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Star Trek: Pick A Plot 650

Posted by chrisd
from the we're-still-gonna-line-up-for-em dept.
Vinnie_333 writes "This article on the New York Times sounds out on the often repetitive plots of the 10 Star Trek films to date (this include ST: Nemesis, coming soon). It refers to the film franchise as '10 films with 5 plots' and lays them all out in front of you. This does have a ring of truth. As a fan of Sci Fi (but not particularly Star Truck), I have to admit that there are only so many unique plots out there, and most of them have been well used by HG Well's time. Star Trek is, after all, a genre franchise and the story lines are held back by certain restrictions of the genre." I personally would pay Berman/Braga et al $20 if they never have a holodeck or time-travel-based plot ever again.
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Star Trek: Pick A Plot

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  • by JWBsDad (528480) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:11PM (#4247302) Journal
    when you have such great acting?
    • I remember being at scifi convention years ago, soon after Next Generation started. Gene Roddenberry was there, doing a Q&A session. At one point, a 4 year old boy sitting on his dad's shoulders raises his hand. Gene smiles, and calls on the boy. The kid asks..."Does Wesley have to save the ship every week?"

      Gene coughed and said they were working on it.

    • Who... Needs... A... Plot...

      When... You... Have... Such... Great... Acting...
  • This is OLD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FortKnox (169099)
    As a fan of Sci Fi (but not particularly Star Truck),

    How old are you? Munging up the names of something you don't like is something I did when I was 12. Come on, you guess can be a little mature, can't you?

    FYI - I'm not standing up for Star Trek. I don't like it much either.
  • $20 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Capt. DrunkenBum (123453) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:11PM (#4247306) Homepage
    I personally would pay Berman/Braga et al $20 if they would just sit down and watch "Wrath of Kahn." Trek as it should be, and seldom is.
    • The Wrath of Kahn DVD fucked up by not including the original ST Kahn episode, imo (which is the only one that counts).

      -C
    • Re:$20 (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DaytonCIM (100144)
      Star Trek: The Movie and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan were great! Then... sadly, they continued on and ended up making drivel. Spock dies, but then comes back in next movie. Kirk dies, but no it was a morph... hmmm... can you say regurgitation?

      The NextGen movies weren't much better. And it's sad, because there are some pretty cool story lines they could have come up with. Just as in Voyager, they would come up with an interesting idea, but never play it out. The shows writers and producers always wanted to create a problem and solve it in one episode.

      But oh well... we have Star Wars... oh no, never mind George didn't dive too deep into his creative pool for the new films.

      I guess we just have to wait for the new Spidey film(s) and the next 2 LoTR movies. Maybe someone can convince Tim Burton and Michael Keaton to team again and do another Batman? Or maybe John Woo can step up and do a Justice League movie...
      • Re:$20 (Score:3, Informative)

        by Fweeky (41046)
        Look out for the movie(s) based on Greg Bear's Forge of God [amazon.co.uk] and Anvil of Stars [amazon.co.uk] books.

        They might not suck, even if I can think of 10 much better books-that-should-be-films off the top of my head.
  • I'll throw in $20 as well. Let's see if we can buy Hollywood like they buy Washington.
    • I too will pitch in! Maybe hollywood will find it more profitable if they LISTEN to their fanbase, rather than alienate them, and punish them
    • Let's be honest - the reason we hate holodeck episodes is that we don't get to see what I'm sure 99.98% of holodeck time is actually used for (and don't pretend you don't know what I mean).

      I don't know.... <font class="sarcasm"> what about an episode where they travel back in time to make sure that holodecks are invented, thus supplying crew members with much needed futuristic pr0n on those five-year / ongoing / accidental missions...? </font>
  • by Dausha (546002) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:12PM (#4247317) Homepage

    Well, if you really want to admit it, there are only about three plots. You have Man against Nature, Man against Man and Man against Himself.

    I would suppost that Man against computer (or Superman against computer) could be any of the above.

    • by THB (61664) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:21PM (#4247375)
      Those are actually types of conflict, not plots. There is a difference.
    • by mikeee (137160) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:23PM (#4247393)
      No, no, no:

      "In film you will find four basic story lines. Man versus man, man versus nature, nature versus nature, and dog versus vampire."
      - Steven Spielberg

    • I thought it was

      Man -vs- Man, Man -vs- Nature, and Man -vs- The Empire Brain Building.

      (no one will get this...)

    • by mblase (200735) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:45PM (#4247571)
      ...that there are only five basic plots worth writing about in existence. They boil down to Romance (good person meets true love), Redemption (bad man turns good), Justice (good person is elevated), Tragedy (good person is fallen), and Quest (good person saves everything). Whether the person in question is in conflict with one other, many others, nature, or himself, they all come down to that.

