Inside Doug's Head

I am not a number, I am… What's that stuff they make glue out of? I'm that. Forever swirling, forwards and upwards, but always sticky. Sometimes, a little sad.

Thanks to the miracle of Netflix, and the glut of ‘C’ movies that are available (Or, is it dearth? I often get those two words mixed up. I want the one that means there are so many of them that I cannot believe people took the time to write and produce so many horrible, horrible movies, which is a situation that makes me think of death, and that word, coincidentally, looks like dearth without the ‘R’), I have been re-watching the Star Trek: TNG series episodes starting from season one. Hey, look, I only recently discovered that the internet is available on computers.

In the movie Barnyard, we see cows and other animals driving tractors. People would ask, “How is the cow able to steer if he has no opposable thumbs, and why do the male cows have udders?” I classify this type of mundane observation, which udderly ignores the fact that the premise of the story is based upon animals who can talk and organize themselves into complex social structures, as the Barnyard effect.

I define the Barnyard effect, here, since the entire Star Trek franchise is frequently subjected to it. “If the phasers are collimated monochromatic light, how come they are visible from the side when they fire?” “When the Enterprise accelerates to warp 9.5, how come everyone does not smush into their chairs?” “If they are travelling faster than light, how come they don’t see themselves arrive?” You get the idea, and I am sure you can find or think of a few examples yourself. These sagacious questions, when juxtaposed against the weak story premise, typify the Barnyard effect; the show is premised on hokey science fiction that quickly falls apart with any scientific scrutiny. You do not have to have profound scientific knowledge to be able to pick the stories apart.

The rhetorical observations that I will make in this post are not the, “How do di-lithium crystals regulate the flow of antimatter?” No, they are much less high-brow, but are rarely mentioned in the media.

For the flagship of the Federation, have you ever noticed how badly the Enterprise sucks? One hit from any modestly armed hostile enemy and everything breaks. They get attacked by a guy on a bicycle throwing newspapers at them, and all the panels explode, instantly killing all the dead-shirts on the bridge, the weapons go offline, the shields go down (along with Riker’s crap-filled pants), and the warp drive takes a nap. What are the instrument panels made out of? Is it dynamite? All that seems to be in them is a bunch of plastic cables, but the stuff must be really volatile. When the weapons stop working after the first hit, the crew of the Enterprise should start ripping open the control panels and hucking them at the Romulans, the Klingons, the Kardashians, Pee Wee Herman, or whoever it was that attacked them in the first place.

What are the panels made from?

It seems that we must be either too busy or too lazy to dress ourselves in the future. The only clothing we are permitted to wear consists of spandex onesies. Deep down, perhaps we are all unitards. The uniforms must be really uncomfortable, too, since the crew members are frequently tugging at their shirts to get them to flatten out. Would Picard set his Facebook status as, Just tugging it? If so, would Riker ask if he needed any help?

What is with Geordi’s visor? It looks like a hairclip, or two angry combs. How does he see better than other people with a comb in front of his eyes? Anytime they have ever shown what he is supposed to be seeing, it looks like someone pressed green and purple play dough onto a television screen. The fact that he does not ‘accidentally’ hit on Captain Picard is actually really surprising.

Who is that man sitting over there, Geordi?

If Data’s brain is positronic, shouldn’t it annihilate itself and explode when it comes in to contact with anything? Why are there so many LEDs in there when he opens his head? What purpose could they possibly serve? He can connect himself to the main computer for diagnostic purposes, but it would be cooler if he could also play MP3s for mood music, and do sound effects for dance parties. If his eyes could double as a projector, he could play movies on Blu-ray, but what slot would you insert the disc into?

Inside Data's brain.

Data frequently talks about his various subroutines: I have subroutines that regulate my breathing. The subroutines that mimic a random blinking of my eyelids is based on the Fourier series. As much as it would give me great pleasure to gut Wesley Crusher like a fish and pull out his spine, my ethical subroutines, sadly, prevent me from doing so. Yet, I find it unlikely that he would have been developed using a structured procedural-based paradigm. Tasha Yar once bragged to Deanna Troi that Data was equipped with a power drill, but she declined to state the size of the bit.

When the crew writes subroutines in a hurry of panic to save their lives, like to re-modulate the shields in some sort of rotating fractal kind of way, how do they always seem to make it work correctly the first time? Not once have they done the line, “Unrecognized symbol following bloop? Right, there needs to be a semicolon there. Let’s try compiling that again…” Followed by, “Runtime error: Index out of bounds exception? Crap! I always make that mistake; index should go from zero to less than N, not one to equal to N.” Of course not; because then they would all die in a massive explosion. “Out of memory error? Riker! Why is there 187 terraquads of memory allocated to your ‘entertainment’ program?  My apologies, Sir, but I will have to delete your Jenna Jameson holographic model if you wish to avoid death.”

What language would you suppose the computer of the Enterprise is programmed in? C, Pascal, COBOL, or Fortran? CBM BASIC? It could be Java, seeing as how often and easily the ship breaks, and how easily the command security can be compromised. Whatever it is, it involves a lot of yellow and blue button pressing. For all you programming geeks out there:

while (++Yellow | ~blue != aquamarine) {



They have bathrooms, with sinks that magically appear with the push of a button, but we never see any toilets with handles that need to be jiggled. I guess the futurists working on the show could not envision what a 24th century toilet bowl would look like. Or, maybe they just beam the poop directly from your colon and out into space. Imagine driving a motorcycle down a country road in the early evening. You are wearing an open-faced helmet and grimacing madly. There are thick dark clouds of gnats and blackflies everywhere. It is a very unpleasant experience. OK, now imagine flying along in space, and space is filled with all sorts of alien poop. You would have to pay the attendant extra to have that stuff cleaned off the windscreen.

