Saturday, September 10, 2016

To Boldly Go... Star Trek at Fifty

Five decades ago, I was at the perfect age. Almost sixteen, pumped with eagerness for science and fiction and outer space and dreams of escaping the dreary prisons of home and high school. And suddenly on the dreary wasteland of TV, in vivid color, appeared something completely unlike anything we ever saw before. Star Trek.
Oh, there had been science fiction. A couple of years earlier, my friends and I were hauled into the Jr. High Vice Principal’s office for circulating a petition to bring back The Twilight Zone. Though most of us thought it never quite matched the best episodes of Outer Limits. (Of course, when O.L. sucked, it really sucked.)
But Star Trek was something else, something new. It lifted, surprised, challenged and offered hope. Amid the ructions of that awful decade – from Vietnam to civil rights to riots and assassinations – here was the notion that hope was conceivable. That (shoo-be-do) things were going to be all right.
On Trek’s 50th anniversary, I could go on with personal stories (like one sadly typical-amusing story where Caltech freshmen abandoned a dance – with real girls – to watch an episode). Or talk about optimism, which all but a few other films or shows (e.g. Stargate) avoid out of primitive reflex. (See my article, The Idiot Plot.)
But no. The airwaves, netwaves and blogosphere has plenty of that stuff.  Instead, I want to talk about the Enterprise… the underlying meaning of that ship.
There have been many comparisons between Star Trek and its chief competitor for the hearts of science fiction fandom -- Star Wars.  A contrast that illuminates two very different views of fiction, civilization, and at the meaning of a hero.
Here’s one way of looking at the underlying implications of these two sci fi universes.  Consider the choice of which kinds of ship are featured in each series.  Let me invite you to ponder, for a moment, and contrast the Air Force metaphor vs. one that hearkens up images of the Navy.
In Star Wars, the ships that matter are little fighter planes.  Series creator George Lucas made liberal use of filmed dogfight footage, from both world wars, in some cases borrowing maneuvers like banking slipstream turns, down to the last detail. The heroic image in this case is the solitary pilot, perhaps assisted by his loyal gunner -- or wookie or droid -- companion. It is the modern version of knight and squire. Symbols as old as Achilles.
In contrast, the federation starship in Trek is vastly bigger, more complex, a veritable city cruising through space. Its captain hero is not only a warrior-knight, but also part scientist and part diplomat, a plenipotentiary representative of his civilization and father figure to his crew... any one of whom may suddenly become an essential character, during the very next adventure. While the captain’s brilliance and courage are always key elements, so will be the skill and pluck of one or more crewmen and women.  People who are much closer to average -- like you or me -- yet essential helpers, nonetheless. And possibly even -- when it is their turn -- heroes, themselves.
The naval metaphor makes a crucial difference. Like Cook’s Endeavor or Darwin’s Beagle, the Enterprise is meant to do much more than just fight, or carry the hero to his next Campbellian-personal challenge. The Captain is nothing without other members of the team. And this means that she or he will be written as human, flawed and limited, merely way-above-average and not a “chosen one” – not an ubermensch-overlord-Ender-Neo demigod, destined to do it all himself, while peons stare in abject admiration. 
The Captain, in Star Trek, is perennially challenged. Even when she’s right, there’s always something to be learned from someone else. And sometimes he admits that he was wrong.
In fact, what happens when the crew of the enterprise encounters some pompous demigod… a mutant or super-evolved being with attitude? The mood is always skeptical curiosity. An eagerness to learn, combined with a steadfast willingness to stand up to bullies.
In any event, the ship -- Star Trek’s Enterprise -- stands for something, every time we look at it. This traveling city is civilization.  The Federation’s culture and laws, industry and consensus values -- like the Prime Directive -- are all carried in this condensed vessel, along with the dramatic diversity of its crew. Every single time there is an adventure, the civilization of the United Federation of Planets is put to the test, through its proxy, the hero-ship.
At times, this lets the show poke at mistakes, ways that some error or flaw or even crime is being done, in civilization’s name! And generally, it is shown best healed by light. Only, when the Enterprise (or Voyager or DeepSpace Nine) passes each test, often with flying colors, so too, by implication, does civilization itself.
A civilization that might – perhaps -- even be worthy of our grandchildren.
Compare this to the role of the Old Republic, in the Lucasian universe. A hapless, hopeless, clueless melange of bickering futility whose political tiffs are as petty as they are incomprehensible. The Republic never perceives, never creates or solves anything. Not once do we see any of its institutions actually function well. Or even (take note) function at all!
How can they? The people, the Republic, decent institutions... these cannot be heroes, or even helpers.
There is no room, aboard an X Wing fighter, for civilization to ride along.
Only for a knight and squire.
Does ship morphology control story?  Yes, in many ways. But essentially it reflects the underlying assumptions of the storyteller.  As I point out – serving as the “prosecutor” in the fun argument-tome Star Wars on Trial – George Lucas cannot conceive of civilization as a vibrant, living thing, even though it was a pretty good one that raised and pampered his youth, then gave him prodigious opportunities to make his dreams come true. The poison current underlying Star Wars is one of steaming ingratitude.
(But get the book! Lucas has some able defenders who stand up for him!)
Me? I like Gene Roddenberry’s vision. GR, for all his many faults, believed we are in a boat together. And yes, we’ll need way-above-average heroes. Even average ones!  Lots of the latter, in fact. And that means you, right now, are needed by your civilization.
We need you. Yes, you. We cannot do it without you.
That is the real meaning of Star Trek.


167 comments:

donzelion said...

Ah, the ancient debate rekindles: Wagner v. Mozart. Oh wait, no, that was Star Wars v. Star Trek. Same difference.

A.H. Jessup said...

Beautifull said, David, and a fascinating insight into contrast between knight-errant/paladin and the broad hopes of the CIvilization Experiment! Carry on!

AHJ

Calvin Ogawa said...

I think you wrote a great piece on what the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek.
Gene Roddenberry's first pitch to NBC was "A Wagon Train to the Stars" and there were notes in the shows bible, that the Enterprise was a metaphor for the Earth, as a ship that sails through the universe.

I never quiet got the attractions for me and the specialness of what the multi-cultural nature of the Enterprise Crew meant for a few years. But now I know why Martin Luther King, Jr pleaded with Nichelle Nichols to stay on "Trek", when she was offered a good role on Broadway. Being someone who people of color can see and identifies strengthens one's self-image. People can now project what they can be, dream what they can do. Star Trek has inspired many thousands engineers, scientists and influenced what our current technology has.

To make a point about Star Wars and its values, there is an appeal for the Zen religion like Jedi roles.

But I never got the whole thing about everyone dressing up as homogenous Storm Troupers or to swagger around as Darth Vader, the epitome of unbridled evil, power and terror. Star Wars hits on some deeper psyche that we all have.

I often look forward to your Contray Brin, to look over the edge.
Calvin Ogawa

El Conejo Malo said...

The Federation in Star Trek is young, bright, and hopeful, still discovering the mysteries of the galaxy around them. The Republic probably was like that once upon a time... give the Federation 10,000 years and I am sure it would look a lot like the Republic.

Dennis D. McDonald said...

Great analysis. Star ship as vessel for transporting civilization is characteristic of many sf novels I read as a kid. Star Wars I've never regarded as science fiction but more like a western. Both are important but for very different reasons.

Clell Harmon said...

I never really saw the two as being in competition.

Trek was a decade earlier, and when it was good, it was very good. When it was bad, it was horrible. Still it was SciFi, it was on television and it wasn't vomited on the screen by Irwin Allen.

Oh, the science wasn't the hardest, I am still amazed at how many life threatening issues can be resolved by reversing the polarity of something or other. And in all honesty, the tech of the original Trek hasn't held up very well. Looking at all the analog systems from a 21st century digital perspective spoils a few things.

Some major crap must happen over the next two hundred years to have the many of the original Enterprise's systems be mega spiffy again.

Star Wars, on the other hand, wasn't and isn't Sci Fi, the Star Ships, Androids, blasters, and Battle Stations aside. It's a rough retelling of the Arthurian legends with sci fi props. Oh, they used the words, but didn't seem to know what they mean (Solo's use of 'Parsec' as a unit of time for example)

Princesses, knights, wizards and smugglers abound... And even the most recent offerings are seemingly unfamiliar with Science... A weapons system that targets stars in completely different solar systems? the Brilliant plan to emerge from 'light speed' (which is presumably FTL since they use it to travel between stars) INSIDE an atmosphere as a way of sneaking inside planetary defenses.

So, no, Star Trek and Star Wars were never really competition for each other (the lunatic fringes of their respective fandoms aside) Much of their individual fandoms crossover to the other side whenever a new movie comes out. They are just too different.

Candice Greene said...

I love this comparison. I always argued the two can't be compared because one is a Motion Picture Anthology, while the other a weekly Television series. In the end you knocked that theory out of the ballpark. The key differences are definitely unique enough, still proving that both are polar opposites when it comes to heroes. I just wrote a comment about the current Star Trek Motion Pictures, where I expressed that todays audience don't want explanations anymore. We live in a society where they think 9 innings of Baseball is too much. Everything driven on action, action, and action that it's not that you do the right thing, just DO SOMETHING. I am not making this comparison as a Star Trek/Star Wars rant, but give it time, I'm sure someone will take it as that. My point is simply this...There is no comparing the two.

Jumper said...

I remember how very refreshing the shape of the Enterprise. I remember my mom thought it was crazy. What else would a Buck Rogers fan think, though?

At 12, I just figured there was engineering design to explain it, some back story that didn't matter. I didn't like that the disk portion didn't seem to contain an inertial wheel for faux gravity as it suggested by shape, but in the future artificial gravity fields could be accepted. The suggestion of dangerously powerful engines that had to be remote from the living quarters - cool.

The transporter beam was completely fresh; another completely new thing not seen before (yes, in books - and the film The Fly, sort of - but... memory of that just got viewers up to speed quicker.)

FTL drive wasn't new, but the intriguing fact of naming it "warp drive" with increasing "factors" was fresh.

The presentation of diversity united in teamwork has been noted.

My biggest complaint was that most of the "aliens" were humans. Obviously we understand TV budgets; we get it. But still. That had to wait for Star Wars for Jabba. And then there were the robots.

locumranch said...


The most fascinating thing about 'Star Trek' is about how it reverses typical Identity Politics & asserts that practically everyone belongs to the 'In Group', regardless of race, creed, colour, merit, ability, species, biology, politics or planet of origin.

In the original Star Trek, the USS Enterprise represents the Occidental 'In-Group' manifest destiny (the 'Federation of Planets') as it seeks out, fights, befriends & absorbs unenlightened 'Out-Groups' (IE. warlike Soviet-analog Klingons, inscrutable Oriental Romulans & godlike Ubermensch) with their superior 'In-Group' unity-based federal culture.

NexGen Star Trek attempts to double-down on this 'No Out-Group' argument. It unites men & machines, eliminates gender differences and assimilates the diversity displayed by 'out-group' Klingons & Romulans, until it has nothing left to fight but Space Anomalies, the rare Ubermensch (Q) & Itself in the form of either anti-PC internal conspiracies or the assimilation-happy Borg, leaving the series with no place left to go.

The other 3 'Star Trek' spin-offs took this 'No Out-Group' theme to slightly different conclusions:

Deep Space Nine merged a post-species, post-racial & post-conflict Captain Sisko into a greater Universal Unity as an all-knowing godlike Ubermensch (as did V'ger in 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture'); Star Trek 'Enterprise' ventured boldly into the 'No Out-Group' universe in order to LOVE the genocidal, time-traveling & technologically superior Xindi 'other' into submission; and, Star Trek 'Voyager' isolated Captain Janeway (a strong female) in the 'No Out-Group' Delta Quadrant in order to confront the assimilation-happy Borg, while simultaneously repurposing Diversity & Disunity into our brave new cultural 'Strength'.

In contrast, a pre-Disney 'Star Wars' embraced the more traditional 'In-Group & Out-Group' dynamic: It postulated one group (the rebels on the "Out") as a superior tribal 'Good' that represented a natural aristocracy based on Merit, Morality & (quite literally) Force; and, it argued that any designated Other (IE. the Unified Empire, the Sith, colourless bureaucrats & law-abiding plebs) are immoral, irredeemably 'Evil' and unassimilable even when they are unified "In" a vastly superior force.

This is the reason, IMO, why David despises the Star Wars franchise: It validates & invalidates both the In-Group & Out-Group, perspective-wise, much in the same way that unity Emperor Hillary validates the rebel Trumpian alliance by declaring them a 'basket of deplorables'.**


Best
______
** Which is the 'In-group' & which is the 'Out' ? Who rebels & who conserves? Is the average scientist 'In' or 'Out' in regard to this 'War on Science' ? Who can tell anyone?

Kit said...

There's a consistent interrelationship in our stories between a society in decay, and a lone hero. And it also shows up in (risking Godwin) our worst stories too: it's a crucial element of a lot of fascist narrative. There was a golden age, we're in decay, and you could matter, could be the hero. It implies that the breakdown of society is necessary for your arc of personal glory. Society imposes roles, and as it breaks down, the individual can rise just as high as they wish.

That's the lie, anyway.

I think that more Trekian ideologies of heroism can be a powerful weapon against that kind of thinking, and it's part of why I will always care for what that series offered and offers.

donzelion said...

Referring to Q as an ubermensch, Locum? I'd thought the word meant something quite different. ;-)

I'll stand by my Mozart v. Wagner comparison. Mozart's operas, and entire musical ouvre, strike me as an "optimistic" expression of Enlightenment genius: even when he goes dark, Mozart scrawls back with episodically brilliant structures that appeal, like the beating of a heart, to a fine cadence of hopes.

Wagner starts dark and goes darker, exploring color in previously unimagined ways, reassembling the myths others explored into something novel and wondrous and terrible. Knights & squires? Yeah, Siegfried's a dragon slaying hero, chosen one rah rah rah - but what of it? That's barely a blip in the saga. But what a blip!

Many despise Wagner for many reasons, some better than others (the man was indeed despicable, and George Bernard Shaw had the best quip re the music: "It's better than it sounds."). But the world is big enough for the both of 'em, and the universe is big enough for at least three enduring franchises (Allons-y, Doctor!).

donzelion said...

Besides, I've yet to see a Star Trek Christmas special... ;-)

Jumper said...

Kit, well said. I suspect a lot of non-voters can't get their fix of personal glory by doing so, therefore they don't bother.

Jumper said...

Hee hee! For what it's worth, if they tried to elect Shatner as President I'd find those knuckleheads deplorable too.

Brannon said...

Indeed, the thing which has bothered me the most about the new films is the confusion on the part of the producers regarding the driving themes of the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises.

Star Wars is about DESTINY. Like an ancient fable, you have a path to walk and no matter how you try to shirk it, your destiny will find you. Avoiding Jedi training will do you no good; you will be King.

Star Trek is about MERIT. Working hard, learning, preparation, making good decisions - it is about getting what you deserve. Jim Kirk is in the center seat of the Enterprise because he was "a stack of books with legs" at the Academy. He is smarter, more dedicated, bolder, than the next best candidate.

We have seen over and over in Star Trek, how time travel affects the state of things. Changes matter, because nothing is set. The Federation isn't *destined* to be; it can be wiped out by saving a social worker from a traffic accident.

The way that the new films treat this aspect of the plot is a reflection of their view on the themes of Merit vs. Destiny.

If you hide Luke Skywalker on a desert planet and never give him training as a child, he will still eventually defeat two incredibly powerful Sith Lords with a lifetime of training. Because the theme of this franchise is DESTINY.

If you go back in time and change Jim Kirk into someone who isn't as hard-working, then someone else will be the captain of the Enterprise. Someone who did study hard and push to be the very best. Because the theme of this franchise is MERIT.

Ironically, it is exactly this distinction which made J.J. a solid choice to helm Star Wars. The fact that his Trek films missed the mark so badly, showed he could do exactly what Star Wars required.

BB

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

There have been many comparisons between Star Trek and its chief competitor for the hearts of science fiction fandom -- Star Wars. A contrast that illuminates two very different views of fiction, civilization, and at the meaning of a hero.


Also, very different views of what is meant by science-fiction. I'm not saying all of the technology in Star Trek works in the real world, but the verisimilitude is there--it feels like actual working science as might be plausible in an unidentified future (and the specific "23rd Century" timeframe was never actually mentioned in the show, was it?).

