MacGyver is the equivalent of Vulcan vintage human horror television
October 17, 2016 3:00 PM   Subscribe

The United Federation of "hold my beer, I got this" aka the real reason why it's always human starships that suffer transporter mishaps, random space warps or time travel. (An imgr album of a Tumblr thread because apparantly in the new internet 2.0 search is basically useless.)
posted by MartinWisse (114 comments total) 95 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes. The new MacGyver is horrible television.

I'm glad the most logical civilization in the universe agrees with me.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:08 PM on October 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is, as mentioned, now headcanon.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:09 PM on October 17, 2016 [15 favorites]


I've been rewatching TNG lately and deciding whether each episode passes the Trekdel Test: that is, at least two non-human characters have a conversation about something other than a human.
posted by theodolite at 3:11 PM on October 17, 2016 [70 favorites]


So where this kind of falls apart for me is when I think about Spock. Because Spock in TOS is sometimes puzzled by human behaviour, but when it comes to throwing down with the crazy-ass idea, the billion-to-one shot, the hail mary play to save the universe/ship/day...Spock was not only fucking there, he was often the guy suggesting it in the first place.

Maybe that is Spock's true half-human nature.
posted by nubs at 3:13 PM on October 17, 2016 [31 favorites]


All of a sudden, the JJverse might make sense...
posted by Nackt at 3:14 PM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


This theory would also seem to imply that the Vulcans kind of view humans as an advanced version of lab rat.

"Let's give them some highly advanced technology....stand back...hmmm. Fascinating."
posted by nubs at 3:15 PM on October 17, 2016 [29 favorites]


Re Trekdel: If Data/Deanna/Worf discussing how to deal with whichever alien hovering menacingly on the viewscreen is sufficient, then most of the ready-room conferences would pass the test, as usually at least two of the bridge officers present aren't human. Unless merely including humans in the conversation is fatal.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:16 PM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm always fascinated by the race-specific traits that get assigned to humans in science-fiction and fantasy. Most sci-fi (not all, don't @ me) conceives of sentient existence on a scale from Very Intelligent but Emotionless to Dumb and Angry (or, in a more favorable light, Passionate and Noble if Sometimes Misguided), but there's not really any reason to think that more intelligent beings would necessarily lack emotions beyond some fairly inscrutable notions about stuff like emotionless nerds that have pervaded contemporary American society. In fantasy, by contrast, humans tend to be jacks of all trades, kind of like a universal average. They're not especially good at things or strong or smart, but they're stronger than elves and more magical than dwarves, so, for example, in early D&D they were the only ones that got to multi-class. That, I think, is more of a relic of the unfortunate tendency to boil non-human cultures down to one or two essential elements, but since everyone is aware of the incredibly multi-faceted human experience, we can't be boiled down into just one thing, so we get a little bit of everything.

The harsh reality, as that thing floating around Tumblr a few years ago about pursuit predation and otherwise comparing humans to life on earth basically said (I think this is it), is that we are, if anything, the Borg. We expand ruthlessly, are incredibly durable, have vastly more stamina than most of our prey species, and can adapt to out-compete anything we can't kill outright. It's not impossible that to whatever aliens we do meet in the future, that will be our set of species traits. A couple billion years of evolution boiled down to a CON bonus and +1 to length of supply lines.
posted by Copronymus at 3:28 PM on October 17, 2016 [60 favorites]


Proof once again that I love what Tumblr users create just as much as I hate Tumblr's interface and organizational setup.
posted by Wretch729 at 3:34 PM on October 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


I think this is first entry:
http://prokopetz.tumblr.com/post/139763983747/random-headcanon-that-federation-vessels-in-star

I don't Tumblr so no idea how to make it show the whole thread.
posted by Awfki at 3:40 PM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Here is another one of my favorite tumblr descriptions of Star Trek humans:
my headcanon for startrek is that humans look, to vulcans, like a dog frathouse. like signing on to a human ship is exactly that thrillingly loud and frustrating and fast and stupid and fun. the humans are going to dash off to a new sector to see if there are friends there and then they will jump up and down with delight and stuff their faces up against their new friends’ genital array. the humans are going to bark for ten minutes at a rock. the humans want to chase things they can’t possibly catch just because they like running around. the humans are madly passionate about their arbitrary group identities. the humans can be divided into new arbitrary group identities which they will then be passionate about. the humans want to stick their heads out of the window of their starship and go ‘wheee!’. if you step on a human’s paw they will act like you just killed them for about thirty seconds and then want more headpats. the humans can be immediately distracted from crucial duties by the appearance of a small animal. if you howl all the humans in earshot will howl louder just to show off. a human just humped your leg. ‘don’t make it weird bro’ the human says. later the human will dig a weird bug out of the ground and eat it.
posted by yasaman at 3:46 PM on October 17, 2016 [95 favorites]


The harsh reality, as that thing floating around Tumblr a few years ago about pursuit predation and otherwise comparing humans to life on earth basically said (I think this is it), is that we are, if anything, the Borg. We expand ruthlessly, are incredibly durable, have vastly more stamina than most of our prey species, and can adapt to out-compete anything we can't kill outright.

I think there are many examples of how the other races/species/monsters of our various sf/f/horror media can be taken as reflections and exaggerations of "us" as a species; that is part of how they are often used in stories, to hold up a mirror to audience

I always viewed the Borg as an expression of what humanity in the Trek universe could have become - rapacious, technologically obsessed, adaptive, invasive. But Trek - at its best - tries to hold up two mirrors for the audience. One is the negative reflection, some of our traits and attitudes taken to a full extreme; the other is the positive reflection of the people of Starfleet and the UFP and the ideals it espouses; where we've grown past some of these approaches and ideas and can find better ways to respond.

But part of what made the Borg great was not only the fact that they do reflect many of the worst elements of humanity, they posed a difficult question for the Federation - you can't negotiate with them, they require total destruction to stop, and they can adapt just as fast, if not faster, than you can. So how do you manage your ideals of peaceful coexistence and the importance of diversity when faced with that foe?
posted by nubs at 3:49 PM on October 17, 2016 [27 favorites]


the JJverse might make sense...

AKA fuck having a point to spaceships just teleport everywhere, BTW we just cured death.
posted by Artw at 4:05 PM on October 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


What the fuck is a "headcanon"?
posted by crotchety old git at 4:06 PM on October 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


A character Kieron Gillen and Jamie Mckelvie invented for Young Avengers but didn't get around to putting in.
posted by Artw at 4:07 PM on October 17, 2016 [23 favorites]


No, it's that cybernetic augmentation the character from the first chapter of The Diamond Age has installed.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:11 PM on October 17, 2016 [23 favorites]


This all seems to imply that the Federation is made up entirely of boys/men. Or more specifically, bros.
posted by diane47 at 4:12 PM on October 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


I thought the Mass Effect depiction of humanity was pretty good. Find ancient technology that opens a door into the wider galactic community. Meet an alien race and immediately fight a few pointless wars with them. Discover the galaxy's central government and decide to bully your way into it with nothing but bravado while the rest of the races of the galaxy look on with varying levels of puzzlement and horror. Discover the secret doom of the galaxy and start fighting it before anyone else has even started believing in it.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:12 PM on October 17, 2016 [24 favorites]


What the fuck is a "headcanon"?
Headcanon (or head canon, head-canon) is a fan's personal, idiosyncratic interpretation of canon, such as the backstory of a character, or the nature of relationships between characters.