Apparently, there is no money in the future, and I have a problem with that because it feels a bit too communist for my liking. Who performs the menial jobs without surly union laborers making $43.75 per hour? Machines, obviously, say the forums. Who designs, builds, and maintains the machines? Other machines, the Trekkies retort. I have seen that movie; it does not end well for humanity. Data demands of O’Brien, “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.”

Why do people give each other gifts? For example, Dr. Crusher gave Guinan a spiffy new tennis racquet for helping her work through a tough situation. She points out all of the new and wonderful design features of the racquet, but shouldn’t Guinan be able to replicate one for herself? Replicators may seem like a good idea, but I can envision pranks that consist of a room full of pumpkins. Remember, you have to select the scrolls first, and then drop the item to be replicated. Could I replicate myself? Would I really want to?

Speaking of pranks and O’Brien, a word of advice, do not enrage the transporter operator with puerile pranks. The next time you are sent to the surface of a planet, you might rematerialize a few meters above the ground, or without clothes and missing certain body parts that you are very fond of. Need a kidney? I will just beam one out of that guy over there. Can you imagine the shenanigans you could involve yourself in with a matter-energy converter transport system? Yet, sadly, they never do.

Would you like something blue to go with that?Why are all the drinks in the future blue or otherwise weirdly colored? And why does Guinan have such stupid looking hats? All she would have to do is look around and see that no one else is wearing a hat shaped like an octagonal serving tray, and I am sure she would take it off. They do still have some sense of self awareness in the future, no?

The hollow deck is pretty cool, but I am not really clear on how it is supposed to work, exactly. A holograph is light, but this one can kill you if the safety systems are turned off. Why would anyone design a system that has such a death_mode = on feature? Especially if it can be activated by accident, which it seems to do with an alarming frequency. Whatever, but I imagine that, with Riker around, someone would have to clean the floors pretty often, otherwise they would get really slick after just a few days. Sneak into the holodeck while Riker is in there, and say, “Computer! End program!” Then, take a picture of what is left: Riker in a solo conga line.

OneofWorfsHeadsDo you realize that Patrick Stewart was only 48 during the first season? Somehow, he looks older than my 90 year old grandmother did immediately before she died. No wonder I get grossed out every time he kisses Commander Riker, or whenever he takes the long hard one from Lieutenant Commander Worf. Let us assume that all of Worf’s heads have the same pattern of ridges…

What is with Picard having been born in France, but he is very clearly British? If he were really French, he would surrender every time he encountered a hostile. “I don’t know anything about your tactical capabilities, so to save us all the trouble of getting into a tussle, I surrender.” Maybe in the future the English have finally defeated the French.

In addition to the obvious questions, “Why is Picard bald? They haven’t discovered a treatment for baldness with any efficacy in the future?” all the Klingons have Worf-pattern-baldness. It is probably why Worf always looks so unhappy, even if he is having a good time. When everyone goes out to dinner, Worf would probably grumble, “This restaurant includes a 20% gratuity. Grrrr, Management has no honor.” Maybe not, though, because I can only presume Worf would be the last one to pick up the check. He would sit there all shifty-faced, patting his pockets feigning to look for his wallet that he left in his other unitard. Wait. They do not have money in the future. Again, how is that supposed to work?

They can track the location of anyone, anywhere on the Enterprise, unless they have removed their communicator. Without a communicator, people are impossible to find. Some crafty criminal mastermind escapes from a holding cell, but she promptly ditches her communicator in one of the turbo-tubes, and all of the security guys are instantly misdirected. Would you call that genius or obvious plot device?

How come the away-teams have handy flashlights, but nobody thinks to take a camera with them? I realize that it was the early ‘90s, and that handheld cameras had not yet been invented, but if Roddenberry could imagine a handheld device that can externally scan a person and instantly diagnose what is wrong with them, how come he could not imagine a smaller portable camera? It is always Picard asking Riker, “Describe to me what you are seeing, Number One.” “I’m seeing someone who should extend the budget to include portable cameras” Riker would snidely reply. Here is where Data’s eyes could be useful: make them transmit what he is seeing so that others may see it, too. Data would obviously want the capability of turning that feature off, especially for times when he needs his privacy. Do androids dream of electric porn?

What is the center of their universal coordinate system, and how come all of their tactical thinking is two-dimensional? They shout out headings and intercept vectors, but these things have to be centered on something in order for them to have any meaning. And, how come the Romulans have to go through or around the Federation’s embargo line, when they could just go over it. You do realize that spaceships can move in three-dimensions, right?

PicardsNipplesWhy do we have to keep seeing Picard’s hairy nipples, especially in seasons three through five? Were they going somewhere with that theme? He seems to always be passed out on a la-chaise with his robe open and one nipple showing. The least believable part of the Star Trek franchise is not that faster than light travel (fatter than light in the cases of Riker and Kirk) is possible, it is that all the teenage girls were expected to go crazy over Patrick Stewart’s nipples. Just imagine Ron Jeremy as the captain of the Enterprise. “Lieutenant Commander Troi to the Captain’s ready room!” It would not be a video I would ever want to rent. Well, maybe if it did not show up on my hotel receipt.

Did you know that much of the Star Trek vernacular gets red underlined by speel cheeckers? The future is imperfect.

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