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We Have a Complement of 38 Photon Torpedoes at Our Disposal, Captain
January 28, 2014 9:56 PM   Subscribe

The definitive Voyager torpedo inventory log

The final count: 123 of the 38 irreplaceable torpedoes onboard Voyager were fired during the run of the show
posted by Copronymus (183 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
We always knew Voyager was a surprisingly well-stocked and crewed ship.
posted by Mezentian at 10:01 PM on January 28


I think there were a few restock opportunities...anyone account for those?
posted by Amplify at 10:03 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


best comment "in Season 5 extras Senior Illustrator Rick sternbach explained how they got photon torpedoes,by replicating the casings and collecting the elements required from planets and space stations they visited,this work is clearly by a voyager hater."
posted by jardinier at 10:09 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]


Practical inconsistencies on a Science Fiction TV show? Inconceivable!!!
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:16 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


this work is clearly by a voyager hater

I don't understand. This comment seems to imply that there were people who liked Voyager.
posted by Rangeboy at 10:17 PM on January 28 [18 favorites]


I figure they must have built some along the way? The show followed the model of telegraphing everything to the audience as if they lacked any sort of intelligence.

I don't understand. This comment seems to imply that there were people who liked Voyager.

Apparently a lot. It was actually more popular than Deep Space 9, which is the same as Law and Order being more popular than Homicide Life on the Street or Doctor Who being more popular than anything.
posted by juiceCake at 10:24 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]


Actually, that's a good point. Why wouldn't they be able to just replicate as many as they needed? Why would anything on Voyager be understocked? Of course they have everything they need for umpteen years in the Delta Quadrant. They have replicators.
posted by Sara C. at 10:27 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Didn't they have to ration the replicators? Thus we had the recurring joke about how horrible Neelix's food was.
posted by juiceCake at 10:29 PM on January 28


I love how they're sort of making an effort for the first 30 or so and then suddenly the writers realize that firing photon torpedoes at shit is like at least 15% of the repertoire.
posted by brennen at 10:35 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


You know what, Voyager gets a lot of (justified) shit for ignoring the resource limitations of being a single stranded ship in space but I think Battlestar Galatica was the BIGGER hurt cause they had already SET UP and DRAMATIZED the shortages - it was a major mover of plot and character! It gave the series its distinctive tone, many plots where centered around it and roughly halfway through the run, storage cease to be an issue enough to have METAPHORICAL FATNESS and then it NEVER COMES UP AGAIN.

It's a different breed of disappointment. I'm more angry cause YOU AT LEAST TRIED FOR A WHILE.
posted by The Whelk at 10:36 PM on January 28 [11 favorites]


Dearest MetaFilter:

Thank you ever so much for your Star Trek of any sort(especially Voyager) threads.
They really put a smile on a feller's face; they really do.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 10:42 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I think I've thought about this too much but:

Torpedo casings and so forth should be easy to replicate as they're nothing special. The warheads were supposed to be antimatter however, and that's not exactly something you can pop around to the local drugstore for. Theoretically Voyager should be able to slowly gather enough hydrogen as it travels with the Bussard collectors sucking in interstellar gas to provide a base fuel for a reaction to create more, but it wouldn't be quick, and the warp core also runs on antimatter. Bottom line, I think somewhere along the trip the crew figured out a way to slowly collect enough antimatter to replace torpedoes over time and the writers just forgot to pass it along to the audience.

The replicator thing didn't make all that much sense though. Either you have an extreme power shortage and can't convert one form of matter into another, or you don't. If you have the ability to replicate coffee and pizza some of the time, you don't have a power problem. Except of course when the plot calls for it.

As for the quality of Voyager the show? I thought the first couple of seasons were pretty much crap writing and the cast was finding their footing, but by around season 3-4 it got to be enjoyable. I was more than a bit pissed that there wasn't a "proper" homecoming at the end of the last episode though.
posted by barc0001 at 10:48 PM on January 28 [6 favorites]


Yeah, the BSG/Voyager comparison is pretty telling. They loaded up the Galactica in the pilot episode, sure, but after that the combat scenes showed them just letting the guns rip with no concern for ammo conservation for at least the next couple seasons (after which I kinda fell off watching). Turns out they chewed through marines on Galactica like they were a dime a dozen, too...

...but Star Trek on the whole has a pretty solid basis for any old Starfleet crew just fabricating whatever the hell they need. Doubly so if they've got time to do it.

This issue might be a funny bit of snark, but it's really not all that big of a deal.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:53 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Why would they have needed to ration the replicators? I thought they ran on waste? Even if, in the case of something like a torpedo, you jettison that matter and can't then recombine it into something else, surely they could make periodic refueling stops on any old planet. Beam up a few tons of whatever matter the system can break down the easiest and replicate away.

the crew figured out a way to slowly collect enough antimatter to replace torpedoes over time and the writers just forgot to pass it along to the audience

Which is a relief, because that would be boring.
posted by Sara C. at 10:53 PM on January 28


It would be .5 seconds of technobabble. That's what makes it annoying, it would be so easy just to sprinkle in there. The reason they didn't was they wanted to maintain the illusion that the ship was short on supplies without ever having that be seriously reflected in the plot. Really a worst of all worlds solution.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:04 PM on January 28


I was waiting for them to subtract the photon torpedoes used in the Year of Hell episodes and then restore them.
posted by Pseudology at 11:11 PM on January 28 [5 favorites]


I thought they ran on waste?

They replaced the dilithium chamber with a Mr. Fusion? Great Scott!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:26 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Memory Alpha has some notes on Voyager's replicator rationing. The short version is, it was specifically the energy to run the replicators that was being rationed. Fortunately the holodecks ran on an "incompatible power source" (??) so there was still plenty of energy for Janeway to get advice from Fake Leonardo.
posted by I've a Horse Outside at 11:34 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Actually, that's a good point. Why wouldn't they be able to just replicate as many as they needed? Why would anything on Voyager be understocked? Of course they have everything they need for umpteen years in the Delta Quadrant. They have replicators.

They use a lot of power. Really, this topic is covered many times on the show.

"Torpedo" technology is also not uncommon in the Delta Quadrant. Voyager does a lot of bartering.

Did any of you watch the show?
posted by Brocktoon at 11:37 PM on January 28 [5 favorites]


Full spread.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:45 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, yes.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:46 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Yeah I know it's the cool nerd thing to hate on Voyager, but TNG had just as many stinkers. There are some really great episodes, and has the best single Star Trek episode ever (IMO) with Course: Oblivion.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:52 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]


I thought they ran on waste?

So when Ensign Kim says it looks like enough for a 50 iso-ton explosion what he means is he did a big poo?
posted by biffa at 11:59 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


There are some really great episodes, and has the best single Star Trek episode ever (IMO) with Course: Oblivion.

Nope.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:07 AM on January 29


Really, this topic is covered many times on the show.

Yes, but that doesn't mean it makes sense in any way.
posted by Sara C. at 12:31 AM on January 29


There are some really great episodes, and has the best single Star Trek episode ever (IMO) with Course: Oblivion.

I see you misspelled "The Trouble With Tribbles".
posted by happyroach at 12:37 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


So, this thread caused me to go searching through the technical manuals for rules about replicating and transporting anti-matter. (because if you're going to transport a photon torpedo...) Voyager is so treknobabble-heavy and science-be-damned that it just makes me throw my hands up and not criticize it, so I won't.

Apparently you can transport anti-matter if it's in a "proper container" (I guess a photon torpedo tube is okay). I couldn't find a clear answer to the notion of being able to replicate anti-matter, and apparently the replicators, even working at quantum resolution like the transporters do, just rearrange existing matter... But the ships run on matter/anti-matter reactors. They must get from somewhere, yes?

Anyway, this was amusing and I'm tired now and thanks for a fun night geeking out with old dusty books, MeFi!
posted by Avelwood at 1:11 AM on January 29


Actually… Since photon torpedoes are matter and anti-matter devices, and Chakotay says they have a complement of +38 torpedoes, and I mean really, "complement" probably means an advanced method of counting things in 24th century units. Now, in the course of the show we observe a number of -85 other torpedoes, it must be the case that 38 of that -85 indeed serves as the complement, because looking at the net:

-38 - - 85 = 47

And we all know the importance of 47.
posted by polymodus at 2:05 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


SIGH. Ok, listen up you screwheads because I'm only going to explain this once.

Insomuch as our real universe intersects with the rules of Star Trek, anti-matter is not an energy source, it's an energy storage medium. That is, in our real world universe, after the big bang matter and anti-matter were both created, but for whatever reason there was a tiny bias towards regular matter, and everything we can see today is the result of that tiny rounding error. Anti-matter doesn't exist freely in our part of the universe; if it did, it would have found some regular matter and annihilated by now.

So you don't mine the stuff, you make the stuff and then react it with regular matter to create gobs of starship flinging, torpedo exploding energy. Much like how on our real planet earth hydrogen isn't an energy source (mine Jupiter, and we'll talk), but a store for energy produced by other means, like solar, wind, coal, whatever.

So the Federation is running its dyson swarm or hyper fusion plants or whatever nonstop, making tiny amounts of anti-matter as starship fuel. Everything you do onboard a starship costs energy (WE WILL GET TO THE REPLICATORS OH YES WE WILL). All of this is ultimately supplied by the matter/antimatter (a.k.a. warp) engine. They probably also have a bunch of fusion reactors or whatever, but that's pretty negligible in the grand scheme of things.

So stuck in the ass end of the Delta quadrant with no supply lines means they are quickly running out of anti-matter. They can't just fucking FIND more, it's not there. They would have to get it from other warp capable civilizations, never mind that they don't have anything remotely comparable in value to trade with (what are you gonna do, barter some bullshit chili recipe that Neelix came up with?). Seriously, every time they raise their shields, every time they shoot their phasers, every time goddamned ensign harry kim takes an extra large crap that the waste processing subsystem has to contend with, they are using up fuel. And holy christ, the two most energy intensive things onboard a starship after propulsion and just blowing bits of your starship fuel up in the form of torpedoes is the replicator/transporter/holodeck. It's all the same technology--rearranging matter at the atomic level.

