Star Trek: Frontier Academy – Part 1

This is part of a collaborative effort to produce a piece of Star Trek fiction that looks forward, rather than backward. Future installments will follow as they are written.


Five years after the end of the Dominion War, Starfleet sent six ships into the Wormhole. They emerged into the Gamma Quadrant, travelling thousands of lightyears in a heartbeat, but that was only the beginning of their journey.

Their destination was a region of space far beyond even the Dominion’s reach: a group of star systems filled with habitable planets. This journey, under the speed of their own warp engines, took them years, and took them further from home than anyone had ever been before.

The colony ship U.S.S. Eleanor Dare reached orbit of the first and only stop on its journey: Zhenxun. Like Earth in many respects, and different in many more, this planet would be a new home, a new start for those aboard the Eleanor Dare.

Life was hard for a while. The comfort and convenience of life aboard a starship gave way to hard work, environmental challenges and a need for a new way of thinking. The task now was not of exploration or discovery, but of expansion and development.

Buildings were slowly assembled, power grids and generators connected together, and the colony of Maathai began to grow, quite literally. Without Federation building codes and regulations, Maathai’s architects experimented with organically grown structures of living metal and polymer. Strong, tall shelters emerged from bare rock, swaying with the wind and healing themselves when harmed.

After only a decade Maathai was a flourishing city, with thousands making the long journey across the Gamma Quadrant to settle there, as well as on the other planets around Zhenxun. It was the dawn of a new age – the Federation was now an intragalactic organisation, with frontiers across every spiral of the galaxy.

“Sixty years later, and here we are,” Johnson finished, “Maathai is now the jewel of the Gamma Quadrant. A centre for trade, production, and, yes, for learning.” He left an image of the city rotating on the holoprojector. “Still months from Earth and Vulcan and Andoria and Tellar, but still very much a part of the Federation.”

Aisha raised her hand. “Is it true they all have gills, sir?”

Johnson raised an eyebrow. “Gills? No, no I don’t believe any of them have gills. At least, not gills that they didn’t already start with. Yes, Aisha?”

“Why don’t we have organic ships and houses, like them?”

He shrugged. “We never needed them. Alpha Quadrant shipyards build good, strong ships the old fashioned way, and we get by just fine. Yes, Aisha?”

“How did the water turn into acid?”

“Well,” Johnson answered, running a hand through his hair, “the lakes and oceans aren’t actually acid, they just contain an unusual polymer-like secretion from much of the submarine life, and it causes irritation and blistering to most types of skin. In fact, it’s slightly alkali. Yes, Ai- Oh, Nawisah, you have a question?”

Nawisah lowered her arm. “How did the colonists prevent radical alteration to the environment into which they were settling? Wouldn’t their very presence produce unpredictable results and inhibit the natural evolution of indigenous species?”

Nawisah, as always, was keen to maintain her image. Her uniform was still smooth and its seams stiff. Her hair was tied back and her eyes were still buzzing from a caffeine rush.

Coffee was one of the few things she’d learned about during her month in San Francisco, and was a habit she’d brought with her through the wormhole and all the way here, to just a few hours out from Zhenxun. Her mother hated her drinking it, which was part of – hell, probably most of – the appeal. And now, she was glad of the extra alertness. She wanted to learn as much as possible about Maathai and Zhenxun, because she was determined not to be caught out by a hamlet full of mutants and deviants.

Aisha, the younger girl, looked at Nawisah with adoring eyes. Between Federation envoys, Vulcan missionaries, Bajoran pilgrims, Klingon hunters and Romulan “surveyors”, there wasn’t much room aboard the Nicholls for children, and whilst Nawisah hardly considered her a peer, she felt sorry for Aisha, stuck for months on a cramped starship with no other kids and no idea of what her future held in store for her.

Nawisah herself was a little uncertain of her own future. It was easy enough for her parents to tell her that the campus at Maathai was the equal of the real Academy, but when they had graduated from San Francisco Maathai didn’t even have a recruitment office. Nawisah wanted to wander the same halls that her heroes had wandered. She wanted to sit in the same lecture theatres that had hosted legends like Norah Satie and Tryla Scott and Admiral Saavik.

So, despite being separated by ten years, Nawisah and Aisha had been united by their frustrations, and now took turns torturing Lieutenant Johnson, the on-board anthropologist who was eagerly trying to prepare them for their new home. Aisha would bombard the young man with a barrage of simplistic questions, before Nawisah would precisely fire off an in-depth query of layered complexity, and they would watch his face twist as his brain struggled to change gears.

But, in the best traditions of Starfleet, he never ran out of patience. Or enthusiasm. And as much as Nawisah respected him for that, skewering him like this was one of the few enjoyable pastimes she and Aisha could share.

As Johnson stammered his way towards an answer, hitting buzzwords like “ecological footprint” and “sympathetic terraforming” along the way, he was saved by the chime of the ship’s comm system.

“Attention all decks, we are about to slow to impulse. Landing parties Alpha through Delta, please assemble in your designated transporter bays and prepare for disembarkation.”

Aisha rushed to the window, and Nawisah followed close behind her. They would be rendezvousing with the Tereshkova, a Margulis-class cruiser, built in the Gamma Quadrant and, therefore, built organically. Nawisah had seen diagrams of the organic ships, but had been told that they didn’t compare with the real thing.

Johnson struggled to see out the window from behind them as the Nicholls dropped out of warp. After a few moments, Nav spotted the other vessel and pointed it out to Aisha, who gasped with excitement.

The Tereshkova looked conventional from a distance. Decently proportioned saucer and engineering sections, nacelles in all the right places. But as she drew closer, her distinctions became more apparent. She was smooth, entirely smooth. There wasn’t a straight edge on her, and as far as Nav could tell there wasn’t a single joint or attachment point either. Every part of her structure just flowed into the other; there weren’t even any hull panels, just a featureless metallic skin, dotted with windows and the occasional sensor cluster.

But it was the colour that really made her stand out. She was pearlescent, every colour in the spectrum reflecting off her hull. She was like a mirage, or something out of a dream, and Nawisah’s mind was rushing to figure out what kind of engineering techniques had produced such a finish.

The call went out again for the first four landing parties to assemble. Nawisah was in the sixth group, so she had a little time yet. She and Aisha sat huddled together, staring out at an unfamiliar starscape and a ship as alien as it was beautiful.


On to Part 2

Star Trek: Quotidian – “Muses of our Fates”

What follows is the third part of my Star Trek fan-fiction following the unadventures of the crew of the U.S.S. Quotidian. The stories speak for themselves, so I’ll offer no further introduction.

The first part, “An Unavoidable Encounter”, can be found here.

The second installment, “Dignified Relations”, can be found here.


Security Chief’s Log, stardate 43539.1,

I’m just a few minutes away from docking with the U.S.S. Quotidian, to start as her new Security Chief. I will admit that I have not yet quelled my doubts about accepting the position – I still haven’t been told why Captain Miller chose me for the role, despite lacking any prior experience in Security or Tactical and only being a Junior-grade Lieutenant who’s spent most of my time since the academy on Earth.

But I would be a fool to pass up an opportunity like this.


Lieutenant Tailor followed Lt. Commander Sarr into the captain’s ready-room. She had been told her tour of the ship could wait, and in any case she was excited to meet her new commanding officer.

Captain Miller was tall – very tall. She was stood by a floor-to-ceiling window, looking out at the stars, and cut an impressive figure. Tailor was reminded of paintings of historical naval officers, for Miller was all cheekbones and jawline and steely gaze.

“Lieutenant Tailor has arrived, captain,” Sarr said.

The captain moved over to Tailor and shook her hand. “Welcome aboard, Lieutenant. It’s a pleasure to have you join us.”

“The pleasure, and the privilege, is all mine, captain,” Tailor said. “It’s an honour to be here, and to be offered this opportunity.”

Miller seemed nonplussed. “You make it sound like you’re not going to accept, Lieutenant, which would make this a terrible waste of a journey.” She moved to behind her desk and took a seat. “Sit down, please,” she asked, gesturing to the seats in front of her desk.

Tailor and Sarr both sat, and Tailor answered the captain’s query. “It’s not that I won’t accept, captain, but I have to ask, why? Why me? I’m Starfleet’s Creative Arts attaché to the Globe Theatre Company, I haven’t been through any tactical training since I left the Academy three years ago.”

Miller clasped her hands in front of her. “It’s an unusual appointment, I’ll grant you, given your field. But I believe a starship can only function at its best with a crew drawn from many different professional backgrounds.” She glanced at her Second Officer. “For what it’s worth, Commander Sarr here agrees with you. I want you to change her mind.”

Tailor had already weighed Sarr up as being a frosty character at best. She was brusque nearly to the point of rudeness, a trait common with a lot of Bajorans who had escaped the Cardassian occupation. She didn’t respond to Miller’s comment, she just met her gaze with an incredibly neutral look on her face.

Tailor tried to ignore the muted tension in the room. “Captain, I’ll gladly try to change her mind, but how?”

Miller passed a PADD across the desk. “With this.”

Tailor took the PADD and scrolled through the text on it. She looked back to Miller in confusion. “Are these lines from a play?”

Miller smiled. “Not exactly.” She leaned back in her chair. “Tailor, are you aware of our current mission?”

“To transport industrial replicators to the Alesto system?”

“Correct,” Miller said. “And it takes us through a… problematic region of space. I need you to understand what’s on that PADD and act upon it when the time comes. We’ll be setting off in the next thirty minutes, and I want you on the bridge for the whole journey. Once we’ve completed the mission, I’ll let you decide for certain if you want to join the crew as Chief of Security. Until then, your orders are to do exactly as instructed.”

Tailor nodded slowly. “That’s very clear, captain, thank you. But it raises more questions than it answers.”

Miller stood up, straightened her uniform. “It does, I’m aware. Save them for now, and I’ll explain everything later. Until then, attend your post. Dismissed.”


Three hours into their journey, the helm officer announced that the Quotidian had just entered the Jereso Nebula, and Tailor noticed that the entire bridge seemed to… “tighten” with apprehension. All except the ship’s executive officer, the striking Commander Aufrecard, who remained silent, stationary and, apparently, two dimensional. He also bore an uncanny resemblance to Commander Aufregend, the Hero of the Kiken Cluster, whose classic good looks had graced many an Earth newsfeed following his daring rescue of the Atreidan Royal Family, and subsequent engagement to Princess Kel’Kerrax.

Captain Miller ordered the helm to maintain their course and speed. Tailor noted that Lieutenant Commander Sarr, sat at the Ops Station, seemed to operate as the ship’s actual executive officer, despite being listed as second mate on the crew manifest. Which made sense, Tailor thought, when she regarded Commander Aufrecard.

Without warning, the ship rocked, and Tailor could hear the warp engines shut down. Sarr called a red alert, and orders and reports began flying about the bridge, although everyone acted with practiced purpose, as though they had done this all before, or even rehearsed it.

The lights suddenly went out, even all the LCARS displays. Only the viewscreen remained active, its images of the swirling nebula clouds casting a dim, ghostly light over the bridge.

The crew remained silent. Captain Miller spoke clearly, “maintain your posts, everyone. And stand ready.”

A blinding point of light appeared between the viewscreen and the helm and ops stations. Out of it stepped a bizarre figure – a hugely muscled, bare-chested man, equal in height to Captain Miller, but twice as broad, with a rectangular jaw and with a gold chain hanging around his neck. Tailor rather thought he looked like an old plastic action figure, or one of the superheroes of old stories, proportioned in such extremes.

The light faded, and the systems displays came back on. Miller was pinching the bridge of her nose. The new figure was glancing around with a smirk on his face, legs akimbo, in a classic power pose. Miller addressed him directly. “Alfa, I see you have returned. I’ve told you before, we want nothing to do with the Omega Collective. Leave us in peace.”

Alfa tossed his head and laughed. “Captain Miller! I’m so glad you have returned to my little corner of the universe with your gentle and lovely demeanour! Have you reconsidered my offer, pray?”

Miller’s eyes narrowed. “I would have, but I couldn’t find a more definite way of saying ‘never’ so my previous answer stands. I will not be joining you as your… spouse.”

“Such a shame! And there’s no way I could convince you?” He laughed again. “Maybe the beautiful Keela here might accept?” he suggested, staring at Commander Sarr. She stared back at him, grinding her teeth.

Miller stood up, straight-backed. “What is it, Alfa? I assume you didn’t hold us here just to make everyone feel uncomfortable?”

He turned. “Captain Miller, Alexandra, if I really were holding you, I’m sure you would feel differently. Alas, I am merely here to remind you of your place in this universe. Humanity has come far with its technological advancements, but it is we, the Omega Collective, and others like us, who wield true power over life and death. Your fate is in our hands, and it would be remiss of me to let you forget it. Mayhap I should arrange some kind of lesson for you all, maybe a game! Yes! We could have a game, in which I will teach you that now matter how ingenious you think you are, you still have a long way to go before becoming masters of the galaxy.”

“I have no time for games, Alfa. We know our place well enough, thank you. Now leave. Your presence here is a danger to the safety of this ship, one that I’ll not permit to continue.”

Tailor was watching the exchange with her mouth agape. She had read reports of Starfleet encounters with god-like beings, but experiencing one directly was a different matter.

Alfa responded with irritation. “It is not your place to permit or prohibit anything, frail human! The Collective are the true masters of this realm, and your decision to once again pass through our hallowed tournament fields of the Jereso Nebula force me to teach you that lesson again!”

Miller clenched her fists. She turned her head slightly towards Tailor, and repeated her earlier statement. “I already told you, Alfa, your presence here is a threat, and one that I will not permit to continue.”

