Tired Sci-Fi Tropes That Must Be Retired — Part Deux

Read the first part of this blog post.

Continuing my study of tired science fiction clichés:

Explanations for Vampirism

Space vampires.  SEXY space vampires.Sci-fi writers like to find scientifical explanations for supernatural myths. Julian May suggests that fairies and dwarfs are aliens. H.P. Lovecraft proposes that ghosts and goblins are aliens. Arthur C. Clarke writes that Christian devils are… aliens.

But the favorite supernatural-meets-sci-fi trope is to describe vampires as either aliens or as victims of a disease. The classic example of the former is 1985’s Lifeforce, a great, underrated movie that everyone should see, if for nothing else than Mathilda May’s naked breasts. The best example of the latter might be 1971’s The Omega Man, which would be a classic film if it didn’t have Charlton Heston in it.

But now this has been waaaay over done. This idea even infected the Matrix movies. It was the main plot point of this year’s execrable Ultraviolet – and a movie really has to be bad if even Milla Jovovich can’t save it. And speaking of Milla, let’s stop explaining zombies as disease victims, too. If your zombie isn’t a shambling corpse created through evil Vodou magic, I don’t want to hear about it.

Nanotech as Magic

She can inject me with her nanoprobes any time.Any time nanotechnology comes up, someone quotes Arthur C. Clark; “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Well, it seems clear that the earliest advocates for nanotech very much overstated its potential as well as its dangers. Most likely, nanotech is not going to make us immortal. And the gray goo is not going to kill us all, either.

But it seems just as clear that nanotechnology, and related materials sciences, will completely change our world, and remake society as we know it.

Some authors have imagined these changes, and postulated in the impact they will have on humanity. Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age is my favorite of these; also the works of Rudy Rucker. And occasionally, a film will reference nanotech in an interesting way. The “mimetic polyalloy” in Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the first thing that comes to mind.

But you can’t just throw nanotech in there every time you need out of a dead-end plot. Lazy sci-fi writers are just using “nano” to replace all the usual pseudo-scientific jargon. Look, if you want to explore the medical implications of nanotech, please, go right ahead. But if you injured your hero in scene 24, and want him fully healed in scene 25, don’t fall back on a “nanopatch.” It’s asinine. Nanotechnology is not a magic word that eliminates the need for plot, character, and milieu construction.

I’m talking to YOU, Berman and Braga.

The Ineffectual Crew

Yeah, George, we get it.  That's a lot of guys.So, the U.S.S. Enterprise had a crew of 430. The Enterprise-D had a crew of over 1,000. Babylon 5 had a crew of 2500 (and a much larger population). The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica had 2800 crew. The SDF-1 had 50,000 people living inside of it. The Death Star had a crew complement of 1,226,000.

But only five people ever actually DO anything.

This is difficult to avoid; in fiction we have main protagonists, and we want to hear about what they’re doing, not about some lowly Photon Torpedo Loading Technician on Deck 23. Our heroes won’t be very interesting if all they do is bark orders all day.

One way to deal with this is a tiny crew. In Firefly, the Serenity had a crew of six, with three passengers (I’m counting the doctor, Simon, as crew). There was zero redundancy, so if someone got taken out, the ship was screwed. But at least everyone was busy.

The new Battlestar Galactica has faced this problem self-referentially. Apollo and Starbuck have both complained that they have to do all the heavy lifting. It’s a wink-and-a-nod to the audience.

To give Star Trek credit, the show did an excellent job from the very beginning of creating the illusion of a large ship with a large crew, through background sounds, the careful placement of extras, and dialogue. And Next Generation was pretty good about introducing supporting crew characters. Still, if someone was going to save the ship, it was most likely Wesley.

The message to sci-fi writers is this; if the life of a starship captain isn’t very interesting, because he or she doesn’t actually do very much on his or her own, then stop writing stories about starship captains. Or be more creative in inventing stories.

The Planet-as-Location

I met him in a swamp down on Dagobah, where it bubbles all the time like a giant carbonated soda.  S-O-D-A soda.The planet Dagobah is jungle planet with roughly Earth gravity and with oceans over only 8% of the surface. If we assume that Dagobah is the same size as the Earth, then the land area of the planet is 469,260,352 km2, or 181,182,435 miles2. Give or take.

