Scalzi - Bad Design in ST

Okay, so is it just me or did Scalzi go much easier on Star Trek?

His basic points feature a couple of irrational-seeming super-advanced alien devices (and here I include Voyager 6 as modified to V'Ger, and you can (but he didn't) include Nomad).   Then he moves on to phasers, only noting their highly variable output and not things like ergonomics, apparent lack of sighting mechanism (or holographic analog) on most, and other possible design complaints.    Then he gets all fashionista on Starfleet uniforms, complaining about the shade of mustard yellow or something.

So basically, he has completely ignored critiques of Federation design thus far, whereas most entries in the Star Wars article made fun of Imperial design on actual utilitarian grounds, with only the last three being more of the nature of production/story design flaws.

He then moves on to the Enterprise problems from TMP, which does bring us to our one and only critique of Federation design, which was the TMP-era method of increasing phaser power by channelling it through the main engines, or whatever.   This means the engines going flaky (as the untested TMP engines did) would disable the phasers.  

Clearly this did not occur in the ENT, TOS, or TNG eras, and thus we may presume a temporary situation.   Meaning the one actual thing he considers to be a poor design in Trek was a one-movie problem that was a function of plot.

He even considers holodecks to be brilliantly designed, even too good, save for the ease of overriding safety protocols.   Really?  That's the only design flaw of the holodeck?   How about not being able to simply pull the plug when Jarada probes fiddle with the settings, instead requiring that engineering teams stand by as the future Chief Engineer patiently watches the wunderkind fix it?   We even saw this graceful failure mode in Voyager!   When the ship was rendered powerless by a dampening field, the holodeck froze with the simulation's setting in place.  Even if that were a special case, however, we could at least assume a failure mode where all the simulated stuff just disappears, leaving you in a blank room.

But I digress . . .

Finally, Scalzi takes the easy shot of making fun of the JJ Abrams magic comic-book "red matter" MacGuffin/BDO from the recent Trek movie.  Gee, that was imaginative and original.

So yes, I'm unimpressed. 


Captain Keogh is Skeletor!?!

I'll be damned.  I'm usually good with voices but I had no idea the Odyssey captain was Skeletor (though there was a resemblance).  Hat off to Alan Oppenheimer, who like Peter Cullen is one of the archetypical voices for 80's kids.


Scalzi - Bad Design in SW

While it is terribly easy for any loser to start critiquing things off the cuff without having any real sense of what was going on to begin with (ref.  ST-v-SW.Net, SDN, Olbermann, ad infinitum), this John Scalzi fellow* has a few good points about Star Wars.

Next up, he says, Star Trek.

(*Unlike most run-of-the-mill sci-fi losers this fellow has some street cred . . . he's a Hugo Award winner, for instance, meaning he's a professional loser.

That said, there's always a touch of bad taste when even a very talented unknown pooh-poohs the popular thing of his own genre.   You really need to be an outsider for that to play well.  Though they're hardly unknown, that same reasoning applies to Scalzi and Brin, and even moreso to untalented unknowns like this loser who I've previously pooh-poohed here, making me some awe-inspiring Over-Meta-Loser.)


Star Trek Hall Passes

In numerous Trek episodes, we've seen folks with padds.

Usually this makes sense, and was even hella-cool at the time.   Instead of the little swiveling desktop unit Picard had in the ready room or the same concept Kirk had in his quarters, the padd was a nice and simple handheld computing device.  Some padds were quite large, but several were probably smaller that even a modern netbook.

However, there are a number of occasions were possession of a padd does not make sense.

1.  "Good Shepherd"[VOY7]

Seven enters some non-critical information into a padd, hands it to a lowly Starfleet person, and orders them to take the padd to Engineering.  Torres notes the information, hands the padd to someone else, and we follow it to Deck 15, where some smarmy twit punches a few buttons on his console upon receipt of the padd.


I can see having a detailed record-keeping process at non-alert conditions using thumbprints or whatever, but when you only have a crew of 150 normally, then assuming only 50 are on duty at any given time (with probably a dozen on the bridge and in engineering combined) then that padd maneuver just cost you two people for several minutes.  Sure, a walk and change of scenery (such as you can have on a starship outside the holodeck) is nice, but you just dropped your manpower by four percent for a few minutes, in non-break conditions.   Torres, after all, seemed really busy.

1a.  "Tapestry"[TNG6]

In a modified present, Picard is a Lt. and astrophysics dude, carrying a padd to be delivered to La Forge.   As Q describes it, it is Picard "carrying reports to your superiors".


