Perspective and Optimism

Earlier today I decided to dig into the movie collection and watch something that I haven't seen in years, The Search for Spock. This movie was not one that a lot of people found as exciting as Wrath of Khan or as funny as The Voyage Home1, but is one that falls right in the middle of my favourite time period in Star Trek lore. As I was prepping the download, I looked at the artwork and remarked at how young everyone looked. Considering the movie hit theatres in 1984, this ought to be expected, but the crew of the Enterprise, NCC-17012 have always been much older than me. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were both 53 when this movie hit theatres. Deforest Kelley was 64. I'm not that much younger now than they were back then.

McCoy, Kirk, and Spock on the Set of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

The endless march of time means that we will all one day, hopefully, meet or exceed the age of our heroes at certain points in their careers. It's an odd feeling … as though the potential I thought I had in my youth never fully materialised due to laziness or naïveté3. At the same time I'm optimistic that there is still time to accomplish some more good, leaving the world a slightly more interesting place than it was when I arrived. Star Trek III was in theatres 35 years ago and people around the world can still enjoy it today. What things will I create that can stand the same test of time?


  1. Yes, yes … "the one with the whales". Thankfully it was given a proper title.

  2. "No bloody A, B, C, or D" … but I really, really liked the Constitution Class Refit. To this day, the "Enterprise-A" remains my favourite of all the fictional vessels to carry that name.

  3. Knowing me, it's a combination of the two; an optimistic procrastinator.

18,767

Randolph recently wrote a post about being a writer as a direct response to yesterday's post where I outlined my desire to write essays in order to be better able to discuss and think through complex problems. My lack of confidence in being able to adequately articulate my thoughts were cast aside as absurd and the constant juggling of priorities to make time for writing was identified as a common problem. Randolph strikes me as a person who spends a great deal of time in their head, just as I do, which means that making time to write cuts not only into thinking time, but into the myriad of tasks and responsibilities we've taken on. In an effort to encourage my self-improvement attempts, they suggested using Drafts for iOS and macOS as a jotting tool where ideas could be quickly noted and saved.

They go on to say:

I have an app on my phone (Drafts for iOS, which has a macOS version as well), in which I write a little bit about a certain topic on a regular basis. Each thought is in its own document, with some context. You always want to add context because you’ll forget what you were thinking otherwise. […] Eventually there will be enough content to write an essay, complete with references.

Very true. By writing a little bit on a topic and saving it in a file, ideally tagging it with keywords to better support search later on, it becomes feasible to amass a large collection of ideas surrounding a topic or group of topics. This is something I've been doing since discovering Evernote in 2009, and continue to do with Byword on iOS and Typora on Ubuntu Linux. In fact, this has been going on long enough that I've amassed 18,767 partially-written blog posts, many of which are written or edited on the same day and subsequently abandoned for a "simpler" topic. Not a day goes by where I don't discard two or three blog posts, often right near the end of the writing process, simply because they don't "feel" right.

It's annoying.

Random Blog Posts

Randolph is 100% correct, though. In order to become a better writer — or better at any skill — a person must continually grind through the process with the understanding that most of what they produce will not be up to their own expectations. We are our own worst critic, after all. I've been writing software for a quarter century and still learn new things on a near-daily basis. I've been cooking meals for even longer and am often surprised to learn a new way to prepare eggs or something seemingly just as basic. Cognitive writing is something that I've been doing longest of all, at 34 years … yet I still see the words in front of me as a semi-coherent rambling.

My first memories of "serious writing" were in September of 1985, when I was just six years old. I was in the first grade and my teacher, Mrs. Stamphler, assigned us the task of writing a diary about our summer holidays. I had just spent six months in a foster home while my parents went through a divorce and my father worked desperate hours to pay down the bills and gain custody of a sister and myself. I was still adjusting to all of the changes that had occurred in such a short period of time and decided to write about that. My foster family's name was Nevan, so I would often refer to them as "The Nevans". They were incredibly religious and we would often attend church during the week. Occasionally I would spend time with my sister in the Sunday School class but, more often than not, I would be up in the pews with all of the adults, listening to the minister deliver his sermon. The topics were always way more complicated than I could follow, but I do remember what he said about the trials of Noah, the trials of Job, and how Judas may have betrayed Christ, but he was not as evil as modern teachings would have us believe. I was six years old and writing about this stuff — poorly — in an effort to make sense of the changes I had witnessed, and I remember a lot of the details to this day probably because I wrote them down.

The diaries and journals never stopped. I would write them year after year, much like I do this blog. Occasionally there would be gaps where I would not write, often because of boredom or a feeling that I had nothing to say. As I entered puberty there was the embarrassment of recording semi-coherent thoughts that basically translated into "my parents aren't fair" or a popular Skeelo song. Regardless of the absence, though, I would feel the need to grab a pen, sit down, and write. Just as I do now, decades later, as evidenced by the almost 19,000 incomplete blog posts sitting idle and awaiting bit rot on my computers.

