Tag Archives: Star Trek

Saturday Retro:U.F.O.(1970)

If Star Trek was the idea of noble adventurers exploring outer space, the show UFO was exactly the opposite. It was about Earth being attacked by an unknown (and never seen in their true form)alien race. At first it is believed they are taking humans for organ harvesting but later episodes suggest a much darker theme: to use the humanoid form to cause all kinds of mischief. These were not kind and cuddly aliens. They were undeniably hostile and it was up to a special unit (funded by world governments but kept secret) called SHADO, which stands for Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization.

The show was dark in theme along with many of its stories. SHADO was led by Colonel Straker (Ed Bishop) and others who made up the special unit. Set in the 1980’s, it displayed futuristic tech in cars, hairstyles, and clothing. Shado had a moonbase, underwater submersibles, and all kinds of other nifty gadgets. They also had SID (Space Intruder Detector) that detected incoming alien spacecraft.

Since most of the world was in the dark about the invasion, SHADO was located underneath a movie studio so that no one would notice people dressed in odd outfits or coming and going at all hours of the day. The show was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and ran for 26 episodes in 1970 (in the US for two years). It was their first foray into live action. They would make a second live actions series, Space:1999 two years after U.F.O.’s run.

Further Info: UFO (TV Series):Wikipedia

Things You See

While watching episodes of Star Trek Next Generation, it struck me how they mashed up rates and ranks. In the original series Gene Roddenberry indicated there were no enlisted personnel in Starfleet. That meant every crewman you saw was (unless noted otherwise)an ensign probably rotating through various departments deciding on their career path (science, command, communications, engineering, security etc). Sounds interesting in theory but the division of labor is necessitated by the fact that large organizations need different people to do different tasks. And they all cannot be officers if that is to be the case. Some have to lead, others have to be told what needs to be done. If they are all officers, that would pose a problem. And in most militaries of the world, it is the sergeants and petty officers who really are the oil of the machinery that makes it all work.

Next Generation acknowledged there are enlisted and non-commissioned officers but could not decide on how to present them. So like the original series, they walked around wearing standard uniforms but had no insignia that identified what rate they were. Officers all had pips on their collars. Even Chief O’Brien had nothing for a while until they gave him a empty yellow pip on his collar. Even then, it did not look right. By the time O’Brien transferred over to Deep Space Nine, they finally decided to distinguish enlisted personnel with insignia that was based on naval rate insignia. Chief O’Brien finally had insignia that clearly showed he was a master chief petty officer. They also gave those on Deep Space Nine a different type of uniform. I suppose the rationale was that the military do have different types of uniforms for different tasks. That is certainly true with specialized units but most officers and enlisted wear the same uniform though they may vary by season (dark in winter, lighter in summer). Other than making a style change, there was really no need to have a different uniform for Deep Space Nine.

Another important thing is a clear separation of staff from field/line commands. Most services have large support departments (medical, supply, personnel, accounting, legal). Doctors,lawyers, and supply officers do not lead field units nor command ships. This clear delineation ought to require no explanation. You put officers in charge of field/line units who are trained to do that, not someone trained in preparing legal briefs. Yet in Next Generation, Counselor Troi is somehow the senior officer on the bridge in Disaster because Miles O’Brien says she has rank of commander. Yet that is not how it works at all. She is not a field/line officer but in medical. The officer of the deck (OOD) had been killed so the Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD) would be next in line. That would be the ensign manning the operations station. Now granted the conditions were extraordinary but it would not fall to Troi to be in command of the bridge. O’Brien in fact would the acting engineering officer assisting the JOOD in getting things running again if this were being run more closer to actual military protocols. Troi could advise but not issue orders.

I think they kind of realized the mistake later. On Deep Space Nine, Ensign Nog asks the chief why Commander Dax was called captain while commanding Defiant. O’Brien explains that it is tradition that whoever is in actual command of a ship, no matter what their actual rank, is called captain. Nog says something about him becoming captain. O’Brien jokes back things would have to really go bad if he as ensign becomes Defiant’s captain. If it came down to Nog being the senior officer left, things are definitely in a bad way.