      So "Star Trek" tends to be formulaic. So what? So's everything else that's ever been written; it's a matter of how well it's written that draws or repels us, which is why "The Wrath of Khan" is so popular and "Generations" is less so.
    • Actually there are 36 major plots, as detailed by the book, Thirty Six Dramatic Situations [barnesandnoble.com]. This is a great (and very hard to find) book. 36 isnt an exact number, but its definatley most of them. The book gives each of the plots and common variations, twists ... once you read this book it will ruin storytelling for you forever :) Read with caution...

      As an example of one of the dramatic situations: stranger comes from the heavens, has the power to heal people (and does so), is misunderstood and hunted by authorities. Dies, is resurcted, and ascends to the heavens ... jesus or ET? :)

    • Plot vs. Motif (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pmancini (20121) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `inicnamp'> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:46PM (#4247584) Homepage
      There are so many places they could go with their plot motifs (Man vs. Himself can be seen in the motif of a stranded person surving the odds and their personal self-doubt until rescued, for example.) Science fictions offers endless variety of these!

      Cambellian science fiction was all about asking "What if?" Where has that gone with this franchise? Technobabble, non-sense and special effects usually. The problem Trek has been accused of often is not thinking about the consequences of certain technologies. Great examples are missed opportunities with cloaking and teleportation or explaining how the toilets on the Enterprise work (if in fact they are connected in some obscure way with the food replicator).

      In stead of asking a What If question about technology we are usually instead given a song and dance routine by Data, a sexual episode between data and a real woman, a lame space battle (sit down B5 folks already) or some dumb ass plot where they come across a planet populated ONLY by Gangsters/Sou Chefs/Half Naked Californians.

      Oh, and one more plot about dystopia and I will scream.

      I'm not asking that they make their movies as stunningly boring as, say anything written by Robert L. Forward (*great* scientist - lousy story teller in my humble opinion). But get some real writters: David Brin, Greg Bear, Vernor Vinge even! These guys could take that Franchise where No Science Fiction Franchise has ever gone before!

      Well, that's my piece. Thanks for listening.
      --Peter
      • by Latent Heat (558884) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @05:36PM (#4247902)
        The reason 'Kahn is head and shoulders above any other Star Trek, movie or TV, classic or NG, is that Kirk is so down-to-earth.

        He takes a ship out with a training crew, doesn't follow Mr. Savik (Kirstie Allie's) advice about raising deflectors when the Grissom doesn't respond and gets the guts tore out of the Enterprise. We then find that the Federation has some kind of gadget they shouldn't be messing with, and the designer is the progeny of Kirks chronic "fooling-around" having caught up with him, who is as bloody-minded as the old-man Kirk himself. And to straighten out the whole mess, Kirk ends up sacrificing his best friend Spock.

        This thing with Kahn is sort of like Bush and Saddam -- we know that Kahn is crazy, but if you think about it, Kahn has some legitimate grievances that Kirk has on his conscience.

        There is no other Star Trek that gives that level of character development to either Kirk or Kirk's nemesis.

        On the subject of the decline of Trek, the technobable bugs me the worst -- I saw this promo piece with Levar Burton explaining that they write "technobable" as a line in the script to call on a consultant to fill something in.

        Classic Trek didn't have techno-babble. Enterprise would get enveloped with some kind of multi-color thing, Kirk would bark "Spock, what is that?" and Spock would stare into his science station Tektronix terminal hood and say "I don't know, it isn't registering on our sensors." Compared to NG, Classic Trek was high concept -- they wouldn't try to explain it like one shouldn't try to explain the Monolith in 2001.

        • by geoswan (316494) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @07:33PM (#4248522) Journal
          Hey, mod this guy up. This post contains some new and interesting thoughts.

          Yes, the technobabble aspect really bugged me too. "Assume a synchronous orbit above the South Pole." Sheesh.

          Now I am going to repeat some stuff I pointed out in an earlier Star Trek thread.

          Nicholas Meyer [imdb.com] saved Star Trek. The original star trek series was cancelled -- early -- with only 79 episodes in the can. Roddenbery had blown his wad producing Star Trek: The Motionless Picture, which, at $35,000,000 in 1979 dollars [imdb.com] was a very expensive bomb. Meyer directed ST:twok for just $11,000,000 [imdb.com]. Not only was it the best ST movie. But it was the cheapest, and the most lucrative.

          Meyer wrote ST: The Voyage Home and ST: The Undiscovered Country, and directed ST:tuc.

          Like Michael Crighton Meyer didn't go to film school, he went to Medical school.