The reasoning is simple: writing helps us think.

For most of my life people have praised what they perceive as my intelligence, but I've never bought into it. I've taken IQ tests and received triple-digit scores, but this isn't really a sign of being "smart". IQ tests measure a person's ability to solve problems … or so I perceive. "Smart" people make dumb decisions all the time, and "stupid" people have often been some of the most honest, down-to-earth humans I have ever met. Solving problems is a crucial skill that everybody needs, but there's more to the human experience than overcoming challenges. Writing is generally where I get to explore this other side; where I get to examine multiple aspects of the same situation in order to come to a better understanding of the whole.

This isn't always the case, as evidenced by many of the posts on this blog. Most people in the world will never visit the places I've written about, and fewer still will ever get to meet my dog, yet these are things that I record on this site in order to preserve the memories and etch them more concretely into the mind. These personal posts are important to me, but they're not quite what I'm hoping to accomplish with my writing. Not by a long shot. Hence yesterday's posts on essays.

I said this in a social post earlier today, but I'll repeat it here:

When I look in the mirror I see a nameless Pakled who wishes so much to be a Jean Luc Picard.

The Star Trek references are important, not only because the stories shaped a lot of who I am and how I see the universe, but because it very succinctly encapsulates where I feel I am intellectually from where I want to be. The Pakled were portrayed as a cognitively stunted species that (somehow) existed with a very surface understanding of everything around them. They were not particularly good engineers, explorers, manufacturers, warriors, or … anything. In the TV series they were shown as being incapable of higher-level reason. In the books they were a little more methodical, but no more than a six year old trying to scam extra cookies from their parents. Jean Luc Picard, however, is the ideal.

Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the flagship of the United Federation of Planets. Well read. Well travelled. Well educated. Eloquent and respectable. Jean Luc Picard was the ultimate role model for the teenage version of me. To this day, this fictional character is someone I look at with awe and respect. He could go into any situation, see past the chaos, and bring about order in a just fashion. He made mistakes. He learned from those mistakes. He grew as a person. What's not to respect about this?

When I look at my writings, be they unfinished essays or published personal posts, I see the gulf that separates where I am from where I want to be. The ideas are scattershot. The paragraphs don't flow. The sentences run on or contain imprecise grammar. The words — adjectives in particular — are clumsy and unsophisticated.

To be a better writer, I need to find mentors or, barring that, educators to emulate until my own style matures enough to convey ideas coherently. I need to seek out criticism, then learn from the actionable critiques that can lead to better, more specific writing. More than this, though, to become better, I must think better. This requires more learning, more reading, more listening, and more discussion. The first three I can do on my own thanks to the power of the Internet. The fourth I can also do online, but only if I publish ideas to be discussed.

Randolph says I'm a writer. 18,767 incomplete posts suggests otherwise.

What Is a Fan?

Language is an interesting thing. No two people will use a single language the same way, and words can carry a very different meaning depending on our personal experiences with the nouns and verbs that make up the bulk of oft-disputed terms1. All this aside, what makes a language effective or not for communication is how aligned two (or more) people's definitions of words might be. If one person points to an object and calls it a dog while others insist it's actually a fox who is more correct? Like so many things in life, majority rule usually wins almost any argument regardless of how correct that majority may be2. My question today comes down to the actual definition of the word "fan" which, only a few decades ago, meant "fanatic" or a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for a specific subject. It's the excessive and single-minded zeal bit that's most important here.

In my youth I was a fan of a great many things. Hockey and baseball were two subjects I could discuss for hours on end, poring over the finer details of an athlete's career as though the skilled professional had been hand-picked by me to play on a given team. I could talk about space vehicles for hours on end as though I had been present from the design phase right up until their launch and/or destruction. I could list off the nations of the world in alphabetical order (or reverse alphabetical order) organised by continent on a whim. All of these things I could do because I was a fan of these subjects. While I still enjoy many of these same subjects today, I cannot participate in the finer discussions that require a deep knowledge on a subject, real or imagined. I can watch sports and get excited in the heat of the moment, watch a rocket launch and explain the general physics behind the event, and list off maybe 90% of the countries of the world — but in a random order — because while I am simply a person who enjoys and appreciates these things. My fanatical passion has waned with time (and exposure), and I've allocated my time to different passions.

Some things that I am still a fan of, though, include computing history and Star Trek. At any point over the last few decades, I have been able to explain in excruciating detail some tiny, seemingly innocuous detail about either of these subjects that would make people roll their eyes in exasperation. Neither of these subjects are particularly valuable from an economic standpoint, but they both resonate very strongly with me. So when somebody says they are a fan of computing history I might expect them to recognise the name Ada Lovelace and maybe even Niklaus Wirth. If these names are a bit obscure, then I might just stick to the hardware that brought us from the mostly analog 1950s into the digital era. Star Trek is a bit different, though, as I tend to ask quite a bit more from people who want to consider themselves a fan of this ultimately fictional universe.