This can be affected both by professional tranformative works, such as art, movies and audiobooks, and by fanworks such as fanart, fanfiction, cosplay, manips, vids and podfic.

Headcanon may represent a teasing out of subtext present in the canon, or it may directly contradict canon. If other fans share this interpretation, it may become fanon.
posted by yasaman at 4:12 PM on October 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


If humans barely understand Starfleet technology, the joke in Relics about Scotty being aghast that La Forge was giving Picard accurate estimates for repair times doesn't make any sense. Obviously at the least the engineers know how this stuff works.
posted by AndrewInDC at 4:14 PM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the other races that the Federation describes as "xenophobic" really just don't like humans in particular. For example, the Sheliak avoid contact with the Federation, we are told, but is that a Federation-diverse colony that they threaten to eradicate when they found that it violated their treaty? Nope, it's just humans.
posted by indubitable at 4:17 PM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


GUYS IT IS OK

GUYS WE HAVE WESLEY CRUSHER IT WILL BE OK

WESLEY CRUSHER PILOTED FEDERATION FLAGSHIP ENTERPRISE WHEN HE WAS 17

WESLEY CRUSHER ONCE CREATED WARP CORE FUEL FOR A SCIENCE PROJECT WHEN HE WAS 17

GUYS LISTEN

JUST LISTEN OK

WESLEY CRUSHER CREATED SENTIENT NANITES = WESLEY CRUSHER MADE LIFE WHEN HE WAS 17
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:17 PM on October 17, 2016 [15 favorites]


I dunno, software engineers give estimates all the time, most of them are just sticking bits together and seeing what works.
posted by Artw at 4:18 PM on October 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


What the fuck is a "headcanon"?

idk but if you find one give Gunther a call he will be by the soda machine
posted by Sebmojo at 4:18 PM on October 17, 2016 [26 favorites]


What the fuck is a "headcanon"?

It's this thing up against my temple, that I'm about to use if I have to read any more fanfic.

kidding! I don't really have a problem with fanfic, I just wanted to use that joke
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:19 PM on October 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


This reminds me a little of the theory than nearly all episodes of TOS are actually elaborate practical jokes Spock was playing on the rest of the crew.

Humans think Vulcans don't have a sense of humor. Vulcans find this hilarious.
posted by baf at 4:22 PM on October 17, 2016 [24 favorites]


discussing how to deal with whichever alien hovering menacingly on the viewscreen

That's another thing - the aliens are always 'hovering menacingly" - other than the Tholians, doing their signature move that combines the fun of doing donuts in a parking lot with a more bondage-oriented version of cat's cradle, they all just hover.*

After the first dozen times you meet some random being, hovering just isn't that menacing anymore.

Where are the alien ships that just bob and weave around like some crazy jackass? In a universe where everyone is content to menace their opponents with hovering, or looming, or floating a dozen ship lengths in front of them, then the bobbing, weaving, fluttering ones are the masters of menace.

*Gaseous, single-celled, or plasma-based amorphous blob creatures don't really count, as they just kind of stand around and wiggle, with the rare few that liven it up by sparkling.
posted by chambers at 4:29 PM on October 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I thought the Mass Effect depiction of humanity was pretty good.

I think Mass Effect took liberally from Babylon 5 in this respect (and in many other respects).

Switching gears, this reminds me of a problem I have with a lot of SF and fantasy depictions of humans as somehow 'special'. There's an early episode of B5 in which all of the alien races are putting on demonstrations of their religious beliefs. Sinclair is struggling to decide how to represent humanity until he comes upon the idea of just lining up representatives of all the major faiths.

When I first saw this episode (in 1994!) it seemed profound, but with hindsight the obvious truth is that all of the other species in the B5 galaxy are one-dimensional by comparison because they are all the creations of the writer. All of these species -- Centauri, Minbari, Vulcan, Klingon, Elves, Hobbits etc, etc -- are by design more limited versions of humans.

I'm not sure I have a point to conclude this ramble with, but it would be neat to see a SF universe where humans aren't the plucky underdogs that manage to overcome incredible odds and save the day. For once.
posted by Foomandoonian at 4:35 PM on October 17, 2016 [21 favorites]


This all seems to imply that the Federation is made up entirely of boys/men. Or more specifically, bros.

To be fair, you might think that was true watching TOS.
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:04 PM on October 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


I look around at humans, and I see all the vast variety of physiognomies, and colors, and cultures, and subcultures, and societal structures, and the myriad of other ways humans differ from each other, and I can't help but wonder... how does a species allow itself to get this way? It's so inefficient, and worse, untidy. We could get so much more done if we all agreed.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:05 PM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


My favorite exploration of this is actually from Rimworld - humans aren't smart or strong or empathic, they're just lucky. And that turns out to be more useful than any other characteristic in the universe.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:06 PM on October 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


give Gunther a call

An oblique reference to a plot irrelevant easter egg in a 16 year old game, that you can only see after hacking into an in game computer and what's worse is it's the first thing I thought of when someone mentioned head cannon, and I scrolled down straightaway, expecting to see if there were any references to lemon-lime soda being put in the orange soda slot.

Humans!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:06 PM on October 17, 2016 [20 favorites]


Where are the alien ships that just bob and weave around like some crazy jackass? In a universe where everyone is content to menace their opponents with hovering, or looming, or floating a dozen ship lengths in front of them, then the bobbing, weaving, fluttering ones are the masters of menace.

They're in Star Trek Beyond
posted by SansPoint at 5:08 PM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


This all seems to imply that the Federation is made up entirely of boys/men. Or more specifically, bros.

To be fair, B'ellana “It’s some sort of chromo-dynamic module powered by a tripolymer plasma” Torres once built a highly experimental spaceship with controls that her boyfriend scribbled ona napkin out of his favourite videogame, and then made it go so fast it deevolved the captain and her boyfriend into lizards who had space lizard babies and one of the lizards looked at her.

And she's half klingon.
Just imagine what a fully human female chief engineer might build?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:16 PM on October 17, 2016 [38 favorites]


I'm not sure I have a point to conclude this ramble with, but it would be neat to see a SF universe where humans aren't the plucky underdogs that manage to overcome incredible odds and save the day. For once.

It would be neat to see SF that wasn't written by Americans/Canadians who grew up after World War II believing that they were a young country who were plucky underdogs in the dawn of the 20th century and managed to overcome incredible odds to save the day.

