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Headscratchers: SF Debris
  • When he rants about how much Lwaxana Troi sucks, he says that if he were trapped in a room with her, Neelix, and Okona, with a gun with two bullets, he'd shoot himself. Why? Wouldn't the better option be shoot her and Okona, then bludgeon Neelix to death with the gun?
    • No. Lwaxana is so annoying see that he couldn't concentrate on aiming so he would just try to aim it at his own head.
    • He's genre savvy enough to know you "always save the last bullet for yourself." The fact that he just used the second-to-last bullet on himself is irrelevant.
      • That, or he fears if he shot one of them, the remaining two would overpower him and take the gun before he could finish himself off. Or, failing that, he's just saving time.
  • In his review of "The Neutral Zone," he quite appropriate calls out the high-handedness of the episode and TNG's (especially early TNG's) construction of this dull and implausible moneyless future world. But the mini-rant against Gene Roddenberry's "Marxism" doesn't really make sense, and does itself no favors by using Marxism and Communism almost as synonyms and showing little understanding of the complexities of these terms, especially considering that Roddenberry's vision is probably better tagged as nebulously socialist or even Utopian. Did Roddenberry ever identify himself as a Marxist? The strangest part is his comments on the Writer's Guild of America strike that loomed at the beginning of TNG season 2; it was not solely about money. Further, as a great many trade unionists can tell you, it's entirely possible to say "I subscribe to a viewpoint that money shouldn't be necessary, BUT as bringing this about is not within my power, and I live in a society where money is vital, I need to watch to make sure I and people like me are making what we deserve, because people above us are going to deprive us at any chance they get." Besides, the fact that the TNG boxed sets are grotesquely overpriced has nothing to do with any of the creative personnel of the show, does it?
    • I think it was a mistake. But I'm not up on Economic theory.
    • The boxed sets came after Gene's death, but the "lyrics" to the old series theme were written to screw the composer out of extra royalties. The recycled scripts and scripts being mangled by Gene himself in attempts to milk the Trek cash cow. As the show was preaching it's highhanded cashless utopia.
      • Oh yes, there's no question that Roddenberry was a flaming hypocrite. He did not personally live up to his vision, not by a long shot. The question becomes: does that invalidate his vision?
      • I don't think he ever questioned whether or not it did invalidate his vision. Just that he shouldn't of used his show to preach an idea like that if he was going to be an hypocrite about it.
      • Frankly, whether or not Gene's actions invalidate Gene's vision is irrelevant since his "vision" was never all that clear in the first place. Gene's vision, as explained by Picard in that episode, is of a society where prejudice, hatred, hunger, and of course "the need for possessions" have all been eliminated. Now, a society without prejudice, hatred, or hunger is one thing. We can imagine a society like that. But an entire world where absolutely no one ever wants for anything that they don't have? A society where an entire interplanetary economy somehow functions without currency of any kind? What does that even mean? Is it based on some new economic theory or did the entire human race just wake up one morning and say, "You know what? I think for the rest of my life I'm going to do my job for no pay, and feel awesome about it!"? If it is a kind of "new economics" that makes it possible, how does it work? Can you explain it or show it to us in action? Oh, right, you can't. Because not only does it not exist, it's such an unfathomable concept you can't even imagine what it would be like if it did exist. Even the writers of Star Trek couldn't figure out how Gene's "vision" was supposed to work, so they slipped in some vague references to "Federation credits" here and there. I guess they waited until Gene had his back turned and then scribbled it into the script margins or something.
      • I think you misunderstand why there may or may not be an economy in 24th Century Star Trek. It is because of the replicators. They have no hunger because they all have enough to feed themselves, they have no prejudice because humans came together in their darkest hour after WWIII and survived to travel to the stars. They have no money because why would I want to do a job for money if I can just make a burger if I'm really hungry, or replicate parts of a couch and build one? They are still motivated to work at all because a lot of humans naturally want to work and feel useful.
      • Except there are still several problems with that. The first and foremost being that this vision of the future relies on the existence of a magic technology that doesn't exist. It sure would be nice if we had replicators, but we don't. So what use is Gene's vision if it is literally impossible to realize? Second, replicators make absolutely no scientific sense. There are a hundred reasons I could point to for why such a device would never work. And even if they did work, Chuck himself pointed out in his review of "In The Cards" that simply having replicator technology doesn't instantly eliminate human want and desire. Third, no one involved in the Trek franchise, not Gene, not Rick Berman, not one person has ever even attempted to explain why humans would bother to go out and do productive things if there was no incentive to do them. Civilization is a messy business. Who, or what, does all those dirty jobs that keep the world going if there is no monetary incentive to push them into it? Would you shovel shit for a living if you knew you would never be paid or compensated in any way? Of course not. But those jobs need to be done regardless, so how do they get done? The best Gene and the other Trek writers ever offered in the way of an explanation is that humans "evolved" to the point where they decided to work for the betterment of humanity instead of for wealth or possessions. But again, that brings us back to the original question: How was this change achieved? Was there some revolutionary figure who created a new human philosophy that took the world by storm? If so, what is that philosophy? Can we read the manifesto? Oh, right, we can't. Because they have no idea what it would say. Again we have a utopian future that tries to preach a moral at us...without ever explaining how to follow that moral.