So yeah, replicating the torpedo casings is NBD, you could do that till the lizard-people babies came home, but you can't just replicate anti-matter. That energy has to come from somewhere. I mean you could actually replicate anti-matter onboard, but that's kind of self-indulgent because all you're really doing is moving anti-matter around, via a very silly and hugely inefficient process. Similarly, you shouldn't be able to just beam antimatter around via the transporter. The transporter doesn't send atoms, it sends information. For a person, the original atoms themselves don't matter, it's the information that's important. You send the info, and the destination rebuilds you from whatever atoms it happens to have lying around. But for anti-matter, the atoms themselves are REALLY important. Kind of the whole point actually. So if you're transporting them, you're basically just manufacturing in place, with the same energy costs, so you don't need to actually have any to begin with. Which is fine, if we assume Voyager has enough energy and can transport replicate antimatter as quickly as regular matter. Both of which I would think has to be false at any given time.

tl;dr: the currency of the Federation is energy, and you can't violate the conservation of energy; the captain should have disconnected all the holodecks, replicators and transporters in the first episode, and probably all the way to the sonic showers and automatic door sensors by the second.

In conclusion ST:Voyager is my favorite show because it is THE WORST SHOW.



FULL SPREAD!
posted by danny the boy at 2:29 AM on January 29 [54 favorites]


In conclusion ST:Voyager is my favorite show because it is THE WORST SHOW.

Suddenly a challenger appears....

That challenger just might be Harlan Ellison's The Starlost.

Okay, we've re-energised the dilithium matrix now.
posted by Mezentian at 2:42 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Brocktoon: "Actually, that's a good point. Why wouldn't they be able to just replicate as many as they needed? Why would anything on Voyager be understocked? Of course they have everything they need for umpteen years in the Delta Quadrant. They have replicators.

They use a lot of power. Really, this topic is covered many times on the show.

"Torpedo" technology is also not uncommon in the Delta Quadrant. Voyager does a lot of bartering.

Did any of you watch the show?
"

No.
posted by Splunge at 3:17 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


As for the quality of Voyager the show? I thought the first couple of seasons were pretty much crap writing and the cast was finding their footing, but by around season 3-4 it got to be enjoyable.

I never got that far. I'm pretty sure that I bailed in the first season and only ever watched a few random episodes after that. It was such a boring waste of a premise.
posted by octothorpe at 4:24 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


bullshit chili

Yup, that's Neelix all right.
posted by stebulus at 5:05 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


It was such a boring waste of a fantastic premise.

That was enough to get me through many hours of stupidity and Neelix.
posted by saturday_morning at 5:06 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


This Is Just To Say

I have fired
the photon torpedoes
that were in
tactical

and which
you were probably
saving
for the Borg

Forgive me
they were amazing
so bright
and so loud
posted by DarkForest at 5:19 AM on January 29 [37 favorites]


danny the boy, that's a respectable rant, but you're missing an important bit of info: Voyager does have a source of power that they can get more of, in the Delta Quadrant or just about anywhere in the galaxy: deuterium, used in a straight-up fusion reactor, such as the ones that drive the impulse engines. Antimatter isn't the only kind of fuel that they can use. There are a couple of Trek tech manuals that go into this in great detail. The TNG tech manual even has a section (5.7) on "onboard antimatter generation", complete with a little sketch of the device that does it (it looks vaguely like the Millenium Falcon) and the info that the unit burns up ten units of deuterium to produce one unit of antideuterium, but that's really no biggie because Starfleet starships gather deuterium all the time--it's what the Bussard ramscoops (those glowy red caps on the front of the warp nacelles) are there for--and in VOY, they show the ship going after supplementary supplies of deuterium at least twice.

The real problem with replicating replacements for everything is that some elements can't be replicated, and some of those elements are probably needed not just for torpedoes, but for some of the components of, say, shuttlecraft, of which Voyager also went through a suspiciously high number, not to mention building an entire new (and fairly large) shuttle--the Delta Flyer--and its eventual replacement from scratch. The tech manuals are (I think deliberately) vague on what elements couldn't be replicated--the only one that's listed specifically (in the DS9 manual) is latinum, the medium of exchange for the Ferengi--but the implication is that any element that the show has made up (i.e. any element that's not in the real periodic table) probably can't be replicated, and since some of those are necessary for making warp drives, the only real sources for some of those materials would be horse-trading with various Delta Quadrant races (and, in fairness, the show does depict some of that happening as well). Also, there are limits to the size of what can be replicated, with the "industrial replicators" (DS9 manual) being about the size of a small walk-in closet. It's feasible that Voyager might have one of these on board, less so that they'd just happen to have the equivalent of a miniature shipyard's equipment on the shuttle deck for making replacements.

The real reason, of course, for the show being able to have as many torpedoes and shuttles as they wanted was the infamous reset button, which wasn't in-canon (except for a few times, due to time travel), but just a feature of the way that the show was produced. UPN, the new network that was depending on Trekkies to bring in viewers, wanted to re-run episodes as often as they could get away with, and not necessarily in production order, so the ship had to look and work pretty much the same from one episode to the next, even from one season to the next. So, you couldn't, say, have the crew run out of torpedoes and have to fire baby space dragons at their enemies instead, or start using Trafalmagorian shuttles with air-brushed paintings of wizards on the side, although they did eventually change up a few minor things, like the Delta Flyer (which did look a bit different, although obviously still a Starfleet ship). There were a couple of two-part episodes--"Year of Hell" (which used the time-travel reset button) and "Equinox" (which used another Federation starship stuck in the Delta Quadrant)--which showed what the ship and her crew might have looked like if they hadn't been constantly reset to shiny newness. Relevant to the Battlestar Galactica mentions above, you might also want to read this epic interview with Ron Moore, who of course cut his teeth on TNG and DS9, and spent a very short time on VOY before quitting out of frustration; he doesn't mention BSG in it, but you can see where he might have gotten the idea of throwing away the reset button from.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:23 AM on January 29 [13 favorites]


I have a deep well of fondness in my heart for Voyager. It was such a fabulous premise and there were a few great actors in the cast, but the writing let it down so often. It could have been SO AMAZING though. And occasionally it was! What was said above is true: ST:TNG had plenty of corny, awful episodes, and Voyager reached some high points that can stand in the ranks of the best Trek televised. Voyager suffers for having more low points generally, and more truly memorable and execrable low points in particular. Also the inertia of opinion.
posted by erlking at 5:25 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


Obviously they were transwarp-beamed from StarFleet HQ.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:27 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


P.S. One thing that I should add to the above is a rationalization for, "Well, if they could renew their supply of deuterium, and therefore had limitless energy, then why ration replicator and holodeck use?" Well, they probably didn't have a super-high rate of deuterium acquisition, so they had to keep a sort of strategic deuterium reserve, and therefore didn't want to waste any more of it on beer and holodeck sex than they had to, especially if they hit a sort of dry patch on the way home to the Alpha Quadrant.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:27 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


the captain should have disconnected all the holodecks, replicators and transporters in the first episode, and probably all the way to the sonic showers and automatic door sensors by the second.

Compared with the power to sling a starship across the universe, rearrange atoms, or even just keep the life support systems humming, aren't the power requirements of those last two things just drops in the proverbial bucket?

Turning off the artificial gravity, on the other hand....
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:33 AM on January 29


STAR TREK VOYAGER
7 PM EST/ 6 PM CST

In tonight's episode, Goddamned Ensign Harry Kim takes an extra large crap, and Tom Paris tries to barter some bullshit chili recipe that Neelix came up with.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:14 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


I do look forward to the definitive Galactica Viper count.
posted by bicyclefish at 6:37 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Yeah I know it's the cool nerd thing to hate on Voyager

Yeah I know it's a cool nerd thing label criticism and displeasure/dislike as hate when it's not, but there you go.

I liked the episode with aliens from Earth who denied the were ever from Earth because of their Doctrine. The one where they are made into workers by masking their identities from themselves wasn't bad. Oblivion was pretty good.
posted by juiceCake at 6:42 AM on January 29


Compared with the power to sling a starship across the universe, rearrange atoms, or even just keep the life support systems humming, aren't the power requirements of those last two things just drops in the proverbial bucket?

Turning off the artificial gravity, on the other hand....


Ye gods, I can't believe I'm going to defend the internal consistency of Star Trek: Voyager, but:

The power to sling a starship across the universe wasn't supplied by Voyager, but by much more advanced alien technology; one can't reasonably say that because this technology was capable of propelling Voyager to the Delta Quadrant, lesser energy expenditures should be trivial for that ship.

As to life support - well, it's likely that this is a fairly low-power system, or can be made to operate thus in emergency modes. After all, we are perfectly capable of maintaining life support for human beings in space for extended periods of time, and we don't even use nuclear power to do it.

Finally, with regard to the artificial gravity - first, it's an essential system. Even if it's a power-hog, the ship is clearly designed to operate with gravity - look at the corridors, work-stations, etc. That may not be a particularly wise design, but perhaps artificial gravity is considered such a basic, reliable technology that it's worth doing. Further - ships on Star Trek routinely accelerate far in excess of 1G, and rely upon "inertial dampers" to keep from turning their crews into goo. "Artificial gravity" may just be a side effect or specialized application of inertial dampers - in which case, there's really no point to shutting down artifical gravity so long as the ship is moving. Besides which, humans fare poorly in microgravity long-term, and it's possible non-human crewmembers do as well.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 6:46 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Doesn't this just point to a much bigger, gigantic, even, underlying flaw in the whole concept of Star Trek? After all, where we are now, we're talking about the huge expenditures needed for even a trip to Mars, and all of the things that would be needed.

Even if replicators are, in fact, a viable bit of canon, how in the hell could the Federation blithely launch giant, incredibly expensive (at least in materials and resources, even if money is largely handwaved away somehow) starships on five year missions into deep space with very, very finite amounts of incredibly important items? How are you going to launch a starship (even a crappy little one like Voyager) into space, which is full of frequent, often violent encounters with other groups who like to fly around in giant war machines?

