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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old January 5 2009, 03:04 PM   #1
F. King Daniel
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Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

Star Trek is great fun. It can also be very silly. But sometimes it comes out with something so nonsensical, so ridiculous, so dumb or so unbelievable (in the bad way) that you just go ‘WTF?’

I’m thinking of Voyager’s “Threshold” (Infinity speed? Everywhere all at once? And why didn’t they just hold at warp 9.99999 and get home in a week?), or TOS “Spock’s Brain” (which I thought was meant to be funny, but some say otherwise). How about DS9’s communist utopian Earth?

Novels tend to be better thought-out than the above (the Trek novel vetting process seems more strict than the TV equivalent) but still one or two super-clangers have dropped over the years. Such as…

The Dumb…

Enterprise – The Good That Men Do
The Enterprise crew beam over to a Romulan ship to rescue some Aenar. Problem is, nobody’s supposed to know what Romulans look like until “Balance of Terror” 100 years later. Thus the Dumbest Reason In History was invented as to why the Romulans weren’t identified as Evil Vulcans during the raid. It was:

The lights were turned off.

Yep, that’s it. The lights were off. The Enterprise crew were wearing space suits and saw though night vision. Did anyone find that in any way convincing? Was I the only person banging their head against a wall? Without doubt, that wins stupidest, dumbest excuse ever in the history of written Trek.

TOS – The Starless World
The Enterprise investigates a Dyson Sphere (long before Scotty crashed into one) on course for a Black Hole. A team beams down to investigate. Amongst them are Uhura and Chapel. When the team decides to stay the night with the locals, the guys and girls get separate huts of their own to sleep in.
Uhura sleeps in the nude. A little strange, given that we’re on an alien and very possibly hostile Dyson Sphere heading for oblivion inside a black hole. But it gets weirder: Uhura’s long-lost solo space explorer father starts calling to her in her sleep. So she gets up and heads outside to find him. In the nude. On an unknown and possibly hostile world. She didn’t even think to take her phaser, communicator, tricorder, or anything that may have helped…

TOS – Killing Time (1st edition)
Kirk and Spock have a gay love/mind rape scene in the ship’s botanical gardens.
Enough said.

Sometimes, after 40 years of episodes and books, weird coincidences can creep in as well, usually when readers apply the ‘reverse continuity’ of Enterprise to stuff pre-dating it (but set after it), or try to put together stuff written during the Richard ‘Scapegoat’ Arnold era (where novel continuity was strictly forbidden, per the rule of Rodenberry).

The Bizarre…

Vulcan’s Glory and Malcolm Reed
Watch ‘Shuttlepod One’ (ENT). Read Vulcan’s Glory (TOS). It doesn’t look too good for Malcolm.
(and yes, I know the name is coincidence, that ‘Glory’ was written about a decade prior to Enterprise and Malcolm would never do any such sick, evil thing. And T’Pol wouldn’t think twice about killing him if he tried it.)

Archer’s Legacy
Captain Archer is a hero. He saved the world. He created the Federation. He gets two planets named after him. Archer IV even gets mentioned in TNG. ‘The 34th Rule’ says its main export is ‘Archerian Slug Juice’.
That’s his legacy.

Starfleet Year One
Watch Enterprise. Guess which side won…

The Busy Romulan Commander (The one from “Enterprise Incident”)
She was said by her cousin Ael to have been exiled in “My Enemy, My Ally”, yet was the secret Preator in “Killing Time” and also kept a pet clone of Captain Kirk in “The Fate of the Phoenix”. It’s not so much what she did here, but all the stuff she had to do in between to get where she was in each one!



That’s all I can think of right now. Anyone else?

(novelizations of episodes or movies don’t count unless it’s an original bit added by the author)
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Old January 5 2009, 03:33 PM   #2
jongredic
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

Hmm, I haven't really got a variety of answers yet, but the one that always sticks in my mind for Dumb (and Bizarre, depending on how you look at it) goes to Voyager's Section 31 novel Shadow.

The Rhawnian race must escape a dying solar system, and they only have one chance to survive. So they build just the one ship to house 800 million people. Not a convoy to maximise their chances, noooo. Just one ship. Which is put at risk when a bit of rock scrapes up against the side of it (ironically as part of a rather silly B plot that lends nothing to the story ).

