Data was given command of a ship in Redemption II he did act 'intuitively' by figuring out how to use Commander Sela's trick against her. He defied his given orders and acted independently.

In "Ensigns of Command" Data worked up through a series of solutions and finally found the perfect 'reason' for leaving. (And who says violence is never the answer :D ) I'm a big fan of Brent Spiner's Data so I just wanted to provide his credentials.

I really don't like Beverly Crusher but she (and Troi) did take the training for Command and did have command during "Descent"... but she isn't the reason I won't ever watch that episode again.

tryanmax said...

I have to also go with Riker because he has the same gung-ho spirit as Kirk. I also believe that he would adapt his leadership style to the position. As first officer, he can afford to take some brash positions because he's basically spitballing for the captain. But in instances where he is shown in command, he is more temperate. (Of course, with Picard as a counterpoint, it's sometimes hard to gauge.)

I also feel like I should throw some love Bones' way. Captain of a starship, never, but I think he would be first-rate in charge of a medical vessel or station. If there were ever a medical ST spin-off, it would have to follow Bones; he's the only StarFleet doctor I can imagine resorting to manual techniques.

If I can also pick someone not on the pre-approved list, I think working on Captain Sulu's ship would be fabulous!

Anonymous said...

darski -

I just watched "The Ensigns of Command" for the first time in years and I had forgotten how cheesy the villain was (I use the term "villain" loosely). The actor was actually unhappy with his performance and was dubbed by another actor. But there's no nuance, no subtext... just "This is our home! Go back to your ship, android!" Really?!

Data seems like he'd make a great captain but, as much as I'm a fan of the actor/character, it seems to take him just a little longer to arrive at the same conclusion that a human would. We're not bound by the same programming he is so we're more apt to improvise or take a leap of faith, at least sooner than Data would. :-)

Anonymous said...


Sometimes I wonder what TNG would be like if it were on the air today, where season-long plot arcs are more common. I believe the creators were actually concerned that Patrick Stewart would not return to the show which is why they were grooming Riker to take his place, along with Shelby.

Having said that, you can read about the adventures of Captain Riker in the Titan series of novels. :-)

Anonymous said...

shawn -

I agree with you about Spock and Data. As I mentioned to darski, they can improvise but it might take them longer, as they try to exhaust all logical possibilities first.

Anonymous said...

Jed -

Riker is finally promoted in the last Trek movie, Star Trek: Nemesis, which I frequently complain about on this site! He becomes captain of the Titan though his sendoff is rather short and perfunctory. He takes Troi with him and their adventures are currently written about in novel form.

AndrewPrice said...

LGD, I actually commented to Scott when we did this question that I thought Riker deserved his own show. And that would have been the perfect point, because you're right -- after that episode, there is no way they would have pushed Riker back into the number two spot. Able Captains are just too rare to make him a second in command again.

Koshcat said...

A doctor would be disqualified due to a "god complex"? Please. One can hardly fit into a room with a captain due to his big head. But a big ego (along with excellent training and good sense) is probably necessary. What makes the original Trek so good is Spock and McCoy are like little angels on Kirks shoulders. Each giving him advice from different points of view. It is up to Kirk to decide where between these opposing views is the best course. Once decided, he needs to make everyone believe it, thus the big ego. Besides, why be a god when you can be the god's physician? The only person who can tell Zeus he needs to cut back on the alcohol and loose women without being transported out into space.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, That's pretty good reasoning. I would never want to serve under a Vulcan or under Data for that very reason -- they have no ability to think outside the box or to anticipate how emotional creatures will act.

That said, I still think Spock could do it because his logic is heavily tempered by his human half and he does understand how to get outside the box.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That would be "The Tholian Web" where Kirk disappears on the Defiant and Spock is left in command and soon he and McCoy are at each other's throats. That was a good episode.

Spock also had another similar "command" episode in "The Galileo Seven" where he is trapped with some others on an asteroid and they are being hunted by these big cavemen things. That's the one where he struggles with the emotional needs of the crew.

Good stuff!

Koshcat said...

As for the best to take over, I would pick Spock or even Scotty. Both excelled when given temporary command.