Like, it's interesting to compare the vision of Star Trek against, say, some of the visions of Jodorowsky or Jean Claude Mezieres and other French comics artists (or even the Brits in 2000AD) where humanity is either some long lived star spanning empire ruled by dynastic god kings or a vaguely benign, vaguely corrupt epic bureaucracy that happens to empower some heroes to be clever troubleshooters and agents of minor change but tend to be burdened by the weight of their universe's history in ways that don't exist in North American imagined settings.
posted by bl1nk at 5:49 PM on October 17, 2016 [38 favorites]


"vaguely benign, vaguely corrupt epic bureaucracy that happens to empower some heroes to be clever troubleshooters and agents of minor change but tend to be burdened by the weight of their universe's history"

Futurama!
Once again and as always every time I learn something new about science fiction I understand Futurama a little better.
posted by bleep at 5:57 PM on October 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


"...it would be neat to see a SF universe where humans aren't the plucky underdogs that manage to overcome incredible odds and save the day."

At least in Farscape, it was only one specific plucky human underdog. The rest were rather unremarkable.
posted by chromecow at 6:01 PM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


One of the most important things about humans re: almost any other sentient race in Trek is this: we just don't live very long. Vulcans live past 200, Klingons are old but still pretty hale and hearty well into their second century (you don't see many old Klingons for the obvious reason), and Guinan's people, the El-Aurians, live several centuries, at least. There is no stated upper limit on the lifespan of Trill symbionts; Dax has had eight hosts over three centuries and counting. In Mass Effect, it's even more pronounced: asari and krogan both live for a millenium or more. There are shorter-lived people than humans (Ocampa in Trek, salarians and vorcha in Mass Effect), but we hang out with a lot of beings who have way more time to explore strange new worlds and whatnot. So it's burning the candle at both ends and maybe the middle, baby!
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:06 PM on October 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


we are, if anything, the Borg.

This was said outright re: the Federation by a guy named Michael Eddington during his big kiss-off to Sisko in an episode of DS9. Of course, Eddington was a tool, who probably knew that Sisko had lost his wife during the big Borg battle at Wolf 359.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:11 PM on October 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


What the fuck is a "headcanon"?

$20, SAIT
posted by GuyZero at 6:15 PM on October 17, 2016 [28 favorites]


"vaguely benign, vaguely corrupt epic bureaucracy that happens to empower some heroes to be clever troubleshooters and agents of minor change but tend to be burdened by the weight of their universe's history"

If you're very, very generous with the "vaguely benign" part, this could apply to W40K's Imperium of Man as well.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:17 PM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


In hearing a lot of Ork here, what with the image grasp of bullshit one time technology and all.
posted by Artw at 6:36 PM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes Artw, humans are space Orcs. Vulcans are space elves.

Klingons are actually the space Humans. It's very weird.
posted by GuyZero at 6:49 PM on October 17, 2016 [15 favorites]


Wait, or are we Space Gnomes? I haven't kept up with the 4th Ed.
posted by GuyZero at 6:49 PM on October 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Space, that's where we're a viking!
posted by zippy at 7:02 PM on October 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


Humans are crazy, but Vulcans don't hang out with humans because they're crazy and provide research fodder. Vulcans are analytical and recognize that hanging out with humans is inherently dangerous, and research can be gotten much more safely and securely.

No, the reason Vulcans hang out with humans is simple: because wherever the Vulcans go in the universe, every other race treated them as, at best, a potential co-operative ally. More often they were regarded as a potential resource to be exploited or, in worst cases, an enemy to be annihilated.

But when the Vulcans made first contact with Earth - "what the hell is that insane thing these aliens here have built, let's go look at it" - humans didn't look at them as an enemy or a resource or even an asset. No, the very first time humans met Vulcans, they tried to do the Vulcan hand thingy and they couldn't do it so they just offered a handshake, and then said "let's get drunk and party." THIS IS ACTUAL LITERAL CANON, REMEMBER.

Vulcans hang out with humans because humans are the only race that ever instantly responded to Vulcans by saying "hey, let's be friends!" Vulcans love humans, have ever since the beginning, and always will, because humans didn't even think about the benefits of Vulcan comradeship, humans just decided "these guys are all right" and that was that, and Vulcans do not forget.
posted by mightygodking at 7:03 PM on October 17, 2016 [140 favorites]


tl;dr--humans are the Mr. Peanutbutter of the universe.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:20 PM on October 17, 2016 [35 favorites]


No, the very first time humans met Vulcans, they tried to do the Vulcan hand thingy and they couldn't do it so they just offered a handshake, and then said "let's get drunk and party." THIS IS ACTUAL LITERAL CANON, REMEMBER.

Further in this vein:

i will never be over the fact that during first contact a human offered their hand to a vulcan and the vulcan was just like “wow humans are fucking wild” and took it


Note: Vulcan hand/finger touching is a sex thing.
posted by yasaman at 7:29 PM on October 17, 2016 [17 favorites]


Look, we as humans, have domesticated every species we possibly could - we fucked our sibling species into extinction and we will make friends with snakes and slugs if you leave us alone. We're AGRESSIVELY FRIENDLY and that's our asset to the galactic community as happy, chirpy, childlike neotic fuckers who will slowly take over your empire with the POWER OF FRIENDSHIP AND PARTIES.

We are the most terrifying diplomatic corp in the galaxy and you don't even realize what we're doing until every young little space bear is hooked on human culture. Charm offesnenive y'all.
posted by The Whelk at 7:31 PM on October 17, 2016 [53 favorites]


mightygodking groks Star Trek.

This is something B5 toyed with as well. Humanities greatest strength is our ability to build communities and sacrifice for one another. Including the apparently fairly unique ability to do that in spite of differences.

On that theme, I've sometimes played with the idea of a setting where every other sentient species has some innate sense of exactly how related they are when they meet. This leads to societies being rather tribal. Not to say they're less advanced or complicated, just that you're part of a family, that's part of an extended family, that's part of a larger coalition, etc... there's a layer of structure there that humans don't innately have.

The human ability to form extended group identities, particularly the one where you gather a bunch of unrelated teenagers together, subject them to physical and mental stress for an extended period and at the end, everything having gone well, they'll fight and die for each other like family is weird and intensely threatening. At the same time, the fact that you can get humans who will put others interests above the interests of family/clan/tribe/nation means they're seen as neutral parties and sought after as mediators and intermediaries. A lot of stories have humanity as being negotiators and diplomats, and a lot of them have humans as incredibly effective soldiers. I kind of wanted to have something that had the best and the worst coming from the same fundamental psychological trait. An attempt to reconcile Star Trek and Starship Troopers if you like.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:31 PM on October 17, 2016 [16 favorites]


you know what the best evidence for this is? Deep Space 9 almost never broke down. minor malfunctions that irritated O'Brien to hell and back, sure


Well, this is plain nonsense- DS9's environmental systems alone tried to wipe out all of its inhabitants on several occasions, and that's not even mentioning the security systems, or the times it just tried to drop itself into the atmosphere of Bajor.

And have you ever been to Empok Nor? The only reason that thing is still in one piece is that all the booby traps are keeping all the other booby traps in check.

