"STAR TREK" Gripes & Pet Peeves (generic)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Rex Bachmann, Apr 15, 2002.

  1. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    I've been thinking a long time about this: Gathering in one place a "rational" (i.e., reasoned and exemplified), (hopefully) coherent list of fans' pet peeves about the filmed Star Trek ouevre as a whole. The "peeves" can be either some basic long-standing characteristics of the series or new or more recent trends that bother you, and that can apply either to the movie series or to the various television series, or (preferably) to both.
    It's not clear to me the format this should take, but, in any event, to keep it manageable and on track, some ground rules, please.
    Let's try to keep this "generic": general pet peeves viewers have about the series (movies and/or television), and preferably ones that cross the various incarnations.
    Let's also not turn this into a "nitpicker's guide". That's already been done and it could go on forever if attempted here!
    example of nitpicking: in NG episode "Schisms" Dr. Crusher informs Will Riker his arm has been severed and reattached a number of times. He looks blankly at her, but never bothers to roll up his sleeve and see for himself. Wouldn't you? This is an instance of bad direction, but conceivably could be used as an example of why ST characters don't act as we think we would in the similar circumstances. (But whatever you present should be part of a demonstrative trend!, which this example isn't, really.)
    Please, let's not turn this into a "I-hate-Voyager (Wesley Crusher, or whatever)" skreed. The peeve should be more general and the object (Voyager, Wesley, or whatever) should represent an instance of some larger fault or trend, as you see it.
    bad: "Why did Janeway (yet again) make a stupid decision to fight 50 attacking alien ships in episode 4x10 instead of high-tailing it for the Alpha Quadrant?"
    good: "Noblesse oblige, or, why don't ST characters act like real people? They bleed nobility and, as a result, their actions are often unbelievable. For example, Janeway . . ., Picard . . . ., Sisko . . . ., Geordi . . . ."
    Get the idea?
    The following are sources for certain pet peeves of many of us, but they may be, in and of themselves, too easy targets:
    a) scientific (in)accuracy/(im)plausibility (This is a big one. Remember, even the basic premises of the series, "warp" travel, time travel, etc. are highly questionable. You can really get bogged down on these and dismiss the whole series!)
    b)dramatic versimilitude ("Are these human(oid)s behaving as I think I would in similar circumstances?")
    c) heavy-handed (or hamfisted?) moralism (Need I say more?)
    d) the---ahem---revisiting of old ST plots and characters (esp. in the movies) (ditto)
    In any event I have 2 pet peeves of my own to start off:
    "Turn up that Viewscreen, or, where are the 23rd-century Nielsen ratings?"
    Ever notice how nobody watches tv on ST in any incarnation (as far as I know)? It's the damnedst thing. Aboard the Enterprise-D (ST:TNG) they would always go to classical-music recitals, hang around "10 Forward" or work off some of that "manly fluid" on the holodeck in their off-hours. They all had private cabins, quite large ones in fact. Yet, no "tv", that is, no private video viewing apparatuses, 2-dimensional or otherwise. It seems that the art of conversation had retaken the fore among the advanced humans (who don't eat meat, smoke, or "do drugs", for that matter). After having wondered about this for years through the various ST incarnations, I finally realized where all the Nielsen ratings were going. They've got "tv", they just call it a "viewscreen".
    Scene:
    The ship is under attack. Systems are failing. The warp coils are damaged and the corps may have to be jettisoned. Relook at many of those scenes and what are the people in them doing? Look carefully and you should note that they aren't manning their stations, pushing every button possible to avoid disaster. They aren't going for the escape pods. Nooooo! Throughout the ship in many (not all, of course) of those scenes people are standing around looking at their view screens!!! (Every now and then, they're just standing around, period!) In Wrath of Khan the villains are trying to find the damaged Enterprise, and how do they spot it? By looking at their complex sensing devices? No! They spot it from their bridge viewscreen! "There she is!" Khan exclaims, as he points right at it. (Note: This is before either ship enters the nebula!) The Klingons about to be destroyed by Federation fire in Undiscovered Country and Generations, what do they do? Order evasive manuevers and try to get out of harm's way? Heck no! They keep watching their viewscreen (and, in one case, spout Shakespearean rhetoric.) (Of course, there's also a continuity error there in Undiscovered Country, which has no doubt been pointed out before.) I know some of this is for dramatic effect, but it nevertheless lends an air of incredibility to these scenes that I think could be avoided with a little tinkering with the dialog and the direction. (By the way, I've noted such scenes also in episodes of Babylon 5, so it's not just ST.)