We are constantly told how great Riker is but then he is never given command. As a matter of fact, he keeps turning them down. When my friends and I would get together and watch TNG, we always thought that this was a mistake by the creators of the show. We thought that a better approach would be to have confusion among the staff on why Riker wasn't being offered command since he was so awesome. They could have had an episode explaining why. Perhaps he made a decision that led to the death of an Admiral's daughter, or knocked her up and left, and he has kept the grudge. I agree that by making Picard an admiral, they could have opened up a whole new story arc. With the Enterprise being the flag ship of the Federation, he could have even been still on board.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, I would rule out Troi in a heartbeat. She was horrible. I can't imagine Crusher would be any better -- kind of like McCoy only more nitpicky.

Data did do well in that episode... sort of. He was able to come up with a trick to defeat the Romulans, but he did nothing to inspire his crew and he almost suffered a mutiny. I think Data is a guy who could do the job of dealing with threats for the most part, but his ship would fall apart from lack of faith by the crew.

I think he's better suited as a second in command.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Is that a gay joke? LOL!

That is something I do like a lot about McCoy, he's perfectly happy to resort to old fashioned medicine. He's not a guy who will throw his hands up if the power goes out.

You know the reason I can't see him in charge of a medical ship? It doesn't fit his personality. He seems to genuinely like being "a simple country doctor" (as he puts it) and I don't think he'd want to command anyone.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott and darski, I like Data a lot, he's a great character. But I don't think he could be a captain for the same very reason Scott points out -- it takes him too long to understand some basic things. He can ultimately work out strategies and he does usually come to understand people given time, but he has no ability to judge people in real time and he rarely knows how to respond to them.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It would have been interesting to see them do a Star Trek today to see how they handle the idea of long story arcs, which seem to have become necessary.

In terms of Riker getting promoted, I always felt that would have been a good spin off. Or frankly, even taking Frakes and making a him a captain of a ship in some other sci-fi series would have been good. I think this was a wasted opportunity.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, LOL! I've heard that before about doctors having a god-complex, but I've NEVER seen that in real life. Almost every doctor I know is very meek. It's lawyers who think they're God!

In terms of Spock and McCoy, I think that's exactly what made the original show so solid. You have Kirk as the guy who needed to make the decisions and Spock and McCoy were pushing him in different directions and it really made the whole decision making process very dramatic.

Koshcat said...

Ok, I'm on a little rant today so please forgive me.

The biggest mistake the Star Trek franchise made was having Spock die in The Wrath of Kahn. Don't get me wrong, the movie is very good and watching him die was heartbreaking. But the writers didn't seem to have a clear and cohesive plan to bring him back. Can you imagine a movie with the original crew without Spock? They knew they had to bring him back so they developed this deus ex machine with the Genesis project leading to the horrible Search for Spock. Yes, they set up the 3rd movie with multiple clues in the second so why was it so bad? I think it was bad because the whole premise is crappy. Maybe that should be a question one week: How to fix the death of Spock problem?

I think there could have been several possibilities. Perhaps he does totally die (he's mostly dead) and they need to get him back to Vulcan for healing. Sort of like the third movie but without the crap. Another possibility would be to have Spock be experimenting with an advanced computer where he is storing his memories, perhaps incorporating some of his own brain cells with the help of McCoy. Then after death they can discover this computer and develop a hologram. He would be stuck on the ship, but still present as an advisor.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I think that making Picard and Admiral and Riker the captain would have been an excellent move. I think the reason they didn't was that they wanted to keep Stewart as the star, but I do think it would have helped -- or spun Riker off to another series.

That said, the way they wrote him, I can see why no one would want to promote him. The couple times Riker took charge, in my opinion, he lacked the ability to make hard choices without first spending our agonizing over them. That's something both Kirk and Picard could do in a split second. Riker had to go whine about it and meet with Troi or Whoopie Goldberg first.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, Star Trek III is one of my least favorite films precisely because the whole thing seems to have been written around the idea of filling time until they could bring Spock back. And the way they do it is rather silly.

I don't mind them killing Spock in Wrath because it gave us one of our greatest cinematic moments, but I think they completely mishandled how to bring him back.

They might even have been better off just pretending that was the end and moving the next film backwards in time. Or that might work too, saving Spock in a time-travel story.

Koshcat said...

Andrew, I'm going to gently disagree with you on Riker. I agree with what you are saying and I can easily chalk that up to inexperience. If you remember, he had been offered several Captain-ships on smaller vessels. Riker kept turning them down with the reasoning that he was getting more experience and training staying aboard the Enterprise under Picard. This makes him look like a wimp. No career officer would ever turn down a promotion. You get to the captains chair on the Enterprise after proving yourself on other ships over time. In the Best of Both Worlds, this is even brought up. Essentially they are breaking one of your rules of story writing which is developing characters who make unrealistic choices.

