Drive Comic, Act One Book Review

This comic gets a lot better when it’s read all in one go. I started reading it as a fan of Sheldon (I’ve since dropped Sheldon from the comics that I read, it just got a bit… meh… for me), so I was reading each strip as it came online. If I remember rightly, Dave Kellett was working on Stripped! at the time and couldn’t keep to a consistent update schedule. Although, looking back it seems to have been fairly constant at weekly-ish for the first year, unless the dates in the URL are unreliable.

Regardless, reading a page a week is not the best way to read Drive. Especially at the Six Moons of Slaughter, an action sequence that happens in about 2 minutes and 20 pages (I’m not going to go and check these facts). The story in the Act One book started in 2009 and finished… I can’t find when it finished (the website has no archive page and individual strips are loaded by date), but it was sometime after 2011. 2 years for a very sequential story is a really, really long time.

The best way to read Drive is with one of the beautiful, Kickstarter, hardcover Act One books, like I did! There was so much that I’d forgotten about the story, and now I’m aching for Act Two so that I can see how some characters get out of the predicaments at the end of Act One… And I’ve just been going back through the recent pages to see if they even did make it out of Act One! Seriously, long-form storytelling in a weekly webcomic is not easy to follow. I’d forgotten what the Vinn were exactly, since they don’t show up often in the strip and they’re named often but described little (any description would be too much when you have all the pages in front of you, but 6 years after the description of the eyepatch tattoo of a race that’s not been seen for 5 years? I only have so much capacity for minutia!)

Anyway, I highly recommend this comic. You can read it online if you’re into binging archives, but following it on RSS (as I do) will ache to get each new page. It’s a million times better to wait and read it all in one go, it was absolutely designed to be read that way rather than a page a week.

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Where No One has Gone Before

What can I say about this episode? Not a lot. It was fun!

It touched sideways on an argument between anecdotal evidence versus scientific evidence and scepticism. Kasinsky is arrogant but misguided, and although his actual changes are meaningless he has evidence to back him up. It isn’t mentioned in the episode, but based on the circumstances that the changes had an effect on the engines, we can say with certainty that if someone had taken his published findings and tried them on a starship without his (and more specifically, the Traveller’s) help, they would find nothing to back him up. Of course, given Kasinsky’s arrogance, he would put this down immediately to people not doing it right, only he is able to do it properly, and so on.

This technobabble sets a disturbing precedent...

Riker and Argyle (the early, bearded chief engineer – or one of them) are the voices of scepticism putting Kasinsky down. They’ve analysed it from a scientific point of view and find errors with the reasoning. Kasinsky isn’t smart enough to answer these, and doesn’t have the core scientific value of trying to prove himself wrong, or testing under neutral conditions. That being said, Riker and Argyle appear hostile to Kasinsky but let him try anyway. They didn’t really have an opportunity to be anything but hostile, given Kasinsky’s general demeanour towards them – rude, condescending, dismissive of rank and disrespectful. I think the crew’s attitude is entirely justified. Actually, I think quietly stuffing him out of an airlock is entirely justified.

If Kasinsky is the only person who could make these changes work, is he planning to visit every starship and upgrade it personally? Did the other starships see continued improvement once the Traveller had left?

Like a cosmic hitch-hiker.

How did the Traveller end up with Kasinsky anyway? Kasinsky was investigating ways to get warp engines to run better. He presumably didn’t see results until the Traveller became his assistant, but how does a non-Starfleet person, a civilian, join a Starfleet research project? Was the Traveller involved in any research institute, hoping to hitch a lift on board starships? If his goal is to explore, finding Kasinsky seems like a roundabout way to do so. Maybe he only approached Kasinsky once there was a trial beginning to test his theories, or maybe Kasinsky was already doing his research on a travelling starship.

Other Captains

How would this have played on Deep Space Nine? They don’t  really have engines, just ‘reaction control thrusters’ to move the station nearer to the wormhole in the first episode. The Defiant is the only ship with a warp engine. I can see O’Brien wanting to punch Kasinsky for his attitude – considering how Kasinsky treats Commander Riker, I can’t see him appreciating O’Brien’s authority (as an NCO) or later in the series, Rom’s (as a Ferengi working for the Bajorans!) Worf would actually hit him. He would guard the Defiant’s engine room with a bat’leth to stop Kasinsky getting near it (especially with knowledge of the Enterprise’s encounter…)

That being said, I think Sisko would overrule any misgivings based on personal feelings (O’Brien and Rom can be petty) and allow the changes to be made. Kira would have broken his nose in about ten minutes – twenty in later series, when she mellowed out a bit.

Given that the Defiant is more for defence of the station and engine efficiency is not the key point of the Defiant (officially – escort vessel, from the design brief – to battle the Borg), as well as the fact that it has a really convenient way of getting halfway across the galaxy faster than Kasinsky’s changes – it’s probably end of the queue for any changes.

Janeway would not hesitate to do anything that might make her engines a little bit faster. B’elanna would punch Kasinsky in the face if he treated her as anything less than chief engineer (let’s not forget, she never finished the academy and is a wanted terrorist). Seven of Nine would definitely need a chat with Janeway before she’d even work with Kasinsky, after the first antisocial encounter. His enhancements would probably not match whatever Borg magic she pulled anyway. How Kasinsky gets to the Delta quadrant to offer these enhancements, I don’t know – if he’s an alien, maybe there’d be a little more scepticism and mistrust from the crew.

In the second half of the episode, the problem is not Kasinsky’s stinking attitude – it is getting the ship home safely. I can’t help but think that with the parallels between Wesley’s inherent understanding of space and Sisko’s inherent understanding of time (as the Emissary) could give the spark of realisation a little sooner – the Prophets would give a little hint, perhaps, but Sisko would lead everyone with varying degrees of reluctance depending on his acceptance of his Emissary status in believing themselves home. And Kira already has a belief you can power a starship with, that will be proven right here. Dax and O’Brien might find it more difficult, as Dax is a hardcore scientist, and O’Brien is a very literal person. That being said, he’d already lived through this somewhere on the Enterprise (although I don’t remember seeing him in the episode)…

One fun thing to imagine is how rich Quark would be once he saw that belief (and he has incredible belief in his own abilities as a businessman and entitlements as a person, even without adding Rom’s faith in him to that) becomes real. The look on his face when it all vanishes too, would be absolutely priceless.

Voyager was a much less spiritual show. I only see Chakotay as being the one to start ‘believing’ them home, and maybe the crew would go along with it? There are so many scientific, literal people on the ship it might be hard to generate enough good will past the scepticism. How would Tuvok fall on the issue? B’elanna believes what she sees, Seven even more so, Tom is naturally cynical of everything and Harry questions everything. Janeway has a scientific scepticism – I remember one episode where she could not progress until she accepted something that wasn’t scientifically sound or reasonable, and spent days looking for the ‘trick’. So much of Voyager took beliefs, such as Chakotay’s, and any number of Delta Quadrant aliens and reduced them to an explainable, scientific curiosity. Could the crew then get behind an apparently unscientific belief?

