Picard Never Took a Text Message: Star Trek, Technology, and the Absence of Social Media in the Future

While Star Trek might have been the inspiration for the cellphone and the iPad and numerous other inventions, there is a noticeable lack of messaging, social media, or even constant chirps on the cells. The lack of computers running scheduling and communication on the Enterprise is interesting to note.

While the first Star Trek communicator, in its ST: TOS format, certainly looked like a cellphone and sort of acted like one–it actually worked like a CB.  Citizen Band Radio was open and easy to use–you picked up a small palm-sized black speaker, pressed a thumb button that turned a microphone on, and spoke the name of your party into it, and they answered back.  “Breaker One Nine, this is Foxtrot.  Are you listening?”  And Foxtrot would answer if he were listening.  On TV, nobody dials a number, nobody speaks into the Star Trek devices in a tone suggesting they are talking to a computer:  “Commander Riker,” Picard says–AS IF speaking TO Commander Riker, not accessing his number.  Even ST:TNG Picard and crew were using little more than CBs on their shirts to communicate with each other.  They would bang their chest, making it chirp, just like you would press the button in on the CB, and then announce who they wanted to talk to.  Officers would look up at the ceiling, as if that was where the sound was coming from, and announce that they were, indeed, coming quickly.  To say that it used name recognition software is ludicrous because no one ever spoke into their communicator like we do into our telephones when the “menu of choices” voice comes on to ask us to specify what we want.

Further, no one used their communicators for much more than a quick call.  They used the interstellar version of SKYPE in all versions of Star Trek.  For short calls they used this CB on their chests.  But the CB didn’t come with any apps, any cool devices, games, nor was there any social media.  People used the device simply.  Except for the Enterprise computer, each technological device seemed to have one simple function.  They had an episode on ST:TNG devoted to computer games–and it was the villain of the story–or at least the addictive brain-altering drug in the hands of villains.  Think about it, though.  No one in the 24th Century had a cellphone that took messages or that vibrated.  No one looked on their phones for scheduling.  (We’ll come back to those iPad things in a moment).  No one got a text message.  Computers did not command the social life of the crew, of any of the crew.  In ALL of its incarnations from 1964 to 2009 there is a HUGE lack of the presence of any social media, any social life that is facilitated by computers.

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Mob Rules and the Art of the Team Movie— a review of X-Men: First Class

I saw X-Men: First Class last night.  It was a good, solid action movie with stunning special effects.  It moves and kept me interested.  It never had me on the edge of my seat.  It’s an origin story– it has to go through certain details to collect them all–but it doesn’t do it very interestingly, in my opinion.  It also has trouble with multiple characters, having a hard time giving them much development.  I thought the original X-Men did a better job at giving each character a moment.  While Wolverine, Rogue, Dr Jean Grey, et al have their moments to shine as characters pre-Xavier, we don’t have that in this movie.  Here, we barely know anything about Banshee, Beast, Raven, Angel, Darwin, Havoc.  They are more about what they can do than who they are–though they hint at something deeper.  In all, it’s a pretty good film, but not an amazing one.  Enjoy it as an action flick.

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Martin Luther King Jr, Nichelle Nichols, and Building a Positive Future Through Fiction, on NPR

Monday, the day the US celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. day, there will be a special segment highlighting MLK’s conversation with Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Lt. Uhura in Star Trek for both the first series and a majority of the movies.  While Trek fans are familiar with the story, most people aren’t aware that Nichols almost left the show after the first season.  She was tired of her very limited role on the series and wanted to return to the musical stage.

King said something very profound to her and I’d like to just comment on it.  When Nichols met King, he told her that he was a fan of the show.  When she said she was thinking about leaving the show, he had this to say:

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Nichols says King told her, was showing the nation a universe where  “‘for the first time, we [African-Americans] are being seen the world over … as we should be seen’.” And ” ‘you have created a character’ ” that is critical to that, he said.

King’s assertion that imagining a future, even in fiction, was powerful enough to create that future is a concept Science Fiction writers need to take to heart. If they see it, they can make it happen.  Yes, we made cell-phones to look like Trek communicators, and named our shuttle after the Enterprise, but more importantly, we modeled peaceful relationships with different races and different nationalities.  We saw Russians, Japanese, Scottish, American midwest, American Southern, Vulcan, and African-American all working together as a team.  King thought that this image of peace was as important as the peace itself–and that an image could lead us there.  It’s natural to imagine dystopia after dystopia, and even, sadly, Star Trek, seems to mess with every Utopia it showcases.  But I think we can imagine a better place, a better us.

