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Trek vs Languages // did you know Worf speaks Russian?

October 1, 2014


This is a drum I’ve been beating for some time, but it’s a pretty huge flaw in Trek, at least to me.

What languages are being spoken? Why don’t we hear more of them? How can they read or write English if they speak different languages? Does Kira translate everything on the monitors from Cardassian into Bajoran? Why does everything seem to be in English? Why can’t they show Kira looking at a station report in Bajoran just once?

I guess it’s not that big a deal, but it’s definitely a missed opportunity. Remember Darmok? Remember that episode of ‘Enterprise’ where Scott Bakula’s translator broke down and he couldn’t understand the human-looking alien woman?

I like this kind of drama and, really, I wish there had been more of it. As well as more explanations given about how the universal translator actually works.

I mean, let’s look at this logically.

The Universal Translator is accessible to everyone on Earth, it seems. That means it’s unnecessary to learn another language except your native tongue.


Why do people learn English as a second language?

Some might do it for fun or because they love the culture, but I know from personal experience of teaching in Japan and Hong Kong that most of my students learn it because it’s useful. Not just useful, it’s vital, assuming you want to travel to other countries in the world.

Why are people queuing up to learn Mandarin now?

Same reason, mostly.

So if, in the Trek Universe, the universal translator makes second language learning irrelevant, what languages are all the characters speaking to each other?

Let’s take DS9 as an example:


The guy’s American so he speaks English, so there’s nothing much weird about that. He’s learning Bajoran, or how to read and write it so he can decipher those ancient prophecies, but we never hear him say any. Read more…

STAR TREK and its wonderful, recurring memory loss // Two Takes Frakes

September 18, 2014


Of course, STAR TREK II: The Wrath of Khan first introduced The
Genesis Device. It is an impactor that magically turns a dead world
into a “living” planet. The bad guy, Khan, gets a hold of the damn
thing, uses it in an attempt to destroy the ENTERPRISE and blows
himself to kingdom come. As a result of its activation, a new planet
is born and a controversy ensues – one which we never get to see -
within the Federation. Then, it turns out, the effect is only
temporary and the planet ages rapidly, then explodes. And whatever
interesting roads that this all may have led down to explode with it.
The franchise just lets this concept go and moves
onto seemingly more interesting fare like humpback whales and Vulcan

The Genesis torpedo and everything about it is completely made up, and
unfortunately, it’s all very technical, so there’s even more work
involved in keeping it going as a story-telling device. And it’s so
representative, really, of other kinds of ideas like this, that are on
a grand scale that’s worthy of science fiction, but whose implications
go almost completely unexplored, other than their being used to
comment on The Human Condition. For example, again using Genesis, Man
got too big for his britches and had to find out the hard way that it
doesn’t pay to play god! This theme has surely been so turned over and
over in the annuls of fiction that you’d think that it would’ve been
abandoned long ago in favour of a narrative thread exploring its own
mythos and larger implications, instead. But no … Read more…

Interview: Tankbread // Paul Mannering

September 10, 2014



Book: Tankbread

Author: Paul Mannering

Publisher: Permuted Press

Tagline: When there’s no more room in Summer Bay…the dead will rise!


Note: I was lucky enough to catch up to Paul on set in Bulgaria, where he was the second ‘zombie’ supervisor on ‘Cargo Loading District of the Dead 2: Deadlier Cargo’. The interview took place between shots. Definitely not by e-mail.

Note 2: There may be some spoilers, but nothing that goes past page 100 of the book.

Note 3: The 50 books Paul mentions at the end are just a small sample of the 49,000 he has actually written. The guy’s a machine.


Oli: Your main twist on the zombie genre is the idea of ‘Tankbread’ [cloned humans used as zombie food]. Please tell me you didn’t get inspiration from ‘The Island’?

Paul Mannering: One of the inspirations for the concept of Tankbread came from an old 2000AD comic. In the Future Shock series – back in the 1980’s. There was a story about an industry where comatose cloned bodies were grown for organ transplants. A caretaker – whose job was to feed these things baby food, had no interest in them as beings until one day – one squeezed his hand. He then concluded they were conscious and self aware – the story ended with him dousing the entire warehouse of clones in gasoline and burning the place down.

The story started with a vision that popped into my head one day, of the (at the time) “World’s Ugliest Dog” (a very elderly chihuaha) and a weird mental image of this dog cooked in some kind of orange glaze.

With that, came the opening line about the Asian across the table. The story just evolved from those key ideas.

Oli: No one is safe in this book. At one point, a baby is torn out of its mother’s womb and ripped to pieces by zombie teeth. Did you ever think of not slaughtering babies?

Paul: No. I wanted Tankbread to push boundaries of visceral horror. I wanted a story that made people uncomfortable.

Oddly enough I have had more angry responses over the use of the term ‘retard’ than I have about the violence against women, men and infants. Read more…

Space Seed + A Kirk Moment // 2 Takes Frakes

August 24, 2014


Two short poems about Star Trek, juxtaposed with no thought or intent whatsoever, honest.


