Stupid SF on TV

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by BrianW, Jul 16, 2001.

  1. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Here are just a few things I see all too often in TV SF that make me groan, or even turn the TV off. It should be noted that I’ve tried to exclude very specific applications of science or technology that exist solely to serve as plot devices (warp particles). As plot devices, they serve a purpose, albeit a lazy one. Instead, I’ve tried to comprise my list of broad notions that, apparently, screenwriters think are appropriate in any SF setting:
    ”We’re from a different galaxy.” – You must be from the most boring galaxy in the Universe, then, because nothing could possibly be worth crossing the intergalactic void. It would be like an ant colony deciding to travel to a different continent, on a different planet, because its own continent wasn’t enough. And to make matters more difficult, the galaxy you finally reach will look nothing like it did from back home. (“Dang! That pretty star we came to see got blowed up even before we started our trip!”)
    It’s an element unknown to man. – Unless you’re in a different universe, then you should easily be able to weigh and test a sample to determine what element or isotope of an element it is. And if you’re able to make it this far and determine that it is and element, and not an alloy or a mass on interconnected nanobots, then identifying the atomic number should be a snap.
    ”Your guns are no match for our lasers.” – Dr. Who said it best: “Those projectile weapons will blow your brains out a lot more effectively than your lasers will blow their brains out.”
    ”Our race is more evolved.” – Your race may be more technologically advanced, perhaps even more intelligent. But evolution does not “seek” any goal such as intelligence, enlightenment, or technical ability. It seeks only adaptability, and intelligence is but one of many tools in its arsenal to achieve that singular goal.
    Telepathy is the next evolutionary step. – Many truly believe this despite the fact that nobody knows how telepathy would work even if it did spontaneously arise. Indeed, the best evidence for this notion is that “telepathy is futuristic.” (All this means is that it hasn’t happened yet – doesn’t mean it’s gonna.)
    Simultaneity between events in two reference frames, light years apart. – Although the notion of simultaneity is as entrenched in our way of thinking as object permanence, it just isn’t so on a galactic scale. Pushing a button here that causes something to happen “immediately” on the other side of the galaxy is a natural way to think, given that it is technologically possible. But the two events could happen simultaneously, or up to 50,000 years apart – in either direction! – depending entirely on the reference frame of the observer. This is, perhaps, the most forgivable error since it is so counterintuitive.
    To hit the moon, just aim at the moon and press the launch button. – Orbital mechanics is just a little more complicated than that.
    Objects that collapse into black holes (for whatever reason) intensify their gravitational pull on objects that are no closer than before the collapse. – If the Moon, without the addition of more mass, suddenly collapsed into a black hole, it would continue to orbit the Earth as it always has. Although eclipses would be boring, the Earth would not get sucked up.
    Very weak communications signals take a lot of power to amplify and clean up. – Never mind life support! Reroute all power! I have to hear what she said! Play it again, LOUDER!
    ”My name would take you 50 years to pronounce.” – How about if I just call you Stupid? Or would Stupid Alien be better?
     
  2. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Screenwriter

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    What's this got to do with San Francisco? And the City is NOT stupid.
    Rob
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    "That suits me down to the ground."
     
  3. Peter McM

    Peter McM Supporting Actor

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    I believe the line from The Simpsons' favorite aliens, Kang and Kodos, sums it up best:
    "Your superior intellect is no match for our puny weapons!"
     
  4. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    I staunchly support the spirit of this thread, and agree with all of Brian's points.
    Let's not forget some of the basic screw-ups--
    ¥ Sound in space.
    ¥ Aerobatic maneuvers in space (note how on Voyager's music/opening-title sequence, you see the ship banking around a planet before zooming off at warp--why did the thing have to bank into a corner?).
    ¥ Phaser or laser or other kinds of light-based weapons shooting with a clearly discernable forward motion--as if the speed of light had been reduced by several million factors. Light, by our perception, is instantaneous.
    ¥ Seeing a light-based weapon's rays in space in the first place.
    ¥ Alien races that have all seemed to arrive at the same point in their technological development at the same time.
    ¥ Aliens that are basically humans with weird-looking foreheads.
    ¥ Over-optimistic projections about the future (remember Space: Above and Beyond's positing of interstellar travel at something like fifty years or so from now?).
    ¥ A complete and total lack of appreciation for the actual distances involved in interstellar flight (remember how in Star Trek: First Contact when Picard and crew are in the Neutral Zone, they hear about the Borg wreaking havoc on Earth in real time--and zip to the rescue in just minutes?).
    ¥ And on and on and on. I'll think of more later in the day.
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    [​IMG]
     