Tailor blinked, recognising her cue. She stormed down the side of the bridge in protest. “Captain, this intruder must be dealt with!” She drew her phaser and pointed it at Alfa, doing her best to keep her hand from shaking.

Alfa looked furious. “You dare threaten me, child?” He reached out his hand, and Tailor sank to her knees, screaming. She dropped the phaser, pressing her hands to her head, crying out in agony. Her body convulsed and writhed, until she fell limp to the floor. The bridge crew looked on, stunned, at her limp body.

Alfa lowered his hand and looked around, triumphant. “Do you see the cost of insolence? The price of hubris? Ants cannot challenge Gods and live, Captain Miller!”

Doctor Wainwright rushed from a turbolift to Tailor’s side and checked her vitals. She looked up at the captain, aghast. “She’s dead, Alex.”

Miller’s eyes fell. “Why, Alfa? She was no threat to you. Why did she have to die?”

Alfa puffed out his chest. “She’s of no import, but her fate was necessary so that you may all learn an important lesson.” He surveyed the forlorn faces of the officers around him, then sighed. “It doesn’t look as though any of you are in a very playful mood today. We shall postpone our little game, I think you all understand now what needs to be understood.”

Miller squared her shoulders. “Get off my bridge, Alfa, and leave us alone.”

He bowed expressively. “As you wish, my love, as you wish. I shall leave you to your more primitive, simple existence.” He vanished with a flash, but his disembodied voice echoed through the bridge. “At least, until next time, Captain Miller.”

Miller sat down in her chair and gave the order to resume their course. Nobody else moved – Wainwright remained next to Tailor for the next half hour.

Once they were clear of the Jereso Nebula, Wainwright stood up, as did Miller, and they both helped Tailor to her feet. “Comfy, Tailor?” the captain asked.

Tailor stretched. “Not particularly.”

Miller smiled. “Beggars can’t be choosers. Thank you, doctor.”

Wainwright gave a reserved, Vulcan nod and left the bridge. Tailor looked around. “What now, captain?”

“Now? Now, we continue to Alesto, and deliver those replicators on time. Meanwhile, you and Commander Sarr can join me in my ready room, for debriefing.”

As she followed the captain, Tailor got a few approving nods from other officers. Despite not really knowing what had happened, she still felt proud, though she couldn’t exactly explain why.


Miller moved straight to the replicator. “Coffee?”

Sarr shook her head, but Tailor requested a herbal tea. Once they were all sat, Tailor couldn’t hold herself any longer. “Captain, with respect, what the hell was that back there”

Miller took a sip of her coffee before answering. “Two years ago, on another mission to this sector, that entity you just saw, Alfa, stopped us dead in our tracks and subjected us to a series of games and pantomimes under the guise of gaining my hand in marriage in return for letting us pass freely. There were deaths, or would have been, but fortunately we were able to devise a countermeasure.”

Sarr stepped in. “The phased inhibitor field neutralises his powers. We switch it on when he arrives and he can’t do anything to harm us.”

“Well, why not just leave it on and stop him from interfering at all?” Tailor asked.

“He’s a trouble-maker,” Miller answered. “You saw him back there, all about power and assertion. The inhibitor field stops him manifesting his powers in their current form – if he realises he can’t actually use them, he may try something different. He genuinely is quite powerful. The second time we encountered him we managed to talk our way out, but only just.”

Tailor nodded. “Hence the deception.”

“Hence you,” Miller said, gesturing towards Tailor.

“I know you have the inhibitor field, but it sounds to me like I really could have been killed,” Tailor said. “I mean, I’m a Starfleet officer first and an actor second, but even still.”

Miller shook her head. “We monitor the field and Alfa closely – if there was any doubt, I wouldn’t have given you the cue,” she said. “Regardless, you performed excellently, I was genuinely concerned for a moment that he really was getting to you.”

“Thank you, captain. So, what now? What do we do on our way back? I can’t die twice.”

Miller shrugged. “It’s possible he will ignore us on the way back, he has a… limited attention span. But just in case, can I assume that your theatrical training has prepared you for wearing a wig?”

Tailor’s eyes widened. “A wig? Don’t you think he’ll see through that? Isn’t he an all-powerful being?”

“He tends to see the world in terms of blonde, brunette, redhead,” Sarr said, in her subdued tone. “He’s a total shitwit.”

“Language, commander!” Miller warned.

“Apologies.” Sarr turned to Tailor. “I meant a total shitbird,” she clarified.

Tailor snorted, and Miller ignored them both. “So, Tailor, what do you say? Willing to stick with us for a while?”

Tailor pondered for a few moments, clasping her mug tightly in both hands, whilst Miller finished hers. Eventually, Tailor looked up. “Alright, captain, I will consider it, but I need to know something first.”

“What?”

“Well, your first officer is a cardboard cut-out. When I first arrived, I’m sure I saw a sophisticated and likely unique android in the corridor-”

“Robot.” Sarr interjected.

“Well, she looked like an android.”

“Robot,” Sarr repeated, “totally unremarkable.”

“Android, robot, whatever. I also just had to act my way out of an encounter with a space god which seems like a big deal but you treat as an annoyance, and then I come face to face with your chief medical officer who happens to be a renowned peddler of smut.”

“Erotic romance,” Sarr interjected, again.

Tailor turned to her. “I’m an actor, a playwright and a founding member of the Jupiter Literary Association; it’s smut.”

“What’s your question, lieutenant?” Miller asked.

Tailor put her mug down. “What the hell kind of ship is this, captain? With respect?”

Miller didn’t answer right away, but stood and moved to look out of her window. She took a breath. “This is an ordinary Starfleet ship, lieutenant, full of extraordinary people, all of whom have far too many vital things to do to be able to spend time getting into trouble. We don’t care about pushing boundaries; we care about getting where we need to be on time. We care about efficiency, and effectiveness, and safety, and we care about getting done the things that need to be done so we can spend time doing the things that we need to do.”

She turned around. “Did you know that there isn’t a single manual task on this ship that’s done more than once a week? Our chief engineer is an expert in automation – anything that’s repeatable, we do it with computers and machines. Everyone on this ship works for, probably, forty hours a month. That’s actual work, you understand, ticking boxes, filing reports, attending meetings. The rest of the time, they do what they want to do. Most of us love what we do anyway, so we just do more of it, just the more interesting bits. Others branch out – our stellar cartographer is currently apprenticing in hydroponics, for example. Others still just use the extra time for their hobbies, like Doctor Wainwright and her Vulcan smut.”

She moved round to the front of the desk and leaned back on it, facing Tailor. “So, here’s the deal. We don’t really need a chief of security, we have algorithms to sort out shift rotas and training sessions and targeting parameters. What we need is someone who can be convincing in different situations, who can put on a good show to help us get out of trouble when we need to. The rest of the time is yours. If you really want to be chief of security, then Keela and I will help you learn how, and by the end you’ll be the best tactical officer in the fleet. Or you can focus on something else. So long as you’re ready to step up and be creative when we need you to be creative, you get to use the conveniences of being aboard a starship to your own personal advantage.”

Captain Miller held out her hand. “Well?”

Tailor took another few moments. Then she took Miller’s hand and shook it firmly. “I think I would be a fool to pass up an opportunity like this, captain.”


Following a tour of the ship, Tailor was led back to her new quarters by Sarr. At the door, Sarr paused.

“The captain probably made this sound like a pleasure cruise,” she said. “And it is a great ship to be part of. But you need to realise, we may not chase frontiers or seek out new civilisations, but those industrial replicators we delivered today are going to form the backbone of Alesto’s future economy. We transport professors to technical conferences, and carry out customs inspections, and we never, ever save the galaxy. Starfleet’s mission is to bring the Federation to those who need its ideals, but our mission is to keep the Federation in the business of Paradise. And it’s really damn important.”

“I appreciate that,” Tailor said. “And I appreciate the chance you’ve given me. I won’t let you down.”

Sarr began walking away. “It’s not me you’ll be letting down,” she said.

Tailor stepped up to her door, which slid open, revealing a modest lodging. It was undecorated and spartan – she got the impression it was a blank canvas.

Just before she entered, Lieutenant Mendacia, the so-called robot, walked past her. Tailor nodded to her. “Good afternoon.”

Mendacia nodded back, her movements awkward and mechanical. She wasn’t aware that Tailor could spot a performance from the genuine article. “Good after-noon, lieu-tenant,” she replied in synthesised tones. “Whirr. Whirr. Whirr. Whirr.”

Star Trek: Quotidian – “Dignified Relations”

What follows is the first part of my Star Trek fan-fiction following the unadventures of the crew of the U.S.S. Quotidian. The stories speak for themselves, so I’ll offer no further introduction.

However, I do want to point out that this story was originally written on the 1st December, 2016, and has only just been published here. I point this out because the first segment includes a minor plot with someone being held up due to overly thorough medical tests, which is also a plot in the ninth episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. So I just wanted to make it clear that I had the idea first, and am therefore presumably qualified to write for big-budget sci-fi shows. My job application is pending.

The first part, “An Unavoidable Encounter”, can be found here.

The third story, “Muses of our Fates”, can be found here.


Captain’s Log, stardate 42976.1.

Whilst on a routine sensor sweep we have picked up a strange energy burst coming from the Periculum system. Despite its surprising similarity to some forms of interstellar communication, our sensors indicate that it is nothing more than the gravity-lensed emissions of a distant neutron star. Consequently I have convened the senior staff to confirm, resolutely, that it is indeed the gravity-lensed emissions of a neutron star, and absolutely not any form of communication from some strange, new, potentially dangerous lifeform.


“Counsellor N’rz, where does that leave us?”

N’rz’s mottled green head faintly glowed in pulses as he thought carefully. “Captain, Starfleet regulations require us to investigate any unrecognised sign of life in the likelihood that first contact could be established. Given that we’ve calculated -”

“And can show our calculations,” Lieutenant Baker added.

“- and can show, indeed, that there is no likelihood of this even being a signal from an intelligent life form, and subsequently absolutely no feasible scenario in which we might make contact with a new species, we are not bound by regulation to take any action.”

Miller nodded. “Ideal.” She turned to the rest of the officers. “Okay, that’s been settled then. Thank you all for your insight, you’re dis-”

Commander Aufregend, first officer, a tall, lean human with swept-back blonde hair and chiseled features, strode into the room with purpose. “Captain! I’m sorry I’m late, Doctor Wainwright insisted on carrying out a full physical, said it was vital to confirm that I hadn’t been subjected to unsafe levels of neutrino radiation. She was incredibly thorough, I thought I would be in there for the whole day!”

Miller’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, indeed, I… had thought that too. I will, ah, discuss it with Wainwright. We were just finishing up here, nothing with which to concern yourself.”

Aufregend looked around. “This looks like a staff meeting, is this… Wait, is this to do with the supposed neutron star emissions?”

“No, of course – well, yes, actually, but we’ve just confirmed, there’s barely a point-two -”

“Point-one,” Baker corrected.

Miller continued. “Yes, point-one percent chance of it being anything other than a Neutron star, whose emissions are being gravitationally… lensed… Commander, what are you doing?”

Aufregend had taken a PADD from Lieutenant Baker and was furiously tapping away on it, running complex calculations and algorithms. “Captain, this is incredible. Apologies, Lieutenant, I respect your position as head of Science, but your basic assumptions didn’t take into account the recursive feedback theorems of Doctor Enochlesi’s work on transphasic communication patterns…”

Miller’s eyes settled on Baker with the intensity of a proton beam. The Lieutenant kept his own eyes firmly pointed at some presumably fascinating distant star out of the window at the opposite end of the conference room.

Aufregend was still going. “… By running it through a fourth-order integration function, I’ve isolated a key repeating waveform. Captain, this is some sort of interplexing beacon! I’m afraid I can’t accurately identify its message, I would have to recalibrate the Universal Translator, but the origin point is barely three parsecs away! Would you like me to set a course?”

Miller stood, straightened her tunic and quickly shook her head at Commander Sarr, who was slowly releasing her phaser from its belt clip. The captain cleared her throat, then walked swiftly out of the conference room.


Captain’s Log, stardate 43125.8.

It has been three weeks since my former mentor, Admiral Taylor, urgently reassigned Commander Aufregend to the Muthir system, to help negotiate an historic peace treaty between twelve warring factions locked in a bitter conflict. The ship’s new executive officer is settling in well, however. In the meantime, we are about to start a new mission – conveying a Federation diplomat to an interstellar conference on replicator legislation.


The form of the ambassador materialised on the transporter pad, along with that of his aide. Both were Isilduns – tall, flat-chested, with lilac-tinted skin and prominent cheek protrusions.

As the whine of the transporter faded and the materialisation completed the captain stepped forward, pristinely turned out in her dress uniform. “Ambassador, I’m Captain Miller, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Quotidian. I’d like to welcome you aboard, and to express our pleasure to be escorting you to the conference on Naukarasaha.”

The ambassador bowed deeply. “Captain! I am Bitxia, of Isildu. This is my assistant, Laguntzaile. We are both honoured to have you as our escort. Is this your staff?” Bitxia gestured at the line of senior officers at the captain’s side.

Miller nodded, then introduced each officer in turn. “Ambassador, this is Commander Sarr from the planet Bajor, my head of operations.” Sarr lowered her head respectfully. “Chief Shmeh, head of engineering, from the Beij Cluster. Lieutenant Baker, science officer, from Earth -”

“Mars, captain.”

“Apologies Baker, of course, Mars. This is our chief medical officer Doctor Wainwright, of Vulcan.”