Good thing Dagobah is in fact about one acre in size, and contains a lake, a hut, and a Secret Grove of Confronting One’s Enemy and Learning It Is Oneself. Because Dagobah is only an acre, Luke has no problem locating Yoda’s home. Imagine if he had to search 181 million square miles! And all while Han & Leia are hiding in the asteroid field!

Sci-fi writers love to treat “planet” as if it’s a single location. “Let’s land on the planet, where we’ll meet the one settlement of the one culture, and have the one adventure the planet can afford us.” Planets are entire WORLDS. Even with advanced technology, it will take a space exploration crew YEARS to explore and survey a single planet. Even an uninhabited one.

Under the “Planet-as-Location” cliché, Mars is done. We sent a robot, it roamed around a few hundred yards. We saw it. DONE. Nothing more to see here.

It’s absurd, it’s an overused sci-fi trope, and it’s time to drop it.

The Theme Planet

Mmmm mmmm, sandworm is good eatin'!The planet Dagobah is jungle planet with roughly Earth gravity and with oceans over only 8% of the surface. If we assume that Dagobah is the same size as the Earth, then the land area of the planet is 469,260,352 km2, or 181,182,435 miles2. Give or take.

That’s 181 million square miles of jungle. Jungle at the equator, jungle at the poles. Jungle in the plains, jungle on the mountains. Jungle on the ocean floor, I guess. No deserts, no tundra, no temperate grasslands. Just jungle, jungle, jungle.

Jungles occur at certain latitudes, and in specific geographic and climate conditions. Even if Johnny Jungleseed went all over the planet planting Kapok trees, it’s not going to create a single planetary biome.

Even Frank Herbert admitted that Arrakis – Dune – desert planet was not scientifically possible. Although he created a clever ecology for the planet, all of its unique (and impossible) features were due to a single creature, the sandworm. One wonders how such a destructive life form, that creates its own climate, ever evolved.

Some theme planets are possible (ocean worlds) or even probable (ice worlds). But they won’t have lovely, warm oxygen atmospheres. Look at the one “desert” planet of which we are aware – Mars. Not terribly hospitable to moisture farmers and their malcontent nephews who thirst for adventure. Scientists used to hypothesize that Venus was a jungle planet. Sulfur rain and 400Cº temperatures aren’t too conducive to rainforest conditions.

Enough with the theme planets. Again, planets are WORLDS, and should be treated as such.

Everything on Mars is Red

Dees red filtah ees makink my head explote!  Or maybe eet ees der Kahreefornia Demokrats!“Hey, let’s make this movie take place on Mars! We’ll just drive out to Topanga, and shoot everything with a red filter!”

Even movies as recent as Mission to Mars and Red Planet have fallen into this lazy, non-scientific trap. Is everything on Earth blue? Should everything that takes place on Earth be shot with a blue filter?

Mars’ surface is covered largely by iron oxide rust. This gives the surface, and atmospheric dust, an orange hue. But the sky is blue during the day and black at night, and objects are the color they would be anywhere else, unless they are covered in orange dust. The surface albedo might give objects a slight orange cast – but that’s about it.

The planet has no magical red miasma. You can’t depict the planet’s surface on the cheap with a red filter. Sorry.

Alien-Human Hybrids/Babies

Ripley Clone Number 7.  I'd still hit it.From Mr. Spock and Dana Sterling to Ripley Clone #8 and the Cylon Miracle Baby, sci-fi writers just love those alien-human hybrids.

Unfortunately, if you can’t get viable offspring from a human-chimpanzee coupling (and Lord knows I’ve tried!), what chances are there for two beings that evolved on different worlds?

Now the sticklers will point out, regarding the four examples given above, that (1) humans and Vulcans were both created by the Progenitors; (2) in some versions of the Macross back story, the Zentraedi are a human sub-species; (3) the Ripley clones weren’t created sexually, and were just Ripley with certain xenomorph genes spliced in; and (4) humanoid Cylons are almost completely human, and are designed to copulate with humans.

Excuses, excuses.

It’s funny, in 2001’s Planet of the Apes, director Tim Burton wasn’t allowed to show the human Mark Wahlberg get it on with the chimp Helena Bonham Carter. Yet James T. Kirk could get busy with any alien that had a shapely carcass and a hole.

When we finally encounter intelligent alien life, the social, psychological, and ethical challenges will be enormous. But the one thing we won’t have to worry about it alien-human babies. Time to give it up.

Sound In Space

Sound in space -- there isn't any.Everyone knows there is no sound in a vacuum. Everyone but George Lucas.

