Created By: amyrose on November 16, 2011 Last Edited By: amyrose on November 22, 2011

Guest Scientist Ruins The Mission

Every non-crew scientist that comes aboard invariably goes too far and puts the whole ship in danger

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Should We Have This??

The scientist isn't evil or anything, he or she just always has something to prove, and always ends up putting the ship in danger by ignoring some rule, limitation, or design flaw.

It happens like a billion times in the various Star Trek shows. For real, if the captain's log at the start of any Star Trek episode contains any phrase resembling "we've welcomed aboard Doctor Bob, who will be performing an experiment," I guarantee you that Doctor Bob will have totally fucked up and put everyone's lives in jeopardy by the end of the show.

I'm super curious whether this is a Star Trek specific phenomena, or if this exists outside it. It might just be a super specialized instance of the Icarus story.

I find myself in the position of not really being able to make a good comparison or verification when it comes to a lot of the examples being proposed outside of Star Trek (which are really the examples that would make this an actual trope and not just a "thing they did once in original Star Trek that gets referenced a lot in later Star Treks"), so feel free to add or remove non Star Trek examples directly to or from this here original post. Well, feel free to add, but if you're inclined to remove, make sure you explain your reasoning in a comment, I guess.

Examples from Star Trek

  • Star Trek: The Original Series
    • Larry Marvick, one of the original designers of the Enterprise, comes aboard, goes mad from sneaking a peak at an Eldritch Abomination ambassador, and sabotages the warp engines, throwing the ship through the galactic barrier and possibly into another dimension.
    • Dr. Richard Daystrom, designer of most, if not all, the computer systems on the Enterprise, is invited to test out his newest invention, an AI capable of replacing the entire crew of a starship, on board the Enterprise. The AI's thought processes turn out to be modeled after Daystrom's own, which ends up being a huge problem when it becomes apparent that Daystrom has basically been driven insane by the pressure he feels from the scientific community to prove his worth. Of course, the AI goes rogue and nearly destroys a bunch of spaceships.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • Warp specialist Kosinski and his alien companion, the Traveler, accidentally send the Enterprise first to a distant galaxy, and then to another dimension (or the far end of the universe, where thoughts become real- it's never really specified)
    • Dr. Marr from "Silicon Avatar" is supposed to help the crew find a way to communicate with the Crystalline Entity. She does, but before any meaningful communication happens, she sabotages the communication method and turns it into a weapon against the Entity, which she blames for the death of her son on a colony it once attacked.
    • Dr. Paul Stubbs started a war between the Enterprise crew and newly sentient nanites in "Evolution" because dealing with the nanites was delaying his critical experiment, an experiment that could only be performed once every 200 years. He was desperate to prove he was more than a one-time child prodigy, and took matters into his own hands when it seemed that his chance was slipping away from him.
    • The scientists at Darwin Station from "Unnatural Selection" genetically engineered psychokinetic children with immune systems that are lethal to normal humanoids. Dr. Pulaski (main character) almost dies from old age before she is restored by the transporter.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise

Other Examples

  • Farscape: T'raltixx comes aboard Moya supposedly to install stealth technology to help the Leviathan and her crew hide from their enemies, but in actuality seeks light to 1) make himself more powerful and 2) drive the crew insane.
    • Interesting inversion from Farscape: Linfer, once of Scorpius' alien scientists working on wormhole research, defects from the Peacekeepers and seeks out Moya, offering wormhole theory in exchange for command of the ship. No one trusts her, and it turns out her wormhole equations were just as wrong as all the other attempts, which turned the pilots into warm goo. Linfer dies as the others died, only after a time delay of a couple hours. Fortunately, the crew of Moya (with the exception of John Crichton) were Properly Paranoid and refused her offer of wormhole knowledge for command of Moya.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • November 17, 2011
    Arivne
    We can start off with some Star Trek examples.

    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek
      • Star Trek The Original Series
        • Dr. Richard Daystrom in "The Ultimate Computer". His AI computer is installed on the Enterprise so it can be tested. It goes berserk, takes over the ship and kills many Starfleet crew on another starship.
      • Star Trek The Next Generation
        • Where No One Has Gone Before. Mr. Kosinski, a Starfleet propulsion expert, comes aboard to improve the Enterprise engines. It turns out that he's incompetent and his "improvements" screw up, catapulting the Enterprise 2.7 million light years away from the Milky Way galaxy.
        • "Silicon Avatar". Doctor Marr is brought on board the Enterprise in order to find a way to communicate with the Crystalline Entity, an incredibly dangerous and destructive space creature. After the Entity appears to make friendly contact, she destroys it to gain revenge against it for killing her son. If she hadn't succeeded, the Entity could have destroyed the Enterprise.
  • November 17, 2011
    fulltimeD