You see, this is the problem with Cardassian technology- it's almost entirely booby trap based.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:36 PM on October 17, 2016 [34 favorites]


this is perfect and I LOVE STAR TREK,
posted by bluesky43 at 7:42 PM on October 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


Still love the bit where Gul Dukat pauses a replicator based booby-trap in the middle of it doing its thing to get a cup of tea out of it.
posted by Artw at 7:49 PM on October 17, 2016 [19 favorites]


One of the primary tenents of Star Trek is that humanity has evolved beyond greed and petty conflict. Gene Roddenberry felt strongly that there should never be conflict between the human crew members, which drove a lot of the writers to quit over the years. Rick Berman maintained this after Gene's death, which is why a crew of terrorists unanimously decides to meekly put on starfleet uniforms and join a federation crew. On the other hand DS9 was great and holds up better than its contemporaries because nobody was really paying attention, and of course the best episodes of Star Trek in general have been where there's conflict that violates these rules.

Anyway, Gene Roddenberry had some really great ideas and some completely garbage ones, but vulcans and their relation to humanity (as exemplified by Spock and Kirk's relationship) was one of his best. I recently finished reading The 50 Year Journey which really brought home how well Star Trek brought the best of literary Sci-Fi's traditions to a mass audience. They've been following that high ever since, each subsequent attempt more ineptly trying to capture what made Star Trek great and such a smash hit in syndication.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:26 PM on October 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


humans are the Mr. Peanutbutter of the universe.

"It's going to be great, as it always is, from my perspective."
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:47 PM on October 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


In fantasy, by contrast, humans tend to be jacks of all trades, kind of like a universal average. They're not especially good at things or strong or smart, but they're stronger than elves and more magical than dwarves, so, for example, in early D&D they were the only ones that got to multi-class.

This is interesting and thoughtful... but incorrect, sorry.

In classic D&D, humans were the only race who couldn't multiclass. Other races (depending on who they were) could have up to three classes at once, with experience points divided evenly between them, but humans could only get one.

On the other hand, humans were the only class to have unlimited level advancement in all classes. That fancy-pants elf you got who's a fighter/thief/magic-user might be pretty jack-of-all-trades-ish, but not only is his experience getting split up between each of those classes, but in each of them he has a hard ceiling to advancement, absolutely preventing access to the highest realms of ability. An elf magic-user was capped at level 12, meaning the highest level of magic one could cast was 6th!

I remember reading that this was done, not just to give humans a special place in the world, but also because, in a world with so many long-lived races, if there weren't some natural limiting factor for non-humans, they would naturally come to overwhelm and dominate the world and leave no niche for humanity. The sense of that, or its lack, I leave for you to divine. Anyway, the result was that, instead of being jack-of-all-trades, humans were the only ones who could truly excel. Also, humans were the only ones who could (if their attribute scores were good enough) be of any class, whereas most demi-humans had certain classes they simply couldn't be, due to the Will of Gygax.

Now, humans could dual class, which was a special thing only they could do I seem to remember, but that was an entirely different mechanism. A player had to explicitly declare that he was dual-classing his human. Then he returned to level 1 in his new chosen class. He temporarily lost (or at least was voluntarily forgoing) nearly all his abilities in his old class. Once his level in his new class reached his level in his old class, he regained all those abilities, now in addition to the ones in his new class. But at that point he could never advance in his old class again; he was still a member of his new class, just with these extra things added.
posted by JHarris at 8:47 PM on October 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


We obviously don't know how are attributes would stack up against the "average" star faring species. We almost always do get drawn as "average" in terms of intelligence & physique (which actually makes sense statistically, I guess) and then made especially cool in terms of pluck & ambition, full of curiosity, knowledge seekers, and superior in everything else intangible--the badass normal of species.

I guess I'm not the only one bored with this who's thought up ways to subvert it. I'd like one where we are at the top of the pack intellectually and physically. Twice the size, speed and toughness of everything else. Able to do math in our heads and recall things that other species only dream about. But in comparison to other species violent, expansive, incurious and indifferent to science that doesn't give us a way to make a buck or give us a new way to kill something.

As an aside, on my second watching of Farscape I realized that one minor subversion was that they made Crichton the scientist. He (with Xa'an when she was there) was actually doing a role on the ship usually reserved for aliens. and then often fucking up the "soft skills" part of the episodes.

As another aside, A. E. van Vogt's The Monster.

This reminds me a little of the theory than nearly all episodes of TOS are actually elaborate practical jokes Spock was playing on the rest of the crew.

Humans think Vulcans don't have a sense of humor. Vulcans find this hilarious.


I hadn't heard this one. Very cool.

Does viewing this as the subtext make Spock's Brain watchable?
posted by mark k at 8:52 PM on October 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


We are the most terrifying diplomatic corp in the galaxy and you don't even realize what we're doing until every young little space bear is hooked on human culture. Charm offesnenive y'all.

(Vulcan looks at spine of video tape box) "'Camp Pining Hearts?' What is this?"

(Space captain in pink uniform with big yellow star on its front) "Oh, that? Try it. You'll like it...."
posted by JHarris at 8:55 PM on October 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


Look, we as humans, have domesticated every species we possibly could - we fucked our sibling species into extinction and we will make friends with snakes and slugs if you leave us alone. We're AGRESSIVELY FRIENDLY and that's our asset to the galactic community as happy, chirpy, childlike neotic fuckers who will slowly take over your empire with the POWER OF FRIENDSHIP AND PARTIES.

This is also literally canon in Star Trek. Recall the Quark/Garak "root beer" scene in DS9.
posted by mightygodking at 9:16 PM on October 17, 2016 [28 favorites]


My favorite exploration of this is actually from Rimworld - humans aren't smart or strong or empathic, they're just lucky. And that turns out to be more useful than any other characteristic in the universe.

Oooh, might I introduce you to an awesome little anime called Irresponsible Captain Tylor?

Actually, this goes for all of you. Tylor's sole ability is that he's incredibly lucky, but to such a degree that you're never sure if it's all luck, or if there's actually some hyper-genius going on back there. Other characters remark on it. And at the end they don't ever resolve which it is, pretty much implying that it's a bit of both.
posted by JHarris at 9:22 PM on October 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


in ways that don't exist in North American imagined settings.
bl1nk

Except they, you know, do. You just described two of the most beloved and influential SF settings of all time, both by American authors:

*The Dune series ("humanity is either some long lived star spanning empire ruled by dynastic god kings") - which predates stuff like The Incal by nearly 20 years.

*The Foundation series ("vaguely benign, vaguely corrupt epic bureaucracy that happens to empower some heroes to be clever troubleshooters and agents of minor change")

It would be neat to see SF that wasn't written by Americans/Canadians who grew up after World War II believing that they were a young country who were plucky underdogs in the dawn of the 20th century and managed to overcome incredible odds to save the day.

Read SF by American/Canadian authors who came of age during or before WWII then, I guess, because a lot of imagined settings from that era are exactly what you describe.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:42 PM on October 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


The warhammer 40k universe has it right. We're a warlike, xenophobic, numerous species with bizarre superstitions, a messiah complex and incredibly powerful technology that we can barely control or understand and we've almost destroyed the galaxy many times with our hubris. Pretty much everyone hates us and we treat members of our own species like crap, fighting amongst ourselves as much as we fight any aliens we encounter.