          Oh yeah, ST:twok is my favourite ST movie. And Galaxy Quest [imdb.com] is my second favourite.

  • Ship fights (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RedWolves2 (84305)
    They need to go back to good old ship fights. Star Trek Insurrection is the example I am talking about multiple ships in combat and close quarters combat towards the end of the movie.
    • I like star trek, but the battles leave something to be desired, they're relatively slow and repetative, ship swoops, fires phasers, other ships helm explodes, repeat, except in the dominion war :D they had federation fighters!!!!
    • Re:Ship fights (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RichMan (8097)
      There's Klingons off the starboard bow,
      starboard bow,

      Personally I find the ship fights the hardest to watch. They have less complexity than your average 1800's cannon battle. And seem to occur at about the same relative ranges between ships.

      Some of the old trek had the best stuff. It was at least based on WWII sub fights.

      No release of active diffusive substances or "warping of space" to defocus/redirect laser/phaser shots. If you have artificial gravity powerful enough to go from 0-0.9 light in seconds without ending up splattered you can make some pretty good gravity lenses.
      No active point defense systems.
      No multi-warhead systems.
      No sensor confusion technology.

      These are just technology effects that are in use now on the battle field.

      No use of space time delay (except in the one fantastic occurance). The moon is 1 second away. The sun is 8 minutes away. The sun could blow up now we would not see it for 8 minutes. So any time the say "opps" there goes the star/planet they should have to wait 8 minutes (or other time) to see/feel it.
      No use of gravity well orbital mechanics.
      No 2D battle concepts (windage and fore/aft shots of cannon ships, lines and wedges.
      No 3D battle concepts, cones, globes, wedges, conveyor belts.

      Still some of the worst gravity well/ non-Newtonian physics based "space" environments. You can classify it as "fantasy" as it certainly is not based on physics as we know it.
  • Technobabble... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bonker (243350) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:13PM (#4247320)
    I read an article about TNG production a little while back. Rather than coming up with a exotic particle/lifeform/radition of the week to save the day, TNG scriptwriters would often just write in a placeholder to be replaced with a tech-adviser's technobabble at a later date.

    Scripts would look as so:

    GEORDI: Let's [technobabble] the main thrusters so that we can [technobabble] the Borg.

    Etc...
    • Re:Technobabble... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ErfC (127418) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:41PM (#4247546) Homepage
      GEORDI: Let's [technobabble] the main thrusters so that we can [technobabble] the Borg.

      I heard a while back that Levar Burton was so used to technobabble that he would generally just ignore whatever's in the script and ad lib something, and his ad libs usually sounded better. Which makes sense -- he'd been spouting technobabble every working day for years.

    • by nEoN nOoDlE (27594) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:49PM (#4247606) Homepage
      I think Futurama had the best Star Trek script writing "formula",

      Fry: Well, usually on the show somebody would come up with a complicated plan then explain it with a simple analogy

      Leela: If we can reroute engine power through the primary weapons and reconfigure them to Mellvar's frequency, that should overload his electro-quantum structure!

      Bender: Like putting too much air in a balloon!

      Fry: Of course! It's so SIMPLE!
    • by CleverNickName (129189) <wil@wilwheato[ ]et ['n.n' in gap]> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @05:09PM (#4247732) Homepage Journal
      Actually, it would go something like this:


      INT. ENTERPRISE-BRIDGE --LATER.

      PICARD
      Ensign Crusher, report.

      WESLEY
      Aye, Sir. The TECH is a result of TECH TECH TECH with a TECH pulse. I've remodified the sensor array to TECH the TECH TECH. I've also seen TECH and TECH --

      PICARD
      Thank you, Ensign.

      WESLEY
      There's more sir, TECH TECH TECH TECH...

      DATA
      TECH!

      PICARD
      Thank you, Mister Data. Ensign Crusher, that's all I need to know.

      WESLEY
      But sir, I TECH--

      PICARD
      That's enough, Ensign!

      There is a tense beat.

      WESLEY
      (quietly)
      TECH.

      The Enterprise is ROCKED by an explosion
      ...at least, that's how I recall it. YMMV. =]
      • A song by Voltaire [mp3s.com] springs to mind. I first discovered this song in a prior /. post, although I can't seem to remember what it was. He's got a few other ST-related songs [mp3s.com] that you'll find if you scroll down sufficiently. They range from highly amusing to highly twisted.

        On a quasi-related note, I was watching TNG last night on the Star Trek & White Trash network, and I happened upon an episode from the first season, called "Justice". In this episode, Wesley is condemned to death for falling into some flowers on a planet ruled by half-naked nymphomaniac hippie love-children. It made me realize just how much the show managed to improve over the years.

