Star Trek Discovery ‘Slides’ Back onto Netflix

When Star Trek Discovery made its debut on Netflix in September 2017, I thought that it was a perfect step in the right direction. Now, I have been a fan of the series since watching ST:TNG on VHS (I know right, what are those?), hiring them weekly from my local VideoEzy store. As far as I’m aware it didn’t have an airing schedule in Australia, perhaps it shifted around or used as night time filler(!). I tend to feel that many studio executives have little idea how to market these programs to advertisers and they end up being scrapped early due to poor ratings (eg. FarscapeFirefly).

From the very first episode I was hooked, I liked that the show was being released weekly rather than all at once, as this allows time to properly digest the show as opposed to rushing through it. I like all of the characters, especially Cadet Tilly, she isn’t the hyper-confident personality that seems to dominate the Star Trek universe. I especially like how all the characters seem like individuals and none of them are perfect, they are like real people instead of people puppets. Their motives are different, they talk differently to different people, and there is clear conflict between some of them, and this is more in line with real life.

However back to the episode in question. I really enjoyed it, I found that toward the end of the mid-season break, they had started to get a bit out of focus. Actually watching the new episode I discovered that I had not seen the last few minutes of the previous episode. So I was playing a bit of catch up, and after the show ended I went back and took care of that last five minutes – if only they had paced that entire episode that way.

The idea of parallel universes is not new. However the crew take way too long to catch up and I suspect most fans had it pegged right from the ‘I don’t know where we are.’ line. Watching it was a bit like, ‘yes we get it, you’re in a different universe – get on with it!’

I love the idea of the displaced crew, but I’m not a massive fan of the extreme opposite ideology that they find themselves in. In the Star Trek universe these episode are known as the Mirror Universe, and I find them ridiculous – the way the characters behave is unsustainable. I will be interesting to see how long the Discovery crew remain in the mirror universe, but I feel that any more than four episodes it become tedious. I really hope they continue with the excellent work they have been doing, and scrap any ideas for more nostalgic story lines.

Even though I don’t like this particular take, I have a connection with the many universe theory. It plays to one of my personal concepts of living a life with no regrets. This being that what ever decision I make, the alternative choice resulted in a worse outcome. Thinking like this allows to move on from certain choices I have made in the past that I seem to dwell on – I mean we ALL have those right?

Feature Image: Science Eyes by Tom Woodward (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Science Fiction Tropes: Destroy the Queen!

‘…the odds are overwhelming, the [insert name] have us out numbered a million to one, but if can just [insert action] all of the others will be destroyed.’  – random movie speech.

This is a reasonably standard trope in science fiction and it is one that I detest. Most of the time these stories are build up and knock down, repeated several times, and then the aha moment comes for the characters and the viewing audience groans; its pathetic.

I love science fiction movies and the more we have the better, but endings such as these just rob the audience of any gratification, because it is a story that has been seen a hundred times before, and honestly it has no real world application. I would challenge anyone to give an example of a conflict in which one particular part of an army was targeted and all the other soldiers just gave up. Most soldiers are fighting for a cause – be it the need to prove something right or otherwise and you can’t destroy an idea in such a short amount of time.

Some examples of movies that use this trope are:

  • The Fifth Element (1997) – Corben Dallas is fighting the Mangalores, they are pinned down and clearly out numbered. Dallas states that taking out the leader and the other will give up fighting. This works because the Mangalores intelligence or lack of had already been established, so the audience understands why they stopped fighting.
  • The Phantom Menace (1999) – Young Anakin is fighting the droid ships in space. The mission, they must destroy the control ship and the droids will cease to function. This doesn’t work, as the Star Wars universe has been established as having sentient droids – even where the soldier robots make jokes with each other. Are we really expected to believe that someone was controlling their ability to make jokes and complain?
  • Independence Day (1996) – All of the opponents have force fields on their ship, that are controlled by a mother ship. They destroy the ship and the force fields fail and suddenly the tide has been turned. Ignoring the absurdity of the plot, this doesn’t work because there are still millions of ships, and soldiers available to the aliens.

The trope exists as nothing more than a short cut to an obstacles, it is almost as if there was a writer to get them to one point, and then another to write the solution. It is flat out lazy story telling.

The title image for this post is from Star Trek: Beyond, where they do use this trope, however they changed it into a much more entertaining one. I didn’t mind its use in Star Trek: Beyond because the fighters moved as one central unit other than individuals, like in Independence Day and Star Wars, and the explanation of how they operated and the way they were defeated was well developed; it went beyond the destruction of one man, ship or queen.

For this trope to be used properly writers need to establish ground rules, how things work and why they do. You can’t build a wall and then smash out a door when it becomes a necessity – that shit gets messy – you need to build the door frame first and the wall around it, for that smooth exit from the building.

Title Image: Star Trek: Beyond (screenshot)

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Eternal Digital Living

When questioned about eternal life something that keeps surfacing is the idea that we could digitally map our brains and upload it to a cloud style server and live on in an electronic reality.

While there is nothing new about this concept, as it has been a staple of science fiction for a while, The Matrix is probably the most well known for a negative view and Black Mirror – San Junipero, for a more positive spin.

There are many other examples, such as Star Trek – Voyager where large portions of the show are dedicated to the Doctor whom is arguably a sentient digital being. On the show he is treated as an object, but as it progresses he develops a personality beyond his ‘programming’. Another example would be from Red Dwarf, where the entire crew has been digitally mind mapped and stored as back up copies in case of accident or emergency. The difference between these two is that Rimmer, from Red Dwarf, is a fully formed replica of an actual person, where the Doctor is not. Have a look at both of them – one is intelligent and insightful, and the other has fancy buttons.

This idea is well established in popular culture, almost to a point where it is an agreed upon state and we are just waiting for the technology to catch up. The point is would you do it? In the Black Mirror episode you can pick between several rooms or worlds to live in, could you see yourself living in a stylized version of a decade? Even though the world would be a total fabrication and all the things that happen to you would be the creation of a programmer just to keep you happy. Interestingly this is exactly what phone developers and gaming companies are doing right at this minute. Stimulating your brain to make you happy in order to keep signing in; one day you may go in never to come back.

As technology moves faster and faster toward artificial intelligence, surely it would become easier to digitally map our minds. Researchers would start to see the connections and how things work in order to recreate it. There is the brain in the jar thinking that because everything is a creation of our minds it is possible that we are not here at all. With that style of thinking would living in a digital reality be any different, you would still have the same wants and desires, and the same fears and phobias, but isn’t that what makes us what we are? Could I be on a space ship filled with multiple data banks sailing thought the endless void right now? I doubt it, but it’s something to think about. Knowing that there is no ‘life after death’ and if the technology could recreate the world so there appears to be no difference, I think I would sign up.

Title Image: Clever Clogs! by Piyushgiri Revagar (2016)