Writers have the ability to model the future we want.  While stories must have conflict, we can guide people towards something positive by helping them imagine it.  Blueprinting.  King thought we could too.  And his inspirational talk with Nichols kept her on the show at a time when we needed to see that we could work together.  (I wish someone would design a show with an American and North Korean working side by side.)

You can hear snippets of Nichols’ interview with NPR on their site, and listen in Monday, on the show Tell Me More.  The link has listening times.

When the Pilgrims Met the Borg: Faith, Perfection and the Assimilated Pilgrim

As written by William Bradford, 1620, original pilgrim on the Mayflower, original settler of Plymouth Plantation, after the strange ordeals on the Atlantic Ocean on the way to the New World.  This account is accurate to the best of the ability of the author, William Bradford, and notes the first instance of the Borg in Sector 001.  Though William Bradford is aboard the ship, the reader should note that his record is of the Pilgrims, and notes their struggles, their accomplishments, in a third person, collective account.  

There be no assurances in the ways and means of the Almighty God.  That He is there to keep and to guide, we may be comforted, but that His methods and ways be strange, there be only the righteous account and evidence of the men and the women of the Mayflower on her journey to the New World.

When they left yon Dutch colonies, they were bound in one ship, leaving the leaky Speedwell back in port, combining the crews of the Separatists, God’s chosen, and the non-separatists, also God’s chosen, to help in the design and building and maintaining of the new colony.  There be fifty men and women of God, and fifty merchant adventurers.  It was crowded on the ship, and the seas rose and fell with the mercy of God.  But to the blessings of God they account that none of the hundred pilgrims, for that is what they called themselves, were in pain, or in hunger, or in distress.  All worshipped the Almighty, even as they tumbled and plunged on yon sea.

On the 43rd day of their voyage, the scout above in the mast spotted a floating island, shining in the sun, and this island he claimed was land, and their ship sailed towards it.  The closer they came, the more curious the island became.  It was not land as they knew it, but shined in the sun like gold, and the merchant adventurers were vastly curious of what created composition the Lord had made it.  Others believed, however, that it was a bad sign, a false hope, a distraction from the simple quest of the new colonists, a task given to them in purity and hope and vision.

They did not know that the island was actually another ship, one perhaps capsized by the sea, whose inhabitants the good Lord had proclaimed should drown, for He saves whom He desires to save, and does not save those that are unworthy.  And yet, they sailed closer.  The ship, for now they knew it must be a ship, was twice as large as the Mayflower, capsized in the sea.  Some of the adventurers said it had been forged of strange metal, for the base of the ship, that above the water, was curved like a perfect sphere, and the rods and cross-hatches of the metal formed a metal bowl, with the doors and the windows, and other shadowy recesses.

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Red State America Wants Their Star Trek Series ‘Rough and Tumble’

A recent poll of Red State America, conservatives who either vote GOP or TEA, has confirmed the excitement that producers of the new Star Trek Series, Star Trek: Reckoning, hoped would be there.  The poll also scared the socks off them, one insider says.  The poll–pondering the success of a Star Trek run by conservatives, with the real, honest to gosh, Sarah Palin playing Captain Nalia Fergus of the USS Steadfast–garnered a stunning 76% of TV viewers.  These are viewers who may not have ever watched a Star Trek Series in their lives—they wouldn’t know a Klingon from a Ferengi, but they know Sarah Palin and they remember Captain Kirk.  And somewhere that all makes sense with them.

Shawn Gust, The Coeur d'Alene Press/APRarely have TV shows done polls before they even start filming the series, but producers of ST: RECK, as it’s being called, wanted to be sure where they were going.  “We didn’t want to wait for a Nielsen Rating confirmation.  We needed to know who was out there.”  Understand, they only polled Conservatives.  All us liberal, compassionate Democrats have not been polled.  They’re assuming that any Star Trek series will be embraced by the fans.  (So soon forgetting Enterprise?)

Our insider, though, has gone on to reveal to us what else the Poll says–and this is what scared producers:   Those conservatives polled wanted to dismantle the Exploration side of the Federation, get rid of the Prime Directive, and see a healthier number of “Americans” on board the ships.  Follow up questions revealed that by “Americans,” conservatives meant “white people”.  Most didn’t know that Sisko or Uhura or Tuvok were black, or that Sulu or Kim were Asian.  When told, many reported that “those people” could stay, but new ships should reflect more of a “middle America” profile.  