Some sci-fi movies and films have tried to accurately portray what a spaceship occupant might hear, during a battle for instance; or at least use the occupant’s perspective as an excuse to sneak in some sound. The new Battlestar Galactica does a pretty good job of this. Engine sounds, collisions, passing through gas and debris clouds, and voices can provide a lot of audio “business” in a scene.

But there is something eerie and beautiful about an appropriately silent space scene. (As long as it’s not all done in annoying slow motion, like 2001: A Space Odyssey.) Firefly had some excellent “silent” space scenes, with nothing but twangy guitar over the action.

Science fiction authors need to remember, physics is our ally, not our enemy. Make friends with it.

62 Comments

  1. Bravo….somebody finally rants about this and I agree! These things annoy me constantly, although I continue to be a fan of Sci-Fi…it could be better!

  2. I loved both parts of this blog, and I’m sorry getting linked to FARK brought you some rude comments. Thats just what some FARKers are born to do. Some of your concepts had bothered me as well, and a couple I had never even thought about! Thanks for the mind bending!

  3. Great post. Every one of these comments is absolutely correct. Glad someone ranted on this topic. Hollywood hear us!

    Thanks,
    REEG!

  4. Classic, the planet with a single climate always bugged me!!!

    The only planet that has only one weather is glasgow.

  5. “One wonders how such a destructive life form, that creates its own climate, ever evolved.”
    Isn’t that what humans are? Or what they are becomming?

  6. AND while you are right about 5 guys doing everything on the ship/battlestation/whatever…

    …i don’t think it’s a scifi phenomenon. It’s a “fi” phenomenon – as in fiction.

    After all – how many times did Jack Bauer and 3 other guys save the world? THe other CT’s are allowed to SURROUND a building, but Jack must go in. If you watch SPOOKS/MI5, honestly 6 people run the MI5 service. And do Everything!

  7. Nicely put to all the comments and the classic article. I would add that there never seems to be shifts of workers either – even though the ship travels (works 24/7)?

    And that CT thing has bugged me since S1 – along with cell phones that never run out of battery life.

  8. I was looking for “Mutating DNA is not recoverable”

    You can’t get infected with a mutant form of DNA and mutate in to a lizard (or another species or earlier version of your race’s eveolution) and have it just be fixed by some shot. Cellular and DNA mutation is essentailly cancer.

    Oh oh! Also, Surgical racial makeovers! Alternate universes! ahhhh too many too many!

  9. Agreed on some, disagreed on others. Especially the characterization of Lovecraft. His cosmology didn’t have “ghosts” and “goblins” at all, due it being something approaching a more scientific conceptualization of the occult.

    Devils and strange gods, yeah. Ghosts and Goblins, no. Ghouls, yeah. But they weren’t extraterrestrial. Just corpse eaters or degenerate humans.

  10. Fantastic rant 🙂 Though you forgot the “out of phase” episodes where one character cannot be seen or heard by everyone else, cannot touch anything and walks through walls… yet still manages to sit down, go up stairs and car rides!

  11. Great list. Salient points.

    If I may … I’d add paradoxical time-travel (changing the past), humanoid robots (unimaginative), dogfighting in space (looks cool, but …), parallel dimensions (anti-imaginative), virtual reality (done to death), nukes (nothing stronger?), anything that’s more ‘mythology’ than plot or characterization (Trek, X-Files), and robot revolts (just plain dumb).

    Oh yeah, and conservative warnings against the Pandora’s Box of technology. Shut up and eat your stem cells, Harlan.

  12. You are awesome!

    Thanks for the great post. What can I say, I am a huge TNG fan — but you had too many valid points.

    keep up the great work!!!!

  13. Fantastic. I have to say, I don’t stray beyond the mainstream (and some Bradbury, mild, I know), and I have seen all of these. They must be done to death throughout the genre.

    cheers to your thorough analysis

  14. Reading this makes me want to see Firefly again. They worked pretty hard to avoid most of these cliches.

    It’s a great list!

  15. You missed the the second part of the biggest one of all – RECOMBINANT DNA IS EVIL INCARNATE and can make anything up to and including Land Sharks (SciFi Channel actually produced a movie based on THAT one! – and I’m surprised that Satruday Night Live didn’t sue for copyright infringement, to be honest!)

    But Part TWO states that, with a simple dose of radiation, a leftover overdone cliche’ from the 50’s, it can all be made good again, unless you have to Blow It ALL UP!

