The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'star trek'
Builders of Star Trek-inspired rooms recently in the news: a convicted paedophile (or, to be precise, another one, though his Star Trek-inspired flat has been in the news previously), and the US National Security Agency.
Star Trek screenwriter Ron Moore reveals one of the long-running TV show's secret: it's not actually science fiction:
He described how the writers would just insert "tech" into the scripts whenever they needed to resolve a story or plot line, then they'd have consultants fill in the appropriate words (aka technobabble) later.
"It became the solution to so many plot lines and so many stories," Moore said. "It was so mechanical that we had science consultants who would just come up with the words for us and we'd just write 'tech' in the script. You know, Picard would say 'Commander La Forge, tech the tech to the warp drive.' I'm serious. If you look at those scripts, you'll see that."What do you mean, you say; of course it's sci-fi; they have robots and laser guns and people in latex alien masks and shots of futuristic corridors, in a way that, say, The West Wing and BBC costume dramas don't. The problem is that, if you got rid of the latex masks and content-free technobabble and moved the plots to 20th-century America (or any period in history; the TV characters are all written as 20th-century Americans anyway), they'd work just as well. Which is why Star Trek (whose original working title, it should be remembered, was "Wagon Train In Space") and other TV shows of its ilk fail at the function of science fiction, which is to explore the effects of radical technological and social change on the human condition. Though science fiction author Charlie Stross puts it better:
I use a somewhat more complex process to develop SF. I start by trying to draw a cognitive map of a culture, and then establish a handful of characters who are products of (and producers of) that culture. The culture in question differs from our own: there will be knowledge or techniques or tools that we don't have, and these have social effects and the social effects have second order effects — much as integrated circuits are useful and allow the mobile phone industry to exist and to add cheap camera chips to phones: and cheap camera chips in phones lead to happy slapping or sexting and other forms of behaviour that, thirty years ago, would have sounded science fictional. And then I have to work with characters who arise naturally from this culture and take this stuff for granted, and try and think myself inside their heads. Then I start looking for a source of conflict, and work out what cognitive or technological tools my protagonists will likely turn to to deal with it.
Star Trek and its ilk are approaching the dramatic stage from the opposite direction: the situation is irrelevant, it's background for a story which is all about the interpersonal relationships among the cast. You could strip out the 25th century tech in Star Trek and replace it with 18th century tech — make the Enterprise a man o'war (with a particularly eccentric crew) at large upon the seven seas during the age of sail — without changing the scripts significantly. (The only casualty would be the eyeball candy — big gunpowder explosions be damned, modern audiences want squids in space, with added lasers!)
The biggest weakness of the entire genre is this: the protagonists don't tell us anything interesting about the human condition under science fictional circumstances. The scriptwriters and producers have thrown away the key tool that makes SF interesting and useful in the first place, by relegating "tech" to a token afterthought rather than an integral part of plot and characterization. What they end up with is SF written for the Pointy-Haired [studio] Boss, who has an instinctive aversion to ever having to learn anything that might modify their world-view. The characters are divorced from their social and cultural context; yes, there are some gestures in that direction, but if you scratch the protagonists of Star Trek you don't find anything truly different or alien under the latex face-sculptures: just the usual familiar — and, to me, boring — interpersonal neuroses of twenty-first century Americans, jumping through the hoops of standardized plot tropes and situations that were clichés in the 1950s.
Star Trek paraphernalia has so routinely been found at the homes of the pedophiles they've arrested that it has become a gruesome joke in the squad room. (On the wall, there is a Star Trek poster with the detectives' faces replacing those of the crew members).Several theories are given, including Captain Kirk's inability to hold down adult romantic relationships, a pervasive message that women are toxic (which, presumably, would strike a chord with men rejecting adult heterosexual relationships; incidentally, does Star Trek have a significant gay following?), and "bad" impulses being attributed to external forces (a cop-out familiar to child molesters). But most controversial could be the claim that Star Trek's very utopian basis is fundamentally inclined towards appealing to paedophiles:
In perversion, there is an attempt to obliterate any distinctions that provoke unconscious anxiety. First and foremost, this entails a denial of the difference between the sexes and the difference between the generations. Pedophiles are, at the very least, attempting to deny the difference between the generations. The utopian fantasy here is to normalize sex between adults and children.
According to Dr. Peter Mezan, a psychoanalyst in New York City, "There is an impulse that is common to perversion and to utopian thinking. The wish is to create a world in which differences make no difference. The great utopian thinkers have been immensely inspiring, but there is a reason that utopian communities have never worked out. In the name of equality of every sort and in the attempt to eliminate the tensions that normally divide us, they propose to create a marvelously unnatural world without the usual boundaries. But then it gets all fucked up."
Think of Michael Jackson. He has attempted to eradicate just about every sexual, generational, and racial difference -- and to construct an alternate utopian reality in Neverland. While there is certainly a futuristic quality to his clothing and mask-like facial features, it is unclear whether he watches Star Trek or just looks as if he does.If the utopianism-paedophilia connection holds true, I wonder how many arrested paedophiles are pacifists, anarchists, libertarians, Esperantists or Momus-style emotional communists.
