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

July 30, 2014

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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]

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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.

Unfortunately, however, The writers are under no obligation to explore the truly “alien” ways a living machine would view itself, its place in the universe … nor how it views reality. It’s more than the job is worth, perhaps. What would fascinate an actual Hologram, for instance? The closest I have seen to this type of concern for the inner workings of created-characters was in BLADE RUNNER. The Replicants are synthetic Humans with a built-in, Kes-like lifespan, created purely for purposes of servitude. And society walks a fine
wire between enjoying the benefits of Replicant servitude and being scared shitless that said Replicants might revolt and join the Human Race. These characters have inner-logic that someone actually figured out. For example, Replicants, being synthetic, do not have a childhood. They can become obsessed with things like that. They don’t have memories of anything, because they are a product, that’s all. And those who manufactured them cared not a witabout what that might do to these Replicants, emotionally – despite the fact that they are based off of Human Beings.

A Hologram like the EMH, being a trick of light whose mind is based in the computer core of a spaceship, what would some creation of like that be able to handle, emotionally, if it were possible for it to even have emotions. And as a mechanism whose artificial nature may be much more apparent, what thought would any programmer give to the notion that this thing would be capable of acquiring an ego? This thing would have no avenue to explore feelings with. The idea that it would naturally evolve into The Human Condition, because it’s programmed to look and act Human is absurd. But because we Humans marvel at the things we’ve done (like building New York, NY, or landing on the Moon, and are the only animal on Earth capable of doing anything like that), we simply take it as read that anything aware of its own ego, as we are, would naturally act Human. Whilst this is probably only natural, on our part, to assume something like this, the likelihood of anything else as self-aware as we are relating to reality as we do is probably remote, at best.

Data and The Doctor would likely experience the occasional “FATAL ERROR,” for example. What the hell would their perception of THAT experience be like? The ability to enter and understand a mentality like that would very likely escape a writer, anyway, simply because Humanity is all we have to relate to. If Earth was like the Xindi world, for example, perhaps having various forms of life equal to our own for comparison, would open our way of thinking to the point where our entertainment would be inclusive of greater possibilities. We certainly wouldn’t get the same recycled stories turned over and over, for untold generations, since the Iliad. And it’s funny how Hollywood directors and writers talk about themselves “playing god” with their characters and storylines, when in fact, at best, all it could really be argued to be is some kind of exercise into empathy. Even effects suffer a lack of creativity.

CGI carries with it the promise to “realize” anything the Human Mind can imagine and, on first glance, the Human Mind seems able to imagine quite a lot. But that’s where we’re wrong. There is only so much useful vocabulary, outside of technical jargon, that we can use. So, in a sense, even our many languages are actually quite limited. We only have the five senses to perceive Reality. In effect, our evolution has actually been kind of stifled, since The Dawn of Time. It’s been our servile tools that have evolved – and so far beyond us, it seems at times, that it’s not inconceivable that they would attain a life of their own. Rockets and vessels took us to The Moon, but what was going there really about? Did it fundamentally change anything about Human Nature? For the first time, we saw the Planet, how The Moon sees it and whilst it may have encouraged some to “Wax the Philosophical,” prestige is all that Space is really about for Mankind.

The pursuit of which did improve technology drastically and people are so fascinated by this fact, that they believe that only NASA putting Humans in orbit can spur technological advancement. What was The Industrial Revolution about, then? Or the invention of Mass Production? And all the while, all through History, our tools have out evolved us at a nice clip, while we continued doing the same things cavemen had done – making babies, bullying each other and exploiting resources.So, yes, I truly wonder if it is possible for any Science Fiction writer to conceive of an Alien Mind. Because no matter what they say, or look like, these otherworldly creatures always end up being concerned with making babies, bullying eachother and exploiting resources. In a way, Science Fiction, in it’s clumsy attempts to take us out of this World, reveals how inept Human Beings are in conceiving it. As a result, Data, the EMH, and even a Crystaline Entity always end up being about … The Human Condition.”

“That’s Entertainment!”

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