  16. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson…Excellent example of fiction that utilizes an incredibly dynamic set of characters, uses realistic science, and has a variety of fascinating insights into the nature of human society and economics.

  17. Great Ghost in the Machine, how much I hate rants (and yes, I do realize that that makes this a rant). Stop complaining and do something about it.

    Many things you said are indeed scientifically incorrect but remember what genre you are talking about. Sience FICTION. It’s not supposed to be real, it’s supposed to be entertaining and it doesn’t need to be real. If you want real, watch footage of the ISS.

    Take the ‘sound in space’ thing for example. Can you imagine how boring it would be to have a movie without sound in space scenes Firefly pulled it off because they barely had any space scenes and in the movie (Serenty) even they put sound in the big space battle.

    Other things are plainly too much of a pain in the tail to bother with in a movie or a show, like zero gravity.

    Oh, and by the way, do some research. The sandworms where introduced on Arrakis by humans, they did not develop there.

  18. A great list. Bravo.

    But the phenomenon of the “Forest World” and the “Desert Planet” isn’t really a Sci-Fi problem; it’s deeper than that.

    Remember the world map in your elementary school classroom, the one that showed every nation as a single color except the US, which was shown as fifty separate states. We humans have a tendancy to break the world up this way: Afganistan to me is an arid mountainscape, New Guinea a jungle. But I’m sure that someone living in Afganistan thinks of his country as a collection of different landscapes.

    So, too, I think of Kansas as a single landscape (a giant farm) but I think of Colorado (where I grew up) as a collection of different landscapes, peoples.

    Even at the city level, I think of places I’ve only heard of or visited as possessing a single quality but cities I’ve lived in as having distinct neighborhoods.

    So the problem with the Forest Moon of Endor isn’t limited to Sci Fi. I can think of many movies that show Chicago or New York as if they consisted of a single neighborhood, or maybe one good and one really awful one.

  19. All of your points are valid and I agree, to a certain extent.
    After all, it IS just entertainment, not a documentary. Sure sci-fi entailments, whether episodic or otherwise, can be portrayed more realistically, but only at the expense of being extraordinarily boring. Really, what’s more exciting, having a tachyon torpedo sticking through a rupture in the hull that can go off at any moment, or the complete shutdown of a sophisticated and highly-complex space craft due to a clogged toilet or an unresponsive backup computer?
    Yes, technically there is no sound in space, giant predatory space bears probably don’t exist on other environmentally utopian planets, and alien/human hybrids (or any other life form) cannot rapidly age at some astonishing rate and then conveniently stop aging at just the right moment for plot continuity. Just doesn’t happen! But it DOES make for good entertainment.

  20. How about “It’s a computer – I’ve never seen one of this alien technology before but let’s give it a go”, and 10 minutes later the system is being used expertly to get the protagonists out of an otherwise certain plot-hole. eg. The funny bit where Scottie tries to make Transparent Aluminium (Aloominum for your transatlantic types). Farscape is also particularly guilty of this one. And the bit in Independence Day where the Goldblum uploads a Mac virus (now that is sci-fi!) into the alien mothership. So the aliens managed to traverse interstellar distances with huge motherships running on Mac OS 7? Without a firewall?

  21. About the whole 6 characters do all the work, check out “A view from the Gallery” from Babylon 5. The whole episode focuses on two generic crew members who occasionally encounter the main characters as they rush to and fro.
    It’s a very funny ep, even if you haven’t watched other b5 episodes. I think Harlan Ellison wrote it, or at least suggested it.

  22. I would like to see a space faring civilization encounter a colony of humans that had been turned into vampires.

    Captain of the Ship: So what’s wrong with these people?

    Scientist/Doctor Guy: Isn’t it obvious you ‘Tard? They’re Vampires!

    CotS: You mean there is some kind of virus that makes them crave blood and get stronger and be allergic to sunlight, right?

    S/DG: No you moron! They’re Vampires!

    Also, on the Human/Alien hybrid thing: Researchers now claim that they have proof that not even Humans and Neanderthals could interbreed. So what chance do we have with Guo Fag from Rouf Wanger. And who’s to say that they have the equivalent of male and female genders? They could be Asexual or have four genders or have a kind of hive format so that there is only one gender but they reproduce sexually.

    Finally, one you missed: Reptilian species with breasts. This is my own personal pet peeve, as the only creatures with breasts should be mammalian (which don’t belong anywhere but on Earth anyway). Also, the breasts are always on the chest? Why not put them on the knees or the butt or the tips of the fingers?