That’s not why I don’t like thinking about Voyager facing this situation though. The reason I don’t like it is because they will be moved to the furthest galaxy we know, and I know they would be returned to exactly where they began, give or take a month’s travel. The whole episode would be entirely pointless and not cut any time off of Voyager’s journey at all.

Conclusion

Nice strong episode, no science to trip them up and a good example of “there’s amazing things out there that we don’t understand”, a bit of optimism about humanity’s future, I liked it. The background story of Wesley being someone special is begun here, and I’ll try to remember to watch out for more indicators of this beyond the child prodigy he normally displays.

It’s also a good example of Wesley saving the ship without causing the problem in the first place. His role, like Deanna’s in The Last Outpost, is a little understated – he just pays attention and tries to get people to watch the Traveller and see what is happening.

  • Times Wesley saved the ship: 2
  • Times flung out of known space by bizarre entity: 1

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – The Last Outpost

The first appearance of the Ferengi! Wow! Oh, how they’ve changed since this episode. Their characterisation as (in Data’s words) “traders, mercantile… caveat emptor” has remained, with their aggressively capitalist nature transformed from a “violent thief” to a “sneaky thief”. Their stooping, clawing, twisted movements disappeared over time too. One of the poor Ferengi on the planet acted like a cross between a monkey and the Wicked Witch of the West.

A nice part of the episode was the senior staff going through their options – not least because Troi, who I always found annoying with the confused face and “I am sensing… frustration?” nonsense, provided the solution to their dilemma. Even if that solution wasn’t the one that they wanted, or after being given new information, the one that they needed.

Children

Once, I accidentally broke a Thunderbirds model belonging to a guy called Angel who played the Admiral in the Admiral Insurance adverts. I wonder if these kids feel the same?

One of the most confusing parts of the episode was that upon entering the conference room, Riker had to shoo out two children. Maybe it’s because I’d forgotten how much the children are hanging around on the first season (reminding us that it’s a bigger ship than the original, that things are different?) or maybe it’s that certain areas – for example the conference room attached to the bridge – should probably be off-limits to civilians. Cruise ships today manage it, DS9 managed it, Babylon 5 managed it. Why can’t the Enterprise keep it’s children under control? Did the children leave the finger puzzle behind for Data to find? Or did they actually have no purpose at all for this episode?

I’ll have to try and remember the families on board the Enterprise when they are given a dangerous mission. So far, they’ve been on a routine negotiation (and kidnapped by Q), an investigation (and all contracted a dangerous virus), another routine negotiation (and Tasha was kidnapped) and this, chasing a thief. This is probably the most dangerous mission given so far, since the Ferengi are known to be vicious and their technology is unfamiliar to the Federation.

Viewscreens and Computers

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I liked the way that the Ferengi used the viewscreens. Either they are trying to intimidate by having it so close-cropped to the face, or they are so unaccustomed to visual communication (as they say in the episode) that they don’t have it displayed on the main screen (as I would presume that they have) but instead on a small screen by the captain’s chair somewhere. The way that the Ferengi in their first communication always seems to be looking down and to one side, I’m inclined to believe the second. Maybe they only have visual communication for showing off merchandise for trade.

On the other hand, Data’s console flashed rapidly when someone accessed the Enterprise computers. I still don’t remember if it was confirmed that it was the Ferengi or the T’kon, but either way – why Data? Why not every computer console on the Enterprise? Why should a screen flash at all, who is looking at it? This really winds me up in film and television. It gets a bit of a pass in this episode because writers in the 1980’s are not necessarily as computer-literate as they are today.

I also noticed that the conference room had a table hologram in it to show what was going on with the planet and the power drain. I know that in Voyager, everyone was huddled around a relatively small monitor. Did the Enterprise crew break their table hologram? I’ll have to watch out and see when it was used again.

When was this hologram used again?

Power Drain

So power was draining out of the ship, and they prioritise life support. That makes sense. But life support appears to include artificial gravity and exclude heat. I would posit that regardless of relative energy consumption, people would last longer with the radiators on and floating around than they would sitting on the floor at minus 100 degrees. I would have guessed that artificial gravity would have taken much more energy than a bit of heating – especially if they were able to shut down levels of the ship to concentrate the life support on a fraction of inhabited decks to conserve power.

Other Captains

It’s a little hard to imagine how Sisko would deal with this situation, since he has so much more experience with the Ferengi – dealing with Quark, working with Rom and the whole spectrum from strong disapproval to mentor and sponsor for Nog. It’s a little unfair to Picard since the Federation at this point was only just encountering the Ferengi and preparing for some major friction. Janeway would probably have done the same as Picard. I can imagine Neelix, Kes, Paris or even Tuvok to provide Troi’s insight into first communication with the Ferengi. I would expect them to try and capitalise on the bluff with some impressive light shows, however doubt it would be too effective.

I think both Sisko and Janeway would have tried to go to the planet to investigate and regardless of whether the Ferengi joined them, encountered the Portal Guardian.

It all comes down to whether or not the Guardian mentioned Sun Tzu accidentally, dredged it up from deep in Riker’s memory (implying he scanned a lifetime in seconds) or read it off of the top of Riker’s mind, since the crew had only just been discussing Sun Tzu.

If Jadzia had been on the planet, I expect her long history and wisdom would have helped get past the Portal Guardian. Maybe he would even see some of the Emissary in Sisko? Tuvok might have provided the calm and wisdom for Janeway’s away team – she has a far younger crew than Sisko.

Conclusion

So this episode is noteworthy for the first appearance of the Ferengi, even though they will change a little over the course of The Next Generation before we end up with Quark on Deep Space Nine. The Ferengi were clearly never intended as an ‘alien of the week’, they were teased in the first TNG episode (Encounter at Farpoint) but this is the first appearance (Picard even notes that they don’t know what the Ferengi look like).

There’s a couple more things to add to my episode tracking…

  • Number of almost complete power drains: 1
  • Hackers advertising themselves: 1
  • Number of surrenders: 1

There’s a couple of things that I hope to keep a track of over the series – whether or not the table hologram in the conference room ever comes up again, for instance. The Ferengi are surprisingly strong in this episode, although possibly that’s unique to the ‘marauder’ culture of Ferengi. Also, the Ferengi are keen on gold. As a big DS9 fan, that surprises me because the key currency there is gold-pressed latinum – “the valuable and unreplicable latinum encased in worthless gold”. Possibly increased contact with the Federation and other ‘post-scarcity’ cultures with replicator technology instigated this change in Ferengi values. Gold coating adorns all of the indicators of wealth we see later in Ferengi culture, it can’t be merely a container for the latinum that is the real prize.

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Code of Honour

I find it incredibly difficult to write “honour” incorrectly, like the actual title of the episode is. So I won’t.

