Monday, October 26th, 2020

There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where everybody on the Enterprise disappears by ones and twos at first, then dozens and hundreds at a time, until only Doctor Crusher is left. She tries to get Jean-Luc, Will Riker and the rest to help her figure out what’s happening, and they do, at first, but they all have a look in their eye like they think she’s cuckoo bananapants.

Turns out she’s trapped in a warp bubble her son Wesley made accidentally while she was visiting him in the engine room. Wesley was tweaking the warp engines “to increase their efficiency” when there was a flash of light and the warp bubble collapsed. 

“What was that?” Wesley asks Geordi, the chief engineer. “That shouldn’t have happened.” Georgi and Wesley share concerned looks, but the Captain is in a hurry to leave space dock, so they shrug it off. Then Wesley looks around for his mom, who was standing RIGHT THERE a few seconds ago. He has a puzzled look on his face. He wanders away down the corridor, puzzled. It’s puzzling. 

I still love Star Trek TNG, but it will never not bug me that Wesley and Geordi and Doctor Crusher shrug their shoulders when weird shit happens even though every single episode is not only about weird shit happening to them but IT IS ALWAYS SIGNIFICANT. They’ve been tootling around in outer space for years! I would expect them to know better than to shrug it off.

But no. Even thought Geordi and Wesley are totally weirded out by the flash of light, and even though Wesley is clearly concerned that his mother has disappeared, they both still shrug their shoulders and pretend everything’s normal. My warp bubble went poof and my mom disappeared! Oh well, the captain says it’s time to pull out of space dock. Let’s not tell him some weird shit just went down. 

Sorry, I’m being way too hard on them. They must’ve gone to the captain eventually because in Act Three Wesley and Geordi are back in the engine room creating a warp bubble meant to suck Doctor Crusher out of her warp bubble like a Hoover vacuum cleaner, but they can’t quite make it work. But props to them for trying.

Meanwhile, Doctor Crusher has not only figured out she’s in a warp bubble but also that the warp bubble is collapsing and chewing off parts of the Enterprise in the process, so she’s got to get out of it ASAP. She doesn’t know how to do that, maybe because that’s not something they teach in medical school, but she does manage to figure out that Wesley and Geordi are trying to get her out, and she runs down to the engine room and literally dives through the portal into reality at the last possible moment before her warp bubble collapses on her, because nobody in Star Trek ever gets anything done until they’re literally on their last breath.  

It’s not one of my favorite episodes for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s an episode that  seems to exist only so they can re-introduce a character known mysteriously as The Traveler, an alien of unknown origin who bebops around the universe using the power of his mind. The Traveler tells Wesley in this episode he can do this, too. Wesley doesn’t have much to say about this news which, to be fair, is not a completely unrealistic reaction, given that it’s a lot to process. The Captain, Doctor Crusher, and Geordi likewise seem underwhelmed. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WESLEY HAS A SUPER-POWER! WHY IS EVERYONE YAWNING? 

Another thing I don’t like about this episode is the way everybody treats Doctor Crusher. They search the Enterprise with all due urgency after she reports the first missing person, but they seem to be humoring her while they’re doing it, and each time she reports more missing people they get progressively more annoyed by her. I hate to sound like a stuck record, but this is a crew which has seen some of the weirdest shit the galaxy can throw at them but, for some reason, they believe her less and less as the episode plays out, instead of more and more. In the end they’re rolling their eyes and sighing every so tiredly when she shows up to report more missing people. 

(This is even more bizarre after The Traveler explains that Doctor Crusher’s alternate reality in the warp bubble is a product of her own thoughts. If that’s true, why does everybody disbelieve her? She doesn’t exactly have any confidence issues when it comes to her standing among the crew. They should all be as driven to figure out what’s going on as she is.) 

And finally, in the opening scene when Wesley is creating the warp bubble that will flash his mom into non-existence, Geordi enters the engine room and barks at him, “Wes, your time for the experiment is over! I want my warp engine back now!” Wes answers, “Almost done, commander,” to which Geordi responds, “Almost isn’t good enough! Do you want to be the one to explain to the captain when he says engage and we just sit here?”

Why is Geordi being such a hardass? If Wesley took the warp engines off-line, I’m pretty sure he had to get the captain’s permission to do it. You don’t just waltz into the engine room and announce, “I’ve got some experiments to run and oh I’ll have to disconnect the main source of propulsion.” (Not to mention power for life support, lights and everything else.) 