Star Wars is cowboy fantasy in a sci-fi setting only. It is "science fiction" only in the sense that spaceships and laser-guns are science-y. None of the plot actually depends on science, though. When "Star Wars" premiered in 1977, I had just recently seen a pirate movie called "Swashbuckler" which takes place in the sixteenth or seventeenth century Caribbean. The plots of the two films are remarkably similar.

Make no mistake, I loved "Star Wars" back then (all the faults Dr Brin points out about the Star Wars saga don't really apply to the original film). But I don't think "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" really have much in common with each other besides the similar titles. Arguing which is better between the two is like arguing whether you prefer "The Hobbit" or Asimov's "Foundation". They are that different from each other.

Paul SB said...

I had to take a quick break from grading to see what Dr. Brin would throw up next, and I must say that I am glad it attracted some new names. Hopefully some of you will join the conversation more often (hopefully the poly-ticks aren't too much of a disincentive).

BB, I think your assessment is right to the point. Star Wars is a saga (good choice of word) that looks backwards. Destiny is a primitive superstition, a way of explaining why something happened without having any real explanation. Like all magic, the concept of destiny is mostly used to explain the past. When it is used to predict the future, it is wrong more often than right, but people remember when it is right and forget all the times it was wrong (the opposite of modern weather prediction, which is around 85% accurate, but no one remembers all the times they got it right).

Star Trek, on the other hand, is forward looking and scientific. Like science, there may be a leader, but nothing happens without the team. Anyone who has read real scientific reports has seen that they usually have multiple authors and credit all participants. I loved Star Wars when I was a kid, but the older and more mature I got, the less those Cambellian ego-stroking myths appealed to me. Sure it would be nice to have been Chosen by the Gods for some Special Destiny - makes a little boy or girl feel important. But as you grow up and become less egocentric, that stuff becomes harder to believe. Star Trek is more like real life for grown ups, and while it is fun to indulge in masturbatory fantasies like Star Wars once in awhile, too much of that stuff goes bland real fast, because you are always comparing reality to the fantasy and being disappointed with reality. That is what I like most about science fiction, and why I read very little fantasy. Science fiction is at least plausible, somewhat realistic indulgence in fantasy, not the way out there stuff that pleases the egocentric.

Donzelion, though I'm not an opera fan at all, I know enough to be able to concur on your Mozart/Wagner comparison. It always amazed me that a mind so full of hate and bile could produce such beautiful music (sans the singing, of course). No surprise that old Uncle Adolph loved Wagner so much (and tried so hard to deny the African heritage of another of Germany's musical heroes, Uncle Ludwig, who was referred to by his music teachers as 'their little blackamoor.')

Paul451 said...

Pissing on Star Trek done better than Locumranch's neoreo crap.

http://www.cracked.com/video_18398_why-star-trek-universe-secretly-horrifying.html

(I floated the idea previously that NuTrek was a post-scarcity, high-tech version of Idiocracy. Dumbed down society who have virtually unlimited wealth. Hence the ridiculously unmilitary way the Enterprise is run, the way an idiot might imagine it would work (suspended cadet Kirk just assumes Captaincy by making the other boy cry, and because he Did A Good Job the other idiots let him keep being Captain. Not to mention the insanely stupid bad guys, result of their own idiocracy.)

Paul451 said...

(I had to laugh that in the next comment after Locumranch's, even without making reference to him, Kit displayed and demolished his entire neo-romantic shtick in just a few lines.)

shakatany said...

To me Star Wars was always a space opera taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far away (where it seems the laws of physics is far different from that of our galaxy) and has nothing to do with our planet (unless in the last ep they do that old TZ routine of having Adam and Eve be aliens this time perhaps the last rebel and the last stormtrooper).

For me Star Trek was always a far more possible future for us humans if we could only get our act together and grow up. Unfortunately I feel that J. J. Abrams, who really is crazy about the Star Wars'verse, star warred Star Trek including flying between solar systems in 3 minutes and blowing up planets :(

Paul451 said...

(I should add to that Cracked link, that while the writers of that sketch clearly delighted in ripping Trek open, they've found much more cynical meat in shredding Star Wars. Why SW is misogynistic, robots as sentient slaves (why design them to feel fear/pain?), how the Jedi are really the bad guys...)

LarryHart,
"Star Wars is cowboy fantasy"

Only in the sense of being inspired by Lucas' love of those kinds of matinee movies.

But in story it is more of a mixture of a sword'n'sorcery adventure (chosen one, good wizard, dark lord, rescue the princess, rogue-barbarian, etc) mixed together with a WWII fantasy (Nazi's, secret super-weapon, Morocco, an old cargo plane or river freighter...)

"is like arguing whether you prefer "The Hobbit" or Asimov's "Foundation". "

Well, Lord of the Rings vs Foundation, yes.

David Brin said...

El Conejo — your cynicism makes me sad. — Clell Harmon well LUCAS sure saw them in competition... as when Yoda screams at his private clone army to "Shoot the Federation Starships! Shoot them!" Nice. But in fact, you simply and clearly never read my essay. It is not a matter of “competition.” but of preaching diametrically opposite stories about humanity, morality and the desirability of surrendering your own will to an ubermensch, chosen-one demigod.

Locumranch - whatever you’ve done to your diet, keep (not) eating it. Your in-group blather was yet again silly, but really cogent and thought provoking silliness. For example, you articulate well the now standard right wing line that “You liberals who fight against racism and for tolerance and diversity? YOU are the actual racist, intolerant suppressors of diversity! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Proclaim the very opposite to what's obvious and folks will say: ‘well, who would say something so counter-intuitive unless there was some truth to it?’ Yeah. That’s the ticket, all right!”

Oh, and of course there are FAR leftists who DO use the campaign against intolerance as an excuse to be horribly intolerant. The other sin of the right (among many) is to actually proclaim that normal liberals are represented by their kooks. That is only true of the right.

Kit - “There was a golden age, we're in decay, and you could matter, could be the hero. It implies that the breakdown of society is necessary for your arc of personal glory.” Kit you call this (rightly) a lie. Which is EXACTLY the tiresome trope that I answered in The Postman… and which (despite his being a jerk) Kevin Costner also understood in his film.

WE — a civilization of citizens — made this better civilization, the only one that ever looked forward with realistic hope. And in my novel there’s a hero… but his job is not to vanquish evil but to rouse the people to remember that they were once… and could be again… citizens.

The fact that Costner understood and conveyed that core message is why I utterly forgive him everything else. Well, that plus the fact that VISUALLY and musically, his flick is one of the most gorgeous ever shot. The only time we actually spoke, I tried to gush about his cinematography, and he prickled, as if I were somehow slighting him! Hollywood people. Weird.

Brannon, I can think of worse people than JJ Abrams to do this… but many better. His mastery of CHARACTER worked in LOST and made the new Trek and Wars bearably watchable because the characters are terrific! His plotting was mediocre in the new Treks and execrable in the new Wars flick. But the saving grace is that while he was iffy on Reddenberry optimism and merit-based morality in the Treks, that theme was still there. And the new Wars flick had almost none of the Lucasian preachings of outright degenerate wretched ingrate-evil.

For that, I say meh but okay. Characters are paramount. And at that he is a pure genius.

So… C+ to B-. Watchable. Not evil. With transfixing characters.

Herbert Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LarryHart said...

Wow! Have you noticed a lot of new names posting for this topic?

Clell Harmon:


Oh, they used the words, but didn't seem to know what they mean (Solo's use of 'Parsec' as a unit of time for example)


That's an example of what I meant about Star Wars being "science-y" but not science. "Parsec" is a science-fiction sounding word, so it's there, but it's not being used as real science.

Even so, I have to admit that "Star Wars" has several Harrison Ford ad-libs (the most obvious example being the lame conversation about "large leak, very dangerous...boring conversation anyway". I wonder if the line about twelve parsecs was one of those.

Now back to Star Trek, I don't mean this to denigrate, but just to point out something that seemed funny (funny ha-ha) to me, even as a teenager. The medical personnel and engineers on Star Trek, including Spock, regularly used metric system measurements, even before it was common at all to do so in the US. It adds to the plausibility of the "science-y" dialogue, as scientists use metric more than American civilians do. But the metric system is very earth-centric, the second being a percentage of an earth day, and the meter being a fraction of a line of earth longitude (or the length of a platinum-iridium bar in a vault in Paris, also on earth). So while there is verisimilitude in thinking that metric units would be universal, if you drill down a bit deeper, it is unlikely that any non-earth civilization would use the metric system. Or that they'd speak in Latin roots, for that matter.

Never mind, though. "We've known for 400 years that 'oxygen' is a misnomer, but what are you going to do?"*

"Let it stand." **

* Isaac Asimov
** Kurt Vonnegut

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

The transporter beam was completely fresh; another completely new thing not seen before (yes, in books - and the film The Fly, sort of - but... memory of that just got viewers up to speed quicker.)


I had seen just a few episodes of "Star Trek"--and thinking back, they were probably bad 3rd Season episodes, because I hadn't been impressed--when the animated series premiered in 1973. I saw an ad for the cartoon which showed the transporter, and immediately knew what it was supposed to be, and I was immediately hooked. I had to see a show that had something like that in it.

Tangentially, Star Trek is not about the technology in the way that, say, "The Invisible Man" or "The Time Machine" is all about the ramifications of a particular scientific invention. The analogous technology that makes Star Trek work is simply "if routine travel to other planets were feasible". The plot of Star Trek doesn't follow from the existence of dilithium--that's just convenient shorthand for "something that makes warp drive work", just as phasers are shorthand for "something to shoot at other spaceships with" and transporters are shorthand for "a way to get down to the planet." The specific technologies that make those things happen are not important to the conceit of the series.

Herbert Miller said...

I find there to be an overriding theme in George Lucas Star Wars stories. It concerns the exertion of an individual's will being of paramount importance in the outcome of events. The force being the prime example of this. It is the expression of your will upon the real world and it overrides any knowledge or wisdom or technology you would employ. What Lucas seems to be doing is saying that a force of will can substitute for a lack of experience and knowledge.
Take for example the destruction of the Death Star in the New Hope movie. Luke Skywalker turns off the targeting computer as a piece of technology intervening between his will for the destruction of the Death Star and the resulte he wishes for.
Also technology is something that should be held in check and regarded with fear. The two technological entities R2D2 and C3PO are to be regarded as comic relief. They are to be servants, virtual slaves (considering they are sentient beings). And the primary evil force, the Empire's existence is based on technology.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

In the original Star Trek, the USS Enterprise represents the Occidental 'In-Group' manifest destiny (the 'Federation of Planets') as it seeks out, fights, befriends & absorbs unenlightened 'Out-Groups' (IE. warlike Soviet-analog Klingons, inscrutable Oriental Romulans & godlike Ubermensch) with their superior 'In-Group' unity-based federal culture.


I'd have cast the Klingons as Oriental (more Mongol horde than anything else) and the Romulans as...well, Romans.

Brannon said...

David, I'd have to agree about J.J.'s command of characters -- It's one of the reasons I fell so hard for Alias. Every character wanted something, and they all had flaws and obstacles to overcome in interesting ways. I'd love to see him return to television; he has a real talent for the development of characters across long-form serial narrative.

I don't at all expect that to happen of course, but you never know.

No matter my problems with TFA, Abrams comes at Star Wars with genuine affection for the property. While the plotting was terrible (oh my, so so terrible) I am very much on board with the characters of Rey, Finn, and Poe. I totally want to see a space urchin girl and her Wookiee pal having adventures - sign me up for that! So yes, character definitely saved it.

But at the end of the day, I've enjoyed both the ST and SW franchises immensely over the decades, so I'm glad they're both still around for me to nitpick at!

Brannon

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

much in the same way that unity Emperor Hillary validates the rebel Trumpian alliance by declaring them a 'basket of deplorables'.*


Sorry, dude, but by your own admission, Trump supporters hate America, and should go back to Russia. Not that you'd put it that way, but if the shoe fits, wear it. ("If New York's in debt, why should Virginia bear it?")

And as usual, you've got the complaint backwards. Hillary didn't declare Trump supporters to be a basket of deplorables. She declared that a basket of deplorables are Trump supporters. And she's right about that. Mike Pence responded that Trump supporters are Americans who deserve respect. Well, so are Democrats, but since when has your side ever extended that respect you demand to your political opponents? And Trump responded that Hillary has "INSULTED" (in all caps) his supporters? Sorry, I missed when insulting one's opponents became a bad thing to Donald Trump.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

much in the same way that unity Emperor Hillary


Oh, and Hillary isn't the Emperor. She's the 60-year-old Princess Leia.

David Brin said...

Herbert Miller you are on target. That is why the final scene in Episode IV gave some the creeps with its resemblance to Triumph of the Will.

LarryHart said...

Sorry, but I just reminded myself of yet another riff from "Hamilton". I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader who this might refer to...


Jefferson always has a tiff with the president.
Reticent. There is no plan he doesn't jettison.
Madison, mad as a hatter, take your medicine.
You're in worse shape than the national debt is in.
Sitting there useless like two shits.
Turn around, bend over, I'll show you where my shoe fits!

Kit said...

Herbert, totally! The force is a way to exert your will on the world around you, typically in a fairly short-term manner. "May the force be with you" is a wish for the ability to get your shining moment. Contrast this with the other property's most iconic slogan, "Live long and prosper", which is wide in time and space and crucially community-oriented, in some nebulous way.

(Because this is a difference of the underlying ideologies of the two properties, this dichotomy is realized at every level. So the original lens of ship morphology becomes a very interesting way to surface those underlying ideologies.)

John Kurman said...

In 10,000 years the Federation spans the local galaxy cluster, with the Kelvin Empire as a member. It is on good relations with the Virgo supercluster.

Treebeard said...

I liked Star Trek, but of course scientifically it was a load of bollocks. The fate of the Enterprise was usually decided by Kirk's will and instincts more than anything, much like the Jedi. If you want to watch a very efficient civilization moving through space, uplifting primitive planets, you might as well watch “Borg Trek”. The original Star Wars was a Wagnerian masterpiece and the Jedi, Sith and Galactic Empires were really inspired genius. But then Hollywood got their fangs in the franchise and it's been all downhill from there.

In a thousand years people will understand the story of Star Wars far better than Star Trek, which was so clearly a product of its time. Or maybe they'll be rooting for the Borg and the Augments against the Federation's 20th century vision of galactic mediocrity.

David Brin said...

I love it! An archetype of the dreamy-angry ingrate, blaming a society that gently coddled him for the fact that he is not a Holnist lord! Tear it all down so a few can squat in filthy castles above filthier peasants! That system was tried in 10,000 places for 10,000 years and achieved little more than some pathetic stone monuments. But WE are the impoverished ones.

Oh, but the richest part, so chuckle worthy, is that accomplishment -free dreamer boys actually think they would be top dogs in such a world. I've said it before.

Kibble.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I personally enjoyed the Navy vs Air Force comparison that put the Navy on the good guy side (but, then, I have a bit of a career bias } ; = 8 ) ).

It strikes me that most of the people who gripe at Trek and its portrayal of society are very pessimistic in their view of civilization, and insist on accepting only the most dower and depressing predictions of our future as realistic or probable (never mind the fact that the last 300 years have seen the greatest advancements and improvements in human civilization in all of human history, and that trend has been accelerating rapidly). Many of them, as Dr. Brin has pointed out on numerous occasions, view such pessimistic predictions and the prospect of the downfall of civilization with almost diabolical glee, eager to see civilization destroyed so they could be given the opportunity to "return to a simpler time" or a "simpler, more natural way of life", or given the opportunity to seize the world and establish themselves as some dominant feudal lord, with some deluded fantasy that they wouldn't be among the billions who would be slaughtered and/or enslaved in their pubescent fantasies.

Many others are just plain idiots, who fail to grasp the basic concepts of the context of the shows, etc.

The Cracked video posted above is a prime example of both.

First, everyone is hyper pessimistic, and most of the video consists of the "friends" generally shitting on Trek for daring to portray a hopeful, optimistic future, or daring to present a future where basic needs and desires are easily met as desirable. They insist that a civilization where all our basic needs are met and we have the time and resources to pursue whatever passions drive us would invariably result in a listless civilization of bland, uncreative, idiots. Are you kidding me?!?! If I didn't have to work a full-time job just to pay basic bills, let alone pay off student loans or car payments, etc., and had that much free time, do you have any idea how creative I would be? I'd write stories! Learn to draw and make art! Actually get good at playing my trumpet! I'd have a doctorate by now, and probably have picked up the violin in addition to the trumpet, and I'd brush up on my coding skills and put together several different mods to several different games I play, and probably even get some friends together to create a couple of our own. We see the people in Trek do just that, with their own passions and interests, with people playing instruments, taking art classes, writing holonovels, exploring research in their free time, and everyone has excellent educations.

