Did the Enterprise See Herself?

While writing on a page, a thought crossed my mind.

You see, it seems very odd that the Federation would have authorized the intentional time travel mission from "Assignment: Earth".   Even if you assume that the timeline is pretty robust and resilient, it doesn't seem wise to plop an entire bright-white 289 meter Constitution Class starship in 1968 Earth orbit when the same job could be achieved by a specialized low-observability vessel or microsatellite or somesuch.

However, it also occurs to me that "Tomorrow is Yesterday" did feature an accidental dropping of the same Constitution Class starship into Earth's atmosphere.   On that occasion the Enterprise escaped via some sort of unusually slow time-warp maneuver.  Her sensors were capable of recording information at the time, which is how they were able to do the beaming maneuver as they slowly returned to their time.

So, as they travelled forward in time with sensors recording information, did the Enterprise see herself in 1968, which led Starfleet's eggheads who were later poring through the sensor logs to send them back there?   Was her assignment to 1968 Earth thus a predestination paradox?

Just a random thought.


Ben Sisko, Gunslinger

Imagine if you are sent back in time by accident.

You awake in a strange land of oddly dressed humans . . . they speak English but it sounds quite odd to your ears.  Seeing your strange clothing they assume you are some sort of spy for their foes and detain you, along with some others.

You soon come to realize that you are in the colony town of Lexington, Massachusetts in mid-April 1775.   You manage to escape, but in so doing you inadvertently cause the death of Solomon Brown, who (we shall pretend for the purpose of this gedankenexperiment) fired the first shot against the British redcoats from the area of a tavern on April 19, 1775.   Aware that your action has potentially screwed with history, and knowing you have only minutes to make history right, you take on his identity, picking up a weapon of the era and firing the shot at the appointed time.

Okay, so this is all well and good, but there's a problem.  Unless you are especially well studied in the arms of the era and not just the historical specifics, you really ought not have much idea of what to do with that weapon.

Sure, just from watching the History Channel or somesuch, you'd know that you're probably dealing with a muzzle-loading weapon, hopefully with a rifled barrel.   You'd probably try putting some powder down the barrel, maybe a piece of fabric or paper or somesuch, then a ball.  You'd tamp it down and then try to figure out how to deal with actually firing it.   Is there something to light which then makes contact?   Is there a flint striker?   Do you need to put a little powder down some other hole?  

You may have been hanging out in the 1770s for a day or two and seen other weapons, but unless you've had a chance to observe them used you may have no idea how to actually make the gun go boom.   And if you fail, the American Revolution may happen completely differently.

This brings us to 2024.

In "Past Tense", Ben Sisko is thrown back in time from the 24th Century.   Placed in a concentration camp for the poor, his knowledge of the era's history leads him to realize that he is at the precise location which, in mere days, will be the epicenter of the Bell Riots, a watershed event of the 21st Century.  While trying to survive, an event occurs which causes the death of Gabriel Bell, hero of the event.   Later, as the riots break out, Sisko grabs a shotgun, immediately racks and fires it, and is then able to take control of the situation along with Gabriel Bell's identity.   His action gets him shot later, but keeps history correct.

The problem with that story is pretty much identical, except in his case a Remington 870 is dropped into his hands and boom, he's running the thing smoothly.

While I'm hardly a firearms expert by any stretch, I have owned, handled, and fired a variety of pistols and rifles.  I am at least basically familiar with the operation of such weapons from .22 revolvers to 1911-style semi-automatic pistols to bolt-action magazine-fed rifles to semi-automatic "assault" rifles.  I even shot a friend's 12 gauge shotgun a few times over ten years ago, though as I recall he probably did the loading.   I was also recently helping a friend who was having issues with his 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun, aiding in the disassembly and helping assess what was going wrong with it on the trigger group mechanically, and even watching him fire it.

But when roaming around in a sporting goods store a few months ago, I spotted a particularly interesting pump-action shotgun and asked to take a look at it.  The kid behind the counter handed it over and I was giving it a look-see.  I had the mind to rack it, pulled back on the fore-end and  . . .  nothing happened.  It wiggled but didn't otherwise budge.  Trying to look nonchalant, I fiddled with the safety and messed around otherwise, surreptitiously trying to rack it again, to no avail.  As I had no real interest in purchasing the shotgun I didn't just decide to stop and ask for directions from the kid as I normally would be happy to do when lost . . . I simply handed it back and thanked him.

The thing that either eluded my attention or which I otherwise failed to try to operate correctly was the part of a pump-action shotgun most commonly called the action release or slide release (the latter is what I mostly hear, despite it being potentially confusing considering pistols feature that same term for a different purpose altogether).  Now, in fairness to myself, my most recent shotgun experience was with a semi-auto that had no slide and no release . . . it operated much as any semi-auto rifle.   And the experience a decade prior with a pump probably didn't feature a lot of me working the gun.   I can't even recall what kind of pump-action shotgun it was, though I do remember how sore my shoulder was.

I tell that story not to embarrass myself in regards to my ignorance, stupidity, and/or forgetfulness, though I'm sure I've succeeded in doing so.   Nor do I tell the story to regale you with overly inflated tales of my manly potency with firearms (lol).  I simply tell it to make the point that I am familiar with the general principles of many weapons of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, and yet properly working a pump-action shotgun, cold and with no preparation, was a mystery to me.   Had yet another leftist shooter or some band of terrorists stormed the place at that moment and the kid behind the counter tossed me shotgun shells as his dying act, the most I could've done is try to use the shotgun as a baseball bat to knock the shells in the general direction of the badguys.