“They definitely wanted us to put Montana in space…,” said one of the writers.  

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Is Star Trek Reckoning Real?

This question “Is Star Trek Reckoning Real?” was googled by someone and led to my website.   There’s really another question that’s implicit, I think and that is “Would the Creators Really Want to Screw Up Star Trek by letting Conservatives wreak havoc in the Star Trek Universe?”  

Yes.

We love it when our favorite stories take a turn for the worse–where our complacency is shaken, our values are threatened, adversity gets the upper hand, only to show us how much we truly have taken things for granted.  

Fiction is all about making it bad for your heroes.  And making them fight hard–because it gives us strength to fight hard.

We need to see a few seasons where the “good” of Star Trek has to fight to regain balance.  The Federation has gotten the upper hand.  Chances with Enterprise were lost to play with a universe without the Federation.  Oh, in Star Trek series, we had a few episodes from the Mirror Universe, but even that slowly spoiled because each episode in the  Mirror Universe actually redeemed a character or two who were going to be pivotal in turning the “dark” parts–the disorder– to order once again.  And then the mirror universe would be just like us…ho hum.  What if we lingered in that disorder?  This is what Reckoning explores.

Oh there have been times when good guys rebel against the Federation.  Why is it that the “good” Star Trek characters sneak around and are able to commandeer vessels (Kirk, Scotty, Picard), disobey orders (everyone), grab things they aren’t supposed to have (Chakotay, Riker, Janeway) and go off and do something illegal for a greater good (which no one in the Federation knows about)?  Why is Starfleet so easy to outwit?

The “order” in Star Trek relies on the shared concept of the “honor system”— but when good characters want to steal things, disobey, etc. they seem to be able to do it because no one in Star Trek is ready for that.  And secondly, because the plot calls for it.  We need Janeway to steal the time machine doo-hickey, or Kirk to steal the Enterprise….  because otherwise we don’t have an episode.  

Fergus, the D’Mi, the whole grouping of conservative captains who no longer have faith in the Federation’s president–who see themselves as vigilantes, or martyrs, or heroes—determined to save the Universe, or their values, at any cost— these people are interesting.  Villains are far more interesting, at times, than heroes who can be painted too “good.”   Next Generation characters weren’t very complex, or if they were unstable, they were restored by episode’s end (except DS9–which was by far the riskiest ST)  Star Trek hit the reset button every episode (or at the very least, at the end of every two -parter).  Star Trek, by JJ Abrams, did us a favor and did not hit the reset button, thank God.  

Now we have a series that shows that the “values” of Star Trek can be hijacked by well-meaning people who believe they are on a mission.  I think this is a logical next step for Star Trek.  Reckoning will show how easy it is to believe what you have been told, it would give a believable “other side” to all the issues.  Instead of showing us what is right by demonstration— it would show us what is right by having to fight for it, and failing.  

Captains modeled on Palin, Gingrich, Limbaugh, Beck would be interesting–if only to see what they would do with something like the Federation.  How would they operate within it?  When would they dismantle it?  When would they circumvent it?  Would the Federation be able to squelch them?  The Maquis was a great subplot, and I wish they had done more there… certainly Tom Riker (one of my favorite characters) would have been interesting to follow.  But the Maquis had one goal–not a whole different ideology.  I want to see that people in the Federation don’t all think alike….  they don’t all get along.  

Think of what happened to the West Wing when the Republicans got in power….  

So, creators of Star Trek, when will we have a Reckoning?  When will we see what we loved threatened? Will you create people who will fight to re-balance it?  In the same vein as BSG—a show that allowed characters to be less than perfect, and which allowed the bad guys to have the upper hand–can you show us a universe where it will take us seven seasons to get it back on track again?  

Please, finally, let the Dragon out and let us see what the Federation will do!  🙂

Is Star Trek Reckoning for real or not?  Confirm this series.

Palin Loves (to shoot) Mama Grizzlies, and Star Trek Parallels

Writers are scrambling to capture and transform opportunities as they arise for developing Sarah Palin’s Star Trek role.  She provides them every day with new fodder and storylines that enhance a brilliantly conceived new series, and new direction, for the Star Trek franchise.  