Second, they go idiot because a number of their complaints completely fail to take into account the context of the show. Prime example, the female friend's complaint about everyone's choice of attire "They all where the same stupid jumpsuit!" Um, hello?!?!? They're all members of Starfleet! Starfleet is the Federation's space navy! It's a military organization. OF COURSE they're all wearing the same style of clothing, they're all wearing Starlfeet UNIFORMS. DUH!

David Brin said...

Welcome back Ilithi!

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys

Star Wars and Star Trek
My favorite series was "Blake's Seven" -
Made on a small budget so the star-ships quake when the actors move!

I always though it was much more realistic than either of the Star ones

In both Star Trek and Star Wars we had the "Goodies" and the "Baddies"

In Blake Seven it was more the "Baddies" and the "Worsies"

In Star Trek the first thing that they did when they "transported" was to notice that something was wrong and draw their weapons
In Blake's Seven they "transported" back to back with weapons drawn

Laurence said...

Love Blake's Seven. If you look at the stellar cartography maps of the Star Trek universe (they're my housemate's. He's much nerdier than me) you see something interesting. The federation is humongous compared to nearly all its neighbors, a galactic superpower. It seems unlikely that all the "bad guys" surrounding them are the real aggressors (other than the borg, easily my favourite Trek villain). I rather liked the fan theory I once saw that Star Trek was actually just a propaganda show put on by the Blake's Seven Federation regime. Blake's Seven, in contrast to the naive (though highly entertaining) optimism of both Star Trek and Star Wars embodies the very best of British sci-fi, skepticism, pessimism, anti-authoritarianism, and superb wit.

Herbert Miller said...

I find there to be an overriding theme in George Lucas Star Wars stories. It concerns the exertion of an individual's will being of paramount importance in the outcome of events. The force being the prime example of this. It is the expression of your will upon the real world and it overrides any knowledge or wisdom or technology you would employ. What Lucas seems to be doing is saying that a force of will can substitute for a lack of experience and knowledge.
Take for example the destruction of the Death Star in the New Hope movie. Luke Skywalker turns off the targeting computer as a piece of technology intervening between his will for the destruction of the Death Star and the resulte he wishes for.
Also technology is something that should be held in check and regarded with fear. The two technological entities R2D2 and C3PO are to be regarded as comic relief. They are to be servants, virtual slaves (considering they are sentient beings). And the primary evil force, the Empire's existence is based on technology.

Anonymous said...

https://medium.com/@dirk.bruere/in-praise-of-the-borg-resistance-is-futile-you-will-want-to-be-assimilated-fecbe44c55c0
Are you familiar with these thoughts on luddite screenwriters at the Star Trek franchise?

Midboss57 said...

@Ilithi:
Oh, yes,you have to love those people who try to portray a future where work is no longer needed to survive as a dystopia. People are bored, oh the humanity ! This is so much worse than poverty, hunger, war for resources, illness, homelessness, social exclusion, corruption, dumb bosses... I'll take boredom rather than that. You can be sure that the people that make this sort of complaint about this possible future are not the ones who have ever had real problems.
It's the good old chestnut: "Misery builds character" which is told by those who never experienced misery.

@Anonymous:
It's not just Star Trek. Tranhumanism (beyond the lone superhero type) seems to be a taboo subject virtually anywhere. Be it Star Trek, Doctor Who, Stargate... transhumanism is virtually always presented in a bad light, with transhumans either becoming becoming space nazis (Khan), super soldiers (Jaffa), or space nazi super soldiers (Daleks). That has always been a sore point for me as I'm a transhumanist in belief and has honestly been a major obstacle in liking those shows.

LarryHart said...

shakanty:

To me Star Wars was always a space opera taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far away (where it seems the laws of physics is far different from that of our galaxy) and has nothing to do with our planet


The fact that Star Trek is set in the future and Star Wars is set "once upon a time" (essentially) makes Dr Brin's case rather nicely.

I wouldn't go so far as to excuse any incongruity of Star Wars as being due to differing laws of physics. The story is not about earth-humanity, but it is about humanoids who look and act very much like people. There's a big difference in setting, but plot and characterization is still very much "about us", and the incongruities are not because those humans are different as to bad writing.


(unless in the last ep they do that old TZ routine of having Adam and Eve be aliens this time perhaps the last rebel and the last stormtrooper).


Heh. Which would be which?


For me Star Trek was always a far more possible future for us humans if we could only get our act together and grow up.


For me, it seems even more simple--the assumption that we do get our act together and grow up being essential to the setting that Roddenberry wanted to use for the series. If I'm not mistaken, TOS never showed earth except for time-travel stories to the past. There's very little in the series about what life on earth is like in the unspecified future. Viewed through the optimistic lens of what we know about the "Trek universe" now, earth of the time is a Democratic Socialist paradise, but the story would work just as well if, as in Asimov's "Foundation", humanity populated much of the galaxy and earth was no more important than a forgotten backwater. The wonderfulness of the future civilization is shown in the Enterprise crew itself and, at most, in Starfleet. Earth barely has anything to do with it.


Unfortunately I feel that J. J. Abrams, who really is crazy about the Star Wars'verse, star warred Star Trek including flying between solar systems in 3 minutes and blowing up planets :(


I haven't paraphrased comics writer/artist Dave Sim for awhile, but I will now. For me, making "Star Trek" more like "Star Wars" is a kind of reverse alchemy, turning gold into lead.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Herbert Miller you are on target. That is why the final scene in Episode IV gave some the creeps with its resemblance to Triumph of the Will.


S###!

I mean, I see what you're getting at, but really, even the original Star Wars bothered you to the extent of reading the rebel side as Hitler?

I didn't get any of the bad vibes you do about "Star Wars" until the sequels.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

Hee hee! For what it's worth, if they tried to elect Shatner as President I'd find those knuckleheads deplorable too.


If it were a choice between Shatner and Trump, I'd vote for Shatner without thinking twice.

Too bad he's not eligible, being Canadian and all. :)

Which makes me wonder again--has anyone actually seen Trump's long-form birth certificate? 'Cause, that would be hilarious if there's something there.

Robert said...

Sadly, so much of what made Star Trek great was destroyed by Abrams. And this is in-canon.

We have already seen in "City on the Edge of Forever," "Star Trek: First Contact," and an ongoing storyline in Enterprise that time travel alters the past without creating an alternative universe. McCoy pops through a portal and saves a social worker? No Federation! Not even in spinoffs! (With the one exception being the Mirror Universe which existed externally as a twisted mirror reflection of the Star Trek Universe.) Borg go and assimilate the Earth? The only reason it doesn't completely rewrite the timeline is the Enterprise E was caught in a temporal wake - no spinoff universe, but changing the whole thing.

This means of course that NewTrek in fact completely destroys everything after Enterprise. We are celebrating 50 years of nothing. There was no City on the Edge of Forever. There was no contact with the Borg before at the point of First Contact. There was no Deep Space Nine, no Dominion War, no Voyager. None of it ever happened.

And yet when this is pointed out and how according to Star Trek Lore, this means all of their beloved stories and such never happened? The loyalists trot out claims that the Abramsverse "altered" Star Trek reality so to allow alternative realities. And yet we never saw Kirk or any other Star Trek personnel from the core universe. No one ever sought out Spock. No one ever visited.

Because no one could. The only remnants of the old Star Trek universe were Spock and that Romulan crew... and the latter were killed off in a black hole.

Of course, considering there seems to be some sort of "Time Police" that remain despite changes to the timeline (probably as they took themselves outside the timeline so to preserve the "temporal Prime Directive") then perhaps at some point some Time Agent will arrive and somehow ensure that the Abramsverse never came to be. Given that Into Darkness was not the huge success that Paramount was hoping, and the whole new "fan film guidelines" are designed specifically to say "fuck you" to Axanar and other fan films from people who could be considered professionals and have thus angered a bit of the fan community?

We may very well see a future Star Trek series set in the original universe. Hopefully they'll find a way to explain away the NewTrek. Heck, maybe we'll find out it's actually a simulated universe running on a holodeck somewhere. ;)

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Herbert Miller:

Take for example the destruction of the Death Star in the New Hope movie. Luke Skywalker turns off the targeting computer as a piece of technology intervening between his will for the destruction of the Death Star and the resulte he wishes for.


The novelization of the movie and the 1977 Marvel Comics versions stand as evidence that that "turn off your targeting computer" bit was written as the climax of the battle, taking place after Han Solo has already dispatched Vader and left Luke in the clear. Wisely, someone involved with the film switched the two and made the suspense build to Han Solo's reappearance and rescue of Luke. The movie pacing works much better, but was not Lucas's original vision.


Also technology is something that should be held in check and regarded with fear. The two technological entities R2D2 and C3PO are to be regarded as comic relief. They are to be servants, virtual slaves (considering they are sentient beings). And the primary evil force, the Empire's existence is based on technology.


I never really thought about that because Vader also used the Force. And in the sequels/prequels, both the good and evil sides make use of the supernatural. But in the first movie, Vader is a kind of pathetic outlier in the eyes of the other bad guys, as much a sad relic of the past as Ben Kenobi. The other bad guys snigger at his religious belief, while the good guys show their goodness by "believing in the Force", even though, as it has been pointed out, Luke hadn't even heard of the Force until five minutes ago.

So yes, the implication is that atheistic reliance on technology is evil, and religious belief in something without evidence or understanding of how it works is good.

Tacitus2 said...

Star Trek as Gene Roddenberry's "Wagon Train to the Stars" gets quoted often but I think is deceptive. A better analogy, and one that GR I think made himself, is an updated version of the "Hornblower" series of naval epics by C.S. Forrester. They captured the reality of the Napoleonic era, that of exploration and conflict spread across horizons you could not see. Captains of ships then had to make their own decisions....no "sub space" communications. A quick return to base was not possible (Star Trek First Contact was not a bad movie but even tolerant Trek fans have to groan at the Enterprise firing up their engines and flying from the Neutral Zone to earth in a few minutes...what, the Neutral Zone is out by Alpha Centuri!!!).

Most iterations of Trek since TOS have lost that sense of daunting, isolating time and distance. Oh, Voyager played on the theme fairly well, probably that's why it endured despite a lack luster cast.

Of Star Wars I can add little to what has been said.

On a Sci Fi note I am happy to report that this years FIRST Robotics challenge is being subtly hinted at having a Science Fiction theme:

http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2017-frc-season-teaser-and-more

David, if the FIRST Masters go this route please, please record a video for all the FIRST kids out there. You would not even have to say "Go Get 'em Team 5826!" although that would be nice...

Non Politically Yours

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

they go idiot because a number of their complaints completely fail to take into account the context of the show. Prime example, the female friend's complaint about everyone's choice of attire "They all where the same stupid jumpsuit!" Um, hello?!?!? They're all members of Starfleet! Starfleet is the Federation's space navy! It's a military organization. OF COURSE they're all wearing the same style of clothing, they're all wearing Starlfeet UNIFORMS. DUH!


Not to mention that the "all wearing the same style of clothing" is kind of a nod to political correctness of the later shows. In TOS, the women wore miniskirts. And while it is fashionable now to laugh at that as inherently sexist, my understanding is that Roddenberry originally had everyone in pants, and some of the female actresses objected to being made to look like the men.

Tim H. said...

Both Star Wars and Star Trek have their silly moments, the latter mostly because the writers were only human, for silly it's hard to beat Yoda bouncing about like the extremely dangerous rabbit... But I wouldn't part with either.

Paul SB said...

I thought Midboss has an interesting point about transhumanism, and if you look at the exceptions, it fits into this discussion nicely. Transhumanism seems to be a big no-no unless it's superheroes, who are all rare exceptions, today's Siegfrieds who rescue society from danger rather than encouraging ordinary people to get up off their collective butts and fix things for themselves. Transhumanism is superpowers for the masses, which makes everyone special - which makes no one special. That way no one can claim superiority and lord their specialness over everyone else. I can imagine what Carl Jung would think of this, or Karl Marx.

This reminds of an episode of the Powderpuff Girls, which I saw a lot of when my daughter was 5 and 6. The superheroes got bored always saving the day and managed to cajole the people into driving away the monster themselves for a change, an episode that probably resonated with me as a teacher who is always trying to get students to learn something themselves, when what most of them want is for the teacher to do everything for them.

Star Wars is in the same boat with the superhero drivel with respect to transhumanism. Midichlorians, and worship of individual heroes.

I wonder if aristocracy has been with us for so long it might have imprinted itself into our genes in some way.

Paul SB said...

For something completely different, while the show titled after its main character, Shaun the Sherpas hero and leader often takes cues from and is assisted by the rest of the "crew" (though he is as often hindered by them). More in the spirit of Star Trek than Star Wars.

Paul SB said...

Shaun the Sherpas? Will someone please tell me how to shut off the %@#&! autocorrect!

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Star Wars is in the same boat with the superhero drivel with respect to transhumanism. Midichlorians, and worship of individual heroes.


Not so much in the original "Star Wars". The character who knew about The Force (Ben) was "too old for this kind of thing" himself, and so encouraged young, ordinary Luke to join the fight, and ultimately cajoled the reluctant Han Solo as well. And over on the Empire side, Darth Vader was a scary figure to friend and foe alike, but he was largely a curiosity. The real threat was the unseen Emperor, who ruled not by mysticism, but by the threat of the technological Death Star.

In fact, I may be the only one who noticed, let along liked this, but in the original "Star Wars", almost all of the combatants are anonymous to each other. The exception is Ben and Vader facing off against each other. But the Empire engages, captures, and then chases after the Millennium Falcon without having any idea who is on board. Likewise, the heroes battle stormtroopers aboard the Death Star, but they neither know nor care who Darth Vader is. And in the final confrontation, neither Luke nor Vader knows who is in the fighter opposite. I saw this as being more realistic in terms of how an actual war would play out.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Shaun the Sherpas? Will someone please tell me how to shut off the %@#&! autocorrect!


My teenager is too old, because I have no idea what you're really trying to say.

Paul SB said...

Shaun the Sheep. I know, not Sci-fi, but a good example of a fun show where the central character is obviously the "hero" like the captains in the Star Trek serials, but the supporting caste were just as important and even sometimes outdid the "hero." And no, I wasn't watching TV while grading essays, no not at all! (Though that could explain why I hadn't noticed that the autocorrect had turned Sheep's into Sherpas.) My kids were watching Shaun the Sheep. We just got Seasons 3 & 4 from Australia, because they are not available in the US. I had to get an all-region DVD player, but that's okey, it was only $35, and now I can watch my Blake's 7 DVDs, which I also got from Australia, because that is also not available in the US. Of course, I have to wait until Winter Break, because if I start watching Blake's 7 I won't get any grading done...

If you have never seen Shaun the Sheep, it's pretty slapstick, but hysterical. Blake's 7, on the other hand, is very dark, kind of what would have happened if George Orwell wrote Star Trek.

Jumper said...

LarryHart,
If it were a choice between Shatner and Trump, I'd vote for Shatner without thinking twice.

I bet you'd think WTF a few more times than twice. But yes, the decent completely unqualified guy vs the indecent completely unqualified guy.

locumranch said...



Star Trek represents an extension of our current dystopia as it is roughly based on (a) prison, (b) american high school and (c) the corporate cubicle farm where we are 'privileged' to exist in a self-contained artificial environment, be restricted to a confined space, labour without pay, wear mass-produced pajamas, enjoy the equality of hierarchical rank, eat rapidly replicated slop, be respectful of others & perform arbitrary tasks in accordance with a non-representational command structure, while we are reminded that our numerous 'freedoms' require that we sacrifice ourselves for the greater good.

We live in a FREE society, people!!

And, since we have been liberated from most of our (physiological, security & belonging) needs by these miracles of modern technology, we are now expected to 'free ourselves from prejudice', 'self-actualise', 'express our creativity', become great authors, painters & statesman, and ascend Maslow's Hierarchy by following the shining example set by the residents of Wandsworth, Sing Sing & San Quentin.


Best
_____
@Larry_H: The Romulans had yellow skin, Fu Manchu mustaches & said 'a so' in TOS.
@Donzelion: "the ideal superior man of the future who could rise above conventional Christian morality to create and impose his own values" equals Q (in all of his egoism).
@Kit: The individual can exist without the collective, but the collective cannot exist without the individual; the sweet spot for civilisation is at the centre; and tyranny reigns at either extreme.
@midboss57: Like boredom? I condemn you to secondary school forever.
@Tacitus: For 'Hornblower in Space', see the John Grimes adventures by A Bertram Chandler
@PaulSB: Shaun of the Dead (zombie film parody)

Jonathan Sills said...

