The Psi-Phi Project: Re(8629): Andorians seen in Trek

John wrote:

You’d definitely be correct if Humans and Vulcans had evolvedseperately from different evolutionary ladders, etc. That’sprobably not the case, though. It’s been clearly established that an ancient race seeded the galaxy with their genetic code.  Humans and Vulcans are most probably the same basic species — just widely variated and at the edge of speciation due to their long isolation from each other.

“The Chase.” Yep, I knew someone would bring that up. Daleks chasing the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki across time and space, and the story where Ian and Barbara finally return to their time.

Oh, wait. Wrong “The Chase.”

You mean the TNG sixth season episode. The one with the progenitor race.

I can’t think of this episode without getting angry. Diane Carey might write crap novels, but nothing approaches the level of scientific idiocy displayed in “The Chase.” I can forgive Ron D. Moore a lot of things, I can even forgive him for Generations , but “The Chase” will always be a black mark against him in my book. Even if what the Progenitors said in “The Chase” were true, that doesn’t mean that humans and Vulcans (and everyone else for that matter) are related in any meaningful way.

First, let’s deal with the timescale. Seeding planets four billion years ago is all well and good, but obviously it didn’t do any good here on Earth. It took another three-billion years plus some for their seeded genetic material to be able to do anything multicellular. Multicellular life on Earth is less than a billion years old on Earth. Life has lasted a long time, but for a good ninety percent of Earth’s history the planet has been little above the lifeless stage.

Second, the genetic material encoding a message. If such a message existed, it would exist (like 42) in everything on Earth. Your dog would have about as much of the message as you, and for that matter, so would some volcano feeder on the bottom of the ocean. Then the timescale comes into play. Across a span of four billion years the message would have been subject to such genetic drift that it would no longer exist.

One phone call to a high school biology teacher would have been enough to tell Ron Moore that, “No, science says this won’t work.” Perhaps if the Progenitors had gone through the galaxy somewhat less than a billion years ago, I might be able to fudge the scientific issue away, but I can’t. Not at four billion years. We don’t know today why the Cambrian Explosion happened. We don’t know why multicellular life took three billion years to happen. But that’s what happened, and no amount of hand-waving will make that go away in the Trek universe. Either Galen had the story all wrong, or the Progenitors didn’t do jack squat.

Any way you cut it, the scientific gaffe in “The Chase” almost makes Ship of the Line look like poetry. And y’all know how I feel about Ship.

The Psi Phi Project: Re(8615): Andorians seen in Trek

I agree with Jim here. There’s nothing implausible about Spock, if we make the assumption that Spock’s genome was built from the ground up.  No, Spock was not an accidental child; the odds of Vulcans and humans having compatible genetic code is only slightly less than the odds of me and Jim McCain growing more hair on our heads, which is to say not at all.

I assume that Spock is either genetically fully human or fully Vulcan.  Assuming the latter, I believe Amanda’s DNA was decoded, then rewritten as the Vulcan DNA-equivalent, then matched with Sarek’s DNA. Some human genes aren’t going to have Vulcan analogues, and likewise some Vulcan genes won’t be represented in the human genome. But overall, Spock does carry genetic traits from both sides of his heritage, but he doesn’t actually carry human DNA.

It’s a tricky concept, but it’s what I believe. Some might say that the scene of Spock’s birth in Star Trek V is impossible under this scenario. Again, I say that it is possible; when designing Spock’s genome, I think the genetic coding for a human placenta could have been done, and then Amanda was given drugs to prevent her body from rejecting Spock.

Spock, poster-child for the ultimate in test-tube babies.

The Psi-Phi Project: Re(8561): Dissappointments

John Ordover has said in the past that Pocket was one of the last publishers to raise the prices on their books. Keeping books smaller in the page count is a way to keep those costs down. If a lower-than-average page count is done in conjunction with a slightly smaller typeface (to fit a 270 page book into a 220 page book), I’m not going to complain. It’s when the typeface typically used in a 270 page book is used in the same point size in a 220 page book that it’s painfully obvious that we’re dealing with a shorter book, and complaints are, I think, justified.

The Psi-Phi Project: Re(8550): Dissappointments

But it does no good to vent your spleen if you simultaneously assure them that you’ll keep buying the books no matter what they do. The only way to get the message through to them is NOT to buy the books. Otherwise, what incentive do they have to change?