Bitxia regarded the vulcan carefully. “Forgive me, but ‘Wainwright’ doesn’t seem like much of a Vulcan name.”

“There is nothing to forgive, ambassador,” Wainwright explained in her careful elocution. “I was fostered by humans until early adolescence. It seemed important to them that I retain their name into adulthood.”

Bitxia nodded thoughtfully, and Miller continued. “This is Lieutenant Smith, my tactical officer. He’s too modest to admit it, but Smith has a tremendous dedication to duty, you’ve been killed, what, eight times protecting the ship?”

Smith was bashful. “Eight, captain, yes.”

The ambassador sounded astonished. “You have, ah, died. Eight times? Tell me, do you have any insight into the afterlife?”

“Not really, ambassador. I’m never there for very long.”

Miller gestured to the final member of her command crew. “And this is Counsellor N’rz, of the planet Causidicus.”

“Counsellor? Why would you need a counsellor as part of your staff, captain?” Bitxia’s face was stricken with confusion.

Miller cleared her throat. “Well, ambassador, Causidicans possess near-flawless recollection powers. On Earth, we would call it ‘eidetic memory’. It makes them incredibly effective legal consultants.”

“Legal… you mean he’s a legal counsellor?”

“Correct, ambassador,” N’rz said. “I advise the captain in all matters of Stafleet regulation, Federation law, interstellar law and foreign treaties.”

“Specifically,” Miller added, “N’rz allows me to ensure that at all times I am adhering very precisely to my responsibilities.”

“I… I see. I wouldn’t have thought that would often be, ah, be much of an issue.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised at the number of times I find myself unable to respond to dangerous situations due to some obscure law or regulation. Aboard this ship, we take legal matters very seriously, ambassador.” The senior staff were all nodding in agreement. “Now that you’ve met all of my officers – my first officer is currently on the bridge, apologies for his absence – I’d like to offer you a tour of the ship. Shmeh, maybe you could show the ambassador engineering first?”


Shmeh stood at the head of the MSD table with his engineering staff gathered around. Bitxia watched as a tardy junior lieutenant hurried into place. Shmeh began the meeting. “Alright, let’s get this started. Jones, general systems update.”

“News on the transporter, chief. We’ve identified a fault in the secondary heisenberg bypass circuit – it seems that a power surge in the buffer coupling could shut the materialisation array down altogether, completely preventing beaming.”

Shmeh looked thoughtful, stroking his bifurcated chin. “And the fix?”

Jones glanced sidelong at Bitxia before continuing. “We believe a phased molecular weld of the circuit’s quantum fixture should do it, but we’re following Spock’s Axiom, sir.”

“‘Spock’s Axiom’, chief?” Bitxia asked.

Shmeh’s cloudy yellow eyes turned to the ambassador. “Indeed. Starships are incredibly complex machines, with near-unfathomable interactions between seemingly unrelated systems. As such, in this engineering room we follow Spock’s Axiom: ‘Once we eliminate all other possibilities, whatever answer remains must be the truth.’ As such, we’ll systematically examine each system, run tests on them all one by one, and make sure they’re not the root cause of the problem. Then we can implement the fix and resolve the issue.”

Bitxia’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But that sounds like it could take an awfully long time, chief. Surely this molecular weld could be done now?”

Shmeh leaned back in horror. “Fix it now? Do you have any idea of how dangerous a notion that is? We could cause all manner of unforeseen complications.”

“But if you don’t apply the fix, your entire transporter system could shut down!” Bitxia pressed the point. “You’d be unable to beam anywhere!”

“Indeed, we could be left unable to beam down an away team into a hazardous environment,” Shmeh agreed, “or participate in a rescue operation at a catastrophic disaster site. Indeed, the transporters could fail at any given, and extremely untimely, moment, and we’d be left unable to beam aboard any kind of experimental technology or mysterious lifeform. But we can’t risk causing a destructive chain reaction by just applying molecular welds on a whim, ambassador. Modern-day engineering has much more in common with advanced applied science than with the iron mongers of a former age.” Shmeh addressed Jones again. “Lieutenant, in line with the Axiom, start with the material repurposing processor on deck twelve, and proceed from there. We’ll find the cause eventually.”

Bitxia remained nonplussed. “Chief Shmeh, how, in any capacity, might a transporter fault be related to a sewage processor?”

Shmeh stared at the ambassador. “Sadly, we’ve run out of time, and that concludes the tour of engineering. Ambassador, if you would follow Ensign Roberts here, he will guide you to sickbay for the next part of the tour.”

The ensign took Bitxia by the arm and began leading him out of main engineering. Bitxia turned his head to protest. “No, but, chief, I have additional questions!”

Shmeh turned to a status display, unfazed.


Bitxia sat in the CMO’s office opposite Doctor Wainwright, with her neatly trimmed short hair and loose blue labcoat. Wainwright was listing the ship’s inventory of advanced medical equipment, careful not to leave out even the smallest, most insignificant item. Bitxia’s posture was gradually relaxing as he moved closer towards unconsciousness. He noticed a small picture on the wall, what looked to be an illustrated book cover.

“Doctor, I’m sorry to break your flow, but what is that?”

Wainwright turned to look at the picture and raised an eyebrow. “That, ambassador, is the cover from my twelfth work of fiction, ‘Shadows of Vrentys’, one of the most widely read novels in modern Vulcan literature. I keep it as a reminder of my accomplishments as a writer.”

“Twelfth? How many books have you written?”

“Twenty-two novels in the last four years, all pieces of fiction in the style of ancient Vulcan epics, generally acting as analogies of various aspects of modern Vulcan society.”

“I thought you were raised by humans?”

“Correct, although only for the first few years of my life. As I grew, my emotional responses became increasingly problematic and it was decided that the best course of action was for me to be schooled on Vulcan, to learn the skills I would need to master my emotions.”

“And was it on Vulcan that you discovered your talent for writing?”

“Sadly, Ambassador, many conservative Vulcan literary critics would argue that I am indeed still yet to discover any talent for writing.”

It took Bitxia a moment to parse what he had just heard. “Doctor, did, did you just make a joke?”

Wainwright smiled. “I grew up around humans, ambassador, and consequently I possess an insight into humour that is rare amongst Vulcans.”

“Do you ever laugh? At jokes? At humourous scenarios?”

Wainwright pondered the question for a moment. “It is more closely related to an academic insight. Similarly to music or art, I am able to appreciate the structure and style of a well-crafted joke without being induced to an emotional reaction.”

Bitxia seemed to understand, but something else concerned him. “You said twenty-two novels, in four years? How do you find the time? Surely you must be busy as the ship’s surgeon?”

“In actuality, I find my occupation here relatively peaceable. We have the lowest medical incident rate of any vessel in Starfleet – this really is the safest ship in the fleet. As such, I have surplus time which I may devote to my writing.”

“And Captain Miller accepts this?”

“The captain actively encourages it. As long as her crew are healthy and well, she has little concern for ‘keeping me busy’. Indeed, she has allowed me to host several author talks aboard the Quotidian, inviting some of my readers to meet me in person. She’s very supportive in that regard.”

The main door to sickbay opened, and a metallic-skinned human figure strode in, wearing a blue Science uniform. “Doctor, I’ve finished my analysis of the cellular fluid samples, I’m confident that -” The silver-eyed figure looked at the ambassador and fell silent.

Bitxia was astonished. “Doctor, I had no idea you had an android aboard! I thought there was only one android in all of Starfleet! In the whole galaxy, in fact!”

Wainwright chose her words carefully. “Ambassador, this is Mendacia, our… robotic servant. She could be considered a rudimentary automaton.”

Mendacia stood rigidly straight. “Affirmative. Ambassador. I’m A. Primitive. Robot.” she said, in stilted, synthetic tones.

Bitxia studied the machine carefully. “She didn’t sound like that a second ago.”

Mendacia paused for a moment. “I Was Merely. Playing. A Recording. From Another. Crew. Member.”

“If she’s just a machine, why is she wearing a uniform?”

Wainwright maintained her Vulcan composure. “That could have been a decision made to aid interaction with other – I mean to say, ‘living’, crew members.”

“Affirmative.”

“And the rank pips?”

“I Must Return. To My Other Duties. Good. Bye. Ambassador.” Mendacia turned away stiffly and walked out of the room with an awkward, mechanical gait. “Whir. Whir. Whir.”

Bitxia’s mouth hung open. “Was she just saying ‘whir, whir, whir’?”

Wainwright remained silent.

“Doctor, you do realise the scientific and cultural significance of another sentient android, one that is a member of Starfleet, no less?”

“I am sure such a scenario would indeed be noteworthy to scientists across the Federation and beyond. But as I said, it is important to note that Mendacia is nothing but a mindless machine.”

“She was using contractions.”

“A well-programmed mindless machine, ambassador.”

Bitxia leant towards Wainwright and stared intently. “Doctor, as a Vulcan, you’re unable to lie to me, correct? And so if I ask you a direct question, you must answer with the truth, correct?”

Wainwright raised an eyebrow.

Bitxia continued. “Doctor, was that a sentient android?”

“Was what a sentient android?”

“The being that was just in this room!”

“Which being?”

“Mendacia!” Violet veins in the ambassador’s neck were beginning to pulse.

“What about Mendacia?”

“Is Mendacia an android?”

“Well, yes, of course, as a robot designed to resemble a human being, she exactly matches that definition.” Wainwright’s tone was as flat and calm as ever.

“And is she sentient?”

“Is who sentient?”

“Mendacia!”

“What about Mendacia?”

“Is she SENTIENT?” Bitxia roared. “IS MENDACIA SENTIENT? IT’S A SIMPLE QUESTION, DOCTOR!”

Wainwright leant back in her chair and steepled her fingers. “In actuality, ambassador, the question of sentience is rather a complex and difficult subject to -” She was interrupted by Bitxia crying out in frustration before leaping to his feet and storming out of the room.

“THIS ENTIRE SHIP IS INSANE!” he shouted as he stomped into the corridor.


“Captain Miller!” Bitxia announced as he entered the bridge. “I must demand an explanation for the actions of your staff!”

“Not now, ambassador,” Miller said from her seat in the centre of the bridge, “we’re currently a little busy.”

“Captain,” Lieutenant Smith called, “response from the Lenibus, Captain Hebetes says that they’re having issues with their main inversion coil, and will be unable to assist.”

“And there’re no other ships in range?”

“Confirmed, captain, it’s just us.”

Miller frowned. “Very well, duty calls. Set course for the Ligneolae Navem, maximum warp. Red Alert! Raise shields and prepare for combat.”

Bitxia was suddenly worried. “Captain, what’s going on?”

“Distress call, ambassador, large passenger liner under attack from Orion pirates. We’re the only vessel in range to respond. Engage!”

The Quotidian lept to warp speed, stars whipping by as streaks of white light. Lieutenant Baker was at the science station, monitoring the sensors. “Captain,” he said, “the Orion vessel appears to be Dreadnought configuration. They have use outgunned by, let’s see, approximately three-hundred-and-seventy percent.”

“Damn.” Miller bit dowm on the knuckle of her left index finger, pondering the situation. “This calls for extreme measures. Sarr, ready a probe.”

Bitxia gasped. “Captain! They have us completely outmatched! We have no chance of winning that fight! What good will a probe do us?”

Miller kept her eyes forward on the main viewer. “Ambassador, we are bound by our duty to protect the passengers aboard that transport. And it’s doubtful we can defeat the Orions, but there are, ah, always possibilities.”

“But you’re taking us to our deaths!”

“Ambassador, you are beginning to interfere with the operation of this vessel,” Miller stated flatly.

Commander Sarr turned steadily in her chair to face the ambassador, with a very Pointed Look. She mouthed something silently at him – the universal translator was no help, but they all seemed to be very short words. Bitxia was suddenly quiet.

“Sarr,” Miller said, “just ready a probe.”

“Aye captain.” Sarr sounded resolute and unaffected by the impending danger. “Are we implementing the Pandora Protocol?”

Miller turned to her second-in-command, a handsome officer with swept-back blonde hair, stood to her right with a straight back, broad shoulders, folded arms. “Objections, number one?”

The commander stared unwaveringly at the main viewer, silent and stern.

Miller nodded. “Outstanding. Bridge to engineering, we’ll be-”

“Captain,” Bitxia interjected, “your first officer, he’s… He’s two-dimensional.”

Miller looked again at the silent, unblinking form beside her. “That’s, ah, inaccurate, ambassador, he’s at least three or four millimetres thick.”

“But, he’s not even… he’s made of -”

Miller looked Bitxia straight in the eye. “Ambassador, Commander Aufrecard is an outstanding officer with a flawless record. His physical characteristics have no bearing on his ability to fulfil the role of executive officer.”

Bitxia looked at the unmoving commander, then at Miller, and back and forth between the two of them, before silently sitting down on the floor with his back against the wall.

Miller continued. “Bridge to engineering. Shmeh, Commander Sarr is preparing a probe for deployment. Please use Lieutenant Baker’s Periculum telemetry to set up Pandora Protocol two-six-three, and inform Sarr when it’s ready.”

Shmeh acknowledged. The red lights of the alert system continued to pulse whilst the warp engines thrummed in the background. Bitxia watched the crew frenziedly prepare for battle, immobilised in equal measure by anxiety over the coming conflict and by sheer confusion at all he had witnessed that day.

Lieutenant Smith addressed the captain again from his post at tactical. “Ten seconds to arrival. Shields and weapon systems ready, captain.”

Sarr finished a last few calculations on her console. “Probe ready, captain. Minimum safe distance, three hundred kilometres.”