Robert, it's also canon (TNG episodes "Parallels" and "Tapestry") that changes to the past can cause different quantum universes to come into existence, meaning the original universe still exists as well. Trek is, shall we say, just a tad inconsistent when it comes to time travel and how it works...

Laurence, recall that the stellar maps on the show are made by Federation cartographers. They may not be fully aware of the actual space occupied by the Klingon Empire or the Cardassian Union, particularly given that the far side of Klingon space is said to approach the nearest edge of the Delta Quadrant. Add to that the fact that the United Federation of Planets adds space already controlled by their member races to their official territory rather than having to go out and personally conquer it like the Klingons or Romulans, and that can lead to some pretty expansive-looking maps for the Feddies.

Oh, and John Kurman wrote:
"In 10,000 years the Federation spans the local galaxy cluster, with the Kelvin Empire as a member. It is on good relations with the Virgo supercluster."

This gave me a chuckle, because in the MMO Star Trek Online, we've paid a brief visit to the moment in the 29th Century when the Temporal Accords were signed. We even got to meet the Federation ambassador - a Klingon, in full regalia. (Also got to chat briefly with the representative from the Romulan Republic, a government Romulan players are helping to found back in the main game in the early 25th Century.) And hints are dropped that a couple of centuries later, in the 31st when the time cops come from, there's a Galactic Alliance, of which the Federation is one of the more enthusiastic members...

David Brin said...

I agree that Trek’s Federation is unrealistic. Alpha quadrant alone contains so many stars that it would tak far more than one generation to shift from Kirk’s wild and wooly exploration to Picard’s mostly known and subdivided quadrant… though that’s how long it took in the post civil war west.

My own biggest complaint was how the DS9 and TNG producers coft pedaled a blatant fact. That even if the Klingon and Romulan and Cardassian empires were smaller than the Federation, those vast expanses contained huge numbers of star systems where the peoples were subjugated. It should have been a major plot driver.

Anon… I love how sci fi portrays “overmind” beings that subsume all individuals within themselves. Asimov’s Gaia/Galaxica wears flowers in its hair and all components are one with nature and is a gooood thing. Clarke’s Overmind is the Next Step in growing up and unavoidable. The Borg clank and smell of icky machine oil and hence are portrayed as evil.

In Earth I try a very different approach.

David Brin said...



JJ Abrams having the Klingon world be so close was absurd.

LH: I said the final scene in EpIV gave “some” a link to Triumph of the Will. Not me. I LIKE epIV and adored Ep V. I had huge hopes for EpVI which turned into a betrayal.

But in those days EVERY SCI FI SERIES was betrayed by its third film! It went on for ages. SW3, Trek3, Terminator3 and especially the most rancid betrayal in the history of all cinema - Aliens 3.

RobH, Abrams’s destruction of Vulcan did feel awful to me, too. But I believe it will be a “new parallel universe” model of time alteration,. I urged Paramount to get some Nimoy “messages” in a can explaining this, that they could use later on. No one listened.

Tacitus good thoughts. FIRST Robotics forever!

Locum gets tedious… yes yes. Tolerance is actually its opposite! Appreciation of diversity is actually its opposite! Egalitarianism is actually its opposite! Yippee! Keep chanting man.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

because if I start watching Blake's 7 I won't get any grading done...


Just give 'em all a "B" and be done with it.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

@Larry_H: The Romulans had yellow skin, Fu Manchu mustaches & said 'a so' in TOS.


???

I still think you're thinking of the Klingons.

Romulans looked like Vulcans, so much so that Spock was suspected of being one in the first encounter.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Star Trek represents an extension of our current dystopia as it is roughly based on (a) prison, (b) american high school and (c) the corporate cubicle farm where we are 'privileged' to exist in a self-contained artificial environment, be restricted to a confined space, labour without pay, wear mass-produced pajamas, enjoy the equality of hierarchical rank, eat rapidly replicated slop, be respectful of others & perform arbitrary tasks in accordance with a non-representational command structure, while we are reminded that our numerous 'freedoms' require that we sacrifice ourselves for the greater good.


You get that from watching "Star Trek"? Really? From the fact that military personnel, even in a free society, have jobs that they are expected to perform, you get "prison, high school, and boring office jobs"?

Words fail me.


Jonathan Sills said...

Okay, I skipped over locum, as usual. But say what??

Romulans, in TOS, were physically identical to Vulcans. That's where the plot point for the universe came from, that the Romulans were in fact descendants of those Vulcans who refused to abandon their warlike ways after the Reformation of Surak, and set forth from their homeworld to find a new one. (Diane Duane's novel The Romulan Way is regarded as soft canon for this.)

The Klingons in TOS did have facial hair that could, one supposes, be taken as "Fu Manchu" in a way, if you squint really hard; politically, however, they were obviously a stand-in for the Soviet Union, especially in proxy wars like "A Private Little War" or espionage like "The Trouble With Tribbles".

And nobody said "ah so" in TOS. That was just stupid. (Perhaps you're thinking of the Star Wars prequels, with their "Trade Federation" that consisted of ugly Asian stereotypes?)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Locum gets tedious… yes yes. Tolerance is actually its opposite! Appreciation of diversity is actually its opposite! Egalitarianism is actually its opposite!


Don't forget my favorite. "People who now work menial jobs all day just to have enough money to survive, if they didn't need money to survive, would...be stuck endlessly working those same menial jobs for no particular reason!"

Tacitus2 said...

I'm not sure how deep you want to dig into the nature of imaginary species but for what it is worth Kirk did try to pass off Spock as Chinese in City on the Edge of Tomorrow. So I vote Romulans confirmed as Red Chinese stand ins. They kind of wore Mao suits too now that I think of it.

Tacitus

Paul SB said...

Larry vs. loci,

I thought both Romulans and Klingons were a little bit ambiguous, and probably deliberately so. In TOS the Romulans spoke of their homeward as Romulus, and you just couldn't be more blatant about your classical allusions, could you? But the haircuts made me think Chinese. Klingons in TOS acted a bit like the Spaniards in old pirate movies, but their names sounded more Chinese (or some bastardized version, anyway). The movies and later shows muddied the waters more, adding elements of Viking to the Klingons and Soviet Union to the Romulans (though the Kardashians were the more Soviet).

"Words fail me."

I've got plenty of words, but they are about as effective as rain on a duck with him.

"Just give 'em all a "B" and be done with it."
Recipe for unemployment. Teaching has become too politicized these days, teachers too much the scapegoats for all our society's ills.

LarryHart said...

Jonathan Sills:

The Klingons in TOS did have facial hair that could, one supposes, be taken as "Fu Manchu" in a way, if you squint really hard; politically, however, they were obviously a stand-in for the Soviet Union, especially in proxy wars like "A Private Little War" or espionage like "The Trouble With Tribbles".


Soviets and Chinese, remember. The episode where the two tribes were the Yangs and the Kohms, where Kirk won the day by reciting the preamble to the United States Constitution (thank goodness for Schoolhouse Rock) described the planet's history as being one in which the "asiatics" won the cold war. In the late 1960s, I gather there was not much difference in viewers' minds between Soviets and "mongol hordes".

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

I'm not sure how deep you want to dig into the nature of imaginary species but for what it is worth Kirk did try to pass off Spock as Chinese in City on the Edge of Tomorrow. So I vote Romulans confirmed as Red Chinese stand ins.


Et tu, Tacitus?

The Chinese bit in "City on the Edge of Forever" is, I believe, to explain his arched eyebrows. Kirk then doubled down to explain that the ears had been damaged in a...mechanical...rice-picker. An obvious comic relief scene which today sounds a little like it might have been a William Shatner ad-lib. Edith Keeler wasn't buying it, though. The point was that Spock looked strange, and that "strange" in the 1930s might be explained as "Chinese", not that Spock actually looked Chinese.

The Romulans came from planets Roumulus and Remus, and had preators and centuriaons and stuff like that. How can anyone not get that they were stand ins for Romans.

The Klingons were the obvious Chinese (or ok, maybe Soviet) analogues in "A Private Little War" mentioned above. IIRC, the Romulans were only in three episodes: "Balance of Terror", "The Deadly Years", and "The Enterprise Incident", the latter one itself confusing the Roumlans with Klingons by having the Romulans, cloaking device and all, in Klingon vessels. Show me a single fu-manchu mustache in any of those episodes, and I'll admit you've got a point.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The movies and later shows muddied the waters more, adding elements of Viking to the Klingons and Soviet Union to the Romulans


My sister-in-law used to complain about the TNG Klingons being sterotypical black men. I showed her the TOS Klingons to prove that it wasn't always so.


(though the Kardashians were the more Soviet).


LOL. Is that your autocorrect working again, replacing a perfectly good Star Trek species name with the clan of Caitlyn Jenner?

Paul SB said...

LOL. Is that your autocorrect working again, replacing a perfectly good Star Trek species name with the clan of Caitlyn Jenner?

- No, I was just having fun with the obvious.

BTW: I emailed you a week or so ago. Does the lack of response indicate I have an outdated address? It was re. Glory Season.

On another matter completely. locumranch recommended I watch "Shaun of the Dead" - a movie I have never seen though have been told it was both funny and intelligent. Not being a big fan of zombies, I never took an interest. I deal with enough cell phone zombies on the highway as it is. But it appears to have been a genuine, snark-free suggestion coming from him. I guess I will have to at least thank him for the recommendation (Thanks for the recommendation, Loci!)and hope that this is a sign he will behave more like an adult in this forum. :) :/ ...

David Brin said...

Shaun of the dead was funny. Simon Pegg is wonderful and I would work with him in a heartbeat.

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

BTW: I emailed you a week or so ago. Does the lack of response indicate I have an outdated address? It was re. Glory Season.


No, it just means I don't check e-mail often enough, and real communications get buried in the spam. I'll check again.

Tacitus2 said...

Well a fair amount of Trek canon came not from a unified galactic theorum but by people making stuff up on the fly and grabbing whatever happened to be in the prop room. If I recall correctly we were at the time deep into Vietnam and while we were not technically at war with China they were the more proximate proxy. Also we had been in active hostilities with China over in Korea just a few years earlier. Maybe there was a desire to not poke at the Chinese too directly. Calling the Romulans something more direct, say Cantonians, would have been a bit too touchy.

But like all imaginary worlds, you pack your own suitcase for the vist.

Tacitus

Tony Fisk said...

Belated response to this thread. My first conscious memory of Star Trek was via a skit in Mad magazine. Attempts to see it proved frustrating. Newly emigrated to Australia in the late sixties, where TV was a luxury item. I just managed to stretch the home curfew long enough to sneak in the first half of 'Lost in Space' at a friend's home. Star Trek would have been on far too late. Then we moved to the Pilbara, where TV was as fantastical as going to the Moon. Subsequently moved to Gippsland, where neither of the two channels were showing ST. Then to Melbourne, where reception for the desired channel was so poor I had to balance the antenna on top of my head to get the fuzziest of images. It would probably be called 'cosplay' these days.

I thought the latest movie showed real effort to get the show back to its origins. Young Kirk has matured from a gung-ho light phaser wielding idiot only Adm. Pike could love into a captain who thinks about his crew first. Indeed, that is the underlying theme. The timeline has been placed neatly where the account of the original 5 year mission was cut short. We shall see whether the next movie goes. One thing I will say: at least Starfleet Command is now portrayed as having *some* brains!

Rob's comments about the nature of ST timelines precluding parallel universes is a subtle accusation to level at an imagined universe, but it's an interesting one. The problem can be wriggled out of by pointing out that time travel in the reboot was via a wormhole whereas the previous efforts were via 'gravitational slingshot' that didn't actually cause any departure from this universe, just a relocation.
It could also be argued that observers on the edge of an anomaly (eg. 'City', and 'First Contact') might see the parallel Universe as altered *without* their presence. So we initially see Earth before McCoy enters, then with McCoy alone, then with Spock and Kirk searching for McCoy. Similarly, as the Enterprise pursues the Borg vessel, we see Earth unchanged, then Earth with the Borg unhindered, and finally Earth with the Borg *and* the Enterprise. This might raise issues with how they return.

Final point: Alien 3 wasn't a bad movie; certainly not as dire as David portrays. The problem was one of expectation. The Alien franchise is primarily aimed at the horror market. Hope has no place there, so it could be argued that the second movie betrayed the others (even if it's the one I've watched more than once)

David Brin said...

Tony, your antenna on head story was hilarious.

But Aliens 3 was so bloody horrific that I still feel bile today. We had rooted for Ripley to save her adopted daughter in Aliens and were vested in Newt. To betray all that was the act of truly evil men. Truly despicably evil and I mean that deeply. And the rest of A3 demonstrated this down the line.

I wanted Aliens 4 to have Ripley wake up from A3 as a bad dream. Sure a cliche... but A3 would suddenly make sense! It is exactly what she would have dreamed! After having scoured the ship inside and out for a year. As she would have done, so A3 simply could not have happened.

A.F. Rey said...

I was watching Wrath of Khan on one of the many channels showing Star Trek movies the other night, and it occurred to me that your analysis is the movie's plot.

Khan, the literal Ubermensch, goes up against Kirk and his crew. Kirk makes numerous mistakes, but is saved by his crew (Savak, Spock, etc.) Ultimately, the crew defeats Khan, who refused to listen to the advice of his crew, being "the superior intelligence."

I suspect Nicholas Meyer would agree with your essay. :)

Tony Fisk said...

One other thing about Gippsland (Bairnsdale) C1970: the household TV antenna towers were *huge*! Some of them were easily over 100'. They made excellent perches for the resident magpies, whose stealth 'death from above' divebombing tactics during nesting season were highly reminiscent of Romulan warbirds (cloaking devices and all).

I agree with you about Alien 3* being a betrayal of the direction given in Aliens. I was simply pointing out why. The producers could have given us SF hope. Instead, they opted for Cthulhu-like despair, and our sanity levels got adjusted down *twitch*.

*'Aliens 3' sounds like an extraterrestrial buddy movie, or a Thor spinoff (He-yy...!)

Flypusher said...

Star Trek was my first exposure to sci if as a youngun, watching it in reruns on late night TV. Although I think TNG (from season 3 on) and DS9 were the best of Trek, I still have affection for the original serious in all its campy glory, because it was my gateway into all sorts of mind-expanding sci fi. So thank you very much, Great Bird of the Galaxy!

Star Wars was the Saturaday matinee action adventure flick, fun for a few hours, but not mind-expanding. Except for the music, I totally dig the Star Wars sound tracks.

I enjoy both Wagner and Mozart, but like Wagner better on the listening end and Mozart better on the playing end.

David Brin said...

AFR good riff on Wrath of Khan which... (note Flypusher)... has one of the best film scores ever ever ever!

Well... except for the other film I call "perfect". Conan the Barbarian. Two of the finest moments in human art.

Paul SB said...

Tell me if I'm crazy, but does the soundtrack to Wrath of Khan sound in some spots like a pumped up version of Prokofiev's "Alexander Nevsky" soundtrack? Are my musically unschooled ears misperceiving?

I hope the reference to Conan the Barbarian was to the soundtrack and not the movie overall...

donzelion said...

@Paul SB - I'm still chuckling at Shaun the Sherpa! The world needs a Tibetan crusader for justice and silly joy.

@Locum - If you get "prison, high school, and boring office jobs" from Star Trek, then you've been to VERY different prisons, high school, and offices than I (though I was never incarcerated, just visiting prisons, so maybe it's more like Star Trek from a different vantage).

@Dr. Brin - "Conan the Barbarian" is the ULTIMATE silent opera. Conan speaks less than 5 words in the entire movie to his love interest, around 200 words in the entire film (not lines, words). The rest is that incredible score by Basil Pouledoris, ah, what a film (for an early adolescent impressed by swords and boobs). But honestly, the Milius/Schwarzenegger commentary is hilarious (watched it in honor of the latter's inauguration) - the latter is utterly disinterested. And of course, there's the immortal Ursula leGuin's takedown on blonde barbarians and other 'gerbils'...

donzelion said...

@Paul SB - You must see the Conan commentary to truly comprehend the magnificence of the movie.
Milius: "Remember that sword."
Arnie: "Oh yes. It was heavy."
Milius: "Remember Sandra?"
Arnie: "Yes. She was pretty."

It's the poetry of Ernest Hemingway on acid after a lobotomy.