In the grim darkness of the future, there is only war.
posted by dazed_one at 10:01 PM on October 17, 2016 [11 favorites]


I kind of liked the comparison between the Federation and Space Orks. Just smash things together that shouldn't mesh, cause huge unexplained phenomenon and hand wave it away (seriously, just change tachyon flow and warp core to Mork and Ork). The only thing that's missing is painting the ships red so they'll go fasta.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:34 PM on October 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


The Culture's Special Circumstances is "come along, human, I'll hold your beer while you get this".
posted by kandinski at 4:57 AM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Special Circumstances is kind of the galactic brewery in this scenario, no?
posted by thecaddy at 5:40 AM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The warhammer 40k universe has it right. We're a warlike, xenophobic, numerous species with bizarre superstitions, a messiah complex and incredibly powerful technology that we can barely control or understand and we've almost destroyed the galaxy many times with our hubris

For sf views of ourselves in the far future, there seem to be a few ways to go.

One is the grimdark style of 40k and similar ideas.

Another is what I call the middling view of shows like B5 or Space: 1999 or Corey's The Expanse series; humanity as a species that is is struggling with itself and what direction it might take as it continues to develop and evolve socially and technologically in a larger universe of possibilities. These tend to be optimistic in the larger view of our direction, but they temper that with the fact that we aren't always making the best decisions and still have a lot of tendencies towards both self-destruction and destruction of the other.

Star Trek imagines a humanity that I view as removed from us by at least one or two Singularity-type events; things like replicators and ubiquitous power sources and being post-scarcity. Not to mention getting to that after coming close to wiping the species out of existence a time or two. The people of the Trek universe aren't grappling with what those things mean; they've already integrated them into their everyday lives. It's hard for us to imagine that; our stories about such possibilities are naturally going to be limited by the fact that we are what we are right now, trying to grasp what such an existence might be.

Vulcans hang out with humans because humans are the only race that ever instantly responded to Vulcans by saying "hey, let's be friends!" Vulcans love humans, have ever since the beginning, and always will, because humans didn't even think about the benefits of Vulcan comradeship, humans just decided "these guys are all right" and that was that, and Vulcans do not forget.

To build on this thought and connect it with my ramblings above, a lot of what humanity is in Trek comes down to who we first met. If I recall canon correctly, the Vulcans were certainly aware of humanity before the first warp flight, but were abiding by their rules (which become the general Federation rules) of First Contact - you don't introduce yourself to an alien species until they have warp technology. So the Vulcans came when there was an approximate level of tech parity and humanity took them by the hand (and thanks for confirming that is a sex thing for Vulcans, yasaman, I always figured that about a particular scene in STIII) and said "hey friend!" which is awesome (and how much of that reaction is influenced by the fact that the TNG crew was there and let Cochrane know what was going to happen?). And the Vulcans try to adopt us for a little bit, only to watch us run before we can crawl, and they go "this is a pretty wild and crazy species, but they are friendly as hell, so let's see where this takes us." I think that initial bond between Vulcan and Human is an important one for both sides; the cold rational intellect of the Vulcans matches well with the impulsive, let's-see-what-happens, try-try-again nature of Humans.

Now imagine if that instead of the Vulcans, first contact was with the Klingons. I have no idea where Klingons were with respect to humanity in terms of technology at the point of First Contact, but let's say instead of a Vulcan vessel, it was a Klingon one in system. They go home, and come back with an invasion fleet. And our first introduction to the wider universe isn't the highly restrained, intellectual, peaceful Vulcans, but an aggressive, conflict loving species that has come to either conqueror or destroy. What grows out of that probably more resembles the Terran Empire of the Mirror Universe than anything else (and in fact, this may be the idea behind how the Terran Empire started, I have no idea). An initial contact with the Klingons would have strengthened the human impulses towards violence and conquest and war; where the Vulcans strengthened our impulses towards curiosity and exploration and learning shit.

So yeah, that First Contact thing goes in a lot of different directions. For the story Roddenberry wanted to tell, though, about a better humanity with an optimistic future, having that happen with the Vulcans was a crucial choice. (I may now go down a rabbit hole of looking at some other SF series and seeing who the choice of first contact was and how that may have been saying something about the vision of humanity).
posted by nubs at 5:51 AM on October 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


The Culture visited Earth and decided it was such a perfect example of everything they hate that they had to leave it alone. The idea being that they needed control groups to see if their interventions actually worked out long term or not. "Long term" in this story included "after a nuclear war" because maybe preventing that is still a bad thing eventually. That's how long term the utilitarian calculus of the Culture extends. So not so much a brewery as a disinterested regulator trying to work out how to best reduce alcohol related accidents.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:07 AM on October 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm going to wait and see how this whole global warming thing pans out before I weigh in on whether whoever prevented our nuclear war in the 80s did us a favour or not.
posted by Artw at 6:26 AM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Reading Foundation shortly after taking a post-colonial literature class made it clear to me that Foundation is pretty much white man's burden propaganda, which seems pretty American to me
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:34 AM on October 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


> It would be neat to see SF that wasn't written by Americans/Canadians who grew up after World War II believing that they were a young country who were plucky underdogs in the dawn of the 20th century and managed to overcome incredible odds to save the day.

There's plenty; why not give it a try? You might start with the Strugatskys.
posted by languagehat at 6:47 AM on October 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


But showbiz_liz "White Man's Burden" is an actual poem by a famous Brit. Though it was about the US conquering the Phillipines, so....
posted by emjaybee at 6:50 AM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Grimgrim: This thesis is official canon in the Culture universe (see “The State of the Art”). But you probably already knew that.
posted by pharm at 6:50 AM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Humans are lucky, friendly, and short-lived.
Futurama!
Once again and as always every time I learn something new about science fiction I understand Futurama a little better.
We use Futurama to teach our kids about the real world.
posted by tilde at 6:56 AM on October 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Long term" in this story included "after a nuclear war" because maybe preventing that is still a bad thing eventually. That's how long term the utilitarian calculus of the Culture extends.

They change their minds sometime before *goes and looks* 2110 -- the appendix to _Consider Phlebas_ is framed as being taken from a post-Contact history of the Idiran war for hoomans.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:03 AM on October 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


This thread, man.... I just love you guys so much.
posted by brand-gnu at 7:23 AM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The idea being that they needed control groups to see if their interventions actually worked out long term or not. "Long term" in this story included "after a nuclear war" because maybe preventing that is still a bad thing eventually. That's how long term the utilitarian calculus of the Culture extends. So not so much a brewery as a disinterested regulator trying to work out how to best reduce alcohol related accidents.

Man, I hate being in the control group. But I guess we're allowed binge drinking.
posted by nubs at 8:04 AM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


What grows out of that probably more resembles the Terran Empire of the Mirror Universe than anything else (and in fact, this may be the idea behind how the Terran Empire started, I have no idea).

