Tag Archives: Star Trek

Cory Doctorow on why science fiction is crap at predicting the future

Predicting the future isn’t what science fiction is for, says Cory. Science fiction reflects the aspirations and anxieties that people have about technology at the moment it was written.

It’s not just technology. It’s also politics and social change. And it applies to fantasy. H.P. Lovecraft in real life was a full-throated bigot who feared invading hordes of filthy mongrel immigrants; he turned that into some of the most powerful horror and fantasy written (enjoyed by legions, including the descendants of those same filthy mongrel immigrants). Star Trek has always been a reflection of whatever was going on in the news at the time the shows and movies aired.

Cory covers a lot of ground in this lively interview with Utah Public Radio’s Access Utah:

In a recent column, Doctorow says that “all the data collected in giant databases today will breach someday, and when it does, it will ruin peoples’ lives. They will have their houses stolen from under them by identity thieves who forge their deeds (this is already happening); they will end up with criminal records because identity thieves will use their personal information to commit crimes (this is already happening); … they will have their devices compromised using passwords and personal data that leaked from old accounts, and the hackers will spy on them through their baby monitors, cars, set-top boxes, and medical implants (this is already hap­pening)…” We’ll talk with Cory Doctorow about technology, privacy, and intellectual property.

Cory Doctorow is the co-editor of popular weblog Boing Boing and a contributor to The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He is a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. Doctorow is also an award-winning author of numerous novels, including “Little Brother,” “Homeland,” and “In Real Life.”

“These Are the Voyages”

I’ve been reading “These Are the Voyages,” an obsessively detailed history of Star Trek.

I don’t mean it’s a history of the fictional universe of the Federation — I mean it’s a history of the classic 1960s TV show. It’s utterly fascinating (see what I did there?). It’s nearly an example of microhistory, placing a small event (a single TV show) in a larger context of the history of its time.

I haven’t been rewatching the episodes. But I’ve seen them all many times. So it’s as if I were rewatching as I read.

I had somehow picked up the idea that it was common wisdom that the first season of Trek was the best, the second season was nowhere near as good, and the third season was drek.

But I’m a couple of episodes into reading about Season 2, and I’ve reviewed the episode list. Now I think that was classic Trek’s best season. It had found its stride by then.

Sure, there were a couple of episodes in Season 1 that were Trek at its best, but Season 1 was often pompous (A Taste of Armageddon, The Alternative Factor). And at least one episode that was acclaimed in the past just doesn’t hold up today (Devil in the Dark — we did watch that one recently, it was the first and only episode of what was intended to be a ToS rewatch).

In Season 2, Trek was hitting on all cylinders: Drama (“Amok Time”), high opera (“Who Mourns for Adonais”), and campy fun — pretty much any episode where the Enterprise visits an alternate history Earth.

Yes, Season 2 was Trek at its best.

We’ll just pretend “Friday’s Child” and “The Omega Glory” never happened.

Gene L. Coon brought the heart and laughter to the original Star Trek

Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek was preachy and serious. Gene L. Coon injected laughter and heart. He also invented the Klingons, and the constant thread running through Trek that hostile behavior often stems from cultures misunderstanding each other.

Andreea Kindryd was an African-American civil rights activist who had worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and worked for Coon as his production secretary. She was at first “uneasy about working with an old white guy named Coon—especially after Coon told her that his father had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan—but Coon was passionate about injecting anti-racist messages into Trek.”

Charlie Jane Anders, Wired

Bryan Fuller says the classic Trek episode “Balance of Terror” will be a “touchstone” for his new Trek series

We know the new Trek takes place 10 years before the original Trek series. Does Fuller mean it takes place during the Romulan war?

50 years of Star Trek clips

“Irritating? Ah, yes, one of your Earth emotions,” says Spock with a little smile.

Spock? Smiling? WTF?

I need to watch the original Trek movies again. All of them. Maybe not Wrath of Khan — it’s the best of the bunch, but we’ve seen it relatively recently.

A friend recently said “the one with the whales” is a low point for the series. I may be rethinking our friendship over this. (To be fair, I haven’t seen it in many years and for all I know it holds up like crap. But it was brilliant when it came out.)

Via David Pescovitz, Boing Boing. Thanks!

My review of “Star Trek: Beyond”

I’m trying to just talk about the movie itself here, and not about past Trek movies and TV shows and my own nearly lifelong relationship with the series. I can’t do it.

In the new movie, the characters seemed most true to the original series. In earlier JJ Abrams Trek movies, Kirk especially but all the characters seemed like children. Chris Pine is 36 years old now — a year older than William Shatner was when he started playing Kirk. He’s believable.

I had a lot of problems with the first two movies in this series. For me, there were a couple of themes that were always important to Trek. The Federation sought peaceful solutions to problems, and only resorted to violence when the peaceful solution proved impossible. Of course, this being a science fiction action-adventure series, the peaceful solution was impossible just about every episode. But they tried for peace first.

The new series of movies seemed too bloodthirsty. In the first two movies, Kirk and the gang were going after vengeance. True Trek doesn’t do vengeance. Vengeance is for the bad guys.

A second major theme of the movies was that the Federation was a meritocracy. Captain Kirk was born a nobody, an Iowa farmboy. He achieved his position through hard work and ability (and, sure, cheating on the Kobayashi Maru — but still that was his work). In the new movies, Kirk gets in Starfleet Academy because his Dad was an officer. He doesn’t get his position from hard work and talent. He inherits it.

But all that baggage is gone now. The new movie finds the Enterprise on a rescue mission gone wrong. Kirk has now earned the captaincy he previously inherited — and he has his doubts about what he’s doing. He’s burned out.

