Thursday, March 08, 2007

What Some Nerd Thinks About Star Trek


I don’t know much about Star Trek, which is to say, I know plenty compared to some, and too much compared to many, but I’m posting on a site that has freakin’ pictures of Baltar laughing at Kevin Smith, so it’s not too much to assume that I may be out of my depth here, when writing about Star Trek.

But that’s okay, because I haven’t come here to tell you about Star Trek—I would never presume such a thing. I have come here to ask about Star Trek, and perhaps, in that, to be enlightened.

To begin, my last post was about the future, and how frustrated I was by the idea that I still have to work for a living. I mean, by this date in our popular speculative fiction, I should at most have to fly my suitcase car across town to oversee a single button for a few hours a day while the Jane XJ9 cleans the house.

In Star Trek, no one outside of Starfleet has to do even that much. There is no money, we are told, aside from pressed latinum, which I think we can all agree was introduced to give the Ferengi something to go all Dr. Smith over. Also to allow humans to look down on the Ferengi, as we’ve risen above such petty greed, thank you very much.

But seriously, what do non-Starfleet persons do in the Star Trek future? And not ONE WORD about how Picard’s brother runs a winery- I know he runs a winery, and that’s what one stuffy guy does with his free time, and doesn’t answer my question. After all, any nerd worth the dreaded Rear Admirals he suffered on the playground knows that the Judge Dredd comics predicted that 90% unemployment would mean incalculable crime rates. And no room for a winery, I’m sorry—it’s Mega-City 1, 2, Texas, the Sov Block or Cursed Earth, and that’s it. The worst part about this is there’s no answer to the question, canonical, fanonical, or otherwise. It’s as if everyone on Earth is enlisted in Starfleet, and well, while that’s one possible future, it’s a bit grimmer than Star Trek is usually taken to be.

I’m tempted to say that the ‘no one has anything to do but everyone gets along’ ideal is the biggest conceit of Star Trek—I mean, even Futurama didn’t go so far as to have ‘optional employment,’ and they had robots who run on booze and are far more fun to be around than any of you (except for that one who stabs people) – but I think the biggest problem with Star Trek is The Next Generation in toto. Because not only does the series fail to examine the lives of those not in Starfleet, it glosses over the lives anyone not serving aboard the Enterprise, and those guys are probably having way more exciting adventures than the Enterprise is. Allow me to explain:

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Enterprise is the best ship in the fleet, with the most powerful shipboard computer. Captain Picard, who is so renowned that he has a combat maneuver named after him, leads it. His first in command, Commander Riker, has been offered his own command many times so he’s at least as good as most of the other Starfleet captains. The Enterprise also has the only android in Starfleet, who is incredibly smart, strong, durable and loyal. The have the only Klingon in Starfleet- an officer who can defeat the dreaded Borg with a knife. They have a (hot) betazoid who can read minds. They have Geordie LeForge, whose visor makes him one of the most effective and efficient engineers in Starfleet. And before he turns into a space whale, they have Wesley Crusher, a boy genius so genius he saves the ship about 90 times when even these overachievers can’t manage it. Then he turns into a space whale. But I digress.

My point is, the crew of the Enterprise are so kick ass that they actually make trouble for themselves, as omnipotent space assholes such as Q pick on them almost exclusively. But Q aside, the entire series is based upon the notion that this ship—the best ship, the ship with the best captain and the most exceptional crew—can’t do a damn thing without encountering near-insurmountable obstacles, many of which would, if not overcome, have far-reaching effects and may even threaten the fabric of space and time itself. Yet episode after episode the Enterprise only just manages to squeak by. Seriously, the crew of the Enterprise only just saves all of humanity almost as often as Gilligan and the other castaways only just fail to get off the island.

So think about it—all the other ships in Starfleet are inferior to the Enterprise in every way, so they must have an even worse time of it. Those ships must be forever limping back into spaceport, hulls damaged from numerous collisions with other Starfleet vessels manned by crews as incompetent as themselves, having started a dozen wars with two dozen alien species, leaving countless sectors of space empty of life as they failed to stop a star from going nova, or from turning the borg back, and coming home only to find earth has been overrun by reptile-men because these inept crews couldn't figure out how to travel back in time and stop Harlan Ellison’s Star Trek the Motion Picture script from being made.

