Monday, October 10, 2011

Voyage begins

So maybe I'll restart this blog with an ending.

Sarah and I finished watching Star Trek: Voyager a couple nights ago. It didn't catch my interest while it was on. I distinctly remember my college roommate Rob watching, I think it was the black-and-white pulp episode.

Like all the Star Treks it had highs and lows. There were truly sublime episodes, like the one where two people are fused into one joint body and personality by a transporter accident, or the one where the crew go to work on a factory planet, or the one with the perfect prison, or the one where the crew is observed by aliens through the eyes of the doctor. And there were truly stupid ones, like the one with the big ball of water, or the space race, or the one with the self-aware ship. I actually called the entire plot of that last one from the cold open, you have to admit it's completely predictable.

I just noticed a pattern here. I loved all the doctor episodes (and more) and hated all the Tom Paris episodes. Similarly, loved Seven and Janeway episodes, hated B'Elanna and Chakotay episodes. Tuvok, Neelix, and Kim were somewhat hit or miss.

It was Star Trek, so there were Borg episodes and Q episodes and special appearances by the crew of the Next Generation and lots and lots of time traveling. And the techno-jargon got to me this time. I can't remember how many times I guffawed at officers solving problems by "trying a recursive algorithm". (For non-computer-scientists, this is a very fundamental way to write extremely simple functions.) There was a lot of reversing of shield polarity, subspace and gravimetric distortions, tachyons, and warp signatures. I even found a website that generates the babble.

I would up or down episodes early, and almost always be right. This annoyed Sarah immensely.

I had so many problems with the technologies the crew did and didn't have that I made it a personal snowclone: "They don't have X in the 24th century?" And tried to work it into every episode. It wasn't hard: body armor, personal shields, independent power sources, file permissions (there's one episode where Tom Paris rewrites a holo-novel written by the doctor without authorization), backups, lifestreaming, surveillance systems. These simple technologies, presumably ubiquitous, would have broken entire episodes.

Sarah's (or my) personal favorite was an episode where the ship shut down the warp core and main power and wandered around with flashlights stuck to their hands. So I said, "They don't have glowing glow globes in the 24th century?" Everybody knows, of course, that a glowing glow globe is a ball that floats in the middle of a room and sheds light on all angles. It has an independent power source and can float and glow for a long time. But I think all Sarah really heard was that I had said three different consecutive words that all start with 'glo'.

Despite these disadvantages (or lovable hangups), every two or three episodes one would come along that blew your socks off. And that's what Star Trek's really always been about.

At its warm heart, the show was about adrift people trying to get home, and their personal voyages of self-discovery and growth. It worked on that deep level for me most of the time. Sarah and I miss it already.

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