      • Why are you contributing to TV Tropes? The "Wiki" model shows one way that humans, whose basic needs have been met, will often spend their surplus time and energy trying to be useful. It is not inconceivable that the Federation could function without money as we now know it, but there would still have to be explicit or implicit reward systems to make sure that necessary jobs got done and necessary tasks were carried out. In fact many militaries function in this model as if you look at the pay it is downright pathetic compared to the private sector and is unlikely the motivating factor for the soldiers to do their duties and risk their lives. If all basic needs are covered and then people are offered rewards like better quarters, more exciting jobs or more holodeck time you can achieve the same outcome as one would with explicit currency.
      • Sorry but you misunderstood. I was specifically addressing the idea that they never explain how the new economy works. Whether or not you think it's a good explanation is a fine point for debate but that wasn't what I was saying. The replicator and the credits issue has become a specifically clumsy Hand Wave especially since this change was supposed to have happened long before it's invention. Also according to Author Author they did solve the third issue, the Holograms are doing the really dirty jobs and as for everyone else? I believe Gene's position has always been "people always want to feel useful and necessary and that is a powerful enough incentive to work" though of course I can't speak for him. I don't think Gene was naive enough to believe that the replicator was possible but he may have believed we could solve world hunger if we united enough. He was quite the idealist.
      • Also, while replicators are unquestionably fantastical to the point of being Magic from Technology, there is nonetheless an issue of Technology Marches On believe it or not. The very much real-world technology of 3D printing is already causing lawyers to run around and start preparing for the inevitability of all kinds of intellectual property theft, patent violations and the issues that could arise from "open-source" hardware! Setting replicators aside, Star Trek posits a society with access to the functionally limitless resources of the universe. Even if you cannot create gold at will, there is still rather a lot of it floating around the cosmos. All the gold (and pretty much every other heavy element) in the Earth now is just the scraps leftover from past supernovae that were floating around in the vicinity when our solar system formed. Throw in the impressive abundance of M-class planets, and even issues like real estate dwindle. Maybe not everyone can have an apartment with a view of Starfleet HQ, but if you want to live at the beach, the Federation has thousands of planets with beaches for you to choose from! So there are legitimate questions about human motivation in a post-scarcity society that the writers and audience alike need even bigger imaginations than we have to address. That is why the economics of Trek are so hard to make sense of. In many ways it is the most alien aspect of the show.
    • "I subscribe to a viewpoint that money shouldn't be necessary, BUT as bringing this about is not within my power, and I live in a society where money is vital, I need to watch to make sure I and people like me are making what we deserve, because people above us are going to deprive us at any chance they get."
      Okay, about that. If we were talking about someone on the bottom rungs of society struggling to make ends meet, this kind of rationalization is understandable. It's still a bit hypocritical, but it's understandable. However, Gene Roddenberry was the executive producer at the time The Neutral Zone aired. I strongly doubt he was so hurting for cash that he needed to milk as much money as he thought he "deserved" out of the franchise. Incidentally, that word "deserved" is rather subjective, isn't it? I'm sure there are plenty of absurdly rich CEOs who feel they "deserve" every ounce of wealth they own. If Gene really believed in his own vision, shouldn't he have cut his own salary down to a fraction of what it was, sold all his unnecessary possessions, and moved into the smallest and most affordable apartment he could possibly find? And encouraged every single one of his co-workers at Paramount to do the same?
      • To be clear, I wrote those words with reference to the pending WGA strike, not Roddenberry. Hollywood writers are probably wealthy, on average, compared to most sectors of society, yet underrepresented in Hollywood's profit model. I don't really want to get into this further, but that seemed to me the weakest part of Chuck's piece (much of which I agreed with, as you can tell from the original post), since it was the action of a huge labour organization and is therefore pretty marginal to anybody's judgment of Roddenberry.
      • Isn't that still the same problem, though? By your own admission they still make good money. Isn't demanding more money when you already make plenty of it pretty much the definition of greed? Additionally, "what we deserve" is a nebulous concept indeed. Who's to say what they or anyone "deserves"?
      • Yes, you've made that point, but I'm not interested in debating the semantics of the word "deserve." I for one am glad that unions exist because otherwise all of the world's wealth would be in the hands of the few people at the top of the international conglomerates (instead of just, you know, most of the world's wealth). And if you're saying that whenever a union strikes it is inevitably motivated by greed and greed alone, and there's no need to even investigate the issues before condemning them, I would regard that as the extremely short sighted opinion. PS: I can't find figures on the average salaries of a WGA member, but if they're like the SGA or indeed the average union (setting aside anomalies like the players associations of major league sports), they probably have millionaire members and some who barely scrape enough to pay their dues working as writers. And (at risk of belabouring a point) I'm pretty well lost at this point as to what this has to do with Star Trek.
