Aug 20, 2016

Star Trek 50

Zarabeth and Spock
Several years ago I listed ten of my favorite Star Trek episodes. Here, I will expand on that list as a way of celebrating the first 50 years of Star Trek.

a telepathic Sally Kellerman
Trek 11. Last year I blogged about "Where No Man Has Gone Before". In that earlier blog post, I lamented the fact that television shows with a science fiction setting often make no attempt to account for the "superpowers" of characters. However, I like Clarke's Third Law. I believe that there is always an imaginary future science explanation for the god-like powers of characters in a science fiction story.

Stray Thought
In this case, we cannot expect that a writer of television Westerns (Samuel Peeples) would have ever had as much as a single stray thought about a "scientific" explanation for what happened to Dr. Dehner in this episode.

In my case, I like to imagine that in some universes there are  physical principles that would make it possible for a biological creature like we humans to have telepathy. Alternatively, even in our universe it might be possible to use advanced hierion and sedron-based devices to give humans technology-assisted telepathy.

In the Exode saga, all animal life on Earth evolved in the presence of zeptites. The brain of each human has a zeptite endosymbiont that suppresses some functions of the human brain. In the case of Dr. Dehner, we can imagine that she was genetically (or femtobotically)  endowed with the ability to escape from the limiting effects of her zeptite endosymbiont, so she was known to have a "high ESPer rating".
click image to enlarge
Galactic Barrier. Why would leaving the galaxy suddenly allow Dr. Dehner to fully escape from the influence of her zeptite endosymbiont, allowing her to have powerful telekinetic and telepathic abilities? For almost 100 years, a popular idea in stories about space aliens has been the possibility that Earth is a zoo.

extinction curve for hadronic life forms
What if the "human zoo" was actually larger than Earth and, in fact, the "walls" of our zoo are in intergalactic space? As long as we remain in our home galaxy, our brains remain under the restrictions imposed by our zeptite endosymbionts. However, there is a dark matter barrier around our galaxy. When Dr. Dehner crossed that barrier, she could finally use the full capacity of her brain and her "ESPer powers".

Isis and Spock
I like to imagine that the main reason for placing humans in a "zoo" is that our alien Overseers know that young technology-wielding life forms must pass through a survival bottleneck. Young technology-wielding species such as we humans are in danger of destroying themselves, so our Overseers prevent at-risk organisms from using the full potential of their brains to create new technologies.

Trek 12. Yes, along with many other science fiction fans, I have a weakness for stories about time travel. In The Voyage Home, the command rank crew members of the Enterprise travel to 20th century Earth, bringing to the big screen some of the magic that went into the television episode 'Assignment: Earth'.

The Slingshot Effect. Back in 2013, Jill Scharr took on the task of listing the Silliest Time Travel Concepts in science fiction. Star Trek's "slingshot effect" made #7 on her list. Is there a way to salvage this silly plot device with a dose of future science?

For the Exode Trilogy, I've introduced the idea that within the Asimov Reality, humans were provided with "intersplit spacedrive" engines. Those engines secretly contained a supply of sedrons, but no human ever had any idea of the existence of sedrons or their special role in making faster-than-light space travel possible.

in an alternate Reality
Imagine a similar plot device in the Star Trek fictional universe: aliens have made sure that starships with "warp engines" can travel though time. When it suits the needs of those aliens, some spaceship crews are allowed to make a risky journey into the past. All the "slingshot" mumbo-jumbo is just a meaningless "cover story" that helps hide the fact that aliens are in complete control of the hidden devices that make time travel possible.

Trek 13. 'The Man Trap' was one of the Star Trek episodes that I truly despised in my youth. Even when I was ten years old I had an aversion to biologically-implausible plots and rubber alien masks in my science fiction.

Later on I decided that, had I written the story, then the "salt monster" would only have had to seem biologically plausible to a few people in order to facilitate "hitching a ride" on a star ship. Such a "monster" could have been composed of advanced nanites and had no silly biological needs like an unappeasable craving for salt.

The writer of 'The Man Trap', George  Johnson, died in 2015.

in the Ekcolir Reality
Trek 14. 'The Enemy Within' applies the absurd Sci Fi 'mutation' plot device to teleportation. We are asked to believe that due to a freak teleporter malfunction, Captain Kirk is split into two Kirks, one docile and one aggressive.

