Friday, October 30, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 059: Retract the Drill

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Back on the Enterprise Bridge, Chekov seems to have disregarded Spock's precognitive order to run "gravitational sensors" and instead chose something like "geological sensors" since we see his panel warning "SEISMIC ACTIVITY" in bright red letters. Overlooking that seismic activity is only one of many possible results from gravitational field stress, why would we care, and why would the computer warn us about quakes, even really severe ones? Most space bodies, including stars, M-class planets and small, dustball moons are somewhat dynamic, along with everything else that isn't sitting at an undisturbed equilibrium. On the Bridge, many people begin excitedly chattering indistinctly, pushing buttons and urgently talking about strange gravity waves or whatever, but it is not about the computer's warnings nor picking up the away team. I wish there were an incoming message from the an alternate universe, a reasonable one whose message would read: "Hello Enterprise Bridge crew - remember the away team out there shedding blood, killing and dying for you and the mission? If it's not to much trouble, could you take 2 seconds for their recovery?"

Chekov reports "Captain, gravitational sensors are off the scale. If my calculations are correct, they're creating a singularity that will consume the planet." My first comment is a minor quibble, but would it really have hurt to say gravitational readings are off the scale? "Sensors" being off the scale suggests that they are not functioning and second: "off the scale" usually prevents one from performing many too many calculations. In reality, when readings are anything like "off the scale" regarding something critical, standard operating procedures require an instrumentation check. Note to aspiring writers: "Write what you know." A third problem is that if "gravity" was being affected, previous orbits would no longer be viable and greater distance and/or speed would be required to prevent spiraling into the gravity well. A forth problem is that using such a singularity generating weapon would mean there is no need for drilling a hole into the planet – one only need to warp into a system, launch a drop of red matter, and warp away – no mess, no fuss. Gravity will do the rest on its own. Remember: gravity is not just a good idea, it's the law. We might stipulate that red matter requires normal matter to fuel its effects, but that would only require placement of the ordnance near the planet, its star, or other matter source. Fifth: what about the away team while you are doing all these calculations?

Spock paraphrases Chekov to confirm "They're creating a black hole at the center of Vulcan?" "Yes sir." Unfortunately, that's impossible also. Without lateral support, a hole that deep would collapse in on itself like a pit on the beach at high tide, even if it did not have a molten lava, which we have seen erupting. "How long does the planet have?" asks Spock. "Minutes, sir...minutes." Our vulcan skipper jumps from his seat and orders Uhura to "Notify Starfleet Command and signal a planet-wide evacuation, all channels, all frequencies." Normally, "channels" in transmitted communications refer to specific frequencies, not that I expect these writers to know that, but could they not have simply stayed within language they understood? Note to writers: write what you know. Spock continues with "Please maintain standard orbit." Uhura interrupts: "Spock wait, where are you going?" "To evacuate the Vulcan high council, they are tasked with protecting our cultural history my parents will be among them." "Can't you beam them out?" That's a really stupid question coming from someone who has not a care in the world for leaving the ship's surviving members of the ill fated away team dangling on the outside of an alien ship's giant tentacle of death. The question was clearly stated in such a way that we know the answer will be negative for example, we can guess Spock might say something like "No, they are in an old cave that happens to render all modern communications, transporters, and other technology useless because of the concentrated deposits of Ludditium in the surrounding rock." In reality, Spock's response here is to say: "It is impossible, they will be in the Katric ark, I must get them myself. Chekov, you have the con." Chekov says: "Aye…ayiyiyye..." and this line was at least a bit amusing, but suggests kind of a "What next?" perception. No one seems to be interested in rescuing the helm and first officer.

Unfortunately yet again, Spock's reasoning here is outlandish. They are declaring an emergency evacuation of the planet, so the one thing that Vulcan is prepared for in such an event is getting the Council and the heritage to safety. Imagine if a catastrophic emergency was about to demolish Washington D.C. Would the only hope of survival via evacuation for the President come from the president's son or daughter who was commanding a nearby ship? Pretty ridiculous...

Cutting back to the platform about which everyone aboard the Enterprise has attention deficit amnesia, Kirk finally decides he and Sulu have wasted enough time just standing around and waiting for the platform to explode. Perhaps the idea made it through the clouds that with the ship falling apart, the captain held hostage, the planet under attack, an unknown number of crew dead and dying, the bad guys still holding everyone by the throats and poised to kill them, perhaps he and Sulu might want to consider, well, DOING something. "Kirk to Enterprise, beam us outta here." A transporter tech says, "Standby, locking on your signal." Usually, when someone makes a statement like this, we know they're going to have a problem doing whatever it is...

Back on the Bridge of the Narada, Nero seems to have gotten confirmation that the red matter deployment went off without a hitch, as the Enterprise delays beaming the away team to safety, perhaps double-checking their transporter lock. Nero issues his order to Ayel: "Retract the drill, let's move out" as the Enterprise delays beaming the away team to safety, perhaps triple checking something. "Yes, sir." "Pull it up" Ayel relays to an off-screen minion, as the Enterprise delays beaming the away team to safety - you know how finicky those darn Heisenberg Compensators can be! The reaction to the issuance of Ayel's order is executed well, as the Enterprise does NOTHING. Kirk and Sulu are still waiting on the platform for beam-out when the retraction starts; the transporter technicians seem as incompetent as the Bridge crew has been.

Of 7 speaking parts in this segment, only 2 are women – which actually seems like a lot, based on the general discrimination of the film.

Potential disasters come from all sides in our next Star Trek by the Minute, Episode 060: Minimum Safe Distance.


Anonymous said...

Keep them coming! I am enjoying your review immensely!

Flashman85 said...

A few posts ago, I believe mentioned I had a stockpile of commas. I accidentally locked myself out of the closet where I keep them; could I borrow an apostrophe from you so that I can pick the lock? I was thinking I could take it from here:

" matter requires normal matter to fuel it's effects..."

I can't guarantee it won't break, but if it doesn't, I'll give it back.