Actually, according to Memory Alpha, First Contact still involved the Vulcans, but Zefram Cochrane and his crew killed the Vulcans on site and ransacked their ship for tech. M-A also seems to suggest that the Terran Empire might have already existed prior to First Contact at least into the middle of the 20th Century, which perhaps implies it's one of those "The Nazis Won" timelines.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:11 AM on October 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


And now I know...the rest of the story.

Thanks tobascodagama! I was not going to take a Memory Alpha dive today, I have stuff to do.
posted by nubs at 8:16 AM on October 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I love this, I love this thread, and I love all y'all.

Carry on!
posted by cooker girl at 8:27 AM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Copronymus I'm always fascinated by the race-specific traits that get assigned to humans in science-fiction and fantasy. Most sci-fi (not all, don't @ me) conceives of sentient existence on a scale from Very Intelligent but Emotionless to Dumb and Angry (or, in a more favorable light, Passionate and Noble if Sometimes Misguided), but there's not really any reason to think that more intelligent beings would necessarily lack emotions beyond some fairly inscrutable notions about stuff like emotionless nerds that have pervaded contemporary American society

One thing I really liked about CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series is that the Atavi are different. Not starfish aliens with utterly impenetrable motives, in fact they're remarkably similar to humans in many ways which makes the ways they're different stand out all the more.

The central psychological difference is that their emotional base is pack focused, they fundamentally don't get the human concepts of friendship and liking people. The closest thing they have in their language to what we mean when we say "I like you" is a word expressing a preference as in "I'd like a salad today" (one of them jokes with his human companion that he is not a salad). Instead they feel a packlike urge to follow a particular leader, a very strong loyalty to that leader that is explicitly not reciprocal. The characteristic that makes someone a leader is that they **DON'T** feel loyalty. They don't abuse their followers, but they don't feel loyal to them and the Atavi find the idea of reciprocal loyalty bizarre.

Humans are also physically smaller, weaker, more susceptible to alkaloid poisons (the Atavi season their food with stuff that will straight up kill us), and vastly less mathematically able. Oh yeah, and all humans are descended from a tiny group of stranded colonists so there's billions of Atavi and only a few million humans.

What humanity has is an inherently less superstitious outlook on things. Atavi don't have religion, but they do have several mutually conflicting numerology systems and almost all Atavi adhere to one of them with an almost religious fervor. And even Atavi who reject numerology as mere superstition are still emotionally disturbed by certain numbers, especially even numbers. A civil war almost started when it came out that humanity had FTL travel, per all Atavi numerology FTL is religiously impossible and the existence of FTL makes all of the various numerologies they believe in false. Sort of like creationists with evolution only their belief systems can be mathematically invalidated. Also a less conservative approach to society and technological advance, humanity is a lot more flexible and wiling to try new things.

In fantasy, by contrast, humans tend to be jacks of all trades, kind of like a universal average.

Sometimes explicitly an average. In many RPG systems humanity has no built in bonuses or disadvantages. Presumably because when designing a game with numeric attributes something has to be the baseline and since we're the game designers and most familiar with other humans it might as well be us.

Seems a bit lazy though.

The harsh reality, as that thing floating around Tumblr a few years ago about pursuit predation and otherwise comparing humans to life on earth basically said (I think this is it), is that we are, if anything, the Borg. We expand ruthlessly, are incredibly durable, have vastly more stamina than most of our prey species, and can adapt to out-compete anything we can't kill outright. It's not impossible that to whatever aliens we do meet in the future, that will be our set of species traits. A couple billion years of evolution boiled down to a CON bonus and +1 to length of supply lines.

That I'd disagree with. Humanity is actually a lot less violent than most other species. Rabbits routinely fight other rabbits to the death, admittedly one of the few species to frequently fight to the death among themselves, but still. Most other animals settle disputes by violence, if sub-lethal violence, vastly more often than humans do.

We're not that durable either. Physically we've really only got one thing on most other species, and that's stamina. We're not great sprinters, but we're fantastic distance runners and can run down deer and other prey species until they literally drop dead from exhaustion. But we've got no fangs, no claws, no spines, plenty of other species are stronger than us and have more group cohesion.

As for spreading, while Agent Smith's humanity sucks speech was kind of cool, it's also total BS. Every species expands and breeds until it destabilizes the ecosystem. Your average species exists in a continuous boom/bust cycle that works out to be meta stable over centuries, but not even meta stable when considered over millennia. The wolves breed until they eat all the prey and starve, then the population declines while the pray builds up its numbers again which allows the wolves to breed until they eat all the prey and starve and so on and so forth.

What makes humanity stand out is that we've put our outsized brains to use getting around that. We're more successful at what all species do, but we're not unique in our spread and consumption of local resources.

In fact I'd say where we are unique among other species on Earth is that we've got the ability to see the consequences of following our genetic urges and stop ourselves from doing too much harm by letting them go unchecked. No other species is deliberately holding back its numbers, deliberately even trying to conserve resources for the future. Wolves don't set aside preserves, they just breed until their numbers are too great and they starve. But humanity does.

Not early enough, not often enough, not big enough, but we're trying. And that, alone, makes us stand out from all the other speices on Earth.
posted by sotonohito at 8:29 AM on October 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


FWIW, the canonical depiction of the mirror universe first contact came from Star Trek Enterprise, but it was Enterprise after they knew they were going to get cancelled and finally decided to deliver the fan service everyone wanted from the beginning (no, not the "sexy" fan service they had been providing from the beginning). I mean honestly, who says "let's make a prequel show" then intentionally makes as few references to the series canon as possible?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:31 AM on October 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


God I love that Enterprise two-parter with the Terran Empire. Pretty much justifies the entire existence of that show.
posted by Artw at 8:48 AM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


On the note of Enterprise, I think its view on why humans dominate the federation is perhaps the most interesting. It's not that humans are somehow better, it's that the Vulcans have been shitty and paternalistic for so long that they have accumulated generations of animosity with other species.
posted by ethansr at 9:03 AM on October 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


God I love that Enterprise two-parter with the Terran Empire. Pretty much justifies the entire existence of that show.

So that is worth seeking out? My wife and I have been dipping into TOS and TNG on Netflix, with me trying to find the better episodes to watch as my wife saw bits and pieces of TNG but pretty much none of TOS...but I don't think she's going to be up for the long term run of DS9 (frankly, I'm not sure I am again either), and I don't know enough Voyager and Enterprise to try those waters...(I'm thinking of pulling a showing of "The Naked Time" from TOS and "The Naked Now" from TNG, just to see how they compare).

At the least, she does now understand why I occasionally reference Spock's Beard in other conversations. "Mirror, Mirror" was the second TOS I showed her, right after "Amok Time" (she really didn't like Amok Time).

(I'm also curious - if the crew of the original Enterprise encountered the Mirror Universe and the Terran Empire, why was it such a surprise to Kirk? I mean, I'm assuming there's a handwavy explanation about how classified that report is or something, but it always kind of bugs me when the prequel series takes the discovery another series made and works with it and then tries to make the storyline such that it never happened).
posted by nubs at 9:06 AM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would say it does pretty much take it as read You've at least encountered the mirror universe concept before.