    Is it really credible that people will have thrown out all those nasty little vid-devices in their private quarters where they otherwise live quite sumptuously??? Not a good projection of 20th-century life, I think.
    "Comfort-Zone issues"
    I have what I call a number of "comfort-zone" issues. Gene Roddenberry often explained the (post-network) success of ST with an oft repeated analysis to the effect that he thought ST was so popular because it showed us there would, indeed, be a future, with technical advance and advances in what today is called "human rights" and the social order (his "no-need-to-grub-for-money" utopianism). I think Mr. Roddenberry was all too right and I always like to say that ST, if it's about anything, it's about comfort, a middle-class American ideal of "comfort", to be sure. But, "comfort" (of mind and body), nonetheless.
    The problem is, for me, that, not only has the series assured us of a good and bountiful future, starting with TNG, it has seemed to assure us that the future would be just like the present, only more so! (Does that "promenade" in DS9 look awfully like the interior of one of those fancy suburban malls, or what?) There are many of these. I'll come back later with more, if there is interest in this and no one else has pointed them out.
    Now, with this one I'm going to violate my own ground rule, but only because it's part of a trend. A pet peeve of mine about ST as a whole: the perceived need to tie everything up with a (sort of) happy ending (a.k.a., pandering to the audience).
    In an episode entitled "Think Tank" of Voyager, the alien think-tank lead character, Kurros, played by Jason Alexander, off-handedly rattles off a number of "solutions" he and his colleagues have provided for various clients. Among them is a "cure for the phage" (a rotting disease that has ravaged the Vidian civilization, which played a large part in the early episodes of Voyager). Now, to me the Vidians were the perfect villains. They were ugly (due to the ravages of the disease), they were alien (although humanoid, natch), worked in the shadows (spooky crypt-like surroundings), and were "evil", of sorts, but they had a quite distinct and different motivation: they needed to harvest the organs (including skin) from living humanoid species to keep themselves alive. (I know, put your mind on cruise about the scientific plausibility of even an advanced civilization surviving for centuries with such a horrific pandemic, let alone overcoming the alien genetic rejection factors in transplants, or the energy and resources needed to go into space just for new organs. If we "nitpick" over that, we can "nitpick" the whole ST oeuvre into oblivion, since such implausibilities are all over the place.) I always liked them as villains, yet the producers of ST were not content to leave the audience with the (discomforting?) thought that the Voyager crew had been fortunate to escape with their lives, yet somewhere in space still lay a civilization of highly intelligent "living corpses" who preyed upon their neighbors and passersby in space. They could've left well enough alone, but they didn't. And they don't. The Vidians had to have their problem "solved" for them so that everyone could be left "happy". (Argggh!)
    Likewise, Species 8472, the other great foe introduced in the Voyager series, is defanged in "In the Flesh". "Aren't we all just human under the skin? Can't we all just get along?" Not only is it improbable---these beings were introducted as wanting to destroy all intelligent life in our part of space because of the incursions (by the Borg) into their "fluidic" realm---, I find it damned insulting to the intelligence of the viewers. "Leopards will change their spots, if we just pet them." Ha!
    Comfort.
    ST producers, what if the answer in life is 'No, we can't all just get along!'? Makes things more complex, doesn't it? Also, more interesting.
    Other peeves out there? (Please keep it generic, but with good examples.)
     