If, say, a point was made that, on each ship, there was, in fact, a section for munitions, and that, just once, an off hand comment was made to the effect that it existed, and that, from time to time, raw materials were located, mined, beamed aboard, and processed for use in replenishing their incredibly important supplies of vital defensive/offensive weaponry, the whole thing wouldn't be so incredibly stupid.

Also, they probably wouldn't (if they had just one or two capable planners) base their entire offensive systems, on which ships millions of light years away from any possible assistance depend, on whatever bit of handwavium that couldn't possibly be something the ship and/or its crew be able to make on their own when supplies ran low. Sure, there's all kinds of fun to be had with designing super weapons, but a frontline starship, made just as much for warfare as it is for exploration shouldn't be sent out to the neutral zone without enough ammunition to make it back.

For a show with an entire race of beings that prides itself on logic, it sure doesn't seem to know too much about applying it.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:48 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Voyager lost me* when they refused to make Amelia Earhart a permanent member of the crew. Talk about lost chances.



* I kept on watching.
posted by Atreides at 6:49 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Even if replicators are, in fact, a viable bit of canon, how in the hell could the Federation blithely launch giant, incredibly expensive (at least in materials and resources, even if money is largely handwaved away somehow) starships on five year missions into deep space with very, very finite amounts of incredibly important items? How are you going to launch a starship (even a crappy little one like Voyager) into space, which is full of frequent, often violent encounters with other groups who like to fly around in giant war machines?

Both the Enterprise and Enterprise D really never went into Deep Space without coming back from time to time.

I'm not sure if the deep space missions were ever meant to be five years gone and then back, but separate journeys out and back over a period of five years.

The Voyager, obviously, was not prepared for that mission in the first place. It was just supposed to be chasing varmints out and about the border between Federation and Cardassian space.
posted by Atreides at 6:51 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


To me, being a bit literal, five year mission equals five years before you return to port. Obviously, there are outposts where stocking up can, and is done, but five years away from Earth is a long time, and given the number of things that go on, and the number of encounters with hostile forces, you'd think they'd have some way of dealing with the inevitable supply shortages that doesn't involve having their most important weapon system be the one thing that's simply impossible to restock without having to go to an ammo dump.

This isn't an aircraft carrier making a resupply run to a friendly port a thousand miles away.

Also, Cardassian space? You want to send a (very) lightly armed patrol ship to patrol the border between the Federation and a famously violent, duplicitous group of folks that, what a second, wasn't the Federation just at war with (weren't they? I don't remember)? No wonder Worf was always so angry. He was surrounded by idiots with no sense of tactics or strategy.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:58 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


There's an obvious explanation: Voyager was just a holodeck simulation that Troi suggested Riker toy around with during the events of The Pegasus.
posted by Flunkie at 7:03 AM on January 29


Also, Cardassian space? You want to send a (very) lightly armed patrol ship to patrol the border between the Federation and a famously violent, duplicitous group of folks that, what a second, wasn't the Federation just at war with (weren't they? I don't remember)? No wonder Worf was always so angry. He was surrounded by idiots with no sense of tactics or strategy.

Well, real navies do use frigates, and even corvettes, and these ships get sent to potentially dangerous places. (The US navy hasn't used corvettes lately, but the Littoral Combat Ship is similar). Voyager seems to be playing a similar role - it would quickly lose an engagement with a Cardassian capital ship, but it's not meant to fight those engagements; it's meant for what we might consider anti-guerilla/anti-piracy work. We can also speculate that Voyager's border mission was part of a broader strategy to deter Cardassian aggression - not by dint of Voyager's capacity to repel a serious incursion, but by the fact that a serious incursion would have to fire upon a Federation vessel, and thus risk a broader war.

In other words, Voyager isn't an aircraft carrier - it's meant to be a frigate off the Somali coast, or the NATO forces in West Berlin back in the day.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 7:11 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


To me, being a bit literal, five year mission equals five years before you return to port.

This is quite obviously not what it means to the show(s). Even in TOS they go back to starbases on a not at all infrequent basis. What it seems to mean to the show is: the ship has this mission and (more or less, poor redshirts) this crew for five years, after which maybe we decommission it, who knows. Voyager is a special case, as it was tossed outside the Federation by forces beyond its control.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:16 AM on January 29


Yeah, the original Enterprise visited starbases at least three times that I can think of (not counting the movies): Starbase 11 for "The Menagerie" and "Court Martial" and Deep Space Station K-7 for "The Trouble with Tribbles". (Even though it was a Deep Space station, K-7 wasn't exactly the middle of nowhere; the "deep space" designation was for facilities that were on or near the edge of Federation space, as with DS9.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:22 AM on January 29


They talked about visiting starbases even more than they showed it, too. Sometimes an episode would start with the captain's (mono)log(ue) stating that they just left such and such a starbase, and sometimes they would talk about being en route to a starbase to pick up supplies from somewhere else, and sometimes they would mention dropping someone off at a starbase like it was no big deal and a routine occurrence.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:24 AM on January 29


Other explanations: The Voyager crew were hopeless but for some reason unsackable (Dad's an admiral) so were sent to some backwater where they might get killed off.

Or

The entire crew are delusional fans who have locked themselves in a starship shaped asylum and the whole thing records their perceptions of their adventures. This would explain why all the nonsense science works (You've had this disease for centuries? We'll cure it in minutes!)
posted by biffa at 7:46 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


There's an obvious explanation: Voyager was just a holodeck simulation that Troi suggested Riker toy around with during the events of The Pegasus.

There's a guy on our site named Cortex you might want to talk about this idea with.
posted by aught at 7:47 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I think the thing to remember is that the TNG era Federation is in a golden age where they haven't fought a war - a *real* war in nearly 100 years. Starfleet ships like the Enterprise-D and Voyager are designed for exploration and scientific missions, not sustained combat; Voyager was never mentioned to be short on probes or repair parts for sensors. The Federation has no interest in fighting The armaments they carry are just enough to discourage unfriendly sorts from actually picking a fight with them. It's just that Starfleet tends to be so advanced relative to the people they encounter that it doesn't even matter.

When Starfleet actually tries to build a warship, they get the Defiant, which despite being what must be a tenth the size (by mass) of Starfleet vessels -or any of the other nations warships still manages to be one of the most dangerous ships out there. In the DS9 episode where the Maquis hijack the Defiant, nobody who knows the ships capabilities is concerned about picking a fight with 3 of the most advanced Cardassian ships of the line except for the fact that it will let the 10 ships chasing them catch up.

As fun as it is to watch shiny explosions and ships shooting at each other, that really isn't what (TNG era) Starfleet is about.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:53 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


I take Voyager to be more of a placeholder for the Trek franchise as part of propping up Viacom's fortunes.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:05 AM on January 29


Ok, so I went and did an Exhaustive Survey™.

Episodes of TOS Where They Mention Visiting Starbases (in [some kind of] order), gathered by searching them for the word "base": I may have even missed some, because by the time I reached the Trouble with Tribbles and it came up negative (station not base), I decided I had no interest in going back and searching for other possible key words, so.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:06 AM on January 29 [9 favorites]


Mezentian: That challenger just might be Harlan Ellison's The Starlost.

The episode about the space ambulance may have caused me some neurological damage.
posted by dr_dank at 8:15 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


So, that's at least 18 out of 80 TOS episodes where they talk about/show the Enterprise hitting up a piece of civilization, or 22.5%.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:52 AM on January 29


They would have to get it from other warp capable civilizations, never mind that they don't have anything remotely comparable in value to trade with (what are you gonna do, barter some bullshit chili recipe that Neelix came up with?).

Most of your post was excellent but this is flat wrong. Voyager was carrying something extremely valuable, and it was in the damn holodeck of all places: cultural entertainments from the Alpha Quadrant. I don't know if they're ever explicitly shown trading anaphora for antimatter, but cultural exchange is one of the main tenets of the Federation, so it has to have come up.
posted by I've a Horse Outside at 9:13 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


not to mention building an entire new (and fairly large) shuttle--the Delta Flyer--and its eventual replacement from scratch.

I have a much bigger problem with this than with any of the rest of it.

I mean, a torpedo is just a big projectile. We can quibble about the whole "antimatter" issue (hint: "antimatter" in the Trek universe is just phlebotinum, it's the show's equivalent of the sonic screwdriver or Giles' library of old books that always have a woodcut of the monster of the week), but it's completely unrealistic for Voyager to be able to build a new shuttle from scratch on the fly in the Delta Quadrant.

I mean, how would you even have the manpower to do it? What are the chances that there is someone who knows how to build a shuttlecraft from scratch on the Voyager? Wouldn't this be like assuming that within any group of 500 Americans, somebody knows how to build an iPad?
posted by Sara C. at 9:20 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


UPN, the new network that was depending on Trekkies to bring in viewers, wanted to re-run episodes as often as they could get away with, and not necessarily in production order

To be fair, every TV network at the time imposed this rule. The "reset button" was an ironclad axiom of TV production in the 90s. It's not really UPN's fault.

Though it would have been unbelievably cool if the people who were at UPN in the mid-90s were the same people who were at FX a few years later deciding to just run with The Shield.
posted by Sara C. at 9:36 AM on January 29


you can see where he might have gotten the idea of throwing away the reset button from.

To be fair, it wasn't his idea at all. It was something that was slowly seeping into the consciousness at the time. It didn't really take hold until Tivo came out and full season DVDs became popular. And, like I said above, FX and The Shield really ripped the lid off of what was feasible to do on mainstream TV.

You can see just about every single element of BSG in Deep Space 9, too.
posted by Sara C. at 9:50 AM on January 29


To be fair, every TV network at the time imposed this rule. The "reset button" was an ironclad axiom of TV production in the 90s. It's not really UPN's fault.

There were some exceptions: Steven Bochco productions for example and Wiseguy comes to mind.
posted by octothorpe at 10:00 AM on January 29


Yeah, NYPD Blue was at the vanguard of the shift away from the reset button in procedurals.

