Jul 03

Boldly Speculating: The Borg

Borg-symbol

The exact origin of the Borg is a source of great mystery and of speculation of non-canon authors. These accounts, as outlined on Memory Beta, are largely contradictory.

Intelligence provided by Erika Hernandez during in the Borg Invasion of 2381 suggest the Borg have a definite point of origin from a crashed and temporally-displaced Caeliar cityship, Mantilis, in 4527 BC. However there has also been evidence of Borg activity much earlier, such as the assimilation of the Hirogen homeworld around 110,000 BC, and possible Borg-Preserver conflicts dating back to billions of years ago.

All we do know in canon, is that the Borg have existed as a blend of the biological and the technological for “thousands of centuries”, as Guinan put it (“Q Who” [TNG]). Taking into consideration these contradictory accounts of the origin of the Borg, one can assume that various iterations assimilated one another to become the Borg Collective that spans the Delta and Beta Quadrants of the Milky Way galaxy.

There’s also the matter of why the Borg Queen is traditionally a member of Species 125. Why not Species 1? Furthermore, the version of the Borg Queen played by Susanna Thompson in the Voyager two-part episodes “Dark Frontier” and “Unimatrix Zero” claimed to have been assimilated as a child roughly a decade earlier. One possibility is that Species 1 through 124 belonged to one of those earlier separate iterations of the collective. Additionally, “The Origin of the Borg” segment of the Star Trek: Legacy video game suggests that in their quest to achieve perfection, the Borg discovered that the females of Species 125, “displayed a mental prowess, enabling them to sift through thousands of thoughts and bring order to chaos.”

Certain aspects of the Borg are perceived as continuity errors. For one, the whole concept of a Borg Queen completely contradicts the idea of a collective consciousness. When you think about it, how is it that the Borg Collective is always in a state of consensus? The possible explanation is that each individual Borg is merely a drone subservient to the will of the Queen just like the hierarchy of an insect colony. That arrangement adheres to the TNG producers’ original plans for the Borg to be an insectoid race when the final episode of the first season was originally intended to introduce the Borg—with the events of “Conspiracy” serving as a precursor episode. The Queen is the one who brings order to chaos. If a single drone has any inklings of embracing their individuality and who they were prior to assimilation, the Queen swoops in and puts a stop to it. As the Queen put it in First Contact, “I am one and many.” In response the question of whether or not she was the leader, she said, “I am the Collective”–an answer Data found “interesting, if cryptic”.

Haters of Enterprise have pointed out that the Borg did not use their traditional greeting—“We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile”—in “Regeneration” In fact, for some technological reason, the first sentence of their so-called “traditional greeting” was not heard. This complaint is based on the expression that “haters gotta hate” since the Borg have not always used this greeting. Others have included:

“We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.” (Star Trek: First Contact)

 

“We are the Borg. Existence as you know it is over. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.” (“Scorpion, Part I [VOY])

 

“We have analyzed your defensive capabilities as unable to withstand us. If you defend yourselves, you will be punished.” (“Q Who” [TNG])

 

Wait a minute. Nothing about assimilation?

Even with the information Guinan provided about the Borg, as far as Starfleet was concerned, assimilation did not appear to be part of their plans for galactic domination. “The Best of Both Worlds” was the first episode to introduce assimilation as part of the Borg’s strategy to attain perfection.

Shelby: I thought the Borg weren’t interested in human lifeforms, only our technology.
Picard: Their priorities seem to have changed.

 

This “change in priorities” was never addressed in future episodes or movies. In fact, possibly because the events of “Regeneration” were not public knowledge or had not happened in that timeline, Magnus and Erin Hansen (Seven of Nine’s human parents) were the first humans the Borg assimilated in 2356. (“Scorpion, Part II”, “The Gift”, “Dark Frontier [VOY]). One possibility is that, at some point in their history, the Borg Collective decided that assimilation of humanoids was more efficient than procreation. Perhaps the Borg cube the Enterprise-D encountered in 2365, for whatever reason, was following some older programming directives. The away team’s visit to the “Borg nursery” would seem to contradict Seven of Nine’s statement that the Borg have no need for procreation (“Revulsion [VOY]). Perhaps Commander Riker’s conclusion that the Borg were born a purely biological lifeform was incorrect and the infant Borg were assimilated infants. Or they were a branch of the collective that still procreated rather than assimilated.

The idea of multiple branches was suggested in the Shatner-verse novel “The Return“. Captain Picard is certain the Borg have been defeated after the events of “Descent, Part II”. Commander Shelby counters that he and his crew only defeated one branch among many. Each of these branches may have its own queen with the exact same agenda, all of whom fall in line with an “uber-queen” (Stargate: Atlantis character Rodney McKay’s description of the Wraith Queen known as the Primary).

In spite of the Borg having been completely eradicated in the 2008 Star Trek Destiny novel trilogy, they are still a source of intrigue for fan-fiction writers and creators of other non-canon media. In fact, the Borg are still a major threat in the Star Trek Online universe. But as Pocket Books author Christopher Bennett suggested in a TrekBBS forum discussion, the writers backed themselves into a corner by creating this nearly invincible enemy. They were featured fairly infrequently in The Next Generation, only to be “ruined”, as many fans often complain, by their more frequent appearances on Voyager.

