Small-Universe Syndrome

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Captain Clark Terrell, Dec 5, 2014.

  1. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    Christopher mentioned not liking this aspect of Star Trek the other day, and I agree with him. Although I can accept that people attending the same classes at the Academy know one another, I have a hard time accepting that people working on opposite sides of the Federation could be best friends, or that the commanding officers of two random vessels would happen to have children named after their counterpart.

    I can certainly accept that specific groups of people may be aware of one another. For example, I'm sure Starfleet maintains various listservs that include all ship captains, all science officers, all engineers, etc, so it's possible that someone like Jadzia Dax (as a science officer) would have been familiar with Kathryn Janeway for reasons other than her commanding Voyager (but would never have met her in person), just as I'm sure that Captains Spock and Terrell spent countless hours deleting every spam email sent by Captain Styles about the Excelsior's warp-engines, without having suffer the indignity of being in the same room with him (pre-TWOK, of course).

    But I don't like the idea that Captain Picard has a friend on every ship, nor do I think it makes sense that every one of Riker's classmates would be on the verge of his or her own command at the same time that Riker would have. It may have simplified things from a story-telling perspective, but it doesn't add up.
     
  2. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    The small universe applies to a lot of shows not just Star Trek. We live in an age of almost instantaneous communiction. It's is possible to be friends with someone on the other side of the planet yet rarely see each other. Or you used to work with each before moving to the other side of the country/contineant/planet.

    That isn't to say sometimes it isn't taken to ridiculous levels
     
  3. M'rk son of Mogh

    M'rk son of Mogh Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Doesn't this make PERFECT sense for Riker? If they're all the same age, won't their life patterns be fairly similar? Especially if they're in the same field?

    And I'm not sure about the Picard thing either. Most ships they ran into (except, what, 4?) he didn't know the people there. Every time an Excelsior was bringing aboard a diplomat or admiral, there were no references to friends.

    Star Trek isn't nearly as bad as Wars, where you're dealing with a whole galaxy that seems to all be blood relatives somehow to the Skywalker line. (Of course, you can say the Force is directing them back together.)
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It doesn't bother me so much with characters knowing each other as with, say, stories revealing that every cyborg/AI race is connected to the Borg or that every remotely unethical thing in Starfleet history was really a Section 31 plot. Or that every important event in galactic history is directly connected to species or entities encountered by Kirk and/or Picard. Basically anything that places familiarity and nostalgia over a realistic understanding of the immensity of the galaxy and the sheer number of different entities that must exist within it.
     
  5. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    Not necessarily. Not everyone within a particular field has the same career opportunities; they may have similar backgrounds, but it's unlikely that each of them would have the same experiences or the same opportunities to distinguish themselves.

    Additionally, not everyone has the same career goals. Riker was offered multiple commands by Starfleet before he finally accepted (fifteen years after the first offer was made). Another officer in the same position may have accepted promotion sooner, or he may not have at all.

    Clark Terrell's backstory (non-canon, of course) suggests that he was the same age as James T. Kirk (which hints at them having been in the same Academy class); however, Terrell earned his captaincy four years after Kirk and (presumably) remained a captain for the rest of his career, whereas Kirk was promoted to the admiralty within ten years after making captain.

    Kirk commanded the Enterprise, a Constitution-class vessel. Terrell commanded the Sagittarius and the Reliant--both scout vessels of a sort. Without knowing precisely why Starfleet assigns certain commands to specific officers (Academy grades, level of experience, evaluations, personality traits, interests), it stands to reason that these two men's careers followed different paths as a result of the opportunities each received.

    --Sran
     
  6. FormerLurker

    FormerLurker Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Not just opportunities. To stretch your comment about goals, not everyone has the same career ambitions. Kirk wanted to lead others and explore; Terrell wanted to do stuff that he could only do if he were in command. Each had their own ambitions, so each followed their own path.
     
  7. M'rk son of Mogh

    M'rk son of Mogh Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Okay, then, I admit to simply just being confused, who are all these people again that so unrealistically made Captain that Riker went to school with within the timeframe we were watching the show? Paul Rice, and...?

    Even a 4 year difference, as the above example shows, seems to fit with what we've seen. But there weren't that many at all to feel unrealistic.

    I think there's just too much exaggeration going on with the examples given to really be something that sticks out as a series problem.
     
  8. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Being offered a command and being promoted to Captain aren't the same thing. So Riker had a friend from his class at the academy who was given command After all tradition says regardless of rank the CO of a ship is referred to as Captain, i.e. Dax in DSN.
     
  9. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Two thoughts: One, I think that's maybe a way to create a feel of, if not realism, at least familiarity in an otherwise fantastic setting. People are comfortable with the feeling of encountering an old acquaintance or crossing paths with an old schoolmate, etc. So there's a level of audience identification.