Wiseguy I haven't seen, though in a lot of ways it looks like a clear predecessor to The Sopranos and The Shield. What's amazing about Wiseguy is that it was on in the 80s, when you absolutely COULD NOT do that stuff on any other show.
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 AM on January 29


DISPERSAL
PATTERN
BURNT-UMBER SIERRA
posted by steef at 10:29 AM on January 29


I blame Q for punching in the cheat code.
posted by Catblack at 10:29 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


I've a Horse Outside: "Voyager was carrying something extremely valuable, and it was in the damn holodeck of all places: cultural entertainments from the Alpha Quadrant. I don't know if they're ever explicitly shown trading anaphora for antimatter, but cultural exchange is one of the main tenets of the Federation, so it has to have come up"

This... this is why I always root for the Ferrengi over the Federation. I mean, it's astounding how self-important huu-mons are, thinking that of course their "culture" would be valuable to species they have never met, and have no common points of reference with. Like going up to some rock monster who lives in space and communicates via radioactivity and trying to sell him a poem you wrote about eating plums.

Or just scale this shit down: imagine if you were to show up at a gas station in a foreign country without any money but you tell them you'll gladly sing them a pretty song... for $250,000 worth of gas.
posted by danny the boy at 10:42 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


Best thread in ages.
posted by Amplify at 10:43 AM on January 29


cultural entertainments from the Alpha Quadrant.

Didn't some of the crew (including Tuvok if I recall correctly) disobey Janeway and sell their cultural database for a device that was supposed to send the ship home but ended up not working?
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:47 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I mean, it's astounding how self-important huu-mons are, thinking that of course their "culture" would be valuable to species they have never met, and have no common points of reference with. Like going up to some rock monster who lives in space and communicates via radioactivity and trying to sell him a poem you wrote about eating plums.

OTOH most of the transactions the Ferengi undertake in the Gamma Quadrant on DS9 are on the order of this sort of thing. There's a whole episode where Quark discovers a Gamma Quadrant culture that loves games, so he gets dollar signs in his eyes about licensing and chains of casinos and the like. There's another subplot where the Ferengi are trying to make inroads into the Gamma Quadrant via some type of wine that is rare there but ubiquitous on our side of the wormhole.

The amazing thing is that it's these fumbling penny-ante transactions which are the vector for introducing The Dominion.
posted by Sara C. at 10:48 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Halloween Jack: "Voyager does have a source of power that they can get more of, in the Delta Quadrant or just about anywhere in the galaxy: deuterium, used in a straight-up fusion reactor, such as the ones that drive the impulse engines. Antimatter isn't the only kind of fuel that they can use."

Oh believe me, my STTNG tech manual is well worn. I never bought that 10:1 formulation. It's way too generous given what we actually know about the universe and scales of energy we're talking about.

I think the spirit of it is right though; that yeah some ships can make anti-matter in a pinch, but it's like running a diesel generator to power the batteries in your electric car. You can do it, but you're not doing it to be energy efficient, you're doing it because you're stuck and fucked otherwise.

I mean, just like the premise of Voyager, there is so many amazing stories to be written about what a post-material scarcity society looks like and how it interacts and trades with other societies, but we didn't get much of that. We got talking dinosaur planets, and some handwavey bs about why you can't just replicate starships whole.
posted by danny the boy at 10:54 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


raw materials were located, mined, beamed aboard, and processed for use in replenishing their incredibly important supplies of vital defensive/offensive weaponry, the whole thing wouldn't be so incredibly stupid.

It's all being mined by EMHs*

*Emergency Mining Holograms
posted by drezdn at 10:54 AM on January 29


I think the main reason that Voyager hit the reset button every episode was because they were trying to not be like DS9. And they succeeded, horribly.
posted by ckape at 10:55 AM on January 29


There's at least one point in the series where Voyager trades with an arms dealer, which would have given them a chance to restock. There are things that may have been worthless to Voyager (or easy for them to create) that Delta quadrant aliens didn't have and desperately wanted. For example, the Kazon needed water badly, and it would be/was trivial for Voyager to make water.
posted by drezdn at 10:57 AM on January 29


this is why I always root for the Ferrengi over the Federation.
One of my favorite moments in all of Star Trek
posted by Flunkie at 10:57 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


Another example from the series where something low in value to Voyager might be worth lots to others. In the episode "Alice," a scrap dealer accidentally sells Neelix Beryllium. Voyager didn't seem to have much use for it, but Seven pointed out that a nearby system would trade fleets of ships for it.
posted by drezdn at 11:05 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Is there any chance we can stop derailing with how awful everyone thinks Voyager is? It was annoying in the last Voyager thread too.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:07 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Sara C.: "Yeah, NYPD Blue was at the vanguard of the shift away from the reset button in procedurals.

Wiseguy I haven't seen, though in a lot of ways it looks like a clear predecessor to The Sopranos and The Shield. What's amazing about Wiseguy is that it was on in the 80s, when you absolutely COULD NOT do that stuff on any other show.
"

Wiseguy is worth seeing. Ken Wahl is pretty wooden but the supporting cast and the guest stars are great. Notable for being the first place that most people noticed Kevin Spacey.

As for dramatic series with continuing storylines, Bochco's earlier series like Hill Street Blues and L.A Law and also St. Elsewhere which wasn't Bochco but was an MTM production like Hill Street.

The problem with not having that big old reset button is not just that you have to show the episodes in order, it's that you can write yourself into a corner and not know how to get out. We've seen that in at least some fashion in recent shows like Heroes, Lost and Battlestar Galactica where the writers obviously had no idea where things were going.
posted by octothorpe at 11:08 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Is there any chance we can stop derailing with how awful everyone thinks Voyager is?
I don't think Voyager was awful, just by far my least favorite Trek series (and yes, that counts TAS). But in any case, I think comments on it being awful (or whatever) are not a derail at all - the FPP's link is a specific instance of a general problem with the series.
posted by Flunkie at 11:19 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


the writers obviously had no idea where things were going.

Well, it's really only in the last five years or so that there has been a concept of TV shows as having plots that are "going" somewhere. That's a notion that's really antithetical to TV as a form. A lot of the shows you mention doing that are the first (or first mainstream/network) shows to be allowed to ditch the reset button as a matter of course not a weird exception to the rule. There was very little precedent for these types of shows, so it's not like there's an older generation of writers to pass down wisdom, or a bunch of other shows to watch and see how they did it.

Now you do have a second generation of shows where the writers have obviously seen Lost and BSG and other early shows with storyline problems, and are finding ways to stay out of the corner. I see a lot of shows cribbing from Buffy's trend of season-long story arcs that are mostly resolved by the end of the season so that next season can mine new territory.

You also have the problem where these story arcs have to mesh well with the way American TV is made. In the US, if a show is a hit it needs to be able to stay on the air indefinitely, whereas if a show is a failure it can be gone tomorrow with no notice. So on the one side of that extreme you get shows like How I Met Your Mother, where you have to work really hard to reconcile the fact that they've been running almost a decade and he's just now finally meeting the Mother. Or Mad Men, where we're very quickly running out of ways our characters can be relevant, because the actual time the show was created to depict is shorter than the run of the show. And on the other side of that extreme you get shows like Deadwood which just poof out of existence, leaving the entire plot hanging.

A better model might be for a more British style of television, where shows have shorter runs, and once the story is over, it's just over, and that's it. But that's not the model that TV as a business was designed to work with, so it's complicated.
posted by Sara C. at 11:28 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


I don't think Deadwood did too badly in that arena, actually. It would obviously have been nice to have more, but what were they going to do, follow Swearengen to his penniless grave?

Also, surely it's been a bit longer than 5 years that (some) TV shows have had metaplots. BSG ended five years ago, and it wasn't the first.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:36 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I mean, how would you even have the manpower to do it? What are the chances that there is someone who knows how to build a shuttlecraft from scratch on the Voyager? Wouldn't this be like assuming that within any group of 500 Americans, somebody knows how to build an iPad?

Ah, but it isn't just any group of 500 Americans. It would be a carefully selected group of Americans composed, in part, of engineers of various types, not counting the other extremely intelligent and capable non-engineers, all with access to technology that would essentially create almost every part of an iPad needed for manufacture.

It's kind of like NASA engineers being required to create some kind of filtration unit out of random objects on a space craft...
posted by Atreides at 11:38 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


To be fair, every TV network at the time imposed this rule. The "reset button" was an ironclad axiom of TV production in the 90s. It's not really UPN's fault.

/me mutters thanks to JMS, peace be upon him

Is there any chance we can stop derailing with how awful everyone thinks Voyager is?

While it was not as good as the best parts of TOS or TNG, the eventual interactions between EMH and Seven were generally really pretty good; kind of like watching Worf and Data argue about what it means to be human.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:41 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Sara C.: "OTOH most of the transactions the Ferengi undertake in the Gamma Quadrant on DS9 are on the order of this sort of thing."

I imagine the way a Ferrengi would respond to this would be to point out that there's quite a difference between culture and commerce, and while culture can be often be commoditized, only commerce is truly universal.
posted by danny the boy at 11:43 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


surely it's been a bit longer than 5 years that (some) TV shows have had metaplots.

Well "some" TV shows have always had metaplots. Hill Street Blues and Wiseguys came on in the 80s.

It's only been about a decade that dramas (aside from a token few conservative procedurals) are expected to have overarching conceptual metaplots which are integral to the narrative of the show. And only about five years since the first wave of those shows have ended.

It takes time for people to figure this stuff out. TV innovates pretty slowly, as a medium.
posted by Sara C. at 11:45 AM on January 29


Ghidorah: "Even if replicators are, in fact, a viable bit of canon, how in the hell could the Federation blithely launch giant, incredibly expensive (at least in materials and resources, even if money is largely handwaved away somehow) starships on five year missions into deep space with very, very finite amounts of incredibly important items? How are you going to launch a starship (even a crappy little one like Voyager) into space, which is full of frequent, often violent encounters with other groups who like to fly around in giant war machines? "

But this is exactly what happened in England, Spain, Portugal... during their great exploration (empire-building) phases. Giant (for the time) ships were sent overseas, loaded with canon in case of enemy encounters, with shipboard supplies to replace and repair vital components. AFAIK, that may have even included timber suitable for mast replacement (since a mastless galleon-sized sailing ship is also called "a bobber"). As others have noted, the Enterprise didn't do this... but it has been done in human history. (Resupplies of food and fresh water were needed, but those are fairly ubiquitous compared to nails, saltpeter, cannonballs, and mast-worthy trees.)