Further Reflections On Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined)

image:public domain(Wikimedia)
image:public domain(Wikimedia)

I have been re-watching the re-imagined series so I can add a bit more to this section on Battlestar Galactica.

1. The Low Tech Problem
One of the major differences between the original and newer BG is how futuristic technology is employed. Most sci-fi fantasy shows or movies love to show future tech. Star Trek is the most well known with using warp drive, phasers, shields, communicators and bio-beds to name just a few. And they came up with a unique idea to demonstrate how that futuristic society became the worker’s paradise:replicators. As long as the base materials were in the unit, you simply told it what you wanted and it made it for you. A medium rare steak with baked potato? No problem. Need construction materials? The industrial replicator would produce it for you.

The problem with the re-imagined series is that it seriously downgraded future tech making it incongruous. The 12 Colonies were a spacefaring civilization with the ability to cross vast distances by hyper jumping (the faster-then-light drive or FTL). Yet their weapons technology was primarily missiles (nuclear and conventional), guns, bullets, assault weapons and other conventional items. Likewise the Cylons were similarly constricted in using the same types of weapons. While they developed organic ships by the time of the 2nd Cylon War, their weapons tech remains virtually the same as the 12 Colonies. It is hard to accept that either race, as advanced as they appear to be, would not develop more advanced space weaponry. Babylon 5 used hand guns but they did not use bullets but phased plasmas gas(ppg) rounds that were just as deadly as bullets but avoided the problems of firing bullets inside spaceships or stations (the danger of compromising the bulkhead resulting in decompression). The Cylons nuked the 12 Colonies (the pilot indicates nuclear but later likely neutron since buildings are left standing)which means they had to manufacture lots of nukes rather than developing a more planetary approach to wiping out humanity.

The 12 Colonies had advanced space technology but still drove cars, jeeps, trucks and used cell phones. It is one thing to understand why Galactica was basic tech (to prevent Cylon hacking into the ship’s computers) but relying on paper? You would think that at least Commander Adama could record his logs or put them on a tablet like device. It saves space since paper records can be bulky and require storage. I applaud Moore for his desire to be realistic and gritty but by downgrading the tech as he did, he made it incongruous. Sort of like having advanced computer tech but still reading by kerosene lamps in your home.

2. The Mystery of Starbuck
Many were understandably upset with Starbuck being predestined by God. Predestination is a religious belief that God has mapped out what he wants to do. Not everything is predestined, just the big stuff so God does not worry about whether you have a pizza or lasagna for dinner. It goes to the heart of the re-imagined series: that the essential elements were part of God’s plan. Not everything but the important stuff. God knew the Cylon’s would nuke the 12 Colonies so he long ago put in motion plans to counter it and guide people to Earth (the 2nd one since the first was nuked in an earlier Cylon war). And Starbuck was part of that plan. It appears she was given visions of how to find the Cylon Earth and later through music to find the new Earth making her more like a prophet. Until she died and was apparently resurrected.

Resurrection used in fantasy or science fiction is to fit a purpose but not fill a plot hole. Gandalf the Grey became Gandalf the White thus more powerful than Saruman. In Starbuck’s case, she really did die as her body was found on Cylon Earth. That is a clear departure from what resurrection usually is. Jesus came out of the tomb, Gandalf was sent back, and John Sheridan was given energy by Lorian in Z’ha’dum to go back and tell what he learned of the Shadow/Vorlon conflict. The point is the body was resurrected. It would have been better to find the viper with no body in it. That would make more sense that God of Galactica decided to bring her back. Instead she really did die so she was not really resurrected in the true sense of its meaning. Which is what shocked Leoben. Adding more problem is what Baltar found: her DNA was on the dog tags from the body on Cylon Earth. She was not a clone but clearly she was re-created by a higher power in a mortal form. She was likely some kind of angel sent back on a mission with her memories but not of what she really was. Some speculate she might have been a Lord of Kobol. That is possible but that means that there is connection between Lords of Kobol and God of Galactica. Perhaps that is the case but for Starbuck, she was just a manifestation of God’s divine plan to fill a plot hole that the writers created for themselves.

