Sci-Fi has bad tropes, too
Because I don't have much else to write about tonight, I've decided to take something that was originally just a few tweets long and expand upon it. I've been watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the better part of a year now. Not because I particularly enjoyed it, but because I started it and now I feel compelled to see it all the way through. I think it stands as pretty good example of '90s sci-fi and, really, story telling in general. And when you watch an entire series, something that was meant to have at least a week in between episodes, all back to back in bingeing sessions, you notice a lot of things wrong it it.
Now, these are specifically about Deep Space 9, but you can extrapolate these into Star Trek in general, and really, even into science fiction in general. Here's a few gripes in no particular order.
1. Exploding Consoles
About the closest thing I think we have to a star ship analog is a warship or maybe a submarine. When I look at movies that portray navel combat, I notice something. I've never seen a single movie where the ship was hit and people on the bridge go flying.
"Sir! They've hit our engines!" And on cue the person manning the controls for navigation goes flying through the air as their console explodes into flames. Why?! First off, are fuses and breakers not a thing in the future? And second, wouldn't it make more sense for the console to just go dark? That's like having someone shoot my tire and then my steering wheel blows up.
I get it, it makes things more exciting. Legitimate space battles would be really, really boring. Still... why?
2. Asteroid Fields
Admittedly, this one is against science fiction in general. If you want to ramp up the tension of a thrilling flight through space, send them into an asteroid field. After all, C3-PO said they were nigh impossible to navigate!
Real life is way more boring. See, if the asteroids were close enough to actually be a threat, bouncing off each other and whatnot, they would have congealed into a proto-planetary mass eons ago. In reality, if you were on an asteroid in our asteroid belt, you likely couldn't see another asteroid. They're that far apart. It's less like maneuvering through an obstacle course and more like weaving between the only two trees in the Sahara.
And yet, lazy writing or misunderstanding, DS9 used asteroid fields on multiple occasions, at least once off screen. The very notion of an asteroid fielding being a guaranteed danger (and one that you can apparently fall into by accident?) is so firmly planted into the audience that they don't even have to bother with showing it. Just say "Asteroid Field" and the audience gasps!
3. Why do five people do all the work?
So you have your captain, right? His job is pretty self-explanatory. He's important to the space station / ship and needs to be there for things to function properly. Okay. You've also got your (apparently only) doctor. And your chief engineer. These are people you would assume would be needed on a space station all the time. In fact, the running gag is that when Miles O'Brien, the chief engineer of DS9, leaves for more than five minutes, the whole station breaks apart.
And yet, every episode that features them leaving the station makes sure to include every important named character. The chief medical officer for a station that supposedly has a population of between 300 and 2000 people (with a total capacity of 7,000) loses it's most important medical officer and the one engineer that can fix it every time there's a mission.
The other Star Treks suffer from this, too! Why does the captain, arguably the most important officer, always go on the away missions? And the most important people from each department? Shouldn't there be people specifically trained for something like this? I can understand diplomatic meetings, but "Hey, this planet has blue slime on it. Let's take a closer look" is not justification for putting your entire senior staff in jeopardy.
On a related note... shouldn't there be a night crew? The characters we see operate at the same time, during the same shifts. But we know there are night crews, right? So... who's flying the Enterprise while Riker and Picard are asleep? What's their deal? How come the Romulans never attack when the night crew has the helm?
4. Drones. Drones are a thing!
"Captain, we found a very suspicious looking planet. There's a lot of weird cronotons shooting around the atmosphere that might end up with us having an entire episode dedicated to us saving the time-space continuum. Should I pull the entire ship into the atmosphere so we can have a better look?"
DS9 did this a lot. Something look weird? Beam a crew down to look. Oh no! Ensign No-Name died! Hell, even Star Trek: Discovery did this in one of their first few episodes. They sent the main character out into space in a space suit to get a "better look" rather then send drones.
I understand that drones are a relatively new technology, at least for the common man, but the concept is old. We know Star Trek has had probes for a while. And they've had robots and droids. And they've had remote controlled shuttles. And, yes, they've even mentioned drones by names a few times. Why do they always send humans (or aliens) in person to check things out? It always ends up with someone catching Space Herpes and three people we've never met dying while the one reoccurring character miraculously survives.
On that same note... if you see the crew interacting with someone you've never met, joking, laughing, sharing a meal, or otherwise getting along like their old friends, that person is going to die.
So there's my thoughts on some sci-fi tropes that need a little work. Hopefully I'll find a show someday that actually works around these things. Well... other than Firefly.
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