This was an interesting episode. It was quite obviously an Original Series episode, in the way that it was shot, dressed, the aliens are “really humanoid” (meaning entirely human with no latex). If you swapped out Kirk and Picard, almost nothing would be different. On the other hand, quite a few of these early episodes were in the mould of the Original Series – more omnipotent, wondrous, unknowable aliens whereas later on, it seems that they transitioned throughout TNG to weirder looking aliens but whose godlike powers were limited or explained by technology somehow.

I noticed on the two named male aliens, they appeared to have scars on their faces – is that to show that they’re aliens, or something to do with their culture and tradition?

I'm going to be so embarassed if that turns out to be his normal face and not makeup...

Honour and Culture

I’m not sure what the point of the episode was – or whether it was designed that way deliberately. The main thrust of the episode seems to be that we must respect this other culture if we want to deal with them, but their notions of “honour” are weird and backwards to me.

The idea that counting coup in a form of ritual kidnap and return can be reconciled – in the end, no harm, no foul. It’ll be something to be more wary of next time. But not returning Tasha Yar after the kidnap seems to be breaking that ritual – it’s clear that the aliens don’t get it, they think that they are doing Picard a favour by allowing him to request her back.

Nor does it seem honourable to me to declare “I’ll take her as my wife” without giving her the chance to break your leg, entirely reasonably. You can’t kidnap someone and then force them to marry you, unless both cultures allow such a thing.

And as much as I understand the bias and highly subjective nature of it, I don’t think that culture or tradition is an acceptable excuse for doing something wrong. Any suppression of a person’s rights, be that because of gender, race, sexuality, health, is just plain wrong and it doesn’t matter if “that’s just their culture”. They’re wrong, and their culture is wrong. That doesn’t need to be respected, even if for the greater good it must be tolerated.

Equality of the Sexes

I feel like in some ways this was a more important part of the episode than the “honour” point. I think it was dealt with well – the only people making a big deal out of Tasha Yar being head of security were the aliens, whereas the Starfleet crew didn’t really make a big deal out of it. Maybe they’re so used to dealing with sexist cultures that they can take others actions in their stride, but they didn’t go to great lengths to make their point of equality to the aliens.

Cultural Research

While some points in the episode show a great deal of research about the alien culture has been done, they seem to have completely missed the “ritual kidnap” custom there. That seems like the sort of thing people should be aware of… on the other hand, the one most likely to be aware of it is Tasha Yar and if Starfleet in general has such a culture of equality, why would she suspect that she would be kidnapped? Surely the Captain or First Officer would be better prizes. Perhaps ritual kidnap isn’t that popular, and there’s a lot of more likely things that need to be researched – for instance, how to convince these guys to give up their vaccine.

I loved the fact that this is a race that has customs associated with their transporters – rolling out a red carpet before their leader beams aboard! It reminds me that Stargate SG-1, so much closer to our own time, lines the ramp to the Stargate with a ceremonial guard when they have visiting leaders and adapts some of the tradition and respect of the US military to a completely new context. It’s a shame that this isn’t used so much, and that everyone, from high to low, uses the transporter the same way.

Weapons

Hit 'em with the pointy bits!

I don’t get the impression that these women really have been training with the dangerous spiked gauntlet weapons – if they have, then their trainers are absolutely rubbish. They’ve forgotten everything they ever knew about using them. I’m not even sure that they’re made correctly. There’s so much apparent weight on them, sitting on the end of the arm, that ideally you wouldn’t be swinging like they do in the episode – you’re far too likely to miss, and end up striking yourself at the end of the arc. If anything, you’d be better off in a sort of fencing pose to keep your killing fist as far from the rest of your body as possible and use jabbing actions to reduce the chance of hitting yourself. It seems much too easy to avoid a swing, then use your own weapon to push your opponent’s weapon back into them. The momentum of their swing will add to your own push, and the humanoid arm is hinged to go back to it’s own body very easily. Could be a short match if you had your timing right.

Other Captains

How would the other captains have dealt with this? I think Sisko would have been much less diplomatic about things. He wouldn’t have chatted to draw out information, he would have followed the letter of his obligation with obvious distaste, and once they’d got the vaccine, I expect he would have told them where to shove their culture. I can’t see him finding a way out of the fight to the death though. I expect that Kira would have been abducted, as the second in command and liberator of her world – Dax, while a more competent fighter (if she could use a bat’leth), was only a science officer. Would she have been such a desirable prize? I can’t see Kira giving in at all. She would be willing to scrap the vaccine to get herself, or anyone else, out. Sisko or the Bajoran government would have to convince her otherwise. Of everyone on DS9 I can see that she would suggest a rescue operation and steal the vaccine – she’s not a long-term planner or a diplomat, and she is used to guerrilla operations to uphold her inflexible principles.

Janeway’s crew is another matter. If the aliens were aware of the Klingon reputation, then maybe they’d have abducted B’elanna. Kes, being a child and not a crewmember, would not be a prize and Seven of Nine would likely have broken his nose before Janeway returned. Janeway herself would be a valuable prize too, possibly the most valuable. Regardless of who is abducted, I can’t see Janeway allowing the fight to go ahead. In the Delta Quadrant, there’s less Starfleet interference so the vaccine mission would be one that they took on themselves and they’d be in the unfavourable position of choosing between appeasing the aliens or giving up on someone they’ve promised to help. If she was abducted, I can see her telling the crew to leave without her rather than acquiesce.

Being in the unique position of not having to maintain diplomatic relations, I expect the Voyager crew would mount a raid and steal the vaccine they wanted (as well as rescue the captive) – as a payback for stealing their crew member. It can all be justified as being for the greater good.

Conclusion

I just wasn’t certain of the point of this episode. Are we supposed to respect other cultures regardless of their customs? Their giving Picard the opportunity to request Yar back, and the last thing we hear from the aliens (“You may excel in technology, but not in civilised behaviour.”) both suggest that they are incredibly tolerant of Starfleet, and Starfleet need to be more polite. On the other hand, Picard and company don’t seem to care too much. They certainly don’t act like they’ve been chastised and they make it clear that their only priority is to acquire the vaccine legally. It isn’t said explicitly, but the impression is given that Tasha Yar would not be given a choice in the marriage. If she was, I doubt that she would have been returned, deathmatch or no deathmatch. “Well, I abducted you, I refuse to return you because I want to marry you, and my wife wants to challenge you to the death. If you survive, I’ll ask if you want to marry me and then respect your decision with grace and dignity.” It just doesn’t make much sense as a motivation.

I didn’t realise that Wesley was allowed onto the bridge so early – we’re only on the third episode! At least he didn’t screw anything up this time.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

This was one of those cheap offers I saw in Sainsbury’s and thought “I like the X-Men, let’s give it a bash.” About a year later, we finally got around to watching it, hooray! Except, boo. I was put in a bad mood almost instantly, since we first sat through “Jim and Bob compare pirate DVDs to real ones”, then the official copyright warnings wall of text (don’t you dare download this on an oil rig or you’ll go to jail!) and finally the longest Blu-ray advert I’ve seen. So after being told I ought to pay for films, then told what will happen if I don’t pay for films, I’m treated to a long description of what a sucker I was for not paying enough for a film. Adverts for a HD disc format on a non-HD disc… like TV adverts on radio. I thought back to the first item – the difference between Jim and Bob is that Bob is apologising to his mates while Jim is already enjoying the film and oh! the pizza guy just turned up, since he can afford to treat his mates to dinner since he didn’t pay for the film.