3. The Cylon Earth/Colonial Cylon Connection
You have to wonder why those sacred scrolls got it so wrong as to not mention the 13th tribe was Cylon. Everything pointed to them being human, and the Tomb of Athena indicated that they (the 12 Colonies)likely came from Earth. Moore realized that was a mistake but they could not erase or get around it. After all, why would the 13th Tribe look up at the sky and see their twelve brothers if they were not human? More astonishing, if the mythology is correct, is that humans made Cylons (possibly to create life of their own) on Kobol. They rebelled and eventually they left to live in peace on another world. And they left 2,000 years before the exodus of humans from Kobol. So we have a timeline that goes like this:

1. Humans evolved on Kobol and lived in peace with their gods.
2. At some point humans got advanced enough to build mechanical workers.
3. These machines rebelled at being slaves, possibly a war erupts. The Cylons depart and settle on a planet called Earth.
4. 2,000 years later humans are forced to leave Kobol possibly due to a conflict or the degradations of humanity. They are ordered to leave and never return. Athena kills herself over the departure of mankind.
5. Humans settle on the 12 Colonies but whatever technology they had is either purposefully set aside or lost. They start over.
6. Cylon humans on Earth reproduce like humans so resurrection technology becomes obsolete. Like their human counterparts, they appear to be polytheists. At some point they too create mechanical workers apparently forgetting why they left Kobol. Their robots rebel but both sides are wiped out except for Final Five who were warned by messengers. They depart for 12 Colonies to warn them but takes 2,000 years to make the journey.
7. Scientists on 12 Colonies create Cylons and begin using them for all kinds of work, even military. They rebel and war ensues (12 years). The Final Five arrive and agree to help centurions evolve, armistice signed.
8. 40 years later Cylons declare war on humans and destroy 12 Colonies. 50,000 escape with Galactica. Less than 40,000 would survive the journey to new Earth (the 2nd one).

It is abundantly clear there is a force behind what happened on Kobol, Cylon Earth, and 12 Colonies. The helmet found on Cylon Earth is similar to the ones in the 12 Colonies (though different). That indicates there is something manipulating the creation of similar robotic life. Whether it is a fallen Lord of Kobol or something akin to Count Iblis of the original series is unclear. What is clear is that this being is no friend of mankind and wants it to suffer. Perhaps the goddess Eris would be the perfect fit here. She brought about the Trojan War by manipulating her fellow Olympians (Hera, Athena, Aphrodite) and Paris. Moore probably did not want to delve into this so he fashioned the great unconscious where different peoples end up doing the same things because, well, it exists in some perfect form (like Plato’s world of forms). Yet it has to be someone behind it all. If Moore went to the trouble to lay out that God of Galactica is working its divine will, then there is likely a being that opposes God. Call it Lucifer, Satan or Eris, but something is working to constantly make sure the outcome is destruction for mankind and Cylons. Remember the human Cylons were wiped out as well on their Earth. Which means the being behind it is not playing favorites. And considering what we saw of Cavil, had he completely won and all humans had died at some point those Cylons would have been eliminated as well through their own civil war.

Of course it all goes back to Kobol. Whatever really happened there set the stage for this cycle of creation and destruction. A cycle that has to be broken if the human race has any chance at all to survive in the Galactica universe. And since the centurions are out there, it lays the stage for the next human/Cylon conflict. Unless of course they simply came back and wiped out the settlers on Earth. Which would explain why 150,000 years later there is no trace of them ever existing on our Earth.

[Update 12 Mar 2014-A friend commented the God of Galactica reminded him of Q on Star Trek:The Next Generation. Q (played by John De Lancie)was an entity with god like abilities that meddled in human affairs causing problems for Captain Picard. The Q could alter the laws of physics, hurl ships over vast differences, create fantasy situations for humans to live through for their amusement and many other things. If you make them Lords of Kobol, it sort of fits. A group of supremely advanced beings that decide to be like gods to humans. Some Q are benign, others indifferent, and some hostile. Possibly after humans left Kobol they went away to other worlds in the universe and perhaps one or two hang around just to see what the humans are up to. And perhaps enjoy being a deity to humans and causing mischief as well. And when a supreme being says it is beyond good and evil (as Baltar says it is), that is pretty telling clue this God of Galactica is not exactly what many think it is all. And a Q would certainly fit the bill.]