While I appreciate the idea and possibility of sensitive information being carried by print-out ("Encounter at Farpoint"[TNG1]) or otherwise not merely stuck in the ship's database, it seems that an assistant astrophysics officer would not be likely to be carrying data that was sensitive to that degree.

2.  "Heart of Stone"[DSN3]

Nog is handed a padd and tasked with doing an inventory of a cargo bay.   He does so after a few hours.  In the process, he did so well that Dax mentions he even found a few things that real station crew had missed in their last inventory.


I mean I know tricorders can be spoofed, and on a station dealing with foreign cargo all the time it can't hurt to look, but he wasn't even carrying a tricorder.  If we grant the idea that they're looking to avoid tricorder spoofing, we're left to assume they assume no holography.  What?

And what's this about missing stuff in the last inventory?   Did they not have tricorders then, either?  

Tricorders are ubiquitous in Trek.  Why would they not be used as timesaving logistics devices?  We do this now with RF tag equipment and barcode scanning handheld units.  You're telling me a doodad capable of telling you what I ate yesterday can't figure out what's in the crate?

3.  "True Q"[TNG6]

Not quite a padd example, but Crusher assigns a student the task of checking medical tricorders before they're put into supply containers by scanning herself with them.

Really?   No remote self-diagnostic on the tricorder?   Or even an onboard trustworthy diagnostic?   You just make sure it sees you and then go on about your business?


This all seems to point to the idea that there's a fair bit of make-work going on aboard Federation ships.  Sure, carrying padds around can give the opportunity for face-time, but it seems that oftentimes folks have padds for no reason they themselves are aware of.   I'd imagine (or at least I trust) that they dispense with such pleasantries in alert conditions, but if not then damn.

Can you really imagine in the modern era someone carrying around a Pocket PC or a Kindle or an iPhone in a hospital or aboard an aircraft carrier, with their sole purpose in life at that point to give the information on it to someone?   Of course not.  It would be e-mailed or otherwise transmitted.  

"But that's not fair," you say, "those are expensive whereas padds are like paper to them.  And people carry paper around, so there!"

Yeah, we carry paper around, but not if we don't have to.   That's the point . . . these padds are being carried about when there's no evidence they have to have it that way.

Just a thought.


Mandalorian History

A bit of history regarding the Mandalorians in advance of their appearance in The Clone Wars:
A battered and tarnished chromecolored droid named IG-88 was also with the group, standing next to the notorious Boba Fett. A human bounty hunter, Fett was known for his extremely ruthless methods. He was dressed in a weapon-covered, armored spacesuit, the kind worn by a group of evil warriors defeated by the Jedi Knights during the Clone Wars. A few braided scalps completed his unsavory image. The very sight of Boba Fett sent a shudder of revulsion through the admiral.
                                   - Ch. 9, TESB Novelization

That's about it.  The name Mandalore in regards to Fett's armor first came from Marvel Star Wars comics in 1983. 

So between those two facts, plus anything else in the comics that Lucas might've decided to make use of and anything from the EU that Filoni can squeeze in, that's probably going to be a lot of what we see.   So far, for instance, we're already hearing a trash-talking Mandalorian talking about killing Jedi and how his people fight Jedi, so here we go.   In any case, I would not expect to see a very sympathetic view of the Mandalorians, what with their first appearance being described as "evil warriors".

Incidentally, as noted elsewhere, what The Clone Wars show is going to do to the EU's continuity regarding the Mandalorians is why Karen Traviss, prime author on EU Mandalorians, has left any and all Star Wars-related writing.   Can't say I blame her, provided one has been told the EU has any relevance to the Lucas universe.



Yeah, I did.   I feel dirty inside, but still.


You can also catch other stuff I do on the same topics:


I'm thus, officially, a twit.


Braga on Coto's Enterprise

So he finally gets it, does he?

Although Coto dismissed a fan’s comment that he "saved the show", with the writer noting "I didn’t think it needed saving, I liked the show." But Braga was not so kind to himself, saying to Coto "I did think your season was the best season" and going on to say "that is what Enterprise should have been from the beginning."

Coto brought Braga on to 24 as his bitch, so presumably Braga's had the benefit of watching how Coto rolls. 

In my opinion, Braga is a wacky guy with lots of ideas, but he's more than a little loony-tunes (which is okay in Hollywood) and requires restraint and logical grounding.  That's why he and Ron Moore worked well as a team . . . Moore was the former Navy guy with a logic streak, and Braga was the potsmokin' hippie.    Braga enhanced Moore's ideas and Moore made Braga's ideas work.   Left to his own devices and/or with Berman, Braga just couldn't cut it.  

I'd imagine Coto is a good Moore-esque character for Braga.

Tokyo Makes Holodeck; Civilization Ends

Well, now . . . that didn't take especially long.  I suppose warp drive will be online next Tuesday.