        As for you, Wil, I really gotta hand it to you. I remember in your interview, you said that you had little to no say over the lines you were given. Watching that episode, it became clear to me that whoever wrote the script either didn't realize you were over the age of ten, or rather was himself somehow spawned on a rockbed, skipping adolescence entirely. I've done some improv and other acting through college myself, and one of the most difficult things for a young actor to do is to swallow his pride and follow his director, however inane that direction might be. Personally, I think you did a terrific job with what you were given. I've been in that position on stage plays, with all my friends and family sitting in the audience, waiting for them to pounce on me later for something that was the product of poor writing/direction.

        I'll admit, when I first watched TNG as a relatively wee lad, I didn't much like Wesley's character. Still, I did know the difference between actor and character, and I was secretly jealous as hell, watching someone who was only a few years older than me and got to work on Star Trek!! I was also pleased to see the writers wise up and let Wesley start kicking some ass in later episodes, culminating with his eventual transubstantiation to deity-hood with an intergalactic "elder on the hill". I was kinda scratching my head at that one for a while, but concluded that it was a better way to go than being killed by a an greasy sentient Hefty bag in the middle of a living puddle of muck, as was the case with Denise Crosby. Best, I can figure from the special effects, the cause of death was "fatal birthmark on face".

        Anyway, it's always interesting to see how it was for you on the show, especially since you're the member of the cast to which most /.-ers can most easily relate. And I'm pleased to see you popping up in User Friendly [userfriendly.org] these days. Will wonders never cease...

        /* Steve */
      • Fight scene:

        PICARD
        I am sick and tired of all this horse TECH.

        WESLEY
        Well if you don't like it, then stuff the TECH up your TECH until it TECH!

        DATA
        Please stop it, both of you, or I will disassemble your molecules and put them into the TECH.

        PICARD
        Shut up Data, or I will wire your ass to your TECH!

        DATA
        Well, sir, as a matter of fact, I have actually already completed that very alteration after Riker suggested it to me earlier today. I assumed it was a literal command, but perhaps that was not a correct interpretation on my part.
        • Memories (Score:3, Interesting)

          This reminds me of a time on the set, when we were filming "Datalore."

          Brent was going through his lines, playing both Data and Lore, and he noticed that Data was given a line where he was using a contraction.

          Brent called the director, first AD, and script supervisor over, and asked them to clarify Brent's understanding that Data did not use contractions.

          The phone calls began, and went all the way to Gene's office, before the answer came back, "Data should not use contractions, ever."

          This ended up being a plot point later in the show, as Lore's use of something like "Isn't" or "Wouldn't" or "Bitch Ass Monkey Mouth" revealed his true identity.

          Funny..I just thought it was cool that you didn't use any contractions in your Data lines...and that sparked this memory that is 14 years old.
  • by DeafDumbBlind (264205) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:13PM (#4247322)
    Not trying to flame. I used to be a big fan of the original as well as TNG.
    However, the plotlines in B5 were far superior to anything on StarTrek, IMHO of course.
    Also, no Wesley Crusher type characters :-)

  • by Target Drone (546651) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:13PM (#4247323)
    If it wasn't for the predictable plots you couldn't play The Star Trek the Drinking Game [google.ca].
  • Holodeck (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Quixotic137 (26461)
    I personally would pay Berman/Braga et al $20 if they never have a holodeck or time-travel-based plot ever again.

    Agreed, though the holodeck episodes in TNG with Moriarty were a pretty good take on AI and the rights of artificial life forms.

  • Holodeck plots (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 1010011010 (53039) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:16PM (#4247334) Homepage
    I think some of the ST:TNG shows with the holodeck and time-travel plots were fun (e.g., when Mark Twain was a character on the show). I like them for the same reason I like the "Q" episodes. YMMV, I suppose.
    • by GrouchoMarx (153170) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:31PM (#4247453) Homepage
      Rule #1 about Star Trek time travel plots: If the crew goes back in time, it's good. If the crew is visited by someone from the future, it's bad.

      Seriously, think about it. "Voyage Home", good. "Time's Arrow" (TNG, Mark Twain), ok. "Past Tense" (DS9, American ghetos in the 21st centry), good. "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (TOS, airforce thinks Enterprise is UFO), ok.

      Compare those to the Voyager finale, crap. The episode where Worf's son comes back from the future to kill himself, dumb. Anything in Voyager involving the Starfleet Time Cops from the future, ugh.