“Understood,” Miller said. “Stand by for launch. All hands, prepare for combat!”

The ship dropped out of warp in front of the ugly bulk of an Orion cruiser. The pirate vessel’s crude, broad structure dwarfed the sleek curves of the Quotidian, but the Federation ship squared up to the beast nonetheless.

Bitxia watched with eyes as empty as the first officer’s as the Orion ship on the main viewer turned to face them. The bridge crew were busy giving instructions over the comms and coordinating their teams throughout the ship. Miller’s voice cut through the chatter. “Distance to target?”

Smith answered promptly. “Four-hundred-eighty kilometres, sir; they have locked weapons and are ignoring our hails. The Navem is at three-fifty kilometres from the target.”

“Damn,” Miller cursed again. “We’ll have to risk it. Launch probe, commander.”

“Probe away,” Sarr said, tapping a few buttons. The sound of the probe launching was a short, high-pitched whistle. On screen, the small projectile sped towards the pirates unerringly.

“The enemy ship is about to fire, captain,” Smith said.

Miller gripped her seat tightly. “All hands, brace for impact!”

The ship rocked violently as the Orion disruptors struck the deflectors. Sparks flew from a few consoles as the shield projectors overloaded. Commander Aufrecard fell forwards face-first onto the floor and lay there as motionless as ever. Bitxia carefully crept forwards and lifted the commander upright again, leaning him against the tactical console as he had been before.

Miller looked around as the rocking subsided. “Damage report!”

“Shields holding,” Sarr answered. “No damage sustained as yet.”

“Time to probe activation?”

“Six seconds, captain.” Sarr looked up at the main viewer, her lips moving silently as she counted down. “… Now!”

Nothing happened. For an age it seemed like nothing was happening. The Orion cruiser still pointed towards them, its guns just seconds away from another volley. Then, without warning, the pirate vessel fell away backwards, as though launching to warp. It disappeared into the distance with an orange flash, and was gone.

“Report?” Miller hesitantly asked.

Baker studied his scopes carefully. “They appear to be gone, captain, as exp-” He glanced at Bitxia. “Ah, as unexpected as that may be.”

Miller nodded. “Good. We will assume that they mistook our probe for a powerful new weapon and chose to turn tail and flee. Counsellor?”

N’rz was sat to her left, and seemed as collected and calm as all the other officers, in spite of the battle moments ago. “That is a perfectly sensible assumption, captain, and offers sufficient explanation for the enemy ship’s departure. No further investigation would be required of us in a matter such as this.”

Miller stood. “Very well. Damn good job, all of you. Sarr, dispatch repair crews to the Ligneolae Navem and offer them any other assistance they require, but the priority is to have them up to warp speed and well on their way within the hour.” Sarr began working straight away. “Miller to sickbay, Doctor Wainwright, there could be people hurt over there, can you spare anyone?”

“I can spare myself, captain,” Wainwright answered, “I’ll join the repair crews in the transporter room.”

The officers around the bridge worked at their consoles, busy but unhurried. Bitxia looked around at what now seemed like a very day-to-day scene of normality. For him, the terrifying combat less than a minute ago was still very fresh in his mind. He pushed himself to his feet, clenched his fists to steady the shake of his hands, and addressed the captain directly. “You, Captain Miller, I – I need you to tell me the truth. I’m a Federation ambassador, your Starfleet oath means you have to tell me the truth.”

“He’s incorrect, captain,” N’rz stated, “no such regulation exists.”

Bitxia was barely preventing his speech from stammering. “Y-You cannot lie to me about what just happened!”

“Incorrect again, captain, you can lie to him about any subject.”

Bitxia glared phaser beams at N’rz, who returned his gaze impassively. Miller regarded Bitxia for a moment, then turned to the science station. “Baker? Your analysis? For the benefit of the ambassador.”

Baker screwed his face up, as though considering the situation in some depth. “I suppose,” he began, tentatively, “it’s possible that there exists, in some interstitial area of subspace, some powerful faction or species, capable of pulling objects of varying characteristics – ships, for instance – into subspace itself. Possible, but highly improbable, of course.”

Bitxia stared at Baker in confusion and disbelief.

“But were that the case,” Baker continued,  “it stands to reason that such a species might, ah, pick up the ships of  realspace species, based on those ships emitting some specific signal or waveform. Perhaps inadvertently so, for instance when conducting an Alpha-Level subspace sensor sweep.” He stared calmly at Bitxia, as if ready for whatever challenge may be presented.

Bitxia’s stammer was now well out of control. “H- h- how…”

“How would such a species communicate with realspace?” Baker prompted. “Well, I dare say it would be unfamiliar to us. Probably some kind of transphasic communication. Maybe a repeating transphasic waveform, or even an interplexing beacon. Of course, such a phenomenon would hardly look like any form of message we would recognise – it would most likely resemble the emissions of a neutron star or some other stellar body, potentially focused around a powerful gravity well.”

“Wh- Why… Just, why?”

“Why pull ships into subspace? Impossible to answer without being subjected to the process itself. Of course, it would be an act of great carelessness to trigger such an event with a starship. It would be much more sensible to perform scans with an external device, such as a probe. That way, when any unusual event did occur, it would occur to the probe itself, and could be observed from a safe distance, and the relevant conclusions made from the observable data.” Baker looked at Miller. “This is all highly, highly unlikely, captain, extremely hypothetical. The far more realistic interpretation is that the Orion vessel simply departed the battle out of sheer fright.” He leant back in his chair, looking rather pleased with himself.

“Thank you, lieutenant,” Miller said. “Naturally, ambassador, the discovery of an intelligent species based entirely in subspace would be the discovery of the century, and would of course warrant further investigation. Sadly, Baker’s hypothesis has as much grounding in reality as those novels of Wainwright’s, and as such we have no cause to investigate the matter further.” She looked around. “Can someone get me a coffee, please?”

Throughout this all, the executive officer had remained silent and stationary, staring without blinking directly ahead, handsome and confident. Bitxia looked at him now, and let his shoulders drop and his arms hang loose, the opposite in every way to the commander’s resolute, heroic posture. “I… I don’t understand any of this,” he admitted, his voice hollow.

Miller shrugged. “We couldn’t abandon three hundred souls to pirates and slavers. We couldn’t defeat the pirates in combat.” A yeoman moved to her side and offered her a cup of strong-smelling black coffee, which the captain accepted. She took a sip. “So, we… changed the conditions of the engagement. All it takes is a little original thinking.” She turned to the yeoman. “Could you get a cup for the ambassador as well, please?”


Aboard the shuttle to Starbase 362, the venue for the conference, Bitxia and his aide, Laguntzaile, sat in silence. Laguntzaile was intently reading from a PADD in his hand, fully enraptured by the text on the small screen. Bitxia just stared out the window at the stars beyond. His voice lacked texture, almost as though he was speaking from behind a closed door, as he asked his aide, “How was your time aboard the Quotidian?”

Laguntzaile barely dragged his eyes from the PADD. “Oh, fascinating! The battle was scary, of course, but I met several of the crew members, saw some of the amazing technology they have aboard. I always enjoy my time aboard Starfleet vessels. And yours, sir?”

It took Bitxia a few moments to respond in his empty voice. “I met a robot, Laguntzaile. I met a robot, and I met a Vulcan author, and I even learned about starship repair and maintenance.” He sighed. “My husband was talking about the lakehouse again, you know, before we left. I think he’s right, it’s getting time we settled down for the quiet life.”

Laguntzaile pondered. “I think you’ve earned it, sir. You’ve had a long career, you deserve a decent retirement.” Bitxia didn’t respond, but kept staring at the stars. Laguntzaile read for a few more moments before restarting the conversation. “That Vulcan author you mentioned, she gave me a copy of one of her books. It’s really rather fascinating! Very beautifully written. Though, the characters all spend a lot of time, ah, mating. In quite some detail. I feel that if they spent less time in bed and more time dealing with their problems, the book would be a lot shorter.” He looked at the ambassador. “Did you get a chance to read any of her work, sir?”

The shuttle cruised on towards the station. Behind it, the Quotidian turned about and headed out of the system. As she finished her turn her engines flared brightly, and she disappeared into the distance with a blinding white flash. In another system far away, the Ligneolae Navem pulled into dock to drop off its shaken passengers and begin its repairs.

No one ever heard from the Orion ship or its crew.

Star Trek: Quotidian – “The Unavoidable Encounter”

What follows is the first part of my Star Trek fan-fiction following the unadventures of the crew of the U.S.S. Quotidian. The stories speak for themselves, so I’ll offer no further introduction.

The second installment, “Dignified Relations”, can be found here.

The third story, “Muses of our Fates”, can be found here.


U.S.S. Quotidian, Captain’s Log, Stardate 41153.7

We are engaged in a routine survey mission, cataloguing instances of carbon-rich asteroids in the Cortix system. All operations are proceeding smoothly, with no incidents of any kind to report whatsoever.


“Captain, we’re receiving a text-based communication from the Lenibus. Seems to be quite a short message.”

“Thank you, lieutenant.” Captain Miller turned her chair to face her head of operations, Commander Sarr. “Ops, can you confirm the latest report that the Lenibus sent to headquaters?”

Sarr, which was an old Bajoran name meaning “clerk”, scanned through a list of entries on the console in front of her. “Five hours ago, captain. Just an update on position and status, nothing out of the ordinary reported.”

Miller looked around nervously. “A short message? Okay, read it out.”

The communications officer looked perplexed as he scanned the message. “It just says, ‘Bagsie Not It.’ Is that a code?”

“Bagsie not…” Miller stroked her chin, then lept out of her chair. “Damn! Science, quick, shut down the -”

The science console chirped in alarm. Lieutenant Baker, the science officer, rolled his eyes.

“- sensor alerts.” The captain sank back into her chair with all the gravity of a neutron star. “I take it the computer logged that already?” Baker nodded, and Miller’s head slumped. “Out with it, then.”

“First off captain, allow me to apologise for my sluggish reactions. Secondly, there seems to be a…” He sighed expressively. “There seems to be some kind of gravitic energy burst emanating from the nearby Admodum system, eight lightyears away.”

Miller brought up a navigational chart on her armrest display. “Are there any other ships in the sector?”

Sarr responded. “One, captain.”

Miller’s eyes narrowed. “It’s the Lenibus, isn’t it?”

“I’m afraid so, captain.”

Miller cursed the other ship’s captain. Then she stood up, straightened her back. “Bridge to engineering, this is the captain. Chief, we’ve encountered a spatial anomaly eight lightyears away.”

Chief Shmeh was on the other end of the line. “Shmeh here, sir. Eight lightyears, understood.” The line went quiet for a few moments. Miller scratched the back of her head idly, whilst Sarr and Baker exchanged hopeful glances. Suddenly, the sound of the ship’s reactors fell away to nothing, leaving the bridge eerily quiet. Shmeh’s voice rang out not long after. “Captain, we’ve just completely lost warp field integrity. The whole system just went dead. I am unable to ascertain how or why.”

Miller nodded her head. “How quickly can you restore warp engines, Shmeh?”

“Well, captain, as I don’t understand the cause of the problem, I can only recommend a level ten diagnostic on all power and propulsion systems before I attempt any repairs, or else risk making matters worse.”

“How long will that take?”

“At least ten hours, sir.” Shmeh paused for a moment. “To reach a minimum standard of safety. Captain.”

“In that case, we’d better make it a Level twenty diagnostic. And run it on all ship functions, just in case whatever issue this is starts affecting life support, navigation or even the holodecks.” Miller looked around and addressed the bridge in general. “You can’t be too careful.”

The other officers nodded their assent, then turned back to their stations. Sarr whispered her appreciation to the Prophets, but cursed in old Bajoran when she looked down at her console. “Captain Miller! The anomaly, it just started accelerating toward us, at warp speed! Estimated time to intercept, ninety-six seconds, captain!”

Miller thumped her armrest. “Damn it! Okay, think fast people – Baker, is it definitely headed for us? Is it possible that it just started moving in this direction randomly?”

Baker pressed his eyes to the sensor scope. “Negative, captain, it looks like it’s making a beeline straight for the Quotidian. It’s possible that it’s responding to our background subspace radio emissions. If we were to shut down all onboard power sources, except minimal life support, it’s possible it would be unable to detect us, as long as it doesn’t pass into visual range.”

“Understood. Commander Sarr, make it happen. Bridge to engineering – Shmeh, we need to shut down everything except life support, and even then we can run it on minimal, we’ll just breathe like yogis if we have to. If we’re lucky, whatever this thing is will pass us by and we can contin-”

The ship shook violently, rocked from side to side. Damage alerts flooded in from all decks. Sarr clung to her console. “Some kind of energy field, captain, pinning us in place! It’s beyond anything I’ve seen before, our scopes can barely measure it. Trying to compensate.”

The shaking subsided as the inertial dampeners took effect. Miller glanced around in alarm. “Tell me there’s a way out of-”

“MORTAL LIFE FORMS.” A booming voice filled every molecule of atmosphere within the ship. “I AM VIRRIDITTAR THE ELEVENTH, HIGH EMISSARY OF THE GLORIOUS STAR EMPIRE OF VIDUMET. I BRING WITH ME AN OFFER, AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUR ENTIRE RACE.”

Miller, slumped in the captain’s chair, tipped her head back and pinched the bridge of her nose, inhaling deeply. “On screen.”

The main viewer changed from a pleasingly soft gradient of greys to the external view, and the vibrant, garish form of an enormous ancient warrior floating in space, shimmering and blindingly bright, clad in nought but a face-concealing helmet and wielding a huge, kilometres-long spear.