I’m also pretty sure that Wesley wasn’t given carte blanche when it came to how much time he got for his experiment. You think the captain said, “Oh, I don’t want to put you under any unnecessary pressure. Just let us know when your experiment’s done. I’ve got all day.” I kind of doubt it went down like that. The only way the captain would’ve let Wesley take the engines off-line was if Wesley was duty-bound to have them back on-line at a certain time. 

And hey Geordi, Wesley works on the bridge, right under the captain’s nose! He’s well aware he’ll wind up in a great big hurt locker if his experiment runs over time and the engines go *fart noise* when the helmsman hits the gas. So lighten up, why don’t you? 

Before wrapping this up, there were these two weird glitches in continuity that nagged at me: 

Doctor Crusher goes to the transporter room to meet her friend. He beams aboard. In the very next scene, dozens of people are walking across a gangway to board the Enterprise. That seems, well, weird. 

In the final act Doctor Crusher is on the bridge, watching a display that shows the warp bubble tearing off chunks of the Enterprise as it collapses. The edge of the warp bubble quickly gobbles up half of the saucer section right before her eyes, including the front of the bridge. Yet somehow she has time to say a few more lines before leaving the bridge, and not in much of a hurry. 

STTNG rewatch – Remember Me | 5:27 pm CST
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Friday, October 2nd, 2020

“Welcome to Star Fleet!”

“Thanks! I’m really looking forward to boldly going to strange, new worlds and doing lots of science and adventure!”

“You’ll have to wear a uniform.”

“I’m okay with that.”

“Here you go!”

“Where’s the rest of it?”

“What do you mean? That’s it.”

“This is a cocktail dress.”

“That’s the official Star Fleet uniform for women.”

“A cocktail dress?”

“It’s a combination tunic and skirt.”

“This isn’t a skirt, it’s a hand towel.”

“That’s why it comes with a pair of hot pants.”

“So my butt’s not popping out all the time?”

“Exactly!”

“And what do the men wear?”

“Trousers and a pullover.”

“Why not a toga?”

“That wouldn’t be very practical, would it?”

“A cocktail dress is practical?”

“It’s easy to wear. Understated. It doesn’t take up a lot of room in your wardrobe.”

“You’re not selling this as well as you think you are.”

“Look, do you want to be in Star Fleet or don’t you?”

“Fine, whatever. Does it at least come with a wrap or a stole or something to keep me warm?”

“Sorry, no. The captain likes to keep it simple.”

“Wait, which captain? Does this have anything to do with Kirk?”

“As a matter of fact, it does. One of his yeomen came up with it.”

“Well that just figures.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s kind of an open secret that Captain Behind-Pincher is one of the grabbiest officers in Star Fleet.”

“I don’t think there’s any cause for that kind of talk.”

“Sure you don’t. The horniest captain in Star Fleet isn’t making eye tracks all over your butt.”

short skirt long racket | 7:02 pm CST
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Saturday, October 20th, 2018

One of my favorite ways to wind down at the end of the day is to watch YouTube videos of Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert’s The Tonight Show, and Seth Meyers’s The Late Show. All the shows post highlights of the previous night’s show the next day, so I can catch up on all three in about an hour; longer, if they have a guest interview I’m interested in (normally, I’m not).

Although our flat-screen TV is supposed to be a “smart TV,” it’s pretty stupid until it logs in to our home wifi network, which normally takes a couple minutes. While it’s doing that, I surf the broadcast television channels to see what’s on. It’s almost all pretty bad reruns of the crappy TV I used to watch as a kid, including the original Star Trek television show with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and the rest of the crew. Over a 3-year period they made 79 episodes of this show, and I’ve seen each and every one of them so many times that I usually know which one I’m watching within seconds of changing the channel, no matter which scene is playing.

The other night the scene was Kirk and his crew on the bridge, but Kirk was the only one moving; everybody else was still as a statue. Ah-hah! This is the episode (“Wink Of An Eye”) where the Enterprise responds to a distress call from the Scalosians, a race of beings who move so fast they cannot be perceived by the human eye! Which is kind of a cool premise, if you don’t think about it too much. I mean, even if they can move as fast as a bullet, they spend a lot of their time in this episode just standing around talking. So even though they can move too fast to be seen, you’d think someone would notice them when they stand still.