Jul 02

Boldly Speculating: The Ancients

image001Very little is known of the Iconians outside of what was established outside of The Next Generation’s “Contagion” and Deep Space Nine’s “To the Death” but are still a source of fascination for various expanded universe media. The mysterious Iconians relied upon a network of hyperspace gateways that allowed for instantaneous interstellar travel. During their empire’s peak two-hundred thousand years ago, they were an interstellar Roman Empire that might have spanned as far as the Gamma Quadrant, whose influence is felt to the present day. Their language is a root language from which Diwaan, Dinasian, and Iccobar are derived. Whether the Iconians were conquerors is unclear. An alliance of worlds, perhaps fearing that the Iconians were conquerors, leveled the planet believed to be Iconia. During to a visit to that planet, Captain Jean-Luc Picard became skeptical of the ancient accounts of the “demons of air and darkness”, indicating that history is often written by the victors. Anything beyond that is left up to the imaginations of authors of licensed non-canon media, fan fiction writers, and fan film producers.

In the universe of Star Trek Online, the fears of the Iconians’ enemies were well founded, as the Iconians were a force devoted sowing seeds of dissent among their inferiors. They bear a strong resemblance to the Shadows of the Babylon 5 universe, who sought to incite wars among the lesser races out of a belief that strength was built from chaos. Other non-canon sources from the Pocket Books novels to the online fan-film series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier portrayed the Iconians as a benevolent technologically advanced species. In my future fan-fiction works, I will be taking this notion a bit further through the introduction of alien races whose religious beliefs are consistent what is known about the Iconians—godlike figures who manifest themselves from out of nowhere, progenitors who left behind advanced technology meant to protect their planet from invasion, but that the natives don’t know how to use. This would make the Iconians similar to the Babylon 5 universe’s Vorlons, who presented themselves as benevolent godlike figures to lesser races, but were also found to be astonishingly arrogant.

Perhaps the Iconians had influenced the various species most prominently featured in the Star Trek universe—humans, Vulcans, Klingons, Bajorans, etc.—to provide some explanation into certain universal themes of various religions such as the Klingons having their own versions of Adam and Eve, or instances of mythic characters from Greek mythology to Christianity to the Pah-Wraiths of the Bajoran faith “losing the battle for heaven”. Furthermore, certain facets of Vulcan culture and history mirrors the stories of the ancient Greek god Hephaestus, “god of fire and the forge”. His counterpart in Roman mythology was named (hold on to your hats) Vulcan. Just as the name “Earth” derives from varying ancient mythologies, perhaps the name Vulcan derives from a similar mythos. When original Federation starship Enterprise encountered Sargon and other surviving members of his race, Spock speculated that Sargon’s people may have colonized Vulcan based on ancient historical accounts (“Return to Tomorrow” [TOS]).

If an ancient race did colonize both Earth and Vulcan half a million years ago, a pre-Surak creation myth may be something like this. When the Creators formed all the planets in the universe, the Mother Goddess (Hera in Greek mythology) cast away Hephaestus (“the Ugly One”). This part of the legend would seemingly ring true, as Vulcan is a harsh desert planet, which is also the home to a thriving humanoid civilization. In the one of the ancient Greek accounts, Hephaestus sought revenge on his mother by trapping her in a magic throne. In return for her release, he demanded Aphrodite’s hand in marriage. In the Vulcan mythos, others sought Aphrodite. To prevent all-out war, the Father God presided over ritualistic combat to the death where the victor would marry Aphrodite. This combat was the first koon-ut-kal-if-fee, a tradition dating back to “the time of the beginning,” according to T’Pau (“Amok Time” [TOS]). Such a ritual may seem out of place for such a logical and unemotional race. But when a Vulcan is going through the pon-farr, he or she is hardly motivated by logic.

This is only a sampling, but more on this subject is to come in future fan-fiction works with indications that Iconian colonists on Earth became the basis for ancient Sumerian, Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythology.

Jul 02

Blog Like A Boss Prompt #3: Who is your favorite blogger and why?

To be perfectly candid, I have been a bit lax in my blog reading the last year and a half. From my perusing of the adastra.net blogs, I would have to say I enjoyed jespah’s blog entries the most. For one, I enjoy her commentaries on her own fanon stories, series, and characters. Most of all, I enjoy the actor pictures as a visual aide for how she envisions her characters.

Jul 01

Blog Like A Boss Prompt #2: What is the hardest story you ever had to write? What was the easiest? And why?

To start off, what’s the hardest story I had ever had to write?

In the grand scheme, I’d say that Star Trek: Lambda Paz “To the Bitter End” was the hardest. This story was meant to tie up many of the loose ends that had built up in several of my previous stories in this series. I had slowly come to realize as I introduced these story and character arcs that the Year Two finale would not to be a simple two-hour episode-length narrative.

