Thursday, February 13, 2003
I am something of a casual science fiction fan. "Casual" means that I'll tape and watch some shows, and go to see the more mainstream movies, and enjoy them. I watch for the cool toys and effects, but also for the optimism, for a different perspective -- the usual reasons, really.

Unfortunately, too many writers think of science fiction as a lame excuse to go around delivering lectures with special effects. As soon as that happens, things begin to suck. Nothing like some subtle-as-a-flashing-neon-sign message to trash a good story.

Perhaps because of its underlying idealism, the Star Trek franchise seems especially prone to this. I'm guessing some of its writers have "ideals" that come straight out of a campus protest slogan book. How many times have we seen this cliché: our space-faring heroes get a distress call from some planet that is being threatened by invaders/asteroids/Macaulay Culkin. Asked about their defenses, they reply with a weepy, saintly tone, "We have no weapons. We are a peaceful planet!" Right away you have to wonder how:

  • An entire planet can be so "peaceful" as to lack weapons of any kind. Billions of people, and everyone gets along all the time? No large wild animals? That's some fancy science fiction.

  • If they are so peaceful and can get along with each other, what's wrong with having a few weapons? You know, just in case someone less peaceful comes by? Which brings us to...

  • Wouldn't this planet be the Klingons' bitch by now?
Well, at least for those plot lines, the un-peaceful crew of the Enterprise, which just happens to carry around an arsenal powerful enough to wipe out planets, comes to their aid, and helps them continue with their enlightened, peaceful ways. (The irony of this rarely gets a mention.) Still, from some of the conversations I've had and things I've read lately, it seems that people truly believe that you can achieve "peace" by not being armed. I wonder if this is where they get it from.

Along the same lines, this week's episode of "Enterprise" had a particularly odious line spoken by a wise-yet-arrogant Vulcan ambassador. { SPOILER ALERT }

The episode involves a conflict between the Vulcans and the Andorrians over a disputed, strategically important moon. Long story short, they fight over it, and then, with Captain Archer's help, conduct negotiations and reach a cease-fire, which prevents a war between them. At the very end of the episode, the Vulcan ambassador says something like, "I consider any negotiation that averts war to be successful," to which his adversary reacts as if he has just received a golden nugget of wisdom.

My reaction was, "Two words: Neville Chamberlain."

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