Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 102: It’ll Work

In this segment, and especially in this screenshot Kirk seems to show some feelings for his former Captain, watch out Uhura!  Spock may ultimately decide to cross a line with Kirk...

"Something tells me I already have," responds Spock with great double-entendre potential, however in this case he is responding to Kirk's earlier question.  Unfortunately here again he contradicts himself and a basic premise of the film explained earlier on the Enterprise Bridge by Spock himself: that a new timeline has been created - a new, alternate universe is unfolding in which actions and experiences of individuals cannot be predicted based on what would have happened in the future of the original timeline. See: http://structureddream.blogspot.com/2010/01/star-trek-by-minute-070-alternate.html

While his dialogue was perhaps meant to be amusing, for the attentive viewer it's simply more nonsensical inconsistency.  Unfortunately, even if this reassurance did not contradict prior explanations in the film, it is completely unreasonable because aside from poor attempts at humor, there is no evidence to support the notion that Spock could successfully pilot the most advanced and fastest ship from over a century in the future without the benefit of even a pre-flight recording on how to position his "seat back and tray table it its full upright and locked position" or not to tamper with lavatory smoke detectors.  Let's look at the Bleriot 11, the speed record holding vehicle from 100 years ago:
Now let's assume the pilot was such a super-genius he designed, supplied, built and flew this vehicle himself.  Are there any circumstances under which we could expect him to pilot from an SR-71 cockpit below from only 60 years later, much less have the confidence to put the fate of billions on the line?  
"Good luck" wishes Kirk, which is certainly appropriate since logic, planning, and competence are far out of reach. 

"Jim, the statistical likelihood that our plan will succeed is less than 4.3 percent."  What plan?  Magically stealing a ship and through some miracle recovering Captain Pike, then stopping the drill, saving Earth and then destroying the bad guys is hardly what anyone who knows anything about the topic would call "planning".  It's more like a list put together by some selfish 4 year olds trying to scam Santa Claus.
"It'll work" says Kirk.  That's a pretty big switch to make from 10 seconds ago, when he didn't have a clue whether Spock could find the engines, much less fly the ship, much less navigate, escape the Narada, or do anything else with the ship, like avoid detonating all the red matter, destroying all of Earth. 

"In the event that I do not return, please tell Lt. Uhura that I..."

"Spock!  It'll work."  In this film, simple repetition of unjustified positions and stupid conclusions substitutes for reasoned thinking over and over and over again.  

Spock takes a nice chair in the horribly designed observation window, and ponders the deeply meaningful significance of a motor that turns his seat.  So enraptured with the concept of an electric swivel-stool, all he can say is "Fascinating."
With a few button presses, the computer reports: "Startup sequence initiated," as the Jellyfish lifts off, retracts its landing struts and presumably the gangway as well, then it smoothly heads out of this area and begins flying through the enemy ship to chorus music.   The main problem now is that Kirk is alone in a ship the size of a large city full of people who want to kill him, looking for Pike without a clue where to go.  Spock learned this location in the mind rape/meld, but never told Kirk.  On the Narada, Pike could easily be held prisoner many miles away, and finding him might involve walking and climbing for days or weeks even if one knew where to look - but he would most likely be dead since Nero has already gotten past the  non-existent "border protection grid" which we were told was the reason for keeping Pike alive and Nero wants to kill everyone in the Federation. 

No women appear or speak in this segment.

Ridiculous plot coincidence leads to another stupid fistfight in our next episode of Star Trek by the Minute 103: I Know Your Face.


R. Anthony Steele said...

Might cross a line? Depending on which way your pendulum swings, your Trek universe might already include said line crossing.

Google kirk/spock, if you dare.

This is a classic example of fans thinking the show was about something other than what the writers intended. Might go a long way to explaining why so many of the fans like this latest film, actually.


Flashman85 said...

This is certainly not be the first time a Star Trek character has quickly or immediately figured out how to use foreign technology (the Enterprise crew taking control of the Klingon ship in STIII comes to mind).