The biggest challenge was working in the various character subplots with expansion upon the end of the Dominion War as established in the Deep Space Nine series finale “What You Leave Behind…” and The Dominion War Sourcebook. All of the characters, on both sides, experienced so many different kinds of hardship during the previous two years, and so composing this narrative was an exercise in tying those two facets together.

The Sara Carson-Rebecca Sullivan romance has reached a companionate love phase as they try to live each day as if it is their last. And throw in that they have to coexist with Sara’s ex, Mandel Morrison. During a shipboard crisis, those three reach a “we can all try to be friends” type of agreement.

Shinar sh’Aqba is pregnant by her non-Andorian lover Erhlich Tarlazzi, and this has been cause for all sorts of emotional baggage. She even goes so far as to manually close an emergency bulkhead in an area of the ship where she could die from radiation poisoning or suffocation before succeeding in that venture. This suggests to Doctor Aurellan Markalis that she is suicidal, who has her briefly confined to sickbay. As those two are becoming fast gal-pals, Doctor Markalis is in a romantic relationship with the ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram. She is gradually falling in love with him, while grappling with the question of whether a holographic image can genuinely reciprocate that love. Finally, Captain Limis Vircona is  driven to taking insane risks to win a major battle. And that’s just one ship and crew being featured in the whole novel-length epic.

That all played out very well in the end, along with writing space battles. The most difficult part about this trying to find variations in describing “this ship blowing up that ship”, “Fire phasers”, “Fire photon torpedoes”, “Shields down to X percent.” In writing these battle sequences, I started borrowing elements from the universe Babylon 5, where the battles are focused more on the strategy of how to best use ships of varying size and weapons arsenals.

By the time all is said and done, the characters are faced with great tragedy. Lives are lost and entire cities are destroyed. How the characters cope with these situations will set up future stories. But four months and twenty-seven chapters later, it was all well worth the effort.

What was the easiest to write?

I would say Star Trek: Lambda Paz “Moral Dilemma”. This story was meant to be episode length and loosely based on the Deep Space Nine episode “In the Pale Moonlight” and Enterprise‘s “Anomaly”. The story begins with another costly defeat in the early phase of the Dominion War and Captain Limis contemplating her actions over the previous two weeks. From that point, the plot closely follows that of “Anomaly”, but I was careful not to make such an adaptation too obvious (where I was less successful in regards to “The Tides of War”, loosely based on Enterprise‘s two-parter “Shockwave”).

Aliens thieves board the ship and steal valuable equipment. The ship pursues and discovers a concealed sphere of an unknown alien origin. In the process of retrieving the pilfered equipment, an away team discovers that the thieves have been hired by Romulans who are also in possession of the means to synthesize the narcotic ketracel white. Concluding that this equipment was stolen from the Dominion, Limis interrogates a captured Cardassian by placing him in an airlock where life support has been turned off. Contrary to “Anomaly”, this prisoner dies from suffocation after breaking.

Though I added an additional chapter roughly three years after its initial publication, the story mostly wrote itself. Completing the original cut took less than a month after having completed a longer pilot episode where I was unconcerned with length and that took nearly a year to complete.

Jun 30

Blog Like A Boss Prompt #1: What has Star Trek fandom — and ficcing specifically — meant to you?

What has Star Trek fandom meant to me? To answer that question, I’d have to go back to 1991 when I started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Saturday nights. That’s what first sparked my interest in the whole science fiction genre. In the interceding years, I have taken an interest in other sci-fi franchises from the semi-utopian universe of Babylon 5 to more dystopian futures depicted in recent series such as Almost Human and The 100. The Star Trek franchise still has a unique spin on what a more utopian future could look like–one where a society is not divided along racial and ethnic lines or on antiquated gender roles, one in which a united Earth is a true meritocracy.

In terms of what fan-ficcing has meant to me is a whole different matter. I certainly enjoyed acting out some of my favorite scenes from the various Star Trek series when I was a kid. The notion of fan-fiction writing, on the other hand, provided a whole different outlet for “pretend play” in my adult years. It was a means to expand our horizons, to look into a very complex fictional universe that Deep Space Nine first opened our eyes to.

It wasn’t a transition that happened overnight, though. Being a fan-fiction writer was not something I had really considered until the release of the Deep Space Nine “re-launch” stories in novel and comic book form. While the televised series did its best to wrap up various character and story arcs, it left a lot of unanswered questions. Will Benjamin Sisko really be back some time in the future, as he promised Kasidy? What will be the state of relations between the Cardassian Empire and its neighbors after the war is over? Will Odo easily be able to reform the Dominion now that he has reunited with his people? I formed some of my own ideas about how to expand the universe of Star Trek. Those first ideas, which I started putting on paper in 2002, are now in a box somewhere collecting dust. None of them got published anywhere on the world wide web. Those ideas gained traction after Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled in 2005, and there were no immediate for another televised Star Trek series.

