Synthehol, F*** Yeah!

Synthetic alcohol based on chemicals in Valium, non-addictive, and with antidote for rapid switch-off of the intoxication?   New Orleans might never be the same.   But at least Ten-Forward just got a lot more plausible.


Prime Directive Absurdity on Angel I

Some of the plot of "Angel One"[TNG1] revolves around the notion that the Prime Directive does not apply to Federation civilians, even those who are space-faring such as the crew of the "Federation freighter Odin".

That's the dumbest point of plot in the history of Trek, because if true it would render all those heart-wrenching Prime Directive decisions absolutely moot.

After all, even an individual from a sufficiently higher civilization can be an existential threat to a lesser civilization.   Imagine Picard driving around the desert carelessly in Nemesis, having a grand old time.   Now imagine an antbed in the desert being run down without even being noticed.

Modern Earth . . . and other pre-warp societies . . . are a bit larger and more complex than antbeds, but the principle is the same.  A single 23rd Century starship (like the Constitution Class) could wipe out this planet.  A Danube Class runabout could easily conquer this planet.  And a skillfully-used shuttlecraft could possibly do the same.

We've seen this sort of thing in Trek before.  "Bread and Circuses"[TOS2] features the suggestion that 100 starship security personnel armed with phasers could defeat the combined armies of a 20th Century Rome.   Captain Tracey with a phaser was able to completely upset the balance of power on a post-apocalypic Earth ("The Omega Glory"[TOS3]).  23rd Century Historian John Gill was able to manipulate an entire world into a doppelganger for 20th Century Nazi society, proving that it wouldn't even take what we commonly think of as weapons to do the deed (a theme that is picked up in "Angel One" when the masculinity of a few landed men on a woman-dominated planet is able to cause upset and cultural revolution).

And yet, we are supposed to believe that Federation civilians could simply go drop in on whatever backwards culture they find, and we're supposed to trust that they'd do nothing?   And what of non-Federation personnel in Federation space, military or otherwise?   The Ferengi explicitly do not observe a Prime Directive, instead opening up business opportunities with "backwards" planets ("The Last Outpost"[TNG1]).  Should we believe that they would behave themselves without policing?

It isn't like the threat isn't real.  There are arms dealers at work in interstellar space (e.g. Hagath), and of course the Maquis were able to obtain hundreds of Pygorian photon torpedoes and other weapons and defenses for their raiders.  Maquis raiders would also fit in the list above of ships that could conquer modern Earth. 

However, there are fortunately some possible counterpoints to such absurdity.  Doctor Nikolai Rozhenko was an assigned cultural observer in "Homeward"[TNG7] and explicitly not a part of Starfleet, though his operating authority is unclear.   And the Odin, being a Federation freighter, was presumably also a part of the "merchant service" that the SS Beagle was a part of under Captain Merik in "Bread and Circuses"[TOS2] . . . Merik violated the Prime Directive.

Thus there is not a contradiction, provided that one correctly notes the context.   Merik violated the Prime Directive because the Roman planet was a pre-warp civilzation.   The civilization on planet Angel I, however, had already been visited by the Federation, with a last contact in 2302.  That, mixed with their technologies like matter disintegration, suggests that they were either a warp-capable society or one that was polluted by contact previously.  But in any case, they would've been considered an outside political entity . . . a separate nation, if you will.

And thus the absurdity would be resolved.  The Angel system might be considered another entity no different than, say, the Nyberrite Alliance, Talarian Republic, or Ferengi Alliance . . . individual citizens could go there and do stuff, but Starfleet would still have a non-interference directive.   The Prime Directive would still apply to citizens in regards to pre-warp civilizations.

That makes a lot more sense.   Now, as to how they could possibly keep everybody away from pre-warp civilizations . . . well, that's another matter altogether.


Imagine Accessing Enemy Sensors

According to the Wall Street Journal, US Predator drones have an unprotected, unencrypted comlink for live video feeds, and any retarded terrorist with a laptop can exploit it . . . and some have.  This has been considered a potential security hole since the 1990's, but wasn't fixed then because it was thought no one would know to exploit it.   And even as they've known for the past year that it's being exploited, they still haven't fixed it.

Seriously?  You've got to be frakking kidding me.

Yes, sure, this doesn't relate necessarily to command and control of the aircraft . . . it isn't like some terrorist can link a Predator to his Microsoft Flight Simulator and do whatever he wanted to with it.   But it does mean that they can easily check to see if anybody is watching them, analyze drone routes, and so on.   That's more than enough of a serious breach for me.  

For all the talk of computer and communications security in the Vs. Debate, real-life real-world-military examples of pure stupidity like this . . . especially from the U.S. . . . are baffling.  Imagine having ready access to the sensor data of an opposing ship, so you know where and when to hide.  Even in Enterprise's third season, the Andorians were a little alarmed at sharing their sensor data about a mutual opponent with Enterprise because of the potential security risk . . . meaning even Brannon Braga understood that you keep that stuff under wraps.  

Oh good grief, Brannon Braga just outwitted the US military.  How sad is that?


ENT Torpedo Guidance Weakness

In "Storm Front, Pt. II"[ENT4], the disabled targeting sensors on Enterprise meant that the ship was unable to torpedo a target on the planet below whose location was known.

This is rather odd, if you think about it.   A torpedo ought to be able to follow a pre-programmed trajectory, and if Enterprise sensors and computers were functioning at all they should've been able to ascertain the ship's location well enough to drop a bomb from orbit against a designated target.    Indeed, even a simple dumb bomb drop should've been relatively easy for them.

