September 05, 2009

"FAILS" in Star Wars designs

...courtesy of one of my favorite scifi authors John Scalzi.

They all make sense to me, although I had a few issues with his beef against the Death Star. Scalzi writes:

An unshielded exhaust port leading directly to the central reactor? Really? And when you rebuild it, your solution to this problem is four paths into the central core so large that you can literally fly a spaceship through them? Brilliant. Note to the Emperor: Someone on your Death Star design staff is in the pay of Rebel forces.

Well, in "Star Wars," the exhaust port was shielded -- against beam weapons. That's why the Rebel leader prior to the final attack against the Death Star says that all attacking craft will have to use proton torpedoes. So, why wasn't the port protected against something like those? That's a good question, although like anywhere else in the universe, designers can't think of everything. And the Rebel leader did say that the Empire didn't consider individual fighter craft to be any threat to the D.S. Which, if the Rebs didn't snatch the D.S. plans, would have been -- and remained -- the case!

As for the second Death Star, I think Scalzi is being unfair. That D.S. was still very much under construction. That's why, after all, the Rebels were able to fly their craft through its interior to destroy its central power core. It's logical to assume that once it was completed, this would be rectified (as with, hopefully, the exhaust port problem!).

Scalzi also takes on Star Trek. Some of these beefs, however, are merely aesthetic. Scalzi doesn't like Starfleet's uniforms nor how the Borg look. OK, fine. Hardly "FAILs," though. But he's dead-on about holodeck technology:

In fact brilliantly designed (except for the fact that it's a little too easy to override the safety protocols, and, you know, die), but none of the movies ever addresses what anyone who's ever thought seriously about holodecks knows: Given that it's hard enough to get some MMORPG players today to take care of their basic bodily needs with Cheetos and moist towelettes, what's keeping the entire population of the Federation from queuing up the "Roman orgy" recreation, stepping into a holodeck, and never ever coming out again? If you say "they have to eat," allow me to introduce you to the magic of the food replicator.

Indeed. That's actually a problem with the whole of the Trek-verse -- with Earth now a virtual utopia, why on Earth would anyone want to risk their hide in service to Starfleet?

I think Scalzi is a bit mistaken about the V'Ger probe from the first Trek film, too. He writes:

In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a Voyager space probe gets sucked into a black hole and survives (GAAAAH), and is discovered by denizens of a machine planet who think the logical thing to do is to take a bus-size machine with the processing power of a couple of Speak and Spells and upgrade it to a spaceship the size of small moon, wrap that in an energy field the size of a solar system, and then send it merrily on its way. This is like you assisting a brain-damaged raccoon trapped on a suburban traffic island by giving him Ecuador.

If memory serves, the denizens of that machine planet (often speculated that they were Borg) didn't outfit the Voyager probe with all that junk right away. As they set the craft back on its way home (Earth), the [since-modified] Voyager accumulated the majority of its technological enhancements on its approximately 70K light-year sojourn.

Posted by Hube at September 5, 2009 08:45 AM | TrackBack

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