  5. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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  6. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    I, too, will grant that the Voyager sequence where the ship banks through the nebula is gorgeous eye candy, despite its wince factor. Also, Jack, I hasten to remind you that there’s no classical music in space either. [​IMG]
    To continue:
    Asteroids in the Asteroid Belt are packed as densely as trees in a forest. – I don’t recall the Asteroid Belt ever being depicted in which asteroids aren’t in serious danger of crashing into one another. To make matters worse, ships navigating through the Asteroid Belt do so only at perilous risk of being smashed if the helmsman’s reflexes aren’t up to snuff. In reality, if you positioned yourself on any given asteroid, you’d probably need a telescope to see the next nearest one. Avoiding collision with an asteroid when traveling through the belt is even easier than avoiding trees while crossing the Pacific Ocean. (Watch out for those pesky Hawaiian islands.)
    Nebulae are clouds of glowing gas as dense as fog. – Nebulae are structures that often occupy many cubic light years. They are so tenuous that the notion of a ship leaving a wake as it travels through a nebula is laughable. Even if you were inside a nebula, you would be hard pressed to detect it. We can see their glow, not because they are so bright, but because they are so big. While in the middle of it, you might be able to see the surrounding gas glowing, but it would be dimmer than if you were outside it, and the glow would still appear to be a light year or more away. It’s like taking a 40 watt bulb and spreading its source across 100 cubic kilometers. You might be able to easily detect the light in aggregate, but even if you were standing in the middle of it, you wouldn’t have enough light from it to see your hand in front of your face. Scarcely denser than the Moon’s atmosphere (No atmosphere on the Moon you say? There is no perfect vacuum. Even the interstellar void is believed to have two or three particles per cubic centimeter.), the vast majority of nebulae are just barely there at all.
     
  7. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Er, um, the symphonic music is piped in through Dave's and Frank's helmets via a CD player aboard the Discover. ... [​IMG]
    More:
    ¥ Planets exploding to smithereens in just seconds (a la Star Wars). Consider the distances we're talking about here. If the planetary debris were thrust outward at that speed, it would be traveling at a significant fraction of the speed of light. You'd see debris, for sure--but not exploding the way bomb does on Earth. It would take time for the planetary catastrophe to become evident.
    ¥ Universal translators that work. (C'mon. A completely alien language would have no possible reference points to English. This is one of Star Trek's major shortcomings and cop-outs. One of the most significant aspects of a first-contact scenario is learning how to communicate.
    ¥ Human "clones" being born as adults.
    ¥ Using the words "robot" and "android" interchangeably. Not the same.
    More on the way. ...
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    [​IMG]
     
  8. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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    Relying on Turbo Lifts to travel from one deck to the other when they have site to site transport available to them. And, why don't the Turbo Lifts have big crowds waiting for them to arrive to their deck? The Turbo Lift is always available at the deck the instant they push the call button. They don't have to make any other stops on any other decks to pick up or drop off other passengers.
    Even though there isn't enough power to maintain life support, there still is plenty to keep the artificial gravity turned on.
    You can't punch a hologram, but they can punch you.
    (More on universal translators) The universal tranlator not only translates spoken languages instantly, but it masks out the original language so it's completely inaudible and it synchronizes the lip movements to match English as well.
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    Bill [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Grant B

    Grant B Producer

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    ¥ Aerobatic maneuvers in space (note how on Voyager's music/opening-title sequence, you see the
    ship banking around a planet before zooming off at warp--why did the thing have to bank into a
    corner?).
    If you look very carefully atthe rear of voyager you can see a tiny, "if this ships a rockin', don't come a knockin" bumper sticker
    The parts I love are when they come up with some concept, which if wrong or a little off "would destroy life as we know it" AND without testing .....simulations etc... try it FOR REAL and of course it works.
    Generally alcohol helps on these movies/shows.
    But it's harmless fun.
    When I was working on the Trident II Missile and Ronnie blurted out we can recall them( Do they back into the launch tube or head in, Warhead first?) and that guy had the launch codes .....and he seems sensible and smart compared to the guy now...gimme my beer , I'll turn voyager back on.
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    Why?
    Why do you keep hounding me and harassing me and hounding me?
    It's not like I don't have anything better to do, you know.
    It's not like the Phantom Cruiser is going to wax itself.
    It's not like last night's burrito stain will just up and remove itself from my cape.
    I am a superhero!
    A very very busy superhero! Who does...things!
    Now get out of here before I tell your mother.
    AND DON'T TRAMPLE MY BEGONIAS!
    -Space Ghost..
     
  10. Damian

    Damian Agent

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    My favorite is how when two different vessels meet up in space, they always arrive facing each other and pointed in the same direction (up/down..etc) In space, there is no concept of above and below other then in relation to your current position. So ships wouldn't all fly in the same straight line.
    So this being the case, when multiple ships meet up, why aren't they all pointing in different directions? They never show them manuevering themselves into the same direction as the ship we are looking from.
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    -Damian
     
  11. Ken Chan

    Ken Chan Producer

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    Surely turbolifts are much more energy-efficient and safer than using intra-ship transport!
    As for up/down, if there are agreed-upon coordinate systems, they are likely to use the galactic plane as the basis for up/down. The same could be done for individual solar systems (although those might all be different). Yes, ships do end up head-to-head way too often -- I liked how the Enterprise-E came in for the attack in the last ep of TNG -- but it's not like there's zero basis for it.
    //Ken
     
  12. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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    This ship orientation thing (or is that oriention? Wait, that's another thread) reminded me of watching NASA TV the other day. The astronauts were working on the space station (inside). One was reading the instructions off while the other two were following the instructions. All three of them were "standing" in the same orientation. I thought about it for a minute and realized that there was no reason for it to be this way. There is no floor or up or down. I was thinking that if I get to do that someday, I'm going to orient (orientate [​IMG] ) myself upside-down from everyone else just to piss people off. [​IMG]
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    Bill [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     

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