(FROM: David Marcus TO: Unknown Dad)

I wish I knew who you were.
When you impregnated Mom,
Did you even love her?
Am I just a mistake?
Like a clerical error?
Did your condom break?
I know …
I didn’t come from a beaker
Or an unclean toilet seat
Mom thought me a keeper.
Not you …
One look, and you had to flee
Got in your car, sped out of town
doing a hundred and fifty.
Unfair …
Other kids know their dads.
I didn’t even get cards
for the birthdays I’ve had.
Science …
Made me a Momma’s Boy.
Another crazy torpedo
that she wants to deploy. Read more…

Star Trek Tech #1: The Transporter

August 13, 2014


What is it? The Transporter

What does it do? Transports, beams, breaks down a lot

How does it work?

Far as I can tell, the Transporter takes all your molecules/atoms, puts them into a holding pattern, chooses a new place to put you…either the nearest planet or starship…or Q’onos if you find yourself in that universe…and then puts all your molecules back together again. In the exact same order. With no interruption to the routine operation of your body, and no need to look at someone’s fingers and say a number. It seems to be based on the principle that humans are merely biological machines, not spiritual beings [I think]. I mean, I don’t think your soul can be taken apart and re-assembled…can it?

Which episodes is it used in?

Pretty much all of them, except ‘Enterprise’ because it’s only just been invented in that series.


Most of them are fairly obvious…

1] You can get somewhere faster [without needing to fly over Ukraine].

2] You can escape from awkward situations before they become impossible to survive e.g. talking shit to Klingons, being lectured by Picard, waking up next to Neelix

3] You can eliminate diseases from people.

Actually, I don’t know if this one is viable or not. For example, would cancer be excisable using this method? Theoretically, it must be as you could just beam out the cancerous cells, but would there be side effects if a chunk of you is missing when you rematerialize?

I really don’t know for sure how cancer works. Maybe someone else could answer this?

4] You can rescue that Chinese Nobel Prize winner from prison. And, to be completely objective, all those poor bastards having their balls whipped in Guantanamo Bay. Read more…

The Limits of The EMH & Data Reveal The Writers are Only Human

July 30, 2014


Another one by Two Takes Frakes, this time breaking his trend of writing about sex [except for the part about Data, Spot and Ensign Kellogg]


The problem I have with Living Holodeck Characters, from a viewer perspective – and writer’s perspective, frankly – is that there’s really no point to them. Until the EMH got his mobile emitter, those rare few characters were sort of tragic, in all that they had was fantasy. Even Vina from The Cage had known all of reality before her accident. And once The Doctor did get his emitter, outside of his innocent fascination with the real world and his invulnerability, he was just learning about The Human Condition. He didn’t even have to be a hologram for that.

But all of these characters are at the mercy of the limitations of a writer’s imagination. They can’t evolve to a perspective that’s truly alien to us, otherwise no one could write for it. So, they ALL plateau at the realization and acquisition of Human sentiments and they never evolve, uniquely. They end up being portrayed just as ordinary people who haven’t lost their sense of wonder. In that sense, the Holodeck is very evil, because it’s not a better or even different song to sing. It just acts as a redress for standard television tropes.

The EMH character in STAR TREK: VOYAGER lost something by handing him so much autonomy, with the mobile emitter. When writers take away the limitations of these special characters, like Data, or The Doctor, these characters turn out not being much different than any ordinary crew member. Apparently realizing this, TNG writers eventually had Data CHOOSE to be limited in the movies after his emotion chip was activated. To keep him interesting, in other words, Data had to revert to acting how he did BEFORE the chip. Otherwise, he just acted like everyone else and only looked different because of his make-up and contacts. Characters like the android Data of TNG and the Hologram Doctor of VOYAGER have incredible story-telling potential. And yet, these inhuman characters are reduced to being overly concerned with the Human Condition. Clumsily, they “explore” such ill-studied phenomenon such as the value of friendship, and dead-end “relationships,” with wide-eyed wonder and innocent fascination. Read more…

Big Ass Shark: an interview with Briar Lee Mitchell [SPOILERS]

July 25, 2014


Book: Big Ass Shark

Author: Briar Lee Mitchell

Publisher: Permuted Press

Plot: There’s a shark. It’s big.

Details: This isn’t a review, but I have mixed my thoughts on the book into the questions, and Briar was kind enough to answer them without getting pissed off.

In short: the book is good.


Oli: The tone seemed to be somewhere between jaws and piranha(not the pervy remake). Was that intentional?
Briar Lee Mitchell: No, just started with the story and let the characters take me where they wanted to go.
Oli: I’ve often heard that line…’the characters took me where they wanted to go’. How exactly does that happen? Which parts did the characters not follow your plot outline?
Briar: When I write, I know the beginning and most of the ending. As the characters come to life in my head, sometimes things they do or say can lead to interesting side stories to develop or help explain major plot points. Letting characters do that is one of my favorite things about writing. Rigid outlines make me crazy.
Oli: The main character was a wannabe actress called misty. One scientist was a grumpy Scot(at first). The biggest prick was a Japanese guy who harpoons a whale. Did you know you were skating so close to parody?
Briar: There was intentional humor…however no, I wasn’t picking on any groups when I selected good guys/bad guys. If it looks like parody, that is unintentional.

Read more…


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