Then skip the movie and buy the soundtrack. ;-) In terms of Wrath of Khan, I'd say James Horner's other early and unloved work, Krull, is even better. Not the movie. Wrath has its moments (Surprise Attack, Battle of Mutara Nebula, and the Kirk, Enterprise, and Spock themes), but much of it is experimental and/or filler (though Horner would steal ideas from that suite for most of the rest of his career).

Paul SB: "...does the soundtrack to Wrath of Khan sound in some spots like a pumped up version of Prokofiev's "Alexander Nevsky" soundtrack?" Your ears are not deceived. Russian concepts work quite well in film, since they feature mixed or irregular metrical forms (easier to time the music with the action). German approaches tend to be harder to use for a number of reasons (e.g., in Excalibur, Wagner, Orff, and Trevor Jones' original work is mixed together - but which one is memorable and works in all cases? The build on Wagner feels totally wrong in several instances, even though the music is aptly chosen, it needs time that a film cut just won't give it) (and that's intended for a non-opera fan ;-)

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Locumranch is just showing his disapproval of industrial society values. He is one of the many who feel alienated. When ever someone points out the horror of cubicle farms, they are demonstrating a known mal-adaptation for all of us.

We put up with this horror not because we like it, but because it is better than grubbing in the dirt at subsistence wage levels.

Alfred Differ said...

My personal test for stories and story universes is whether I can imagine myself in a small fan fiction plot. After placing myself in the plot, I reflect on how I feel and make my judgements from there.

Star Wars has been fun to watch, but I've never liked imagining myself as part of a story set in that universe. Without knowing why, I just say 'Ick'. The movies are entertaining, but only as someone else.

Star Trek TOS is different, though. It was easy to imagine myself being part of that, but with one problem. I really didn't like the assumption of a WWIII taking place. That struck me as discordant, but not out of place since so many other people of the time seemed to despair of its inevitability. (When the later TNG movie told the back story, I liked it even less.) Still, I would stay awake very late to watch re-runs in the 70's and consider the lost sleep well spent.

I liked the Borg from TNG and wanted to see more material about races the Federation simply couldn't handle. The Borg were so obviously out of the Federation's league that I had hopes they would address my other issue with Star Trek. Progress was too slow. It made no sense. HERE was a race that showed how it could be done... and then follow-on scripts dumbed them down. Our android can beat them all! Ugh. That too was discordant. Too much ubermensh.

Oddly enough, the series that worked best for me was Voyager. They could have done much more with it and didn't. It's almost as if they were afraid to do it. It was still fun, though.

David Brin said...

Actually, I thought the film Conan was amazing. Look, it did not try to be anything other than what it is. And what it is, it does absolutely perfectly. Sure, the score makes it work, the stunning loveliness of the pastoral scenes of two friends running across the wilderness...

Look, I don't have to justify the fact that not everything has to be cerebral or modernistic. Fantasy is okay! I just hate what most of it preaches. And Conan simply preaches that really evil demigods should get bent.

Oh.. then there's Max Von Sydow. I will never forgive the Force Awakens director for having in front of his camera Max.... freaking... Von... Sydow... and doing NOTHING with him

"There comes a time, barbarian, when the throne room becomes a prison..."

Great stuff.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - Conan is all the wonders of red meat for the adolescent soul. Adolescence needs no justification; red meat, on the other hand, sometimes does. (I find nothing wrong with swords and boobs either, to be honest, hence Game of Thrones.)

But do watch the commentary some day. Especially after a few beers. It will shed not one light on the movie, nor will it confer any cerebral meaning to anything at all - but you will understand Arnie's governorship in a whole new light. (Actually, make that a LOT of beers; the more imbibed, the more sense it will all make.)

Alfred Differ said...

That Conan movie taught me characters who speak too much aren't courageous. Silence is the marker of noble courage. A lot of cowboy movies do this too. Turn down the sound on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and it still works.

Of course, courage is the paramount virtue. Hurrah for fantasy. 8)

donzelion said...

Alfred - turn down the sound on "The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly" and you'd miss the incredible choir during the torture sequence, as well as the rest of Morricone's score.

Such a loss would be tantamount to extending our current dystopia into a prison of high school cubicle farms, to labor without pay in mass-produced pajamas, while hierarchical ranks eat slop rapidly through non-representational command structures. (I'm not actually sure what that would be like, but presume it would be very bad indeed. As would missing the music from 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.')

Jumper said...

I grub in the dirt for less than subsistence wages... oh, I dunno, this year's crop of ancho peppers is HUGE.

Star Trek had a lot of different writers. Season 1 is interesting. There was no canon.

Paul SB said...

Shaun the Sherpa might be too much storm and does, what with all the kukris flying around. And there's only so many times you can have a character struck by an avalanche or step in yeti poop. ;] But then, who would have thought they could have pulled off a show about farm animals for 4 years and a movie! In honor of Trek's 50th, my daughter wants to draw the Shaun the Sheep cast as the bridge crew, though we thought it would be kind of mean to cast Shirley as Lt. Uhura. I also suggested she could draw the bar fight scene from "The Trouble with Tribbles" so Shirley could be a tribble. Then we could have the Naughty Pigs as the Klingons. They would look pretty manly with those little Spaniard beards.

The idea that Russian-style irregular meter works better for movies than the Classical theme and development pattern makes pretty good sense. My oldest friend, who I have known since the 8th grade, went to film school, so I heard a lot about cinematographers paying homage to the great pioneers of film, so it also made sense that soundtrack artists might do the same.

I only watched Conan once, and I remember the music better than the movie itself. Sorry, but I was turned off by the big bull(y) with not much brains. Fun is as much a matter of personal taste as anything else. I loved the Indiana Jones movies back then, and they weren't especially intellectual, either. (Ironic that my 8th grade friend went to film school while I went to learn archaeology as a trade - talk about scrabbling in the dirt for a subsistence wage! It would have been more fun if I had been able to stay in the business until retirement age, then we could have great old geezer reminiscence sessions.)

Since we're on the subject of Conan, I'm waiting for Larry to say something about his favorite comic, which started out as a Conan parody (what if the barbarian were smart instead of bulky?).

Paul SB said...

Oh, and speaking of barbarians...

Alfred, I don't think too many people would disagree that high school, prisons and cube farms suck, but what kind of fool of a playground bully takes Conan the Barbarian seriously as an alternative?

Alfred the Barbarian! Cue Basil Pouledoris ...

No, no! Not the timpani! Too much storm and does!

Flypusher said...

"FR good riff on Wrath of Khan which... (note Flypusher)... has one of the best film scores ever ever ever!

Well... except for the other film I call "perfect". Conan the Barbarian. Two of the finest moments in human art."

Those are in my music collection! Also loved both films. Conan was more fun than Star Wars. Ah-nold was perfect for that role, Sandahl Bergmann kicked ass as Valeria, and James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom!

And slightly off tangent, as much as Star Trek V was panned as the worst, I just love that line "Why does God need a starship?"

Tim H. said...

Isn't the Arnold about the right age to be "Cohen the Barbarian"? Terry Pratchett's literary executors might go along with it...

Darrell E said...

David Brin Said . . .

"Oh.. then there's Max Von Sydow. I will never forgive the Force Awakens director for having in front of his camera Max.... freaking... Von... Sydow... and doing NOTHING with him

I could not agree more. Exactly what I thought after the few seconds of screen time he had. After seeing the trailers for this new Rogue One movie I am wondering if it might turn out to be the best Star Wars movie yet. I hope they don't waste Forest Whitaker like Max ... freaking . . . Von . . . Sydow . . . was wasted in The Force Awakens.

Regarding Conan, I am a little surprised but pleased that David thinks well of the movie. I always have liked it as well. James Earl Jones' portrayal of Thulsa Doom remains my standard for the epic movie villain. The opening scene, ending with Thulsa Doom confronting the boy Conan and his mother was operatic, and James Earl Jones was perfect.

A.F. Rey said...

And slightly off tangent, as much as Star Trek V was panned as the worst, I just love that line "Why does God need a starship?"

It is a great line, Flypusher, but not good enough to save the rest of the film. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," anyone? :p

And any time I think about the Laughing Vulcan, I think it should be the name of a bar. (I'd certainly have a drink there.)

Tacitus2 said...

Laughing Vulcan does bring to mind an episode of Cheers that featured a drink called The Screaming Viking...

Tacitus

raito said...

It looks like I'm the contrarian today. While the general sense that the ST universe is more sane than the SW universe, all is not as rosy as many would have it.

While I was much younger than Our Host, I recall watching Star Trek when first broadcast. But I also watched the Irwin Allen shows, the only really decent one being the first season of Lost In Space. Let me tell you, the combination of Star Trek and NASA in the 60's was powerful stuff.

My son is now the age that I was when Star Trek first aired. H&I now has a block where they're showing all the series. My son likes them, as he should.

A couple opening remarks. So many deprecate the parsecs thing in SW, but I never did. Imagine that there is hyperspace, and that it works by either directly folding, or navigating folds in regular space. Further stipulate that velocity in this hyperspace is constant, or that all jumps take the same amount of subjective time. Then it makes sense that a hyperspace jump could be measured as a distance, rather than a time.

Nor do I have any inherent problem with the knight-squire relationship. And it shows up in the various ST series quite often.

Now on to the meat, and only considering for Star Trek the original series.

While it is certainly true that Starfleet doesn't care about gender or ethnicity, such cannot be said about the UFP in general. It might or might not. But we very seldom see any UFP civilians, and when we do, they're mostly scientists and the like.

We know there's criminal activity in the UFP. And while we don't know whether the Orion Colonies are part of the UFP, we know that there's slavery. And we know that not everyone is happy in the UFP.

It's also telling, but probably topical, and many of the Starfleet admirals and bureaucrats are far from helpful (and this is often true of officials for planets the Enterprise visits, but for different reasons). This is probably commentary on the Vietnam war, saying that the ones piloting desks are out of touch with the actual situation.

And the original series has its share of idiot plots. Starfleet has officers who go crazy every seven years and they don't know about it? Beings who are telepathic enough to make real one's memories can't seem to pull out enough info to put a dying human back together correctly?

As for Star Wars...

It's not knight and squire I have trouble with. And it's not even Joe Campbell and the pernicious monomyth (Campbell was studying existing myth rather than making his own)(Moorcock's Eternal Champion is about the only example I can stomach).

The problem with Star Wars is the idea that some are chosen by destiny. >You< can't be a hero, no matter what you do. Only heroes can be heroes. So don't bother trying.

It even forgives the villain who murders millions. The again, a face turn for the villain was almost required at the time.

And I do wonder why all the institutions in Star Wars are inept. The Republic gets taken over by the Empire. The Empire falls to the Rebels. The Rebels get at least partially usurped by the First Order. The Jedi get wiped out.

No wonder that universe in unpleasant. You have to wonder when the Log Night is coming.

raito said...

Apparently, I ran over the limit...

donzelion,

Anna Russell's take on Siegfried is spot-on.

And you might like http://www.sfwa.org/2005/01/on-thud-and-blunder/ (Poul Anderson's On Thud And Blunder)

Krull? Just awful. Though the family played the board game last night.

Herbert Miller,

That's about as nice a face as anyone's put on the Force.

Midboss57,

I'd say Babylon 5 has a different view of transhumanism, wouldn't you?

Tim H.

Do you see the irony in your statement? If there be those who call you by that name...

LarryHart,

Leia knew Vader and Tarkin. But yeah, the Force doesn't seem to work when the plot requires otherwise. The Force guy can't tell his enemy is his son? Geez...

Dr. Brin,

I concur about the Alien franchise. One of the most interesting thing was the idea that while a single Alien could take out a ship full of crew, a hive full could effectively be fought for a long time by trained soldiers. Until sheer numbers got the better of them.

But I disagree about Conan the Barbarian, at least as compared to the writings. Though I will say that Arnie was the guy to play him, and the production design was spot-on.

And you're quite right about Max von Sydow.

Tim H. said...

Irony? I intended snark, and yes, people call me Tim.

LarryHart said...

Flypusher:

Star Wars was the Saturaday matinee action adventure flick, fun for a few hours, but not mind-expanding. Except for the music, I totally dig the Star Wars sound tracks.


It's hard for a modern audience to picture what "Star Wars" brought to the screen in 1977 irrespective of the plot. Today, we take CGI for granted, and the popcorn ads at the theaters have better special effects than "Star Wars", but "Star Wars" is what made that all happen. My love for "Star Wars", the original movie in 1977 had almost nothing to do with the plot or characters other than that those things were interesting enough to keep me involved in the movie. It was the spectacle, the visuals that made it seem as if you were really there as that huge star-destroyer lumbered by in the opening scene, or during a dogfight in space, or with the fighters crashing into the Death Star, that made "Star Wars" the phenomenon that it was. And yes, the musical score by John Williams added to the operatic experience as well.

Later forays into expanding the "Star Wars saga" (a kind of reverse alchemy, turing gold into lead) tried to portray Star Wars fandom as being about the story, or about the Jedi philosophy. That was never what made "Star Wars" a sensation. Every special-effects-laden blockbuster movie, from the Marvel and DC Comics films to the "Star Trek" films to 90-minute toy ads like "Transformers" owe a debt to "Star Wars".

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

Alfred, I don't think too many people would disagree that high school, prisons and cube farms suck,


I never took issue with that. My incredulity was at the idea that anyone in "Star Trek" seemed to be living the hell that locumranch was describing.


Flypusher:

And slightly off tangent, as much as Star Trek V was panned as the worst, I just love that line "Why does God need a starship?"


Yeah, but the stupidity was that it took a whole movie to figure that out. (Also, Spock's never-before-mentioned brother)

LarryHart said...

raito:

But yeah, the Force doesn't seem to work when the plot requires otherwise. The Force guy can't tell his enemy is his son? Geez...


Well, that's because Luke wasn't his son at that point. And he wasn't Leia's brother either when she kissed him full on the lips toward the beginning of ESB. The whole "everyone who uses the Force is a Skywalker" thing was a horrid retcon, not part of the original plot.

Yes, I get that Leia wouldn't have known the relationship (although again, that whole Force thing), but I'm not saying she wouldn't have kissed him if she was (unknowingly) his sister. I'm saying the scene wouldn't have been written that way. It's supposed to be a minor romantic victory for Luke, not something that creeps you out.

donzelion said...

Raito - given the brief joy of Shaun the Sherpa (of the dead?) - I'm not fantasizing the "Log Night is Coming" with a Twin Peaks log lady (RIP)...not one bit.

Larry - I'm imagining Lucas & Friends writing Empire, watching Wagner, scratching their heads, and thinking, "Yeah, why not make Leia his sister?" Debate ensues for months, before common sense prevails and Han gets the gal. If only Luke & Leia had their own little Siegfried together, who would grow up to screw up the universe and revert back to the beginning... ;-)

Yes, it's all very silly, as is most opera. The beauty of Star Trek is the platform for stripping silliness, setting it in space, blasting it with phasers and making us feel how silly and small so many things actually are, compared to what endures, like friendship among competent, motivated, decent normal folks.

Jonathan Sills said...

Re: "that parsec thing":

Notice that after Solo makes that claim, Obi-wan rolls his eyes. I know it wasn't in the script, but I think the way the actors were playing it was that Solo was a braggart who didn't know half as much as he thought he did, but who was desperate for this commissioned flight. (This also fits in with the incident in The Empire Strikes Back when he appeared to show no surprise that he'd managed to land in a cave - in an asteroid - with atmosphere.)

(In the webcomic Darths & Droids, based on the idea that the movies never existed and this is some guy's role-playing campaign, they're also playing it that way, but it's partly because Jim, the guy playing Han in the game, is a geologist and plays RPGs in order to turn his brain off. He made a hilarious Qui-gon Jin, too.)

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Yes, it's all very silly, as is most opera. The beauty of Star Trek is the platform for stripping silliness, setting it in space, blasting it with phasers and making us feel how silly and small so many things actually are


So "Star Trek", even long after it occurred to the viewers, at least gives us "Why does God need a starship?", whereas no one ever wondered "Why does a super-Force-powered Emperor need a Death Star (let alone two of them)?"

raito said...

donzelion,

Ouch. :)

Since I'm here, I'll also point out that one of the major failings of the Star Wars movies was the Clone Wars.

Imagine if the thematic material was not Jedi + clones vs. droids, but whether it's more effective to train your people all to their potential, or to take your 'best guy' (not that Jango was ever very effective) and make a million of him.