It's silly, I know. But hear me out.

If I were to say I was a fan of the NFL, people would ask me what my favourite team was. I could probably tell you a team name, but no more than one or two athletes on that team. I couldn't tell you how well they are playing this year, or how well they did last year. In fact, I couldn't tell you much beyond the basic details that are absorbed within 5 minutes of stepping foot into a pub. I'd be called out as "not a fan of the NFL", and whoever said so would be right. This doesn't mean I can't enjoy watching a game with people, though. I'm just "a person who enjoys sports and/or the camaraderie that is associated with sports" rather than a "fan".

If I were to say that I was a fan of the Nobel Prize, but couldn't tell you who had won any prizes beyond Obama and "that girl from Afghanistan", people would doubt that I was actually a fan of the Nobel Prize. If I couldn't tell you the five original categories and the sixth tacked on category, then it would solidify any doubt a person might have that I might appreciate the ideology behind the Nobel Prizes, but wasn't actually a fan.

If I were to say that I was a fan of classical music with an emphasis on works produced between the 17th and 19th centuries but couldn't tell you a single symphony written by Beethoven except for "Flight of the Bumblebee"3, which was actually written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, then people would think me daft at best or an utter liar otherwise.

So with all this in mind, if someone were to say to me they were a fan of Star Trek but had forgotten the name of Chief O'Brien's daughter4, or who voiced the federation computers in almost every episode of every show5, or the fictional species of a main character on a specific series they claimed to enjoy the most6, I'd call their fandom into question. Maybe they enjoy watching Star Trek. Maybe they even like some of the shows. Are they a fan? No7.

Should these people like other aspects of the shows, like the design of the ships, then they are a fan of ship design. This is completely fine. But they're not a fan of Star Trek.

Should these people like the interplay between characters, such as Quark and Odo, but they couldn't tell you that Quark was the Ferengi owner of a bar on a Cardassian-built space station near a fictional planet named Bajor, then they may be a fan of personality clashes, but they're not a fan of Star Trek.

Words mean things and "fan", for better or for worse, is best described with the Oxford definition as "a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for a specific subject".


  1. I've yet to hear people get into visceral debates online with regard to whether an address is on Main Street or in Main Street, though people will defend their particular regional preferences.
  2. This leaves aside the whole "language is always evolving, so if a majority use a word or phrase to mean X, it must mean X" argument that sort of defeats the purpose of actually learning a proper language in the first place.
  3. You'd be surprised how many people I've met who think this was actually written by Beethoven. Maybe because the first three letters of his name start with "bee"? I have no idea why.
  4. Most will probably have forgotten this silly detail by now.
  5. This would be a much less likely thing to forget, seeing as how it was the show creator's wife.
  6. Klingons look nothing like Vulcans.
  7. I can tell you all sorts of details about Star Wars, but I'm not a fan. I can tell you a great deal of information about Canadian history, too … but I'm not a fan.

Time for Another Trek

On May 13th, 2005 the last new episode of Star Trek aired on TV. Almost a decade has passed, and the fans — particularly this one — are ready for another story. The desire for some new Star Trek was rekindled last July when I learned about Axanar, a project that has seen wild success on KickStarter to create a fan-made show based on the story of Garth of Izar and his battle against the Klingons at Axanar. The 20-minute prelude to the story sends shivers down my spine every time I watch it because it’s just so good … I’d like to see more.

USS Ares

One of the biggest problems that any new Trek is going to face will be the era its set in. Which era would be most conducive to story telling without falling into the trap of being to beholden to other shows? The 24th Century, where The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager were set, is one of the more fleshed out eras primarily due to the sheer volume of lore that surrounds the 30-year period that we were introduced to. There are still a number of stories that could be told in this time period, but would people like to watch another show that involves giant space battles? Well … probably. But that’s not what Star Trek is about. That’s not what Star Fleet is about.

Going with an early era, like we saw in Enterprise, introduces other issues. Immediately after Enterprise comes the Romulan War, after which is the creation of the United Federation of Planets, where Earth becomes the new superpower to replace Vulcan. Is this a time period that people would be interested in seeing? Perhaps … but I doubt one could get 5 seasons out of a show in this time period.

The 23rd century had a lot of progressive ideas for the 1960s, but a lot of what we see in The Original Series is simply incompatible with today. Any attempt to use a Constitution Class vessel with loud colours today would be laughed off the Internet.

The 25th centuries and beyond seem to involve a great deal of time manipulation … and those stories are often the worst-written. Any show that is not specifically about time travel should not use it as a plot device.