In effect, my authorship of Star Trek fan fiction has been a way of expanding on the vision that Gene Rodenberry first showed us back in the 1960’s. It has provided a lense through which look into a very large and diverse fictional universe. It is very often refreshing to know that even in a utopian future, human beings still struggle with the same problems from embarassing family squabbles to the angst over unrequited love. Reading and writing fan fiction has given me a means of delving into people, places, and historical events that the televised series and movies only scratched the surface of.

Jun 30

First posting for Blog Like A Boss: From the Rodenberry-verse to the Abrams-verse

In preparation for the Star Trek franchise’s 50th anniversary, I hope to soon publish Abrams-verse adaptations of classic Original Series episodes, a project IDW Comics has also undertaken. The biggest challenge, I think, will that with different actors playing these long-time beloved characters, these actors have somewhat different interpretations of the characters. For example, Chris Pine elected to mimic James Kirk’s famed arrogance, and not attempt to duplicate William Shatner’s speech patterns. And in my observation, the version of Spock played by Zachary Quinto, is more Vulcan than Spock played by Leonard Nimoy in some instances (putting on more of a superiority complex as seen with Vulcan characters in the more recent spinoffs), and more human in others (a determination to kill Khan in a murderous rage to avenge Kirk’s apparent death).

The following is a scene written in the spur of the moment, to be part of a larger story that will be an allegory to a present day issue. This ficlet is more of a practice exercise in writing how the newer versions of Kirk and Spock interact.

In this scene, Spock defines religious fundamentalism in the simplest of terms following a visit to a long-lost Vulcan colony where the inhabitants believe they are the first sentient species in the universe.

“Seems humans and Vulcans are more alike than we first realized,” Kirk remarked.

Spock’s right eyebrow twitched indicating his skepticism. “How so?” he curiously inquired.

“Well, for one,” Kirk offered, “these people’s mythology is very similar to that of ancient Egypt and Greece. And they’re not the first Vulcans I’ve seen who can be pretty damn stubborn when they’re convinced they’re right. Not to mention these people are very much like humans who still believed in fairy tales about how the world began even if the face of mountains of scientific evidence.”

“I would beg to differ,” Spock interjected. “For centuries, they have been isolated from the rest of the galaxy and have only recently become aware of alternative ways of life. Their society has not yet matured to the point where they can truly appreciate Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”

“Well, sure, there are some obvious differences,” Kirk offered with a slight grin. “I’m saying, you don’t find it at all strange that they would deny the existence of what’s staring them in the face.”

“It is fairly easy to look back over centuries of yours and my respective histories and judge what was right and wrong. But remember that their beliefs and values are based on emotional attachments to what has always been believed to be true.”

“So you’re saying some of your brethren do let emotion influence their thinking?” Kirk teased.

“These people certainly do. But they are far from reflective of mainstream Vulcan society.”

“I got it, Spock. You sympathize with their position, but you stubbornly refuse to admit they’re more similar to your people than you realize.”

Jun 19

Soaring to the Stars

Soaring To The Stars

(click on image to view entire animation)

It’s not exactly a perfect animated montage, but it’s pretty decent considering GIF Soup froze on me while I was in the process of assembling each frame.

It illustrates how humanity soared to the stars, first in rocket propelled space shuttles that could only send manned missions as far as the moon. The came the first warp-powered ship flown by warp-drive inventor Zefram Cochrane, and finally three different starships called Enterprise, which could attain speeds even faster. And this has allowed to soar to a considerable portion of our corner of the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond.

 

Oct 30

Commentary on “To the Bitter End”

Welcome to my commentary on “To the Bitter End” where it all comes crashing down into an apocalyptic final confrontation.

It opens with a look at how the first stone is laid in The Battle of the Three Suns outlined in the Dominion War Sourcebook.  And this is how the folks at Domininon HQ realize that the Feds have come up with a countermeasure to the Breen energy dissipaters in “The Dogs of War”. Essentially, the Allies hit the Dominion in three places–the Chintoka System, the Daxura System, and the Zhamur System. The latter location–according to the Sourcebook–is what’s left of the Dominion hold on the Kalandra sector, the jumping off point for their invasion of Betazed and their efforts to threaten Federation core sectors (“In the Pale Moonlight”, “The Reckoning”, et al.). Oh, and we’re back in the Chintoka System. The prologue takes there, with fleets there handling the Breen with relative ease.  While we do see Admiral Gundersen and his ship again, this is the only time we see the admiral and his crew in action aboard the USS Manchuria (the first of several World War II references). And the first fuse is lit. Moving on…

From the beginning, the whole story has the feel of a big movie where the big story is told from multiple points of view and eventually each group of characters crosses paths.  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, for example, started with the crew of the Enterprise, and there’s also Chekov on the Reliant, the scientists on the space station, and then Khan and his followers. The Search for Spock follows the same model, all building towards a big crescendo, a big confrontation between hero and villain. In the case of this story, the big hero-villain confrontation is in the metaphysical sense during the Battle of Cardassia.

