Making fun of Star Trek and Star Trekkers is old hat, but if the hat fits, wear it. So I’m donning this tired thinking cap because… I want to.
People have often waxed amusing about some of the less plausible bits of the Star Trek universe. Such as why does every alien race seem to speak English. How can they communicate virtually instantaneously over vast distances and what the heck is sub-space where radios work at a million times the speed of light? Why would a weapon have a setting for overload? What fly-by-night weapon supplier designs these things?
I have a few less scientific questions. Like, why do we know most of the repeating character’s first names (James Kirk, Montgomery Scott, Leonard McCoy, Pavel Chekov) except for Sulu? And how does a Japanese man have the name Sulu to begin with when there is no L or equivalent sound in Japanese?
We don’t know Mr. Spock’s first name either, but that was supposedly because humans couldn’t pronounce it. Fine, but could there even be a half human, half Vulcan Mr. Spock? How could beings from alien worlds be genetically compatible so as to begat children? Seems pretty unlikely. I also wonder, if this is a ship from a united world of tomorrow, where are all the Chinese and Indians since they’re about 1/3 of the world’s population?
Then there’s the weird protocol where you send your captain and his top lieutenants down to strange planets on dangerous missions. What in the other-world are the chief engineer and head surgeon doing in these shore parties? Isn’t that what the expendable members of the crew are for? You know, characters you’ve never seen before who will likely not survive the episode.
What really amuses me, why do the computers of the future smoke and fizzle and explode when they crash? What are the Bill Gates of the next millennium up to that that would happen? Surely Vista will be debugged by then.
Of course the answers to all these questions are obvious. It’s a TV show. You put the main characters in the action whether they belong or not because they wouldn’t be the main characters otherwise. Ridiculous events and situations happen because it’s more dramatic that way. Aliens speak English because the viewing public doesn’t speak Klingon or Vulcan. Communication is instantaneous over many light-years because the show only lasts an hour, minus commercial breaks.
Which isn’t to say these things still aren’t rather absurd. What on TV doesn’t have an element of the absurd? That’s where suspension of disbelief comes in. Without it we couldn’t watch TV and not laugh at the dramas nor laugh at the comedies. TV reality is unreal and real reality rarely makes good TV.
This is how we allow them to time travel and solve problems with totally made-up pseudo-technological gobbledegook. You know, how reversing the phase shift of antimatter flow solves every glitch. This does lead me to one last mystery, where do they get anti-matter for their engines and what does it cost?
© Terry Colon, 2008