Meanwhile, you have Starfleet Captain Commander Benjamin Lafayette Sisko, a relative stranger to these parts temporally-speaking, pick up a period firearm and operate it just as smoothly as a Hollywood actor who'd been shown how to do it shortly before the scenes started filming.  And more than that, he had correctly assessed that he needed to do it in order to fire a shot mere seconds after picking it up to get the nearby crowd under control.   (In other words, he snatched a weapon without a shell in the chamber, so he had to rack it to load a shell in the chamber and cock the internal hammer, and if the safety was on at the time he also had to disengage that.)

How the hell did that happen?    That man should most likely have virtually zero experience with 20th/21st Century projectile weapons, and certainly not a pump-action shotgun.   And after reviewing the episode, there's no indication that he had opportunity at any point to carefully observe one being manipulated before he himself had to do so.

And it isn't as if the Remington 870 slide release is the sort of thing you could work by accident, either.  Located well ahead of the trigger on the very front end of the long trigger guard's left side, some people find that they cannot operate the slender slide release with a trigger-ready grip,    That said, it is worth noting that when Sisko first gets his hands on the shotgun, he works it like a left-handed shooter . . . that is, his left hand is the trigger hand, which would've made it easier to work by accident.   Later, he's usually running it right-handed. 

Besides, it isn't like phaser rifles have pump slide-action releases that he could've practiced with, and given Sisko's general disdain for much of the 20th Century it seems unlikely that he'd have been futzing around in a Dixon Hill sort of setting on a holodeck.   He did have an interest in early 21st Century history, but learning about history is, at least in the modern era, a very different thing than living in the moment and playing with the local doodads.


Then again . . . 

After writing the above I have performed a more thorough review of the second part of that episode.  The issue I'm seeing is that folks appear to be racking the shotguns without recourse to the slide release at all.  To be honest, I'm not sure I can even see the release at the resolution available.    And of course, since no shell emerges when they rack it, then it cannot have had one in the chamber at the time.

As a rule, racking without the slide release would only be possible under a particular sequence of events.   For instance, if the weapon was already cocked and the trigger pulled with no shell in the chamber, then you would have successfully unlocked the bolt.   This allows free movement of the fore-end, meaning that if you have done this you could theoretically then rack the shotgun to load a shell into the chamber with a shell from the magazine without using the slide release.

That doesn't really make a great deal of sense unless you are expressly wanting to have to rack it to prepare to fire (as a roundabout safety precaution or for psychological terror purposes) and want to make that racking as easy as possible.   Given the user-unfriendly slide release location on the 870 I can actually kind of see this being a plausible desire, but I'm not aware of this being a big trend in the 870-owner community.

So again, that's a complete series of events that is quite unlikely for most people to engage in, and given that we also see the main "ghost" theater-major thug doing it . . . a guy who seemed intent on shooting someone . . .  it becomes even more unlikely.

One possibility is that the slide release somehow was removed from the design or otherwise became obsolete, but this would be incredibly odd.   The slide release is there because the gun, when ready to fire, is locked into battery.  If it weren't, it would be possible to fire it with the bolt partially open ("out of battery"), meaning you could have hot gas heading toward the shooter.   Without a release, the only way to unlock it is to pull the trigger.

I suppose it's possible future shotguns could be made with some sort of electronic slide release . . . that is, if there's a hand on the fore-end (or maybe a squeezing hand) and it is pulling back on the fore-end, it might 'know' that you're trying to rack it and let you do it if your finger's off the trigger.  That seems like a terribly bad idea to me and one that would most likely result in a lot of accidents, but still.   And worse, of course, is that Sisko's effortless picking up of a shotgun and perfect operation thereof is even harder to believe if you imagine he had to know how to work a shotgun totally different in operation from today's models.

So let's abandon our imagined magic slide release. Besides, in any case, we see multiple occasions where the characters rack the shotgun (with no working of the slide release) to prepare to fire, and then for whatever reason they don't fire, only to repeat the maneuver a few scenes later.   This means that they have loaded a shell into the chamber but no longer intend to use it.   A few scenes later, they again rack it (without the slide release) to prepare to fire.   Since no shell comes out, they must have removed the earlier scene's shell from the chamber.   This is not something you can generally do with a finger . . . the most common technique, as seen in this video of a fellow with his 870, is to simply hit the slide release and rack the weapon over and over again so it loads from the magazine to the chamber and then from the chamber unloads out of the ejection port.

So after completely unloading the shotgun in that fashion, they would then have to pull the trigger on an empty chamber to unlock the action and allow the slide release to live free, and then reload the magazine with shells.  A practiced shotty-lover can probably do this pretty quickly if for whatever strange reason they had the desire to do so, but most people would probably just flick the safety on.

Of course, if we assume instead that these early 21st Century shotgun models have no safety, then all the racking makes a little more sense as being the only way to safe the shotgun (i.e. not having one in the chamber).   But again, I rather doubt that the theater-major thug would have been acting like a responsible gun owner and keeping it as safe as possible . . . he would've been more likely to leave it ready to fire as soon as his finger met the trigger, even if it meant it was possible to have an accidental discharge.  It isn't like there was anyone else in the room (or even out of it) that he actually cared about.

Then again, maybe Sisko convinced him to keep it safe in that way that Sisko seemed good at in this episode.

 In short, other than the out-of-universe truth that the shotguns weren't loaded at all and were probably otherwise modified for endless racking, I don't have any good answer as to what exactly was going on, though it seems most likely that the characters engaged in a whole lot of unloading, dry firing, and loading off-camera, generally for no apparent reason.   Maybe if DS9 gets the HD remastering treatment we'll be able to see if the 870s are missing externally-visible bits like safeties or slide releases.