Because of my writer contacts with the new series, I get leaks now and again and this is straight from the writer’s War Room (as they call it).  The first scripts for Star Trek: Reckoning, the new Star Trek series coming from Fox/Paramount this Fall, feature Captain Nalia Fergus (Sarah Palin) of the USS Steadfast, and a CGI-created polar bear first officer, Commander Nuuk.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous blogpost, the polar bear doesn’t realize that Fergus used to hunt bears like him for sport.  

I’m not allowed to put any of the script online for copyright reasons, but the episode entitled “Ain’t No Love for Mama Grizzlies” has the Steadfast‘s Captain and First Officer in a holodeck hunt of each other, and both of them have guns!  I kid you not.  

Here’s the breakdown.  Fergus, in a bid to coerce women of the Federation to rise up and reject the Betazed President of the Federation, and his stubbornly peaceful policies, has issued a statement, using the image of her first officer, Nuuk, as an example of the kind of “bear” she is, the kind of “mama grizzly” she believes all conservative women are.  

When Nuuk receives a message from enemies of Fergus–pictures of her with the skins of bears, hunting bears, when the facts start rolling in about how she really feels about bears–the Truth about Fergus’ relationship to Grizzlies, bears and other wildlife: she’d originally been part of a group that wanted to offer hunts, and drill for oil, on Nuuk’s own planet–for her own profit!–completely against the Federation’s Planetary Protection Act on Class L planet, Arctos 3– well, let’s say he’s not pleased.  The fact that she’s using his image–an image she’d thought of more as throw rug than sentience–to promote her cause (even if it is to protect the Federation from the Reckoning) is more than he can handle, and he lures her to the Holodeck for a showdown.  

Well, you can’t shoot your captain, and you can’t shoot your first officer— just not in the Star Trek rulebook.  What Fergus doesn’t know is that Nuuk has sympathetic friends in Starfleet, and the episode hints that he may even be a counterspy on the Steadfast, working for the Federation to keep an eye on Fergus.  While he distracts Fergus on the “hunt,” information about Fergus’ real feelings and real decisions about conservative women get sent to Federation media outlets.  

Her record on supporting women before she needed them to topple the President, pretty shabby,  and those she supported didn’t support women any better,   and finally, as the truth comes out about Nalia Fergus, then some of the strongest women of the Federation start speaking out against her.  It’s really shocking how pliant, gullible and weak she thinks women are.  That if she just projects an image of women rising up and supporting her–because she called out their name and flattered them–that they will create that uprising themselves, and forget all the ways she’s actually denigrated women.  (I’m really hoping that they bring back Captain Janeway to speak for Emily’s List–now there was a great female captain!)

This all happens during the Holodeck hunt–to keep Fergus from defending herself and allow the word to get out.  Unfortunately, giving away the ending of the episode–SPOILER–Nuuk is tranquilized, and put in the brig for several episodes.  But, this episode ends with the truth coming out, at least in a small way about Nalia Fergus and her movement.  Writers tell me this is episode 4 or 5 of the series.  

What I find so fascinating about Fergus’ character is her distorted belief in herself as saviour–and yet, I can’t help but believe that there’s a grab for power in there somewhere too.  That it’s very little about saving the Federation, and more about using the Reckoning–this dream of disaster–as a way to wrench power and control away from the Federation through fear.  Such a master at projection, Nalia Fergus may actually bring on the very Reckoning she claims to be saving the Federation from.  

Writers praise Palin:  “As a writer on the show, I can’t say how much I’m thankful for Sarah Palin’s assistance in helping us flesh out this character.  Every day, we’re all watching her Twitter, and reading every statement she puts out.  We sit around the War Room and translate that–nearly verbatim–into a Star Trek episode.  She’s a gift to the series.”  

I find this show completely fascinating—and it hasn’t even been broadcast!   Who’da thought that a conservative take on Star Trek would provide so many compelling storylines?  

— on a different note, the start date for the series has been moved back to October because of Sarah Palin speaking engagements piling up this summer.  She’s still filming when she can, I’ve heard, but she’s a woman on the move, a “pink elephant” parading* across the stages she’s set in America, and the Series just has to wait her out.  

Oddly, Palin’s conjuring up women as “pink elephants” refers back to the drunken stupor that Dumbo experiences in the Disney movie, “Dumbo”–is she saying that women marching on Washington is an alcohol-induced halucination?   Hmmm.  Well, in honor of Palin’s reference to “pink elephants”  I give you the original song that was, frankly, frightening for kids back when Dumbo showed in theatres.  

As previously noted, this is a parody.