Ghidorah: "If, say, a point was made that, on each ship, there was, in fact, a section for munitions, and that, just once, an off hand comment was made to the effect that it existed, and that, from time to time, raw materials were located, mined, beamed aboard, and processed for use in replenishing their incredibly important supplies of vital defensive/offensive weaponry, the whole thing wouldn't be so incredibly stupid."

It should be noted that BSG did exactly this. There was a mining/refining ship, and the workers going on strike was the focus of an episode (with a few followup references to it).

It seemed to me that, if the Cylons simply focused all their efforts on destroying that ship, the entire fleet's survival was fairly limited. OTOH, since
posted by IAmBroom at 11:51 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Flunkie: "One of my favorite moments in all of Star Trek"

Thank you for that.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:51 AM on January 29


The Whelk: cease to be an issue enough to have METAPHORICAL FATNESS and then it NEVER COMES UP AGAIN.

Towards the end of Season 3, we have 2-3 episodes that revolve around a critical food shortage and an extremely dangerous mission to get food in the form of algae. That's half a season after the resolution of the Apollo weight story line; which occured when they had settled on a planet and had at least rudimentary farms. We here complaints about eating algae for the rest of the season.

It would make sense that the food situation would have eased up while on New Caprica, but even then, we're see them running out of modern medical supplies. Season 4 has less in the need of shortages, but by that time we see the Galactica, and their system of government itself fall apart. To say "it never comes up again" is wrong; really, they never stopped doing these sort of story lines.
posted by spaltavian at 11:55 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Steely-eyed Missile Man: "Also, surely it's been a bit longer than 5 years that (some) TV shows have had metaplots. BSG ended five years ago, and it wasn't the first."

At the time Babylon-V came out (first episode: January 26, 1994), it was lauded for exactly this idea. So, 20 years.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:55 AM on January 29


Atreides: "I mean, how would you even have the manpower to do it? What are the chances that there is someone who knows how to build a shuttlecraft from scratch on the Voyager? Wouldn't this be like assuming that within any group of 500 Americans, somebody knows how to build an iPad?

Ah, but it isn't just any group of 500 Americans. It would be a carefully selected group of Americans composed, in part, of engineers of various types, not counting the other extremely intelligent and capable non-engineers, all with access to technology that would essentially create almost every part of an iPad needed for manufacture.

It's kind of like NASA engineers being required to create some kind of filtration unit out of random objects on a space craft...
"

It's better than that. Just as a wooden sailing ship would have a ship's carpenter, you can bet your latinum bippy the Engineering section is trained in repair/recreation of every damn part on the ship... which is to say, the computer will provide detailed instruction manuals they can follow.

Exactly how an F-14 is maintained today, except for "replicator" insert "req to GSA".
posted by IAmBroom at 11:59 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen a ton of Babylon 5, but was that really a "metaplot" type of show, from the outset?

That seems like more of a show, like DS9, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and other late 90s shows, where early episodes are done "reset button" style, and complex ongoing arcs don't come into it until later in the series.
posted by Sara C. at 11:59 AM on January 29


Sara C.: "I haven't seen a ton of Babylon 5, but was that really a "metaplot" type of show, from the outset?"

Describing it as having "always been conceived as, fundamentally, a five-year story, a novel for television," Straczynski wrote 92 of the 110 episodes, and served as executive producer, along with Douglas Netter.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:01 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Oh, my god, B5 premiered 20 years ago.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:02 PM on January 29 [4 favorites]


Possible explanations for extra Voyager torpedoes besides they built them/traded for them...
1) Krenim time reset led to a continuity where Voyager carried twice as many torpedoes.
2) Q give them some as a gift
3) The series starts to follow the other Voyager ship from Deadlock on. Which had all of its torpedoes at the time.
4) They "borrowed" some from the Equinox
posted by drezdn at 12:13 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Sure, but series creators say that all the time. Everybody who creates a TV series has a vision for the show, and an agenda of specific themes and stories they'd like to tell.

And Babylon 5 is right on the bead of "people are starting to be interested in the idea of ditching the reset button", so it wouldn't be unusual for a producer to want to do that or to talk in later interviews about how he'd always envisioned that.

I'm more curious about what the first season or so was actually like. Reading short summaries, it seems to me like early episodes are about as self contained as any other drama of the time (though probably not as "reset" as a hard procedural). But I haven't seen them, so who knows?
posted by Sara C. at 12:14 PM on January 29


Or just scale this shit down: imagine if you were to show up at a gas station in a foreign country without any money but you tell them you'll gladly sing them a pretty song... for $250,000 worth of gas.

Imagine stepping outside your own cultural horizons to see why your example is indicative of very little.
posted by biffa at 12:24 PM on January 29


5) Kes gave them extra torpedoes as a gift when she left.
posted by drezdn at 12:29 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Sure, but series creators say that all the time. Everybody who creates a TV series has a vision for the show, and an agenda of specific themes and stories they'd like to tell.

J. Michael Straczynski at least claims to have had the plot come to him all at once, written up the whole arc, and then fleshed it out as the series went along. The first season is more stand alone than seasons three or four, but there's plenty of further reaching plot stuff in the first season, background of the Narn-Centauri conflict, the death of President Santiago, probably some other stuff I'm forgetting.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:59 PM on January 29


Sara C.: OTOH most of the transactions the Ferengi undertake in the Gamma Quadrant on DS9 are on the order of this sort of thing. There's a whole episode where Quark discovers a Gamma Quadrant culture that loves games

Quark was hardcore. He even tried to open trade relations with the Mirror Universe with a stolen cloaking device, if I recall. I'll bet the treaty of Algeron didn't see that coming.
posted by dr_dank at 1:04 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


J. Michael Straczynski at least claims to have had the plot come to him all at once, written up the whole arc, and then fleshed it out as the series went along.

Sure, but that could be different from how the show actually played out. Because as I said, every series creator has those ideas and feels that way. This is the origin of the showrunner/network exec conflict.

I think this might be what finally gets me watching Babylon 5, as I usually regard any "we're on a spaceship" show that is not in the Trek universe (or made by a Trek alum) to be completely absurd and unwatchable.
posted by Sara C. at 1:20 PM on January 29


Babylon 5 (and some others like X-Files) were split between standalone episodes and arc episodes, but now shows tend to mix them together, with a standalone A-plot and an arc B-plot, except for a few event episodes. This makes it look like they weren't really committed to the arc at the beginning, but JMS at least had enough of an arc sorted out at the beginning for Paramount to steal bits for DS9.
posted by ckape at 1:22 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Who on earth is "JMS", by the way? I'm familiar with most of the major players in the Star Trek world, and a lot of the currently important TV showrunners, and I just have no idea who you're referring to. Googling the initials gives me Just My Size bras.
posted by Sara C. at 1:25 PM on January 29


J. Michael Straczynski, the showrunner for Babylon 5
posted by ckape at 1:29 PM on January 29


J. Michael Straczynski
posted by Drinky Die at 1:29 PM on January 29


Thank you. I was thinking you were referring to somebody on the Voyager production team.
posted by Sara C. at 1:31 PM on January 29


Quark was hardcore. He even tried to open trade relations with the Mirror Universe with a stolen cloaking device, if I recall. I'll bet the treaty of Algeron didn't see that coming.


Morn was hardcore. Pulled off one of the greatest heists in the Alpha quadrant, and kept the latinum in his second stomach for more than a decade.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:35 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


biffa: "Imagine stepping outside your own cultural horizons to see why your example is indicative of very little."

So I said it was implausible that an alien species would want to trade antimatter, probably the most valuable substance in the universe, for human cultural products because we would very likely be SO alien to them as to lack the common culture touchpoints that are a prerequisite for appreciation.

And you're telling me I need to broaden my horizons?

Dude, just write "no ur wrong" next time
posted by danny the boy at 1:36 PM on January 29


In Star Trek universe? They have enough in common.

Detailed information about a totally new advanced civilization definitely has some value.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:53 PM on January 29


Actually, I think the idea that there is a commodity the Voyager needs, but no congruent commodity Delta Quadrant aliens are interested in is a perfect scenario for the original premise of the show.

I mean, that's exactly what happened when Europeans sailed to Asia for spices and the like. Europe wanted all these valuable things, but Asia didn't want anything from Europe. And, as somebody said upthread, this all happened in the context of ships on years-long voyages, stocked with only minimal supplies. All kinds of complicated things happened as a result, from colonizing other places in order to get gold to trade with Asia, to outright war and genocide.

That's a TV show. Time travel and lizards? Meh.
posted by Sara C. at 2:03 PM on January 29


danny the boy: I was a little brusque, but I think you are missing my point, the Voyager situation is not at all like your example (which was what I cited) because your example is rooted in a cultural reference point that is based around possession of resources such as energy. The federation (though not Voyager) is to a significant degree in a post-scarcity environment and there is no reason to think that there would be cultures in the Delta quadrant that would be similar. A shift to such a society would tend to imply a shift in what is valued which does open up the possibility of trade which differs from the current model we enjoy.
posted by biffa at 2:15 PM on January 29


Actually, I think the idea that there is a commodity the Voyager needs, but no congruent commodity Delta Quadrant aliens are interested in is a perfect scenario for the original premise of the show.

I mean, that's exactly what happened when Europeans sailed to Asia for spices and the like. Europe wanted all these valuable things, but Asia didn't want anything from Europe. And, as somebody said upthread, this all happened in the context of ships on years-long voyages, stocked with only minimal supplies. All kinds of complicated things happened as a result, from colonizing other places in order to get gold to trade with Asia, to outright war and genocide.


It's hard to imagine the Federation resorting to something like the Opium Wars. Now the Klingons...
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:36 PM on January 29


It's hard to imagine the Federation resorting to something like the Opium Wars. Now the Klingons...


I think the Klingons would probably skip the "Opium" part.

The Dominion, on the other hand, has actually done these sorts of things.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:52 PM on January 29


biffa: "The federation (though not Voyager) is to a significant degree in a post-scarcity environment and there is no reason to think that there would be cultures in the Delta quadrant that would be similar."