“Based on these readings, I believe it’s a psychic projection, captain,” Baker volunteered, “an image created to aid communication. Although that doesn’t explain the loincloth.”

“MORTAL LIFE FORMS, WILL YOU ANSWER MY CALL?” the warrior boomed. “MY PEOPLE SEEK A DISCOURSE WITH YOUR SPECIES, TO SHARE OUR WONDROUS TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENTS. YOUR LEADER, YOUR SO-CALLED CAPTAIN, HAS BEEN CHOSEN AS YOUR AMBASSADOR. SHE MUST ADDRESS THE HIEROPHANTS OF VIDUMET, THE EXALTED HEIRS OF THE ROYAL BLOODLINE OF KARSIS, HOLDERS OF THE KEYS OF-”

VirridIttar continued for some time, listing the many titles of his leaders. Captain Miller didn’t move once throughout, but sat motionless, her head still tipped back. A junior lieutenant at the weapons station had his head in his hands, whilst Commander Sarr was forcefully tapping the side of her console with her fingertips and grinding her teeth.

“- THRICE-REMOVED, AND OVERSEERS OF THE SACRED BATHHOUSE. BUT BEFORE SHE IS PERMITTED TO KNEEL BEFORE THESE NOBLE GODS, SHE MUST FIRST PASS A SERIES OF DEADLY CHALLENGES, TO ENSURE THAT SHE IS WORTHY. ONCE YOU START THE TESTS, YOU MUST COMPLETE THEM. SHOULD YOU FAIL, YOUR LIFE, AND THE LIVES OF ALL THOSE ABOARD YOUR VESSEL, SHALL BE FORFEIT. THESE CHALLENGES SHALL PUT TO THE TEST YOUR COURAGE, YOUR RESOLVE, YOUR-”

Miller now had her hand on her forehead, slowly pushing her fingers back through her hair. Baker had started a conversation with the ensign sat behind him, asking about her dissertation at the academy. Sarr was now picking at a loose thread in the upholstery of her seat.

“- AND YOUR GASTRIC FORTITUDE. HOWEVER, THE MERCY OF THE HIEROPHANTS IS GREAT, AND THEY OFFER YOU NOW THIS CHANCE ESCAPE NEAR-CERTAIN FAILURE AND SUBSEQUENT ETERNAL TORMENT,” Miller perked up, eyes wide. “BY SACRIFICING ONE OF YOUR OWN LOYAL FOLLOWERS.” The iridescent hoplite fell silent, anticipation heavy in the air.

Miller held the warrior’s gaze. “Just one?” Then she began tapping words into a written message on her armrest display.

Virridittar’s voice boomed once again throughout the ship. “AH, YES, JUST ONE. BUT TO DO SO WOULD BE TO DENY YOURSELF ACCESS TO ALL THE UNIVERSE’S KNOWLEDGE, TO DENY YOURSELF ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGIES AND WEAPONS BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS. CURES TO EVERY DISEASE, PROTECTION FOR ALL, AN END TO SUFFERING, AND EVEN IMMORTALITY ITSELF. ALL OF THESE GIFTS YOU COULD SHARE WITH YOUR-”

Miller turned to the weapons station. “Lieutenant Smith?”

Smith looked up. “Was tired of living anyway, captain.”

Miller nodded. “Outstanding.” She drew her phaser, pointed it at Smith and vaporised him. As the glowing particulate remains of Smith faded away, she turned back to the viewscreen. “I believe we’re now free to go?”

It took a moment for Virridittar to respond. “I – EH, YOU, YOU JUST KILLED HIM.”

Miller nodded. “That gets me out of the tests, correct? And out of the audience with your leaders?”

“OF COURSE IT – THAT WAS THE TEST. YOU JUST – THE TEST WAS TO SEE IF YOU WERE WILLING TO RISK YOUR LIFE TO – YOU JUST KILLED HIM.” Virridittar’s form began to sparkle a little less, and began to slowly shrink down to a more moderate size. “YOU DIDN’T EVEN, LIKE, THINK ABOUT IT.”

The envoy’s form was becoming less martial, the helmet morphing into a more elegant circlet and revealing a beautiful, if somewhat aghast, alien face. “We were offering you UNLIMITED power, we offered you IMMORTALITY, and all you had to do… I mean, it’s normally hours of deliberation, then they decide to risk it for the good of… Or they try to decide who to sacrifice, then we reveal… But you… You just killed him.”

Virridittar’s humanoid form was now fading entirely, revealing a small and incredibly advanced alien vessel just a few hundred metres from the Quotidian’s bow. The voice was faint and getting quieter. “Just… just killed him. Unlimited power. Killed him.”

The Quotidian shuddered as the energy field surrounding it dissipated. Miller and her bridge officers watched as the alien ship turned away and began moving off, accelerating quickly. For a moment, it seemed as though there was one last, resonating sigh as the ship vanished into the distance.

Miller counted to ten. “Baker, is that thing turning back at all?”

“It’s already left our scopes, captain. No sign of it for five sectors.”

The captain let out a breath. “Bridge to transporter room; Smith, did they grab you?”

Smith sounded relaxed. “Got me right on time, captain. No damage done.”

Miller smiled. Smith was a consummate professional for such a young officer. “Okay, get yourself back to the bridge, via holodeck three, you earned it. Engineering, Chief Shmeh, switch the damn engines back on. Commander Sarr, make a note in the log – first contact with the… whatever they were called. Unable to establish communication, possible failure in the universal translator.”

“Aye, captain, I’ll have comms look into the issue as soon as possible, but it could take weeks.” She punched a few commands into her console. “Would you like me to plot a course for the next asteroid cluster?”

“I think we better had, we were making record time. After that, we can start logging the base rate of neutrino emission from the -”

The whine of the transporter filled the room as the anxious form of the first officer, Commander Aufregend, materialised next to Miller. He looked around wide-eyed, phaser in hand. “Captain! Are you okay? Is the ship safe? Do you need me to secure the area?”

“That won’t be necessary, number one, the, ah, spatial anomaly has departed.”

“Spatial anomaly? I heard the voice captain – immortality! Unlimited power! If you would like, I could take a shuttle and a science team! By recalibrating the navigational array we could track the molecular disturbance in the subspace field and follow it back to its source. Once we’ve determined its origin, we could -”

Miller waved her hands. “That won’t be necessary, Typhon, really, the situation has been resolved.”

“But – oh. So quickly? I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner, but the door to my quarters jammed again. I tried to gain access to the jeffries tube like last time, but it was somehow filled with plasma. Luckily, I was able to reroute the comms circuit and hook up with one of the shuttles, managed to reprogram its remote access algorithm so I could use the on-board site-to-site transporter and get myself here. That makes the third time my door has jammed during a crisis, do you think it might be an issue with the EPS conduits? Maybe if we remodulate the ship’s internal -”

Baker tapped something on his console and a high-pitched alarm sounded. He cried out, “Commander, there’s a plasma fire on G-deck! In the entomology lab! We need someone to put it out before it engulfs the ship!”

Aufregend spun on his heels. “Plasma fire? Entomology? The insects!” He sprinted to the turbolift.

“Stop by engineering once you’ve dealt with it,” Miller called after him. “Ask Shmeh to fortify the security access on the shuttles, if you would.”

Aufregend disappeared behind the turbolift doors. “We need to try something different next time, he’s catching onto the door thing,” Sarr said, not looking up from her console.

“Agreed,” Miller said. “Maybe some kind of coolant leak in the adjoining corridor. Run up some scenarios, let me know how you get on. Anything else?”

The stand-in tactical officer cleared his throat. “We’re getting a distress call, captain, from the Lequ system.”

Miller sat firmly in her chair. “Are we the only ship in range?”

“No, captain.”

Miller smiled. “Fantastic.”

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is a Show Full of Women Who Don’t Interact

A little while ago I read an A.V. Club article about the separation between female cast members in ‘Stranger Things 2’. A little while after that, I saw this tweet, not realising it was from the same author:

This got me set onto a project made for my particularly niche combination of interests: could I quantify ‘Star Trek: Discovery’s gender balance?

Turns out the answer is “Yes! Badly.”

This will be a long-ish article filled with numbers, charts and clumsy attempts at numerical analysis of gender representation in a nine-episode TV show by someone woefully underqualified for any part of that task, but here goes:


Headline Results

First things first: what’s the initial, top-level finding? Well, see below.

DiscoveryStats

The bars on this chart show how many individuals spoke during the episode. Specifically, “speech” in this context means delivering meaningful information, i.e. more than an “Aye, captain,” or equivalent. For example, Keyla Detmer appears in every episode, and Rhys (listed as “Reese” in my data) appears in most, but they are infrequently included in these stats because they’re usually just acknowledging that they’ve been told to do something, saying no more than a handful of words.

[It’s worth pointing out here that for none of this analysis have I included disembodied entities with female voices, i.e. computers. There’s all sorts of issues around women being used to voice what are essentially autonomous servants, and it’s difficult to argue that the ship’s computer is even a character at all. As such, voices only get counted if they belong to some sort of physical being that has an outwardly visible gender identity.

I have also ignored group chants in unison, because fuck cataloguing something like that, I’m a blogger, not a voice-recognition algorithm.

Also, the fucking space whale absolutely does not get counted, for reasons that are pretty bloody simple.]

The line charts show, on the same y-axis, the number of connections in each episode between two people of the same gender. In plainer terms – I’ve counted a connection as being Woman A talking to Woman B. If Woman B responds to Woman A, then that’s a second connection. So, in episode 8, ‘Totally Not Errand Of Mercy’, Admiral Cornwell and L’Rell talk to one another – I’ve counted this as two “connections”. If it had just been L’Rell talking, but Cornwell not answering, then it would have been one.

Now, one thing I haven’t done is quantify conversations. In ‘Totally Not Errand Of Mercy’, L’Rell and Cornwell talk to each other on two occasions, but I’ve only counted each connection once. This is because of the complexity of things like split scenes, and noise coming through from, for instance, repeated conversations in ‘Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad’. Burnham and Georgiou spend the cold open of ‘The Vulcan Hello’ talking to one another, and that scores them the two connections for the rest of the episode, even though they talk to each other repeatedly throughout the next forty minutes.


 

A Lacklustre Approach

There are many caveats to this simplistic approach I’ve taken, which include but are not limited to:

  • No representation of the number of conversations.
  • No representation of the amount of time spent on each conversation.
  • No representation of the number of lines a character speaks.
  • No acknowledgement of important things like viewpoint, plot relevance, etc.

In short, I chose this particular method of quantification because it was much, much quicker for me to gather the data for it. As it happens, I have begun a mini-project to find out how much time is spent in each episode on women talking to women and men talking to men, which gives this interesting statistic for ‘The Vulcan Hello’:

In ‘The Vulcan Hello’, there is approximately eight minutes and twenty seconds of conversations exclusively between women, and two minutes and fifty-three seconds of conversations exclusively between men, out of a total of thirty-two minutes and thirty-eight seconds of conversation.

vulcanhellopie

As you can see, this looks quite different, from a representational point of view, to the stats based on my “connections-only” model, which has ‘The Vulcan Hello’ as follows:

vulcanhelloconnections

The thing is, it took me around two-and-a-half hours to log the conversations by “time taken” just for ‘The Vulcan Hello’, with another hour to put it into this spreadsheet. I’ve already recorded the conversation times for ‘Battle at the Binary Stars’ on paper, but the sheer labour intensiveness of this project means it’s on the sloooww-burn.

The other, really important weakness of my “connections model” is that it is highly likely to be slightly inaccurate. I’m confident I’ve got everything down, but only about 90% confident, and I’m only 50% sure about that. As such, it’s entirely possible that I’ve missed something or someone, and I’m sure some smart alec out there will be happy to point out all the mistakes I’ve made.

It takes roughly an hour to note down all the connections and characters in a single episode, and I absolutely do not have the resources to multiply that time investment by closely checking my own work – at least, not without losing the job that puts vegan junk food on my table.

As such, if you want to check my data yourself, and if you can even make sense of it in its crude, poorly-planned layout, feel free. You will find it here.


 georgiou
Episode 1 – ‘The Vulcan Hello’

‘The Vulcan Hello’ is, for the first thirty-five minutes, a very strong episode of Star Trek, right up until Burnham dashes all of our hopes with some really shonky behaviour. My views on it have been recorded elsewhere, but we want to look at the stats.

As covered above, female-only conversations dominate this episode, and conversations that include women at all make up 91.1% of the episode’s dialogue by time.

In terms of connections, though, we have six, as follows:

  • Burnham has conversations with Georgiou (2) and a female doctor (2).
  • Georgiou also speaks with Detmer (2).
  • L’Rell gets a couple of lines in subtitled Klingonese, but no other speaking female Klingons appear.

A total of five women get lines in this episode. I think the box-headed woman on the Shenzhou mumbles something, but it falls into that “not meaningful information” category and it wasn’t addressed to anyone in particular.

The men’s connections are as follows:

  • T’Kuvma speaks to Voq and Or’Eq (2).
  • They each speak to T’Kuvma (2).
  • Connor and Gant both interact with one another (2).
  • Saru, Admiral Anderson, a male doctor, Sarek and Weeton all speak,  but only to women – either Georgiou or Burnham, predominantly.

What’s interesting here is that there are ten men who talk throughout this episode, but they only have as many connections as the women, i.e. six. This falls in line with the time stats – with less than 9% of the episode’s conversation time being between exclusively male characters.


narrowbattle

Episode Two – ‘The Battle at the Binary Stars’

Sadly, I have no more time stats for any episodes besides the first at present. Additionally, I was intending to do neat little network charts for each episode, by gender, but that proved waaaay too difficult to do – or at least, learning how to do it with a program like Gephi will take more time than I have spare. So for now, this will mostly be in bullet points and written word.