  2. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    You're off to an excellent start at HTF, Rex. And I love the idea of this thread. But my instinct is to move this to "Polls"--but let's see if it will work in this forum.

    As for the television observation, according to Okuda's Star Trek Encyclopedia, television was supposed to have died out, along with American baseball, in the third decade of the twenty-first century in the Trek universe. Of course, that doesn't explain the presence of a TV camera crew aboard the bridge of the Enterprise 1701-B in Generations. ...

    Some of mine:

    * the basic science issues--sound in space, aerobatic maneuvers in space, light beams/phaser beams being visible in the vacuum of space, etc.; "aliens" that are little more than humans with funny-looking foreheads; the relative technological parity among so many different species; the travel-anywhere-no-matter-how-many-lightyears ease of space travel as portrayed...

    * the sociological similarities of the Trek stories to the sociological realities of the times in which they're written. TNG, as much as I love it, features an ensemble who may as well be living in the 1980s/'90s. There's nothing fundamentally futuristic about them.

    * plot rehashing: Well, you did mention it, so I will reiterate it. We're seeing some Enterprise storylines that were already derivitive when TNG did them!

    * the entire concept of the Universal Translator: lose it, and show the real challenges that present themselves in a first-contact scenario

    * the entire concept of the transporter.

    I'll think of more later.
     
  3. Simon Massey

    Simon Massey Cinematographer
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    1. Technobabble : I have no real problem with this per se, as it is often used merely to remind viewers of the advanced technology that the characters have at their disposal - what is more infuriating is when they spend 35 minutes wondering how the hell they are going to get out of this one, only for Data/Geordi/Dax/OBrien/Torres/Kim to come up with something "creative" which usually involves "bypassing the main deflector array, and polarising the trans warp hull (I have no idea if that makes sense. Voyager was most criticized for this, but TNG was just as guilty (DS9 I felt less so, therefore I enjoyed it more).

    2. Episodes which dramtically alter the status quo, and then simply reset at the end. Whilst I don't want to openly criticize a particular series, the Voyager "Year of Hell" 2 parter, was the worst offender here. How great it would have been to see the cast continue with the consequences of these episodes, if only for a few episodes."

    Before anyone jumps on me for criticizing Voyager, I should add that it is my favourite - it is the series that got me into watching Star Trek in the first place.
     
  4. Jeff Pryor

    Jeff Pryor Supporting Actor

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    I remember Lt. Paris having an old 50's style TV in his quarters, watching cartoons. And Cpt Christopher Pike had a TV in his quarters. Just thought I'd mention that.
     
  5. Mike Soltis

    Mike Soltis Stunt Coordinator

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  6. Steve Enemark

    Steve Enemark Second Unit

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    One of your pet peeves is the characters don't watch TV? [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] I don't watch TV now. I can't imagine watching TV if I lived and worked on a futuristic starship.
     
  7. Shayne Lebrun

    Shayne Lebrun Screenwriter

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    My main gripe with star trek is what I call the 'convenient inconvenient problem.'

    The prime example of this is the episode where Geordi and Ro Laren are sent out of phase by an accident on a Romulan Warbird. They can walk through people, walls, and even at one point knock a Romulan, similarly effected, right out of the hull.

    They never seem to sink through the deck, when walking, though, and somehow aren't left behind when the ship moves, but cannot impart momentum to them...

    Or even how they manage to dive for cover(!) behind some furniture at one point....

    How ..... convenient.....
     
  8. Mark Kalzer

    Mark Kalzer Second Unit

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  9. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    My pet peeve is when a show will ignore characters for months and then "make up for it" by putting impossibly-rapid character developement (or crisis) into a single episode.

    For example, T'Pol and Trip should be interacting now and then, if they are secretly attracted to one another. I don't want an episode to come out of the blue where they suddenly go for it; tease the situation out with a few throwaway lines here and there in the background. Fans will pick up on this, casual viewers won't notice. Actually, I think Enterprise is already doing this very well ("just because a man is in his underwear, you think the worst").

    I can't fault Enterprise. But in past series, most bothersome was that instead of this subtle sort of actual character motivation, the writers would seize on some innane reference to something the characters liked, (like "Racktagino" drinks or "Prune juice"), and stick those references in as if those simple sentences were all that was needed to provide the home-style touch of familiarity that would make us feel like the crew was real. "Oh, he made a reference to the way Worf likes Prune juice, oh how good! Worf likes Prune juice and the writers remembered, oh, I am SO proud of them for paying attention to what makes characters tick!". Or, maybe the best example: When faced with the realization that Tom Paris on Voyager had no personality, they gave him a love of cars and old tv. Good move. Maybe Bill Gates lack of personality is made up for his love of computers. Not. Relationships to inanimate objects or favorite beverages is not what makes characters tick!* And fortunately, the writers of Enterprise seem to know this.

    *With the exception of Riker and Minuet, of course.
     
  10. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    Jack Briggs wrote:
    Okay to the Paris gadget. But that's clearly a make-shift device on his part that is not part of the contemporary culture of the world (universe) of ST.
    As for Captain Pike, I remember he had a viewscreen for communication, but other than that I'm at a loss. Keep in mind that, when I say "tv", I'm not talking so much about a mechanical electronic gadget as I am about "programming" and social entertainment. I don't see (or remember) any evidence that any such thing was available to Captain Pike.
    My comment on "tv" is meant to be an extension of my criticism of the future world of ST being way too much like our own. This one particular salient culture feature ("tv" programming) seems not to be there; that is, until you see how transfixed various characters are in various scenes looking at their viewscreens, usu. in time of high danger when they should be pressing buttons or doing whatever instead of looking idlely and doing nothing.
     