True, the ship was not at her best.  This was after the third season events that left the ship all torn up.  But that's hardly an excuse in this case.  Even operating the torpedo like an old TOW missile (guided by commands sent via an unspooling wire behind the missile) could've prevented them from the ridiculous (if cool-looking) need to take their busted-ass ship into the atmosphere and fly around at an altitude of much less than a kilometer over New York City.

Phaser Swinging

Having recently refreshed myself on Enterprise's third season, I've noticed something that seems a bit odd.

It was apparently decided to make use of squibs and other practical effects for most phase pistol misses.  This is exemplified quite well in "North Star"[ENT3], for instance, where missed phase pistol shots kept hitting water troughs, producing an upward bursting splash as if from some sort of compressed air cannon.   Other incidents in the same episode or in episodes like "Damage"[ENT3] saw the use of squibs against various surfaces, including wood and (presumably) metal.

In all such cases, though, the missed shots seemingly hit just one spot.  Yet this is the very thing a beam weapon should excel at not requiring.   A beam weapon affords a remarkable capacity to adjust one's fire in the midst of firing, turning a missing shot into a hitting one.   Anyone with a laser pointer can attest to this.  But for some reason, Enterprise personnel seemed to waste such opportunities.

We can assume a variety of possible causes.  For instance, in all such cases I've noticed, the weapon was set for stun.  This may imply that the stun setting on phase pistols imposed a short beam duration.   (Certainly later phasers were seen to have automatic fire control capability, seen of a 23rd Century phaser in "Final Mission"[TNG4] and a 24th Century Type I in "The Game"[TNG5].)    Compare the short stun shots with Archer's running cut of 2x4 crossbeams and floor timbers in "North Star"[ENT3], accomplished via a setting change.   This presumed imposed short beam duration may have meant that shot aim adjustment was thought to be an abnormal situation.  

Both in concert with the above and as a separate point, considering that the EM-33 bolt-firing plasma pistol was just a handful of years in the past, the inability to adjust one's fire might not've seemed of great concern at the time, or else might've been viewed as a quick way to supporting sloppy shooting habits.

In any case, however, it still seems a peculiar concept.  Certainly, a longer duration stun beam might've been thought to cause harm, and thus a short duration hit was all that was viewed as acceptable.  However, in a situation like "North Star" when you're trying to stun people who are trying to kill you, I for one would happily accept the risk of heavily stunning someone if I could just tweak my aim a little if I was missing.   Let Phlox sort it out.

This isn't the only time we see short-duration shots being detrimental.  For instance, "Gambit, Pt. I"[TNG7], a backyard-range phaser fight with the Enterprise away team phasers seemingly on stun does feature phaser aim adjustment, but the shot durations in that fight are too short and thus no hits occur.   AR-558 doesn't seem to involve any phaser swinging, either, and indeed the aim-and-fire approach seems to suggest that's the nature of phaser rifle training, though that battle might've benefitted from someone spraying and praying by swinging the phaser to and fro.  Presumably the short duration shots we saw were considered superior for ammunition management, though again having at least a couple of guys authorized to go nuts would've given them a virtual artillery position.    Even in "Civil Defense"[DSN3], the automated replicator-phaser doodad fires short controlled bursts instead of wildly swinging, though it did feature numerous shots that adjusted the aim by a few degrees during the shot.

Could it be that the short duration is required?  That is, does it require a full (albeit short) duration shot to do the deed, and a swinging phaser whose beam only touches a guy for a moment in passing won't have terribly much effect?   In the case of normal stun beams I could perhaps think so, especially in the Enterprise era, but on a kill setting at AR-558 I would think that a swinging beam that touched a Jem'Hadar badguy would've at least stunned or injured him, if not killing him outright, so I don't see it making sense there.

Given how few examples of swinging phasers I can think of off the top of my head, I can't think of any particular example that might show a different idea.   As a rule, a swinging phaser implies a stunned shooter (e.g. "In the Hands of the Prophets"[DSN1] or "Legacy"[TNG4]) or just a missed shot, and I don't recall any missed shots turning to hits in the canon.   Then again, we have the phaser fire against the floating Echo Papas from "The Arsenal of Freedom"[TNG1], where phaser fire was intentionally off then adjusted to hit.   And, of course, Captain Tracey's defeat of thousands and thousands of Yangs in "The
Omega Glory"[TOS3] would seem profoundly less likely if we imagine he was carefully aiming and shooting each time like Sisko at AR-558.  Maybe it's just mostly a stun thing?

Not sure what to make of it all, really.   There seems a frequent use of short duration fire as a rule (much as the modern militaries teach the "short, controlled burst"), though we've clearly seen long-duration fire in various situations (especially for cutting applications).  The short-duration fire seems especially common during stun shots.  And while I've imagined assorted rationales for the matter, none of them strike me as convincing reasons for the frequent avoidance of using the phaser in what would be its most powerful application . . . as a constant source for long-duration aim-adjusting fire, stun or no.

UPDATE 12-23-09:

"Conspiracy"[TNG1] shows Dr. Crusher's phaser shots all moving about some, the last swinging downward several degrees to continue pummelling a man falling on the floor with her phasery goodness.   That shot might've been a kill shot, however, given her later advice to Picard to set for kill because stun was ineffective.   It was also the longest shot.