Post-material scarcity. That is the only flavor of post-scarcity society we have ever talked about. Many many times over the various shows, the Federation is consistently described as energy constrained. Or else they WOULD be able to make new starships at the push of a button, and they would win every conflict, ever, and the Borg, whoever, or whatever else (including the distance from the Delta to the Alpha quadrants) would not be credible threats. Any society that can just throw unlimited amounts of energy at a problem are on another plane of existence. Which brings us to...

The only post-energy scarcity society shown in Star Trek: The Q Continuum. And once they got there, they were like 'fuck this' to the entire rest of the universe and promptly removed themselves from mortal affairs. The only one who even bothers to be aware of lesser beings is (John Delancy) Q, who far from representing his society is portrayed as an outlier, specifically because of his preoccupation with lesser beings.

Basically, my problem with your dismissal isn't that I didn't understand it, it's with the prerequisite idea that once you functionally become a (resource-unlimited) god, things like "trade" would continue to be meaningful concepts in your existence.*

The point at which you can create anti-matter limitlessly, you immediately cease to need any.

* And from a storytelling POV, any interaction with this society of gods now just becomes "a wizard did it".
posted by danny the boy at 2:59 PM on January 29


It's hard to imagine the Federation resorting to something like the Opium Wars.

But this is why it would be so good. There's no "The Federation" out in the Delta Quadrant. And half the crew is former Maquis, anyway.

Have an episode where the Voyager needs phlebotinum, some Delta Quadrant aliens won't hand it over, and Janeway faces a choice. Chakotay is just like "OMG come on let's just take it by force who's even going to know". Janeway knows that if it comes out that this happened, she'll lose her commission and probably go to jail, along with several other members of her crew. But they really need the phlebotinum. And Chakotay is right. Who's going to know?

So what does she do?

There's even a handy resolution that doesn't force her to go through with it, since I think all Trek episodes are required to have a resolution that uses science fiction directly. So... just technobabble your way out of the corner at the last minute. Like Star Trek has always done.
posted by Sara C. at 3:05 PM on January 29


It's hard to imagine the Federation resorting to something like the Opium Wars. Now the Klingons...
The Federation intentionally created and intentionally loosed a literally genocidal disease upon a people who they were afraid they might one day be at war with. Not even upon a people who they were at war with - upon a people who they were afraid that they might one day be at war with.
posted by Flunkie at 3:06 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Are we talking about Hugh? Because I feel like the Federation has always been at war with the Borg. That's kind of the whole thing about the Borg. And didn't they decide not to use Hugh as a weapon, in the end?
posted by Sara C. at 3:09 PM on January 29


No, I am not talking about Hugh. I'm talking about the virus they made (and released) to kill the Founders.
posted by Flunkie at 3:10 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Oh, I haven't gotten that far yet in DS9. Oy.
posted by Sara C. at 3:11 PM on January 29


Whoops, sorry.
posted by Flunkie at 3:12 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


No worries, I'm a firm believer in the idea of a statute of limitations on spoilers. The show came on 20 years ago. If it was integral to my life that I find out what kind of bullshit the Federation pulled, I would have already seen the episode in question.
posted by Sara C. at 3:15 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom it sounds like you might have read the Aubrey/Maturin books. If you have not, you should.
posted by Splunge at 3:30 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Morn absolutely was more hardcore. Great guy , but never shuts up.
posted by dr_dank at 3:43 PM on January 29 [4 favorites]


How many Federation citizens even know Section 31 exists? How many people in the Federation government know?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:05 PM on January 29


Enough to commit genocide.

In the words of Odo, "Interesting, isn't it? The Federation claims to abhor Section 31's tactics, but when they need the dirty work done, they look the other way. It's a tidy little arrangement, wouldn't you say?"
posted by Flunkie at 4:08 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen a ton of Babylon 5, but was that really a "metaplot" type of show, from the outset?

Yes. The first season did a lot of universe-building through its standalone episodes, but a few episodes are critical for the series arc. Some of these, you do have to imagine the original series arc, which got kinda screwed up by (1) Michael O'Hare leaving and being replaced by Bruce Boxleitner, and (2) likely cancellation at the end of season 4, which resulted in the series-arc episodes planned for seasons 4 and 5 getting mushed into season 4.

Anyway, "Signs and Portents" introduces Morden, the Shadow emissary. "Babylon Squared" sets up the idea of an overarching, cataclysmic war. "Chrysalis" sets up the machinery Delenn uses to become part-human, which is also the same machinery [spoilers, rot13] Fvapyrne hfrf gb orpbzr Inyra. Another episode is about Sinclair's experiences in the Minbari War, details of which become important later. There are also other important later plot points laid out in early episodes -- the oppression of Mars by Earthdome and Martian resistance, the presence and totalitarian nature of the Psi Corps, etc.

And JMS used to be quite active on the intarwebs and especially on usenet, and he indicated even when it was in development hell that he had a five year plan for the show. Things had to flex with the changing circumstances of the show, so he couldn't quite follow his actual plan, but there's no reasonable doubt that it was there.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:29 PM on January 29 [4 favorites]


details of which become important later

That's the thing, though. A lot of the first season of DS9 introduces details that would be important later, and yet I'm in the middle of season five and I would still not say that it's a "meta-arc" show in the way that Battlestar was. There is some ongoing story, and it's not a hard reset at the end of each episode in the way that TNG tended to be*, but most of the episodes stand alone.

The meta-arc idea seems like it's been around for a while, but it's only very recently that most dramas started their run with the assumption that they would be telling a specific planned story with a beginning, middle, and end. Twenty years ago, TNG was lucky to get a series finale at all, and it was pretty revolutionary that it would be a call-back to the first episode.

*After seven damn years of abductions you'd think Troi would take a fricken self defense class.
posted by Sara C. at 5:09 PM on January 29


I can't believe there are people who have not enjoyed Babylon 5 yet! I am sorry (I am also sorry for much of the first season). Seasons 2-4 are some of the most perfect TV ever made, in my opinion.

As noted, JMS used to be quite active on usenet and his comments were collected as JMS Speaks, many of the best ones are still on the internet at the Lurker's Guide. It has been a while, but I believe it is and was quite safe to look at while watching for the first time, because they were things JMS was putting into the public domain as he was writing and filming the episodes, so it lacks spoilers. (Unless you do something silly like watch In The Beginning first. Don't do that).

It's a pretty amazing website and I am always happy to find it still up.

I really need to find a list of the good Voyagers. I think I stopped watching during the fourth or fifth season (honestly, the Wiki summaries are so generic Trek it's hard to tell after so many years).
posted by Mezentian at 6:35 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


I will probably be compiling a list of Acceptable Voyager Episodes when I get to Voyager in... probably a few months? I will probably also give an official SHOULD YOU BOTHER? verdict as I tweet about them.

In fact, I should have included a SHOULD YOU BOTHER? metric from the outset, when I started this project a year ago.
posted by Sara C. at 7:13 PM on January 29


Den of Geek did something similar for TNG.
They got as far as Shades of Gray and stopped.

I've been meaning to rewatch DS9 for some time, but I can't seem to find the motivation.
posted by Mezentian at 8:20 PM on January 29


That's the thing, though. A lot of the first season of DS9 introduces details that would be important later, and yet I'm in the middle of season five and I would still not say that it's a "meta-arc" show in the way that Battlestar was.

The difference is that JMS was out there saying that it was a five-year show with a beginning, middle, and end right from the beginning (or even beforehand). You can pick some of this up from the JMS sections about the various episodes on the Lurker's Guide.

From the one for "Signs and Portents" in which we meet Morden, the Shadows' agent:

Like Tolkien, and Jonathan Carroll, whose wonderful books start out looking very nice and comfortable...and gradually take you to someplace strange and dark and unique...I've tried to apply a similar structure to Babylon 5. It seems to be chugging along at a good clip along relatively familiar terrain. Now my job is to walk up alongside the story with a crowbar and give it a good, hard WHAM! to move it into a different trajectory. "Parliament" was just sort of a preliminary nudge. "And the Sky Full of Stars" was a good, solid WHAM! This week's episode, "Signs and Portents," is another WHAM, even bigger than the one that precedes it.

There are two more major WHAM episodes: "Babylon Squared," dealing with the fate of Babylon 4, and "Chrysalis," our season ender, which is really more of an atomic bomb rather than a crowbar. So roughly about one-fourth of this season's episodes are WHAM episodes. That figure will increase in year two to about one-third. Year three (Neilsen willing) will be half-WHAM and hal-not. Year four would be three-quarters WHAM. And year five is all WHAM.

...

The first batch of B5 episodes tended to be a little more self contained because, remember, we're trying to bring viewers in here, and do so without startling or pissing them off. We get a little funkier the deeper into the show we get. In some cases, as with "Sky," parts of the story are resolved, parts aren't. Generally, it's our feeling that if you have an open-ended B story, you generally have to include an A story that has some measure of closure.

"Signs and Portents" and "Babylon Squared" are two episodes offhand that I think are emblematic of what you're asking for. The A story in "Signs" is resolved...but that episode really isn't *about* the A story, it's about something unusual that happens with the B story that begins to set a lot of things in motion for this season. And that story is ended, but not *resolved*, if you get the distinction.

posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:07 PM on January 29


OK, I was ready to say "well sure all showrunners think that about their baby", but wow, he really seems to have put a lot of thought into exactly how to structure the narrative build.
posted by Sara C. at 9:10 PM on January 29


I just finished binge watching Voyager a few weeks ago (I tweeted about it under the hashtag #ltstvoy). I liked it. In fact, I think it's under-rated by most people. It's not deep reflection on war like DS9, but it also doesn't get bogged down in DS9's mysticism.

It might not be worth it for everyone to slog through all 160+ episodes, but if you have the chance at least check out the top rated ones. Kethinov offers pretty good guides to the best episodes of each series.

If you want to breeze through, I'd start with the pilot, then skip ahead to the finale of season 2 (Basics Pt 1).
posted by drezdn at 9:26 PM on January 29 [4 favorites]


he really seems to have put a lot of thought into exactly how to structure the narrative build.

It's why he's never quite managed to do anything as good again, although since Crusade got Firefly'd just before the big "HOLY FUCKING SHIT THEY'RE DOING THAT" reveal we may never know.