The overall story takes place during the last forty days of the Dominion War with stories within the story. “Grey’s Anatomy” took a similar approach with one of its season openers in the aftermath of one of the original characters getting killed off. And it invoked the five stages of grief, whereas “To the Bitter End” uses Biblical allegories. Each day is prefaced with passages from the Bible. Part One includes passages from the Noah’s Ark portion of Genesis, hence my original title being “Surviving the Flood”. Considering how Bajoran prophecies were weaved into DS9’s Dominion War arc, one of the Prophets’ foretellings seemed like an appropriate opening quote. “It will be the end, or the beginning,” was the Prophets’ warning to their Emissary about The Reckoning, the epic battle between good and evil. A good opening theme song then is Nightwish’s “The End of All Hope”. The soundtrack for this whole story consists mostly of songs from Nightwish with the music and Tarja Turunen’s vocals providing an operatic feel to the story. This particular song makes allusions to both the end of all hope and the birth of all hope. That same feeling comes from the end of a competitive sports season. For those individuals or teams vying for a championship, the season can only end either in being crowned the champion or in bitter disappointment. And that’s the sense that comes from the end of a war. These coming battles will determine the outcome of the war, which will mean the beginning of a new era for the winners and the death of everything the losing side has worked to achieve.

The multiple points of view help to convey a sense of desperation and determination on both sides. These four setting, in addition to the Lambda Paz, are a Jem’Hadar capital ship, a Cardassian warship, and another Starfleet ship. A few of the officers on the Seventh Fleet flagship USS Constantinople had been depicted before, but never in this scope. The introduction of certain crewmembers on that ship may have seemed redundant. A lot of them are there just to get killed off while serving on one of the redshirts of starships. The ship is expendable, its most senior officers are expendable, and half its crew eventually perishes. As for the survivors, it’s not fair to just brush them to the side like they never existed after their ship is lost. Ellison will still be around to butt heads with Limis. And the rest will have recurring secondary roles, so not a one-time thing.

The crew of the Jem’Hadar capital ship conveys what’s at stake for them, especially with the Founders facing extinction. That makes them more determined to finish what they started. They may lose the war, but they will not go down quietly. Needless to say, the Jem’Hadar and Vorta go along with it out of devotion to their gods. Of course, there’s bound to be some trouble down the road with the Vorta bending over backwards to accommodate the Breen. The crew of this ship provides some insight into the Dominion hierarchy. The Vorta handle the engineering aspects of the ship, leaving the Jem’Hadar to focus on tactical matters. Not all of the Vorta are clones, as the narrative indicates. Fleet liaison officer Torgroth is one such natural-born Vorta. These Vorta are still products of genetic engineering by the Founders, serving a particular function within their society. Whether clones of Torgroth will be produced after his death will be determined by his service to the Dominion, as this is an honor reserved for their greatest scientists and diplomats.

The Cardassians in this story are basically the “middle ground” with some insight into their culture. Gul Latham is trying to serve “the State” like a loyal citizen. He believes Damar’s actions were not those of a loyal citizen and that Damar is a threat to social order. Order and security are values the Cardassians place ahead of what we may define as individual freedoms. Over time, the reader learns that Latham is willing to take more covert action and is looking for an excuse not to do what he knows needs to be done, but with good reason. He doesn’t want what happened to Damar’s family to happen to his. Overall, he and crew are people with hopes and dreams and families. They know the price of defeat is too high. That message was similarly conveyed in “Balance of Terror” with Romulan counterparts to Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.

All four groups of characters are determined to fight to the last man, knowing what is at stake. That point was well illustrated in the “Babylon 5” made-for-TV prequel movie In the Beginning, which outlined the Earth-Minbari War. “The humans, I think, knew they were doomed. But where another race would surrender to despair, the humans fought back with even greater strength… They made the Minbari fight for every inch of space… They never ran out of courage, but in end, they ran out of time.” For those who had seen the first four seasons of B5, they knew everything turned out all right in the end for both sides in the war. For anyone who was getting a first look at the B5 franchise through this movie at the time TNT picked up the final season, the Minbari don’t entirely come across as the villains even though their aim is the annihilation of the entire human race.

The Cardassians depicted in “To the Bitter End” are not depicted as villains either. They’re just people trying to survive a destructive war. For them, the major antagonist is Diralna, the Vorta assigned to keep an eye on Latham and his crew and make sure they all stay in line. Diralna’s not like most Vorta. She’s more like Kilana from the DS9 episode “The Ship” with longer hair and wearing a low-cut top. Diralna was willing to use sex as a means to control Latham, although he has spurned her advances up to this point, and in response, she reminded him that he already shares a bed with a woman other than his wife, even threatening to reveal his extracurricular activities to his spouse.