      The weird one is the Voyager episode where the crew is attacked by someone from the 29th century and is thrown back to 1996. It has a little of each, but in the end they kill Bill Gates, so that episode officially rocks. :-)

      Think about it, it really is true. Of course, that does not bode well for "Enterprise", as their big plot arc is all about being visited by the Voyager Time Cops over and over again. *groan*
      • Think about it, it really is true. Of course, that does not bode well for "Enterprise", as their big plot arc is all about being visited by the Voyager Time Cops over and over again. *groan*

        Braga can't resist going for the cookie jar. Expect the temporal cold war premise of the first season to get chucked out over night once he gets the go ahead to throw the romulan war into the series. (i.e. when the ratings continue their downward trend)
    • I am rather surprised that Q hasn't been a movie plot, though I suppose a conflict with the Romulans were a bit overdue too. Q was involved in the first AND last TNG episodes... sort of a hallmark of the series.

      However, a Romulan-based plot could be postponed in order to use John Delancy (sp?) before he gets too old. I mean, how much should an immortal, omnipotent being age? I would say not too much.

      Additionally, once upon a time, I heard a vague and unreliable rumor that they were going to kill Data because Spiner decided that he was type-cast. (And I suppose being typecast as a single character that is impossible to duplicate elsewhere would be somewhat limiting ;-)

  • Plot, splot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mmoncur (229199) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:17PM (#4247341) Homepage
    The writers of Star Trek aren't held back by anything other than their own incompetence. There are a million potential plots out there. For that matter, well-written characters and dialog can make a trite plot into a fine film.

    Granted, many plots were used by Wells or Bradbury or Burroughs long ago, but if you simplify things down to that level everything starts to look the same. If you wrote a 1-paragraph summary of all of the romantic comedy films ever made, for example, it would look like this:

    "Two characters who at first seem to have insurmountable differences meet and, through a series of comic moments, fall in love. A complication threatens to dash their hopes, but at the last moment everything works out."

    That doesn't mean all of these films are without value. Just most of them.
    • Indeed, the measure of a plot is its lack of formula or stereotype.

      Look at Home Improvement. Same goddamn show every week. The sequence of events was almost always the same.

      1) Someone has a problem.
      2) Tim gives shitty advice.
      3) Tim goes to his neighbor.
      4) Tim get's the gist (jist? sp?) of that advice, but misrepeats it for a cheap laugh
      5) Problem solved
      6) Tim blows something up

      Star Trek generally follows a formula but it's not nearly as bad as home improvement.

      Saying that ST lacks originality because all of the good ideas have been taken is a cop-out - yes, the bar has been raised, and it's hard to be completely original every week, but ST is just plain formulaic.

      Gibson, for example, never ceases to surprise me.
    • Re:Plot, splot (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MaxVlast (103795)
      That's why I'm so completely disappointed with Enterprise. It seems to be Voyager with darker sets. They have an amazing opportunity, and they seem to be blowing it. Even the time travel thing is stupid: why rely of plot gimmicks from the future when you have a world of opportunity available in your basic premise.
      • Re:Plot, splot (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JabberWokky (19442)
        It could have thrown back to the original Orion Pirates, a thriving slave trade (green women, yay!), and lots of drinking: Saurian Brandy, Romulan Ale and Irish Whiskey. It could have been balls to the wall gritty, a new species around every corner, each angry and horny and wanting to get their blaster out first, green and blue and howling. It could have involved tech that breaks down all the time, alien sex and fistfights in a bar full of strange critters that don't ask questions.

        In other words, it could have been the Trek that fans write about, that the pro authors write about, that is faintly visible at the edges of Starfleet (Picard getting stabbed through his heart in a bar fight with Naussicans in his youth, the Caith dancer in STV:TUC (the catgirl), Rura Penthe, and so on...). It is shifted a bit towards that, but damn - the premere was so tantalizing, and they wound up going to the familiar gloss. If you're gonna do sex, do sex - not camera pans over a decontamination process. If you're gonna do violence, kickass and screw the bubble gum, *do* it - torture, barfights, and slavery.

        This is the prefederation universe - before Star Fleet was formed to patrol and help the member worlds. I see no real reason why there's any reason for the Federation - things aren't that bad. Show us the grit, the dirt, the machine oil encrusted ships that are patched together with sweat and duct tape and run by aliens who don't give a damn about humanity.

        Enterprise isn't about a group of races working together - it's about humans going out and tearing and clawing a place in the local galaxy. Only it's too much like TNG, where things are polished and peaceful.

        Bah.

        --
        Evan (who wants a chick painted green to pop out of his next birthday cake)

        • by MaxVlast (103795)
          Right on, you bad-ass motherfucker.