I’m not condoning piracy, it’s just that the adverts really don’t seem to understand the real world and the only people they annoy are the ones who already paid for the film.

So, the film. I wasn’t a fan. I love the X-Men, I even thought the third film was pretty good, but this one was really weak. The dialogue was flat, the acting was flat, and so many things felt forced. It felt like they made a list of key things to explain and mysteries to remove and then wrote dialogue between them.

I know that as an ‘Origins’ film it was supposed to explain Wolverine’s backstory, and maybe that’s the problem. There was always a dark mysterious past before, and now there isn’t. The Weapon X program was well known, of course, but nothing before that other than a few tantalising hints that he may be a lot older than we realise. It was disappointing to see so many mysteries removed in such a lacklustre film.

From this point on we get spoilers, so move along if you want to experience the film for yourself.

I thought there was a lot of repetition in the film. I can think of several shots with Wolverine’s head framed against the sky while he delivers a gritty, ‘badass’ line – probably about removing someone’s head. And he’s not the only one who mentions removing a head. Removing heads is brought up four or five times, usually as a throwaway ‘end of scene’ comment and not as part of a discussion about decapitation. Thus it was no surprise when Deadpool was decapitated at the end. Any of them could have been decapitated really, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the head and body resurrected before the end of the credits (obviously sooner if it was Wolverine and later for a villain).

Gambit was just… wrong. Wolverine and Sabretooth leave his club to fight in the street. Why does he leave when inside, he’s protected? Why does he attack Wolverine? Why does he change his mind and help (it’s not the prickly, self-serving character I remember)? I’m not a huge comics buff, but I know that he and Wolverine have a rivalry. This film makes that more confusing, because although Wolverine lost his memories Gambit could help fill in a few gaps, at least about that last mission.

Casting wise as well, Gambit was just plain wrong again. Too young, for a start. I know I’ve been heavily influenced by the cartoon, but his accent was wrong too.

On the other hand, the action was alright and the story – if you ignore the actual dialogue – was good. I could probably watch this film again, but I’ll be waiting for an X-Men themed movie night for that to happen. It would probably match up well with the film which teases Wolverine’s history (was it the second one?)

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – The Naked Now

Another episode autopsy! And also the first that isn’t a two-part episode. As usual, some massive spoilers in this one.

In this episode, the crew contract a virus that first appeared in the Original Series that gets the crew drunk. Overall, they make very few scientific statements (unlike later series) and it’s difficult to make incorrect statements when everything is kept vague.

Data

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Regardless of that caveat, the explanation for Data’s intoxication doesn’t sit well with me. It’s explained that he has a “bloodstream” carrying synthetic compounds around his body, thus can be intoxicated. For that to have a real effect, he would have had to have been created with chemoreceptors for those intoxicants, and specific behaviour modifiers to make him appear/act drunk. That’s how humans become intoxicated, after all. Was Dr Soong having a bit of a laugh when he designed/created Data?

On a longer term basis, Data acts more human and seems to feel some emotion when intoxicated. If his goal is to be more human and experience emotions, couldn’t he just swig a few vodkas and get wasted? Even if it’s just a similar compound to alcohol, haven’t they got enough information to synthesise it and experiment?

Wesley

Although only the second episode, already three important things are established about Wesley Crusher. Firstly, he’s a genius. Secondly, he will constantly threaten the ship with destruction. Third, he will constantly save the ship from destruction. In this case, his “saving” the ship is only true if you take his idea to let Data repair engineering count. He had more opportunity to save the ship by not letting the drunk engineer take out all the chips and play with them, and by not blocking access to engineering with a homemade force-field.

Isolinear Chips

I find it interesting to work out how computers of the future work, and whether the original designers of Star Trek were trying to imagine how different computers informed by alien technology might function or whether they just didn’t know how computers function. In the 80s, that was a reasonable assumption.

The fact that the ship can’t operate because a bunch of isolinear chips were pulled out of the computer in engineering suggests that machines have moved back towards programmable chips, such as are found in single-purpose machines like microwaves, dishwashers, calculators, etc. In contrast, home computers are general purpose machines with different software running on them. As a software developer, it is hard to get my head around the physicality of programming in the Star Trek universe. I deal with things that are intangible, whereas in Star Trek a program can be hobbled by pulling a real bit of it out with your hands.

Software nowadays can be written in a modular fashion that looks like the isolinear chip model, except it doesn’t have any real components. It’s possible to have dynamically loaded and unloaded software modifications from single files, and why not have these files on a USB stick? If it was written the right way, a program could watch for new USB devices and automatically load (relevant) additions that are plugged in. This would obviously be a major security problem (you’d want an “Are you sure?” prompt, at least) but it would mean that you can modify your computer by plugging in and removing USB sticks. They’re like chunky isolinear chips, really.

Computer Security

"It looks like you're trying to move environmental controls outside of human tolerance. Would you like me to help?"

There were two moments I thought about computer security – the environmental controls being set to fatally cold on the Tsiolkovsky, and vital isolinear chips being pulled out of engineering. Then again, in both cases, compromised officers with a high level of access were present to override any computer queries. Engineers should be able to pull out isolinear chips, although perhaps they should have a locking clip for more critical components that makes it a little harder. “Removing this chip will disable forward propulsion. Are you sure?” Click. “Removing this chip will disable positive yaw adjustments. Are you sure?” Click. “Removing this chip will disable negative yaw adjustments. Are you sure?” Oh screw this I’m too drunk to carry on.

Given that the ship’s internal sensors can presumably detect death or near-death conditions, maybe it should include some kind of failsafe to prevent a crew compromised in this manner from hurting themselves or others. If it detects that someone has died or is about to die, it adjusts the environmental controls back towards “not lethal”? Other than the blanket argument “you’d always want to have the option” to deal with alien invasions, viruses, a storage space for strange interplanetary phenomena, I can’t think of a good reason why the computer should allow someone to set environmental controls to kill another. Even if not overriding the environmental conditions, perhaps a sort of deadman’s switch where a person near death will be beamed to sickbay (or suitable alternative, if sickbay doesn’t qualify).

Database Searching

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They searched the database for “showering in clothes” and “aberrant behaviour”. Seriously, that must be a massive dataset to scan through! Storage on the Enterprise must be completely a non-issue, since they apparently are able to store every log and incident that happened on every ship, colony and starbase for the last couple of centuries. I guess I’ll get a better idea of how this is handled as the series progresses…

Other Captains

I don’t think that Picard had too much to do with things in this episode, since the ship was essentially held hostage by Wesley until the doctor could develop a cure (as long as Picard left her alone). Sisko could probably have held his own against the virus as long as Kasidy Yates wasn’t on the ship, although he may have been found playing baseball instead of handling the situation. Quark would likely be the one to threaten the station, and Bashir may have had trouble leaving Dax, Leeta or the nice Bajoran travellers alone for long enough to create a cure… but would his genetic enhancements give him an edge in resisting the effects?