If I'm not mistaken, that book also introduces the idea that Torres can't take purple aliens seriously. This coming from someone who has a half-formed Cornish pasty on her forehead seemed a rather odd idea. So much for IDIC and embracing people's differences
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Old January 5 2009, 03:51 PM   #3
Therin of Andor
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

KingDaniel wrote: View Post
Enterprise – The Good That Men Do
The Enterprise crew beam over to a Romulan ship to rescue some Aenar. Problem is, nobody’s supposed to know what Romulans look like until “Balance of Terror” 100 years later. Thus the Dumbest Reason In History was invented as to why the Romulans weren’t identified as Evil Vulcans during the raid. It was:
The lights were turned off.
TOS Romulans, and presumably the Romulans in TGTMD, wear helmets that cover their ears. How does anyone recognize them as "evil Vulcans"?

In any case, several of April's crew meet a Romulan in "Final Frontier". No one complains about him.
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Old January 5 2009, 04:30 PM   #4
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

KingDaniel wrote: View Post
Uhura sleeps in the nude. In the nude.
Sorry, the rest of the thread lost me at this point.

I think I need to lie down for a bit
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Old January 5 2009, 06:09 PM   #5
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

KingDaniel wrote: View Post
The Dumb…

Enterprise – The Good That Men Do
The Enterprise crew beam over to a Romulan ship to rescue some Aenar. Problem is, nobody’s supposed to know what Romulans look like until “Balance of Terror” 100 years later. Thus the Dumbest Reason In History was invented as to why the Romulans weren’t identified as Evil Vulcans during the raid. It was:

The lights were turned off.

Yep, that’s it. The lights were off. The Enterprise crew were wearing space suits and saw though night vision. Did anyone find that in any way convincing? Was I the only person banging their head against a wall? Without doubt, that wins stupidest, dumbest excuse ever in the history of written Trek.
Sure it was a quick easy way to keep them from seeing the Romulans, but I really don't see where it was that horrible of a solution. IMO it works better than having some weird convuluted excuse that could have been used instead. Besides it's just a fairly small part of the book, so it's not like the authors are going to focus a ton of energy on it.
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Old January 5 2009, 06:22 PM   #6
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

KingDaniel wrote: View Post
How about DS9’s communist utopian Earth?
Uhm -- what?????



There is nothing Communist about the way Earth is portrayed in Star Trek. Honestly, I've heard this accusation before, and it makes no sense whatsoever. Communism is state ownership of, well, everything important and citizens' most important duty is service to the state, and workers/laborers are the lifeblood of a nation. None of that describes the Federation even a little bit.

While most 19th-century utopian fiction was Marxist in nature, not all utopias are Communist, and by no stretch is Trek's utopia one. There's too much self-determination in there....
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Old January 5 2009, 06:34 PM   #7
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

KRAD wrote: View Post
There is nothing Communist about the way Earth is portrayed in Star Trek. Honestly, I've heard this accusation before, and it makes no sense whatsoever. Communism is state ownership of, well, everything important and citizens' most important duty is service to the state, and workers/laborers are the lifeblood of a nation. None of that describes the Federation even a little bit.
Actually that's socialist dictatorship, which Marx intended as a step toward communism. Theoretically, communism is a stateless society in which every individual is independently productive and individually ethical, so that there's no need for any higher institution in charge of the economy or law or anything. In Marxism, an industrial capitalist society is meant to be replaced by a socialist dictatorship whose function is to redistribute the wealth in an egalitarian way and re-educate all the people out of their hierarchical capitalist habits, teaching them to be independently productive and highly moral toward their neighbors, ultimately reaching a point where everyone can take care of themselves and each other without any need for a state, at which point the state is supposed to evaporate with a true communist society, a stable utopian anarchy, finally having been achieved.

Which is, of course, the fatal flaw of Marxist theory: the naive assumption that any state with absolute power could be trusted to work toward its own dissolution. Inevitably, "Communist" parties that have taken over countries and tried to guide them toward stateless utopias have instead gotten frozen in the socialist-dictatorship phase, leading to the widespread misconception that that's what communism means. But Communism (political party or movement) is not communism (economic system). Actually they're called Communist parties, not because that's the kind of government they actually practice, but because it's the kind they're supposed to be working toward. It's more an expression of the party's ideals and ideology than its actual practice. (Kinda like Ross Perot's "Reform Party." It aspired to reform, but didn't actually practice any.)