That would be a better story.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Thanks for the welcome, Dr. Brin! I never stopped reading your blog, but didn't really have enough time to read and respond to the comments. Honestly, I'm surprised and honored that you remember me.


Star Trek to me is awesome because it is a bright and hopeful universe in which humanity is perfectly capable of succeeding, and is shown to succeed. The Federation and ship crews in all the shows face many challenges, and the Federation and the crews are not without fault by any measure, but the underlying theme to all Trek, and what makes it great and exceptional, is the idea that we CAN succeed, that we CAN overcome our problems and our faults, and become better people who make the world better around us. The Federation is shown to have already resolved and moved past many of the problems that we struggle with today, and it and the crew are continually shown to resolve their problems and correct and overcome their faults as regular human beings. Trek shows us not just as better people, but more importantly, as people who can get better, and continually improve upon ourselves and overcome our faults and challenges, and rise to meet new challenges and find and correct new faults. It's that hope for the future, hope that we can fix our problems, and become better people, that is why I love Trek.

That, and I find the lore of the universe to be utterly fascinating. Speaking of which...


Laurence said...

Love Blake's Seven. If you look at the stellar cartography maps of the Star Trek universe (they're my housemate's. He's much nerdier than me) you see something interesting. The federation is humongous compared to nearly all its neighbors, a galactic superpower.


Actually, the Federation isn't that much larger than its neighbors. Well, at least some of them. There are plenty of minor powers that are pretty diminutive in comparison to the Federation (both territory-wise and technology-wise), but the Federation isn't the sole superpower in her local region of the Galaxy. The Romulan Star Empire, the Klingon Empire, and the Tholian Empire are all superpowers that are, though not on exact parity with the Federation, pretty close to her in terms of size, influence, and strategic power.

In terms of overall space that the Federation is spread across, yes, it stretches across much more space than any of the other Big Four (many people discount the Tholian Assembly because they don't get much attention, but they were technologically superior to the Federation in a number of ways in TOS, and mentions of dealings and diplomacy with the Tholians seems to be given the same regard as dealings with any of the other three major powers), but the Federation is actually squeezed pretty tight between the Klingon, Romulans, and Gorn to the galactic "east," the Tholians to the galactic "southwest," and the Cardassians, Ferengi, and Breen to the galactic "northwest." The main core of the Federation is only roughly comparable in size to the other powers, with three distinct lobes that squeeze between the gaps to the galactic "north" (centering around Antares), the galactic "southeast" (towards Rigel), and the galactic "west" (towards Deneb). These lobes, and even parts of the core Federation territory are also not uniformly owned by the Federation - there are a number of minor powers and independent systems (like the Kzinti, who fought multiple wars with Earth in the latter half of the 21st Century, and who remained independent from and hostile towards the Federation well into the 22nd Century, despite their proximity to Earth).

Ilithi Dragon said...

And that's just in the local region around the Federation - the Federation and all her neighboring powers combined are dwarfed by both the Dominion, and the Borg Collective. The Federation is most certainly not a Galactic superpower, and it could be argued that it's not even a local superpower, since there are at least three other empires that rival the Federation, with several other minor star nations that are still substantial enough to give the Federation a serious challenge (such as the Talarians, who destroyed several Federation colonies during their war with the Federation in the 2350s).


Regarding the JJVerse and the work Abrams did to Star Trek, the whole thing, start to finish, is an alternate universe. Even the Kelvin and "Old Spock" were from universes alternate to the Prime/Original Universe from the very beginning. There are several discrepancies between what we observe in the events surrounding the Kelvin's loss, tidbits we are given about history prior to her loss, and tidbits from Old Spock that do not mesh with the existing lore of the Prime Universe. Abrams & his Dastardly Duo writing team wanted to place the rebooted movies in an alternate universe to give them the freedom to shamelessly (and terribly) copy anything from the Prime Universe they wanted, with their own (insultingly horrible) spin/story additions/changes/etc., so let them have the whole thing as an entirely separate universe that does nothing to sully the Prime Universe.


Tacitus2 said...

Star Trek as Gene Roddenberry's "Wagon Train to the Stars" gets quoted often but I think is deceptive. A better analogy, and one that GR I think made himself, is an updated version of the "Hornblower" series of naval epics by C.S. Forrester. .... even tolerant Trek fans have to groan at the Enterprise firing up their engines and flying from the Neutral Zone to earth in a few minutes...what, the Neutral Zone is out by Alpha Centuri!!!).


Yes, TOS absolutely borrowed themes from Horatio Hornblower, and deliberately so.

Also, First Contact doesn't really properly cover everything, but looking at the maps of where the Borg Cube was first engaged, and the part of the RNZ the Enterprise was assigned to patrol (the Feds and Roms share a fairly long border; the nearest parts, dating back to the Earth-Romulan War, are fairly close to Earth, but the further bits are some distance away), there is no way that it was minutes, and tidbits we're given about the battle after the fact in DS9, and the ramifications of it, require the Battle of Sector 001 to have not been a short fight. We know it was a running engagement - the Cube smashed through the fleet and system defenses Starfleet had set up in their way in the Typhon Sector and kept on going at Warp 9.something. Even at the high warp speeds we saw them running at in "Q Who?" and "Best of Both Worlds," it would have taken them days to get to Earth. The Battle of Sector 001 was a 3-day running battle that cost the Federation over a thousand ships lost, and many more damaged. Picard's ordering of the ship to battle stations was a dramatization for cinema.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Jonathan Sills said...

Re: "that parsec thing":

Notice that after Solo makes that claim, Obi-wan rolls his eyes. I know it wasn't in the script, but I think the way the actors were playing it was that Solo was a braggart who didn't know half as much as he thought he did, but who was desperate for this commissioned flight. (This also fits in with the incident in The Empire Strikes Back when he appeared to show no surprise that he'd managed to land in a cave - in an asteroid - with atmosphere.)


It actually IS in the script. The Parsec comment was SUPPOSED to be Solo spinning an obviously BS line to impress the ignorant peasant farmers he thought wouldn't know better (and, of course, Luke being the ignorant peasant farmboy, bought it hook line and sinker; Kenobi, the experienced Jedi Knight and Clone War General knew better and rolled his eyes at the obvious BS).

It's a shame that so many fans completely missed that subtlety in that scene, and instead of accepting the obvious BS line as obvious BS as it was written to be, they bent over backwards to invent a myriad of explanations for it, that are all equally silly.


@Locum:

.... I just ranted about this earlier in this thread. THEY ALL WEAR THE SAME UNIFORM BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL IN A MILITARY ORGANIZATION. That's part of the nature of being in a military. We wear uniforms, to provide a sense of uniformity, and to provide visual indicators of the rank and structure that are required by professional military organizations. They follow orders and are held accountable for their actions and are required to carry out duties because they are serving on a naval vessel that is operating in deep space. The environment that they are operating in is ACTIVELY TRYING TO KILL THEM, in numerous ways, and the only thing keeping all of them alive is the life support equipment and defenses of the ship. Those systems and equipment have to be maintained and operated correctly, and the systems that interact with them have to be maintained and operated correctly, or the entire ship and crew get put at risk of dying. On top of that, they have to maintain constant readiness to respond to threats and emergencies, to take the ship into even more dangerous environments and situations than normal to carry out their job in research and exploration and surveying, and to carry out their responsibilities for policing, search-and-rescue, and when diplomacy and all other means fail, to engage in combat and wage war.

That means they have uniforms, and duties and responsibilities, and harsh penalties for failing to uphold them, and live under the jurisdiction of a Uniform Code of Military Justice, and have to follow orders and function in and as a part of a highly-disciplined and highly professional military structure. Because that's their job. That they volunteered for.

That is not representative of the Federation as a whole, however, because that is STARFLEET. The shows revolve around the officers and crews of Starfleet vessels, all members of Starfleet, the Space Navy of the United Federation of Planets. It is no more representative of the Federation as a whole than the attire, behavior, and life structure of the crew of the USS Nathan James in The Last Ship is representative of the United States as a whole.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Have I mentioned lately that I hate character limits?
} X = 8 )

donzelion said...

Larry - I'd finish the sentiment - "...compared to what endures, like friendship among competent, motivated, decent normal folks." In Star Wars, the universe explodes, the chosen children rise up against their parent and destroy an empire, blah blah rah rah - and Leia and Han get a divorce. Or something. Star Wars is a creature trapped in its own melodrama. Like much opera (and even great opera): strip away the presentation, and the story doesn't go very deep.

Trek, at least has a recurring theme, that once you strip away the episodic threats to life, the universe, and everything, the crew will sit down for a brew or a cup of Earl Grey once more and exchange witty, humane banter. I imagine Kirk, Spock, and McCoy sitting around sipping illegal Batarian ale around a campfire back at Yosemite: "Hmmm...well Kirk, you certainly out-logicked me there on that starship/God thing..." (Scotty, returning peeing behind a tree in the dark, rushes back to interject a brilliant self-referential pun but hits his head on a tree branch, knocking himself out.)

Unimaginable in the Lucasverse.

Robert said...

While there were quite a few flaws in Star Trek V, I do want you to consider one thing: the Heroic Journey.

In the Heroic Journey, a hero goes forth on an adventure to find some powerful Wizard or God or other Deus Ex Machina who may very well have known the hero was seeking them out but never bothered to go to them. Why? Because the journey itself was the important thing.

Finding "God" at the "center of the Galaxy" was a Heroic Journey. If that was actually God, then essentially God would have approved of the Hero seeking God out and rewarded the Hero in some fashion, perhaps even going out into the galaxy afterward. From a mythological standpoint, it makes perfect sense.

Kirk points out the important question. Why does God need a spaceship?

Don't forget. Leading up until this point, Kirk has encountered probably a half dozen beings which called themselves Gods. And he overcame them all. He prevailed and proved them not to be Gods but just Aliens with powers beyond those of humanity, but still capable of being overcome.

Star Trek V was a refutation of the Heroic Journey by pointing out that if you have to seek out God and convince God to come back with you? Then it's not God.

There are plenty of problems with the movie. It could have been done better, there could have been plot discrepancies and idiot plot elements excised, and it would have been a stronger story. But the basic plot itself? Is a basic examination of the Heroic Journey from a science fiction setting perspective.

Rob H.

donzelion said...

Ilithi - "It's a shame that so many fans completely missed that subtlety in that scene..."

Is it really? It tells me an awful lot about the fans, how one set of them perceive and defend one indefensible line, for the sake of expanding their experience and taking ownership, and another set roll their eyes and chuckle - and the two, at the end of the day, may coexist as fans.

But then again, I'm now stuck on Raito's "Log Night" and thinking of David Lynch brought to mind that he was asked to direct Return of the Jedi. Would it have been a bit different?

Which makes me speculate about -
Michael Bay Trek (Enterprise DD transforms into a giant female robot, voiced by Uhura, decked in spandex)
Spielberg Trek (Tom Hanks as New-Kirk, crashes the Enterprise into the Moon while rescuing Yeoman Redshirt)
Coen Trek - (someone's gonna wind up in a stellar wood chipper...)
Snyder Trek - Kirk & Spock brawl, Uhura shows up to save the day, its a dark vile universe filled with beautiful, noirish people

All of which makes me think Abrams Trek isn't so bad after all. Actually, I quite liked it.

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion: One shouldn’t turn the music down forever on that movie, but one can and the story still works. They could have been speaking in Italian for an English-only listener like me and it would have worked anyway. When I learned that 93% of what we say to each other face-to-face is delivered as the wrapper for words or bypassing the wrapper all together, I thought of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and got it. I also thought of the father of a certain girlfriend whose first language was Italian and what he would say to her with a smirk on his face knowing I couldn’t parse it. Parsing 93% was enough, though, especially when combined with 93% of her responses. 8)

The takeaway lesson for me, though, is that courage is a silent virtue by the old definition. Explaining an act of courage leads to suspicion because the act is its own explanation. Very aristocratic. Doesn’t work well in Star Trek and I liked that.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: During my days as a dungeons and dragons player, I never displayed even a moment’s comprehension of the barbarian type characters. The wizards were hard enough, but the fighters baffled me. I could play them, but not role play them. The character type I understood was the priest. I think that partly explains my strong negative responses to people I see living the real life. A member of the clerisy shouldn’t have any trouble understanding priests. 8)

jEFF b. said...

LarryHart,
"It's hard for a modern audience to picture what "Star Wars" brought to the screen in 1977 irrespective of the plot."

This, this, a hundred times this. For a substantial section of the audience, Star Wars was.. earth-shattering, transforming, like nothing we'd ever seen before. That section of the audience was boys, probably 7 or 8 to 14 years old when it came out, the impressionable age. It was adventure, it was action, with unbelievable special effects. In other words, Fantasy. I saw it seven times in the theaters that year.

I was far too young when TOS came out, and didn't really see much of it until college, when a group of us gathered most weeknights to see watch the reruns. Fun, and made you think, but didn't have the same effect on me.

I recognized the inherent silliness of much of Star Wars a long time ago, and completely understand, intellectually, how much better the Star Trek future would be. And yet... when that soundtrack starts (oh, that music!), I can't help getting the emotions stirred. Impacts like that leave a dent in the skull.

And not sure if anyone else had access to it, but BBC America somehow got the rights and broadcast all 69 episodes of TOS this past weekend. DVR problems caused me to lose about half of it, so I'm hoping they plan on showing them again...

Laurence said...

"Star Trek represents an extension of our current dystopia as it is roughly based on (a) prison, (b) american high school and (c) the corporate cubicle farm where we are 'privileged' to exist in a self-contained artificial environment, be restricted to a confined space, labour without pay, wear mass-produced pajamas, enjoy the equality of hierarchical rank, eat rapidly replicated slop, be respectful of others & perform arbitrary tasks in accordance with a non-representational command structure, while we are reminded that our numerous 'freedoms' require that we sacrifice ourselves for the greater good.

We live in a FREE society, people!!

And, since we have been liberated from most of our (physiological, security & belonging) needs by these miracles of modern technology, we are now expected to 'free ourselves from prejudice', 'self-actualise', 'express our creativity', become great authors, painters & statesman, and ascend Maslow's Hierarchy by following the shining example set by the residents of Wandsworth, Sing Sing & San Quentin.
"

I could sympathise with some of that but why did you have to pratle on about Trump and all that in-group out-group claptrap? The present devides in our culture: race, religion, nationality, class etc are very much a product of modern life and ultimately technology. Civilisation demands we pledge our allegiance to entities which we have a very limited ability to exert any influence over, and display loyalty to leaders who are neither willing nor able to reciprocate. to give one examle of this: I live in the UK, I am expected to show some degree of loaylty 'queen and country' yet the relatinship is wholly one sided, I cannot for instance stroll into Teresa May's office and offer some helpful feedback on her latest policies. My ability to change the country I am born into and expected to have a sense of belonging to is severly constrained. This represents an abuse of the instincts forged when we were huner-gatherers. The entities we belonged t then were small, close-knit and democratic. We showed loyalty then because it was reciprocated, everyone knew each other, a show of loyalty meant the difference between life and death, a leader who failed to fulfil his promises would soon be swept from power, and likely perish. It is inconcievable that someone like Trump would make it as a stone-age chieftain. (though it's an arresting image) I find it bitterly ironic that populist politics is constantly refered to as 'tribal' whe it is anything but.

LarryHart said...

jEFF b.:

"It's hard for a modern audience to picture what "Star Wars" brought to the screen in 1977 irrespective of the plot."

This, this, a hundred times this. For a substantial section of the audience, Star Wars was.. earth-shattering, transforming, like nothing we'd ever seen before. That section of the audience was boys, probably 7 or 8 to 14 years old when it came out, the impressionable age. It was adventure, it was action, with unbelievable special effects. In other words, Fantasy. I saw it seven times in the theaters that year.


I was 16, which I took to be the perfect age (I imagined Luke somewhere close to 16 himself). And I saw it 9 times that summer, 16 times counting the fall. And that was when you had to go to a theater and pay money each time.

Jeff B. said...

Alfred Differ,

As a D&Der on hiatus for the past 27 years (because life intervened), I understand your bafflement. I liked thieves (elegant, catlike...), but was most drawn to rangers (natural for a boy scout) and paladins (I, ahem, even played Superman in our senior musical... 'nuff said.)

Jeff B. said...

LarryHart,
I guess I was assuming that 16 year olds would've been too cool to be that interested. :)

I do feel bad for my parents (and those of my friends), having to sit through all that poor dialogue, over and over and over again. And spaceships.

LarryHart said...