  11. David Forbes

    David Forbes Supporting Actor

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    In a first or second season TNG episode where they found the three frozen people from the early 21st century (can't remember the name of the episode now, it's been years since I've seen it, but I think the Romulans reappeared for the first time at the end), one of the revived people is some martini-swilling Texan who asks Data, "Where y'all keep the tee-vee?" Data says directly, "That form of entertainment did not survive past the mid-21st century," or something to that effect. So that was stated directly in the series.
     
  12. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Rex, about the Vidians:
    One of the key themes in Voyager was how the crew effected the Delta Quadrant. Episodes like that were necessary to have them do some good in the quadrant rather than just flying around trying to get home.
    I don't really have a problem with any of the tech and science issues. To me, that's all just window dressing. The space thing is just a setting to me anyway.
    My three major peeves:
    1. Dont' worry about keeping up, folks...
    Almost every episode on the Star Treks were stand-alone. I know this is standard practice on TV, but I contend that the best episodes were either two-parters or that deal with some running arc. (This doesn't really apply to TOS, since they were almost all stand-alone.)
    Next Generation: Anything with the Borg was great, especially the two-parter. Lor was always great, and my favorite story-arc in all of Trek was Warf and his family. They did a good job building on that- first with his brother getting him to try to defend their father's honor, being outcast, then later putting Gauron in charge and fighting in the Civil War. Great stuff! Why didn't they do more like that? They could have giving an equally powerful story line to Riker or Picard, but they just put them through one-shot ringers every now and then. Ugh!
    I am convinced that dramas are better when they are planned, rather than just made up as they go along. Babylon 5 showed me how powerful TV can be, and I've heard the same thing from Buffy fans. X-Files has made some of the best and worst TV because of this phenomenon. They just fall back on safe, harmless TV because focus groups and statistics tell them to make the episodes stand-alone. God forbid the audience has to pay some freakin' attention. Blech.
    2. Poor character development
    Will_B already said this, but good character development doesn't mean taking time out of the plot to show the crew trying to figure out what kind of cake their weapon's officer likes. If you do the main story right, you see the character's personality come out when it really matters. I'm not interested in cute little friendly character thingies.
    As I'm probably the biggest Voyager defender here, I will say this: the relationship between Janeway and Tuvok was done very well. Usually not too mushy, and placed within the context of the story.
    3. Kids in space?!
    Picard said that he felt the idea of kids and families on a space ship is stupid. He was so right. Knowing your ship can be in horrible danger, what kind of parent would bring their children? Kids in general annoy me, and I don't want them in my TV shows. Wesley Crusher- awful. Voyager had the little girl with the horns, and that was bad enough- but then they decided to add three more kids. This was the main reason why the last season of Voyager was so terrible.
     
  13. Shayne Lebrun

    Shayne Lebrun Screenwriter

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  14. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    My biggest pet peeve is that we so seldom see civilian life in the Federation. One of the things I loved about DS9 was that it had a number of non-military characters (Quark and Jake may have been the only ones in the opening credits, but there were several recurring ones). It's strange - we've had 35-plus years of Star Trek continuity, but we really know nothing about the world in which it's set. There's some high ideals about how there's no war/poverty/money, but nothing about what this means to people's lives - or how it works. For example, Maurice Picard had a winery. Well, what if I decide I'd like to? If there's no money, how are resources allocated in this socialist utopia?
     
  15. Chris Lock

    Chris Lock Second Unit

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    > Ever notice how nobody watches tv on ST in any incarnation
    Maybe because the ship is too far out to run the cable to it. [​IMG]
     
  16. Shayne Lebrun

    Shayne Lebrun Screenwriter

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  17. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    I love all these posts! Great thread, Rex. As to your comments, more than once Benjamin Sisko lamented the demise of American baseball. And, yes, Data did say that about television. These proved less than substantial when the writers had other ideas (e.g., the television crew aboard the Enterprise-B, again).

    I also like what Jason Seaver said: Since civilian life in the Federation is basically utopian and collective, just how does the substitute for an economy work? And what are people's motives to push onward, as a result?

    Another thing I think is a cop-out: inventing story arcs that too closely mirror current events. For example, the entire political subtheme of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country reeked of the then-current Soviet/U.S. situation. And many have decried the Bajorian/Cardassian conflict as a Trek take on the Bosnian quagmire of the early '90s.

    It would be refreshing if Star Trek Incorporated were to focus instead on good science fiction. The writers need to use their imaginations.
     
  18. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I want to nitpick a few nitpicks, first [​IMG] Then I'll add my own problmes with ST.
     
  19. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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  20. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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