Of course the Federation is not communist, because it has a government and a rule of law. It does have some elements in common with democratic socialist states (which are a very different thing from Marxist socialist dictatorships, despite what John McCain and Sarah Palin would like us to think), but it doesn't really fit any modern economic model. Why? Because modern economic models are based on the assumption of scarcity and finite resources, as well as on the need for labor as a means of production. When you have replicators, those assumptions no longer apply and you need to invent a whole new school of economic theory.
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Old January 5 2009, 06:50 PM   #8
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

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Old January 5 2009, 06:50 PM   #9
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

Christopher wrote: View Post
Why? Because modern economic models are based on the assumption of scarcity and finite resources, as well as on the need for labor as a means of production. When you have replicators, those assumptions no longer apply and you need to invent a whole new school of economic theory.
Very slight technological nitpick: Don't replicators still require raw materials, to be converted into whatever's being replicated? In which case, there's still an upper limit to society's available resources, albeit a much, much higher one than would be the case in a pre-replicator economy.
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Old January 5 2009, 07:10 PM   #10
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

Kirk flying to the Delta Quadrant, punching out Picard and pulling a rusty lever that blows up the Borg homeworld...PULLING A RUSTY LEVER THAT BLOWS UP THE BORG HOMEWORLD....in The Return. I mean, this was the only thing that could have topped (bottomed?) the stuff that led up to it.

I remember some of the hallucinatory shit that happened in The Wounded Sky as absolutely risible. There was one bit that went something like "SILVER WOMAN-GODDESS STARSHIP..." that made me laugh so hard I spit my beverage across the room. That someone got paid to write this is almost harder to buy than its immortal glass spiders preaching mathematics that only work if you believe hard enough in them, or whatever the hell all that was about.

In either Behind Enemy Lines or Tunnel Through the Stars there was some dopey bit where Picard couldn't/wouldn't fire the torpedoes without lowering the shields first. I could only conclude the author had some hard-on about the idea of the torpedoes being able to pass through the shields one way, so there were ridiculous outbursts: "Lower shields! Fire torpedoes! Raise shields!" all at a shot. WHY?? This really bugged me because it was 1.) not faithful to the source material and 2.) not a worthwhile departure for any other reason.

Another thing I didn't get was the Antosian character in Tunnel Through the Stars, who was written to be mentally slow. Now this isn't impossible...but if you're going to have a native from the hyperadvanced planet so sophisticated that they can teach you how to shapeshift there, it is sort of jarring to not only ask us to accept he's a "slow adult," but to plunk him in the middle of the Dominion War. LOLWUT
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Old January 5 2009, 07:48 PM   #11
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

Very slight technological nitpick: Don't replicators still require raw materials, to be converted into whatever's being replicated? In which case, there's still an upper limit to society's available resources, albeit a much, much higher one than would be the case in a pre-replicator economy.
You would think so, unless the Federation found a way to break the Law of Conservation of Energy.

As for my picks for "less than ideal" Star Trek moments, a few really stand out in my mind:

- Picard's purposeful reassimiliation into the Borg in Resistance. I remember a scene of him walking down the populated Enterprise hall as Locutus with Crusher and just shaking my head at how preposterous it seemed.

