RSS iconTwitter iconFacebook icon

The Trek BBS title image

The Trek BBS statistics

Threads: 139,135
Posts: 5,401,772
Members: 24,746
Currently online: 456
Newest member: retrodynamic

TrekToday headlines

Retro Review: Time’s Orphan
By: Michelle on Aug 30

September-October Trek Conventions And Appearances
By: T'Bonz on Aug 29

Lee Passes
By: T'Bonz on Aug 29

Trek Merchandise Sale
By: T'Bonz on Aug 28

Star Trek #39 Villain Revealed
By: T'Bonz on Aug 28

Trek Big Bang Figures
By: T'Bonz on Aug 28

Star Trek Seekers Cover Art
By: T'Bonz on Aug 27

Fan Film Axanar Kickstarter Success
By: T'Bonz on Aug 27

Two New Starship Collection Ships
By: T'Bonz on Aug 26

Trek Actor Wins Emmy
By: T'Bonz on Aug 26


Welcome! The Trek BBS is the number one place to chat about Star Trek with like-minded fans. Please login to see our full range of forums as well as the ability to send and receive private messages, track your favourite topics and of course join in the discussions.

If you are a new visitor, join us for free. If you are an existing member please login below. Note: for members who joined under our old messageboard system, please login with your display name not your login name.


Go Back   The Trek BBS > Welcome to the Trek BBS! > General Trek Discussion

General Trek Discussion Trek TV and cinema subjects not related to any specific series or movie.

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old April 6 2014, 01:30 PM   #1
King Daniel Into Darkness
Admiral
 
King Daniel Into Darkness's Avatar
 
Location: England again
Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

Star Trek has a reputation for being intelligent science fiction. I'm not sure how it got it, because to me it's been about evil transporter duplicates, monsters in underground caves, ham-fisted morals, evil twin universes, tribbles and other comic book-style larger than life adventures with mostly (or not-so-mostly, in some cases) likeable characters. When Trek tried to be smart, it played out pretty much the same as above but with everyone wearing grim faces. There are always big gaps in common sense (V'Ger: A godlike entity which never thought to wipe the muck of it's own name plate), incredibly dodgy science (all that psychedelic screensaver stuff they fly through to get to V'Ger) and a cornball ending (It was an ancient Earth probe all along!)

How did The Next Generation ever manage to hold on to it's serious reputation after such undignified disasters as "Code of Honor", "Haven", "Rascals", the soap opera nonsense of "The Masterpiece Society" or the goofy Blob of Pure Evil in "Skin of Evil"? Is it the way the crew carry themselves, the technobabble, or late 80's/early 90's advertising hype building up the image of smart science fiction in fans' minds? As a kid who grew up watching TNG, I bought it at the time, but I don't see any substance behind that hype now.

Could it be Trek's occasional use of real or theorized scientific phenomena, like cosmic strings, dark matter and the like? But for each of those, there are two or three completely made up, misused or ridiculous things, like warp particles, dark stars, cold fusion, the ridiculous uses of the transporter or the depiction of a black hole's event horizon as an actual physical thing. Wormholes are twisted into pretty fantasy land tunnels full of godlike aliens. Relativity, something that would define space travel should it ever become a reality on a scale like we see in Trek, is completely and utterly ignored. The potentials of Trek technology, both human and alien, are too-often ignored to keep the status quo intact. To me, this says Trek is a comic book fantasy world, only loosely based on our own and how things work here, and no more scientifically accurate than Thor's corner of the Marvel movieverse. To think otherwise of the Trekverse would require mentally censoring at least two thirds of the canon and probably much more. Yet some people seemingly still do it.

What are the smartest (both in scientific and intellectual terms) episodes of the Star Trek franchise? What makes it more clever than, say, Stargate SG-1, the MCU or even the Trek reboot? It might be interesting to look into examples given and see how well they really hold up.
__________________
Star Trek Imponderables, fun mashups of Trek's biggest continuity errors! Ep1, Ep2 and Ep3
King Daniel Into Darkness is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 01:59 PM   #2
2takesfrakes
Commodore
 
2takesfrakes's Avatar
 
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

I suspect that if there is anything factual behind the so-called "Intelligent Sci-Fi" evoked here, it's in that there is usually some semblence of an investigation involved with most of the stories. The characters don't act rashly, for the most part. They gather facts, present them - and their ideas about them - to the captain and he acts on that. So, maybe it's this sort of detective-like process that's being referred to.