At one point, though, the pretty girl (there’s always a pretty girl, because Kirk) steps out of the way of a phaser beam, which crawls through the air at sloth-like speed. It gives her a really awesome-looking superpower but it means she can move faster than light, assuming phaser beams move at the speed of light. (I have no clue what a “phaser” is, but it rhymes with “laser” so I think we all assumed the pretty glowing beams from phasers were moving at the speed of light, didn’t we?) If these beings are moving faster than the speed of light, or even if they move at the speed of light, then how do they talk to one another? Sound moves at a pretty slow speed, a lot slower than light, slower than a bullet, even. If one of them said something to another one of them, it would take ages for the sound to move from the talker to the listener. And yet they yak yak yak at each other without having to wait around for the sound to move between them, somehow.

The pretty girl, called Deela, takes Kirk prisoner by slipping a mickey into his coffee that alters his metabolism, making him move as fast as her. They smooch a couple times right there on the bridge in front of everybody (because Kirk), there’s some yadda yadda yadda from the pretty girl to explain what’s going on, and finally Kirk storms off to see what he can to to fight back against these invaders from outer space. My question: How the hell does Kirk get off the bridge? The only door opens to the elevator, which they call a “turbolift” because, I guess, it moves pretty fast, but not as fast as a bullet, so not nearly fast enough to get Kirk (or Deela, for that matter) off the bridge before he croaks from old age. He must have used the secret back stairway that’s never been shown in any episode before.

Kirk confronts the other super-fast beings, they fight (because Kirk), there’s some more yadda yadda to explain what’s going on, and then Kirk and Deela do it. You never see them do it, thank goodness, you only see them smooching just before, then they cut away to another scene, and when they cut back, Kirk is pulling on his boots and Deela is fixing her hair. And I’m sorry to put this image in your head, but if they’re moving faster than bullets, how do they not suffer deadly blistering from the friction of rubbing against one another? Their heads should be literally bursting into flame just from the smooching. Well, they should all be literally incinerated just by walking through the air. They would be like meteors streaking through the atmosphere. One step forward at that speed and POOF! They would never get close enough to smooch.

There’s a lot more that’s wrong with this episode, but I’ve already written way too much about it. It’s just Star Trek, after all. You’re supposed to just sit back and enjoy it. But damn.

fast forward | 2:39 pm CST
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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Have you heard of this sequester thingy they’re doing in Washington DC? It’s basically like the time that Jim, Spock, Scotty and Bones threatened to destroy the Enterprise when a couple of bad guys wanted to take it over. Each one of them had to tell the computer, very slowly and deliberately, not to mention boringly, to blow up the ship by reciting their names, birth dates, serial numbers, and secret identity codes. Very. Very. Oh. So. Very. Slowly. And the bad guys just stand there and let them do it. If they’d have punched Scotty in the throat, he wouldn’t have been able to tell the computer his secret code and Kirk wouldn’t have been able to pretend he wanted to blow up the Enterprise. Even weirder, one of the bad guys (Frank Gorshin, it turned out) could shoot hot blue electric lightning from his fingertips, which he used later to fry the computer so Kirky and the boys couldn’t do that self-destruct thing any more. I’ll bet there are more than a few Republicans and Democrats who wish they had that superpower.

Or better yet, Frank Gorshin himself could walk through the halls of congress zapping senators and representatives right out of their socks with hot blue electric lightning bolts until they stop trying to make the government self-destruct and get back to work. That would be awesome!

gorshin | 6:03 am CST
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Saturday, October 27th, 2012

image of balokThe Corbomite Maneuver is one of those Star Trek episodes that I thought was the absolute cat’s ass when I saw it back in high school, but when I watch it now it’s so full of cornball I can hardly see anything else going on.

It starts off with a mystery: A giant multicolored cube blocks the path of the Enterprise as the crew ventures far out into an unexplored part of the galaxy. Blocks their path. I love that. Hey guys, you’re in space! You can move in other directions!

Well, to give them credit, they try to duck around one side of the cube, but it gets in their way again, so they stop, scratch their heads. Spock is in command. He does the only logical thing: He calls Kirk and tells him there’s a big cube blocking their way and he can’t figure out how to get around it. This does not make Spock look like the big-brained alien he’s supposed to be.