In-universe, the only good answer I can figure is that maybe everyone spends more time on the holodeck running amok in earlier centuries than we've ever suspected, and that working primitive projectile weapons is something that comes up rather more frequently than we ever would've suspected.


The Master of Finsbury Hill

In May 2008 I started a blog entry with that title, but no text.  Can anyone tell me what the hell I was talking about?  It is such an intriguing (albeit derivative) title that I hate to keep doing what I have been doing for a long time, which is to stare at it, google at it, and otherwise waste it.

Thank you.


Phaser Bank Aim Tech

Reality is copying sci-fi again as a flat immobile emitter becomes a device with wide field of fire thanks to metamaterials:


Blah blah cheaper blah blah smaller blah blah better for all mankind.  Whatever.  What is *really* important here is that we finally have a plausible example of how the Cardassian square beam emitter thingy and even the Federation phaser strip could functionally aim.

Now if the guys could just put multiple devices together and have the energy combine at one point like phasers supposedly do, we could have an awesome phasery deathray.

Old TNG Advert

To the tune of "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel... this, I may add, is from memory.  (See also:  "brain sludge" by Dave Barry)

Geordi's specs
Mysteries on the holodeck
Triple droids
Telepathic Betazoids
Deadly claw
Visitor from LA Law
No Kirk
Captain has gone berserk
Counselor Troi
Doctor Crusher's little boy
Klingon rites
New heights
Phaser fights
Data's head
Tasha's dead
Riker's hangin' by a thread
Everyone to battlestations!
We didn't start the series
It's The Next Generation on your favorite station
We didn't start the series
And when we are gone it will still be on and on and on and on and on ...

I had this post to this point and was going to put more info on all the clips used (not counting the customization each "favorite station" could insert), since the last time I searched for this a few years ago the internetstubes didn't know of it.  I presumed I was the final repository of this all-important knowledge.

However, just the other day a poster on Flare linked to a YouTube video of one station's version.   Happily, then, I am no longer the sole keeper of the ancient knowledge.



Nog and Starfleet Academy

Once, some new neighbors, a young couple from Nebraska, saw me engaged in auto repair after some goofball from Ohio tried to park his car within mine.

So, a day or two later, they came knocking in the hopes that I would help them with something automotive ... the complex action of changing a license plate.  They were so appreciative that the girl came by later with homemade cookies, and a thank you note I still have to this day.

All I did was demonstrate a screwdriver, but suddenly I was Montgomery Scott with a Trip Tucker launcher in my pocket and I could poop astromechs and Exocomps.

The reason I tell this story is not to make fun of those people.  After all, if screwing was such an elusive mystery, we need not worry about them breeding.  Although, perhaps their issue was that they'd just kept poking the plate screws assuming something would eventually pop out ... I don't know.

But consider that in the modern era, we have extraordinary technology, much of it virtually unthinkable a century ago, and daily users of that technology who haven't the slightest idea how any of it works, nor do they care to know.  As people so often point out, we have virtually the sum of human knowledge available online and thus, for many, literally in a pocket or on a hip, and yet we spend time on funny cat pictures, Daily Kos, porn, and other mindless, hollow pursuits.

This is bound to get worse as technology continues to get weirder, which brings me to Starfleet Academy.

Nog is a particularly interesting fellow in this light.  In "The Jem'Hadar"[DSN2], Jake is O'Brien's temporary helper and obviously vastly outshines Nog in tech skill.

But by the Dominion War, not only is Nog far superior in tech skill, but he is even briefly the chief engineer of a starship full of senior cadets, and not implausibly so.  This speaks very well for his training.

To be sure, some of this is probably in the genes, as his father was an idiot savant when it came to technology.  And some was willpower, as it was clear that Nog applied himself and gave his all, even to worrisome, cliche levels.

Still, though, you don't go from Nebraskan iPhone user with screwdriver problems to high-level nuclear sub reactor technician in three years without some incredible training and educational programs.  Being a good engineer requires more than just memorization, it requires understanding.  Nog clearly achieved that in record time.

And considering how far the Academy likely has to carry cadets given the proverbial iPhone users of the 24th Century, so separated from the means of production and work that food and baubles both really do come out of thin air, that sort of thing speaks very well for the Academy academics.


Brin and Ep3

@DavidBrin1 posted a link to his Twitter for May 4th linking to his well-known Salon article which is commonly held to diss Star Wars.  I even retweeted someone else's May 4th posting of it with the preface "poo-pooher".

But then I gave it a re-read and whatever you may think about the rest, the man was spot-on here:

" But then, in “Return of the Jedi,” Lucas takes this basic wisdom and perverts it, saying — “If you get angry — even at injustice and murder — it will automatically and immediately transform you into an unalloyedly evil person! All of your opinions and political beliefs will suddenly and magically reverse. Every loyalty will be forsaken and your friends won’t be able to draw you back. You will instantly join your sworn enemy as his close pal or apprentice. All because you let yourself get angry at his crimes.”"

This rather reminds one of Episode III and its perplexingly sudden transformation of Anakin, doesn't it?  He gets angry with the Council over their justified fears of Palpatine and goes off the reservation, becoming a confused wreck ripe for the final equally-insidious plot point where he turns evil because of love.

And this, may I say, is the primary reason the end of The Clone Wars series is so disappointing.  Sure, it was getting a little bit too Star Trekkish with its gadgets, but the hope was that it it would find a way to better explain Anakin's transformation.  There were hints in that direction but unfortunately we were left worse off in that regard, with Anakin the reasonably-wise teacher whose primary sin is caring too much.  That only muddies the water further.

