My Favorite Science Screw-ups In The Star Trek Universe

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Misc - Sunday, May 17th, 2009

With the new 2009 Star Trek movie out, science fiction geeks the world over can once again begin their ritual of dissecting, analyzing, and arguing about Star Trek. And, wow, has it really been eleven movies already? How hip! So here’s my favorite “WTF?” moments which I experience whenever I ponder my favorite show about wearing tight uniforms to trespass all over the galaxy:

Spocks Parents

Mr. Spock: Besides the anomalies like how he always has to stand up and peer into a garbage chute, there’s the mere existence of the pointy-eared one himself. He’s a half-human, half-Vulcan. As Clifford A. Pickover, my favorite mad scientist, points out in this article on the unrealistic science in SF, it shouldn’t be possible for an alien from another planet to impregnate a human. Think how difficult it is to get two Earthling species to cross-breed, even two species of ape.

While we’re discussing the problems of breeding aliens and humans, I’d better link Larry Niven’s “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” before somebody else does. There.

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<p><b>Their computers suck:</b> The Holodeck can generate any fantasy world you want, but you still have to dress up in costumes and carry props. Every time an alien intelligence takes over the computer, they’re screwed again because they don’t have a backup. Some computers can accept voice commands, but the bridge still has to steer the ship with big terminals and chunky buttons like a McDonald’s register. Any alien evil computer can be made to commit suicide by telling it to compute the square root of two to the last decimal place; apparently buffer overflow protection is beyond them. Data apparently has his own Wikipedia and Google in his head, but when they open him up it’s all flashing diodes in there like he was a 1960s mainframe. And so on.</p>
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The Federation is an unsustainable mess. It has no money, it’s staffed by volunteers, and yet it has a military capable of defeating any menace and is present throughout the galaxy. They also have their own exploratory fleet, of course. Oh, and it’s officially an “interplanetary federal republic”. And if you need anything, you don’t have to earn it, just punch your order into the nearest replicator and it magically appears. Now somehow, everybody in this universe has a job and shows up at work every day, instead of, say, getting it on with supermodels in the holodeck. The Federation is a Utopian dream outside the wildest fantasies of the most idealistic extremes of any philosophy known to political science.

Borg are Zergling

The Borg are just Zerglings with better graphics. And I don’t even mean that they’re Zerg. The whole Zerg race from Starcraft actually has the sense to at least assimilate different kinds of life forms for every task. The Borg could pick anything from an elephant to a jellyfish to assimilate, just on Earth alone. Or even salt vampires or Gorns or Klingons or Hortas or any of the other bigger, tougher sentient beings in the Star Trek universe. But no, they’ll just stick with boring old humans, thank you very much. After all, they’re only going to launch them in attack waves of thousands of units just to watch them all die like flies anyway.

transporter malfunctions again

Wonky Technology Don’t you love how everything works, until the plot calls for it to fail? We have communicators, but whoops, too much static in this area. We have phasers, but whoops, they don’t work on this particular strain of protein. We have transporters, but dammit, they just aren’t working today because the Big Swirly Energy Thing In Space is making them fail. We have shields, but they got hit so now we don’t. We have warp engines, but gosh darnit, we’re out of gas, and we can’t replicate more diluthium crystals with the replicator because, well, heck, we didn’t think of it. Of course, the solution to everything is to either increase the power or reverse the polarity. Naturally.


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