Another underlying theme throughout the story is that life that doesn’t always go as planned. That is illustrated through the war and through the characters’ lives. The Starfleet veterans, of course, know that the Dominion has trick up its sleeve where only a Cardassian garrison is present. But knowing exactly what that trick is doesn’t always seem possible until it’s being implemented. And the less experienced junior officers know to expect the unexpected on an intellectual level. All that mantra really does is remind the troops not to expect an easy victory simply because an enemy stronghold is only protected by Cardassians (or because Barry Zito is pitching for the opposing team or Charlie Whitehurst is the quarterback). The Dominion has a way with hidden mines, whether they’re “Houdinis” on AR-558 or these so-called viral mines that emit almost no energy signature and draw power from a target vessel (in much the same way a virus is dependent on host cells to replicate). They don’t know they’re there until they’re exploding. On the other side, the Dominion didn’t expect the Romulans to be able to improve their cloaking technology to compensate for all the gravimetric and magnetic distortions in the Daxura System. So now, Yelgrun has his engineering teams work to adjust to their adjustments. That ends up taking Limis and company by surprise, leading to one of the more climactic moments.

On the personal level, there’s Limis trying to punish herself for various missteps in her life, even if that means taking matters into her hand and unnecessarily risk her own life. That’s one of her most visible Kathryn Janeway characteristics of being overly tenacious to an almost obsessive level, along with habitually pulling all-nighters and an addiction to coffee (but in keeping with this series’s DS9 roots, raktajino is her preferred brew).

This obsessiveness has an almost fatal side-effect when Limis decides to make up for being outmaneuvered by seeding thermonuclear explosives, as is later established are being used against the semi-organic hulls of Breen fighters, on asteroids and detonating them to take out a considerable number of enemy ships. The events leading to that decision mirror the sequence of events from In the Beginning that earned John Sheridan the nickname “Starkiller” among the Minbari and “Nuke ‘em” among Bruce Boxleitner’s castmates. His disclaimer to his crew was this plan had a slim chance of working out, and even if it did, the explosion would take their ship with the enemy flagship.

That has become a plot cliché in the Star Trek universe where the captain has a bold plan to save the ship, and someone says, “That could blow us up.” And the captain says, “If we do nothing, we’re all definitely going to die.” The rest of the bridge then agrees, at that one time out of ten thousand still takes place (from Kirk’s plea to Spock in “The Naked Time”: “We’ve got to take one in ten thousand chance!”). This particular instance, we get a little of bit of both success and failure. They take out a large number of ships, but now they can’t get out of the asteroid field before the surrounding radiation reaches lethal levels.

Also in the category of life not going as planned, Logan never planned on rolling warships off the assembly lines. So he gets a little touchy about the other engineers messing up “his” ships too much. Morrison had never planned on getting stuck in a corridor with his ex-girlfriend and her current lover. Sh’Aqba had never planned on getting pregnant. She just wanted a more casual relationship with Tarlazzi while at the same time flipping off Andorian marital customs. She had been betrothed to three “bondmates” (since Andorian marriages often involve groups of four). And because, she’s a shen, a go-between in Andorian mating, she cannot carry this baby to term. During this shipboard crisis, she probably saw a chance to end all the burdens she was carrying by trying to manually close an emergency bulkhead before the forcefield temporarily sealing a hull-breach fails. She seals the bulkhead and saves the ship, but she passes out from the thinning atmosphere and the increased radiation levels.

That leads into Doctor Markalis believing sh’Aqba suicidal. At the same time, Aurellan is trying to cope with life not going entirely as planned, in the form of becoming CMO of a Starfleet warship. While she has prided herself on “bringing order to chaos” (excuse the Borg slogan), all the suffering and death is wearing on her. She’s now falling down the same path as most drug addicts. It starts with “just this once.” Then the second time becomes the last time, then the third, then the fourth, and so on. One thing working in her favor is a greater self-awareness–that she can’t be one of those people who hits rock bottom before embarking on the road to recovery. The big wake-up call for her is a dream where an evil persona takes pride in having caused so much death. Deciding to quit comes fairly easy, but that’s not entirely the end of the road. She’s on a program to wean herself off the tranquilizers she’s been overdosing on. As a side effect to pain medication taken after a skirmish with the Breen, she has this bizarre dream about the world of Benny Russell in 20th century New York. Various Trek novels have been ambiguous as to whether that alternate reality was “real”. In this scenario, this other realm is just a strange allegory to Aurellan’s real life.

I first started the writing the character of the EMH-Mark III with Hugh Laurie in mind, but speaking with the American accent he did as Doctor Gregory House for eight years. As an inside joke about that, the EMH’s 20th century alter ego is British. I randomly came up with Leo Houseman (Leo Tompkins being Laurie’s character on the TV mini-series “All or Nothing at All”), while taking a quick look at Laurie’s IMDB page, for his 20th century persona, and hence the name Aurellan gives her holographic lover. I juggled the idea of having the doctor with Asperger’s Syndrome in a relationship with a holographic doctor, mostly out of disappointment that Doc (more generically known as the EMH-Mark I) and Seven of Nine never got together, right around the time “The Big Bang Theory” introduced a female version and possible love interest of the asexual and Aspie-ish Sheldon Cooper, who have now evolved into one of the most unconventional sitcom couples. A lot of the so-called “Sh-Amy shippers” agree that Sheldon is in love with Amy Farrah Fowler even though he hasn’t actually said it. He’s demonstrated it through his actions and his state of mind around her and when he can’t get in touch with her. Similarly, EMH-Mark III/Leo demonstrated a devotion to Aurellan greater than that between colleagues or even platonic friends. He showed he cared for her by checking on her when she was having that weird dream rather than sending a nurse to her quarters. He put her ahead of everyone and everything else in his life rather than the sappy lovey-dovey stuff.

