Mar 29, 2020

Star Trek: Picard

A crappy plot:
"Let's shit on Data!"
My first question about Star Trek: Picard was to ask if the show would feature any interesting aliens. I soon learned that Picard is NOT really a star trek in the sense that I was hoping for: an adventure in space, going where we have never been before. There are recycled Borg and Romulans and some spaceships, but as far as I can tell, the entire season's story arc could just as easily have all taken place in a CBS studio. Yawn.

Minding my Ps and Qs
PDQ.   Star Trek fans recognize the scene to the left on this page. The first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was when I learned to dislike Captain Picard. The bloated "Encounter at Farpoint" provided plenty of opportunity for J-L Picard to give pompous speeches. Make it so Please say it ain't so. engage Disengage.

Danger: Thin Plot         90% of everything is crap.
Wishing that an interesting alien might
show up and save this steaming pile. 💩
I only watched the season finale of Picard. While trying to ignore the silly swords, I had time to wonder what I had missed in the first 9 episodes of the season. Watching episode 10, I was bored and waiting impatiently for something to happen. I was surprised to learn later that episode 10 was supposedly the second half of a two part episode. 🤷

Mind Transfer
We learn that technology exists to transfer a mind into a computerized virtual reality or into a synthetic body. This could have made for an interesting half-hour Twilight Zone episode, but right before the "thrilling" conclusion, they stuck in one last pompous J-L speech. Ew.

Captain's Privy
The "science" of Star Trek: no matter how advanced
future medical science might be, Hollywood
script writers can always find a lethal
disease to fill a plot hole.
When Picard died, it was easy to predict that he would be re-instantiated in an artificial body. In a disgusting example of class privilege (in Roddenberry's supposedly post-scarcity & classless future) Picard got a second life while poor Data simply got erased. Sucks to be Data. 🙁

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Mar 22, 2020

The Death of Nirutam

Dead alien
by Robert Hack
When H. G. Wells needed to kill off his alien invaders in The War of The Worlds he made use of Earthly microbes. We have to ask: should we really expect microbes from Earth to cause problems for aliens from another planet? I doubt if Wells gave any thought to alien biochemistry.

Fifty years later, Isaac Asimov imagined another way to infect aliens. Asimov actually knew some biochemistry. In Asimov's story "Hostess", he described his aliens as being constructed from the same sorts of molecules as we humans, in particular, Asimov's aliens had proteins that were coded for by nucleic acid sequences. Asimov's method for killing aliens was a type of "chromosomal parasite" that in retrospect sounds a lot like a retrovirus.

Killing an alien.
"Hostess" interior art
by Edmund Emshwiller
Killing Nirutam
In the case of Nirutam, I imagine an alien that is quite similar to we humans, but with a few chemical differences. Due to a slightly different genetic code, Nirutam's cells are not able to become factories for producing Earthly viruses.

In the Ekcolir Reality
Original cover art by Frank Freas.
Let's assume that Nirutam cannot be killed by Earthly microbes. Also, this works in reverse; any viruses carried by Nirutam cannot harm Earthly life forms.

However, by the time when the Editor discovers a good reason to kill Nirutam, his alien guest is already quite ill and the Editor has been trying for a few months to find a way to keep Nirutam alive. Suddenly, for reasons described in a previous blog post, the Editor decides to kill Nirutam.

Since Nirutam needs a few special molecules that cannot be supplied by Earthly food, she routinely takes chemical supplements. This might provide the Editor with an opportunity to poison Nirutam. All he needs to do is adulterate Nirutam's nutrient supplement with a poison. However, I'm not skilled at killing characters.

In the Ekcolir Reality.
Original cover art by
Harold McCauley and
John Howitt.
Jack Vance seemed to have little difficulty eliminating characters from his novels and on some occasions he used poison to eliminate a villain. Vance even imagined a world (the planet Sarkovy) where an entire culture has grown up around the manufacture of deadly poisons. Kirth Gersen kills one of his adversaries with Cluthe. Cluthe causes a slow, agonizing death. When the Editor decides to Kill Nirutam, he wants death to be quick and painless.

2,4-DNP structure
I'm going to assume that Nirutam's metabolism makes use of proton gradients, as do our own mitochondria and therefor she can be killed by 2,4-dinitrophenol. Death by DNP poisoning with low doses sounds rather gruesome, so I'm going to pretend that Nirutam is given a large dose that quickly induces coma and death.

Next: Star Trek: Picard
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