February 19, 2012

Biggest "suspension of disbelief" moments in sci-fi entertainment

One needs a suspension of disbelief to enjoy science fiction. This is just a basic fact of the genre. But for total enjoyment, the suspension has to be, well, plausible. For instance, with Star Trek, there are actually working theories about how an interstellar warp drive could work. (This doesn't absolve Trek overall, though, not by any means.) Wormholes, another means by which scifi writers use faster-than-light travel, are also hypothetically possible. Hell, even time travel now has more of a concrete scientific basis, going backwards in time (usually assumed to be impossible) included. But scifi writers can still push the ... "boundaries" of this necessary suspension of disbelief, most especially when it comes to current technology. This leads to B.S.O.D.M. -- "Biggest Suspension of Disbelief Moments." These are the moments when we set aside the necessary suspension and say, "C'mon." Here are but a few examples; I'm certain there are many, many more:

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The end of Predator. This Arnold classic deserves its popularity. The premise is fairly sound, the action is first-rate, and the alien rocks. I enjoy the film ... right up until the last few minutes. Arnold successfully lures the Predator into his trap, and has him dead to rights after the massive tree trunk falls on the creature. But the alien then activates a wrist device which begins to make a classic "countdown" sound ...

The B.S.O.D.M . First, Arnold -- a superbly trained special forces operative -- stands there for precious seconds "figuring out" what the Predator is doing. Dude! I know what that sound means; why don't you?? Second -- and this is the biggie -- Arnie barely makes it some 400 meters away when the Pred's tactical nuke detonates. We see that the EMP from the nuke causes some of the electronics on Arnie's rescue chopper to fry, yet when the smoke clears, there's our hero ... just a bit singed. The pressure wave, the heat and the sound alone should have been enough to off Arnold, despite him managing to find a small crevice in which to hide.

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The Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Aside from the fact that their inclusion totally ruined the first trilogy, was there anyone who actually believed the rebels needed their [military] assistance?


We've analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a
danger: They have sticks and rocks.

The B.S.O.D.M. During the battle to destroy the shield generator on Endor, the Ewoks are knocking out Imperial troops -- who're wearing armor, mind you -- with rocks, spears and arrows. If those visually appealing white exo-suits ain't doin' their actual job, take 'em the hell off, Imperials. This is the empire that can build moon-sized space stations, but can't provide its troops with basic equipment? YEESH.

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Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day. Aliens who've been watching Earth since at least the 1940s finally decide it's time to invade -- and only cable TV guy Jeff Goldblum can figure everything out.

The B.S.O.D.M. Not only is Goldblum the only dude who figures out there's a hidden signal coming from the aliens, he later writes a computer virus which disables the entire alien network! Considering that Jeff's 1996 virus couldn't disable a [human] computer today with up-to-date anti-virus protection, it is beyond laughable that interstellar-traveling aliens do not have system protection thousands of magnitudes better.

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The moon in Space: 1999. We recently covered a possible Space revival; the original premise was that a nuclear waste dump on the moon explodes -- and acts as a giant "engine" which propels our satellite away from its orbit.

The B.S.O.D.M. Sci-fi god Isaac Asimov, among others, rightly laughed -- hard -- at this ludicrous premise. First, a nuke explosion powerful enough to knock Luna from its orbit (let alone act as an "engine") would obliterate it. Second, how does even a makeshift nuclear "engine" manage to propel a whole world to speeds which will enable it to encounter far-off worlds in other solar systems ... in human lifetimes?

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Trans-warp beaming in 2009's Star Trek. Personally, I dug the reimagined Trek and the lengths JJ Abrams went through to include connections to the original "universe" and this new, alternate one. But shortly after Jim Kirk and original universe Spock discover Scotty on the base on that frozen planet, I said "WTF?"

The B.S.O.D.M. Original universe Spock informs [alternate universe] Scotty of his theory of "trans-warp beaming." No, Scotty hasn't invented it yet, so naturally Spock fills him in (adding more muddle to the new timeline and all that jazz). But this is besides the point. If Scotty developed a means to actually beam things through space faster than light -- with such precision that Kirk and himself materialize on the Enterprise with only minor hassles (Scotty pops up in the ship's fusion water tubes -- D'OH!), why in the f*** does Starfleet still need ships? All you gotta do is beam people to different worlds!


Posted by Hube at February 19, 2012 09:17 AM | TrackBack

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Now, wait just a second. In the original Hulk comic book, Bruce Banner takes off into the detonation zone of the Gamma Bomb, because he sees Rick Jones tooling around in his jeep on a dare. Dr Banner chases after Mr Jones, and throws him into a ditch, to safety, but the Gamma Bomb detonates before Dr Banner can fall into the dich himself, and thus the Hulk was born, while Mr Jones was unscathed.

If it worked for Rick Jones, it would have worked for the Governator!

Posted by: Dana at February 19, 2012 06:48 PM

BSODM: Total Recall: That Arnold Schwarzeneggar wouldn't do everything Sharon Stone told him to do; any heterosexual male would do anything Sharon Stone told him to do!

BSODM: Total Recall: That after the alien reactor pumps enough oxygen into Mars' atmosphere to support life, it's 70 F and sunny, and not still -40 F (or -40 C; that's the point at which they are the same).

BSODM: Star Trek: In the episode where the transporter splits everything into two, and Lt Sulu and a landing party are down on a planet where the temperature drops to -180 F at night, no one in the entire crew thought to send down a shuttlecraft to get them. And when sending down electric heaters didn't work, because they duplicated, no one thought to beam down blankets!

Posted by: Dana at February 19, 2012 06:58 PM

I probably should have included a bit about Star Trek away missions always beaming somewhere with just their standard uniforms. Never a need for a jacket or sunglasses, or whatever.

Posted by: Hube at February 20, 2012 09:33 AM

"why in the f*** does Starfleet still need ships? All you gotta do is beam people to different worlds!"

Force projection. We can fly people across the world now but we still have a Navy.

Posted by: Duffy at February 21, 2012 07:37 AM

Yeah, I get that, Duff. But just think -- Starfleet beaming a whole regiment into a Romulan garrison on some disputed world ... just like the famed Iconians did! Now that would scare the beejeebees out of enemy forces, wouldn't you say? ;-)

Posted by: Hube at February 21, 2012 07:41 AM

BSODM (Ok technically this one is not SF, but it's Rambo): in Rambo 2 he's flying an unarmed helicopter and comes up against a Soviet Hind, which he dispatched with a LAW fired through where his windshield used to be. Behind Sly, miraculously, the recovered POWs are not turned into crispy critters by the rocket's back blast.

Posted by: Steve Newton at February 22, 2012 09:28 AM

"Nuke the Fridge," anyone?

Posted by: LS at February 22, 2012 04:47 PM

Good one, LS! (Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, FYI everyone.)

Posted by: Hube at February 22, 2012 05:02 PM