Scotch and Star Trek

Scotch… the final frontier.

Several years ago, I came to the realization that I have never actually seen much of the original Trek. This provided me with an excuse to go through from the beginning to see the process by which a cohesive, generation-spanning and inspirational setting is presented to viewers. In the end, though, it’s an excuse to get snarky and pick apart a show I’ve loved since childhood.

Why the drinking? Because every time I reflect on the scope of this project I realize there are over five hundred hours of Star Trek ahead of me.

Here’s to you, Scotty. 

Today’s feature:

VOY: S1E08: "Emanations"

In which all of the science, math, and tone is 100% wrong. 

"Hmmm how should I tell the Captain she has no idea what she's talking about?"

“Hmmm how should I tell the Captain she has no idea what she’s talking about?”

Voyager is hanging out above a gas giant, while Janeway talks about the 246 elements known to Federation science. That means in the Star Trek universe there are more elements yet to be discovered than modern science knows about. Presumably there’s an island of stability out there where all the exotic materials that they use daily hang out, and it’s not all instantly-decaying megaradioactives. Janeway mentions this because they think they’ve just found 247 in the rings of a gas giant, meaning it’s definitely stable. Element 247 also seems to imply that there are even more, since it has “over 250 nucleons”. Then again, apparently this is the first time the Federation has ever found a stable transuranic element in a natural environment. Excuse me while I go flip over a table. They’re going to try to mine it. The asteroids that are highest in this element also support class-M atmospheres. Meaning they’re dense enough to retain an atmosphere and have probably been ‘poisoned’ by the excreta of anaerobic bacteria. Because we couldn’t possibly have anyone put on breathers.

The caves are covered in spiderwebs. I mean ‘biopolymer residue.’ I mean spiderwebs, including a cocooned dead humanoid. A whole collection. At this point, it is absolutely unforgivable for Chakotay not to beam his away team out immediately. You can look for an uninhabited asteroid to mine with phasers and transporters, or with shielded and armored personnel, but not with your pajama-clad doe-eyed ensign.

Or, you could go into the pit with the fresh corpses. After investigation the element seems to be emanating from the corpses ‘as a byproduct of decomposition,’ meaning whatever species this is undergoes nuclear fusion as part of their biological decay. Either that, or ‘element’ means something different in 2371.

"Harry's looking... uh... thinner."

“Harry’s looking… uh… thinner.”

Either way, Chakotay wants to respect their burial customs, and Harry wants to pillage the corpses for fun and profit. At least if this is a constructed burial ground it explains the atmosphere – someone put it there. Janeway agrees with Chakotay, so they all put away their tricorders and do only visual inspections. Chakotay also gives a brief lecture on inferential reasoning as it pertains to burial customs. He could have probably taught a class in the Academy if he hadn’t taken up arms. During this lection, they are interrupted by a dimensional anomaly. The transporter chief does an area transport which isn’t as accurate, and she accidentally leaves Harry Kim and steals a corpse.

Harry is no longer throwing life signs or a comm system, so he’s probably been sucked into subspace. The corpse they stole, meanwhile, appears to be extremely freshly dead, and Torres suggests that they might be able to revive the corpse and get some answers.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the subspace anomaly, Harry is stuck inside the techno-cenotaph. Elsewhere but still wherever the corpses come from, some guy is saying goodbye to his family in a way that makes it sound an awful lot like he’s won The Lottery. Where he’s going is For the Greater Good, and he’ll see them in the next Emanation.

Harry is being looked after, but the priest believes he’s come from the afterlife, this Next Emanation. Harry tells the soon-to-be-dead-guy Hatil what he was doing – looking at dead bodies. This is disheartening heresy, but before he can elaborate, the doctor (thanatologist) comes in. Good job Harry, you’ve just destroyed the whole Venari religion.

On Voyager, the Doctor was able to revive the dead woman after removing a tumor and replicating replacement neural tissue for a species he’s never seen before. But Neelix’s lungs were too complicated to replicate. Sure. This species seems to cocoon themselves upon death as part of their decomposition process, and man is it going to be a slog explaining to this woman that just because she died and then woke up doesn’t mean she’s in the actual afterlife. Ptera immediately asks where her brother is, because afterlife. And then she freaks out.