    Otherwise: great job! Every single thing you said is something that has always bothered me.

  23. Good stuff. I particularly hate the bad science stuff, such as “gravity generators”, sound in space or alien-human breeding. I’m more sympathetic to stuff necessary for a story to exist. Faster than light travel is impossible, but that really constrains a story.

  24. I would suggest that the essential thing that makes science fiction “science fiction” is, I dunno, science?

    Maybe science no one has figured out yet. But if you want to write fantasy, or allegory, or soap operas, what is the point of putting them in space or in the future, if you are not going to think about how science and technology is going to change people?

  25. hehe..this was an enjoyable read. ^_^
    I especially liked the comment regarding zombies…they’re fucking UNDEAD.
    I’m always amused by zombie movies that have been made in the past five years or so….how do NONE of the survivors ever come to the conclusion “zombie”? Nooo…they must be suffering from some terrible disease.

  26. Ineffective crew – He references the SDF-1 having 50,000 people on board…they were refugees! Most of the reasons for the huge crews in Star Trek etc if because these were huge federations! Like a NAvy ship…you can’t have 6 people on a navy ship! The thing wouldn’t be able to run! Serenity only needed 6 because, well, liken it to a drug smuggling boat…Escabar wouldn’t need a huge crew…Admiral Smith of the US navy does. Obviously, this guy had never been on a large ship where there are things that need to get done.

    While I found most of this amusing, I wanted to point out one thing. You can apply this gripe to any other genre and it still seems ridiculous. Do I really need to know what Ensign Smith is doing down in engineering? Unless Ashley Judd is playing Smith then no, I don’t give a shit. The same way I don’t give a shit what some random character in some random bar on Deadwood is doing (although that could just as well be interesting). The same way I don’t care what some random guy in New York City is doing in Spider-man. These spaceships are basically floating cities. Do you need to have every last human being’s actions accounted for when a movie takes place in a city on Earth?

  27. “But the sky is blue during the day and black at night,”

    Nope.

    The Martian sky is pink during the day. It’s never blue.

    All images from the surface of Mars show a pink sky, except the very first Viking images which were not colour-calibrated correctly.

    With that in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising that film companies film everything from “Mars” through an orange filter. I am surprised you didn’t complain about Total Recall’s laughable depiction of being exposed to the Martian atmosphere, rather than take issue with colour.

  28. I’d add anything involving evolution. Individuals do not evolve — if Captain Janeway gets turned into a slimeworm, that is not evolution. Evolution is not prearranged, there is no preordained end result.

  29. Your cleaned up sci-fi would be very boring, as I suspect you are in life. We need cliches and stereotypes and inaccuracies to give a common reference point. It’s fiction, not non-fiction. Star Trek was a western set in space; Star Wars is a war movie set in space with some Greek story lines thrown in. As somebody else said, get a life. These shows are for mass aduiences, not anal freaks.

  30. YOU SAID>>”Let’s land on the planet, where we’ll meet the one settlement of the one culture, and have the one adventure the planet can afford us”

    I always wondered about this it was and is so annyyoing everytime they visit a planet, be in Star-Trek, Star-Wars or Star-Gate man it is always one culture, one language, one council as if that is possible!.

  31. Another cliche is the tele-portation, the energize of star-trek, wormhole of star-gate and so on and always we humans send nuclear weapons to destroy our enemies using this technology where as they can never do it to us!. How can a civilization as advanced would allow such teleportation to happen while we protect ourselves

    One more is kill the mother bug, kill mother ship and everything dies.

  32. Excellent post, both parts! My problem with SF has always been the “let’s use advanced technology in the same manner as we use current technology” problem.

    If we could teleport, we wouldn’t need spaceships at all. We wouldn’t need any form of weapon, other than a “bad” teleporter.

    People are still writing stories in which pilots fly a craft manually.

  33. Love the list.

    However, the worst — the absolute, absolute worst…

    …is aliens who speak North American English.

    Star Trek made an effort here with the Universal Translator, and so did Douglas Adams with the Babel Fish… but I cannot watch any fucking episode of Stargate without finding aliens who speak North American English.

    Not even a goddamned accent? Come on, now. THE ALIENS SOUND MORE AMERICAN THAN RODNEY MCKAY.