Kirk’s going to figure this out. Nothing stops him. He’s brash, he takes chances. He … just sits there, brooding at the cube. They puzzle over it for a long time. “Sensors show it is solid, but its composition is unknown to us,” Spock tells Kirk, and then, barely thirty seconds later, Sulu says its mass is “a little under eleven thousand metric tons.” Kirk turns to Spock and says, “Hey, Spock, Sulu seems to know what the cube’s made of. Maybe you should’ve asked him.” No, he doesn’t, but he should have.

They puzzle and puzz till their puzzlers are sore. “We’ve been held here, motionless, for eighteen hours,” Kirk tells his captain’s log. Eighteen hours? Really? You sat there for eighteen hours, shrugging your shoulders and saying to each other, “I dunno, whadda you wanna do?”

Finally, Kirk has a brainstorm: They’ll move away from the cube. Oh yeah, that’s a bold move! Took you only eighteen hours to come up with that? No wonder they gave you the keys to a starship.

They start to move away, but the cube follows them and starts to fry them with radiation. Kirk tells Sulu to throw the engines into high gear. Even at warp speed, the cube not only keeps on coming, it’s getting closer now. Spock tells them the radiation has passed lethal levels, but for some reason they don’t die. I think maybe Spock’s sensors need a little tune-up, don’t you?

Finally, they do what they always do: Fire phasers. It happens almost every episode: Kirk, standing on the bridge in front of the view screen, tells the aliens, “We come in peace,” and then, sometimes in the very next sentence, he turns to Sulu and says, “Fire phasers.” I love that trigger-happy guy.

So, just to recap: A giant cube stopped them, followed them, tried to turn them all into crispy critters. They blew it to pieces. They don’t know what the cube was supposed to be doing out there, and it’s entirely possible there’s another cube, or maybe even dozens of cubes, hanging around the neighborhood, maybe heading their way. What would you do in this situation?

Wait, what I meant to ask is: What would you do if you were Kirk? Well, sit and wait for another cube to show up. Of course.

And something else does show up, but it’s not a cube, it’s a sphere. A giant, glowing ball. The props department must’ve been on vacation that week, leaving the lighting department to design and build the alien space ships. “Well, I’ve got these Japanese lanterns.” “Okay, that’ll have to do.”

The aliens on the giant glowing ball menace the Enterprise crew: “You will be destroyed!” Kirk does the “We come in peace” speech but never gets around to “Fire phasers” because the aliens turn off everything but the lights on the Enterprise and start dragging them to their galactic impound lot. It’s game over for the Enterprise.

But Kirk has an ace up his gold-trimmed sleeve! Suavely stroking his chin, Kirk tells the aliens, “Y’know, before you attempt to destroy us, I’m obligated as a gentleman to tell you about the doomsday device on our ship. It’s made of, ah, corbomite! Yeah, corbomite! That’s the stuff! And you don’t know about it because we deleted every mention of it in our computer’s memory banks! (Remember when computers had “memory banks?”) Yeah! So, go ahead and destroy us if you want to, but you’ll be sorry!”

No, really. That’s what he does. Watch the show if you don’t believe me.

Eventually Kirk makes friends with the alien, who turns out to be Ron Howard’s brother, Clint, in a satin christening gown. I’m still not making this up. Clint plays Balok, who scares the Enterprise crew speechless when he uses a foam-rubber head on a stick to stand in for him because he guesses, correctly, that they would not have been scared by a baby in a christening gown. Why they were scared by the least-convincing foam-rubber head ever created is a question left unanswered.

corbomite | 9:37 am CST
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Thursday, October 25th, 2012

If you can hear a whole brass section going DUNNNH DUH-DUH-DUH-DUNNNH! as you gaze at this cinegraph, you must have wasted at least as much of your youth watching Star Trek as I did.

music to my ears | 6:33 pm CST
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Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

When the Dane County Farmer’s Market is on capitol square during the summer, every street is lined with stalls where the farmers sell their wares, but every corner is crowded with folding tables where everybody with a petition or an opinion is making their pitch.

This year there’s a new table on the corner at King Street where a devotee of Ayn Rand doggedly makes his case under the hand-lettered sign, “Who is John Galt?” The question I’m dying to ask this guy is, What makes you any different from, say, a guy in a Star Trek uniform touting the genius of Gene Roddenberry, or anybody else who models his whole freaking life on a work of fiction?

fiction | 12:56 pm CST
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