There is also this phenomenon at work, here, that's the same thing which is responsible for everyone saying crazy shit like "Led Zepplin" was the greatest rock band in history and you need that shit in your collection, or you don't know anything about music. HmmBOY!!! You try listening to any of it and it's like, "... meh." But because Hippies got stoned to Zep a hundred years ago, we're meant to hold Jimmy Paige in such high esteem. I don't buy it, but lots of people do, just because of this sheepish instinct people have to follow what they think is hip to do and say, so they don't get bumped to the outskirts of the herd.
__________________
It Takes Two.™
2takesfrakes is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 02:11 PM   #3
King Daniel Into Darkness
Admiral
 
King Daniel Into Darkness's Avatar
 
Location: England again
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

2takesfrakes wrote: View Post
I suspect that if there is anything factual behind the so-called "Intelligent Sci-Fi" evoked here, it's in that there is usually some semblence of an investigation involved with most of the stories. The characters don't act rashly, for the most part. They gather facts, present them - and their ideas about them - to the captain and he acts on that. So, maybe it's this sort of detective-like process that's being referred to.

There is also this phenomenon at work, here, that's the same thing which is responsible for everyone saying crazy shit like "Led Zepplin" was the greatest rock band in history and you need that shit in your collection, or you don't know anything about music. HmmBOY!!! You try listening to any of it and it's like, "... meh." But because Hippies got stoned to Zep a hundred years ago, we're meant to hold Jimmy Paige in such high esteem. I don't buy it, but lots of people do, just because of this sheepish instinct people have to follow what they think is hip to do and say, so they don't get bumped to the outskirts of the herd.
I like this answer. That the procedural format of TNG onwards (not so sure this applies to TOS, where problems were often solved by just Kirk or Spock) does give the impression that multiple avenues are being explored (as unscientific as they may be), as opposed to the heat-of-the-moment decisions made in modern action movies. You may well have hit the nail on the head!
__________________
Star Trek Imponderables, fun mashups of Trek's biggest continuity errors! Ep1, Ep2 and Ep3
King Daniel Into Darkness is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 02:30 PM   #4
Christopher
Writer
 
Christopher's Avatar
 
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

You have to consider it in the context of what else constituted SFTV in the '60s and '70s. Aside from The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, '60s SFTV was pretty much defined by Irwin Allen shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space, spy-fi like The Wild, Wild West and The Man from UNCLE, sitcoms like My Favorite Martian and It's About Time, Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation shows, and cartoons like The Jetsons and Jonny Quest. There was The Prisoner, of course, but that was seen more as a spy show than SF. Aside from that, the only contemporary of Trek that really tried for adult drama was The Invaders, and that was basically just a knockoff of The Fugitive.

And then as you get into the '70s, Trek reruns were competing with things like Space: 1999, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Man from Atlantis, Planet of the Apes, The Starlost, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Saturday morning fare like Land of the Lost and Shazam/Isis, etc. As for the '80s and the TNG era, the competition was stuff like Knight Rider, Manimal, ALF, Voyagers, and the like, along with a few smarter things like the Twilight Zone revival, Quantum Leap, and Beauty and the Beast.

The thing is, SFTV has matured considerably since then, largely because Star Trek set the example. But at the time TOS was made, and to a lesser extent at the time TNG was made, it was one of the smartest shows on the air because there wasn't much competition.

But yes, TOS definitely was intelligent SF by the standards of its time. It told character-driven dramatic stories that explored ideas and moral issues rather than simply being about action and spectacle and weirdness, which is more than could be said for most of its contemporaries.
__________________
Christopher L. Bennett Homepage -- Site update 4/8/14 including annotations for Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

Written Worlds -- My blog
Christopher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 02:36 PM   #5
Bad Thoughts
Fleet Captain
 
Location: Containment Area for Relocated Yankees
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

Sorry, I don't buy the bullshit dichotomy. A show can be both intelligent and funny. And the failure of a few members of the organization to be thoughtful scientists or social critics does not impugn the entire enterprise.
Bad Thoughts is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 02:37 PM   #6
Push The Button
Captain
 
Push The Button's Avatar
 
Location: Smithfield, Rhode Island USA
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

Well, Trek is more sci-fi than Lost in Space or the Star Wars movies. Making the stories more realistic in terms of the science and technology would have made the stories pretty dull.

To make Trek more sci-fi, you would have to get rid of the transporter, all of the "humanoid" aliens (including Spock, of course), and add in the stretching/slowing of time from travelling faster than light, assuming that FTL travel would even be possible.
__________________
Let's make sure history never forgets...
the name...
Enterprise
Push The Button is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 02:45 PM   #7
BillJ
Admiral
 
BillJ's Avatar
 
Location: Covington, Ky.
View BillJ's Twitter Profile
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?
I don't think that was ever what they were really going for. TOS was an avenue for Roddenberry to tell stories he couldn't get away with on your average western or cop drama of the day.