Episode Two is a continuation of Episode One, and as such most of the characters remain in play. Our women get the following connections:

  • Georgiou talks to Burnham and Detmer (2) who each respond to her. (2)
  • L’Rell speaks, as does Dennas, leader of the Klingon House of D’Ghor, each speak, but not to each other.

That’s five women again, with a total of four connections. What’s really peculiar is that in two episodes the Shenzhou‘s helm officer and first officer (disgraced) don’t interact at all. This isn’t so peculiar, I suppose, but they also happen to be two of the three female Starfleet officers who speak in both episodes.

Our men get the following connections:

  • T’Kuvma has a conversation with Admiral Anderson (2), and speaks to Voq and Kol (2).
  • Voq and Kol also interact with one another (2) as well as T’Kuvma (2).
  • Saru, Connor, Gant, Weeton, Sarek and the Starfleet Judge all speak, but only to women (Burnham and Georgiou again).

So we again get ten men speaking (twice the number of women), and this time we have twice as many male-to-male connections as we do female-to-female, at eight to four. It should be noted that in two episodes, Saru hasn’t once spoken to another male character, as all of his interactions have been with Burnham and Georgiou.


torches

Episode Three – ‘Conscience is for Kings’

(Here is my previous article covering some of the third episode’s… “sources of inspiration” – and another.)

Now we reach the third episode, where we get a raft of new characters, as well as a few familiar ones. Detmer and Saru are both familiar, as is Burnham, but we also meet Lorca, Tilly, Stamets and Landry.

First off, the women:

  • Burnham gets conversations with Landry (2), Tilly (2), Psycho (2) and a female engineer (2).
  • Landry also converses with Tilly (2).
  • The pilot of the prison shuttle is female, and briefly speaks to an unseen male Starbase officer.

That’s a full ten connections, between six speaking female characters, which isn’t bad. I ought to make clear – there is a moment where Burnham comes face-to-face with the now-wounded Detmer and softly speaks her name. However, Detmer doesn’t respond. I’ve not included it in the analysis, as it’s really not a conversation, and I feel like if I were to include it, I’d also have to cover things like eye contact or handshakes for other characters, which I cannot be bothered doing.

I also omitted a possible connection between Landry and Psycho, when Landry addresses the prisoners as a group. I decided against including it as Landry doesn’t address Psycho directly, and Psycho certainly doesn’t respond, and again, it would set a precedent for tracking every time someone speaks to a room full of people. When Lorca gives his “motivational” speeches to the whole bridge, does that generate connections between him and the various men on the bridge? I decided no, it doesn’t.

For the men, we see the following:

  • Lorca speaks with Saru (2) and Stamets (2).
  • Stamets speaks with his counterpart on the Glenn, Straal (2).
  • Stone and Cold, the prisoners, talk to one another (2).
  • A shuttle pilot and a security officer, Kowski, each get brief lines, but only to women.

This leaves us with an interesting episode, connections-wise, as we have twelve all-female connections and only eight male connections. Which seems fine – there may be slightly fewer women speaking, but they’re interacting more with one another, which is great. Sadly, this is the only time that an episode will have more all-female connections than all-male.


largeigrade

Episode Four, ‘The Butcher’s Hand Cares Not for the Knife That Cuts It’ or whatever

Episode Four is… Okay, my thoughts on the fourth episode are made clearer elsewhere. Let’s just do the damn connections already.

Women:

  • Burnham converses with Landry (2) and Tilly (2).
  • Georgiou speaks to Burnham (1), who can’t physically respond to the holographic recording.
  • Admiral Cornwell, L’Rell, Navigator Owosekun, Detmer and an unnamed girl on the mining colony (referred to as “Miner” in my spreadsheet) all speak, but only to men.
  • I should’ve called the girl “Minor Miner”. Shit.

This is where we see the real problems creep in in terms of ‘Discovery’s female connections. There are nine women here, but only three of them, plus one recording, speak to any other women. This may not seem like a huge issue, but let’s see the men:

  • Lorca converses with Stamets (2), Saru (2) and Doctor Culber (2).
  • Saru and Stamets also converse (2) as do Stamets and Culber (2).
  • Voq and Kol also speak to one another (2).
  • There’s a male adult Miner (a Major Miner) who speaks, but only as a broadcast.

Here we see the imbalance start to appear. There are seven men who speak in this episode, two fewer than women. But between them, they form twelve connections. We get, for instance, a scene between Lorca, Stamets and Culber, but we don’t get a single three-woman scene throughout the entire series.

Equally problematic, there’s a single man out of the seven who doesn’t speak to any other men. Meanwhile, there five women out of the nine who don’t speak to any other women – more than half of the female cast of this episode don’t interact with any other female cast members.

What will become apparent going forward, as well, as this episode is the last episode in which we will be introduced to any recurring female speaking characters. And we will only meet two more speaking women at all – Stella and Amanda. Note that although Commander Airiam, the… probable cyborg, won’t get her first line until a later episode, we first see her in Episode 3.

We will, however, meet a further three recurring male characters (Admiral Terral, Harry Mudd and, of course, resident human Ash Tyler), as well as numerous speaking one-off male characters.

This episode is also the last and indeed only time that the number of women who speak outnumbers the number of men who speak.

The trouble really is only starting.


ashtyler

Episode Five: ‘CHOOOOOSE YOOOUUUR PAAAAIIIIN’

God, I hate the title of this episode even more than I hate the title of the last one, simply because of how macho it’s trying to be.

ANYWAY, connections:

  • Burnham and Tilly talk (2).
  • Cornwell, L’Rell and Owosekun speak, but only to men.

Five women. Only two of them interact. Versus:

  • Lorca speaks to Tyler, a male Klingon Guard, Harry Mudd, and Saru (4).
  • Saru speaks to Stamets, Culber, an Operations officer and a Tactical officer (5).
  • Stamets and Culber both talk to each other (2) and to Saru (2).
  • Tyler talks to Mudd, Lorca, and the male Klingon Guard (3).
  • The Klingon Guard talks to Lorca, Mudd and Tyler (3).
  • The Operations officer talks to Saru (1).
  • The Tactical officer talks to Saru and Lorca (2).
  • Mudd talks to Tyler, the Guard and Lorca (3).

This makes for nine men who speak, for a total of twenty-four (!) connections. This is the highest number of connections in the series. Compare that to the previous episode, where nine women made a total of five connections between them.

Further, we see here that there nine men, and not a single one goes without speaking to another man. Meanwhile, less than half of the five women in the episode talk to other women – specifically, two of those women speak to each other.

Also worth noting, there are three female bridge officers on the Discovery whilst Saru is in command, but only one of them, Owosekun, speaks more than an acknowledgement, and even then she speaks only to Saru. Airiam, who appears to be the third in command of the ship, i.e. acting-captain Saru’s first officer, doesn’t say a thing, and Detmer, who has been in every episode, barely gets an odd “Aye, sir” past her lips.

If you think that this seems improbable, then the best explanation is this: there are many scenes in this episode between multiple men. There are not so many between multiple women. Bear in mind, this analysis just checks that women are talking to each other – there can be men in the scene too, it’s just as long as the women speak to one another that we build connections. But we’re not even getting that.

Let’s move on.


cornwell-angry

Episode Six: ‘Lethe’

‘Lethe’ sees a slight bump in female connections, as follows:

  • Burnham has conversations with Tilly (2) and Amanda (2).
  • Cornwell and Dennas appear in the same scene together, but weirdly never actually address one another.

Five women, four connections. Now the men:

  • Lorca converses with Terral (2), Tyler (2), Stamets (2), Saru (2) and Culber (2).
  • Sarek speaks with a “Logic Extremist” (2) and the Vulcan Expeditionary Director (2).
  • Kol and some other Klingon Leader talk to one another (2).

Eleven men, sixteen connections, and again, no men who don’t talk to other men. Admittedly, most of them revolve around Lorca or Sarek, but that’s still quite a hefty network.

There isn’t much more I can say about ‘Lethe’ that I didn’t already say about ‘CHOO-CHOO-CHOO-CHOOOSE YOUR PAIN’, so we’ll wind on a bit.


groupshot

Episode Seven: ‘Bullshit To Make The Sanest Mind Go Postal’

The return of Harry Mudd! The return that nobody asked for. And with it he brings another unwelcome guest: continuing imbalance in gendered interactions. As usual, women up first:

  • Burnham and Tilly talk to each other (2).
  • Stella appears, and Airiam finally gets a line in, but neither get even the chance to look another woman in the eye.

Four women, two connections. All the mens:

  • Tyler talks to Stamets, Mudd, Lorca and Barron (4).
  • Mudd talks to Lorca, Stamets, Tyler, Saru and a Communications officer (5).
  • Lorca talks to Saru, Mudd and Tyler (3).
  • Saru talks to Lorca and Mudd (2).
  • Doctor Culber talks to Stamets and Tyler (2).
  • Stamets talks to Culber, Tyler and Mudd (3).
  • The Communications officer talks to Lorca (1) but never to Mudd.
  • Barron, the arms dealer, talks to both Mudd and Tyler (2).
  • A male medical officer talks, but only to Burnham.

Nine men, twenty-two connections. Only a single man of the nine who doesn’t speak to other men, half of the four women who speak do so to one of the others. This makes Episode Seven extraordinarily similar, in terms of number of speakers and connections, to Episode Five. Which means neither is a one-off case.

Here’s a more sobering statistic: this is the first episode in a row of three in which no more than two women will interact with one another. Three episodes, in a nominally female-led series, in which a total of six all-female connections (three two-way connections) are formed. In those same three episodes, there will be a total of 52 all-male connections formed. In each episode, there will be nearly twice as many male speakers as there will be female speakers.


discoverynarrow

Episode Eight: ‘Si Ridiculum, Para Discovery’

Women:

  • L’Rell and Cornwell scream at each other for a bit.
  • Burnham, Tilly, Detmer and Owosekun all talk, not to each other, though.

Detmer speaks! As does Owosekun! After only, oh, two or three episodes I guess. They really don’t say much, though. And nothing to each other.

Sperm donors:

  • Lorca talks with Captain Kovil (2), Rhys (2), Admiral Terral (2) and Tyler (2).
  • Tyler also talks with Saru (2).
  • Comms officer Bryce talks to Lorca (1) after Lorca says his name (not counted).
  • Kol and a male Klingon comms officer have a brief conversation (2).
  • Culber talks to Burnham briefly, and Stamets talks with Tilly, but neither talk to each other. Weirdly, this is yet another episode in which the only established couple on the show don’t interact in a meaningful way.

Five women and eleven men speak in this episode. Three of those women only talk to men; two of those men only talk to women.

There are a total of two female-only connections in this episode. This is both L’Rell’s and Cornwell’s first dialogue with any other women. All of the regular male cast members have previously established connections with multiple other male cast members.

(Look, I know this is childish, but I’m actually struggling to cope with continually writing about “all-male connections” and “multiple other members”, it’s all getting a bit ‘Allo ‘Allo’ around here.)

I should point out that L’Rell’s and Cornwell’s conversation, indeed, their entire arc this episode, feels rather like it was put in there so that the episode would pass the Bechdel Test. Certainly, no part of their arc seemed necessary for them to end up where they ended up: Cornwell could still have been paralysed due to the torture she went through before L’Rell appeared, and Kol could easily have locked L’Rell up just for her having betrayed him previously.

But that’s my cynical side coming out again. I’m sure there were strong creative and narrative reasons to put their little story in here, and I’ll trust the writers in that regard.

For now.


burnhamphaser

Episode Nine: ‘Into The Forest I Go’

Women:

  • Burnham and Cornwell talk to one another (2).
  • Tilly, L’Rell, Airiam, Detmer and Owosekun all get lines.

Seven women, two connections.

Men:

  • Lorca has discussions with Admiral Terral (2), Saru (2), Stamets (2), Tyler (2) and Culber (2).
  • Tyler and some human Operations officer also have an exchange (2).
  • Culber and Stamets also exchange words, as well as saliva (2). Oh, and it only took seven episodes for them to show any physical affection to one another. HOW PROGRESSIVE.
  • Rhys says something to Lorca at one point, without a response (1).
  • Kol and some Klingon Operations officer have an exchange (2).

Ten men, seventeen connections.

This is the third episode (the other two being five and six), where EVERY speaking man has spoken to another man, and where at least two fifths of the speaking women have not spoken to any other women. In those same three episodes, there are eight female-female connections formed, whilst there are FIFTY-SEVEN male-only connections in the same episodes.

There is no episode where every speaking woman speaks to at least one other woman. Episode Three came really close, but the pilot’s presence meant it just fell short.


seriesconnectionssummary

Over the Series

With the whole of the first half of the series analysed, we can take a look at how many men and women get to speak, in total, to one another. I feel the network charts speak for themselves:

womennetwork1

We can see here that the women all orbit around Burnham, which seems about right given she’s our main character. But there are a couple of points that are important to me.

Seventeen women get actual lines in the entire series so far. They form twenty-two all-female (one-way) connections when the series is viewed as a whole. Six of those seventeen never speak to another woman, two of whom appear in only one episode.

Detmer speaks only to Georgiou, and only in the first two episodes. After that, none of the female bridge officers get a word in to any other female member of Discovery‘s crew.

Tilly has a connection to Landry, from Episode 3, and it’s about seven words between them. After that, Tilly doesn’t get to speak to any women besides Burnham. Mary Wiseman, the actor who plays Tilly, is the only other woman besides Sonequa Martin-Green who is listed as a “main” cast member.

