|Justin B Rye 1992–1998|
I'll pardon such offences as
Spock's Brain and
of Gray (ST:TOS3 and ST:TNG2), on the grounds
that American TV has a statutory minimum cheese content.
Besides, any real
Star Trek Mark Two (say, a
twenty-first-century remake for holovision!) can start from
scratch, omitting unworthwhile plots. I'll confine my
comments to defining some types of plotline to beware of.
One of the perils of ST:TOS's planet-per-episode format and its improvised continuity was the temptation to throw in oneshot plot devices, to be discovered one week and forgotten the next. Such dangling plot threads were all very well in the short term; they could be woven by fans into interesting Trekkie novels. But their cumulative effect when magnified by ST:TNG's projection of the timeline is terrible. Whatever happened to:
What are Little Girls Made of?(ST:TOS1) etc.?
The Enemy Within(ST:TOS1)?
This Side of Paradise(ST:TOS1)?
The Alternative Factor(ST:TOS1)?
Wolf in the Fold(ST:TOS2)?
The Omega Glory(ST:TOS2) et al?
Patterns of Force(ST:TOS2)?
Spectre of the Gun(ST:TOS3) and so forth?
Wink of an Eye(ST:TOS3)?
The Enterprise Incident, ST:TOS3), and has captured (
The Voyage Home, ST:TMP4) and allied (ST:TNG) Klingon craft, why should Starfleet still have to borrow cloakable vessels, as in
The Defector(ST:TNG3) and
You may notice that the above omits all the oneshot Star Trek Universe time-travel techniques; discussing continuity is futile when plots breach causality! But they could attempt to assume a consistent system of Star Trek chronophysics. For example:
The City on the Edge of Forever, ST:TOS1). And yet:
All Our Yesterdays(ST:TOS3),
The Voyage Home(ST:TMP4),
Time's Arrow(ST:TNG5), and so on do they invariably act as if the future were safely deterministic?
Yesterday's Enterprisetimelines (ST:TNG3)?
Tomorrow is Yesterday(ST:TOS1) get amnesia when nobody else does? Why does he see the Enterprise vanish? (Etcetera)
Note that traditional time-paradox dogma can stand little real
scrutiny. Why should an autoassassin
vanish? A can of worms better left unopened.
This is a recurring strategic error in the battle for plausible Star Trek continuity. What happens is that a scriptwriter notices a logical flaw in previous plotlines and pointedly avoids it on this one occasion, in a counterproductive and inconsistent fashion. Memorable examples include:
The Wrath of Khan(ST:TMP2; see 2.3) – supposedly three-dee, but unconvincing; after all, why should they bother
resurfacingbefore the attack?
The Undiscovered Country(ST:TMP6) that loses artificial gravity for once.
The Battle(ST:TNG1) – a sudden burst of warp acceleration, producing unprecedented image-lag effects (see 2.1).
Darmok(ST:TNG5); if the grammar's too (infeasibly) alien to handle, why is the vocabulary no problem?
Such revisions call attention to the stupidity of the rule to
which they are the one exception, while preventing the use of
simple blanket explanations – e.g. if it weren't for
The Wrath of Khan (ST:TMP2), I could claim all the
apparent two-dimensionality was just a further viewscreen
Formularisation is compulsory in commercial TV, and has struck ST:TNG hard. The NCC1701D now has less time than ever to explore strange new worlds – half the season is prebooked for return visits to the Klingons or Cardassians, and guest spots for Barclay, Ma Troi, Q, Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. Not that I want to see any fewer Romulan Warbirds, Borg mother[——]ships etc.; I just regret this inevitable loss of novelty in favour of the kind of petty continuity that ST:TOS tried so hard to avoid.
Remember that the whole message of
Balance of Terror(ST:TOS1) was that such
secret weaponsare only a temporary advantage; next time they met, Starfleet would have cloaking technology and the Romulans would have, say, quark bombs.
There is a useful distinction to be made between the kind of
continuitythat refers backward to previously introduced concepts (often taken to the extreme of fannish in-jokes) and the kind that refers forward to developments planned for later seasons (e.g. the failed attempt in
Conspiracy, ST:TNG1). The last and least important kind of
continuityis the sort of pointless trivia dealt with in the
Nitpicker's Guidebooks – give me a
Kneecapper's Guideany day! [Footnote postscript: no, that wasn't intended as a
The bane of round-robin universe-design is the phenomenon of
Concept Erosion, of which the Borg are a perfect example.
As introduced in ST:TNG2, they were a threat which
should soon have been consuming all of Starfleet's resources;
but each time they turn up, they are diluted further by writers
who have clearly failed to grasp the point that the Borg are
tougher and smarter than anyone else. Oh, and
Uncle Tom Cobleigh is a character in the folk-ballad
Widecombe Fair– I've no idea what he's doing in this rant.
There's no pardoning cheese like Voyager's; and yes, I am
thinking specifically of
Learning Curve(ST:V1)… See also my pages on SF Chronophysics, Xenolinguistics, and Exobiology.
|3.1||B5 has scrupulously avoided continuity busters – even the magic Back-To-Life machine wasn't forgotten! Meanwhile Star Trek has juryrigged an excuse for Starfleet's lack of cloaking devices: they signed a treaty (why?!) which gave precise blueprints for the kind of machine they promised never to invent.|
Even as a self-appointed chronophysics pundit, I found B5's
time-travel superplot very impressive. On the other hand,
the Star Trek movies (as well as ST:TNG7's
And Good Riddance– sorry,
All Good Things) have been getting stupider and stupider.
|3.3||The Star Trek Universe barely aspires to retrograde continuity, let alone anterograde foreshadowing. Big Mysteries are never resolved because the writers never had any plausible solution in mind (X‑Files syndrome: the truth is not there), and everybody's Character Reset buttons get pressed after each episode.|
First Contact(ST:TMP8) subjects the Borg to further fan-fiction-by-committee concept erosion. Practically the first two things we learned about the Borg were that they're (a) sexless and (b) decentralised! The only explanation for the
Borg Queenis that they've heard of
Aliens) but know sod-all about real hives.