Ah, the Catch-22. You buy stuff you don’t want at the risk of missing something, but by buying what you don’t want you’re feeding the ego of those in Pocket’s editorial and marketing departments, those same egos that think taking a five-hundred page book and chopping it in two pieces is a good thing, without realizing that two books slots are being filled by one story and thus depriving fans of storytelling.

Wow, that was a little harsh. No slam intended on anyone.

But that very much describes how I feel on Trek novel matters. I see us getting the same number of books per year as we did five, ten years ago, but now we’re getting fewer discrete stories now than we did then because of the “duology” chop-in-two phenomenon.

I don’t want people to think I’m prejuding Maximum Warp, because I’m not. I’ve read Battlelines, and I’m not prejudging Maximum Warp on the basis of that prior work. Neither will I say a story must be bad because it’s a duology.

The story is what matters, after all. I just have problems with the format.

On Doctor Who: Storm Warning II

It’s amazing.  I must be the only person to think the Doctor talking to himself in the first episode of Storm Warning works.

It’s absolutely obvious to me why he does this.  Just as those scenes make it plain why the Doctor has companions with him almost all of the time.

Quite simply, he likes to hear himself talk. :)

Now, in this case, the Doctor speaking to himself has a dramatic purpose, to further the plot.  The Doctor had no companion, no one to engage in dialogue with, and so plot exigencies force him to speak to himself.  (Interesting how The Marian Conspiracy handles a similar situation: Doctor on his own, trying to puzzle out something.)

So, the Doctor’s running monologue doesn’t bother me.  I think it shows a facet of the Doctor’s personality that hadn’t previously come to the fore.

Different strokes, though.  For a show that’s always been about showing and not telling, for many the opening narration in Storm Warning smacks of a lot of telling.

On Doctor Who: Storm Warning

I got Storm Warning today.  What an experience!  I’m not sure that it’s the best Big Finish audio yet (the second half is a little weak in comparison to the first two parts), but for reintroducing the world to Paul McGann as the Doctor, this really does fit the bill.

I do have a few complaints, though.  David Arnold’s version of the theme?  Electronica junk.

Okay, that’s enough complaints.

Seriously, it’s really good.  Charley doesn’t grate on the nerves the way Peril did in Winter for the Adept.  (Same actress.) Overall, it’s a very well done story.

Storm Warning.  When you get it, it’s really good.  Now, if only the Beeb will take the hint and make a new series….

On the Icarus and the Kzin

If you accept Star Trek: The Animated Series you have the Kzin attacking Earth almost simultaneously with the Vulcans’ arrival in Montana. And if you accept the UNSS Icarus mission to Alpha Centauri, you have that ship making contact with the native Centaurans before the Vulcans pass though the Sol system.

Putting Star Trek: First Contact‘s World War III in the 2050s solves this problem neatly. The Icarus left Earth in 2048, with a ten-year flight plan reaches AlphaCent in 2058. Radio signals from AlphaCent take four-plus years, so it’s 2062 at the earliest when listening posts on Earth could detect the Icarus‘s signal. However, if Earth is trashed from World War III, there’s no one listening, or if someone is, the signal gets filed away.

In the 23rd and 24th centuries, there’s debate over which contact counts as the first. The Vulcan contact, or the Icarus contact. However, since the Vulcan contact seems to have had more butterfly effects, that’s the one that generally gets the nod.

The Kzin question I handle a little bit differently. Whatever propulsion system the Icarus uses, it would be the rough equivalent of a minor cosmic event, emitting tons of hard radiation and generally making a lot of noise in the background cosmic junk. That’s going to be pretty obvious to anyone who’s looking, and so I have the Kzin follow the Icarus into AlphaCent (relatively speaking; I put the Kzin there about the time the Icarus is ready to head back home). So, the Man-Kzin Wars Sulu and Spock talk about happened, but in the AlphaCent system.

Random, true. Competely non-canon. But it’s how I view the muddled years of the mid-21st century in the Star Trek universe, keeping all the cool stuff that’s been tossed around for years.

On Nuclear War in the Star Trek Universe

Nuclear war happened in the Star Trek universe.  “Encounter at Farpoint” talks about the Post-Atomic Horror.  Star Trek: First Contact tells us 600 million dead.  But where?