Now let’s look at the men’s graph:

mennetwork1
I have misspelled “Rhys” as “Reese” in my spreadsheets, but I also don’t care so feel free to never bring it up again.

First off – wow. It’s bigger, more complex, and harder to follow. So I’ll break it down for you.

There are thirty-seven men who speak throughout the series. That is more than double the number of women who speak. These men form seventy-five male-male (one-way) connections when the series is viewed as a whole, which is more than three times the number of connections that the women form.

Of those thirty-seven men, six fail to speak to any other men. That’s the same number of women who don’t speak to women. However, these men are such pivotal characters as “Judge”, “Miner” and “Pilot”, and none of these “men islands” appear in more than one episode.

A final piece of stark contrast, I feel, is the structure of these graphs. The men get the massive landmass of “Starfleetistan”, with Lorca in the middle but also with Tyler, Mudd, Saru and plenty of others as smaller hubs. Then the men also get “Klingonia”, a separate, smaller continent with plenty of its own connections, but no connector to Starfleetistan. Then there’s “Vulcanisberg”, which is a narrow little landmass with Sarek in the middle. And finally there’s two minor states, “Stone Cold” and “ConGantinia”, which float off doing their own thing.

Meanwhile, every female connection is either to Burnham, or is a single step away from Burnham. L’Rell has literally no other female Klingons to talk to besides Dennas (who gets two lines in the whole series), but there’s a little mini-continent of male Klingons tied together by Kol and T’Kuvma. And we see plenty of female Klingons in the background – they just don’t say or do anything (although I think one was trying to shoot Cornwell in the final episode). L’Rell even mentions her house’s “matriarchs” in one episode, and yet we never meet them.


lorcanarrowpicnarroweyes

Closing Arguments

I don’t think there’s much more I can add to this subject that hasn’t already been covered by the numbers. I just genuinely find it interesting and troubling in equal measure that a show that is meant to be female-led can have such a one-sided balance to its interactions.

The truth is, there’s nothing in the setup that’s keeping characters like Detmer and Tilly apart. It wouldn’t be a stretch to have a scene where Tilly asks Detmer about Burnham, given that Burnham’s just moved into Tilly’s room. There’s no reason you couldn’t have Detmer and Owosekun exchange navigational information during battle or training exercises. There’s nothing stopping a short scene where Tilly uses her expertise as “the top theoretical physicist in the academy” to explain spore drive navigation to Owosekun and Airiam.

It’s just odd to me that so many of these women never interact, and I wish I understood the creative decision behind it. Assuming there was one.

I think it’s also worth pointing out – if you were to carry out this same analysis for previous Star Trek shows, or movies, or heaven forbid the Star Wars franchise, or even the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”, the results would be even more one-sided. But ‘The Last Jedi’ just days before I’m typing this, and that manages multiple connections between several female characters. And that’s Star Wars, the franchise that made three whole films with only three women and one black guy.

I will tie this article off for now, with a final point to make. I’ve shared links to my data below. It’s horribly laid out and not professionally done, but it’s there for anyone who would like to have a crack at producing some better analysis. I daresay it wouldn’t be difficult, most of what I’ve put above could be charitably described as “simplistic”.

Initial Research: a text file with written connections as I went through each episode.

Spreadsheet 1: several tables which I used to produce the numerical analysis and some of the charts.

Spreadsheet 2: The data from Spreadsheet 1, reprocessed to produce the full-series network graphs used at the end.

Recommendation: ‘Timeless’

I don’t quite remember how I got onto ‘Timeless’ – I think it was another Netflix suggestion. But, like ‘Mars’, it was a good suggestion.

‘Timeless’ sits in that difficult-to-define category of “Well-produced high-concept sci-fi and or action adventure series with secret plots and a unique hook.” In essence, I can see exactly how ‘Timeless’ came to be, in a meeting where a producer pitches to an executive “A story about a mysterious who villain steals a time machine to change history, and our heroes have to go back and stop him from ruining everything.”

Each episode features a jump (you might even say a “leap”…) back to a different period in America’s history, with the heroes chasing down a man, who is essentially a budget Rufus Sewell, through historical set pieces, including the crashing of the Hindenburg and the Battle of the Alamo, trying to prevent their own present from being rewritten.

Nothing is hugely surprising in the setup of the show. We get a capable but frustrated history teacher who’s struggling with the choices she’s made. We get a nerdy, skittish scientist who’s infatuated with a woman to whom he doesn’t have the courage to talk. We get a rugged, handsome, widowed special forces soldier who doesn’t play by the rules. There isn’t much that will raise your eyebrows at first.

However, ‘Timeless’ manages to pull a few unexpected turns. For one thing, rather than neglecting the inherent racism of most of history, they confront it head-on. The black, nerdy scientist explains, before their first trip, that “there is literally no place in American history that’ll be awesome for me.” And indeed, a lot of the tension in many episodes is derived from having a brilliant scientist, vital to the mission, whose skin colour is a total liability.

‘Timeless’ takes a reasonable approach to gender, as well. The show’s lead, played by Abigail Spencer, is a total history nerd, and is suitably in awe of many of the past’s most remarkable figures. But the show makes an effort to explore, where possible, the role that women have played in history, including Judith Campbell, Katherine Johnson (before ‘Hidden Figures’ was released, as well), and Josephine Baker.

Probably the best feature, though, is the fact that ‘Timeless’ features a plot about time travel, secret societies and espionage without disappearing too far up its own arse. Regular revelations and plot developments occur every couple of episodes, and we don’t have to wait until the very end of the series just to get the next advancement in the meta-arc.

Another important string to its bow is that our protagonists genuinely grow and change, even just over the course of a few episodes. The things they experience seem to actually affect and change them. And whilst that’s not unique in TV shows, for a such a high-concept premise as this, it’s unusual enough to be worth a mention.

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It comes with a note of caution, however – if you are a history nerd, this series may or may not annoy the hell out of you. As far as I can tell, it does its best to remain historically accurate, but it does make concessions for the sake of narrative and pacing. It also focuses heavily on American history, which I think is pretty interesting, but you may feel frustrated by a lack of geographical diversity.

‘Timeless’ is well worth a gamble, and I think that if you enjoy the first two episodes, you’ll enjoy the rest of the series. It’s got a lot of self-aware humour, the dialogue isn’t awful, and you get to see Malcolm Barrett pretty much reprise his role of Lem from ‘Better Off Ted’.

‘Timeless’ is getting a second season in 2018, but if you can’t wait that long, or if you would just like to see some similar shows, then also on Netflix is ‘Travelers’, which is a show I love and which is about to get a second season on Boxing Day. Netflix also has ‘Continuum’, which I hated but some people adore. Both of these shows reverse the premise of ‘Timeless’, being instead about people from the future returning to this era to preserve their own time.

And, of course, probably the biggest inspiration for ‘Timeless’ is ‘Quantum Leap’, which is basically the same premise but with a holographic Dean Stockwell in place of a history professor.

Recommendation: National Geographic’s ‘Mars’ Miniseries

Netflix likes to recommend lots of things to me, with varying levels of success. Fortunately, a really successful recommendation recently has been ‘Mars’, a National Geographic-produced series about the colonisation of… well, Mars.

It’s a split between documentary and sci-fi drama. The documentary covers current (or at least, 2016) efforts to advance humanity’s reach across the solar system, whilst the drama covers a fictional colony of Martian settlers twenty years from now, and the challenges and frequent crises they must face as they try to establish a permanent colony.

The documentary is a lot of talking heads and archival footage, so nothing ground-breaking, but it covers a lot of interesting topics, from the economics of space travel and the necessity for cheap, reusable rockets, to the harsh realities of living in space for long periods of time, separated from gravity and loved ones. This section covered Scott Kelly’s twelve-month stay aboard the ISS, and was particularly touching as it covered the strain it put on his relationship with his adolescent daughter.

The dramatic segments are of mixed appeal. Production qualities are high and sets and costumes all look suitably authentic. Sadly, the drama is frequently let down by a distracting amount of “bobblehead syndrome” – several of the lead actors seem incapable of delivering a line without either shaking or nodding their head throughout. The more experienced thesps do a perfectly fine job, particularly Anamaria Marinca, who plays the mission’s exobiologist.

The show also manages a decent stab at representation, with women taking most of the prominent roles of authority. Indeed, the typical all-American white bloke who unsurprisingly commands the mission is replaced by a Korean woman in the second episode, which was unexpected and refreshing.

After four out of six episodes, it’s certainly been enjoyable and interesting in equal measure. The first three episodes lean heavily on tension and danger, but the fourth deals with more domestic concerns, before setting up another major crisis to follow. Fortunately, a second series is coming next year, so the crew should be safe for now.

If Mars colonisation is a topic that interests you, there’s also ‘The Martian’, pretty obviously, as well as the book it was based on, whose author, Andy Weir, appears as one of the interviewees in ‘Mars’. For more hard sci-fi, there’s the Mars trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson, but that emphasis on “hard” is there for a reason. The ludicrous amount of detail he puts into the practicalities of life on the red planet is great for a space nerd like me, but I abandoned the second book, ‘Green Mars’, after what felt like a thousand pages of intensely in-depth geopolitics and legislation of a burgeoning Martian civilisation. Even I have my limits.

‘Jupiter Ascending’ Is The Same Movie Three Times Over, And Is Also Just An Overblown ‘Dune’ Fan-Fiction

Have you ever seen ‘John Carter Of Mars’? If you came to this article to decide whether or not to watch ‘Jupiter Ascending’, I can provide a solution straight away, and that solution is to go and fucking watch ‘John Carter of Mars’ because it’s the same fucking film, except that it was done first and is better in every measurable way. It’s funnier, smarter, better paced, just as batshit crazy and is far, far more deserving of two hours of your life than ‘Jupiter Ascending’, which I can only assume is ironically named because of the frequency with which people are subjected to gravity throughout the whole bloody film as a substitute for actual threat.

First things first, everything in this film has a stupid name, worse than anything that ever dribbled out of George Lucas’ wretched approach to nomenclature. ‘John Carter’ also features lots of silly names, but ‘John Carter’ was based on a bunch of erotic pulp space opera novels from the 1920s. ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is based on the Wachowskis having no creative restraint, and as such has no excuse for being so inaccessible.

The story itself is simple. Mila Kunis is a genetic duplicate of a dead space queen who had three garbage children each with a horrifying sexual attraction to her. Earth is a completely ordinary planet in a galaxy full of millions of others, but is still also somehow the most important planet in the story, because it’s Earth, or something. The three children are all thousands of years old and willing to murder each other and their own mother over control of the Earth, because it’ll boost their profits by eight per cent, Or Something. The three children all send mercenaries to capture Mila because she is the legal inheritor of Earth, as laid out in her own will before she was murdered by her own children, OR SOMETHING.

The point is, there’s nothing special about Earth. Sean Bean is really keen to point out that there’s nothing special about Earth, except for it being the birthplace of the genetic plagiarism of Space Queen Kunis and also important enough for three of the most powerful people in the galaxy to dedicate weeks of their time and a shitload of angst to owning it. Because it turns out that they all have stocks in a massive Spice-market, except the Spice is made from people and not sand worm larvae. It’s Soylent Spice, and Earth is one of many Arrakises across the Galaxy, and at this point it becomes clear that with all of the elaborate costumes, ridiculous names and mystic bullshit, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is just a teenage ‘Dune’ fan-fiction that got a bit out of hand, ‘Fifty Shades’ style.

But I’ve already whittered on enough about a lot of narratively-null trash, so let’s get down to the real issues.

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That headdress is approximately the 563rd most ridiculous thing in this film.

One is that the eponymous Jupiter never actually ascends. I mean, she physically gains elevation at a few points, but she’s exactly the same person at the end of the film as she was at the beginning. Her lack of agency is staggering, because random shit just keeps happening to her, or maybe because of who she is, but she never does anything. I think at the end she punches Eddie Redmayne a few times, but that doesn’t seem so hard given that his body is basically a series of plastic coat hangers tied together with shopping bags.

I mean, at one point she just about chooses not to marry the skeevy space prince who states he doesn’t give a shit about her but heavily hints that he really wanted to fuck his mum, and also makes pretty fucking clear that he’s going to wait about three nanoseconds after the wedding ceremony before stabbing her in the brain and using her pancreas as a sex toy, inheriting all of her property anyway. So she made that decision for herself, I suppose.

She also tells Eddie Redmayne to fuck off when he makes the generous offer of letting her abdicate her space throne and all of her space power and space wealth so that he can almost immediately harvest Earth, killing everyone and turning them all into Soylent Spice. So she also has that going for her. She goes from someone who is occasionally taken advantage of by her family to being someone who will Not be taken advantage of by her evil incestuous space family. How Empowering.

No, all the agency in the entire affair rests with Channing Tatum, aka The Plasticene Muscle Man, who is some kind of dog-person with magic ice skates and A Dark History. And this leads into probably the biggest problem with ‘Jupiter Ascending’, its structure. Laying out the major plot developments:

  1. Mila Kunis is bored on Earth.
  2. She gets captured by creepy space aliens, and is rescued by Running Wolfman.
  3. She finds out she is a space queen.
  4. She gets captured by her creepy space daughter, and is rescued by Running Wolfman.
  5. She gets captured by her creepy space son, and is rescued by Running Wolfman.
  6. She gets captured by her other creepy space son, and is revealed to have been the mastermind behind her own ascension to the space throne, and in the epilogue is shown ruling Earth as a cruel and vindictive tyrant for a thousand years.
  7. Just kidding, she gets rescued by Running Wolfman.