And, with apologies, I don't have any hope that JJ understands the human soul any better, based on his Trek to date.


Field of Oddities

While I like "Field of Fire"(DSN7), it is an odd episode.   This is the one where Ezri wields a TR-116 that fires tritanium bullets that are beamed into a room and shoots a loony Vulcan murderer.

The main issues I have relate to the logic and continuity of the episode.

For instance, when a tool went missing in "In the Hands of the Prophets"(DSN1), O'Brien scanned for independent tritanium sources on the station, which worked quite well.  Yet here, when they are dealing with chemically propelled tritanium bullets, nobody looks for them.  It is possible that in wartime there were lots of such sources or some dampening field in place, but still.  Certainly there was nothing to suggest any sort of dampening field being used by the murderous Vulcan ... the extent of his security seemed to be a blanket wrapped over the gun.

Speaking of chemical propulsion, we never hear of anyone scanning the bullet to try to get residue traces and then scan for either the combustion products or the actual 'gunpowder'.  In "Hollow Pursuits"(TNG3), a Federation starship can be easily scanned for any of a number of materials.  Yet here, the extent of the science seems to be Odo's discussion of powder burns.

Sure, the transporter that beamed the bullet may have exclusively beamed the tritanium, but still.

Everyone accepts Odo's 20th-Century-crime-novel-based theory of powder burns, as well, yet there is no reason to believe that the gunpowder employed would've suffered from such inefficient combustion as we have now.  When making a new projectile weapon in the 24th Century with a simple chemical propulsion for use in low-tech-only environments, a wide variety of different concepts could have been employed.  Even today nanotechnology is being employed to greatly enhance explosive yields by driving up the combustion fraction, making more use of what was there.  And yet, in a time where (as seen, for instance, in the long list from "Night Terrors"(TNG4)) myriad possibilities exist for making things go boom, we are to believe that there would've been powder burns all over the body?  It makes little sense.

And, of course, it seems as if Ezri is the only one investigating, but that's neither here nor there.

In short, it was a good romp in Dax's mind, but beyond that it was quite perplexing.  Maybe things would've gone better if they'd still had a science officer active among the senior staff.


Why Wee Screens?

This is from a 2009 draft post that was never quite completed.  With a recent Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode, I was pleased to see my idea in action, to wit:

I've been bothered for a long while by the use of tiny screens on handheld devices, most notably in Trek. The amount of data and control options that a tricorder must offer is absurd, especially if communicated via the tiny inch-wide screen. Yet we see the characters providing tons of data and controlling all manner of devices by way of the wee screens and a handful of hardware buttons.

To be sure, this all makes sense from a production standpoint. But in early TNG we see ubiquitous high resolution holography.   We even learn in "The Chase" that the tricorder has a remarkably good holo-emitter capable of projecting a perfectly good representation of a person.   So why not abandon the screen altogether in favor of a holographic screen projection in mid-air?   It isn't like the tricorder doesn't already have a dozen flashing and blinking lights all over it.   And if you're concerned about the person in front of you knowing what you're reading, just have it project a solid block or a black screen on the other side.   If you want to get really fancy, just have it go to the next level and have it only visible for the user, not unlike today's polarization screens that prevent passersby from reading what's on your monitor.

Ironically, it was Star Wars that finally showed the basic technology in action, and seemingly just to show off.   In "The Lawless"[TCW5] from 2013, we see a small comm device which can project the number of signal bars it has above the unit, much like a cell phone would do today with a tiny icon.   This isn't even really a necessary act for the technology, and yet there it was.

I also imagine this technology being useful for phaser targeting.   The smaller phasers don't seem to have any obvious targeting method available, though it is clear they do somehow.   The phaser rifles do have tiny screen things or something going on.   And of course there was the headset for the TR-116 rifle.   Wouldn't it be better to have a little holoprojection screen pop up above the weapon, allowing zoom and better target discrimination?    Then every weapon could be a veritable sniper rifle, which given Data poking fun at the limited range of muskets in an early TNG episode, would make the point make more sense.

Vapid Sleight-of-Hand

"I enjoy the really loud people who hate Star Trek ’09 for not being the same, and hate Enterprise for not being different."

I saw that quoted on Twitter and it was too annoying not to share.  It isn't a case of hitting close to home ... I am hardly loud, nor do I hate either.  But the fact is that, like so many ill-considered cutesy posts online, it is stupid.

First, JJ-Trek is not the same as Star Trek.  And again, I say this as a person who thinks the first few minutes of that movie are some of the best of Trek, bar none.  The rest is mere sci-fi with trappings of Trek, as the Star Wars comparison video demonstrates.

As for Enterprise, it had its moments, to be sure, but being set 100 years prior made some things look silly.

On a technical level, the only way you knew you were in the past was because of NASA-esque uniforms and buttons instead of Okudagrams and a warp five speed limit ... or at least a limit that they couldn't exceed.  Beyond that, they had everything right, right from the get-go.  They didn't even need a navigator, and the transporter was so unimpressive they just had it sitting in a hallway.

I have previously said that ENT should've been more like the Starfleet Museum at Ex Astris Scientia, but I can live with it mostly as-is.


1.  The transporter really shouldn't have been around, and if it was it should've been very limited in function (e.g. cargo only) or capacity ("alright, we can only take one at a time!") or requiring almost a minute of beaming or a long prep time or all of the above.  And even then, it should've been huge and primitive, taking up the space of a whole cargo bay or something similar, and had a dedicated team of operators and maintainers, rather than being operated by anyone who walked by.