Asia and the Pacific Rim? Gone, reduced to radioactive slag. That makes sense, given what Q showed us of the court from the Post-Atomic Horror, and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be anyone of Asian descent in the 23rd and 24th centuries (and those that we do see clearly hail from North America–Sulu from San Francisco, Harry from South Carolina [I think], and Hash [from NF] probably from Georgia).

North America? Europe? Largely untouched. San Fransisco looks a little different, the Eiffel Tower still stands, so we know these cities didn’t get hit with mushroom clouds. (On the other hand, a lot is going to depend on the yield of the weapon and whether it’s an airburster or a groundburster, so these cities could have taken a nuclear hit.)

Something to remember, though. A nuclear war in the 21st century won’t render a place uninhabitable; you could in time (a decade at most) return to the area and resettle it. (Brendan DuBois’ kickass alternate history Resurrection Day deals with that very point.) So, just because Asia is a radioactive parking lot in 2060 doesn’t mean no one’s living there in 2360.

Essentially, the point I’m trying to make is this: a nuclear war doesn’t necessarily have to be global. Something beginning in India, Pakistan, or China wouldn’t necessarily involve everyone. (Though I would question a situation where India and China were exchanging nukes and China didn’t take a pot-shot at Russia or the United States just to get one in.) The Cold War mentality is that a nuclear war would affect everyone , and while there would be some global cooling in the short term (since it looks like Carl Sagan overstated the nuclear winter hypothesis), a limited nuclear exchange is more probable in Trek‘s history.

Or at least, that’s the way I see it.

On Quintin Stone

Here’s what I think would be an interesting way to play with Quintin Stone in Star Trek: New FrontierA Rock and a Hard Place makes the point that Stone used to be a quiet, by-the-book officer, until the Prime Directive situation on Ianni that drove him over the edge and made him the rough-and-tumble gritty officer that he became.  Let’s suppose that either Shelby or Calhoun knew Stone back in his quiet, bookwormish days, and now they have to deal with the hyperintense Stone on Paradise.  Could be very intriguing, especially if Stone and Shelby had a history together.  (Perhaps Stone was Shelby’s first sexual experience, alluded to in Martyr.) Hmm.

On Borg History

I’ve been puzzled about the timeline for Annika Hansen’s meeting with the Borg. In tonite’s episode of Voyager, Janeway says to Seven that the Borg took away 20 years of her life and it was punishment enough. How is this possible if it was Q who brought the Enterprise and Picard to first contact with the Borg 10 years ago?

There are two theories.  One is that the Borg time travel in Star Trek: First Contact mucked up the timeline so that the first contact between human and Borg occurred before “Q Who” and that this episode didn’t happen at all.

The second theory, which I’m sure others have developed as well, is this:

Starfleet knew about the Borg from the late-23rd century.  The evacuation of the El-Aurian homeworld was the first clear sign, the number of El-Aurian refugees heading to Earth showed that something major was afoot.  Starfleet intercepted what El-Aurian refugees they could, debriefed them about what happened to their homeworld, and learned of the threat of the Borg.

However, not all of Starfleet knew this.  This information was classified at the highest levels.  Section 31 knew undoubtedly, Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief and his inner circle knew as well.  But the rank-and-file didn’t know.  (I postulate Starfleet sent a ship, the Excelsior under Sulu’s command, to investigate what happened to the El-Aurian homeworld.  I suspect Sulu might have been the first in Starfleet to make contact with the Borg.  I think what he found scared Starfleet intensely.)

Then, after the Tomed Incident in 2311, the Borg fell upon the Romulans.

The Hansens I suspect were part of Section 31.  Assigned to survey the Borg, trail one of their ships.  Boom, they get assimilated.

When Picard stumbles across the Borg in System J-25, he doesn’t know anything of the Borg; they’re classified far above what he needs to know.

After the first Borg assault on Earth, Starfleet levels with its officers about what it knew about the Borg.  Not how it knew it, but what it did know.  Even what Section 31 knew, but not revealing how they knew it.  Thus did Janeway have the logs of the Raven.  So, there’s a bit of revisionism in the history of the Borg and how Starfleet encountered them.

A possible history.