Seriously, those are the plot developments. An hour of dull exposition, interspersed with pointlessly lengthy action scenes, followed by the same fucking plot three times over. I honestly believe the Wachowskis got bored after writing the second act, and just hit ‘Ctrl+V’ a couple of times and then auto-corrected some of the names. It was so repetitive that it could’ve fooled you into thinking it was a strange rehash of ‘Groundhog Day’ or ‘Edge of Tomorrow‘ but made with about one sixteenth of the talent.

So you end up with this bloated two-hour mess which manages to multiply its mediocrity through repetition. I would love to credit the creativity that went into the visuals and the costumes and so on, but the story itself is so fucking void of captivation that I can’t bring myself to do so. Stories don’t have to be original, but when they start plagiarising themselves I start to lose patience.

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The Padishah Emperor and Alia At- nope, sorry, wrong franchise.

The villains were all stupid to the point of being impotent. Eddie Redmayne will happily kidnap and murder, but won’t just fucking harvest Earth when he could because “it wouldn’t be legal.” Creepy Space-Incest Boy wants to kill Whining Houndbum, so rather than shooting him in the heart or just locking him in an airtight box for three days, he leaves him his energy shield and his magic ice skates, then blasts him out of an airlock filled with emergency spacesuits, placing him roughly at the “Bond Villain” level of evil competence / ability to achieve objectives.

The action scenes took forever and were pointless. During one, I wandered off, did a bit of washing up, went for a piss, got changed (unrelated to the piss), hung some laundry out to dry (still unrelated to the piss) came back and it was the SAME fight scene and NOTHING HAD CHANGED (I didn’t piss myself). Martial arts films can get away with shit like that because their fight scenes are daring displays of acrobatics and staggering precision. The Wachowskis fill the screen with CGI lasers and spaceships which make it impossible to follow what’s happening and which were put together by legions of underpaid graphic artists, whilst the directors presumably go home to huff the smell of one another’s socks and practice high-fiving.

There was a weird montage scene where Mila Kunis, allegedly one of the most powerful people in the galaxy, has to go through about three hundred different registry offices to get a piece of paper which actually grants her the title – which is ultimately achieved through a pedestrian level of bribery. Like, to become the ruler of Earth you just need to slip someone a tenner and wink at them, Or Something. Anyway, it’s weird and pointless, lasts far too long and is basically just the same joke over and over. The only other time you see shit like this is in films based off books with a need to include lengthy written segments as efficiently as possible. Aesthetically and structurally it seemed identical to other scenes in the ‘Harry Potter’ series, for example, but that makes no sense because ‘Jupiter Ascending’ isn’t based off a book but rather a vomit stain on the floor of a petrol station toilet.

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I think this is the scene where she catches him licking his own testicles and barking at a cat.

Like all terrible films these days, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ picks up and then drops plot threads like a grubby-fingered hippy trying to find the best avocado in the discount salad aisle of a suburban corner shop. Sean Bean betrays Drooping Cheekbone and then they’re best friends again, all within the space of eight minutes. Tuppence Middleton has Queen Kunis captured, so she can show her a statue of her pre-dead self, watch her get undressed and take a bath, and then, I don’t know, she doesn’t seem to want to actually use Mila for anything except just having a bit of a chat. You’d think she could’ve just called her.

A lot of people have piped up about Redmayne’s own peculiar brand of skinny-Blessed scenery-chewing, but the fact is it could’ve been one of the strongest points of the whole bloody film. His two siblings – Middleton and The Other Bloke – both deliver such standard performances that the only clue they’re from a different culture, nay, planet, to our own, comes from their costumes. They’re meant to be aristocrats, dozens of millenia old and in charge of hundreds of thousands of star systems, but they don’t present any differently to any other scheming Earth-bound homo sapiens. Meanwhile, Redmayne delivers a quite alien persona that comes close to selling the notion that he might be from another world. If the rest of the cast had gotten on board with his approach, I’d be willing to give the film a bit more slack.

There are plenty of other things that make me foam at the liver when I think about this shitshow, from the boring performances delivered by every actor that wasn’t warming down from playing Stephen Hawking, to the fact that Tunneling Moleman or Maudling Humdrum or whatever he’s called actually gets WINGS at the end, because of all his “good deeds” Or Something. Christ, you’d never have thought that a film that steals material from ‘Dune’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘John Carter’ and now fucking ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ would ever make a good story, and ‘Jupiter Ascending’ proves that you would be absolutely correct, it doesn’t make a good story, it in fact amounts to three separate helpings of the same turd-flavoured sorbet heaped into a soggy sugar cone, sprinkled with gold flakes to make it look pretty.

Sean Bean was alright in it, I guess.

A Review of ‘Starship Troopers’ (1997)

‘Starship Troopers’ is the dumbest fucking movie I’ve ever seen. Everything about it is stupid – so unfathomably stupid, I could barely get to the end credits without collapsing into a heap disbelief. Who the hell signed off on this moronic piece of crap?  Did the creators just detach themselves from reality altogether?

As beginnings go, this film has a pretty terrible start, introducing us to a bunch of high schoolers whose main concerns are just fucking each other and passing grades. Can we really not have some more interesting personalities? They’re all so shallow and air-headed I honestly wonder if this film didn’t actually start off as a school drama that got landed with pointless action to make it more marketable.

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Difficult to tell who’s more gormless – the extras, or the entire fucking audience.

The characterisation is awful, but the plot is even worse. As our boring bunch of teenagers go through their training (yes, apparently they ALL decided to join the military, how convenient), after what seems like ages we finally get some story development when a huge asteroid strikes their home town, wiping it out completely.

I may have made that seem like an interesting, dramatic way to advance the plot, except for how ludicrously it’s executed. As the protagonists watch a news report, we see that the asteroid was apparently flung against Earth from ACROSS THE GALAXY by a civilisation of “bugs.” That’s like hitting a bullseye on a spinning dartboard in another room using a gun made out of spaghetti – a hundred million years in the future. Are we really meant to believe that the human government would start a war with the bugs even when there’s no realistic way that they could be behind the attack?

Revealed within this news report is a “death toll” for this particular calamity, with the number rising by a few dozen every second, just to add cheap emotional impact. Even with future technology it would be impossible to identify deaths at such a quick rate. An asteroid hit like that would have obliterated an entire city – you won’t be able to identify individual casualties like that, especially so quickly after the event. This film makes me feel ashamed for having a brain.

Everything in the entire movie is bafflingly dumb. It’s constantly interrupted by weird interludes, where we’re taken on little cut-aways to infomercials and bite-size news tidbits, all terribly acted and fake-looking, and occasionally overlapping so that it’s difficult to tell which bits are the film and which bits are the god-awful pieces of in-world propaganda.

Maybe I should just switch my brain off more when watching this atrocious production. We get one scene where a recruit asks why they’re being forced to train in knife-throwing when most fights can be resolved with nukes by “pushing a button”. Cue the drill sergeant throwing a knife and pinning the recruit’s hand to a bulkhead, thereby “preventing him pushing a button.”

Obviously that’s incredibly realistic, and in no way has the asshat sergeant missed the point that you don’t launch the nukes from the battlefield. I mean, Jesus, the film actually sides with the sergeant on this one – apparently the film-makers themselves believe that you have to be in knife-throwing distance of your target in order to authorise a nuclear missile launch.

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This is an actual still from the movie. Seriously, it’s rated ’18’ for fuck’s sakes, there’s scenes a hundred times more gory than this – did the BBFC really insist of slapping this on just for this scene?

Really, I mean, every scene in this film falls victim to its inherent incompetence. In a scene in which our main protagonist, Johnny “Big-Chin” Rico, confronts a food-line bully, we see the aforementioned drill sergeant just standing there in the background – he was obviously meant to intervene at some point, but for whatever reason they managed to edit out the parts where he does anything, but not the parts where he’s clearly visible. Christ, what’s he meant to be doing? Watching the confrontation to assess the recruits for how they deal with conflict? Why wouldn’t they just edit him out altogether?

Or maybe they should have edited out the protagonists. At the beginning of the film, they’re all incredibly vacuous idiots, but the writers couldn’t even bother to be consistent. The final few scenes show the main characters talking about huge subjects, like the nature of sacrifice and the need to fight for a bigger cause, and the audience is expected to accept that these stupid teenagers all of a sudden care about the nature of the conflict in which they’re taking part – it’s as though after their experiences in the war and the loss of their friends, they’re entirely different people.

Nothing suggests that any member of the production team was paying any attention to the dreck they were churning out, even the fucking costume department. One of our heroic trio turns up later on as a high-ranking intelligence officer, replete in black leather trench coat and peaked cap – it is so painfully obvious that they simply reused an old stock Gestapo uniform from some other film. Seems nobody realised that this would make the protagonists’ own government look like the fucking Nazi party. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Probably both. Either way, you don’t serve the purpose of building sympathy for your own heroes when they’re all dressed as the Wehrmacht – had any of these people even worked in movie production before?

Seriously, I could go on about how shitty ‘Starship Troopers’ really is, but it’s so painful that I’m not sure I can bring myself to relive much more of it. It’s clear that the director, the writers, the entire production crew and all of the actors had no interest in the film as a whole, and equally clear is how oblivious they were to its many, many faults. Reviewing this turd has left me so emotionally drained that I’m going to have to go and reset my brain and try watching an actually coherent sci-fi action adventure like ‘Star Trek Into Darkness which has a sensible plot, and desperately hope that nobody looks too closely at the first letter of each paragraph in this article.

Crude Fiction: To Hunt a Traitor

The following is a mostly-accurate account of a game of Fantasy Flight Games’ Battlestar Galactica board game. If you haven’t played it yet, you really should.


It’s difficult, when determining the fate of the human race, to keep a check on your emotions. Every glance carries meaning; every nod of the head is a statement of intent. As I looked across the board at James, I knew there was something wrong. And so did he. As another life-threatening crisis was successfully resolved, I ventured a bold assertion.

“I don’t think there is a Cylon. I don’t think we have one yet.” Those words were met with mumbled assent.

Patrick, playing legendary officer William Adama, admiral of the fleet, seemed to agree. “None of the crises have been badly sabotaged, I think we only failed the last one ’cause of bad luck,” he said.

I scanned the faces of the rest of the crew. Especially James. All I needed was a nervous cough, a subtle change in seating position, and I could reveal the enemy agent, the robotic Cylon infiltrator bent on ending all of humanity. But nobody gave anything away, and neither did I.

As President Gaius Baltar, head of state of what remained of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, I carried a heavy burden. Through the legal powers of the Quorum of Twelve, I had the chance to imprison any would-be saboteurs, limiting the damage they could do, all by using one of the “Quorum Cards”. But none of us had any clue who the Cylons could be; or even if there were any. As far as anyone was concerned, there could be sleeper-agents seeded throughout the crew, about to awaken at any time.

I knew that Patrick was Human. As Admiral he was a natural target for my incredibly reliable Cylon Detector, and he had passed the test. I also knew that Josh, to my right, was human; the Quorum had approved further blood tests, and I had selected him due to his role as Lee Adama, commander of Galactica’s air group and our top pilot.

Two known humans, which left three possible identities for the Cylon agent: Alex, Arjun and James. Plus myself, of course, but I knew my own allegiance.

It was a good bet that Alex was working to benefit humanity; he’d made solid decisions throughout the game. Arjun had been suspiciously quiet, giving away very little, but that wasn’t enough to truly doubt him. James, though, had been edgy throughout, casting allegations and accusations with reckless abandon. It could very well appear as though he was trying too hard.

I leaned over to Josh and whispered “I think James is the Cylon.” Josh looked at me with curiosity, which quickly faded to comprehension; he had been having the same suspicions.

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Now it was time for Alex, savouring his role as Saul Tigh, first officer of the Galactica, to take a turn. We had neutralised the attacking Cylon fleet a turn earlier and for now, the coast was clear. I volunteered a suggestion. “Alex, if you give me an ‘Executive Order’, I can use the Quorum of Twelve, see if they can give us anything useful.”

On the opposite side of the table, James’ eyes narrowed for a moment. He was getting nervous. I couldn’t blame him. Alex remained unsure, so I gestured to the empty space surrounding the fleet, the lack of hostile forces, the absence of boarding parties, the abundance of our critical resources. “There’s nothing better to do,” I said, with casual but incredibly shallow confidence.

Alex agreed, and gingerly gave me the order. Now, I was at liberty to act twice in quick succession. I knew what I had to do, for the sake of the human race and its chances of survival. I had to be determined. I’d only get one shot at this.

“Admiral Adama”, I said to Patrick, as I revealed a Quorum card granting me the power to arrest a member of the crew, “I believe you are an undercover Cylon agent, and for that reason I am sending you to the brig.” Patrick’s mouth hung open as I shifted his character’s icon to the Brig area on the board.

With my next breath I addressed Alex. “Alex, you too have shown signs of betrayal and collusion with the Cylon threat.” I let my identity dissolve, flipping a card to reveal my true self: a statuesque blonde female Cylon known as “Caprica Six.” No going back now. “For that reason, Alex, I am putting you in the brig as well.” Saul Tigh found himself in a cell next to his admiral and friend.

Arjun swore aloud as James screamed out “I KNEW IT!” and slammed his hands on the table.

Next to me, Josh was stunned, struggling to keep up with these sudden developments. “What’s… what’s going on!?” he asked, baffled.

“Didn’t you know?” I asked innocently, as Caprica Six put a gun to her chin, ready to be resurrected in the distant safety of the robotic fleet. “James is the Cylon.”