Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Blinded Us With Science
Had an amusing discussion with somebody recently about the -- ho, ho -- science of Star Trek and Star Wars.
To wit: There really isn't much of that in either.
I think this is akin to the old saying, "Well, if I had known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself."
Simple, really. When Roddenberry set out to do Star Trek, and Lucas Star Wars, neither of them had a clue how the franchises would burst out all over and become the roaring successes they became. In fact, ST faded before rebounding, and SW's surprised GL no end. There's a story that he was agog at the long lines waiting to get in to see the first movie.
You're kidding, right? For our movie? Really?
Who could have known?
And in both cases, there was such a rapid snowball effect that subsequent efforts to rein it all in were doomed, at least insofar as story lines and What They Were Stuck With.
Anybody remember the green pooka from Marvel? The alien Odo who could liquify himself and sleep in a milk carton if he wanted?
Think about it. If you have on your space ship a device that will, with a spoken command, produce a cup of Earl Gray tea, cup and all out of thin air -- that alone makes the rest of your ship a stone axe by comparison. If you can transport matter, including humans, by teleportation, you don't need photon torpedoes or phasers banks, all you need to do is materialize anything solid into the the hull of your enemy's ship -- a styrofoam cup will do it -- and boom ...
Unless you have a monster containment field inside your Star Destroyer, hauling an enemy vessel into your cargo hold is a good way to end the movie before it gets going. All they have to do is go boom and take you with them ...
And, and of course, there is all that sound in deep vac ...
One day, you look up and realize you have this juggernaut and maybe you'd better try to give it some kind of continuity. Adjust the star dates. Come up with a reason why the Klingons evolved major head ridgery in just a few short years.
Explain how the Imperial Storm Troopers who can shoot with pinpoint-accuracy can't hit a seven-foot-tall corridor-blocking Wookie at thirty feet with twenty guys blazing away. Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder could have taken turns hitting Chewy and the gang that close ...
There have been books and TV shows trying to explain the science of ST and SW's and good luck with that. Reverse-engineering, after years of listening to folks try to explain why it can't possibly work.
Had they known going in that there was going to be movies, TV, books, games, comics, T-shirts, lunch pails, coffee cups, bedsheets and pajamas enough to fill an oil tanker, maybe they would have tried to lay things out differently up front. Put more thought into stuff from the start.
Or, maybe not. Maybe that was -- and is -- part of their charm. After all, it's the story that matters, the characters, and all the techno-stuff isn't really that important. Kirk and Spock and McCoy and the rest are why we went there. How was the Vulcan going to pull the dammit-I'm-a-doctor-Jim!'s chain this week? Would Spock break down and show emotion?
Tell me you weren't thrilled to see Spock's grinning face after he thought he had killed Kirk in the duel on Vulcan: "Jim!" That, and Spock standing up and straghtening his tunic after he was cooked and blinded saving the Enterprise?
High points in the series. None higher.
It's Luke and Obi-wan, Darth and the Emperor, Han, Chewy, Leia, Landro, Artoo and Threepio -- they are why the movie sucked us in and made us care.
The essence of fiction is in the characters; how they live, how they die, and how they change along the way. All the rest of it runs a distant second.