(Also Mirror Mirror is a ton of fun)
posted by Artw at 9:10 AM on October 18, 2016


One other model of humanity from (MeFi's own!) jscalzi shows up in his Old Man's War books. Humanity in that is actually a little physically underpowered compared with the rest of the universe. We make it up by being sneaky, underhanded and duplicitous as hell. Humans are the anti-cooperation species, the ones trying to sow discord in the others and then plant a knife in the back of anyone who is hurt in the ensuing chaos and then urinate on their dying form for good measure.

We know that humans are good at espionage and dirty tricks. What if that's our key advantage? (Every other species can't conceive of the various ways humans can betray and disrupt until it happens to their neighbors. And then humans doing something worse to them.)

While the aliens are being all sneaky and planning an ambush attack, the humans not only already know about it, but have seeded the skies of their homeworld with stealthed killsats (rods from god variety), planted a virus on their warp drive computers and infected a quarter of the population with the local equivalent of smallpox, which was wiped out years ago and thus no one is vaccinated for.

It's another form of the humans being the bad guys in everyone's stories. Except this time, they're right.

"Nice planet you have there, shame if something happened to it..."
posted by Hactar at 9:22 AM on October 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


It's another form of the humans being the bad guys in everyone's stories. Except this time, they're right.

At least by the end of the books, it's not entirely clear whether that's a homo sapiens thing or "just" a Colonial Union thing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:46 AM on October 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


That I'd disagree with. Humanity is actually a lot less violent than most other species. Rabbits routinely fight other rabbits to the death, admittedly one of the few species to frequently fight to the death among themselves, but still. Most other animals settle disputes by violence, if sub-lethal violence, vastly more often than humans do.

How much of this is either a) a recent development or b) due more to extending kinship groups out to the scale of nation-states, which took over most of the settling-disputes-by-violence duties that used to be carried out by individuals?
posted by tobascodagama at 10:02 AM on October 18, 2016


if the crew of the original Enterprise encountered the Mirror Universe and the Terran Empire, why was it such a surprise to Kirk?

They don't. The episode is entirely made up of mirror everyone. The only crossover from the "normal" universe is the USS Defiant, which disappeared into a spacial rift in The Tholian Web and ended up in the mirror universe in the past.

The mirror crew did enjoy reading about their alternate selves in the Defiant's databanks but it seems doubtful how much of the knowledge of the Defiant and the other universe persisted in the mirror universe. Mirror!Spock didn't seem too terribly surprised about Prime!Kirk's origins in the TOS episode, not that any Spock is prone to shock.

Anyway, the most annoying parts of Enterprise was it alternately inventing new races you never hear about again, introducing stuff seen "for the first time" in later shows, and ignoring stuff worth mining from TOS like the Andorians and Orions.

Anyway, I think the concept of "what makes Humanity unique?" is an evergreen topic for Sci-Fi and Fantasy works. What would a different intelligent race be like? How would we be the same, how would we be different? Would we even be able to recognize their intelligence? You get everything from heptapod aliens that perceive time in a fundamentally different way to vulcans who are like humans but have abandoned emotion in favor of pure rational thought.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:36 AM on October 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Human as baseline and aliens as the other can be problematic when it's used in combination with Alien as Metaphor. I read Rachel Bach's Paradox books after they were recommended as a good FemShep ananlogue, but it dawned on me that every human was blue eyed and hetero-normative, but every single alien on the crew was an outcast from their own species due to their gender or sexual preferences. You're presented with these characters that you're supposed to care about as a clear metaphor for getting kicked out of home for being gay or trans, but they're still aliens so they're immediately othered compared to the POV character.

ST touch on this to a degree based on the sheer uniformity of their alien species. Humans are the ones who are allowed a breadth of ethnicity and background and interests and opinions (well, as broad as Utopian Rodenberry would allow) but the aliens are monolithic, and the only ones who seem to deviate do so because of Human influence.
posted by thecjm at 10:57 AM on October 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


“humans are the only race that ever instantly responded to Vulcans by saying "hey, let's be friends!" Vulcans love humans”

On Human starships:

How Humans see it

How Vulcans see it

Bonus: How Klingons see it

How Ferengi see it
(etc)

posted by Smedleyman at 10:57 AM on October 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Anyway, the most annoying parts of Enterprise was it alternately inventing new races you never hear about again, introducing stuff seen "for the first time" in later shows, and ignoring stuff worth mining from TOS like the Andorians and Orions.

Based on the last part, I'm guessing that you didn't watch the fourth season (the Andorians play a bigger part, the Orions show up) and probably missed big chunks of the first three seasons (the Andorians show up there as well, as do the Tellarites; one of the first Andorians that we meet is played by man-of-a-thousand-aliens actor Jeffrey Combs, whose Andorian character, Shran, was set to become a series regular if Enterprise had gone for 5+ seasons). I'm not blaming you for tuning out, as there were a lot of things that I found problematic about the series in the first couple of seasons, and I didn't watch the third and fourth seasons myself until many years later. The one-off alien races were features of all the other series; the premature appearances of the Borg, Ferengi et al. was one of the things that bothered me, too.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:03 AM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


In general, I think that ENT would have been much better in the last few seasons, as it had already improved greatly in the fourth (due not only to Manny Coto taking over the reins from Berman and Braga, but also bringing in classic Trek experts Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, who have written or co-written many Trek novels (including many of Shatner's).
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:05 AM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Shran was the best thing about Enterprise. I would have paid many latinum bars for a Shran series.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:14 AM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


From the link:
dragon-in-a-fez

Deep Space 9 almost *never* broke down... none of the truly weird shit that befell Voyager and all the starships Enterprise.
emphasis mine, and I nominate dragon-in-a-fez for a honourary mefi membership
posted by porpoise at 12:15 PM on October 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Nice planet you have there, shame if something happened to it..."
posted by Hactar


eponysterical
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:40 PM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


For those who want more Mirror Universe, check out Star Trek Continues ep #3, Fairest of Them All. It's the Mirror Universe sequel to "Mirror, Mirror".
posted by fings at 1:04 PM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I maintain that Tuvok understands human behavior, even humor, quite well after serving with them for decades, and is quite fond of a variety known as 'snark.' The fact that no one else seems to call him on it is a source of endless amusement for him.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:01 PM on October 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is in the DS9 reboot series, so not *strictly* canon, but in Mission Gamma there's a human captain who is around 100 years old and is considered middle-aged (Elias Vaughn). I just figured the medical advances in longevity were apace with advances in other technologies.
posted by pony707 at 4:47 PM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like how in Star Trek there's always a deep well of cosmic horror underneath the thin veneer of Starfleet optimism. I'd love to see a show that really steered hard into that aspect of space travel, maybe with a perpetually terrified Bojack Horseman as Picard, and a cheerfully omnipotent Mr. Peanutbutter as Q.
posted by speicus at 6:46 PM on October 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


er, like in Red Dwarf?
posted by porpoise at 8:45 PM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


The harsh reality, as that thing floating around Tumblr a few years ago about pursuit predation and otherwise comparing humans to life on earth basically said (I think this is it), is that we are, if anything, the Borg.