J.J. Abrams’ “alternate universe” is not an option. Period.

So what about the early 24th century?

The first half of the 24th century is when the Enterprise B and C are in use, and it’s at this point that the Federation is expanding into new areas. The Romulans are making occasional moves, and the Cardassians are expanding1. While there is certainly a great deal of strife throughout the known galaxy, there is still a lot unknown — particularly in the Beta Quadrant. A ship going out to truly explore strange new worlds rather than visit the same areas of space that we’ve come to know would be a welcome change of pace. There would still be the occasional skirmish, but any vessel sent out in that direction — ideally an Excelsior Class starship — would have plenty of new civilisations and obscure phenomena to encounter. Story arcs might still be part of the show, but it could be episodic like many of the TOS and TNG episodes.

USS Kittyhawk

Having watched all of the TV shows and movies, and having read the vast majority of Trek books, I feel that the 25th century story line has painted itself in a corner. There are a number of stories that can be told, but they can be told in books. The era between The Original Series and The Next Generation, though, has a lot to offer. Yes, the viewer will know generally how things turn out, but this is Star Trek. Some random bit of luck always saves the ranking officers on the ship. With a new series, we can introduce another young generation to the wonders that await us in the future while commenting on the mistakes of the present in a way that builds on the past.

Heck, if CBS does make another series, I’ll even watch the commercials to keep it alive.

Perspective

Over the last few months I’ve been revisiting a lot of Star Trek in a bid to enjoy those rare “quiet moments” with something I once loved dearly. The Next Generation was in full swing when I was in high school and I would do whatever was necessary to watch every episode as they aired. As I watch the shows that I first witnessed half a lifetime ago, I’m struck by the stark differences in the meanings behind the stories. Where I once saw action and adventure, I now see human dramas and questions of right an wrong. Where I used to roll my eyes and comment about how I didn’t really like the show, I now see the episode as incredibly deep and meaningful. With time comes wisdom and, while I am most certainly not wise, enough time and life experience has transpired to offer a new perspective on the stories I looked forward to each and every week.

Inner Light - Jean Luc Picard Playing a Kataan Flute

In the Next Generation Episode, The Inner Light, Captain Picard is rendered unconscious for 25 minutes while a solid half-lifetime transpires from his point of view. This was the result of a space probe from an extinct species coming into contact with his mind and imprinting life experiences into his memory. From the initial confusion of being in another life to the start of a family to the end of the Kataan home world, the valiant captain of the Enterprise eventually becomes the last remaining survivor from a long-deceased civilisation.

The full length of time is never mentioned, but one can estimate that Picard spends approximately 40 years among the people of Kataan. He learns of their customs. He learns of their day-to-day existence. He learns of their hopes, dreams, fears, successes, and failures. He falls in love, has a family, watches them grow. He also experiences the sorrow of loss when his wife passes away, and as the world continues to produce less food as the soil dies.

Then he wakes up on the bridge of the Enterprise …

The Passage of Time

One aspect of Star Trek that has long left me grasping for answers involves the mental state of the people who crew the mighty starships that traverse the galaxy. Absolutely mind-bending things can happen to someone but, rather than take time off to recuperate, they are required to shrug off whatever may have occurred as though it never happened. We see this with characters that are temporarily granted God-like powers, or tortured, or subjected to awful circumstances, or almost killed. There is never any time to mentally process what has just happened in their lives.

We do see this after Jean Luc Picard is rescued from the Borg and returned to his human form. He takes time away from Starfleet to visit the family orchards where he and his brother, Robert, come to terms with their own histories, which helps the younger captain to regain his foothold and return to the Enterprise to lead the dauntless crew again.

This doesn’t seem to take place after Inner Light, though, as Picard is given no time to decompress and mentally return to the 23rd century after literally living another life for several decades. While we can safely assume that the captain filed a complete report for Starfleet, there would undoubtedly be large gaps in the formal statements. Anthropologists would be clamouring to get access to this person who, for all intents and purposes, is the last member of a long-dead world. There would be so many questions … so many avenues to explore. As a hobbyist archaeologist, one would think Picard would be first in line to learn as much as possible about the Kataan, including spending a good deal of time in their star system to see if there were any more artefacts of this deceased civilisation to collect and preserve — but I’m digressing …

Sometimes You’ve Got To Make Do

Initially Picard tried to discover where he was in the universe, where his ship was, and why he had been brought. After five years of fruitless searching, he had come to the realisation that we would likely never leave the world and he would need to set down some roots if he were to have any semblance of a life. Looking at all of the options he had available, this was the one that made the most sense. Many of us would have undoubtedly done the same but on a much faster timeline. Many of us do this in our real lives all the time … choosing the path of least resistance while holding on to our convictions for as long as possible. Sometimes, regardless of how hard we try, we have to sit back and make do with what’s available.