          I want to see fights and green women with three breasts and I want to see a member of the crew get iced just because it's Wednesday. And I want to see dialog that doesn't sound like a freshman ethics class.
    • Re:Plot, splot (Score:3, Informative)

      by fm6 (162816)
      Don't blame the writers. The franchise is notorious for underpaying and even cheating [kithrup.com] writers. They seem to think that writers are like teamsters -- you only hire them because they have a strong union. So they spend millions on a special effects, and a few thousand on writing. Who neeeds a story, as long as you got lots of Good Stuff?
  • And? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:17PM (#4247344) Homepage
    Don't all the Bond movies essentially have about three or four plots? What about Police Academy? Indeed, is there any series of movies that *doesn't* have the same few plots repeated again and again?
    • Indeed, is there any series of movies that *doesn't* have the same few plots repeated again and again?

      I think you're right about series being predictable. I can't imagine PBS' Moll Flanders having a sequel. What other taboo could she break? What would it be called?

      'Ho strikes back!'
      'Return of the Ho!'
  • .. not for this drivel, at least.

    5 plots? I can sum up 99% of 'em with this:

    I stopped being a fan a couple years into TNG.

    It just became apparent that anything the 'franchise' does is just drying to squeeze a little more milk out of the cash cow. It's hardly good science fiction anymore.

    1) Big problem (alien, wormhole, time-loop, computer malfunction) presents itself.

    2) Bunch of yammering and melodrama and crappy dialogue, of the hollywood breed, which they no doubt think is interesting.

    3) 5 minutes into the end of the show Geordi (or whoever) goes 'I got it!' and yammers out some nonsense techno-babble which solves the problem.

    They could at least throw in a bunch of cool special effects, something.

    IMO the franchise has been coasting on nostalgia for years, god only knows how long it will last, though.

    Thats not to say that there's much better on TV. I plan on watching Smackdown! tonight, it's as intellectual as anything else on the toob.
    • IMO the franchise has been coasting on nostalgia for years, god only knows how long it will last, though.

      I stopped downloading enterprise episodes a few months ago. Still watch stargate sg1, and have all the dvd's, but trek does seem to be slowing down even for a big fan (not nerdy gimp) like myself.
    • It just became apparent that anything the 'franchise' does is just drying [sic] to squeeze a little more milk out of the cash cow. It's hardly good science fiction anymore.

      "Space opera," not "science fiction." The latter is something Star Trek never was, nor ever seriously intended on being.
  • Hmm, and if /. has any more articles on Star Trek, it might be a good idea to have a little 'Star Trek' logo and category instead of 'Movies'....

    Just my 2 cents... or 2 strips of Gold Pressed Latinum I suppose.

  • ST:whatever can have origional storylines.. I have seen many many MANY Sci-Fi movies that had great plotlines but were crippled by the fact that they were B-movies.

    Space based Genre has a TON of room to move and segway into billions of plotlines...

    Hell look at LEXX... I dont think that rehashed anything and can fit in the ST universe...

  • by markwelch (553433) <markwelch@markwelch.com> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:24PM (#4247399) Homepage Journal
    One of the reasons Voyager was so interesting, at least when it launched, was that it didn't do what so many Sci-Fi films have done before: it didn't rescue the heroes. But then they had episodes where things went really bad for the crew, and they got fixed by time travel, and of course the final episode was simply absurd on about a zillion levels.

    Some of the holodeck subplots were interesting - the notion of 'addiction' by Lieutenant Barclay in ST:TNG. Extending the technology by introducing the Doctor in Voyager seemed okay, but then extending to other "photonic life" in several different ways became strange: apparently there was some photonic life that didn't appear to require actual computers or holo-emitters (the absurd episode in which Janeway must become a B-movie queen), and then later we again see photonic beings who do require computers/holo-emitters.

    Of course, the real issue is that so many sci-fi plot points are impossible under the laws of physics as they are generally known (whether we're talking about the 1960's or 2002): faster-than-light travel, time travel, transporters, warp fields, subspace communication. Breaking the rules is what enables the plots to get interesting, and of course we all hope/believe/fantasize that what we imagine might one day be possible, since any sufficiently advanced technology is magic (Clarke).

    What I find most troubling are gaping inconsistencies, often made worse by implausible explanations. In one episode, the scanners can identify a single individual among billions on a planet with super-advanced technology, and then in the next they can't scan to find out what's inside a wad of Kleenex (exaggeration).

    One of the absurd, and often annoying, plot devices that is also sometimes one of the more amusing, is the notion that this crew of a few hundred (really just a dozen or so people who seem to actually do everything) can invent new technologies in a few hours, with half the ship's systems disabled, while huge teams of dedicated scientists with vast resources could not accomplish such work (apparently the only major technology invented by humans but NOT invented on Enterprise or Voyager, was the non-damaging warp technology that was introduced on Voyager).

