Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 026: Addicts Aboard!

Previous: Safety Belts?

Kirk spots Uhura while strapping in and smirks: "I never did get that first name…" as she looks away and smiles. In the background, we hear a raised female voice say, "You need a doctor," followed by a male voice responding a bit more loudly: "I already told you people: I don't need a doctor dammit, I am a doctor!" The woman (flight attendant?) demands more loudly "You need to get back in your seat!" as we see her pushing him aft, toward the stern of the shuttle. Nope. I'm terribly sorry scriptwriters, but this is as phony as the opening scene of "A Million Little Pieces" and for similar reasons. Long before any controversy, I received the book as a gift, admittedly with skepticism based primarily on the kind of praise that my generous and enthusiastic friend provided. The praise had a similar feel as that received when a couple I met after a nice day of skiing started extolling the virtues of OxyContin in our shared Jacuzzi; I didn't know what the thing was, but I felt fairly certain they liked it a bit too much for the recommendation to be reliable. Assessing the risk of reading a book much differently than that of mind-altering, recreational chemistry, I read the opening of the book which featured the author claiming that he was flown on a commercial airline with open, bleeding wounds – a ludicrous claim.

Here, the doctor appears agitated, panicky, unruly and disruptive, which the attendant has noticed. According to 20th century guidelines, he is thus considered a potential danger to himself, his fellow passengers, and possibly the crew or the entire flight. The first thing that should be done is to calm and remove the passenger from the craft prior to takeoff. The passenger should be interviewed and assessed and the flight proceeds on schedule. The attendant's response which implies that because he is a doctor he doesn't need professional attention is absolutely ridiculous. Pushing and yelling at an agitated passenger is absolutely ridiculous. Aside from being ignorant, the script advocates escalation of threats and violence as a fun, efficient way to resolve conflicts and this is no exception. The doctor and attendant continue to increase the volume and hostility of their interactions:

Dr: "I had one – in the back with no window!" Att: "You need to get back to your seat now!" Dr: (panicky) "I suffer from aviophobia, it means fear of dying in something that flies."

At this point, the attendant actually threatens the doctor with force, claiming "Either sit down or I will make you sit down." Completely stupid: he was trying to sit down when she started raising her voice and pushing him, and now she's making what ordinarily is considered a challenge to fight. In this case, it has a tranquilizing effect on calming the panicked passenger and he becomes totally docile, it's a miracle! This is the terrorist view: people who are doing something we don't like can be threatened into "having some sense", "learning a lesson", or "thinking twice before they act". One almost suspects some of the film makers never met a death penalty they didn't love, which is part of a common paradigm in highly militarized states.

Here, even the doctor's submission to this unbelievable threat makes no sense when he says "Fine." In resignation, but steps forward and takes a seat near a window next to Kirk. He looks at Kirk and warns "I may throw up on you." Kirk: "I think these things are pretty safe." "Don't pander to me kid, one tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds." Wrong again, Professor Dalton! As discussed in STbtM 002, Phil Plait's "Bad Astronomy" blog caught this goof also. To me, such lack of basic science literacy in the script indicts the writers as either apathetic or incompetent, whether by circumstance or design.

The "doctor" continues to provide evidence against having an accredited degree: "A solar flare might crop up and cook us in our seats," Bzzzt! I'm sorry, but thanks for playing - we easily track solar flares already and they do not "crop up" without plenty of warning. ...but what if this were a evil invisible flare? Bzzzt! Still wrong: spacecraft are designed for shielding crew from normal stellar radiation, including flares. ...but what if the shuttle were directly attacked by a stealth flare from the sun which was secretly controlled by vicious insectoid minions and what if their reptoid overlords controlling Starfleet had also secretly removed this shielding because they had come from the future and wanted to kill Kirk? Bzzzt, still wrong: the magnetic field of the earth is proof from any flares our sun can emit for the next many, many millions of years, and there would be no reason for a shuttle flight from Iowa to San Francisco to leave sub-orbital space, much less leaving our magnetosphere.

McCoy's raving about "Andorian shingles" is safely fictional though. He says: "Space is disease and danger, wrapped in darkness and silence." Kirk responds: "Well I hate to break this to you but Starfleet operates in space." "Well, got nowhere else to go, the ex-wife took the whole damn planet in the divorce. All I got left is my bones." Another stinker! Dr. McCoy's nickname of "Bones" is from the slang term "sawbones" dating from 1837, according to Merriam Webster. This ham-handed attempt at retconning something to a darker and less-sensible alternative inevitably must be chalked up on the blunder scoreboard, which is already indicating this film stands as a modern tribute to the Han civilization in ancient China, where negative numbers were first invented. Also, this dialog is used to reemphasize that the Starfleet setting is not the optimistic best of humanity in the future rather, it is the last resort of violent criminals and addicted fools with precious little consciousness and no moral direction other than aggression and destruction. I feel it necessary to mention again, that these are the good guys!

McCoy pulls out a flask and takes a swig, as Kirk gazes longingly at it. McCoy offers it to Kirk who immediately accepts.

Next: 3 Years Later…

4 comments:

muser said...

Are McCoy's comments meant to be taken that seriously? I thought he was only half-serious or maybe agitated into irrationality by his aviophobia. Which apparently he overcame at some point or doesn't mention when he boards a starship... but TOS McCoy famously had an aversion to the transporter, so maybe this is all an homage?

BurntSynapse said...

I don't think any of the dialog is written to be taken seriously...it was written to be fast, cheap, and provide excuses for special effects, fight scenes, and the main characters to get from all over the galaxy to Enterprise Bridge within about 100 minutes.

muser said...

Granted.

Haaris Qureshi said...

That 'Bones' line was improv by Urban, a life-long Trekkie.