Koshcat said...

Filler is a great description because it does bridge between the 2nd and the 4th. The 4th movie is a little goofy, but fun. Kirk looked a little fat. I guess that Klingon food is very rich. Gak is probably a very high calorie meal and about to be banned in NYC.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I don't disagree with that. They definitely pointed that out, that he had refused to take the Captain's chair several times and that was upsetting Star Fleet. It also does make him look like a wimp.

And I totally agree that this made him look like he was making unrealistic choices. It doesn't make a lot of sense that he would be driven enough to become the first officer of the fleet's flagship, but then suddenly decide he didn't want to be captain because he liked his current job. It was an awkward moment in the series in my opinion.

AndrewPrice said...

Gak banned in NYC! LOL!

The 3rd film absolutely feels like filler to me, like they didn't really have a story, but they knew they had to bring Spock back, so they just built a story around "go find his body, bring him back for more movies."

Anonymous said...

Andrew, et al -

Nicholas Meyer purposely stayed away from Star Trek III because he had no interest in bringing Spock back, nor did he believe in reincarnation. I believe producer Harve Bennett has said that, when writing the film, he started at the end ("Spock returns") and worked backwards. It's pretty obvious when watching the film but there are still plenty of fun moments in it. :-)

rlaWTX said...

Riker would be ok. In fact, I think he'd have been a more interesting choice than Picard's liberal guilt version. Riker seemed like he had the potential to be more Kirk-like. McCoy would have been a disaster - can you imagine his over-emotional, stuck on the details style as captain!?! I love McCoy as Kirk's foil and as entertaining sidekick, but not in command. Spock would be pretty OK. There would be less drama than with Kirk, but he's eventually get to a similar place - most of the time. But like Data, I think it would take longer to get to the "logical" conclusion because there are emotional considerations to be considered in every inter-personal exchange (even if it's from bridge to bridge with photon torpedoes ready to fire).

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It feels like that, like he started at the end and moved backwards. There is no story here, just a series of events which lead to the conclusion.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I agree, I think Riker had the potential to be a more Kirk-like Captain and I think it could have made the show more interesting. He's more of the swashbuckler and he's more hotheaded. He also seems more willing to get violent.

And it's interesting that everyone seems to agree that both Spock and Data would take too long to make decisions. I think that's right, but it's still interesting.

Anonymous said...

From the original list, I go with Riker. Not just because his whole career had "command track" written all over it, but also because he learned from Picard -- and also another captain he briefly served under in a season 2 episode. Riker's stint as the first officer on a Klingon ship in "A Matter of Honor" was one of the high points of the early years.

(Especially the scene where he notices two Klingon females eying him. His friend says "They are inquisitive. They want to know how you would endure." "Endure what?" Riker asks. "Them," the officer says. Riker's comeback is classic: "One or both?")


I rank Major Kira highly, because she assumed command more than once when Sisko was absent and proved more than up to the challenge.

LaForge could probably do well, too.

-- Big Mo

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, That was a great comeback. I enjoyed that episode a lot.

I liked Kira a lot, but she was definitely a loose cannon. Sisco would have been a great choice (though he's already been promoted).

I think LaForge could do it, but he would need to get his confidence up.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I'll go with Scotty.
It would've been fun to see Capt. Scotty working with Spock as Science Officer. Someone would hafta make sure Scotty doesn't hit the bottle at an inopportune time, however.

Sulu would have also been interesting, I think.

But, yeah, given the choices you gave I would hafta go with Spock.
Spock would certainly be asking himself what Kirk would do and that would make him a better Captain.
Perhaps he would develop his intuition and gut instinct as a result.

Since we're on the subject, I think Tripp would've been a better Captain in Enterprise.

In STTNG I would go with Worf.

shawn said...

Koshcat & Andrew- I may be mistaken, but didn't they kill Spock because at the time Nimoy said he was tired of the role?

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I'll concede Riker had potential. I just don't think he would ever had been written Kirk-like by TNG writers, at least not consistantly.

I never liked LaForge that much. He often seemed like the kid in school that tattled on everyone for everything and brown-nosed a lot.