So with touchable holograms a reality, you know good and well that guys . . . especially those freaky Japanese guys . . . are gonna start having carnal knowledge of holographic chicks, perhaps even bypassing the leather-clad robo-whores altogether.  And, of course, in the process of getting to the point where there's enough of them to go around, somebody will figure out how to program it for an adaptive approach to greatest pleasuring.   Finally, the technology will end up exported and guys . . . especially those freaky Earth guys . . . will have trouble getting anything done anymore.

While I'm sure this ultrasonic holography doesn't match fine textures and whatnot, that probably won't matter to most males.  That said, there is a clear distinction between it and the Trek holodeck.  This can produce a small sense of pressure, but I rather doubt it can produce any real push as from a solid object, the sort of thing involved in a penetration.   Thus, while guys are all out banging holo-hookers, the women will be left the task of (a) running civilization and (b) feeling left out.   Thus they will easily cast off the dead weight (males would be too distracted to note the murderesses until it was too late) and simply start reproducing on their own.  

No doubt the holo-hookers will be used to scrub plasma conduits or something.


TOS Weapons Fire BVR

Just noticed that in "Arena"[TOS1], while Sulu's handling the battle against the Gorn ship he notes to Kirk that phaser fire has been ineffective against the Gorn shields, and he also notes that they've been unable to "get visual contact" because the Gorn were "too far away".  The ship then fires photon torpedoes at the Gorn ship which they still cannot see.

Compare this to "Journey to Babel"[TOS2], in which the Orion vessel closes to 75,000 kilometers and is visible on the viewscreen, at which point Kirk orders phaser fire.   There is a possible counterexample in "Obsession"[TOS2], however, when the cloud creature is not visible and out of range . . . until Kirk orders extreme magnification, which is when the creature appears.  However, as seen in the phaser fire scene, the creature was huge and spread out in space, possibly making it large enough (e.g. kilometers) to be both visible and out of range.

It would seem from those examples that "Arena" demonstrates a *much* further weapons range than 75,000 kilometers, assuming a Gorn ship of similar scale to the Orion ship (and also, presumably, the Enterprise).


Another Ship to Bear the Name?

There's a petition to try to ensure that there's a bit of continuity of US Navy ships named Enterprise. I guess folks still feel screwed after the NASA Enterprise fiasco (the lady don't fly!).

I haven't signed, but I'll consider it. After all, the recent habit of using full names of political figures is exceedingly tiresome . . . I mean, ship names now are basically like "this is the USS John C. Doe III, Esq. (United States Ship John C. Doe the Third, Esquire)". Really? Seriously? I could care less. Just name the ship Doe or Churchill if you really want to (I rather like the latter), but the rest is cheese and ass-kissing.

Give me the USS Resolute or USS Defiance any day . . . Churchill works because it represents such.

But I do rather like the idea of making sure history remembers the name Enterprise.

Brilliant Point on Hoth

"Jack Fetch" on SpaceBattles (hat tip to "Mr. Oragahn" of SFJ) asked a penetrating question recently.

Given the claimed firepower for even the fighters of Star Wars (e.g. multi-kiloton yields from the Saxton/SDN Episode II Incredible Cross Sections children's book), there is no reason why the Rebel speeders should not have been capable of any of the following:

1. Melt or vaporize huge holes in the Hoth ice so that:
A. ... the AT-ATs would fall in because you just melted the ice they were standing on.
B. ... a super-trench the AT-ATs could not navigate would be created.

2. Use blast effects to:
A. ... knock the legs off-course with direct hits, causing instability or tripping a la the tow cable trip wire.
B. ... "tip the cow", producing blast waves that would naturally produce the most force against the largest-area part of the AT-AT: the body.

None of these things occur. There is no logical reason for any of them to fail to work. You may even be able to make up more possibilities yourself.

Further, the fact that we saw dudes in the trenches without any protection also proves the point. If kiloton yields were being tossed about a small battlefield in aerial combat against supertall war machines, would anyone seriously want to be in a mere snow trench? That's like hanging out around Hiroshima and hiding in an alley on a particular day in 1945 . . . not a good plan.

There is no plausible excuse for any of that . . . even the full efforts of pro-Wars trolls and biased moderators at SpaceBattles were unable to thwart the reader's mind from reaching the obvious answer to the "Jack Fetch" question. Their evasiveness, subject changes, and unwavering belief in megaton firepower being in play only served to make them look even more like fools.

But if you have an actual rock-solid idea as to why I should still believe in high yields at Hoth, please let me know via comment. If your idea is crap, however, do not expect the post to survive. I will not suffer fools.