    No question about it: the last episode of "Enterprise" last year took away just about everything that showed promise in the series: the notion that they were less advanced, less able, less knowledgeable than the later crews.

  • by conan_albrecht (446296) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:24PM (#4247408)
    Why O Why do they not ask fans for help. Perhaps they have, but I do not remember it. Many ST fans know *everything* about the ST universe. They are usually geeks with quite informed and educated ideas about sci fi. Why not have a web page where fans can submit intelligent plots for new shows and films?

    I would bet the quality would be better and the originality would increase. Of course, I would think that Rick Berman and his writers would go through and professionalize the plots from the hollywood sense. But at least the ideas and general plot would come from those who live and die by the ST world: the fans!

    Perhaps I am placing too much confidence in those I've seen going to ST conventions and clubs. But then again, perhaps not. I'd personally pit them any day against a hollywood writer in coming up with original, science-based ideas.
  • 5 plots? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bahamat (187909)
    Ok, maybe so, but the categorization sucks. You can't lump Kahn in with Sybock (a gay vulcan), and Ru'Afo (a piece of drift wood).

    But what does it matter? It took voyager 7 seasons to come up with only 3 plots. In my estimation we're ahead of the game here.
  • I felt like the article lacked foundation. Sounds like the guy heard about a 30 second trailer that his cousin uncle saw and decided to flamebait every Star Trek fan.

    He uses extremely vague suppositions to catogorize the Star Trek series and doesn't even include every movie in his 5 plot categories.

    He might as well lump them all into the good versus evil category.

    I would have to say that even with redundant plots, each movie was entertaining in its own rights.

  • This is the 10th film. 10 is even, so the film is going to be good.

    Given that the TNG cast are all about ready for the knackers yard, can we presume that film 11 will be Voyager, and thus suck royally on at least two counts?

    Actually there were lots of things I liked about Voyager, but they're not the things that would make a good movie. Apart from 7 of 9. And it won't be that kind of movie, I'm sure.

    The Self-Made Critic [brunching.com] has a more detailed scoring scheme [brunching.com] for Star Trek movies in his review of Insurrection. We'll see how accurate it is after Nemesis.
    • what about the search for spock?, but yeah, otherwise the odd ones sucked, TMP and V were horrible, and generations was terrible, insurection was allright, but it wasnt as good as first contacy
  • Kind of off base (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Microsift (223381) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:27PM (#4247425)
    "The crew of the Enterprise goes back to an earlier century on Earth, to make sure that history happens as it should ("S.T. IV: The Voyage Home"; "S.T. VIII: First Contact")."

    This is an interesting interpretation of the Episode IV story-line. The crew did not go back in time to prevent someone from changing history as they did in VIII. Rather the crew went back in time to change history. The Borg didn't go back and kill the Whales, the humans did it all by themselves!

    Anyway, I'm not sure this guy watched either movie, and some of the Star Trek movies do suck, but the plots don't over lap that much...
  • by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:28PM (#4247436)
    ... it's about character. A good deal of both DS9 and TNG (arguably both really good shows, whether you like Trek or not) was about character interaction. I'll give you an example:

    There's an ep of DS9 where Will Riker's duplicate (transporter accident in an ep of TNG) stole the Defiant and went off to give the Cardassians hell.

    One could very easily dismiss that ep as "Oh geez, dude steals a ship, fires the guns a few times, and gives up when he's outnumbered. What an original plot. *sarcasm*"

    However, that wasn't the interesting part of the episode. The interesting part was WHY Riker's duplicate did this. He was stranded alone on a planet for 8 years. When he was recovered, he couldn't live up to success that the Riker that made it off the planet enjoyed.

    When you watch this ep, you're lead to believe that the Riker duplicate was going for the 'greater good' trying to uncover some Cardassian plot. What was really going on was he was hoping to quickly turn himself into a hero, even if it meant death for him.

    There were other interesting details of the episode, but I just wanted to make that little point: Plot isn't everything. Here's a case where scifi gave birth to a situation not likely to happen in reality, and gave the audience an interesting glimpse into a fictional world.

    Frankly, I think Enterprise would be a lot more popular if people understood this concept. The 'plot' of the episodes isn't the strong point, the development of the characters is. That's what it's all about.
    • You know, this is an interesting point. A lot of the plots we find refreshing and original in all fiction are, at their heart, boring rehashes. There just aren't that many effective actions anymore; if there's no rape, murder or suicide, it will take a lot more skill to get us callous viewers to care. However, the motivations of the characters are what makes everything seem refreshing. A man killing another man in rage is hackneyed, as is a man killing another for money. But a man killing another man for money, but who must pretend it was rage when caught to protect his employer, is a different plot entirely. And the difference of motivation need not be so complex...a simple juxtaposition of expected roles can make a plot seem refreshing as well -- I'm thinking of the surprise turn in Sixth Sense, which was refreshing even if it was predictable.

