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Old April 6 2008, 12:23 AM   #8
Chief of Staff, Starfleet Command
Re: Who Watches the Watchers?

I always found it tough to consider this kind of episode good science fiction, and by "this kind of episode" I mean adventures in which Our Heroes pass for aliens by putting on some makeup.

The conceit of the Universal Translator is pretty thin but necessary, and Trek already depends on it for a lot. I can accept that it works when both parties are wearing interfacing devices or have implants in their ears or something, and if computers have communicated beforehand in mathematical code and sent one another full indices of languages, it becomes at least believable enough to continue enjoying the show.

But as hard as I rack my brain, I am unable to think of a way in which the Universal Translator could possibly enable Troi to pass as an alien because she has some makeup on, as she also does in "Face of the Enemy" and as Picard and Data do in "Unification" and as Riker does in the "First Contact" episode, and so forth. It is as if the writers take the conceit of everyone appearing to speak English for our benefit and pretend, for that week, that it is some kind of reality sensible enough to help the plotting along. It isn't, and writing that sort of occurrence is not really science fiction, any more than if Picard walked into his ready room and opened a window (sure, we could say there is some emergency mode where the structural integrity field quickly bridges the gap to limit decompression and the life support systems work overtime to immediately equalize the pressure and reheat the room and everything and it is so effective that it is invisible and silent and no one ever mentions it, but WHY are you making me jump through these hoops? Should stories rely on this?).
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