I agree that it's unlikely for Spock to be able to just jump in and pilot the Jellyfish, but it's worth noting that the example you give of the Bleriot 11 might make the situation seem more unlikely than it already is. Airplanes were still a fairly new technology at the time of the Bleriot 11, whereas spacefaring vehicles were old news when Spock stepped in to pilot the Jellyfish. I've observed that the most radical changes in technology or inventions occur in the first few years or decades after their appearance; after that, it's largely a matter of tweaking and refining, though massive changes are certainly still possible.

All I'm getting at is that, while the Jellyfish may have been more sophisticated than Spock should have known how to handle right off the bat, it's a little extreme to compare the sophisticated spacecraft Spock is accustomed to operating with an aircraft that uses what appear to be bicycle wheels as landing gear.

BurntSynapse said...

Hi Flash,

I'm a bit rusty on STIII. At what point did a character quickly or immediately figured out how to use foreign technology? As I recall, the Enterprise crew beamed to the Klingon ship using their own transporter and "took over" using a Federation phaser.

In the response to the comparison of "airplanes" (a specific tech) to starships, I note your analogy specifies technology of airplanes but addresses the capability of starfaring ships. I think your analogy would be stronger if you compared flight generally with interstellar flight generally rather than mixing dissimilar means of implementation as airplanes, exclude balloons or gliders, which I think we would agree demonstrate revolutionary advances.

In spite of this quibble, I think I do take your meaning. We should keep some things in mind, first that what constitutes a "most radical change in technology or invention" is dependent on the observer. What a specialist regards as a foundational revolution transforming science and technology is a tweak to the average outsider. Abrams reboot is a perfect example: some longtime fans regard it as a massive, complete reworking of the franchise and Trekverse, while others who couldn’t distinguish it from Star Wars dimly perceive some new actors who look like the ones from an old TV show.

We should also remember that the rate of revolutionary change is accelerating, and this is a trend undoubtedly to continue as technology advances and makes innovation and R&D easier. We would have to reject that, as well as other indicators to consider Spock’s piloting plausible. These indicators relate to a clarification: I do not "compare spacecraft to an aircraft”, rather I compare the probable ability to use an advanced version of a familiar technology in two situations.

One could argue that the airplane is functionally similar to a dirigible, only faster and more maneuverable (like the jellyfish is when compared to all the other starships shown). One could point out the Bleriot and the SR71 both have stick controls used from forward facing seats, making all four control areas similar, but the differences of the Jellyfish controls appear more profound than those shown. You mention landing gear of the SR71 vs. the Bleriot, to which I again would respond: the landing gear on these is much more similar that the starships upon which Spock is an expert vs. the Jellyfish – although we might plausibly assume Spock is an expert on shuttle ops. Yet despite this, it seems well-supported that a character in Spock’s position is unlikely in the extreme to be able to control, fly, and win a confrontation against the Borg-enhanced Narada.

Flashman85 said...

Fair points all around. Again, I'm not suggesting that Spock's ability to pilot the Jellyfish immediate is at all plausible; I'm just saying that it may perhaps be a smidgen less implausible than what your particular comparison suggests.

STIII is still fresh in my mind from having watched it a few weeks ago, and if my patchy memory serves, there's a moment shortly after the crew boards the ship when Scotty and Chekhov are trying to figure out how to work an alien warp drive on a console with an unknown configuration in a language neither of them can read. There's also a Next Generation episode where Troi escapes a Romulan vessel by quickly reconfiguring the communications array, or something along those lines, but that one's a bit fuzzier. So Spock's ability to instantly know how to pilot the Jellyfish isn't totally without precedent, though any example I can think of had at least a moment of deliberation or trial and error.

BurntSynapse said...

The portrayal may be more plausible than I suggest, and I'm willing to grant this plausibility given a most-likely scenario where similar factors are operating. In fact, I'm even willing to hold the rate of revolutionary change constant over time, which is most certainly not the case as knowledge and technology are self-reinforcing tools that provide accelerating feedbacks in change. Just last night I was on a call with a project lead for the SKA telescope, which will have a 100x improvement in resolution to the world's current best, and that's just out of the box! Soon, someone will think of some tweak or unusual way to use the array that will either drastically improve or alter its abilities or the way its data is used and analyzed...probably several of these will occur over the next few years.