Monday, February 22, 2010

Trek Annoyance #1

Star Trek (TNG) is in reruns every so often on the SciFi (sorry, 'Syfy' sounds dumb, I'm not using that name) channel.

I like Star Trek. It's interesting. But too often, I'll shake my head at some of the more idiotic oversights or actions taken by the crew. Or some of the glaring oversights in technological or social applications. There are many. For lack of anything better to write about, I'll talk about this.

The first major brick to my senses involves the crew's family.

In Star Trek, on most if not all starships, the crew's family tags along for the ride. I don't recall the specific reason given for this, although I'm willing to bet it will have something to do with ship's morale. There's no need for anxiety about one's family thousands of light years away when they're in your cabin. No more "Dear John" letters. You don't have your children grow up while only seeing their father or mother every few years.

The problem arises in the ship's continuing mission. The goal is to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no one has gone before. For every Vulcan you meet, there's a Borg or Salt Vampire lurking in another. It's a very dangerous job. They lose ships on these expeditions. Or some strange disease is found which kills the entire crew. Or the local star goes supernova.

Each vessel is also an impromptu military ship as well. In most fleet actions against enemies, every kind of ship is flung, even those tiny little ships that consist of little more than a warp engine and a saucer. Picture cruise ships with cannons and you get the idea. And with the front lines come the inevitable casualties.

And why exactly do they allow civilians on these ships? It's just too dangerous. In emergency situations, they just add to the body count. They might even get in the way of operations. Presumably they aren't given as strict training as the actual Star Trek officers, in full blown panic people might die from stampeding riots or accidentally wandering into the same room as the bad guy's photon torpedo.

You also need the support for these families. You need extra electricity, food, water, and general supplies for these people. You need to expand the living space to accommodate them. The ship might end up twice as large as necessary simply because more space is necessary for family dormitories.

Aside from that, you also need more medical technicians and doctors for house calls to all the children and predictable pregnant wives. You need schools and teachers for the children, taking up more supplies. The children will need someplace to play; either more space is wasted on playgrounds or holodeck use is tied up. Imagine the inevitable scheduling conflicts on that latter situation. And to avoid children from wandering into the warp core, bridge, or torpedo tubes, you'd need security measures to stop them, something unnecessary on a disciplined family-less ship.

In the event the ship needs to be abandoned, you have also more personal to direct to the escape pods and again more space wasted on the escape pods themselves.

The captain's decisions will be tainted by the knowledge that he's not only responsible for a Star Fleet vessel, but countless civilians as well. How well can the ship function in a quick battle scenario? Presumably for organized fleet actions the civilians are evacuated, but in exploration missions there's no time for that luxury and you must also consider that ejecting them into escape pods or some other detachable part of the ship might lead to their deaths. The Borg, for one, would have no trouble at all tractoring in and destroying escape pods. Would there ever be an HMS Glowworm in StarFleet? I doubt it, since the captain might balk at such an action in order to save the innocents in his crew.

I think the problem can be better seen if you think about the consequences of the US Navy allowing the crew's families along for the ride on some tour of foreign countries.

StarFleet, which has a distinct military presence even if their mission statement states they are only for peaceful exploration, should definitely not allow families and especially children on their ships. It's a criminal endangerment of innocent lives for the weak purpose of morale. A definite Star Trek booboo.

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