I always wondered how machine life would regard humans. th legends they would tell:

"Listen. Listen and understand: humans are TERRIFYING. They can spend hours in a sandstorm at 35 C, then hop into a 20 C ocean for an hour, with no preventive maintenance, no need to change lubricants."

"They can move on almost any terrain without swaping out mobility units, going right from swamp to jagged rocks, to climbing a cliff."

"They need barely any maintenance. Give them a bunch of naturally occurring chemicals to metabolize, and a few hours downtime, and they keep going. Hell, they can INTERRUPT their downtime if they have to."

"They don't need machine shops for repairs. They can even repair themselves over time using needles and thread. "

"Their internals are so convoluted and complicated you can never tell what will kill them. Sometimes humans keep fighting for minutes, even hours after their brains should know they're dead."

"They hardly need any infrastructure. Prebuilt factories? Ha! Put a few humans down in an area with some seeds, and in only a century or two, they'll have covered the planet."

"Most horrific of all, is their intelligence. They can have all sorts of perceptual and cognitive faults, something that would put us in blue screen mode, AND THEY KEEP WORKING."
posted by happyroach at 8:53 PM on October 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


I always wondered how machine life would regard humans. th legends they would tell:

I took a hammer to one and five minutes later it was TOTALLY INOPERATIVE. Humans suck.
posted by GuyZero at 12:32 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


So I just finished watching Season Five, Episode 1 of Voyager .... Night ...

There's a whole thing about them being in a void. "We wouldn't know we were in warp if not for instrumentation." And being bored. Be'lanna says something along the lines of "Why even have a staff meeting? Warp core is stable and working at maximum efficiency. My engineers are going stir crazy." Janeway, later on, talks about how they've spent so much time lurching from crisis to crisis and she'd love for something interesting to happen, like a Borg cube or three.
posted by tilde at 5:42 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I always wondered how machine life would regard humans. th legends they would tell:

"Ugly bags of mostly water"
posted by nubs at 6:46 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ugly bags of one of the versatile solvents in the universe! They inhale poison and exhale more poison!

I like how in Star Trek there's always a deep well of cosmic horror underneath the thin veneer of Starfleet optimism. I'd love to see a show that really steered hard into that aspect of space travel, maybe with a perpetually terrified Bojack Horseman as Picard, and a cheerfully omnipotent Mr. Peanutbutter as Q.

er, like in Red Dwarf?


Or like in Futurama, actually.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:33 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


(I'm thinking of pulling a showing of "The Naked Time" from TOS and "The Naked Now" from TNG, just to see how they compare)

So we did this last night. It was interesting; TNG echoed a lot of the same notes as the episode from TOS:

-TOS investigates an outpost on a frozen world where the environmental controls have been damaged/shut off and everyone freezes to death; TNG investigates a ship where a section has had the environmental controls shut down, many people froze to death;
-Both episodes feature someone freezing to death in the shower while fully clothed;
-TNG lacked a shirtless crew member charging around with a fencing foil, sadly. Takei was pretty buff in the day!
-In both cases, the chief engineer is never infected;
-Spock is infected, but seems to shrug it off in time; similarly, Data gets infected but also seems to somehow move past it as the threat sharpens;
-Nurse Chapel makes a pass at Spock; here we have Yar making a pass at Data (success!), Crusher making a pass at Picard (almost success - if she hadn't been on her way to test a new cure, Picard coming to see her would've been a completion) and Troi coming after Riker. So interesting that in all cases, it was a female character initiating.
-While both Kirk and Picard display some...unusual behaviour, Kirk is concerned not only with the burden of his duty as captain and his inability to develop a relationship with Rand ("no walks on the beach") but also with his appearance to the crew; after he pulls himself together he makes sure the corridors are clear so that no one other than Spock or Scotty or Uhura deals with him while he is "intoxicated". Picard seems less worried about his appearance - giving Dr. Crusher a friendly little wave, and marching off to see her while being somewhat silly. He displays no anxiety about his role or the demands being captain places on him.
-The TOS episode also uses this to set up a mechanism for time travel which is pointed out, but won't be used as a plot point for quite some time.

So, yeah, interesting. While the TOS episode really seemed to use this to ask some questions about the nature of the mission - a crewmember displays a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about the mission and if they should even be out here (he later dies after being stabbed with a butter knife) as well as graffiti on the walls like "repent sinner" - as well as Kirk and Spock both displaying moments of uncertainty and struggles with their roles and choices and the strain of responsibility, the TNG episode doesn't dive into that in any significant way. The TNG episode was more focused on giving us character moments, giving us some backgrounds and traits, and using this to set up some of the long simmering relationships of the show: Picard/Crusher, Troi/Riker, and Data/Yar. (I'm leaving out the bogus "Wesley saves the day" ending, because that was a pattern that TNG really needed to never start with and I feel bad for Wil Wheaton every time I see Wesley, who was poorly written. Guy deserved better).
posted by nubs at 10:35 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


So how do you manage your ideals of peaceful coexistence and the importance of diversity when faced with that foe?
You can't. You just end up with the USS Defiant, which is a symbol of the Federation getting scared enough to build a warship.
posted by turtlebackriding at 2:15 PM on October 19, 2016


omigod Spock doesn't just shrug off the infection he snaps out of it because Kirk needs him you don't understand
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 5:44 PM on October 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also there's oddly a little bit missing from the middle of that image. Source:
>>Humans get mildly offended by the way they are presented in non-human media.
Like: “Guys, we totally wouldn’t do that!” But this always fails to get much traction, because the authors can always say: “You totally did.”
“That was ONE TIME.”
There’s that movie where humans invented vaccines by just testing them on people. Or the one about those two humans who invented powered flight by crashing a bunch of prototypes. Or the one about electricity.
And human historians go, “Oh, uh, this is historically accurate, but also kind of boring.” To which the producers respond: “How is doing THIS CRAZY THING boring????????”
There are entire serieses of horror movies where the premise is “We stopped paying attention to the human and ey found the technology.”
reblog for new meta.

>RE that last line: McGuyver.
>“MacGuyver” is the equivalent of Vulcan vintage human horror television.
so yeah tumblr's format sucks a lot, sorry
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 5:54 PM on October 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


omigod Spock doesn't just shrug off the infection he snaps out of it because Kirk needs him you don't understand


I understand.
"Aroused...his great...physical strength...could kill."
posted by nubs at 8:07 AM on October 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry. It's been days. But I still lose my shit, devolving into helpless giggles at -

vulcan science acadamy: look
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:08 PM on October 20, 2016


The "what would aliens think of humans" question really sort of exposes the problematic race constructs behind many beloved scifi franchises. "This is Planet X where the Y people live. They all wear hats and are very warlike." And it's like, what? That is not how culture works. You apply that kind of statement to human cultures, and you wind up in offensive territory very quickly.
posted by panama joe at 10:21 PM on October 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


See : Planet of Hats
posted by panama joe at 10:28 PM on October 20, 2016


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