Picard did make the decision to live in the present rather than cling to the past, but it took a long time. He never did give up looking for his starship, but he didn’t let it consume him, either. He had a long-term goal that was malleable enough to bend, twist, or temporarily stop.

Watching this episode reminded me of the decisions that I have made over the last few years as I try to reach my goals with the resources at hand, no matter how plentiful or scarce they may be. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. This is true for everybody. What I need to do is make sure that these goals are also malleable enough to fit the current circumstances as much as possible. Life tends to throw obstacles in our path, and these hurdles can take years to overcome.

Sometimes we must make due with what’s available, but this doesn’t mean we should give up on our goals.

Ridiculous Romulans

In my youth I would not so much read Star Trek books as consume them. Between the ages of eight and twenty-six I managed to read every book that was published, some of them five or six times. Unfortunately, my reading habits changed drastically after moving to Japan. In Canada I would read two or three books per week. In Japan it’s been two or three books per year. I’ve missed reading books and, as a result, have made the conscious decision to get back into reading them … starting right where I left off with Star Trek: Enterprise.

Enterprise - Romulan War

The last book I read was The Good That Men Do which is part of the prelude to the Romulan War as told by Michael A. Marten and Andy Mangels. The Romulans have long been my favourite antagonist in Star Trek, but feel they’ve been hindered by poor writing and sub-optimal plots. Here we have a species that broke away from Vulcan a thousand years before King Arthur was born on Earth to evolve and become the predatory and expansionist species we know from the science fiction books. One would think that with four books focusing on this reclusive adversary, a wonderful tapestry of well-written, carefully laid out plans would play out before our eyes … right?

Sadly I was wrong.

The authors of these four books fall into many of the same traps that other Star Trek authors have in the past. Repetitive plot lines. Stupid levels of luck. Villains who can wipe out billions of people but hesitate to pull the trigger on a main character despite numerous situations that should never have happened in the first place. To make matters worse, there are instances in these books where entire arcs are written and consume hundreds of pages only for the story to shift its focus midway and never again touch the arcs, which leaves us to wonder what happened to the characters that were being written about so carefully.

Was the Columbia lost with all hands?

Did Travis’ parents actually land on the planet that is later featured in A Piece of the Action, or did they actually get shot into a sun?

What of all the young troops who had entire chapters devoted to them where we were forced to sit through incredibly tedious stories of young MACO troops who may or may not have passed away at the hands of the Romulans?

How about all the irrational decisions that Star Fleet made for no bloody reason?

Worse was the seeming stupidity of the Romulans. A species with faster-than-light travel for thousands of years had only 100 or so warbirds? Really? I don’t believe that for a minute. Admiral Valdore, a decorated strategist, didn’t have the insight to see when he was being played as a fool not once, not twice, but eleventy-hundred times by people all around him? A dissident group is able to consistently evade the mighty Tal Shiar for years on end and pick up their seemingly immortal leader regardless of where he might be floating in space?

Nobody notices Tucker’s mouth doesn’t move to match his words?

Every disposable idiot had to be named Styles? I know people didn’t like Styles in The Original Series, but c’mon …

There were so many inconsistent and illogical events that transpired across these four books that I had to, at times, wonder if Trek books were mainly aimed at teenagers with a verbose lexicon unmatched among their peers. Commonplace dictions and turns of phrase would be used for an epoch before some indiscriminate locution would be plucked from a thesaurus for the hell of it, often in ways that seemed forced and ultimately made no sense.

Billions died. Billions. Entire worlds were literally destroyed. The Romulans built the ultimate hacking tool to take over the command and control operations of enemy vessels … but they stopped using it before the declaration of war was even made, resorting to Taliban tactics like cowards rather than the proud warriors they are.

How … unfortunate.

Looking at the books strictly for entertainment value, they did live up to their purpose. I was able to sit back and read these four books over a period of weeks1 and get some fulfilment in my quest for new Trek. I just wish the Romulans had proven to be a more worthy adversary.

With these books out of the way, I’ll be moving on to the last two Enterprise books before picking up some post-Nemesis TNG. Hopefully I’ll be able to read some books by David R. George III, J.M. Dillard, and Keith R.A. DeCandido to clear my mind and delve deep into a well written, well executed story.

Axanar - A New Story

The last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise was aired on May 13th, 2005 and I’ve been hungry for some new Trek ever since. There is just something about this one particular story that strikes a chord with me. Nothing else has come even close. It wasn’t just the powerful starships that bent time and space around them to move through the endless vacuum between worlds. It wasn’t just the incredible battles that took place. It wasn’t just the characters or the incredibly cheesy solutions to every complex problem. What I loved about Star Trek more than anything was the premise of something better. A hackneyed hope and optimism that no matter what the universe throws at a collection of people, regardless of their gender, species, political affiliations, or personal beliefs, good would win the day and a much larger group of people would enjoy the peace and freedom that rests at the core of the United Federation of Planets. Nine long years have passed, but an incredible story is about to be told.