Was it 'intelligent'? Yeah, I think it was. Was it 'intelligent sci-fi'? No, I don't think so.
__________________
"I tell you what you all need, you need to take a thirteenth step, down off your high horse." - Hank Hill, King of the Hill
BillJ is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 03:05 PM   #8
Christopher
Writer
 
Christopher's Avatar
 
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

Push The Button wrote: View Post
Well, Trek is more sci-fi than Lost in Space or the Star Wars movies. Making the stories more realistic in terms of the science and technology would have made the stories pretty dull.

To make Trek more sci-fi, you would have to get rid of the transporter, all of the "humanoid" aliens (including Spock, of course), and add in the stretching/slowing of time from travelling faster than light, assuming that FTL travel would even be possible.
It's a myth that the level of scientific accuracy defines how "sci-fi" something is. Science fiction is fiction based on conjectural scientific or technological advances and their consequences. There is no requirement that the advances be genuinely possible, merely that they be treated as hypothetical science rather than magic or divine intervention, and that their consequences on human life be explored. A lot of science fiction begins with premises that are most likely impossible, such as psi powers or time travel, but explores their consequences in a realistic manner -- i.e. if this impossible thing did exist, what effects would it have in the context of otherwise real science, psychology, and sociology? E.g. Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination: if humans gained the impossible ability to teleport anywhere at will, how would that realistically transform privacy rights, law enforcement, the transportation industry, etc.? The key isn't what the initial hypothesis is, but how convincingly its ramifications are thought out.

Scientifically plausible SF is merely one particular subgenre, known as "hard" SF. It's the type I personally prefer to write and read, but it isn't more valid or real SF than the "softer" kind, just a different flavor of SF. And it's got nothing to do with how intelligent an SF story is. There's a ton of intelligence in the soft SF of writers like Bradbury, Sturgeon, Butler, LeGuin, etc. The intelligence of science fiction is not just about its grasp of physics and engineering, but about its grasp of human nature, psychology, philosophy, ethics, and the like, not to mention the skill of its prose and characterization. Science fiction is still fiction, still literature, and its intelligence should be measured the same way you'd measure the intelligence of a mystery or romance or political thriller or any other genre of story. If it's well-written, if the characters are well-drawn and their actions and choices believable, if the plot is not cliched or obvious, if it makes the reader or viewer think, then it's intelligent. A crime thriller or courtroom drama can be intelligent in its portrayal of its characters and the ideas it expresses without needing to go into detail about forensics or legal technicalities. A hospital drama can be intelligent without needing to focus in depth on anatomy and surgical procedure. Such stories certainly can go into that kind of detail for added texture and as a stylistic choice, but that choice isn't what defines the intelligence of the story, because ultimately stories are about people and emotions and ideas, and that's where the true intelligence of a story lies. And the exact same thing is true of science fiction.
__________________
Christopher L. Bennett Homepage -- Site update 4/8/14 including annotations for Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

Written Worlds -- My blog
Christopher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 03:12 PM   #9
The Wormhole
Admiral
 
The Wormhole's Avatar
 
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

Intelligent sci-fi? No, not really. But there isn't really very much intelligent sci-fi on TV or movies. And that's fine, I'll take entertaining sci-fi over intelligent any day.

However, there's a difference between not being intelligent and being completely brainless. The Abrams movies are completely brainless. I can deal with the wonky science, Trek never really did a great job with its science anyway. The problem with the Abrams movies is that all they really are is just someone going through a list of tropes that some Hollywood checklist claims are the ingredients to a successful movie rather than being a story that someone want to tell and feels has to be told.
__________________
"Internet message boards aren't as funny today as they were ten years ago. I've stopped reading new posts." -The Simpsons 20th anniversary special.
The Wormhole is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 03:15 PM   #10
Forbin
Admiral
 
Forbin's Avatar
 
Location: I said out, dammit!
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

It's a myth that the level of scientific accuracy defines how "sci-fi" something is. Science fiction is fiction based on conjectural scientific or technological advances and their consequences. There is no requirement that the advances be genuinely possible, merely that they be treated as hypothetical science rather than magic or divine intervention, and that their consequences on human life be explored. A lot of science fiction begins with premises that are most likely impossible, such as psi powers or time travel, but explores their consequences in a realistic manner -- i.e. if this impossible thing did exist, what effects would it have in the context of otherwise real science, psychology, and sociology? E.g. Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination: if humans gained the impossible ability to teleport anywhere at will, how would that realistically transform privacy rights, law enforcement, the transportation industry, etc.? The key isn't what the initial hypothesis is, but how convincingly its ramifications are thought out.