On Voyager, Janeway and Chakotay could probably keep their hands off of each other. If Seven of Nine was present, she would either shrug off the effects completely thanks to the Borg nanoprobes or her Borg implants would not deal with the virus at all and she’ll spend all the episode in sickbay. The Doctor’s only problem would be keeping intoxicated revellers out of the sickbay long enough to synthesise a cure, since he definitely wouldn’t be disadvantaged by the virus at all.

Would anyone even see a difference in Kirk if he were affected by the virus?

Conclusion

Wow, I didn’t think I’d have anything to say here. Guess I can whine about anything. I’m going to try and keep track of some stats while I do this, partly because there are certain things that everyone knows about long-running shows like this, or seem like recurring plot points. It’ll be interesting to see if they really are as repetitive as they seem. There’s a couple of new ones here (quite obviously this early in the series!):

  • Times Wesley threatened the ship: 1
  • Times Wesley saved the ship: 1
  • Number of viruses contracted: 1

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Encounter at Farpoint

So after starting at the end, let’s jump to the beginning! Encounter at Farpoint is a very different episode to Endgame, as the world we live in was a different place. There’s nearly two decades between the two episodes, and the loss of Gene Roddenberry and his particular vision for the future.

Although it’s a double-length episode, I don’t have enough to say about it to stretch this over two blog posts. Also, since it is the first episode of all the modern series (although since that really covers the period 1987-2002 calling them ‘modern’ is stretching it a little bit…) there’s not a lot to pick holes in it exactly, and it wouldn’t be completely fair to pick holes in future episodes based on this episode.

Timelines

I love timelines! I love alternate and future histories! If I remember (and it’s been a while) my original Star Trek lore, two thirds of Earth’s population was wiped out in the Eugenics Wars of 1996-99, leading to a worldwide ban on genetic engineering. Of course, by 2063 we’d already fought the Third World War…

A couple of key dates in Earth history are brought up in this episode’s court scene. The United Earth Government was set up in 2036, showing that at least some nations on the planet are going to unite. My best guess for how this might go down is a convergence of economic collapse (see: the last few years) and energy crisis. Given most government’s inability to make bold changes that might upset voters or damage their own dreams of power, things would likely degenerate enough to force states to band together to fix things. It’s a bit of a stretch, maybe, and probably doesn’t match projected energy crisis timescales, but like I said – it’s my best guess for how nations might be forced together.

I also don’t believe that just by using the term “United Earth” makes it a unanimous consensus. This is the best explanation for how a Third World War can arise later, given the arrogance and presumption of using the name United Earth for yourself when some nations aren’t invited or refuse to join!

That uniform is so well cushioned he probably sleeps in it

The courts of 2079, in the wake of the Third World War, are a bit more difficult to reconcile. We know that First Contact occurs in 2063, and ushers in an age of peace, prosperity and extra-terrestrial contact. But these courts show that that process evidently took some time to establish. Again, in the absence of an official explanation, my best guess is that the different factions of WW3 – which are still openly hostile in 2063 – take different lengths of time to accept the Vulcan’s contact (given a recent global war, paranoia and suspicion are likely still high). I can’t imagine how a nation would feel being contacted by an enemy who says “Hey, we met some aliens and they’re really cool, shall we form a united government together?” Most nations today would not agree on a common set of goals, etc., and may disagree on how to govern equally and get angry about an apparent inequality in that proposed governance (over ideological things like human rights, for example).

The Court

Justice is blind when the light shines in it's eyes like that

The court scene puts me in two minds. I can see the point of courts becoming more theatrical, since everything nowadays is more theatrical and dramatised. The parliament of the UK has long been full of buffoons braying to each other and joining in daft mock-indignant laughter, and it’s all got a kind of tradition and pageantry of its own. In addition, the growing ubiquity of personal communication gadgets (including the upcoming field of wearable networked devices) mean that courts may not be able to keep from becoming completely public over the internet. In the worst possible case, this would combine with modern trash-television standards and the sensationalisation of news stories to create a court that panders to the crowds for entertainment values. It won’t happen fast, but could easily happen over a couple of generations. Since Star Trek’s view of the 21st century is pretty bleak (the Bell Riots, World War Three, drug-controlled armies and almost including the Eugenics War) it’s not impossible that in their world, things could move towards a media-savvy court.

In the fallout of the Third World War, a media-savvy court could easily become a entertainment form, especially since the court itself is just a prelude to sentence. It’s clear from Q’s remarks that the verdict has already been reached, and the court does not bring innocent people to trial.

An additional wrinkle though is that this isn’t time travel – it’s a Q illusion. Is it a true reflection of the courts of the late 21st century, or is it an analogy used by Q to frame his own trial (with a lack of justice, preordained verdict, etc.)?

Q’s Intentions

Q’s intentions are difficult to fathom. I can’t take them at face value. The fact that he is bringing humans to trial for savagery, but leaving the Klingons alone? That the Borg are assimilating their way across the Delta Quadrant, and aren’t being interfered with? I can only speculate that the Q (or just Q himself) are testing humanity, or else doing it for entertainment value. Their decision to limit humanity could have been done earlier in their history when Kirk is travelling around the galaxy (he goes further than Picard has at this point), or they could try to limit a more savage race instead (the Cardassians are more wicked, the Klingons are more barbaric). Not to mention that with the Q’s power, couldn’t they just send each vessel back to Earth and disable it from superluminal travel?

The trial is not Q’s intention, he instead instructed Picard to go. Picard mentioned a trial, and Q decided to acquiesce and give him one – although just as he’d already chosen what he wanted the Enterprise to do, he chose a trial where the verdict is preordained. Finally, despite both of these one-sided decisions, he chose to allow Picard a chance to prove humanity was no longer savage. He went from a 100% declaration of “go home” to “it will be proved you should go home”, to “show me why you shouldn’t go home” in very short order. He either allowed a mortal to talk him out of it, or he is playing a game with the Enterprise crew – the first of many.

There's three people in the back standing smartly to attention, but only one next to a console.

When it appears that they may not complete his challenge, he turns up on the bridge to gloat but also to nudge them in the right direction. It’s possible that the Enterprise would, through no fault of it’s own, fire on the alien vessel that is attacking (apparently unprovoked) an ally currently in friendly negotiations with the humans. They would be showing compassion to protect the Bandi, and yet damning themselves in Q’s eyes. But since Q appears and boasts, taunts and mocks the humans they get an idea of what they should be doing. Why would he jeopardise getting what he demanded at the beginning, unless what he really wanted was something else and it didn’t matter whether humans were sent back to their own solar system?