I loved the opening sequence. There’s a real sense of the ship being a tiny little bubble of comfort and safety in the indifferent vastness of space. I don’t remember that from any of the series or other movies.

The character interplay was easygoing. They’ve been cooped up together in this tiny bottle for three years. They know each other very well, better than family.

Likewise, I loved the bits at the end, after the bad guy has been vanquished.

In the middle…. too much action. I love a good action movie, but today’s action movies seem to be ALL action. It needs pacing.

Julie got motion sickness from all the swooping camera angles.

The sets and special effects were gorgeous, particularly the Yorktown, one of the most science-fictional things I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

I liked that every one of the major characters got a turn to shine. Scotty and Jaylah stole it. Or maybe Spock and Bones stole it. Or maybe it was Kirk and Chekov. Poor Anton Yelchin — I don’t remember him from the previous movies. In those movies, he seemed like just an extra with a few speaking lines and a Russian accent. He was quite good in “Star Trek: Beyond.”

I liked that the women were portrayed as powerful and self-reliant, the equal of men. The second J.J. Abrams movie in particular was all about the white men, except for one scene where a female scientist strips to her underwear for no particular reason.

I loved the new character, Jaylah. I hope we see more of her in future movies.

I loved that we got to see some real alien-looking aliens, who didn’t just look like human actors wearing rubber masks.

I thought the main storyline was confusing. I get the broad strokes, but I was confused on the details. Who were all the other people on the planet with the main villain? Where did he get the swarming thingies he used to take down the Enterprise? What was the origin of the superweapon?

I could have used more Idris Elba acting, rather than just being a generic science fiction villain.

Overall, I liked it. Didn’t love it. Looking forward to the next movie, and the TV series in January.

“The Martian” author Andy Weir: stun weapons like Star Trek phasers would be fantastic

I say Weir has a vastly overoptomistic view of humanity. Rapists would absolutely love a weapon that could render a victim unconscious quickly and reliably, as would kidnappers and terrorists collecting hostages.

I see a possibility for a whole series of crime stories. Larry Niven did something similar in the 1960s about the criminal possibilities of matter transmitters, like Star Trek transporters. Likewise, Vernor Vinge imagined the criminal possibilities of a field inside of which time stopped.

http://vintagegeekculture.tumblr.com/post/147867281849/andy-weir-author-of-the-martian-on-why

Link

Takei of course is the actor who originated the role of Sulu on Star Trek, and came out as gay many years later. Now, in the upcoming Trek movie, Sulu will be gay too.

Surprisingly, Takei opposes the change, saying it twists Gene Roddenberry’s original vision, and they should have created a new character who’s gay.

But Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the movie and who worked on the script, says that would have been tokenism. By making a major character gay, it’s shown as being just part of his identity, whereas a new character would have primarily been identified as “the gay guy.”

Based on articles, I don’t get a sense Sulu’s sexuality is going to be significant to the story.

Maybe Sulu was always gay, even in the original series and the movies, and it just never came up.

As for twisting the original vision: Too much reverence for the original and its creators is a handicap for sequels and adaptations, and that’s a particular problem on Trek. Star Trek often takes itself too damn seriously. The show should be serious about its stories, but not about itself.

Is Star Trek Communist?

Nope, says reddit.com/r/communism101.

It has several key characteristics of Communism, most notably elimination of property, profit, business and money. Replicators handle “to each according to his ability.”

But the Federation fails one characteristic of Communism: Eliminating government.

Star Trek under Roddenberry hated business, particularly in “The Next Generation.” But Roddenberry himself was a businessman. As portrayed in These Are the Voyages, Roddenberry’s ego made him self-sabotaging. He blamed others, and was reluctant to share credit and profit. He was kind of a Ferengi, actually.

Is the United Federation in Star Trek a communist state?

Star Trek and Heinlein in one headline. My ultimate clickbait.

Roddenberry’s Star Trek was “above all, a critique of Robert Heinlein” [Manu Saadia – Boing Boing]

I recently came across a definition of socialism (which I can no longer put my fingers on), that said it’s an economic system where the means of production is owned by the the workers, with the state as their proxy. It said that socialism is a stepping-stone on the way to Communism, when goods would be so plentiful that there would be no need to pay for them. And I said to myself, holy crap, that’s Star Trek.

Star Trek is a Communist society where everybody worthwhile serves in the military and wears a uniform.

Link

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine In 82.5 Hours – Max Temkin, Medium

In Deep Space Nine, “a man and his son arrive at a frontier town on the edge of known civilization.”

Not just a man – a widower. That’s a very Western thing.

DS9 is essentially a Western with an ensemble cast. Writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe said, “We had the country doctor, and we had the barkeeper, and we had the sheriff and we had the mayor, we had it all, it was all there. We had the common man, Miles O’Brien, the Native American, Kira.”

But also:

Reader Evan Jacobs sees a more contemporary theme in the politics of Deep Space Nine: “To me, DS9 was largely about the Jewish diaspora. Cardassians are Nazis, Ferengis represent Jews as the world sees them (i.e., anti-Semitism), and Bajorans represent Jews as they see themselves (i.e., Israel). Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but it always seemed that way to me.” I’ve always read themes of Jewish history into Deep Space Nine as well (in my view: the Federation is the Catholic church, it’s post-currency society is the prohibition on usury, and the Ferengis are the Jews) it’s one of the reasons the show speaks so personally to me.

We’re slowly rewatching Deep Space Nine. We’re a good way into the first season, which Temkin says is a turkey, but I’m enjoying it.

I’ve already watched most of Deep Space Nine — not when it first aired, but in reruns. I’ve forgotten almost all of it. We stopped watching a few episodes after Terry Farrell left, when the TV station stopped airing reruns. This was in the primitive dark ages before Netflix.