2.  The ship should've needed X minutes to go to warp, be it for field generation, scan-ahead, navigation, or all of those.  Popping into warp at a moment's notice is too easy.
(Note that I had this thought when ENT premiered, and was amused to see BSG take it and run with it and even have a whole early episode revolve around it.)

3.  Travis should've been in charge of a whole slew of dedicated navigation personnel, maybe making use of the back of the bridge.  Yeah, we sometimes saw people there, but there was no indication that anything was going on other than Travis.

The funny thing is, all of these would have contributed to dramatic needs, perhaps excluding the last one (at least until the ep where the team's all killed and Travis really has to do things alone, which adds to the time to go to warp a la #2).  But still, #3 certainly could've contributed to the Mayweather character, which was otherwise lacking.

And bingo, you have a more plausible show, just like that.



Nanotech just entered the canon with the latest TCW, "Sabotage". At the Jedi Temple, a civilian foreman over all gunship weapons was an expert in nanoweaponry and was murdered via ingestion of a large number of volatile nanodroids which were used to explode him while he was at work.

Frankly, the use of the nanotech wasn't really necessary to the episode, but it was there and now I'm trying to figure out if there's anything in Star Wars that would require or would have benefitted from this knowledge previously. And for the life of me right now, I can't think of anything.

I mean, I suppose we could insert them in different places . . . the Death Watch ropes that coil around the target could be related, and assorted grappling devices might bond via nanotech rather than magnets. But, as I think I've probably said before, Star Wars seemed to make no use of nanotech at all previously, and certainly nothing like nanites or nanoprobes. Put simply, we haven't had much Star Wars that required any microscopic explanations, especially in the weaponry department. Even medically, bacta always struck me as more biotech than nanotech.

I suppose we could ponder this in the context of modern Russian thermobaric devices that make use of nanoparticles for enhancement of explosions, but that's rather different than nanodroids.

Notable, though, is that the searching for additional nanodroids in the Temple seemed to be a unique event, and the scans for it involved special equipment never before observed. Ahsoka carried around a tricorder-like pair of devices when scanning, for instance, which I don't think we've seen before (but which did have impressive scanning capabilities). Thus, to my mind, there is no current reason to assume that nanotech has been hiding in every scene, because otherwise one would think that related equipment and scanning would be very much more standard.

In any case, time will tell if we see more evidence of nanoscale devices in Star Wars. For myself, though, the macro-scale of things seems to be more the norm.

Cloning Dehumanization

Between the variable heights of stormtroopers in the original trilogy and mentions of Luke trying to get to the Academy and so on, I've pretty much come to conclude that much as the droids were deactivated at the end of RotS, so too were the clones.   Not to say that they were killed outright at war's end, but it seems there was a transition to volunteers and impressment over time, and no further orders from Kamino.

However, this strikes me as a little odd.   With clones, the Emperor had a group that, like droids, could be made to somewhat mindlessly follow orders.  It is one thing to order an automaton to kill . . . quite another to order the same from someone else.   

But of course, human history tells us it is not terribly difficult to get soulless killing out of someone, even from a group that is initially subject to a moral code, so perhaps that was not so far a leap as I would like to think.

But in any case, post-war, with the Imperial Senate still fancying itself meaningful, it seems likely that no additional clones were ordered, and those who remained were kept in service (and as cannon fodder) as a transition occurred.   New recruits would've thus seen and become used to the sort of blind allegiance we might be pondering, which would've been useful in itself.  

More to the point of the title of the post, though, I would daresay that having clones about which you don't have to care (as so exemplified by members of the Republic Senate in TCW) had a dehumanizing impact.  Later troopers would've been thought of with less concern than military troops of a pre-Clone Wars era, over and above a likely continued erosion of ethics under Imperial rule.   That is to say, the clones served Palpatine's purpose by making the Clone Wars easy . . . later, they were no longer needed politically, and indeed it probably served his purposes better against the Rebellion to have Rebels shooting "real people".

But by the time the Senate was wiped away, there was no longer need for such considerations . . . the value of lives in a moral and political sense had been overcome by the rule of fear. 


The Politics of Rebellion

This comes from a bookmark folder entitled "Stuff to Blog" which I obviously haven't done any emptying of in awhile.


Do yourself a favor and read the whole, short thing.

The gist on the one hand is that neither the Empire doesn't make political decisions, and this is true.

The Empire ruled through fear . . . the political consequences that we might hear discussed in the Clone Wars era become increasingly irrelevant to the power structure of the Empire during the time between III and IV.   It went from an ostensible (and unworkable) democracy to a society of lords and peasants under their heels within a generation.  And yet the Rebellion was small and struggling.  In short, this technique of rule was largely working.  The people were probably well fed and well entertained . . . bread and circuses, much as we see today . . . and kept uninformed and/or propagandized.

And yet, the people also had to be kept fearful, both of the Rebellion and of the Empire's might against enemies within, which could've been quite the juggling act.   At least until you get the Death Star, but at that point any veneer of respectability is wiped away.

As for the points about the Rebellion's techniques, I think it likely that a number of small insurgency-style events occurred, but that we see the big ones because, well, they're the more interesting.   But it is troubling that the Rebellion was on the run and in such dire straits during ESB, for instance . . . after Alderaan and their victory over the first Death Star, you'd think they'd have had safe haven everywhere. Presumably the Emperor really ramped up basic military action against suspected sympathizers and such after the loss.

In any case, there is a great deal to ponder here, and I have merely scratched the surface.  The rest I leave to you.


Trek vs. Wars Tech Support

If I ever need something to write about, I could do a series of posts on how Trek/Wars tech would've been helpful in this or that Wars/Trek situation.