Another way I made Leo/Aurellan an unconventional couple was that relationship didn’t have a sexual component. That’s become something of a cliché, even employed in this particular series with the other couples, where a couple starts regularly having sex after just the first or second or third date. In the previous story, Aurellan was adamant in not wanting to go along with that particular trend. But in seeing all that was going on around her with so many people dying, she wanted to be spontaneous while still standing up to her own personal beliefs. After the events of Chapter 17, she knew he was that special someone with whom she wanted to consummate.

For this group of characters as the story draws to a close, they see plenty of incentive to live for today as if there is no tomorrow because there might not be. People will continue to watch colleagues, friends, and even loved ones die. As the final battle looms, some see their last chance to tell a colleague they butt heads with how much they respect and admire them or for someone who keeps an emotional distance from others to make a gesture of friendship. Tarlazzi says to sh’Aqba he wishes they could have just five minutes alone before it all hits the fan in the same way a kid asks for five more minutes when it’s time to come inside or go to bed. They all still know what needs to done, and they’re going to throw everything they have at the enemy.

As battle rages on, we see the horrors war. The Jem’Hadar act on their orders to wipe out the entire population of Cardassia Prime, and that even includes old men, walking wounded, and even children. These are the same tactics the Cardassians employed on the Bajorans, and now the karmic wheel has spun back in their direction. The Cardassians didn’t seem like a very religious race, but Garak’s speech at the end of “What You Leave Behind…” and Aamin Maritza’s reasoning for masquerading as his former commanding officer, would suggest a belief consistent with the modern-day interpretation of karma. In a just world, doing evil things will eventually come back to haunt a person. Gul Latham summed it up when he said the Cardassian people got exactly what they deserved. While not endorsing the indiscriminate killings of civilians and other horrible atrocities committed in recent wars, that’s a Cardassian way of thinking. After the horrible things done to the Bajorans and other subject races, they’re now on the receiving end. The Dominion massacre was their World War III. Latham sees what his people’s imperialistic ambitions cost them, and so they have to strive for change if their race is to survive.

The war made for a lot of awesome looking space battles, but it all came down to the individuals fighting in it. Many of the characters have their own way of coping with losses of friends and loved ones. Some of them try to avoid feeling their feelings, yet find they can’t when the reality has fully sunk in. They all mourn the dead, first as a group, and then individually. Sh’Aqba sees Tarlazzi’s sacrifice as both selfless and selfish. Not only did he give the fleet a better chance of defeating a set of automated weapon satellites, but he also left sh’Aqba to care for their child on her own. Neeley goes back to a former lover for comfort and Markalis trivialize her own loss.

In any case, life goes on for the survivors. They’ll have plenty of new challenges before them in year three and beyond. One of the aphorisms emphasized in Lambda Paz is that we try as best we can to shape our own lives and our futures even when all doesn’t go as planned. That’s basically the gist of “The Creationist”, which, again, does not endorse creationism. The characters in this series will be facing further challenges in their lives and in interstellar affairs. So hope you enjoyed “To the Bitter End” and stay tuned for year three.

Oct 30

Mysteries of the Universe

Continuing my series of postings regarding the similarities amongst the various science fiction franchises, we move on to mysteries of the universe. Not the usual philosophical questions about the meaning of life, but more concrete mysteries. Among such mysteries are long-dead civilizations that existed as far back as before our race was born and before our sun was “burning hot in space.” And why most of the alien races are humanoids of the two-armed, two-legged variety.  Various science fiction franchises have given their own “in-universe” explanations for that phenomenon and created a universe shrouded in mysteries left behind by alien races that predate humanity.

The original Star Trek series introduced “Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planet Development.” Simply put, planets with similar environments and similar populations result in largely similar biological developments. Planets with environmental conditions similar to Earth evolve roughly similar plant and animal species. And of course, the sentient species native to those planets are largely human in outward appearance. Of course, back in the 1960’s, Star Trek was a very low-budget series where even the Klingons looked closely human (with an in-universe explanation not provided until 2005 during the franchise’s fifth televised series).

Further examination of the various planets in the Star Trek universe indicates that the civilizations there are very similar historically and sociologically. The most extreme examples appear on planets Omega IV, 892-IV and Miri’s world, (See Memory Alpha’s page on Hodgkin’s Law for further information) with additional examples including Beta III, Eminiar VII, Ekos, Sigma Iotia III, and Gamma Trianguli VI. Perhaps, the actions of an ancient race of humanoids can explain this phenomenon. Seeing that the rest of the Milky Way galaxy was devoid of other sentient life, these humanoids seeded the oceans of thousands of worlds with genetic building blocks more than 3 billion years ago. The ancient interstellar empire led by Sargon 500 thousand years may also have seeded the worlds that race colonized, which may have included Vulcan. Perhaps that would explain the ancient Vulcan-Romulan schism.