This would have been a better episode had the "evil Kirk" quickly started using this new teleportation "feature" to make docile replacements for crew members of the Enterprise.

I have fun imagining that the science fiction genre followed a different course in the Ekcolir Reality. In that alternate Reality, multiple copies of yeoman Rand were made by Captain Kirk.

Grace Whitney died in 2015.

Rigel chorus girls
Trek 15. 'Shore Leave' was one of the Star Trek episodes that raised the question: with a galaxy full of various aliens who are much more technologically advanced than humans, why did we have to be subjected to endless wars against Klingons, Romulans and other aliens stuck at our technological level?

Also, according to some, the costumes of the sex kittens in 'Shore Leave' answered the question of what happened to all those tribbles. Sadly, the tribbles episode came a year after 'Shore Leave'.

'Shore Leave' was written by Theodore Sturgeon. {2018: more Sturgeon}

The crafty T'Pring makes
Kirk fight Spock

Trek 16. Sturgeon also wrote 'Amok Time' which gave fans some backstory for First Officer Spock. I never liked how all the clever telepathic Vulcans in this episode failed to notice that Kirk had not actually been killed by Spock. Had Kirk died, there would have been an opportunity to get a new Captain for the Enterprise.

Arlene Martel died in 2014.

a "strange new world" that looks just like a Hollywood set
Trek 17. 'The Return of the Archons' is the first Star Trek episode in which the crew of the Enterprise must apply the Prime Directive. As usual, they find a way to mess with the alien culture of planet "Beta III in the C-111 system".

I disliked this episode as just one among many in which the "aliens" magically looked just like we Earthlings and also conveniently spoke English.

Madlyn Rhue
One of the most annoying things about Star Trek was the seeming amnesia of the producers. All kinds of technologies were introduced and then forgotten about.

Trek 18. In 'Space Seed' we learn that genetic engineering had been used long ago to make some modified humans. I wish that Star Trek had explored the implications of genetic technology in a sensible way, but in Hollywood, genetic engineering was treated as just another way to make an evil bad guy who could be defeated by Kirk in less than one hour. Sadly, Khan would return to haunt later Star Trek movies and television viewers with endless commercials about "rich Corinthian leather".

Ricardo Montalbán died in 2009. Madlyn Rhue died in 2003.

Leonard Nimoy and Jill Ireland
Trek 19. 'This Side of Paradise' is one of the Star Trek episodes that should be recreated as a story about nanotechnology.

As told in the story, the residents of Omicron Ceti III have been infected by "plant spores" and they now live in perfect health, even to the extent of having previously removed body parts (like a vermiform appendix) regrow.

Of course, the crew of the Enterprise just flies away from Omicron Ceti III and humanity never benefits from any of the discoveries made there.

This was one of the many Star Trek episodes with a stupid fist fight scene.

Jill Ireland died in 1990 after a battle with cancer.

Communicating with a Horta
Trek 20. After complaining (above) about all of the aliens in Star Trek who were indistinguishable from Earthlings, I feel obligated to mention 'The Devil in the Dark' and the silicone Horta.

Miners of Earth (click image to enlarge)
I've never found the biology of the Horta to be plausible, particularly the idea of instant creation of tunnels by infinitely potent acid secretions. We can all be thankful that after a mind meld with Spock, the Horta could communicate using English. The Horta was spared from the angry mob of miners and we got a happy ending.

For the Exode Trilogy, I imagine that the pek long ago infested Earth-like planets with zeptites. 'The Devil in the Dark' is another story that could be better re-told with nanotechnology and without the heavy-handed moralizing of Gene Coon.

time portal
Trek 21. I like time travel stories, but 'The City on the Edge of Forever' always annoyed me for both its utter futility and the silly scene at the start with Dr. McCoy giving himself a shot of cordrazine. The humor in this episode almost made up for all the annoyances. {2018: more about this episode}

Joan Collins
This is the episode of Star Trek that inspired my fan fiction suggestion for a new Star Trek television show in 2017: Star Trek: Galactic Core.

Actors on the edge of forever. Harlan Ellison, William Shatner and Joan Collins are all still with us!

Hey, with all the human-alien
sexual contacts in Star Trek,
let's call the new show STD!
Looking back at more Star Trek episodes.

Related: new Star Trek episodes.

Ferengi financing: $20 coins for just $40!
Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #117: You should celebrate the Federation as a vision of the future without capitalism by selling special Star Trek merchandise!

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