Jeff B.:

I guess I was assuming that 16 year olds would've been too cool to be that interested. :)


Well, a 16 year old nerd who was into Marvel Comics at the time. :)

But "Star Wars" fandom spanned all age groups. My dad loved "Star Wars" too. In fact, it was his idea to go see it in the first place. He went out and bought the soundtrack album the next day.

What I mainly remember is that, with two weeks left in the school year, I went back to school raving about Star Wars, and most of my fellow students had no idea what that was. Is that even imaginable now?

A.F. Rey said...

Anyone who enjoyed Star Trek TOS might like the TBS series "The Last Ship," which just finished its third season. The main character, Captain Chandler, is a graduate cum laude of the Captain Kirk School of Captaining: he goes out on all the away missions, finds ways out of impossible situations, and has to deal with somewhat ridiculous situations, (really, can you run a power plant by burning dead human bodies?), with a powerful ship and professional crew to back him up. My wife and I find it very reminiscent of Star Trek and good ole James T. Kirk.

Alfred Differ said...

Jeff B:

It's a good thing I don't live in a D&D type universe. The characters I could keep alive are ones I would not want to be. The others I couldn't keep alive without a very friendly GM. Any time I considered a thief, I couldn't imagine why I would want to go out with those losers who want to face dragons and kill evil people just because they are evil. Too darn risky. 8)

I have an answer for your question from last thread, but I'll wait until next one to post it. Everyone's having too much fun with Star Trek here, though I am tempted to put on my Starfleet uniform and defend civilization. 8)

David s. said...

@A.F. Rey, My wife and I enjoy TBS's "The Last Ship" too. Thanks for pointing out that Chandler is a graduate of the Kirk school of Captaining. Now I understand why I like the show so much.

locumranch said...


Alfred conflates "industrial society values" with cubical farms & the hive mentality, yet he has the audacity to label the rejection this dystopic honeycomb as "mal-adaptation". Unfortunately, this is a typical ruling class/intelligentsia position to take, being ever so quick to relegate the drone class to servitude for the 'greater good' of the Intelligentsia.

Similarly, Ilithi_D seems to believe that democratic values are compatible with an elite Military Junta like Star Fleet, a MILITARY organisation whose continuing mission is "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations" AND (apparently) destroy, pacify & kill them, in the much same way that a well-vetted US Executive branch is allowed to declare war in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya & Syria without congressional approval or oversight.

And, finally, Lawrence compounds this anti-democratic error by insisting that "Civilisation demands we pledge our allegiance to entities which we have a very limited ability to exert any influence over, and display loyalty to leaders who are neither willing nor able to reciprocate". Bollocks, I say. For, if our leadership fails to reciprocate our loyalty in kind, then we are free to reciprocate with disloyalty, tumbrels & knives.

Be that as it may, you just have to respect Lawrence's unilateral LOYALTY to the social status quo, and I (for one) look forward to his continued 'Queen and Country' obedience when his UKIP leadership slams his country's borders, outlaws Islam and condemns assorted migrants, travelers & chavs to summary execution.

All Hail President Trump !! Lawrence says that you HAVE to -- if the greater US tribe demands it.


Best

Tony Fisk said...

re: The Heroic Journey. I recently saw 'Prince Caspian' which doesn't feature Aslan so much as Narnians wondering where Aslan has got to. Only Lucy goes off looking for him, whereupon, through the wonders of CGI, he makes everything better again.

Aslan, under that benevolent leonine exterior you're a malignant, predatory creep.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Alfred conflates "industrial society values" with cubical farms & the hive mentality,


No, that's you.


Similarly, Ilithi_D seems to believe that democratic values are compatible with an elite Military Junta like Star Fleet, a MILITARY organisation whose continuing mission is "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations" AND (apparently) destroy, pacify & kill them,


In the alternate universe in which Romulans say "a-so" maybe, but not on the "Star Trek" I saw.


All Hail President Trump !! Lawrence says that you HAVE to -- if the greater US tribe demands it.


No, that's you.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

And, finally, Lawrence compounds this anti-democratic error by insisting that "Civilisation demands we pledge our allegiance to entities which we have a very limited ability to exert any influence over, and display loyalty to leaders who are neither willing nor able to reciprocate". Bollocks, I say. For, if our leadership fails to reciprocate our loyalty in kind, then we are free to reciprocate with disloyalty, tumbrels & knives.


This part of your rant actually made sense.

However, you seem to think that only the rural Republicans are allowed to violently oppose a government they feel is tyrannical. A big part of civilization is the tacit agreement "I won't take my political frustrations out violently on you if you extend me the same courtesy." Beware of breaking the agreement too easily. There certainly are reasons to do so, but only when chaos is preferable to the status quo. If "feeling bad about the president" is a reason to give up civilization, then just wait and see what happens when the president is Trump.

Erin Schram said...

Ilithi Dragon said,

They [the Cracked video on Star Trek] insist that a civilization where all our basic needs are met and we have the time and resources to pursue whatever passions drive us would invariably result in a listless civilization of bland, uncreative, idiots. Are you kidding me?!?! If I didn't have to work a full-time job just to pay basic bills, let alone pay off student loans or car payments, etc., and had that much free time, do you have any idea how creative I would be? I'd write stories! Learn to draw and make art! Actually get good at playing my trumpet! I'd have a doctorate by now,...

Strange events left me in this situation, forcing me to retire at age 54. Yet I spent more energy on creative activities while I was employed: game design club, tabletop role-playing games, Sunday School teaching, math education volunteer work, and on-the-job math research.

Of course, part of the problem with retiring due to illness is that I have a lot less energy. And I moved from Maryland to New York, losing contact with previous volunteer activities. Nevertheless, I know how my mind works. Mark Rosewater of Wizards of the Coast often writes on creativity and he points out that restrictions begat creativity. Total freedom to write anything is harder to tackle than inventing a new Sunday School craft project on Jesus talking to the friendly pharisee Nicodemus (John 3).

My success with freedom from care was mixed. I failed to learn Python programming for lack of an interesting project to program for fun. I kept up the part of the math education volunteer work that I can do from another state. I started another Pathfinder (D&D variant) roleplaying game and had more time to adapt the game to the players.

I am going to attend lectures on statistics at Cornell University in hopes of becoming inspired.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: No. I'm not saying that being upset at cubicle farms is maladaptive. I'm saying our tolerance of cubicle farms is maladaptive. It's just that you are pointing out what many of us already know about industrial era values.

What I'm trying to tell you is that farming era values don't match us genetically either. In many ways, the industrial era ones are better, but we are all happier with forager style social systems. Your conservatism doesn't advocate forager societies, though. Very few do beyond the anarchists and they are SO confused. 8)

Erin Schram said...

Alfred Differ said,
@Paul SB: During my days as a dungeons and dragons player, I never displayed even a moment’s comprehension of the barbarian type characters. The wizards were hard enough, but the fighters baffled me. I could play them, but not role play them. The character type I understood was the priest. ... 8)

The barbarian is a good illustration of the D&D attitude: don't worry about the nuances, because any problem that cannot be solved by swinging her gigantic hammer is not her problem. Barbarians are fun for gaming on two levels: I carefully analyze the tactical situation and my barbarian character roars into battle without a thought in her head, unknowingly following my analysis.

D&D has a lot in common with Star Wars. The Empire is such an obvious problem that a farmboy with untrained magic powers, a conniving smuggler, a growling beastman, and a rebellious princess, can do good through simply not giving up. Luke follows his gut, Han Solo tricks people, Chewbacca fights, and Leia takes charge and almost anything they do, often without a clue, opens up answers.

And the D&D party levels up into an unstoppable force, just like the Star Wars characters who invaded Jabba the Hut's stronghold to rescue Han in Return of the Jedi. Despite locumranch's talk of Star Trek as a Military Junta, it is the Star Wars heroes who demonstrate that might makes right.

Star Trek, in contrast, is about the nuances. The captain and crew have to look around to understand the problem before correcting it. Therefore, they can improve situations that are not obvious.

Alfred Differ added,
It's a good thing I don't live in a D&D type universe. The characters I could keep alive are ones I would not want to be. The others I couldn't keep alive without a very friendly GM. Any time I considered a thief, I couldn't imagine why I would want to go out with those losers who want to face dragons and kill evil people just because they are evil. Too darn risky. 8)

The game is mallable depending on the GM, and I am the GM. My current players are running through Paizo Publishing's Iron Gods adventure, and chose to play smart yet ordinary townsfolk thrown into extraordinary events out of necessity (okay, they do have character classes giving them special powers). The players have mastery of the game to win against obstacles without designing their characters as killing machines. I am amused at them returning to town with their new wealth (which was supposed to be spent on magic weapons) to build new businesses and public works. Because responsible townsfolk do that.

Paul451 said...

Ilithi Dragon,
Re: ST onesies.

Actually the criticism is not the uniform, but that the same design is seen amongst the civilians we see of the Federation (this is mainly an issue in the TNG-era shows.) The civilian onesies are different colours (usually brown), or given a few flourishes, but they are all the same fabric and basic style.

The obvious reason is that designing an actual planet's worth of civilian fashion is a wee bit beyond the budget of a SF TV show. Same reason the aliens are humans with bumps. But the fun of these kinds of shows is in Taking Them Completely Seriously and seeing what the consequences are.

Likewise...

"They [the Cracked video on Star Trek] insist that a civilization where all our basic needs are met and we have the time and resources to pursue whatever passions drive us would invariably result in a listless civilization of bland, uncreative, idiots. Are you kidding me?!?!"

...they derived the premise from the conclusion. The Federation is depicted as culturally stagnant (because, again, of the practicalities of expecting a TV show to create 300 years of culture and keep it accessible to the audience), so what is the most likely in-universe explanation for that stagnation. And then how does that play back into the rest of the show.

Paul SB,
"Shaun the Sherpa might be too much storm and does, what with all the kukris flying around."

If it was still an Aardman Animation, then it'd be pretty silly and adorable. (Poor put-upon sherpa guiding the bumbling, but "in charge", European climbers.)

(For those who don't know, Shaun The Sheep is also from Aardman studios, makers of Wallace And Gromit.)

--

Also, IIRC, it was "Thunder and Does", you're mixing it with the actual "Sturm und Drang" which I had thought it was a play on (rather than a spellcheck oddity) when you first wrote it.

Speaking of...

Tim,
"Terry Pratchett's literary executors"

The correct spelling, but I read it pronounced, and intended, as in executioner.

Robert said...

As a GM, I must disagree with your views about D&D. Now admittedly, I run Pathfinder these days, but it's still a Fantasy Roleplaying Game. But ignoring the monstrosity that is 4th Edition D&D, this fantasy series is not about the Lone Jedi Hero who is the Chosen One. Instead, it is about a group of people who work together to save the world.

What is more? Sometimes some of those people die. Sometimes someone will move along. Sometimes, someone new will join up. And they work through their problems. They learn how to cooperate. And they have to. Lone Heroes do not do well in an adventure. Instead, they need to cooperate so to better cope with their enemies and overcome obstacles.

And they CAN be anyone. It CAN be the farmhand who learned how to use a blade, or the shepherd who learned stealth while hunting wolves who were after his flock, or the acolyte who decided a cloistered life was not for her. These can be ordinary people who went on to become something great.

It is up to the player as to their background. You could have four people who were a military unit and are checking out disappearances because they're under orders. You could have a mercenary unit that decided to make some extra coin outside of escorting caravans and got into something big. You can have free thinkers who want to make the world a better place. You can have scoundrels who are only out for themselves and want to be rich.

That is nothing like Star Wars. And really, FRPGs are about cooperation. Because without it? You need the most generous of GMs to survive.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@Erin Schram: My playing days started in the early 80’s and ended in the early 90’s. My GM’ing days start a few years in and end about the same time. I learned more about the other character types watching others play them than I ever did on with my own, but I found both ‘jobs’ to be a lot of fun with the right people.

I am amused at them returning to town with their new wealth (which was supposed to be spent on magic weapons) to build new businesses and public works. Because responsible townsfolk do that.

Heh. How bourgeois of them. I tried something like that involving one character and a distillery. The GM made sure the thieves showed up for their cut of everything, so the operation didn’t last long. Pesky leeches. Negative-sum playing louts. Needless to say, that character didn’t last long. 8)

I failed to learn Python programming for lack of an interesting project to program for fun.

I learned java and object oriented thinking years ago after I left grad school and had no outlet for the mathematics I had been learning. Others wrote their geometric algebra code to be used by the community, but (of course) I thought they were doing it all wrong. Their code was good enough for use, but didn’t support physical intuition which an object oriented view should. It was a lot of fun scratching that itch. Look back in time a bit and you might find your own.

LarryHart said...

Robert on D&D teamwork:

That is nothing like Star Wars. And really, FRPGs are about cooperation. Because without it? You need the most generous of GMs to survive.


I beg to differ. It may be nothing like the later films in the Star Wars saga, but what you describe sounds very much like (the one, true, original) Star Wars.

David Brin said...

WAAAAIIT o' minute! Has locum gone all... LEFTIST on us? All one would need add to his most recent rant is denunciations of the oligarch-caste -- especially rentier parasites, finance bloodsuckers and their propaganda shills -- and his transition would be complete!

Paul SB said...

Wow, this thread has grown big and wide, with hardly a reference to Poly Ticks in it (a few politics junkies keep trying…) Nice change from the usual.

LarryHart‬ said...
PaulSB:

Alfred, I don't think too many people would disagree that high school, prisons and cube farms suck,


I never took issue with that. My incredulity was at the idea that anyone in "Star Trek" seemed to be living the hell that locumranch was describing.

Larry, I’m totally with you on that incredulity – or I would be if I hadn’t grown up surrounded by people who make exactly these kinds of distortions all the time. That’s why I was addressing Alfred, and I was really referencing the other troll.

“Not so much in the original "Star Wars"…”
- Yes, the original was not as egregious as later contributions. I’m not that uptight, though it will probably be a long time before I can sit down and watch it again, not after having seen it at least 20 times.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

“ah, what a film (for an early adolescent impressed by swords and boobs).”
- Swords I get. I have a nice, to-handed shamshir I bought as an unusually expensive Halloween costume prop (though it really had more to do with its resemblance to the blade carried by an RPG character, but that’s not what I told my wife). Though I have known some ladies who had a fascination with sharp, shiny objects, it seems like many men never grow out of boyhood fascination with blades. Never got around to building that catapult, though… As to the second element of your statement, it occurred to me at an early age that fascination with mammary glands was a characteristic of typical males, who frequently pissed off females, so I rejected them as an object of fascination at an age when I wasn’t too sure what it was supposed to be about, anyway. It just shows that psychology can thumb its nose at instinct (if this is even instinct).
Not making any promises about revisiting Conan, with or without chemical assistance.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,
Regarding D&D, I gave up on that so long ago I barely remember it. I played other fantasy RPGs, like Iron Crown, but by then my band of heroes had graduated from roll playing into actual role playing. The old Fasa Star Trek RPG is the one I have the most fond memories of. I thought they had done some interesting things with the (TOS & movie era) universe, including expand on some of the alien races within the Federation that got short shrift due to budgetary/makeup restraints. Unfortunately they got the plug yanked out by Roddenberry himself when they started postulating StarFleet Intelligence doing assassination missions. Rubbed him the wrong way, I guess. My games had some pretty heavy stuff he might not have approved of.

Paul SB said...

Paul 451,

I would trust Aardman to make a good go of just about anything – clean though at times a little low class, but good-natured humor.

On “Thunder and Does” I realized the Sturm und Drang conflation not too long after hitting the submit button. My cursed memory in action. And I even asked myself if it would be you who caught it.

Paul SB said...

No, I don't think loci is swinging to the left. He just wants to burn society down and is willing to make any argument at all if he thinks it will work. This is totally typical of Plains States church folk.

The discussion of barbarians brought to mind this old song from The Smiths, which I haven't heard in more than 20 years. Memory can seem so random, sometimes, can't it?

Barbarism Begins At Home

Unruly boys
Who will not grow up
Must be taken in hand
Unruly girls
Who will not settle down
They must be taken in hand

A crack on the head
Is what you get for not asking
And a crack on the head
Is what you get for asking

Paul SB said...

Larry,

I'm not sure how your other half gets African-American stereotypes out of TNG Klingons. True many of the people in those costumes were African American, but they hardly talked like it. The Klingon obsession with honor sounded positively Medieval, though if she had said African specifically, I know of a few tribes of the Eastern Sahel region who might fit the bill.

locumranch said...