  34. Seriously, geeks of the world, exactly why, why why would an alien NOT speak american english 500 years from now? That is like the most pointless criticism of sci-fi ever. And, seriously, why do you think “the kings english” is proper english, has anyone here even read anything about the history of the english language? If an alien has their own language and similar vocal cords etc which enable them to actually produce human sound, they would of course:
    1. Learn some english that is most common and easiest to obtain source materials on – today I could make an argument for US english being that english variant. In the future? American English in the “Confederation”? Uh… Language in movies is a representation, should sci-fi-movie-makers invent new accents and words to represent 500 years of language evolution? That would mean all main characters speaking a language NO ONE in the audience would understand? Need proof? Compare english of today with english of 10, 20, 50, 100 years back – difference is huge.

    2. They would talk with an alien accent. Not british, not american, not indian. Alien. Since they speak an alien language normally, that language would affect their english.

    3. Unless they are superadvanced, moreso than us, and just learn languages perfectly – then they could very well speak american english since they perhaps… like it? Oh, I forgot, if you are advanced, you do things 100% logically and right – hence you learn british english.

    Why?

    Otherwise, REALLY good article, above all, a lot of fun!

    Cheers,
    Tommie

  35. An ocean world can have an oxygen atmosphere. Ours did before life climbed up onto land. The main oxygen producer on this planet is cyanobacteria.

  36. And last comment from me: a well placed karate chop to the neck can take a guy out. Google, wikipedia, do what you want to check it out but it is of course entirely possible. What you get is a “flash knockout” due to either nerves being shocked or the arteries (or whatever) being smacked hard disrupting, very temporarily, the blood flow to the brain. The brains reaction to certain blunt trauma is to – shut off. If the trauma isn’t serious, you wake up less than a second after. Need actual proof? Watch MMA where you see things like that. I have seen at least one flash knockout due to a hit on the side of the neck. Oooh, these horrible sci-fi-writers. Again, great article tho.

  37. The point of sci fi is not the set of tropes used; elements like setting, tropes, themes, or even PLOT are just so many shiny bangles for the seed of an idea ensconsed within. Good sci fi, at least. This is why Asimov wrote 300 space frontier books, and 70% of them were compelling reads. And come on, colors? Claiming that all space travel is inaccurate due to “chaos theory”? You really should have provided the proof–I’m not sure most of your readers would know about this astounding discovery!

  38. Here’s another: people who can go through solid objects but who walk around on the floor without any difficulty. Their feet push them forward — how? They stay level with the surface — why?

    I’m also a bit tired of folks who couldn’t outrun a first-baseman being able to outrun shockwaves, but that’s not strictly a sci-fi trope.

  39. Am I the ONLY one who thinks this is absurd? It’s Sci-FI, not Sci-non-fi. If you got your way, we’d just watch boring, silent video of “realistic” space ships drifting through space. Man, nerds really get on my nerves.

  40. An example of the “Theme Planet” that really bothered me, was the planet in “Pitch Black”… I mean come on, millions of funky predatory birdlike creatures that come out to hunt only every blue moon… err every time there is an eclipse? Where is the ecosystem to sustain them? A few stray people here and there won’t support a fraction of the population. We certainly don’t see them eating each other or even some other prey. How did they even evolve?

  41. Regarding “The Planet-as-Location”. I has seriously bothered me that in the re-imagined Planet of the Apes, the “planet” covers an area equivalent to one day’s horse ride in each direction, even though it is actually Earth. Did the Apes only take over this county, or the whole “planet”????

  42. Know what gets me?
    Crewman: “Captain, hostile ship firing!”
    Captain: “Raise shields!”
    Crewman: “Raising shields now, sir.”
    [shields are raised 5 seconds after danger is first spotted]

    A civilization advanced enough to have interstellar spaceships would reasonably have automatic systems capable of responding in milliseconds to any given threat. Anything else is far too risky.

  43. A civilization advanced enough to have interstellar spaceships would reasonably have automatic systems capable of responding in milliseconds to any given threat. Anything else is far too risky.

    Not only that, but you would think combat would be totally computer run… I mean come on, in the ten or fifteen seconds it takes to give the order to fire, the buttons get pressed, and so forth, a computer controlled ship could have targetted and fired on several critical targets.

    Also, at critical moments when shields are about to fail and one more hit will do it, suddenly there is some two minute dialog while the enemy momentarily stops attacking…

  44. Hey Rocketboy, it’s ENTERTAINMENT for humans, by humans. Science FICTION. And by the way, Spock was a ‘test tube’ baby.

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