Axanar - USS Ares

A new story taking place between Enterprise and the events of The Original Series is in the midst of being created, shedding light on a little-known part of early Star Trek history: The Four Years War between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Titled Star Trek: Axanar, we will have the opportunity to see one of Captain Kirk’s heroes in action: Garth of Izar.

What I find particularly interesting about this particular project is the “Prelude” component, which will have characters from the story talking about the battles in the lead up to the events of Izar. Like a History Channel documentary, people in full costume will be talking about the first few years of the Four Years war as though it were a real event in time, laying out in a very personable — very real — way the reasoning behind the decisions. What went well? What went badly? What could have been done better? All of these questions will be tackled and peppered with footage showing the battles as one would expect from a space opera.

The 20-minute Prelude show will be shown for the first time a week from today, and I hope it’s made available online soon thereafter. There are few things in this world I love more than a well told story … and Star Trek has a lot of really good stories that have yet to be fully explored.

Re-examining Star Trek VI

Yesterday I put on my favourite Star Trek movie and watched it with a critical eye for the first time in many, many years. Undiscovered Country, the sixth and final original Trek movie, focuses on the events that transpire after the destruction of the Klingon moon, Praxis. What I liked most about this movie in the past is how adult the whole movie seemed. There were very few silly moments in the production, and we get to see people solve problems without resorting to exotic uses of technology. Everything that happened in this movie is not only consistent within the confines of the Pre-J.J. Trek universe, but believable. That said, watching this movie yesterday, I found a few issues that worry me more today than they did when the movie was first released in the 1990s.

Star Trek VI - Opening Credits

Problem One: The Abrasiveness

The crew of the Enterprise were dispatched to escort the Chancellor of the Klingon Empire from the Neutral Zone to Earth where peace talks would take place. For something this important, why was there no ambassador on the Enterprise to meet and greet the guests of the Federation? They left from Earth to meet the delegation, so it’s not as though there were no skilled diplomats available to ensure everything started off smooth and remained that way.

Also, the senior staff on the Enterprise have overseen hundreds of diplomatic affairs in their glorious history. They couldn’t put on a show and try to appear amicable towards their guests?

Problem Two: Chekov’s After-Party Shift

The man went from a 4.5-hour dinner with Klingons involving Romulan Ale to sitting on the bridge? Why was he drinking alcohol if he had to work the night shift immediately after? This was not because the bridge needed a command officer, as both Spock and Valeris were on deck, so he should have had the evening off or avoided the alcohol.

Problem Three: Kirk and McCoy Beam Over to Chronos One

Chronos One is Hit

After recovering from the pair of torpedo hits, the Klingons swing around and prepare to open fire on the Enterprise. One would expect their shields were also raised at this time. After signalling their surrender, Kirk and McCoy beam over to the Klingon vessel. How? Did the Enterprise call ahead to say “Our commanding and medical officers are beaming over”? Did the Klingons actually agree to let more humans onto their ship?

Problem Four: There Were No Other Ships in Orbit of Khitomer?

What are the odds a militaristic species would host a diplomatic function within the boundaries of their territory where the senior representatives from three of the most powerful spacefaring organisations in attendance without having a boatload of military in the skies to ensure there wasn’t another assassination attempt on any of the galactic leaders? When the Enterprise dropped out of warp just 15 seconds away from the planet, there wasn’t a single warship in orbit to be found. Instead there was just the Enterprise and the prototype Klingon Bird of Prey in the area to duke it out. A few minutes later, the Excelsior joins the battle. Three ships, two of which were Federation vessels, deep in Klingon space … and there wasn’t a squadron of Klingon ships hunting down these intruders?

I find this about as realistic as an undefended Earth less than a year after the Dominion War came to an end …

The Real Problem

These four things are just little niggles, though. What really surprised me was something I never really thought about before yesterday: the illegal mental violation of Lt. Valeris by Captain Spock.

Spock Melds with Valeris

Forcing a person into a mind meld is illegal on Vulcan as it is elsewhere in the Federation. People are not permitted to violate another person’s thoughts under any circumstance. This becomes a little muddier when the Betazoids are introduced a little later but, up to this point in time, a person is entitled to their mental privacy. However, in this case, Spock wilfully breaks the law to extract the information they need in what can only be described as a form of torture.

The President of the Federation is not above the law yet, apparently, the senior officers of the Enterprise are?

Undiscovered Country will continue to be one of my favourite Star Trek movies, but as I go back and review a lot of the movies with a perspective that has evolved over the years, I wonder how many horrible things the various characters in Star Trek will have done to ultimately achieve their goals … and how many of these horrible things I once considered acceptable.