Nit-picking

Most of the nit-picking that I would have done, I don’t feel fair doing because this is the first episode and thus so much of it is setting up the rules with the intention of breaking them later. The only one that I might bring up here is the fact that Admiral McCoy doesn’t like to use transporters. I’m not as big a guru on the Original Series as I am on later Star Trek series, but I’m fairly certain that he didn’t have such a problem with them in the past. Maybe if I feel malicious enough to give the Original Series this sort of treatment, I’ll revisit the decision then. It was a nice touch to see him though, with trademark casual racism (anti-Vulcanism sounds a bit more like an opinion on geology…)

It was also nice to see an admission that the Holodeck has a wall! I don’t think that this ever comes up again, I’ll make a note to keep an eye out for it…

Other Captains

As before, how would the other captains have handled this? Although it’s a single episode in two parts, there are two almost unconnected stories involved here – Q’s Ultimatum and the mystery of Farpoint Station.

The court is not necessarily an essential component of the ultimatum, since Q credits Picard with the idea. I imagine that Sisko would demand some sort of proof or trial, a way to fight his corner and justify humanity although he does believe that humanity can be savage (he himself will do terrible things in the Dominion War). In a way, he would need to argue his position since DS9 cannot separate or run away like the Enterprise can.

I can’t see Janeway submitting to any threats without proof that the Q have jurisdiction over them or that region of space. If it did go to trial, that’d likely be her point rather than argue the charges against humanity. I’m not saying that she’d get out of the situation happily or alive, but without previous contact with the Q (this is the first instance!) and without Starfleet’s briefings (based primarily on Picard’s future encounters with the Q), no-one would have a base level of knowledge of the Q and their capabilities, motivations, etc.

With the Bandi at Farpoint Station, I don’t see anyone acting too far out of Picard’s steps. In fact, most of the actions in investigating Farpoint were inactions. The negotiations had stalled because of a lack of information shared and the alien creature was rescued by one of it’s own. Nothing that happened in the investigation was as a direct result of the Enterprise’s actions. As far as discovering the odd emotions, Kes or Tuvok could help Janeway and Spock could help Kirk, but Sisko doesn’t have an empathic/telepathic crewmember to help.

Unlike the other captains, Kirk has previous experience with a Q-like being. It’s my personal theory that Trelaine could be a member of the Q-continuum, although a less disciplined and less dangerous being than Q. I recall that Kirk has dealt with other near-omnipotent beings too. I doubt he would submit to accusations of savagery (despite being more of a wrestler than any other captain), and would probably make a farce of any trial (I just can’t get his behaviour with Trelaine out of my head!)

Conclusion

It was strange watching this episode again, given the huge changes in general culture and television style since it first aired. It’ll be even stranger if I end up going through the Original Series too…

I also realised while watching this that computers at the end of the 1980s had very different designs, both in user experience, user interaction and architecture to computers just a decade later. The internet revolution hadn’t happened, and cloud computing was a pipe dream. It wasn’t really mentioned in this episode, but I know that future ones are going to show an interesting divergence of design.

I don’t think that I would actually do anything different with this episode. A bit boring, but there were no major plot-holes and since characters haven’t really been defined, no-one did anything out of character!

Overall, a nice utilitarian way to introduce the new series and all the characters – this is an android, this is a VISOR, this is a small boy who will threaten the ship with destruction. It also sets up some things that weren’t used as much in future episodes. The saucer separation in particular felt like either they’d want to do it more often and didn’t find a reason to (forgetting about it most of the time) or that it was being set up for the future so it wouldn’t feel like they made it up to get out of a sticky situation on the spot. Other things were being introduced that were left by the wayside – my favourite is the mini-skirts. Instead of dropping mini-skirts (oo-er) in the name of gender equality, they instead gave them to everyone in the name of gender equality! Then chickened out almost immediately. It’s a shame, it took guts to try it out.

There’s more that I could go into (Picard is clearly an angry man, hates Riker, swears a lot; O’Brien doesn’t seem to mind that everyone has been transported off of the battle bridge without him) but I think I’ll leave it there and maybe bring those up as they change in future episodes. Let me know what you think about my ideas, or what you think I may have missed!

  • Number of saucer separations: 1
  • Number of Q encounters: 1

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Endgame (part 2)

This blog post continues on from the previous one, where I began picking apart all the things that bothered me about the final episode of Voyager. Again, I remind you that this is spoiler heavy! There’s more preamble in that post, so without further ado, let’s get on with it!

Janeway and the Borg

image_4Oh, the Borg. The Borg, the Borg, the Borg. The Borg are a terrific villain, but that is sort of the problem. They had to be defeated back in TNG because with their rapid adaptation, it was pretty clear that they would overrun the Alpha Quadrant in very short order. This was continued in Voyager as they became a legitimate threat again, but had to be defeated regularly by a ship even smaller than the Enterprise-D. Within this final episode, it was revealed that the Borg were scanning the armour upgrades to the ship and attempting to adapt around them. Simply by installing those upgrades and encountering the Borg, Janeway has given them an opportunity to advance twenty years ahead of where they should be – if they disseminated that armour data as widely as they could as soon as it was received then it is conceivable that by the time that armour should be developed by Starfleet, the Borg will be able to negate its usefulness. If the Federation ignore the temporal prime directive and research the hell out of that future technology, they will be able to maintain the status quo against the Borg. However, the other Alpha Quadrant races would not be so lucky. With all of them weakened from the Dominion war, and the Borg already as far back as Picard’s golden age rampaging across the neutral zone, the Borg would have armour technology far surpassing that of any contemporary weapons to penetrate. Unless the Federation share that armour technology with allies like the Klingons (two civil wars in the last fifteen years?), the Romulans (at least two coups in the few years following Voyager’s return) and the Cardassians (two major wars with the Federation in the last fifteen years), the Alpha Quadrant will fall to the Borg.

image_5How long it will take the Borg to take advantage of this is unknown, however, with one of their transwarp hubs destroyed. There are only six in the galaxy – which means that in exchange for giving them a glimpse at powerful future technology, Voyager has reduced the Borg’s mobility by (charitably) around 20%. They also killed the Borg Queen… but this isn’t really a major drawback for the Borg. There’s no indication of how many Queens there are or how important she really is to the Borg. Just a few years before Voyager got home, Picard killed the Queen three centuries in the past. I can’t remember for certain, but I had a feeling that Janeway has already killed the Queen once before. She is a remarkably resilient creature. If the “Borg Invasion 4-D” interactive ride can be taken as canon, then a few years after Voyager returns home the Queen is back and the Borg are functioning as normal again. So whatever blow they struck against the Borg is effectively removed by the Borg’s ability to operate as a collective mind, and their ability to regenerate or recreate an immortal Queen to lead them.

This is mostly conjecture, however – there always seems to be more to the Borg than appears and this is the only explanation for why they don’t do the logical things or behave in a manner consistent with Starfleet’s understanding of them.