I think much of my bitterness about Star Trek comes from my frustration at my script for ‘Star Trek: The Previous Generation’ being overlooked in favor of ‘Enterprise.’ MY look at pre-Kirk Trek was awesome and would have easily run long enough to make it to syndication.

It’s a simple formula- take everything in the original Trek and back it off one generation. So: The tricorder becomes the dicorder. It weighs 40 pounds and runs of 80 D batteries. Women in Starfleet dress like the Solid Gold dancers. Phasers are pump-shotguns; stun setting is rocksalt rounds. The captain would be just like Kirk only worse- his mission is actually to find strange new women and nail them. The prime directive would be just the same as it has been in naval forces for hundred of years: ‘Wear a rubber.’

I tell you, it would have been awesome.

--G

14 comments:

bbteditors said...

Very astute observations and cunning wit as usual, Gregory.

You're fired.

Gregory Adams said...

I'm sorry, I should have provided more substantial information that every ship other than The Enterprise is helmed by re re's.

Here you are:

http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Alan_Ruck

--G

Anonymous said...

Ah yes... The old Memory Alpha/Alan Ruck trick used to discredit Star Trek yet again.
Stranger still, when surfing Memory Alpha, I ran across this:

http://www.petitiononline.com/MWWaH/petition.html

I mean, what kind of lunatics would try and pull that off?

Pete said...

Right.

Where's the tear gas. Obviously, this commentary thread is being conducted by anarchists.

It's okay, little Captain Kirk plushie. These mean men don't mean it. They're just...*sniffle* MEAN.

Benjamin Sisko's dad, by the way, ran a Cajun restuarant on Earth, in New Orleans. Although the point can be made that, since no money is exchanged, he must just be doing it for the joy of cooking.

(Which, being Cajun myself, makes perfect sense to me.)

Pete said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pete said...

[nerd]

By the way, Harlan Ellison wasn't really involved with what we got as Star Trek The Motion Picture, he was involved in the story process of "Star Trek II" a movie which we never saw except in books.

Harlan was more conceptual work than anything.

[/nerd]

Gregory Adams said...

Re: Ellison: Yes, I know! I was digging deep from what I remembered from King's 'Danse Macabre' where King related an anecdote about a meeting Ellison had with the producers when the Trek movie was first conceived.

I knew not one in a thousand nerds would get that joke. You, sir, are The One.

--G

Pete said...

*pushes glasses up nose*

*looks at pictures of girls*

*checks pocket protector.*

Jonathan (Lance) said...

I have to admit - as an avid (rabid) Star Trek fan, I have wondered what the hell it is that Terrans do with their damn time! The suspension of disbelief is set up from the very beginning though - people are able to pursue whatever their hearts desire without the encumbrance of poverty, war, etc. I harken it to "Atlas Shrugged" idealism - everyone barters and trades their goods for services...

Some food for thought.

Gregory Adams said...

Here's the thing about non-star fleet jobs: the examples we see are guys who run things-- a winery, a restaurant. Are there waiters? Who does the dishes? Do folks work in the vineyard warehouse, moving the barrels just for the peace of mind a day's labor brings?

Jonathan (Lance) said...

Gene's idea was that everyone shared in the collective satisfaction of something well produced. I would think its hard to show what life would be like with manual labor jobs in a society where life is ideal, especially in our current society. That's the struggle that Ron Moore had to face when writing for Star Trek and why Battlestar Galactica is so damn good. He gets to delve into the things that we contend with in our lives and Star Trek limited that ability - to make a good character drama.

Lucien said...

Jonathon (Lance),

Don't get me started on BG. It's the best thing on television in years, ut it's a bit of a sore spot. You see, one of my editors (Pete) still hasn't seem it, and Gregory (the author of this post) is, I fear, going to write a scathing criticism of it in his next blog.
And then I will have to fire him again.

Jonathan (Lance) said...

You may be surprised to know that Greg shares my appreciation for BG. The only show that surpasses it (from a SF bent) is the short-lived "Firefly." Wait... I think I hear Greg crying in the background... Fox did a disservice in poorly marketing, broadcasting out of sequence and having a terrible contract agreement. But I digress. This is about Star Trek! And I am very leery of Abrahms and Co. being given a green light on yet ANOTHER incarnation of the ST legacy. Hasn't Paramount learned it's lesson?

Komodosp said...

It's quite simple. They have robots to do their manual labour, and replicators to make anything they want, so there are no jobs to be done except exploring the universe!

So what do they do with their spare time? They watch Babylon 5, of course!