- When I first heard the idea for the continuing Enterprise series that Trip faked his death in "These Are The Voyages..." I thought, wow, this definitely has some potential to be cool! However, as the novel went on, the explanations for this and the misconceptions that these events actually took place in 2155 and not 2161 and didn't actually represent the founding of the Federation but only of the Coalition of Planets, etc, etc, it all just started becoming more and more of a convoluted mess. Then there's the whole question about why Section 31 would choose Trip as the best possible candidate to infiltrate the Romulans. With all their secrecy, do they not have someone trained in espionage that may have a bit more experience with such an assignment than a Starfleet engineer? And the whole concept of Trip needing to first fake his own death and bring much grief to his family and friends before he could go be the infiltrator was also pretty ridicuous. Do the Romulans keep tabs on every single Starfleet personel's current assignments? Could his family and crew not have just been told he was being sent on a classified assignment? And for what reason, pray to the gods, could duping people into thinking that events from 2155 really occured in 2161 accomplish? Does anyone think this could even be possible with the technology of the 22nd century? I just found all these poor attempts to reinterpret TATV as being a means to an end (which was bringing Trip back from the dead) and common sense just took second fiddle to this. Yeah, I know people try to justify it by saying how TATV already didn't make sense as to why Trip sacrificed himself, why Sato and Mayweather were still Ensigns, etc, etc. But to me, that was still more feasible than the explanations we are now given.

- (and this probably takes the cake) In the first TNG Slings and Arrows book, there is a Changeling infiltrator on the Enterprise. At some point, it makes it's way out into space and how does it escape? The Changeling goes to warp. That's right, apparently Changeling shape-shifting abilities include the ability to simulate dilithium crystals and self-propel themselves through space. This is probably the single most irksome moment for me in all of Trekdom. I mean, if they can generate this kind of energy, what's stopping them from becoming, oh say, 1000 phasers firing continuously in all directions, or maybe becoming replicators and replicating... well anything? How was this allowed to be included by the editing team? Am I missing something in DS9 that suggested this was possible?
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Old January 5 2009, 08:15 PM   #12
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

I think Laas may have gone to warp in "Chimera," but I'm not sure if I trust my memory on that one.

As for a couple books that were just big WTF moments all around, I'd go for The Prometheus Design and How Much for Just the Planet? I found reading both to be quite excruciating.
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Old January 5 2009, 08:19 PM   #13
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

FredH wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
Why? Because modern economic models are based on the assumption of scarcity and finite resources, as well as on the need for labor as a means of production. When you have replicators, those assumptions no longer apply and you need to invent a whole new school of economic theory.
Very slight technological nitpick: Don't replicators still require raw materials, to be converted into whatever's being replicated? In which case, there's still an upper limit to society's available resources, albeit a much, much higher one than would be the case in a pre-replicator economy.
Yes, you're quite correct, you would also presumably need gads of Energy.

Even in the future you can't get Something for nothing, but with the "mechanical advantage" you can work smarter, not harder and make that Cheeseburger out of lemons, rocks, an old boot, or what have you.
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Old January 5 2009, 08:28 PM   #14
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

Hmmm.....replicated cheeseburgers.....


I like mine fresh from the replicator
Heinz 57 and french-fried potaters
Big kosher pickle and some synthehol
Well good Gawd Almighty, who all do I call for my.....



:: ahem ::


Sorry. It's always doing that.
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Old January 5 2009, 08:37 PM   #15
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Re: Dumb and Bizarre Trek Novel Moments...

Christopher wrote: View Post
KRAD wrote: View Post
There is nothing Communist about the way Earth is portrayed in Star Trek. Honestly, I've heard this accusation before, and it makes no sense whatsoever. Communism is state ownership of, well, everything important and citizens' most important duty is service to the state, and workers/laborers are the lifeblood of a nation. None of that describes the Federation even a little bit.
Actually that's socialist dictatorship, which Marx intended as a step toward communism. Th7eoretically, communism is a stateless society in which every individual is independently productive and individually ethical, so that there's no need for any higher institution in charge of the economy or law or anything. In Marxism, an industrial capitalist society is meant to be replaced by a socialist dictatorship whose function is to redistribute the wealth in an egalitarian way and re-educate all the people out of their hierarchical capitalist habits, teaching them to be independently productive and highly moral toward their neighbors, ultimately reaching a point where everyone can take care of themselves and each other without any need for a state, at which point the state is supposed to evaporate with a true communist society, a stable utopian anarchy, finally having been achieved.
The communist state that arguably came closest to this ideal was ... Yugoslavia. Especially in the 1970s, it was a relatively decentralized country with active political debate that provided reasonably civil liberties and a decent standard of living for most of its population. Even then, the Yugoslav model's success required the country to take part in the wider world capitalist economy and in the end proved, paradoxically, to be too decentralized to transform itself any further in any direction.
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