The Temporal Prime Directive

Admiral Janeway broke the temporal prime directive by giving future technology and knowledge to her past self. She freely dispenses these nuggets of knowledge to anyone who will listen to try and get a mutinous crew to force Captain Janeway into accepting her help, and validating the Admiral’s decision to effectively end her career and life.

image_6Captain Janeway would not necessarily be viewed as a hero by accepting these gifts, however freely given. It sets a precedent where anyone with time travel ability (a relatively common technology as soon as thirty years after these events) will be pardoned for sending hints, knowledge and technology backwards and altering their own timeline. In the case of Voyager, this has already been foreshadowed as Harry Kim in an alternate future uses Seven of Nine’s temporal node to send data back in time and save them all from crashing on a frozen planet. Captain La Forge in that alternate future was attempting to stop him, by any means necessary, because of the temporal prime directive. Admiral Janeway’s violation is far worse – she is providing more than small packets of situational data (ie, useless outside of their one small context) and the needs are far less. She stated that less than twenty crew will die in the following sixteen years, whereas Harry was attempting to save the entire crew and the ship itself.

image_7If Captain Janeway hadn’t accepted the Admiral’s help, they’d have made it home and with almost the whole crew intact. If they were going back in time to bring Voyager home early, why not go back to Deep Space Nine and prevent them going on the mission to the Badlands in the first place? The violation of the temporal prime directive was more trouble for less gain than Harry Kim’s violation, and Starfleet attempted to stop him from succeeding. I don’t see why they would allow Admiral Janeway’s, and Captain Janeway’s complicity in it, just because it’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

Other Captains

Which brings me to a fun mental game I like to play – how would the other modern captains have played it? Sisko is a lot like Janeway – he’s shown that he’s willing and able to break rules if it’s required in order to do the most good. He also has almost as big a beef with the Borg as Janeway has, so the chances are that he too would try to cripple them first and use them second, and go along with the Admiral’s plan as long as he can do it on his own terms (and deal a blow to the Borg as they leave).

Picard on the other hand hasn’t been through quite the same experiences as the other captains – he rarely steps off the Starfleet mark, and is the ideal that Janeway holds herself to. Sisko had a sense of duty and responsibility, but reconciled it against a duty and responsibility to his family and to Bajor. Picard and Janeway have never appeared to think of a life after Starfleet – they will die at warp speed, on some alien planet. Picard’s duty would not let him violate the temporal prime directive in almost any situation – he would be disgusted most of all if the Admiral returning from the future was himself, and likely to abandon the plan on that principle alone.

However, he does have one weakness… The Borg. It’s entirely possible that his obsession with the Borg wasn’t tempered at all by his victory in First Contact, and the presumed subsequent encounters in the Delta Quadrant would only have hardened his heart further. I can foresee an episode where he refuses to use the Borg technology for his own good but takes the future weapons to destroy the transwarp hub, sitting in the nebula and watching every last particle burn. He would ensure it was gone, and every trace of it wiped out. No salvage, no escape. In this, he is unlikely to listen to cries for mercy from his senior staff despite any lessons learned after First Contact.

Sisko would have done exactly what Janeway did, and Picard would either tell his future self to jog on, or destroy the Borg and then tell his future self to jog on.

Conclusion

image_8Since Voyager got home but nothing of the last seven years was resolved, what was the point? Aside from the cameo that the (non-time travelling) Admiral Janeway had in Star Trek: Nemesis, nothing in the Star Trek universe has changed at all. Apart from Janeway’s promotion, all the characters still exist in the same state that they did in the previous episode – sitting on Voyager, regardless of their status as wanted criminals. With the scene earlier, where Admiral Janeway watches the crew talk about how it doesn’t matter if they miss this chance, they’ll find others, they’ll get home eventually, and toast the journey it wouldn’t be out of place if they just took the technology and launched an assault on the Borg, leaving the path open for a Voyager film to get them home early, or advance the Voyager plot on the big screen.

If Voyager hadn’t have made it home in this final episode, there are no consequences. We have a view of a possible future (Seven marrying Chakotay and dying in three years, Tuvok’s degenerative illness eventually limiting his mental faculties) but with knowledge of the future comes the ability to change it.

Overall, it was a great episode (like much of the last season) with a good plot, but it just feels like they could have done with an extra half-hour or so to increase the time taken to convince young Janeway, to explain just how devastating the infection attack on the Borg was (outside of the transwarp explosions) and to give each character a couple of minutes to wrap up their story and how they plan to move on with their life, or how Starfleet plan to deal with them.

Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Babylon 5 – when that was wrapped up, there were a few episodes showing what came next. One was a series of short scenes showing snapshots of the far future, and the effect of the overall plotline on Earth and the galaxy centuries from now. That’s obviously a bit too much for Voyager, but the character stories could all be wrapped up nicely.

Thanks for reading! I’d like to know what you think, or if you disagree with any of my points here, or even if I’ve missed anything that you’ve always been thinking about!

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Endgame (part 1)

I’ve had an idea for a while of reviewing and discussing Star Trek episodes. The original plan was that I would review the episodes in order, and go back to the beginning of The Next Generation and start from there. But we’ve been watching through every episode so far and just finished watching Voyager, and I had a lot in my head about the final episode so it looks like I’ll be starting there.

Just to warn everyone, there will be a lot of spoilers here. Consider this a sort of “spoiler warning”. I found that while writing it, I had so much to say that it’s worth splitting into two blog posts. The next one will be up in a fortnight! Just to be clear, this isn’t an autopsy related to the first episode of this two-parter – just the first part of my autopsy of both parts considered as a single episode. If that didn’t clear it up, I’m sure you’ll see what I mean further down.

I liked the last episode, but I found a lot of problems with it. The biggest one is this: Why did they get home at all? We see a lot of an alternate future where Voyager spent another decade in the Delta Quadrant, learned a lot and grew a lot. In contrast, we see absolutely nothing – literally, nothing – of the consequences of them getting home. Deep Space Nine never had a seven-year quest like Voyager, yet we know where the characters went and what they are doing next. There’s definite closure in the end of it. Voyager felt much more like the end of The Next Generation where the final episode didn’t really mark the end of anything and life will continue as it always did (and see the movies for the proof). The only consequence as far as I can see is that Janeway is promoted to Admiral before the events of Nemesis, and there is an implication that Tuvok will not suffer from his degenerative brain disease. Neither of these are shown in the episode, they spend less than 5 minutes in the Alpha Quadrant and we see them fly towards Earth, but not actually meet with or have physical contact with anyone in the Alpha Quadrant.

I had a few questions that weren’t answered here that I’ve spent seven years (figuratively) thinking about.

image_2

Chakotay and the Maquis

Granted, the Maquis subplot was dropped fairly quickly. The tensions were mostly stirred up in early episodes by Seska and Torres, but with Seska leaving and Torres calmed down and resigned to her fate on Voyager the rest of the Maquis just seemed to toe the line. It flared up once or twice since – Lon Suder’s inability to integrate in Year of Hell and the “misfit” crew members in the final years are notable examples – but for the most part they integrate as good little Starfleet officers. Unfortunately, this integration is out of necessity. The only mention that I can remember being made of the consequences of getting home for the Maquis occurs in the first season, and no doubt if they’d gotten home at any point in the first two years Janeway would have them all locked up for their terrorist activities.