@Larry_H:
Thank you for proving my point about turnabout (reciprocity) being fair play. Newton's 3rd Law & all that. Right becomes left; left becomes right; the in-group goes out; the out-group comes in; the top topples; and the bottom becomes the top.

@Alfred:
In the sense that "our tolerance of cubicle farms is maladaptive," then the attempt to perfect & project those flawed industrial era values into the indefinite future (Star Trek) is similarly maladaptive, leading to literally 'No Place', especially when we consider that there may be better options than foraging, farming, urban & industrial value systems. Both Conservatism & Progressivism have failed us; Utopianism contains the seeds of its own destruction; and perfection becomes the enemy of the good. Why not try decentralisation?

@Erin_S: Might comes to us from the Old English miht (earlier mæht), meaning "bodily strength, power, authority, ability". Ability comes to us from from the Old French ableté, meaning "expert at handling (something), adroit, dexterous". Both adroit (from the French phrase à droit) and dexterous (from the Latin dexter) refer to the "right hand". The noun Right comes to us from Old English riht (West Saxon), reht (Anglian), meaning "duty, obligation," also "rule of conduct; law of a land;" also "what someone deserves; a just claim, what is due; correctness, truth; a legal entitlement, a privilege; the right" (as opposed to the left); and "a blow with the right fist". Quite literally, 'Might equals Right' as it is the fist that protects (your) legal entitlements.

@David: So close !! I'm more of a Radical (from Late Latin radicalis "of or having roots"), meaning "going to the origin" and relying on direct observation rather than theory, right-leaning as in 'might', liberal as in 'tolerant' and left as in 'leave; let; allow; past caring'.

@PaulSB: In a confined space, surrounded, defined & utilised by 'other people'? This is how Sartre defines Hell, n'est pas?


Best

Laurence said...

"Be that as it may, you just have to respect Lawrence's unilateral LOYALTY to the social status quo, and I (for one) look forward to his continued 'Queen and Country' obedience when his UKIP leadership slams his country's borders, outlaws Islam and condemns assorted migrants, travelers & chavs to summary execution.

All Hail President Trump !! Lawrence says that you HAVE to -- if the greater US tribe demands it."

What? I was pointing out the abuses of instictive loyalty, which ensure we identify ourselves with very large units; such as race, class, religion, nationality etc. Entities which most of us can have no meaningful influence upon. I was certainly not endorsing such loyalty. I do take pride in my nationality since it is not something I had any say in. I show loyalty and respect to those who have earned it and are capable of reciprocating, not to some nebulous unit like a nation or a race.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Has locum gone all... LEFTIST on us? All one would need add to his most recent rant is denunciations of the oligarch-caste -- especially rentier parasites, finance bloodsuckers and their propaganda shills -- and his transition would be complete!


He's always made that argument. Except then he claims that the bad stuff is the fault of "blue state progressives" and implies that rural Republicans would repudiate the corporations and oligarchs instead of...you know...doing their bidding.

Jumper said...

What's "the hive mentality?" Where was it less or more? Does yhe Hero have it?

Who told you you can't have the ear of the PM, Laurence?

Paul SB said...

Ah, here we go again, back to business as usual. And we were having so much fun just chatting about movies, music and celebrating a favorite show! Now little loci is back, and demonstrating yet again that this leopard, at least, can't change his shorts.

The tactic requires tenacity. It's entirely typical of younger cults, like the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mennonites. Among themselves they don't talk like that, but their strategy for dealing with "heathen" is to through out as many arguments as possible, anything that they think the victim might be able to find even the tiniest thing to agree with. Most people are polite enough that even when they show up on their bicycles in their black dress slacks and white button-downs trying to shove their pamphlets up your nose, most people will admit when there is some point of agreement. Once they get you to agree to something - anything at all - then they try to use it as wedge, to get you to admit that they are right about everything. it doesn't matter how far they have to twist their logic, as long as they think they can get you into their bed.

If loci sound like he's swinging to the left, he isn't. What he wants was revealed in this comment he addressed to Alfred:

"Both Conservatism & Progressivism have failed us; Utopianism contains the seeds of its own destruction; and perfection becomes the enemy of the good. Why not try decentralization?"

Burn down the whole system! But wait, isn't this exactly what conservatives have been chanting for a very long time? The "Both Conservatism and Progressivism have failed us" phrase is exactly that kind of wedge. Anyone have a Confederate flag handy?

But history has shown time and time again what decentralization means. Big Government stops the little playground bullies from having their way. It's a FREE COUNTRY is code for "I should be able to do whatever the Hell I want to whoever the Hell I want, and no one, sure as Hell not the Government, should be able to stop me." And this is the #1 complaint I hear about Americans from citizens of other free countries around the world. Too many of us (though clearly not all) see freedom as a right that brooks no responsibility, no restraint and no justice.

Most people, even in rural America, do not want to be ruled by playground bullies. That's why there are rules, and there are governments, courts, police and prisons. Letting those fools who think they are the übermensch have their "freedom" to do unto others whatever the Hell they want brings us down to the level of the Silverback. And none of those wannabe Saddam Husseins ever get that, like the alpha male gorilla, their chances of staying on top and going to the grave at a ripe, old age are less than minimal. Read about what happens to alpha male gorillas. Their life expectancy once reaching the top is about 2 years.

Re. Hell (I'm not going to bother with Sartre), this is a case where I agree with the Buddhists. You don't need a place to call Hell when it's right there between your ears. Most people I have known who call themselves 'true believers' - regardless of what they believe in - live in a constant state of agitation, because they can't get over the fact that not everyone on the planet agrees with them. If Sartre couldn't deal with being surrounded by other people, that was his problem, and he made his own Hell for himself.

Paul SB said...

Allow me to quote again the Book of Brin.

In olden times, to be "sane" meant you behaved in ways both sanctioned by and normal to the society you lived in.

In the last century some people - especially creative people - rebelled against this imposition, this having to be "average." Eager to preserve their differences, some even went to the opposite extreme, embracing a romantic notion that creativity and suffering are inseparable, that the thinker and doer must be outrageous, even crazy, in order to be great. Like so many other myths about the human mind, this one linger for a long time, doing great harm.

At last, however, we have begun to see that true sanity has nothing at all to do with norms or averages. This redefinition emerged only when some got around to asking the simplest of questions.
"What are the most common traits of nearly all forms of mental illness?"
The answer? Nearly all suferers lack –

FLEXIBILITY - the ability to change your opinion or course of action, if shown clear evidence you were wrong.

SATIABILITY - the ability to feel satisfaction if you actually get what you said you wanted, and to transfer your strivings to other goals.

EXTRAPOLATION - an ability to realistically assess the possible consequences of your actions and to empathize, or guess how others might think or feel.


Earth p.149

Paul SB said...

Brother Maynard, bringeth forth the Holy Hand Grenade!"

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

Larry,

I'm not sure how your other half


My brother's other half, actually


...gets African-American stereotypes out of TNG Klingons. True many of the people in those costumes were African American, but they hardly talked like it. The Klingon obsession with honor sounded positively Medieval,


The fact that the actors look and sound black had something to do with it. But I think mostly the whole "noble warrior" thing. "They seem like mysoginistic brutes to us, but it's ok because that's their culture."


though if she had said African specifically, I know of a few tribes of the Eastern Sahel region who might fit the bill.


This was the 80s. She wouldn't have said "African American". So yeah, maybe she had black Africans more in mind.

In any case, my point was that the TOS Klingons didn't portray the same stereotypes that the TNG Klingons did.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

@Larry_H:
Thank you


Sweet Jesus, save me from locumranch's "praise"

for proving my point about turnabout (reciprocity) being fair play. Newton's 3rd Law & all that. Right becomes left; left becomes right; the in-group goes out; the out-group comes in; the top topples; and the bottom becomes the top.


That's not what Newton's law says. But the fact that you think it does explains a lot.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Quite literally, 'Might equals Right' as it is the fist that protects (your) legal entitlements.


Until Rex Harrison figured out that it is better supplanted by "Might for right".

The grain of truth in what you're saying is that the concepts of "rights" doesn't amount to much without enlisting "might" to defend it. Then you go on to replicate a version of the "free market means no governance" fallacy, that whatever "might" decides to defend is "right" by definition--that there is no moral choice involved in what "might" should defend.

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

Re. Hell (I'm not going to bother with Sartre), this is a case where I agree with the Buddhists. You don't need a place to call Hell when it's right there between your ears


I've postulated something like that for a long time now--that there are no separate places called "Heaven" and "Hell", but rather the afterlife (if there is one) comes with full knowledge of just who and what you have made yourself into in life. And for those who can't stand an eternity with themselves, that is Hell.

Robert said...

Reposting from something I wrote on Facebook. Fortunately this doesn't happen quite as badly here on Contrary Brin... but sometimes it threatens to.

-------

The problem with society in the current day and age is the belief that if you show respect for a person, you show respect for their beliefs. Thus people insult and dismiss the person in order to try and destroy their beliefs and ideas.
You can see this in politics, especially with the behavior of the Republican Party during the last several Presidential elections, but also on the Internet and with televised discourse. There is a knee-jerk need to destroy the person and dismiss them as a "kook" or a "moron" or a "crook" or anything like that. And if you destroy the person? You thus don't need to do anything about their ideas because if that person believed in something? It was obviously wrong.
Sadly, this is a perpetuating problem. Because if one side shows respect for the other and the other side fails to show respect? It's not seen as decency or civility. It is seen as the polite side being wrong and having lost. So civility is lost and both sides descend into attacks on the other until finally there can never be compromise.

Rob H., who is surprised only one person poked at the Heroic Journey in Star Trek V. ;)

Erin Schram said...

LarryHart said,
Until Rex Harrison figured out that it is better supplanted by "Might for right".

I had envisioned Richard Harris as King Arthur in Camelot, "Not might makes right, but might for right."

In Star Wars, the Empire appeared mighty and wielded that might capriciously, but the facade was corrupt and easily ripped away by the holy might of the Rebel Alliance. In Star Trek, the Federation chose to keep their might in reserve lest they destroy what they sought to preserve.

My attitude toward television as a pre-teen was that I would rather read a book, but the Star Trek reruns caught my attention. In each episode the Enterprise was caught in a contrived problem they had to solve, varying from plausible, such as acting captain Spock having to command the bridge during combat rather than donate blood to save his father in Journey to Babel, to wildly implausible, such as aliens kidnapping part of Spock in Spock's Brain.

Robert said,
...this fantasy series is not about the Lone Jedi Hero who is the Chosen One. Instead, it is about a group of people who work together to save the world. ... That is nothing like Star Wars. And really, FRPGs are about cooperation. Because without it? You need the most generous of GMs to survive.

LarryHart defended my premise,
I beg to differ. It may be nothing like the later films in the Star Wars saga, but what you describe sounds very much like (the one, true, original) Star Wars.

I agree with both. Luke, Han, Chewbacca, and Leia did learn to cooperate as a team, and that was vital to their success. Luke Skywalker is special, but he is not an exclusive chosen one like Neo in The Matrix. But a FRPG cannot rely on a chosen one, because as Robert said, sometimes party members die, so Star Wars matches an FRPG in that. A well-run FRPG is about giving every player character a turn to prove his or her worth.

Yet compare that with Star Trek TOS. It had a definite team, the three friends Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Cooperation was inherent, so much that the story is never about which one was the key hero with the necessary skills. Instead, the story contrasted different styles of problem solving: Kirk was an agitator, Spock was a planner, and McCoy was a healer.

For example, in the mobster community of A Piece of the Action Kirk blended into the culture to claim a role for the Federation on that planet. In The City on the Edge of Forever Spock defines a plan to restore the timeline and Kirk has to sacrifice his heroic desires to stick to the plan. McCoy has his day in Friday's Child where a royal figure grows to respect McCoy for his compassion and healing skills despite her distrust of the Federation outsiders. No single problem solving technique could have had all the successes of the trio listening to each other and considering other viewpoints. This is beyond the usual FRPG.

I lacked a television for most of my adult years, and saw the fourth season of Star Trek TNG only because my friends gathered together to watch it. I heard that the first season had relied too much on Jean-Luc Picard as a diplomat and Wesley Crusher as a prodigy. By the fourth season, the show featured an ensemble cast without the tight focus on particular characters like the original series. Everyone could earn their chance at importance, even nebbish Lieutenant Barclay.

LarryHart said...

Erin Schram:

LarryHart said,
Until Rex Harrison figured out that it is better supplanted by "Might for right".

I had envisioned Richard Harris as King Arthur in Camelot, "Not might makes right, but might for right."


Yeah, that's who I meant.

Not sure where the confusion came from.

LarryHart said...

Erin Schram:

McCoy has his day in Friday's Child...


Heh. I love me some Julie Newmar. Her "Catwoman" jump started my puberty back when I was seven or so.

But I have to laugh at the way she says, "Do you doubt my word, Klingon", pronouncing the last word there as "Klin-un", as if it were just so much nonsense gibberish.

locumranch said...


Although perhaps his most insightful, focused & intellectually rigourous post ever, PaulSB's 'Ah, here we go again' quickly degenerates into the Exclusive Alternative (qualitative) logic trap wherein decentralisation equals school bully anarchy, an adequate liberal government equals federal totalitarianism, and a less than total commitment to progressivism equals luddism.

I put it to you that there are non-exclusive (quantitative) alternatives, aka 'The Sweet Spot', where decentralised government still qualifies as some government, collectivism could coexist with individualism, urban economies could reward rural resource providers adequately, and Cain may choose standoffishness instead of exclusively being either Able's Keeper or Killer.

What I call decentralisation, David calls "resilience":

(1) A direct cellphone to cellphone signal relay system could (and probably should) eliminate the Big Communication conglomerates; (2) 3D printing advances could lead to the abandonment of the central factory complex; (3) Canadian hydroponics techniques could lead to the collapse of the global fruit & vegetable trade; (4) Home photo-voltaic systems (in combination with Elon Musk's affordable battery packs) would lead to the appropriate loss of the National Power Grid; and, (5) in the extremity of Star Trek's Replicator ...

NO farmers, NO industry, NO cubicles, NO tax base & much much LESS government.


Best
_____
By monopolising energy, trade, transit, healthcare, sustenance & force, this is how the Collective maintains control over the individual.

David Brin said...

I am fine with decentralization and have done more for it - in any month - than locumrach will accomplish across his lifespan. I am Mr Resilience in addition to Mr. Transparency. (They go together.) Fighting to get peer to peer text passing incorporated into our phones, for example.

The true heroes of 9/11 were the New Yorkers and Bostonians on Flight UA93. And note that those slagging city folk - who live in the crosshairs of terrorism, whine far more about it than those cityfolk do.

Decentralization and resilient local autonomy are being pushed forward by BLUE society... science and tech are distributing autonomous power systems like rooftop solar that Red America fought tooth and nail to block. Urban farming was a liberal cause and grow-local and soon vertical high tech farming.

Sorry so, to the exact degree that you are right about this...? To that degree it has been blue-liberal America pushing it forward.

LarryHart said...

I said:

But I have to laugh at the way she says, "Do you doubt my word, Klingon", pronouncing the last word there as "Klin-un", as if it were just so much nonsense gibberish.


"Kling-un", actually. My typy fingers are messing up today.

I meant to say it sounded funny, not stupid.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

The true heroes of 9/11 were the New Yorkers and Bostonians on Flight UA93. And note that those slagging city folk - who live in the crosshairs of terrorism, whine far more about it than those cityfolk do.


I think your typy fingers might be off as well. I mean, I know what you meant to say, but I don't think that was it.


Sorry so, to the exact degree that you are right about this...? To that degree it has been blue-liberal America pushing it forward.


That's the issue I always have with locumranch. Accurate diagnosis, followed by the diametrically-opposite-to-accurate treatment plan.

Jeff B. said...

Rob H.,

I suspect that web discourse suffers for one of the same reasons that make much of great literature great: the written word, lacking the nuance and tone and inflection of speech and the subtleties of body language, exists largely in the reader's heads. Literature (at least fiction) allows readers to construct their own images of characters and scenes, and to a lesser extent I'd suggest all written communication does the same.

But on the interwebs, without physical or voice cues, we're always tripping over meaning and intent. As soon as we perceive some slight or offense, the gloves come off. This cascades w. coping mechanisms such as sarcasm and belittlement.

David Brin said...

Great discussion...

but...

onward

onward

Click here for Alaska Brown Bear Hunts guided said...

Having grown up with many iterations of Trek, it’s so difficult to choose one favorite episode. It’s been a part of my life for so long, I cannot ever recall a time when there wasn’t any Trek being first-run or rerun on TV.