Of course, transporters would show up all the time during the Clone Wars and elsewhere, and the presumably untrackable hyperdrive would show up in Trek a lot when warp either doesn't work or lets them know you're coming.

But I daresay Wars would be the greater beneficiary most of the time, so the idea comes across as a little rude, to me.

Of course, Star Wars during the Imperial era would be fun insofar as a "How Would the Empire Handle This Trek Situation" series, getting the advantage back in that case.  "Galaxy's Child" comes immediately to mind as a very short episode.


Jean-Luc Rambo

Someone was talking about the characterization of Picard in the TNG films, saying that there was a certain Rambo syndrome about him.   I replied thusly:

"Funny, I was thinking just the other day of how badly Picard was nerfed in Generations, having very little command presence. His big moments were crying, saying "what?" when something unexpected happened, getting stuck under a rock and wiggling like an amoeba, getting a wounded nose, watching his failure to stop Soran the first go-round, et cetera . . . and he could barely talk anyone into or out of anything. His big win was to sabotage something before running away.

Indeed, most of the characters were nerfed in Generations . . . Worf can't target, Data went 'fraidy-cat, Geordi's knocked out and passes out then bathes and is used to destroy the ship, Crusher gets shoved and the only other time we really see her was when someone was calling her ugly, and of course Riker forgot how to order maximum firepower, or much of any at all. Troi steps up and drives the ship, but only into the ground.

First Contact at least rectified those issues, and I think pretty much everybody got a chance to shine better.

Insurrection tried to follow the action idea while also having a higher concept behind it, and I think while occasionally silly it generally succeeded even if Picard was a little more Rambo than standard. But it isn't completely out of character from the TNG days, given that he was so awesome in "Starship Mine" that even The Sisko (bald and goateed with Defiant in hand) would've retreated and Ripped Shirt Kirk would've run screaming like a small girl.

And then there's the last one. That's all I'm going to say about that."


Trek Sound Continuity

In an era of smartphones with the option of myriad ringtones and notifications for every little thing, I have been paying more attention to Trek computer and device beeps.  The old TOS communicator 'ringtone' with its two low-pitch beep tones, for instance, makes a great unobtrusive ringtone.

This brings me rather quickly to one point I wanted to make, in that it's really annoying that the TNG era did not include a similar communicator ringtone.  Instead, of course, everyone hears "so-and-so to Picard," "hey Captain," or somesuch, like a walkie-talkie.  I can't imagine, especially in a military setting, having someone call me and in doing so letting everyone around know who it is.  And as we saw in some episodes, such as "Sin of the Father", Picard gets a call while in the middle of something and then must excuse himself, but only after everyone knows who's calling.   It's rather absurd.

And what's worse, when on the ship, there's an attention tone when someone calls, consisting of three or four short low-pitch tones (possibly even derived from the TOS communicator noise, really).   Why have that on the ship but not use it elsewhere?   You're less likely to need such a thing on the ship.

Of course, with the communicator sitting right on the chest a mere vibrate setting could've been used, but even that wouldn't have always been useful.  But I digress . . .

So, in the course of rewatching assorted episodes, I've kept an ear open for the noises.  To be sure, I've always been a little more attuned to it . . . I recall watching Generations and noticing the door chime to Picard's quarters being very different and somewhat obnoxious compared to during the TNG run . . . but only when you really start to consciously listen for it do you realize different things.

For one, going from an early TNG episode to a Voyager episode is truly jarring.   It doesn't even feel like you're watching a ship from the same organization.    At least with the Defiant on DS9, they generally kept a level of audio consistency, so that much as you have the TNG transporter effect still in use, you also have the same computer beeps and doorchimes (save for occasional hiccups, like a really odd door tone for Sisko's quarters in one episode).

And really, I think the DS9 example is how it should be.  Audio feedback and signalling from the computer is as important as visual readouts, and it truly makes no sense to me that they would have such vastly different noises between two Starfleet ships as you see with Voyager versus the rest of the fleet.  If you have ten different sounds for ten different things, then your training over the years ought to have included knowing just which noise means what, so that you don't even have to look to know what some beep-beep-beep means.  The information just filters into your consciousness just as if the computer had just spoken the words to you.

True, folks can retrain themselves with different noises, and you could even have multiple sound packages or themes available, but that's all just a little messy.  In a military setting where folks might go from one ship to another in situtations where milliseconds count, that just annoys me greatly.

And no, I don't mind that sounds would've changed over time.  It might be nice to have the same sounds have the same meaning for a hundred years, but I'm content with an evolution over time . . . but that should be a fleetwide phenomenon, or system-specific.   For instance,
A.  "Hey, the impulse manifold alert tone on this duotronic computer system makes a toot-toot-toot sound, but on the new panels it's more a wheep-wheep noise."
B.  "You get used to it."
Okay, I can roll with that.   But eventually that duotronic thing is going to get replaced, and that's a single noise and people will know it.

This, unfortunately, brings me to my other point, in that the actual sound effect continuity was not necessarily what it could've been.  Sure, there were certain occasions where we can try to be forgiving, such as the terrible nasty comm button chirp thing in "Trials and Tribble-ations" when Kirk calls Dr. McCoy to the bridge.  (Of course, there *was* a CD released with all sorts of TOS sound effects by that point, so why make up some new sound that was so jarringly different?)   And there's "In a Mirror, Darkly", where T'Pol tries to contact another area from the conference room of a Constitution Class ship and the TNG in-ship comm tone (the three or four tones referenced earlier) is used.