    Examples from Star Trek

    • Star Trek The Original Series
      • Larry Marvick, one of the original designers of the Enterprise, comes aboard, goes mad from sneaking a peak at an Eldritch Abomination ambassador, and sabotages the warp engines, throwing the ship through the galactic barrier and possibly into another dimension.
    • Star Trek The Next Generation
      • Warp specialist Kosinski and his alien companion, the Traveler, accidentally send the Enterprise first to a distant galaxy, and then to another dimension (or the far end of the universe, where thoughts become real- it's never really specified)
      • Dr. Marr from "Silicon Avatar" is supposed to help the crew find a way to communicate with the Crystalline Entity. She does, but before any meaningful communication happens, she sabotages the communication method and turns it into a weapon against the Entity, which she blames for the death of her son on a colony it once attacked.
      • Dr. Paul Stubbs started a war between the Enterprise crew and newly sentient nanites in "Evolution" because dealing with the nanites was delaying his critical experiment, an experiment that could only be performed once every 200 years
      • The scientists at Darwin Station from "Unnatural Selection" genetically engineered psychokinetic children with immune systems that are lethal to normal humanoids. Dr. Pulaski (main character) almost dies from old age before she is restored by the transporter.
  • November 17, 2011
    fulltimeD
    I don't watch any of the Star Gate shows so I can't say for certain but it's probably turned up there as well.
  • November 17, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Farscape: T'raltixx comes aboard Moya supposedly to install stealth technology to help the Leviathan and her crew hide from their enemies, but in actuality seeks light to 1) make himself more powerful and 2) drive the crew insane.
  • November 17, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Note that in Star Trek The Next Generation, when there wasn't a guest scientist around, Wesley Crusher often filled this role in early seasons, for example when one of his school projects trapped his mother in a rapidly shrinking alternate universe where people she knew disappeared one by one.

    Also, in the episode "New Ground," the Enterprise was caught in a malfunctioning experiment to propel a starship to warp speeds without conventional engines. The scientist who developed this technology stayed on a planet, though, and never came aboard the ship. He was seen on the view screen frequently.
  • November 17, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Here's an interesting inversion from Farscape: Linfer, once of Scorpius' alien scientists working on wormhole research, defects from the Peacekeepers and seeks out Moya, offering wormhole theory in exchange for command of the ship. No one trusts her, and it turns out her wormhole equations were just as wrong as all the other attempts, which turned the pilots into warm goo. Linfer dies as the others died, only after a time delay of a couple hours. Fortunately, the crew of Moya (with the exception of John Crichton) were Properly Paranoid and refused her offer of wormhole knowledge for command of Moya.
  • November 17, 2011
    fulltimeD
    There's also Doctor Janice Lester from Star Trek The Original Series, who hijacked Kirk's body.
  • November 17, 2011
    DeusExBiotica
    Some of these examples sound they might, in fact, be malice on the scientist's part, which I thought was not the point of the trope.

    Other than that, this looks good to me - it seems to come a lot, in the shows mentioned, as well as Doctor Who, which is rife with one-episode, well-meaning scientists almost ending the world.
  • November 17, 2011
    amyrose
    They may or may not mean well, the point is that they appear sane and well-meaning enough initially, to both the viewer and the characters in the show, that they are given permission to do whatever experiment. It just turns out later that the experiment, and the idea that it might succeed, was really the only thing holding the scientist together mentally. Or something like that.

    I can't really speak to the Farscape examples, as I've not watched it.
  • November 17, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Not sure if this counts, or is a subversion

    Live Action Television:
    • In the Terra Nova episode, "proof", Dr. Kenneth Horton's experiment isn't the issue, it's the fact that he's an imposter willling to kill to keep his secret identity secret, nearly rusulting in the death of Maddie (main character).
  • November 17, 2011
    DaibhidC
  • November 17, 2011
    darkapothem2000
    The "visiting ____ with different ideals/attitudes/methods is introduced into the tightly knit team of _____ and has to confront this week's problem; complications arise, conflict between guest and main cast erupts" happens a lot in crime dramas too... would these kinds of examples fall under a separate trope?
  • November 18, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Agree with Amyrose. Malice may or may not be involved on the guest's part, but it's their disruptive presence and (usually) subsequent mental breakdown that seem to make this trope.
  • November 18, 2011
    fulltimeD
    @darkapothem2000: Of course it's up to the OP if they want to expand this trope to cover that but I think it makes sense to treat this specifically as a Speculative Fiction trope and a subtrope of "visiting guest with different ideas/attitudes/methods introduced to tightly knit team of ___ having to confront this week's problem." As an example, Admiral Jameson from the Star Trek The Next Generation episode "Too Short A Season," not being a scientist but rather a character with a shady past (having violated the Prime Directive), secretive methods, who doesn't get along with the tightly knit Enterprise crew would not be an example of this trope, but rather would be an example of the Supertrope you mentioned being common to crime dramas.
  • November 18, 2011
    darkapothem2000
    ^ That seems reasonable... of course that begs the question of what trope would function as the Supertrope.
  • November 18, 2011
    fulltimeD
    We'll have to do some wiki research to determine if we already have it, but if we don't, it would make a great YKTTW
  • November 18, 2011
    fulltimeD
    If we have it, I can't find it, so I am suggesting the supertrope be called "Square Guest Round Cast."
  • November 18, 2011
    donald
  • November 18, 2011
    troacctid
  • November 18, 2011
    darkapothem2000
    @fulltimeD: I looked too and wasn't able to dig anything up... assuming this trope is going to remain as is, I'm in favor of Square Guest Round Cast for the supertrope.
  • November 20, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Okay, I went ahead and created a Square Guest Round Cast YKTTW. If you're not sure if your example fits here, or if it's non-SF specific, you might want to see if it can be listed there.
  • November 22, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Bump. Good description and examples. Needs more hats.
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