Review: Star Trek - Into Darkness

In May of 2013 I boldly remarked that I would not watch the latest addition to the Star Trek franchise, comparing J.J. Abrams’ re-write of the original series with New Coke. Last night I broke with the statement and rented Into Darkness for 400円 to see whether there was anything worth looking forward to with the inevitable third, fourth, fifth, and sixth movies that are due to come out under the banner of an alternate universe. Long story short: Star Trek is now a Hollywood title and should come with the same expectations one would expect from anything made in Hollywood.

People all over the Internet have professed their love or hate for the New Trek and, rather than add to the noise, I thought I’d look at a different angle of this movie. As with any action flick from America’s movie machine, a lot of people lose their lives in this story. The first people to lose their lives are members of Section 31 in London, and the last people to lose their lives are civilians on the ground in San Francisco. Along the way we see Starfleet officers get blown into space, Klingon warriors decimated by weapons better suited to distance fighting than a Bat’leth1. The question I have is how necessary it was for approximately 100,000 people to lose their lives in the 48-hours that transpire between Khan’s first act in London to the over-the-top destruction of Starfleet Headquarters when a heavily damaged Dreadnaught-class vessel falls out of the sky to wipe out the downtown core of San Francisco.

Was This Necessary

The London and Subsequent Starfleet HQ Attacks

Khan, working for Admiral Marcus, develops a grudge for the warmongering dolt and decides to declare war on Starfleet by … helping Marcus instigate a war with the Klingons?

Blowing up the Section 31 offices in London I can understand. The people who lost their lives were the unfortunate casualties of the personal war between Khan and Marcus. Several hours later, at an emergency meeting at Starfleet HQ, Khan makes an appearance in an armed vehicle and unloads several thousand rounds of ammunition into the Nomura Room killing a number of senior officers, including Captain Christopher Pike. This is also understandable, if a little excessive for a man who is angry at Marcus more than Starfleet itself.

After Khan’s ship is disabled, he activates a portable transwarp beaming device2 and goes to Ketha Province on Qo’nos, a region of the Klingon home world that is said to be uninhabited.

Why? For a man who can literally go anywhere in the known galaxy in the blink of an eye, why travel to a world that is already hostile to humans where his presence would only exacerbate tensions between Earth and Qo’nos? Why help Admiral Marcus advance his trigger-happy scheme to instigate a war between these two worlds? Why not go to Risa and relax? How about New Vulcan where he can be surrounded by intellectually evolved people? Heck, the Romulan home world would have been better than Qo’nos.

But I digress.

The Decimation of the Klingons

Klingons Defending Their Home World 

When the Enterprise is dispatched to Qo’nos with orders to kill Khan, Kirk has a change of heart and decides to follow the principles we all strive to uphold. Rather than murder Khan from afar with 72 torpedoes and instigate a battle that would leave both the Human and Klingon militaries weakened for decades, he opts to arrest the treasonous fugitive and return him to Earth to stand trial for his crimes. The Enterprise loses warp capability 20-minutes from their destination, but they’re able to confirm that their prey is in the location they expected him to be in. Their scanners are that good. That said, they couldn’t identify a pack of sentinels that were patrolling the area, perhaps trying to locate the single human life form on the planet. The Klingons at this point do not have cloaking technology, so how did those ships magically shield themselves from detection?

Plot hole aside, when the valiant crew of the Enterprise try to communicate with the Klingons and fail to impress them, a heavily-armed Khan steps in to start laying waste to the warriors who have spent every day of their lives since before adolescence training for battle. Dozens of people were killed, ships were destroyed, flames of hatred stoked. For what purpose?

The Dreadnaught Opens Fire on the Enterprise

Soon after Khan is in custody aboard the Enterprise the U.S.S. Vengeance, a Dreadnaught Class star ship, makes an appearance. Chekov reports that the Enterprise is barely warp-capable again, and Kirk runs from the warship back to Earth. A few short minutes later, the bigger ship catches up and opens fire on the defenceless Enterprise, cutting holes into it where people are then seen being lost to the depths of space as they’re blown from the ship along with a good amount of atmosphere.

Again … why? Why not do something far more logical … like hack the Enterprise the same way we saw in The Wrath of Khan back in 1982? Take over the ship, drop it out of warp, and deal with the problem without resorting to destroying the flagship of the fleet which, one would think, would raise an awful lot of eyebrows and lead to a ridiculous number of formal inquiries.

Khan Is Osama Bin Laden

This is an action movie, of course. There has to be action. There has to be explosions. There has to be sex. If these things do not exist, then movie-goers who fork over ridiculous sums of cash for the luxury of sitting in a room full of strangers with awful smelling “food” would cry foul and demand their money back. So while the excessive damage inflicted upon the Enterprise and the horrible number of casualties is what a lot of people attend an action-science-fiction film for, the movie just couldn’t let other people live to tell the tale. Khan had to take the damaged U.S.S. Vengeance and smash it into San Francisco.