(My jaw dropped on reading the unproduced Crusade scripts, which has never happened before or since).
posted by Mezentian at 9:52 PM on January 29


Well, another thing is that the ability to have that kind of control over a meta-arc really depends a lot on your show's relationship with the network.

Buffy was part of a stable of familiar shows geared toward the same demographic on the WB. Also, I think it was a midseason replacement? And Whedon played his cards right, obviously parlaying with the network about piddly notes and keeping it very, very simple for the first season. And the show was a runaway hit. He earned the ability to throw curveballs later on.

DS9 was syndicated at first, and even after it settled in on UPN was always the redheaded stepchild of the Star Trek franchise. Because of this, the writers were much more able to innovate.

Babylon 5 was a syndicated show and a bit of a wild card in general. I'm not sure if PTEN bought the show based around this "five season novel" structure, or if they just wanted a nice little TNG-lookalike sci fi series to run at odd hours in specific markets and didn't much care what the writers actually did. It's also probably worth noting that Straczynski had a solid track record of TV genre writing before B5, which likely showed he could churn out plenty of the type of content the network wanted. The meta-arc never got in the way of actually getting the sausage made.

If you're doing what they hired you to do, adding some icing to the cake is typically going to work out. Great ratings are also a big help.

In contrast, Voyager was basically the show for UPN, with a lot of expectations and network attention. It also never did quite as well in the ratings as UPN probably wanted it to do, especially looking across at the WB and its stable of reliable teen dramas. There would have been a lot of pressure for Voyager to be easy to watch, unchallenging, and conservative in its approach. So it's pretty easy to see why the show relied so heavily on the reset button as it started to become obsolete elsewhere.

In sum, TV dramas of the 90s are a land of contrasts, and it is time for a new Star Trek series.
posted by Sara C. at 10:19 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


I had a realization a while back that I stopped watching Voyager because they were doing episodic shows when I thought they should be doing connected shows, and I stopped watching Sliders because they were doing connected shows when I thought they should be doing episodic shows, despite having basically the same premise (science fiction causes a group of people to be sent so far from home it is unlikely they'll be able to get back in their lifetimes).
posted by ckape at 10:40 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


I stopped watching Sliders because they were doing connected shows when I thought they should be doing episodic shows,

To be fair, Sliders' quality got awful the more linked the shows were, whereas Voyagers seemed to be better.
posted by Mezentian at 11:17 PM on January 29


Speaking of reintroductions: First Wild Beaver in 800 Years Confirmed in England?
posted by homunculus at 1:18 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Um, I appear to be in the wrong thread. Oops.
posted by homunculus at 1:21 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


DAMN YOU!
posted by Mezentian at 3:11 AM on January 30


I really wish they'd at least do an animated show set in the future of the original timeline that includes occasional appearances from DS9 and Voyager crew.
posted by drezdn at 4:29 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


They probably went back in time to the middle ages, got a beaver, went forward in time to the present day, and dropped it off before going forward again to their own time.
posted by Flunkie at 5:41 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


They probably went back in time to the middle ages, got a beaver, went forward in time to the present day, and dropped it off before going forward again to their own time.

Abrahams and Company are saving this for the plot of the fourth Trek movie in the re-launch. A massive alien probe will enter the quadrant and start building barriers between systems that block warp travel and thus, create chaos and havoc. In the process of doing this, it uses a giant round, flat extremity to "slap" the cosmos. Spock quickly identifies it as the slap of an English Beaver, but then to the dismay of the crew of the Enterprise, points out that the English Beaver had been instinct for 1,400 years. Hilarity abounds as the Enterprise returns to Medieval England to retrieve a pregnant English Beaver and Spock has to constantly snap at English residents that no, he's not the devil. When one minstrel gets out of hand, Spock subdues him to the joy of surrounding turnip wagon riders with the Vulcan nerve pinch.

For inexplicable reasons, the Enterprise is forced to stop in 21st Century England, where to Kirk's dismay, no one seems to care or react to Spock's ears. By sheer coincidence, Kirk's fiance, had at the same time created an English Beaver Genesis Device (EBGD) which allows for the creation of an English Beaver whenever needed. Tired of the smell of the beaver in the hold of the Enterprise (contained behind translucent wrought iron), the Enterprise crew dump the English Beaver in nearby Devon and return to the future.

Abrahams will deny up to the release of the film that it contains A) Time Travel and B) an Alien Probe and C) an English Beaver.
posted by Atreides at 7:15 AM on January 30 [8 favorites]


When one minstrel gets out of hand, Spock subdues him to the joy of surrounding turnip wagon riders with the Vulcan nerve pinch.

Beautiful.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:28 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


A++ would totally pay $20 to see in IMAX/3D/The Arclite.
posted by Sara C. at 9:33 AM on January 30


I think the main reason that Voyager hit the reset button every episode was because they were trying to not be like DS9. And they succeeded, horribly.
posted by ckape on January 29


True, in that Voyager was more clearly being produced for possible syndication than DS9 was. Stand alone episodes can be preferable from a syndication perspective because the local tv station can cherry pick the episodes with the best ratings to air at the best times, and burn off or ignore the rest. The Voyager producers were BerMaga, who by that point were as much about creating product, making money, and following The Formula for Success. DS9 producers, not so much. And when DS9 ended, most of the senior staff left Star Trek entirely, except for RDM, who got burned trying to work for Voyager.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:04 AM on January 30


I really wish they'd at least do an animated show set in the future of the original timeline that includes occasional appearances from DS9 and Voyager crew.
posted by drezdn on January 30


Funny you mention this. Several years ago, there was a proposal for an animated Star Trek series set far in the future, with a darker tone, and appropriately heroic Enterprise, fighting to bring back the optimism that the Federation had lost in the intervening centuries.

Star Trek: Final Frontier
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:11 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


Stand alone episodes can be preferable from a syndication perspective because the local tv station can cherry pick the episodes with the best ratings to air at the best times, and burn off or ignore the rest.

It's also worth mentioning that, by the time DS9 started to get into the heavy meta-plot stuff, they had already hit their magic 100 episodes that make the show eligible for syndication. There was absolutely enough standalone material for local broadcasters to cherry pick what they wanted to air without getting into the complex Dominion War meta-arc.
posted by Sara C. at 10:18 AM on January 30


when DS9 ended, most of the senior staff left Star Trek entirely, except for RDM, who got burned trying to work for Voyager.

This, to me (from a writing/producing standpoint) is sort of the weak link in the idea of having a TV "franchise" like Star Trek. You hire people, bring them up over the course of 5-7 years, and then at the end you've got this stable of experienced highly-ranked writer/producers. Star Trek worked this pretty well in the transition from TNG to DS9 and Voyager, but the reality is that you can't have a Star Trek spinoff for every co-EP who graduates out of a long-running series. So... where do all those people go?
posted by Sara C. at 10:29 AM on January 30


Abrahams and Company are saving this for the plot of the fourth Trek movie in the re-launch...

Heh. I should post in the wrong thread more often.
posted by homunculus at 10:46 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


Whoa, thank you for that Final Frontier link, ZeusHumms. I had never heard of it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:25 AM on January 30


Abrahams will deny up to the release of the film that it contains A) Time Travel


Bullshit- J.J. Abrams is incapable of making a film or show that doesn't in some way involve time travel.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:38 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Possibly, but he will still deny it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:44 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


This is because a failed J. J. Abrams traveled back in time from 2060 to warn his past self that, after admitting that he liked using time travel as a gimmick he was abruptly kicked out of Hollywood as a repetitive hack who never worked again. As such, Abrams knows he must never acknowledge this until he has successfully prevented the bad timeline from occurring.

We can understand the immediate changes that propagated in Star Trek's timeline as Abrams's writing in his own wish that his future self's warning to him has already changed the present enough to undo the curse. However, he knows that he can never admit this just in case the prophecy comes true.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:25 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


But what about parallel-dimension J.J. Abrams' plan to reveal all?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:06 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Before JJ Abrams Star Trek’s Prequel Was About Kirk’s Ancestor In An Earth-Romulan War
The main protagonist of STTB is Tiberius Chase, a top-gun starfighter pilot in the United Earth Stellar Navy. This is the early days of the so-called Coalition of Planets, and the Earth military has yet to merge with Starfleet, which is still strictly an exploratory organization at this point.

Eh.
posted by Mezentian at 7:23 PM on January 30


So would that be the Enterprise period, then?

I'm also not super into the idea of a Kirk ancestor, just like I wouldn't have been into TNG as the actual offspring of the TOS crew. I never got the sense that Starfleet was an aristocracy.
posted by Sara C. at 7:54 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


wouldn't it make more sense if Kirk's direct ancestor was a non-military support grunt on these missions and thus from the outside looking on all this? (plus, Audience insert character) cause then you could have a meritorious rise up kind of thing?

Hell make it his great-great grandmother Joanne Lastname who ends up in a romance plot with a pilot named Tiberius and the very last second after she's saved the day and they kiss in some bantery way his last name "Kirk" gets slipped out. Bang cut to credits.
posted by The Whelk at 8:03 PM on January 30


Yes. And we would see Spock's grandfather, because of course we would.
posted by Mezentian at 8:15 PM on January 30


yesssssss
posted by The Whelk at 8:18 PM on January 30


I guess Chase is a popular captain's name in the future, seeing has how it has turned up in both these pitches.
posted by Mezentian at 8:22 PM on January 30


We put our faith in Chase Hardcheese.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:56 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]


The above comment put this into my mind:
Always we will fight as one,
Till the battle's won
with evil on the run
we never come undone


The world's worst theme tune, until the day you make it your ringtone.
posted by Mezentian at 6:22 AM on January 31


A friend of mine likened the Trek reboot to Spock's helmet.
posted by juiceCake at 8:20 AM on January 31 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine likened the Trek reboot to Spock's helmet.

Hey, it's not like Nimoy couldn't have been a guest star on CHiPs once.
posted by aught at 12:48 PM on January 31


I sure hope the "pulsing sonic sound" is Majel Barret's voice going "SPOCK! SPOCK! SPOCK!" over and over. Maybe with a switch that changes it to "LOGIC! LOGIC! LOGIC!"
posted by Flunkie at 3:43 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


Is this where I can talk shit about the Abrams reboot? I'll keep it short.