Plus he was a cad to Scotty. Unforgivable.
OK, I know he was written that way. Given better writers, perhaps he would've been a more nteresting character.
In my ever humble opinion. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, That is correct. I don't think they planned to bring him back. But once he agreed, I personally think they could have found much better ways to go about it.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Interesting choices! Scotty would have been good at it, though you'd have to tie him to the seat since he'd always want to run to the engine room.

Worf would be an interesting choice. Talk about a lot of carnage!

I like Tripp, but never got into the show enough to say for sure.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, On Riker, I don't think they would have written anyone like Kirk in the TNG world. That just wasn't something they wanted to do.

I HATE that episode where he meets Scotty! The whole thing is bizarrely uncomfortable like they really struggled to find a way to make everyone sympathetic, but they all came across as pathetic. Grrr.

I did like Laforge, but he wasn't command material. He had no confidence.

Commander Max said...

Riker definitely, he looked like the guy that got stuff done.
The show was written my libs, they turned everything upside down. If it was reality the D would have destroyed very early on.

Riker would have moved on to another ship. Most likely took some of the D crew with him(like Worf). But since we got the lib point of view, they made a real bore of a show.

I just thought of something, remember in Galaxy Quest. The first time Taggert meet the villian, he gave him both barrels. I think it was a commentary on NG.

Mycroft said...

Good comments, but I think Data is being sold short. He was the worst victim of inconsistent writing.
In fact, one of my gripes is how easily Data was able to takeover the ship in several episodes (Descent) and capable of fast action (First Contact) but then would be incredibly slow-witted when the plot required it.
The reason I think Data could be a great captain is how he matured during the episode "The Most Toys". A collector kidnaps Data since he must have the rarest objects in the galaxy. After an unsuccessful escape attempt, the collector kills Data's accomplice and attempts to blackmail him by promising that he will never stop hurting or killing people until Data agrees to become his property. Data exceeds his programming (Asimov's 3 laws) and decides to kill the collector.
Of course, Data is beamed out before he can kill the man and worse, there was never an attempt to followup on the experience throughout the remainder of the series or the movies.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, LOL! That could have been a commentary on TNG! :)

I think you're right that the show was written by liberals who were trying to make an anti-authority/anti-military point, so they tried to make this into a family rather than a realistic command. And they did very much write the show like that. None of these people are acting like they are part of a military organization.

AndrewPrice said...

Mycroft, That is very true! Data got beaten and abused by the writers. One week he had certain traits, the next week he had the opposite. Whatever the plot needed. And too often, they tried to stretch him into some statement on humanity which didn't make much sense and left him looking incompetent in the real world.

"The Most Toys" was an excellent episode actually and you make a very good point. That episode showed that Data could indeed become more human. Maybe he could do it?

rlaWTX said...

Did they really use Asimov's 3 Laws with Data? If so, they must have also used the "Zeroth Law"
(Robots and Empire) in order for him to be a part of the Federation military-type service...

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, They never mentioned the three laws and I doubt Data is programmed according to those. He seems perfectly capable of violating each whenever he decides it's in his best interests.

Mycroft said...

It's been awhile since I've watched any ST-TNG, but I seem to remember Data telling Wesley in the pilot episode (Farpoint) that he is unable to harm a human being or allow one to be harmed. I don't remember any mention of the 3rd law (obeying humans), but that seems like a pretty strong nod to Asimov. I believe they also mentioned Data having a positronic brain.

AndrewPrice said...

Mycroft, I think he did mention that, but they've never really followed up on any programming he follows.

LGD said...

I just read over the thread, now that there is one. My thanks to the two who mentioned the Riker-as-Captain novels. I will look into obtaining them. Some of the later comments went below First Officer rank in suggesting good Trek Captains. Had I been so bold, I would naturally have mentioned Sulu as a fine choice [I would have greatly preferred a show with him over ST Enterprise]. And to his name I would add that I think Chekov would also have made a good Captain eventually. And probably did [will?].

AndrewPrice said...

LGD, I liked Chekov best when he played Bester on Babylon 5. :)

Kit said...

Spock, Riker, Data, McCoy, no idea. But I do know you should never let Deanna Troi drive. ;)

Kit said...

This was a show that prided itself on being forward-thinking, modern, and all that liberal stuff but when they finally put a woman at the helm, the damn thing crashes into a planet.

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