According to the Toronto police sex crimes unit, the vast majority of people arrested for child pornography offences are obsessed with Star Trek:
The first thing detectives from the Toronto police sex crimes unit saw when they entered Roderick Cowan's apartment was an autographed picture of William Shatner. Along with the photos on the computer of Scott Faichnie, also busted for possessing child porn, they found a snapshot of the pediatric nurse and Boy Scout leader wearing a dress "Federation" uniform. Another suspect had a TV remote control shaped like a phaser. Yet another had a Star Trek credit card in his wallet. One was using "Picard" as his screen name. In the 3 1/2 years since police in Canada's biggest city established a special unit to tackle child pornography, investigators have been through so many dwellings packed with sci-fi books, DVDs, toys and collectibles like Klingon swords and sashes that it's become a dark squadroom joke. "We always say there are two types of pedophiles: Star Trek and Star Wars," says Det. Ian Lamond, the unit's second-in-command. "But it's mostly Star Trek."And there's more on the claims here, including letters from indignant Trekkies complaining that the article vilifies Trekkies whilst failing to put forward the "ethics, morality and message" of their
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Scifi author Orson Scott Card on why it's more than about time that Star Trek was scrapped. The gist of his argument is that Star Trek is really a very poor excuse for science fiction, shapes up poorly next to both scifi literature and more recent film and television productions, and has only been kept alive thanks to a lot of rather sad people in pointy ears who don't know any better:
The original "Star Trek," created by Gene Roddenberry, was, with a few exceptions, bad in every way that a science fiction television show could be bad. Nimoy was the only charismatic actor in the cast and, ironically, he played the only character not allowed to register emotion.
Here's what I think: Most people weren't reading all that brilliant science fiction. Most people weren't reading at all. So when they saw "Star Trek," primitive as it was, it was their first glimpse of science fiction. It was grade school for those who had let the whole science fiction revolution pass them by.
While opinion of American politicians has never been lower in Britain, American comedians are doing very well; well, the more liberal ones like Rich "Otis Lee Crenshaw" Hall (whose act includes a song titled "Let's Get Together And Kill George Bush", whose irony would be lost on the typical middle-American audience).
Conversely, some jokes are now acceptable in America that would never be permissible in a mainstream British comedy club. "Why are there no Muslims on Star Trek?" Hall heard one American comic ask. "Because it's set in the future." "It's a very heavy joke, laced with blanket hatred. I disagree with that, but you can do that. You can get away with that in America, because the basic mindset of most Americans is that we're at war with the Muslims, and that really bothers me."
I seem to recall that there weren't many Christian Fundamentalists on Star Trek either (which would make its secular, vaguely multilateralist future, profoundly un-American, if some polls are to be believed). Though I recall that there were religious Jews on Babylon 5.
Meanwhile, British hip-hop comic Ali G has fallen flat on his face in America, partly due to an inopportune joke about 9/11; and partly because the idea of a white gangsta news anchor isn't that much weirder than some of the things sincerely on US cable TV.
Anyway, apparently Rich Hall is doing some gigs at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I saw him a few years ago, and can say that he's well worth seeing.
There's Turkish Star Trek, and then there's the Soviet equivalent, Kosmicheskaya Militsiya, usually translated as "Cosmos Patrol". It's stylistically like Star Trek (it has its own Kirk, Spock (who's implied to be an ethnic German), even a proto-Wesley Crusher), only it's a vehicle for rather heavy-handed Marxist-Leninist dogma.
As on Star Trek, the "strange, new worlds" the Red Adventurer visits often seem ringingly familiar. Let's see: There's the Nazi Germany planet, the Gangland Chicago planet, the Ancient Greece planet, and the planet of the Militaristic Paranoid Fascists (the U.S.A. planet). And there's time travel, too: In my favorite episode, the crew somehow goes back to Zurich in 1917 to help Lenin get to St. Petersburg in time to start the Bolshevik Revolution... Perhaps one of the weirdest borrowings from Star Trek has Dobraydushev and a reanimated Peter the Great challenging holographic supervillains Adolf Hitler and John D. Rockefeller in a chess tournamentto the death!
In the vein of Little Ayse and the Magic Dwarves, another inexplicably bizarre Turkish remake of a well-known film; in this case, Turkish Star Trek, or Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda as they say in Istanbul.
The teleportation effects are, like all Turkish special effects, a strange combination of retarded and rad. The four men stand as still as possible while the camera goes out of focus. Ten seconds later, the film gets scratched in their general area and they run out of frame while the guy holding the camera hits pause and unpause. This gives more of the impression that something's wrong with your VCR than of people being transported through space. Miniskirt technology is a much higher priority among their people than visual effects.
Spak finally comes to his senses after the evil licking shapechanger leaves, and Kirk is strangely uninterested in why he just tried to kill him. They avoid discussing it as they walk to the next wasteland where they get attacked by 20 Tarzan karate bots. That's what I said. This sets off a chain reaction of stupidity with naked robots kicking and punching in random directions and Omer almost pulling a face muscle with his mugging. Professor Krater built these robots for love, not karate, so the fight mostly consists of them rushing Kirk and Spak then stopping just short of them to scream "YAAAHHH!" and dance.
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