Now that they are home, what happens to the Maquis crew? They won’t be allowed to continue serving on a Starfleet vessel without at the bare minimum re-enlisting in Starfleet (for Chakotay this would be trivial, for Torres it might involve a quick graduation in the Academy) and, let’s not forget, going on trial for their crimes. The Maquis are terrorists in the eyes of Starfleet and although the Maquis as an organisation no longer exists (the Dominion wiped them all out), why would any bombings, raids, thefts or attacks committed by the Maquis against Starfleet or Cardassian targets (who were not at war at the time) be ignored just because their ship went missing?

In some ways, Janeway has still successfully completed the mission she set out on seven years previously – to bring back the crew of the Batanay for trial.

Will all the crew want to enlist in Starfleet? Stockholm syndrome aside, many were effectively at war with Starfleet before they were lost in the Delta Quadrant and will see no reason to ally with them in the Alpha Quadrant. Some probably never integrated pleasantly with the crew at any rate – see Chell, Lefler, Mortimor etc in their brief moments of belligerence and discontent. Would they see the Maquis as finished, or does the cause still exist for them? The Maquis was only destroyed in the Alpha Quadrant, and although they are small in number there may be enough strong-headed rabble-rousers amongst the Voyager crew to recruit more people. I don’t believe that the cause was destroyed with the people. The original cause of the Maquis was that the Federation granted planets to the Cardassians, and evicted the human populations to do so. Given that the Cardassians (as part of the Dominion) have been invading and taking over planets during the war (probably not all of which were recaptured), are there now more dispossessed peoples ready to join a new Maquis, even though the original displaced rebels were killed by the Dominion?

Assuming that they don’t immediately try to run off and rebuild the Maquis to pick a fight with the severely weakened Cardassians, I can imagine that seven years of good service on Voyager would be a point in their favour. Sentences would be reduced, waived in some cases, all dependant on what crimes they may have committed prior to being lost in the Delta Quadrant.

Seven and Chakotay

image_3In a way I’m glad that Chakotay’s story wasn’t resolved – the most realistic thing to happen for Seven would be to dump him. A romantic relationship that only existed for a few weeks isn’t going to last if he’s being sent to prison for an unspecified time (although longer than if he’d been tried by the Cardassians). But this is television, and without the requirement to show that relationship waiting for the time they can be together again, the general rule is that LOVE CONQUERS ALL and she will wait for him, even if he is imprisoned for years.

The Doctor

The Doctor’s story also couldn’t be resolved just by coming to Earth. He is an outspoken and occasionally misguided activist for holographic rights, and nothing about that story changes just because he comes back to Earth. Even moving the focus to him and his story would probably be some expectation on his part that on returning home, new laws will be passed to give him the rights and respect under law that he’s come to expect on Voyager. That’s still a story idea triggered by the return home that won’t become an issue until at least a week or so has passed.

Neelix and Icheb

Not a lot here, but how gutted is Neelix going to be that he jumped ship just a week before they got back to Earth!

Icheb too isn’t seen in the “default” future. We know that he cannot find his home, and presumably any home, as he was created to be a weapon against the Borg and even his family were going to sacrifice him for the second time. What did he end up doing on Earth at the end of the episode? I know he’s a relatively recent addition to the crew, but he was still a relatively important character and some closure on his story would be nice.

Harry Kim

Of all the different things that going home meant resolving, the fact that Harry Kim was always the first in any episode to start planning the following morning on Earth whenever they found a piece of technology, a spatial rift or stellar phenomenon that may be able to shave a week or more off of their journey. The one thing that shows that they got home would have been a shot of Harry Kim contacting his parents, or at the very least shedding a tear of joy on the bridge because every third episode since they got stranded in the Delta Quadrant, he has been thinking of Earth. Many of the rest of the main crew were ambivalent at best at returning home – Tom, B’elanna, the Doctor, Seven, Neelix, Icheb – none of them have shown any strong ties to home or gotten too excited about the possibility of getting home. But Harry, really, has been harping on about seeing his parents for seven years. It doesn’t feel like they got home unless he actually gets to see them.

On the other hand, it’s so obvious what Harry wants and what he’ll do that it doesn’t really need to be shown. We all know who he’ll go to first, and what he’ll do, and how he’ll go straight back to Starfleet for duty as soon as he’s done.


That’s  enough! Over 1300 words to get started. Next time, I’ve got a bunch more to say about this final episode.

Book Review – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Product DetailsI recently finished reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen (allegedly), which I’d found brand-new and mint condition in a charity shop for £1.50. That’s definitely worth a punt!

Overall, I found it a good read. I have read the ‘original’, and even seen TV adaptations of it, but to be totally honest that was in school and I’m not even sure there was any work or essay involved in it beyond just going through the motions of reading it as a class, and/or watching the television. I can sum up my total knowledge of it before I read this book as “Many Bennett sisters want to get married, there is a mean guy named Darcy who Elizabeth hates.” Which is probably the ground-state of knowledge, like what everyone knows about Superman, Romeo and Juliet, or Macbeth.

There were parts of And Zombies that made me think they were poking fun at or paying homage to the original in a way that is opaque to outsiders but absolutely obvious to someone familiar with the work. One chapter, which was only a paragraph long, summed up a whole journey as essentially not worth writing about. Does the original book go into lavish detail of the countryside passed and the entire trip’s trivia? I know Tess of the D’Urbervilles was far over the top as a traveller’s almanac, but I honestly can’t remember enough of Pride and Prejudice to say the same.

In some places, I had to scoff and thought it was going a little over the top – Elizabeth ripping out the still beating heart of a ninja in front of a noblewoman, for instance. But it was still entertaining, and as much as the action scenes were exaggerated and a little foolish, I found that I was getting bored and restless if it went too long between them. That’s the only thing that has stopped me from trying to find a cheap/borrowed copy of the original to read, because although my interest has been raised – I want to know how close this version is to the original – the ‘zombie-less’ parts of the book were, at times, a bit of a chore.

The only major criticism I have of the book is that the zombies are mentioned often, but always using one of a small handful of period-consistent terms. When used once, these terms are an interesting look at how zombies may have been seen in that sort of world, but each one is repeated over and over again. One of the least appealing is the word ‘unmentionables’ – since they are called that often, and while some characters talk of nothing else, Mrs Bennett is the only person I can think of off the top of my head that might not have mentioned zombies at all. They are far from unmentionable, people talk about them all the time! And while Mrs Bennett rarely (if ever) talked about zombies, she talked about her daughters fighting abilities – which is itself a direct consequence of the zombie plague.

Zombie references also feel shoe-horned in many places – the best uses are more subtle, like the fact that mail is expected to be delayed, as coaches must be more heavily armed when crossing the countryside, and even then may be attacked and require a better provisioned coach to recover mail and deliver it. The turning of Miss Lucas was most interesting when it was at a distance – the frequency and quality of her letters dropping, Elizabeth wondering when (or if) the next one would arrive, or whether her disease has been discovered and what fate befell her.