Awe-inspiring 100-storey buildings are seen snapped like twigs at the base when the massive starship comes down from the sky at a steep angle and hits the bay. People, like deer caught in the headlights of a fast-moving SUV, stand motionless as this unbelievable spectacle unfolds before them. Then the space vessel hits the city worse than the planes hit the World Trade Center buildings on September 11th, 2001.

There are no numbers reported but, judging from the position of the sun in the sky, the Dreadnaught-class vessel rained down on the city mid-afternoon. This means that those buildings would have been fully staffed. 100-storey buildings can easily hold more than 25,000 people. Several of these tall structures were destroyed, along with a slew of smaller buildings. Let’s not forget the underground infrastructure that would have been in place, as something as big as a starship would do just as much damage to infrastructure underground as it would to things above ground.

Earlier I estimated the total loss of life to be approximately 100,000 people. Thinking about it in greater detail, this number was probably two or three times larger.

For what? What possible purpose could this level of destruction possibly serve? To make people wonder why Earth’s great cities are defenceless against things falling from the sky? To make people appreciate the fact we don’t have spaceships falling on our heads? To make people trivialise mass murder because it’s just a movie guy. Relax!

How Much Is Your Life Worth?

Movies are supposed to be one of the many events where an audience is expected to leave their brains at the door and just sit back for some entertainment. The big, Hollywood blockbusters that come out every summer certainly require that an audience know absolutely nothing about anything and have no moral compass before, during, or after the movie in order to fervently enjoy them. Star Trek movies, however, are supposed to be different. A Star Trek movie needn’t be cerebral or unnecessarily complex. Indeed, most of them are not, but before Abrams bastardised Trek the most death we would see in a movie was less than a dozen people. Undiscovered Country had the highest number of casualties when Praxis, a moon orbiting Qo’nos, exploded. But that was in the thousands. Abrams has killed off the entire Vulcan home world, wiped out San Francisco, and destroyed the ultimate vision that Star Trek was all about.

Before Abrams, death was used as a plot device to advance the story or evoke an emotion. Abrams, and the people who really enjoy the newer Trek, don’t care about stories or emotions. The lives of these nameless, faceless people mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. We don’t know them personally, so who cares? Right?

Sadly, we are also a nameless, faceless person to someone living just a few hundred meters from our house. Are our lives also worth nothing more than a “Oh, shit!” remark?

But it’s entertainment, right? We’re not supposed to think about these things. We’re not supposed to ask questions. We’re not supposed to walk out of the movie tallying up the emotional, psychological, physical, and economic costs associated with the spectacle that we just witnessed on the big screen for $20. No … we’re supposed to walk out of the movie saying “Did you see that CG? You could see the hairs on Ensign Willis’ head freeze as he was sucked into space! That was awesome!”.

How is this different from the Roman spectators who would watch with glee as poor humans who could not pay their taxes were fed to the lions at colosseums? How is this different from Bin Laden laughing at the terrified and hurt citizens of America as people around the world watched in horror as the burning twin towers collapsed, burying thousands of people who would never again enjoy a warm meal with their loved ones?

Mass destruction, death, and wanton violence is not entertainment. It’s the epitome of everything we should reject as we seek to better ourselves as a society, and as a species.

An Ungooglable Memory

For some time I've been trying to remember the name of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the crew of the Enterprise are sent to a planet that is about to become a warp-capable society. This world is just slightly more technologically advanced than we are today1, and there is a distinct schism within the society. The youth are looking forward to continuing forward with the ever-constant march of progress, while others are begging the government to force corporations and academic institutions to "slow down" so that the effects of technology can be measured and the people of this world can catch up. I believe I remember this episode quite well. I remember where I was when I first saw it, as well as several key scenes. There's just one little problem: I can't find any reference to it with the help of Google or any of the standard Star Trek encyclopaedias.

No Results Found

I've been wrong on many occasions, so I decided to admit that I probably made another mistake and looked through all of the Deep Space 9 episodes, too. I remember the world in question was considering joining the United Federation of Planets so I knew it couldn't have been an episode of Voyager, as there was no Federation to join, nor could it have been Enterprise, as the Federation was not yet in existence. But there was no reference.

Search by spoken line? No result.

Was it a book that was written so well I thought I was watching the events take place2? Nope.

It sure as heck wasn't a movie. So where the heck can I find the episode?

Five years ago I thought I had a pretty good memory. I could recall the most insignificant details about things I had done or witnessed decades before. Now, however, I find it a struggle to remember what I did 18 days ago without first reaching for a calendar application. It makes me wonder if I've reached the end of the "free space" in my brain and the old stuff is now being replaced with new memories … very slowly. I really hope this isn't the case, because I'm too young to forget my past just yet.

Does anyone know what episode of Trek I'm looking for?