Much in the Star Trek universe is still left to the imagination. The universe of the Stargate franchise does offer a more concrete explanation for various alien races having human-like appearances. And that explanation is that they are all ancient offshoots of the human race. Furthermore, the human race is learned in “Stargate: Atlantis” not to have actually originated on Earth or even in this galaxy. Just as indicated in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Chase”, the first species of humans seeded a countless number of worlds in many different galaxies. Yet by some unexplained fluke, the humans of the Milky Way originate solely on Earth. Still, humans reside on a countless number of planets in the Milky Way courtesy of the Goa’uld. This warlike race of sentient parasites that took humanoid host bodies (similar to the parasites of the TNG episode “Conspiracy”) had taken humans from Earth millennia ago, all the while masquerading as gods in ancient mythology, to serve as slaves and as host bodies. The enslaved humans mined a fictional mineral critical in maintaining the interstellar stargate system. When a planet’s supplies of that mineral ran out, the Goa’uld left the human inhabitants to fend for themselves. That practice has resulted in a number of different worlds whose civilizations closely resemble various ancient Earth civilizations—i.e. Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese, Nordic, Aztec—with little or no change over the centuries. On the other extreme, the Tollan civilization never experienced the Dark Ages, and thus are between five hundred and a thousand years more technologically advanced than its Earth cousins.

The “Babylon 5” universe, on the other hand, never provided any specific “in-universe” explanations how most of the alien races are mostly human appearance. A few of the alien species have anatomical quirks here and there, and a few who don’t breathe oxygen that are more than an afterthought during the course of the series. Most of the alien races prominently featured on-screen share various cultural universals with a few mysterious occurrences such as every sentient race having its own version of Swedish meatballs.

B5 did feature a number of alien races that predated all the humanoid civilizations and were almost godlike in terms of how they manipulated the “younger races”. The enigmatic Vorlon ambassador Kosh usually traveled in an environmental suit while in the presence of others, later revealing that he would otherwise be recognized by everyone. When a situation arose where he had to shed that protective suit, representatives from various alien races saw him as a mythic figure in their religions. Furthermore, a number of humanoid races saw the Shadows and their servant races as demonic beings similar to zombies and vampires, agents of chaos, or lords of darkness. Both of these alien civilizations that predated humanity and its peers by millions of years have had significant roles in the development of the relatively newer civilizations. The Vorlons served as lords of order, and the Minbari became their prospective heirs. The Shadows believed that strength came from conflict and a belief in survival of the fittest. The Dilgar and the Lumati have rigidly followed this philosophy while humans, Centauri, and Narns followed the philosophies of both the Shadows and Vorlons.

And that’s the long and short of various mysteries of the universe featured in three different sci-fi franchises. As Samuel Clemens put it in “Time’s Arrow”, mankind has only existed a “microscopic fraction” of Earth’s lifetime. We haven’t entirely counted out the existence of extraterrestrial life nor has the notion of alien civilizations millions of years older than humanity. It’s an interesting source of speculation even as research is ongoing regarding the “God particle”.

Feb 21

The Socially Awkward Roundtable

The Star Trek universe has certainly had its fair share of oddball characters. These characters usually took the form of alien observers of human culture—be it Spock on TOS, Data and Worf on TNG, Odo and Quark on DS9, and Tuvok, Seven of Nine, and The Doctor on Voyager. They were sources of comic relief who were often baffled by human social interaction. At a certain point, that becomes a cliché to have the social outsiders be alien. Even in Gene Rodenberry’s utopian humanity, there can still imperfect humans, be it the curmudgeonly Leonard McCoy or the agoraphobic Reginald Barclay.

With that in mind, I have gone as far as to create a character who has Asperger’s syndrome, moving away from the notion that present-day diseases and disorders have been cured by the 24th century (keeping in mind, however, that not everyone in the present day medical community believes that Asperger’s is a disease or disability to be cured). In the utopian humanity of the 24th century, one need not ascribe certain conditions such as Asperger’s, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or Social Anxiety Disorder to these socially awkward characters whether human or alien. In the case of Doctor Aurellan Markalis, she had displayed personality traits consistent with Asperger’s syndrome since the start of Lambda Paz, but those traits were not openly associated with Asperger’s until Season 2, Episode 5: “A Cause of Greater Worth”. It was the last in a three-story arc that also indicated that 24th century humanity did not freely use terms such as gay, straight, lesbian, or bisexual in revealing that another character is bisexual.

Taking all that into consideration, some of us can’t help but put those kinds of labels on our favorite fictional characters even if without so-called “in-universe” references to them. In fact, the thAutcast.com blog, created by “self-diagnosed aspie” Landon Bryce, includes postings devoted to “The Big Bang Theory” and its characters who have Asperger’s traits—Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah Fowler. While that was never creator Chuck Lorre’s intent, viewers cannot help but notice their unique personality traits.

So how would you “diagnose” the “oddball” characters in fan fiction stories even if they received no formal in-universe medical diagnosis?

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