      • If greed can be defined as wanting more than you need, then yes, unions are motivated by greed, just as everyone else is. I would prefer to use the term "desire" but Trek has a long history of conflating harmless desire with destructive greed. And in hindsight I admit that this is all based around a relatively minor point. But the whole "I live in a money-based society so might as well grab as much as I can!" argument is something I've heard many times before and it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I find it to be fallacious and little more than a rationalization for personal hypocrisy. To sum up, either you're against money and capitalism, or you're not. If you are, then you should only accept just enough money for you and/or your family to survive. Asking for anything more is an unnecessary luxury which, according to your own anti-capitalist philosophy, is unnecessary and, dare I say it, greedy.
      • I would say that conflating greed and desire is about as useful as conflating hunger and gluttony, and runs the risk of simply redefining the word "greed" into usefulness. Unions are as often protecting what they have from management's attempts to take it away, let's not forget that. Wanting to earn more money, at least a little more, is a rational reaction to this little thing called "inflation" — the fact that products and services incrementally become more expensive over time. Frankly, I don't find it useful to suggest that anyone who speaks against materialism and yet personally lives in conditions slightly superior to Gandhi's ashram deserves a blanket condemnation of hypocrisy... that's a nice 'ad hominem' way of ignoring the specifics of what they're actually saying (which may or may not be good, depending on the source).
    • The problems regarding money in Star Trek's Federation is the idea of a post scarcity society running into the reality of writing for a post scarcity society. Also Gene Roddenberry clearly doesn't have the economics background to turn his Utopian concepts into a fully realized world. The primary problem is that Star Trek isn't post-scarcity by a long shot as there are clearly resource constraints. For example who gets that nice apartment overlooking Star Fleet academy? A real post-scarcity society is where everyone lives in Virtual Reality or there are non-sentient AI workers to do all the crap jobs. Unfortunately life in such a world would be completely uninteresting to modern day audiences because there is absolutely no drama. This could also be a situation where Gene has just poorly explained how things work as there could be alternate reward systems that function like money, but are based on some more holistic notion of someone's contribution to society instead of raw market economics. In Star Fleet these would be ranks and their associated privileges and in society those remaining resources that are scarce could be rationed by non-market methods. Finally I would like to point out that Gene isn't being a hypocrite by wanting more money in our society because we aren't anything close to post-scarcity. The whole working to better yourself thing only work when you have a replicator and other people won't try to take advantage of you.
  • Should an "Annoying Character" count as annoying if they were supposed to be annoying? In his review of "Starship Mine", he "awarded" this title to Hutchinson, though noted that Hutchinson was supposed to be annoying when he gave it.
    • I'll have to watch that review again, but I think Chuck thought that even if that was their intent, they took it too far.
    • Along similar lines, there are times in which Neelix is given a Stupid Neelix Moment that is undeserving. One example is in Life Line, Neelix handing the Doctor a PADD. Seriously? Chuck has shown in previous reviews that he is capable of not giving Neelix a Stupid Neelix Moment even when he does appear.
      • I think Chuck's been so frustrated by Neelix's constant idiocy, that any time he appears, he defaults to annoying. For Neelix not to get a "Stupid Neelix Moment" in an episode he appears in, he'd have to actively do something that makes his screen presence worthwhile.
      • I hardly think Neelix did anything "worthwhile" in Tattoo, Innocence, or The Disease, but Chuck had no Stupid Neelix Moment for those episodes. I know Voyager has ended its run, but Neelix constantly thinking Neelix = annoying, then he wouldn't be allowing for any room for possible change in character. (As an aside, he doesn't always do with Dr. Pulaski in TNG Season 2, even though he hates Pulaski as much and maybe even more than Neelix.)
      • I'm pretty sure ot's because all of those episodes heavily feature Neelix suffering even if he didn't do anything useful.
    • Intentionally annoying is still annoying. However in Broken Bow he notes that the Annoying Character was effectively tied between Tucker and T'Pol, but Tucker wins out because his annoyance was tolerated by the other characters.
      • It is a delicate balance to have a character who is annoying to the other characters but not to the audience. Whether Commander Hutchinson qualifies is a matter of the beholder, but certain Q at his best is nominally an annoying character (he sure annoys Picard) but he is entertainingly annoying, in a way that Neelix is usually just annoyingly annoying (or at best just kind of there).
  • Why does Chuck just put up his schedule for the month he is in? Does he have a longer schedule somewhere else on the site?
    • He puts the schedule for the month so people know what's coming up. He doesn't put up any longer schedule, because either 1) he thinks one month is good enough or 2) he doesn't know what he'll upload in Month 2. (I hope I answered the question correctly; your two questions don't seem to be related.)
    • It's also possible that the schedule is a lot more prone to chaning at further out times. He probably has a general idea of what the plan for month 2 is, but might not have nailed down every single episode. Not to mention some extra wiggle room for the inevitable problems that might crop up.
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