Harry gets to tour the burial facilities. The Cenotaph is a euthanasia machine, making sure that the dying are killed (presumably painlessly) just before the subspace rift (spectral rupture) opens. Which is why Harry won’t be able to use it to get back until he either modifies it or is certain that his buddies are waiting on the other end to rescue him. Oh, and here’s the best part – the subspace rifts are natural occurrences that happen once every six hours, and the complex was built around it. There are thousands of these sites on the planet. Now at this point there’s really two possibilities – this species either uses the ruptures to get rid of their dead, or they believe they have to feed people into the ruptures to keep the planet from tearing itself apart or something. I know which one my money’s on. If that’s the case, though, the Tanatologist doesn’t seem to be in on it. The Doctor is extremely distraught, and Kim is hesitant to make this first contact situation any worse than he already has. Too bad he’s now their lab rat.

Back on Voyager, the crew are now aware of the other subspace vacuouls. In Voyager-space, they open up once every two hours or so. And Ptera has woken up and is a little less panicky. But not not-panicky. She’s still really stuck on this afterlife/reincarnation thing. Janeway and Kes are trying hard to pacify her. Oh cool, another subspace rift is opening up in engineering, and it’s deposited a corpse. Things to consider: do the rifts form wherever, and just happen to occasionally intersect with the asteroids and now Voyager? Are they formed near masses, and if so why not always the gas giant? Do they form near objects which are conducive to subspace disturbances, and if so what’s special about those asteroids?

Hatil is starting to have second thoughts about is upcoming death, now that he’s had the chance to stop and think about the tradition for a moment. His wife is very passionate about maintaining the tradition. Harry’s trying not to disrupt the culture, but you just can’t tell people to forget a first contact gaffe. And after some discussion, it turns out Hatil’s family are the ones pushing him to Move On To The Next Emanation, because he’s a cripple and a burden.

We seem to have forgotten that there's an asteroid belt full of valuable corpses here...

We seem to have forgotten that there’s valuable corpses that the ‘locals’ don’t actually care about…

More vacuouls are forming on the ship, still near the warp core in engineering. And all fully wrapped in corpse-spider webs. But apparently Voyager‘s sensors can detect the passing of some sort of energy wave from the body. You could suspect it’s the Soul, except that Ptera still seems to have hers. The energy is also similar to that found in the planetary ring. To avoid having the ship ripped apart, Janeway orders them to get half a light-year away at warp 7. Which should take about six hours. If Harry takes the plunge through the Cenotaph, they won’t be able to reach him in time even if they could detect his comm signal.

…Or, based on the scene change, it could take them about ten seconds to go .6 light-years at warp 7. Putting Voyager’s Warp 7 at about 2.7 million light-years per year. If we say they were traveling for a minute, Voyager‘s Warp 7 drops to a mere 315 kiloLights (Kc), which still gets them home before the season is over. Let them be traveling for an hour, and Warp 7 becomes 5.2Kc, which would take them the 70,000 ly in 14 years instead of the projected 70. So yeah, they’ve been traveling for about six and a half hours and Janeway just made everyone stand around awkwardly so they could resume the scene. Either way, the ship is stable now so they’ll start working on shielding. And Kes will keep working on stopping Ptera from breaking down as her entire worldview unravels.

The plan is to put a transponder on Ptera and hope its signal lets them lock onto Harry. Fortunately, because the ruptures open on Voyager now they don’t have to go hunting. Unfortunately, the transporter fails and she dies and spiderwebs on the pad.

After this, Garrett Wang had to run across the Paramount lot for the reboot of Abbot and Costello versus The Mummy

After this, Garrett Wang had to run across the Paramount lot for the reboot of Abbot and Costello versus The Mummy

Harry is going to be transferred to a more secure facility, where he can be studied, kept safe from the people who see him as a threat to their beliefs, and probably eventually vivisected. Harry can also no longer contain his distaste for this ritual, and tries to convince Hatil to run off to the mountains and let Harry take his place. He’s willing to risk the suicide booth because he’s willing to bet Voyager can bring him back. It seems to work well enough to fool the wife, so now all Harry has to do is sit in the coffin and wait for the murderspikes.

Too bad the body that just came aboard Voyager is a woman’s body, not Harry’s. His rift probably opened somewhere else. Voyager can’t take much more of this, and they have to head out, but just before they leave, another rift opens, deposits Harry’s corpse, and Janway tells Seska the transporter operator to beam him to sick bay, where he is… unsuccessfully tense moment because this is before the era of television where it was okay to kill off main characters… successfully revived.

Janway shows up to give Harry some time off to think about the fact that he just died and to tell him that the alien ‘neural death energy’ displays complexity that suggests they’re souls, because if there’s one thing that’s a constant Star Trek theme, it’s the notion that figuring things out is impossible and you should worship at the altar of the Sacred Mystery instead of going forth and figuring things out.

I didn’t drink enough for this episode.

Did we miss something awesome?