Christ on a crutch does J.J. Abrams ever fundamentally misunderstand Trek. What's more, he has enough mechanical competence and postmodern razzle dazzle bullshit artist talent that he managed to construct a film with a meta-plot that is J.J. Abrams foisting his profound misunderstanding on the entire canon, and somehow they gave him a pretty enough, likeable enough cast that he might actually get away with it. The man must be stopped.

On the other hand, I've long since lost all emotional attachment to the the shattered husk of the Star Wars franchise. Colonize away, pal. Just get your grubby mitts off the Enterprise already.
posted by brennen at 9:55 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Christ on a crutch does J.J. Abrams ever fundamentally misunderstand Trek.

You did see the TNG films, right, with Picard going violent psycho on a regular basis? First Contact was the best one, and Picard solves all his problems with violence, and kills just assimilated crew members with no remorse. Abrams can hardly be blamed for "misunderstanding" Trek at this point in the franchise.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:10 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Picard can perhaps be forgiven for having an...untoward reaction to the Borg.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:22 PM on February 1


You're probably right, no one really liked those crew members anyway.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:13 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


And maybe this was mentioned, but Voyager regularly sold off it's technological expertise as well.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:36 PM on February 2


*After seven damn years of abductions you'd think Troi would take a fricken self defense class.
Speaking of Troi...
Marina Sirtis talks about Deanna Troi and the inverse relation between cleavage and brains in TNG

"There are certain rules in Hollywood. One of the rules is not written anywhere, but you just know: if you’re doing an action-adventure show, you gotta have chicks on the show for the boys to look at when they’re not blowing up other spaceships. Second rule: if the chick has a cleavage, she cannot have a brain.

So, [after wearing a uniform in the first episode] I got a cleavage, and all my gray matter departed. Which was sad, because originally (I know this is gonna shock you), Troi was supposed to be the brains of the Enterprise. So when the cleavage came, all that left, and I became decorative, like a potted palm on the bridge.

Then of course came the second season, and I was the only young one left. We had me and we had Diana, and so I had to become all things to all men. And so I got the red outfit, and and then we got the lilac outfit and then we got the green dress. Under the green dress I got to wear a corset, a satin corset, with bones in, like Scarlet O’Hara.

Now, as you know, with a corset everything gets pushed up or down. What was pushed down was kind of enclosed in the skirt and what was pushed up was enclosed in what I named “the Industrial Strength Starfleet Brassiere”, which was a wonder of modern engineering. I mean, I used to take it off at night and go "oh blimey, where did they go?". In fact, we had guest stars - and I’m no Twiggy - who would come and see me in the morning as Marina and then they would see me two hours later as Troi, and they’d go to costume and go "I want that bra!"

So then we got to season six, and there was the episode “Chain of Command" where we were trying out the new captain, Captain Jellico (just in case Patrick wanted too much money for next season, we were auditioning other captains), and he said to Troi “Go put on a uniform”. And lo and behold, there was one in her closet. So I put it on, and by then I was skinny, and the director and all the producers were like "she looks good in that, why wasn’t she been wearing that for the last six years?"

So I started to wear my spacesuit. I was thrilled to finally be in a spacesuit. First of all, my pips - cause I had a rank, you know. And then, it was very flattering actually, it looked really good.

Suddenly, I was smart again. My cleavage had gone. My gray matter came flooding back. I was on away teams! I was the leader of one away team! I had a medical tricorder! And unlike Beverly, I seemed to know what was wrong with people.

And, in this one particular episode, where we were on the Romulan ship - because suddenly I am the expert in Romulan technology - I had this line: "That’s impossible. The Romulans use an artificial quantum singularity as their power source". Who did I say it to? Geordi and Data! They didn’t know this. To be honest, when we were shooting the scene and I was saying the line, I was sneaking looks to my right and left to make sure they hadn’t developed a cleavage while I wasn’t looking."

~ The brilliant and hilarious Marina Sirtis at DragonCon 2010: Star Trek TNG Panel (Abridged from this video. The panel begins here, go check it out, it’s totally worth it).
From: http://tinyurl.com/1871atboe-tumblr-com
(where the various costumes mentioned above can be seen)
posted by blueberry at 6:56 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Speaking of cleavage and Trek, there's a new episode of Star Trek Continues up.
(I09's headliner pic reminded me).
posted by Mezentian at 7:24 PM on February 9


Which was sad, because originally (I know this is gonna shock you), Troi was supposed to be the brains of the Enterprise.

CALLED IT.

For about the first half of the first season, Troi is basically the Spock of the Enterprise-D. She's Picard's right hand, advising him on the various alien cultures the Enterprise meets in each episode. It's also pretty clear that this iteration of Troi is sort of meant to be a flipping of the "Spock = mind, McCoy = heart" script. Gradually, as Data becomes the breakout character of the series, Troi's role crystallizes not as a diplomatic/cultural liaison and important advisor on the bridge, but as the Ship Therapist and token chick to get kidnapped and mind-raped and stuff.

I'm not sure if this was a studio note from Paramount, a change that happened as Berman took over for Roddenberry, or even if it's something that consciously took place within the writers' room at all. But since I rewatched the series last year I've felt like I was the only person who noticed it.
posted by Sara C. at 7:37 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


For about the first half of the first season, Troi is basically the Spock of the Enterprise-D

It's been a few years since I watched it, but I always felt Data was the Spock type, and I was sure Roddenberry said as much. It was always clear to be that Data was going to be the "breakout character" from the first time I heard about TNG (in Woman's Day, of all places).

I guess I am going to delve back into one of the better TNG early eps and look again with this new interpretation.

Troi's role crystallizes not as a diplomatic/cultural liaison and important advisor on the bridge, but as the Ship Therapist

It would explain why they put her on the bridge in the first place.
posted by Mezentian at 7:49 PM on February 9


I always felt Data was the Spock type

That doesn't really happen until Season 2. For a lot of the first season, he's sort of played for laughs and the writers don't really know what to do with him.

If you want to check that interpretation, don't dive into the "better" TNG episodes, because all of those happened after the changes I'm talking about.

I think that's why nobody has ever noticed this -- if you approach TNG assuming that the characters are all set in stone from the beginning and their roles never shift, you can't possibly see this stuff. Most people think of the characters as they appeared from Season 3 on.

Instead, watch the first ten episodes of the show. One thing that struck me re-watching from the beginning, from scratch, with no preconceptions, is that the first season (roughly) is a very different beast from the rest of the series, including wildly different roles for the cast.
posted by Sara C. at 8:11 PM on February 9


For a lot of the first season, he's sort of played for laughs and the writers don't really know what to do with him.

That was my perception going in when I was, 12 or so.

don't dive into the "better" TNG episodes,

I meant the least worst of S1. I looked up the episodes, and I don't think I have it in me to watch all 10.
I thought for years that I loved this show (yes, even Afriiiiiiicans in Spaaaace). I think it and I need space.

I believe you, given the behind the scenes stuff, and old scripts getting resurrected like The Child (that that the Troi cake one?).
posted by Mezentian at 10:01 PM on February 9


"The Child" is the first episode of the second season, which really cements the death of Interesting Troi and rebirth of Troi As Token Chick.

I feel like the transition really starts earlier, probably somewhere during Season 1, but the contrast between the Troi of the first few episodes of the series and the Troi of "The Child" is really striking.

It's also, frankly, one of the most bullshit episodes of the series ever, up there with Racist Planet and how they killed off Yar.
posted by Sara C. at 1:16 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


It's also, frankly, one of the most bullshit episodes of the series ever,

Since it's an old (almost untouched) Phase 2 script, I'm not surprised.
The Troi character in the original barely has any character, and I guess whoever retouched it only took one pass, enough to update the names and locations.

Ah, the writer's strikes.

and how they killed off Yar.

I still like the idea that it's a meta-fictional comment on redshirts, and that "no one is safe" still, even if it wasn't done very well.
posted by Mezentian at 2:04 AM on February 10


I don't think it's a wrong hypothesis to say Troi wasn't a Spock figure, but what about the perspective that the role of Spock was divided between Troi and Data. The science officer, the person with the knowledge to related to the Captain, that was Troi. The "outsider" who exists to comment on the human condition was Spock. Then as discussed, Data kind of sucked up both roles as the show progressed.

The quote did remind me of Amanda Tapping and Stargate: SG-1.
Tapping was eager to sink her teeth into this dynamic character. For years, she’d guest-starred on shows such as The X-Files, Due South, and Street Legal; she was hungry to take her career to the next level, and knew full well that Stargate SG-1 could do just that.

But then Tapping arrived for her wardrobe fitting and laid eyes upon the uniform that her character was expected to wear: a push-up bra and a provocative, low-cut tank top. “I was devastated,” Tapping says. “It was my first really big break so I was very aware of the fact that they could fire my ass at any moment, but I burst into tears and said, ‘I can’t. I’m sorry, but I won’t do this.’ And I said, ‘You can tell them to come down and talk to me about it, but [Sam’s] in the military.’ I was fiercely proud of the military aspect of it, of being true to women in the military, and having big boobs and a low-cut tank top, well, it’s not being honest. It was very disrespectful.”

But the various network/studio powers-that-be who’d pushed for a sexualized Sam Carter (Tapping won’t name names) didn’t push back, and over the course of 10 seasons of Stargate SG-1 — not to mention several spin-offs and movies — Carter dressed in uniforms befitting her position, and Tapping carved out her place as a sci-fi icon.
posted by Atreides at 7:31 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


The science officer, the person with the knowledge to related to the Captain, that was Troi. The "outsider" who exists to comment on the human condition was Spock. Then as discussed, Data kind of sucked up both roles as the show progressed.

Yeah, I think that describes it pretty well.
posted by Sara C. at 9:08 AM on February 10


God, never has an edit feature for grammar and mistypings been so needed, and so blatantly ignored. Thank you English language and Sara C. for grasping what I intended to write, when I managed to mangle it up some in the process of writing it. Blegh.
posted by Atreides at 9:51 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


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