Scientifically plausible SF is merely one particular subgenre, known as "hard" SF. It's the type I personally prefer to write and read, but it isn't more valid or real SF than the "softer" kind, just a different flavor of SF. And it's got nothing to do with how intelligent an SF story is. There's a ton of intelligence in the soft SF of writers like Bradbury, Sturgeon, Butler, LeGuin, etc. The intelligence of science fiction is not just about its grasp of physics and engineering, but about its grasp of human nature, psychology, philosophy, ethics, and the like, not to mention the skill of its prose and characterization. Science fiction is still fiction, still literature, and its intelligence should be measured the same way you'd measure the intelligence of a mystery or romance or political thriller or any other genre of story. If it's well-written, if the characters are well-drawn and their actions and choices believable, if the plot is not cliched or obvious, if it makes the reader or viewer think, then it's intelligent. A crime thriller or courtroom drama can be intelligent in its portrayal of its characters and the ideas it expresses without needing to go into detail about forensics or legal technicalities. A hospital drama can be intelligent without needing to focus in depth on anatomy and surgical procedure. Such stories certainly can go into that kind of detail for added texture and as a stylistic choice, but that choice isn't what defines the intelligence of the story, because ultimately stories are about people and emotions and ideas, and that's where the true intelligence of a story lies. And the exact same thing is true of science fiction.
^This.
Well said.
Forbin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 03:22 PM   #11
BigJake
Rear Admiral
 
BigJake's Avatar
 
Location: No matter where you go, there you are.
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

You know, I love the Avengers and Pacific Rim, but I don't go around trying to tell people they stack up to Star Trek or ST:TNG as intelligent sci-fi or that Trek's instances of cheese invalidate its reputation as SF. I'm pleased others have seen fit to humour the OP, but if you're telling me you need it explained to you at length why this is, I'm sorry but I have to suspect whether the question is being asked in the best of faith. It basically looks to me like you're grinding an axe here.
__________________
It's got electrolytes!
"I wanna read more" - Dennis "I . . . agree with everything you said" - SPCTRE "I blame Cracked" - J. Allen "Take me off" - The Stig
BigJake is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 03:35 PM   #12
The Old Mixer
Vice Admiral
 
The Old Mixer's Avatar
 
Location: Connecticut
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

I'd say that in its original incarnation, it was going for a balance...something somewhere in-between The Twilight Zone and Lost and Space. Sci fi of the latter stripe was seen as kiddie fare back in the day; and while TOS may have appealed to younger viewers, what set it apart was that it was trying to be smarter than that.
__________________
50 years ago on July 6: A Hard Day's Night premieres in London.
The Old Mixer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 04:24 PM   #13
SchwEnt
Fleet Captain
 
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

It can be. ST can be many things to many people, it has an ability to be all things to all people.

There are morality plays that examine the human condition. There are commentaries on contemporary society. There are extrapolations on the future of humanity and our evolution with technology.

There are kewl alien monsters to blow up. There are fazer battles and big ass ship splosions! Klingon attacks!!1!

...and pretty much everything in between.

You can find what you will in ST.
If it's intelligent sci-fi, it's there.
If it's space battles and weird aliens, that's there, too.
SchwEnt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 04:51 PM   #14
CorporalCaptain
Vice Admiral
 
CorporalCaptain's Avatar
 
Location: Kentucky
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

Of course it was. "The City on the Edge of Forever". "The Doomsday Machine". "The Menagerie". "Amok Time". "Arena". "Yesteryear". "Tin Man". Those are just some examples of intelligent science fiction in Star Trek. Some of those episodes were adaptations of published science fiction (or nominally so), some of those episodes were Hugo winners themselves, and some were Hugo nominees.

Just because there were certain unintelligent episodes dominated by pulpy DNA, that does not eliminate the episodes that weren't.
__________________
John
CorporalCaptain is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 6 2014, 05:02 PM   #15
JarodRussell
Vice Admiral
 
JarodRussell's Avatar
 
Re: Was Trek ever really intelligent sci-fi?

No, Star Trek has always been stupid, King Daniel, so Abramstrek is perfectly in line with that, as it's the perfect recreation of the original series. So all the stupidity was perfectly recreated as well.
JarodRussell is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump



All times are GMT +1. The time now is 04:49 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.6
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
FireFox 2+ or Internet Explorer 7+ highly recommended.