But the real problem was that even during early TNG, noises were getting repurposed somewhat haphazardly, as if nobody was keeping notes on what the sounds had been used for before.   True, I can't say much, as I haven't been keeping exceptionally good notes myself just while listening, but then I don't get paid for this.

And yes, for the most part, the sound effects are more of a subconscious thing for most, and it is probably enough to simply get the point across that the computer wants their attention or something.  But of course, that same sort of thinking is not always true . . . red alert is red alert, the little bwopbwop of Worf's panel saying the weapons are firing was distinctive, and so on.

That's also not the case visually, where vast fortunes have been spent to alter the visual representations for the Original Series, and a vast fortune is in progress to bring the effects of TNG up to modern standards.  Wouldn't it have been nice to have the sound continuity be as good, too, so that when you heard a noise you knew what was going on as fast as the characters, even just by subconscious osmosis from excessive watching?

I think so.


Lighting Trek

Another thing I have noticed in the past few years, especially during the run of Enterprise, is how lighting seems to be Earth's main export.  With only a few isolated exceptions, alien ships and facilities are usually lit using the same lighting tech as the Starfleet vessel they encounter, sometimes to the point that in some cases there is little to indicate that we are looking at an alien ship.

The TOS Enterprise had light coming from everywhere along with throws of color against the walls, and so did everyplace else.  "The Enterprise Incident" comes to mind, there, where even the walls seemed to be the same color.

With Enterprise, the issue was similar... everyone used the same spotlights with the same slightly softened shadows.

(And in the TNG era anyone interested in making moody shadows on the floor used the same grates over the lights, but that is neither here nor there.)

The reason this is bothersome is twofold.

First, lighting technology evolves, and as we are seeing in the age of the banning of Edison's light bulb (and the age of funky bluish headlights) we are faced with lighting tech that produces varying color temperatures.  Many people seem to favor the old yellowish glow similar to candlelight, but even that color is the product of the technology... another world's convenient wick and solid fuel might glow greenish, for example.  And of course some folks just love the overly white glow of a flourescent tube.

But the other issue is more complicated.  You see, what we consider white sunlight is particular to our sun and those like it...  how often have you heard of our "yellow star"?  And that light is then filtered through our particular atmosphere, to be received by eyes that have evolved to work best with what light is available.

So let's say that all spacefaring races light their ships to match their idea of sunlight.  We should see wide variation... the Romulans might invariably have a greenish hue to their interior lighting, for instance, and the So-and-Sos might look as blue as those silly headlights. 

And of course, some races might prefer big huge ceiling panels offering no shadows, while others opt for small spotlights with hard shadows, and others might combine the two or any variation you can think of.

Interestingly, two races often had specific colors associated ... the Borg in Voyager went all green-spotlight on us.  And the Klingons have often received special color treatment, but it has been all over the map, from blues to reds to yellow. 

Of course, I still think that the Klingons would have Pepto-pink alert and the Romulans would have green alert, if they even associated color with alert at all on a cultural level, but that is a-whole-nother story which I will work on after getting on to Trek writers for assuming aliens would even name ships (though perhaps only the successful ones do).


Hidekis Everywhere

While defending my runabout argument elsewhere, and the concept of the assumption of parity in general, I noticed that the Cardassian shuttle from "Profit and Loss"[DSN2] I took to be runabout-sized probably is not.

While scaling against DS9 is always a headache thanks to 'dramaturgical' rescalings by David Stipes and the like (leading to widely varying size representations for everything including the station), the best shot of the docking would seem to indicate a vessel two to three times the size of the runabout when compared against later Bird of Prey dockings.

Further, the exact same model appears in "Tribunal"[DSN2] as the computer-identified Cardassian patrol ship, Hideki Class, and while the shot is composed in such a way as to make definitive scaling virtually impossible, the exterior view (as well as the internal image via monitor) is not inconsistent with the "Profit" vessel.

Later fleet shots of a similar hull (usually with a more yellow ochre color and missing what some identify as cockpit windows on the front of the model, though we never saw them lit) are generally larger.

Though there was the Cardassian shuttle from "Tacking Into the Wind"[DSN7] which was runabout size or smaller when compared to a Jem'Hadar attack fighter.  Bernd at EAS suggests the model was modified for this appearance, however.

I would submit that the smaller vessel (identified, like the "Profit" example unfortunately was, as a shuttle . . . though we've seen the runabout-size Romulan shuttle, so whatever) is a true shuttle and should be treated as such.   The "Profit" and "Tribunal" vessels are the Hideki Class.   And the yellow ochre small warships are something else. (Fortunately I never did a volume for a Hideki so there is nothing to fix on the Volumetrics page, but that is also why I had never looked into the ship before.)


Danube Class Maximum Warp

Alternate title:  "In Defense of the Danube"

In "Dax"[DSN1] we have the following exchange when some badguys are trying to abduct a crewmember and escape the station (hat tip: Chakoteya.net):

ODO: They're managing to avoid the security tracking grid. They seem to know a lot about the station.
KIRA: Then they may know the speed of our runabouts. If they do, they probably have a faster ship to make their escape.
SISKO: Major, survey all ships in dock with a high warp capability. Damn!
ODO: What?
SISKO: That's why we've got a residual charge in the graviton generator. They've disabled the tractor beam.
KIRA: We've got eight ships in dock capable of warp five or more. Three on docking pylons, five smaller ones in the ports.
SISKO: Seal off all docking ring airlocks. 
This has generally been used as evidence that the Danube class runabouts have a maximum speed of warp five.  Also, early runabout design concepts (wherein they were going to re-use an old TMP-era ship model that later got used as the Sydney Class USS Jenolan in "Relics"[TNG6]) had the runabout limited to warp 4.7.