    Two: It allows the audience to relate to a new character via a known character. The known character can rattle off a quick "highlight reel" on the new character and give the audience a basic background, without some tedious getting-to-know-you dialogue.

    So it might "feel" better than actually making sense; certainly in a very large organization coming across personal ties would be more the exception than the rule. Personally, I've always wondered if there shouldn't be more than one Academy for the scale of Starfleet.

    Of course in Trek you have the additional level of Earth/humans being at the center of everything interesting...
     
  10. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    That's true, and may actually explain why some officers remain in command of starships for several years (even decades) before moving on. Perhaps men like Terrell were merely referred to as captain per Navy tradition, as you mentioned, because that was their billet or assignment but not their actual rank.

    Given the circumstances of how Terrell earned his first command (as detailed in the Vanguard series), it's possible that his actual promotion to captain came much later, at which time he was given the Reliant. "X" number of years after that, it was time for TWOK.

    Having said that, my original point about career aspirations and goals stands; I don't buy that everyone who graduates in the same Academy class would have reached the same rank (or close to it) within the same length of time. While officers aren't permitted to remain in the same posts for years (it clogs up the promotion list), it stands to reason that only those who both want and deserve to be promoted would move up, whereas others would merely be reassigned to make room for others climbing the chain of command behind them.

    --Sran
     
  11. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    How many of us have actually bumped into an old aquaintance, someone we went to school with? I know I have several years ago, I bumped into someone I went to High School with and she regonsied me despite at the time something like almost 2 decades had passed since High School and not having seen each other in the intervening years.
     
  12. SicOne

    SicOne Commodore Commodore

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    But...Section 31, with the help of Kirk and Picard, CREATED the Borg! And then influenced that Mack guy to write a trilogy covering up the Borg's true origins with an elaborate fiction.

    I can't wait until you write the DTI book where the truth is at long last finally revealed. ;)

    Not that Section 31 will actually allow me to post this...
     
  13. Captain Rob

    Captain Rob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Shhh!
    The MIB people are just outside your door.
     
  14. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Meh, it's never bothered me. There'd be loads of opportunities for starship Captains to get to know each other, they aren't on their respective ships 100% of the time and no doubt they attend conferences and stuff like that together.
     
  15. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Mih ssim, mih ssim, nam, daed si Xim. Moderator

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    I notice this phenomenon in Western series like The Rifleman. In a big, sparsely-populated but ever-expanding frontier, how likely is it that people Lucas McCain knew before he settled in North Fork would just happen to be passing through North Fork?
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Defiance has the same problem. In this post-apocalyptic future where the landscape is torn up and most of the population is dead and travel is limited and difficult, people from the townsfolk's past nonetheless keep coincidentally showing up in town. Which is even worse in the modern serialized mode of storytelling, where the events depicted are pretty much continuous, than it was in the old days of episodic storytelling, where you could pretend you were just seeing selected high points in the characters' lives -- or, due to the lack of continuity in most shows back then, even entirely alternate realities populated by the same characters.
     
  17. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Although in the case of Paul Rice (Riker's aforementioned friend) he really was promoted to Captain since he had four pips on his uniform.
     
  18. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    Star Trek has been woefully inconsistent when it comes to ranks, pips, braids, etc.

    Spock wore commander's braids despite being referred to as a lieutenant commander during the first season of TOS.

    Scotty wore a the rank of commander at the end of TVH despite being promoted to captain in TSFS.

    Sisko wore commander's pips and was referred to as commander during each of DS9's first three seasons; it was only after he was promoted to captain that he was referred to as such (and wore the appropriate number of pips); by contrast, Dax was referred to as captain despite being only a lieutenant commander during the Dominion War.

    --Sran
     
  19. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    My understanding is that being referred to as Captain despite actual rank is an honour reserved only for a ship's commanding officer. Since Sisko was the commanding officer of a station, he'd be referred to by his actual rank. Maybe he should have been referred to as "Captain" in season 3 on the Defiant, but Worf also never got called Captain, despite it being a plot point that the Defiant was his ship.

    But let's ignore all that for a moment, even if Sisko was entitled to be called "Captain" during the first three seasons, why would he wear four pips? Regardless what his position entitles him to be identified as, his rank is still Commander, therefore he would still wear three pips. When Dax was being called Captain in season 6, she still wore the two solid pips and one hollow of a Lt. Commander, and indeed in all navies today that allow a lower-ranking officer in command of a ship to be addressed as Captain, they still wear the rank insignia appropriate to their actual rank. So why shouldn't Sisko have been wearing Commander's pips in the first three seasons?
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2014
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The commander of a ship is called "Captain" regardless of rank. I don't think it applies to a space station posting.

    The reason only Dax was referred to as "Captain" while at lower rank was because that's the only episode where the writers paid enough attention to naval tradition to get it right. In other episodes, series, and movies, the producers either didn't know about the custom or thought it would be too confusing to the audience.