However, in my opinion, that quote only implies that Kira took Sisko's order about looking for "high warp capability" to mean "warp five or more". Nothing there specifically mentions runabout maximum warp velocity, nor was it ever mentioned throughout the series.

In the context of the episode and the search, this makes sense . . . there's no reason to assume that visiting starships have some sort of advertisement of their actual maximum warp speed. Vessel registrations may include some sort of similar information and that might've been what Kira was looking at, or alternately they may have tried to scan all the ships and take a guess. But either way, the actual truth of the matter was undoubtedly hazy.

Or, put it another way . . . if I wanted to find a ship among several that might be able to outrun the Enterprise-D, I'd search first for any that might be able to exceed warp nine . . . maybe seven or eight if I want to be sure to account for some lead time, trickery, et cetera.  That doesn't mean the Enterprise-D is limited to warp eight (as we know), it just means I'm narrowing down the possibilities.

Besides, given that frickin' coffins can accelerate to and maintain warp nine (from "The Emissary"[TNG2]), and given the rather voluminous warp mechanics of the runabout by comparison, and given that runabouts are seen to be capable of evading and escaping from fast ships chasing them ("Vortex"[DNS1], "Apocalypse Rising"[DSN5], "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River"[DSN7], just to name a few) and given that the frickin' Suliban could clock warp five in their little pods 200 years prior, the whole notion of a warp five runabout just doesn't work in context. It would be like the US Navy putting out a PT boat that is propelled at oar-speed.

But unfortunately, people latched on that because there was little else to go on.   However, we can ponder another point.

In "The Jem'Hadar"[DSN2], Jake Sisko orders the Rio Grande computer to set a course for DS9 at warp eight. The computer doesn't reject his command on the grounds of velocity correction, but simply notes that the autopilot is not functional.  Of course, it might've reacted the same way if he'd ordered warp 13, but the interesting part to ponder is that Jake ordered it at all.   You see, a plot point with this episode (and indeed, the early part of the series . . . see "Civil Defense") is that Jake had been assisting Chief O'Brien with assorted maintenance duties, and in this episode we are told that he'd been assisting with runabout maintenance.  

Warp eight is a very odd figure to choose if you are desperately asking for a fast speed and unclear on the vessel's maximum velocity.  Why not nine, or 9.9 even?   Put simply, Jake wouldn't exactly be my go-to guy for tech questions, but he's not completely ignorant, and I think that particular order to the computer is indicative of what he knew of the vessel's velocity capabilities.

Personally, I find this to be fair evidence for warp eight as an attainable velocity for runabouts.  It is not absolute proof, but like the Kira search I don't think it is disproof, either.

Of course, we do know from Voyager's "Resolutions" that the Type-9 shuttle (believed to be the speedboat shuttlecraft) has a top speed of warp four, though it is suggested as top speed in the context of a multi-year voyage and thus may represent top cruising speed.  One could argue that this should limit the Danube, but again I must point to the voluminous warp mechanics of the Danube versus any of the common shuttles, which are boxes with nacelles . . . where are the reactors?   Well hidden and compact!

So, the maximum speed of the Danube Class is unknown, but probably respectably high. She's more a truck  than a speedboat, I'd imagine, but I doubt she's a slow truck.

Edit 2013-01-14:
The following was removed on the grounds that popularly available data on the Cardassian ship mentioned is not supported by the canon evidence. See the next post about the Hideki class.
In "Profit and Loss"[DSN2], we have a Cardassian shuttle (a runabout-sized first use of the model that would later be used for the Hideki, then finally as a shuttle again in "Tacking Into the Wind[DSN7]") that is suggested to be capable of warp eight by Quark. Do you really think Cardie ships of that size range are likely to be faster than Federation ones?

The Blog is Back

I've decided to temporarily reactivate the blog at Blogger after their FTP-kill simply because, although I tweet at @STvSW and although I post at forums like StarfleetJedi.Net, I just prefer having the ability to make longer posts that are less ephemeral than tweets, and forum posts just get lost in the clutter.

It also helped to jog my interest when some nutter posted an annoying comment on an ancient post which would never have shown up after the FTP thing.   Now that the conversion has occurred, it appears now on the old Avenger and Devastator post.  

It is still my intent to recreate the website using Drupal or similar, just to make my life easier.   Though I will note that I am also working on NoLettersHome.info since I think I finally found a way to accomplish what I've wanted to accomplish for a long while with that.  I'm actually kind of interested in doing a Trek version of it as well, though I would need to make that a community project like Memory Alpha.

Specifically, what I envisioned was having what one might call a "smarter wiki", wherein I could do a write-up of tech giblets from an episode and the various pieces of text -- say, about a hammer -- could link automatically to a page entitled "hammer" which includes the text from that episode's write-up as well as the paragraphs from any other page where I mention hammers.   In other words, a truly dynamic site where if I had written text about Separatist warships I could easily look at every reference to them.   The only real limitation on me would be making sure I compose paragraphs in such a way as to fit the multiple needs (e.g. no "regarding the last paragraph" sort of references).

This would be distinct from a Wookieepedia type site in two ways.   First, it wouldn't include all the Licensing-canon mess and would instead be solely Lucas-canon.   Second, it would be less labor-intensive, since although Wookieepedia undoubtedly has a page on hammers, it requires manual action to add a new note on the page.  And third, of course, it would be tech-focused.

I am currently testing out two possible techniques and will make a note here if and when I get a move on.

In the meantime, ST-v-SW.Net will be a little bit on the backburner, but I do eventually intend to revamp it.  I'll keep you updated.