      Villains who are out for something besides pride, money or power are difficult to craft but make a plot so much more interesting. I like me a villain who doesn't consider himself one (and who, from a point of view, might not be...i'm talking Castro here, not Hitler), or a hero who wonders if he's working for the right cause.

      The trick of course is making all the characters act in ways that aren't typical to their typecast. Han Solo was original when he was written, when it became apparent he was truly in love with Leia and not merely a womanizer. Twenty years later I can't believe Hayden Christiansen, because his affair is almost a crystaline structure of love and war. There is no believable resistance to his affair with Padme. But of course, that may just be my own callousness and lack of disbelief through seven years of literary study.

      I wonder how these films look to my brother, who at 13 has yet to be inundated with cliche Sci-Fi?
  • holodeck, borg, holodeck, borg, aliens doing something to the crew and only seven and the doctor know whats going on, holodeck, something happens and only seven and the doctor know whats going on, holodeck....
  • No, not the travel back to earth in the past kind. Those really suck. But I really like the paradox and causality loop kind of things. Reaction being observed before the action and throwing everyone for a loop (pardon the pun). That last episode of STTNG, I really liked. I also liked some of the Voyager ones (and Janeway saying that she swore she'd never wanted to be in one). That 'Year of Hell' was a good one, too. Time Travel can be fun, as long as it isn't going back and revisiting a known past.
  • by RailGunner (554645) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:34PM (#4247472) Journal
    I think that one of the reasons the Star Trek franchise has been successful is the character development. Characters in the Star Trek series have tended to have much better depth then characters on many other shows. Fans of the Trek series learn character's backgrounds, and gain insight as to WHY a character would react a certain way. The series also does not ignore culture, but makes it a part of that character (Spock and Worf, for example).

    Many of my favorite Star Trek episodes are the ones that take place almost entirely on the bridge - almost Shakesperean in the lack of different sets. The story is character driven, not event driven. The story becomes more about how the characters react to the situation, and how they interact with one another, and less about "Hey the Romulans just shot as us".

    An earlier poster is right, plot is defined as a struggle - whether it's man vs. man, man vs. nature, or man vs. himself. While unfortunately the Next Generation did use a lot of technobabble to save the day during the plot's climax, it's mostly forgivable - For the sake of the storyline we're supposed to accept the fact that Geordi LaForge and Data are *extremely smart*... Same goes for Spock on the Original Series. Other stories where the climax was resolved a different way, like through a violent confrontation it was usually Riker and Worf (or Kirk) who kicked ass and took names. When it was a tactical battle, it was Picard (or Kirk) who used his superior strategy to save the day. When it was a medical crisis, you could count on Pulaski or Crusher to handle it. (Or Bones..) There are a finite number of ways to resolve a conflict, and Star Trek seems to use all of them - even running away and asking Q to get them the hell away from the Borg.

    Other television shows, in my humble opinion, would be wise to take some cues from Star Trek and become more character driven and less event driven.

  • There are only a few stories to be told. One of the largest - the main story - goes something like this.


    1. Hero is confronted with unbeatable challenge / unsurmountable odds.

    2. Hero experiences personal growth/enlightenment

    3. Hero overcomes challenge / odds.


    The matrix? Star Wars? Lord of the Rings? There is nothing wrong with the recycling of ideas in film or books or anything. Its part of human nature.. there are only so many ideas.

    The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a book that explores this very idea. Its worth checking out.
  • by mactari (220786) <rufwork&gmail,com> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:37PM (#4247503) Homepage
    Umberto Eco points this out in his article The Myth of Superman (I'm afraid a quick google only turned up this synopsis [udel.edu], not the whole text). Here are some key quotes from that link, and, I assume, the article (come on, it's been nearly six years since I've read it! :^D Maybe I did earn that B.A. degree after all...). I try to recall a few more important bits below.

    Traditional mythic heroes were governed by a law, therefore these heroes were predictable and held no suprises for the audience.

    ... and ...

    Authors preferences are not considered when writing a novel. They are forced to write along the guidelines of a cultural model. In this case, "authors. . .construct on a small scale 'analogous' models which mirror the larger one."

    Basically the deal was that if you started at A and went to B, you might pass through C or D or E but your story must end up at A again or you'll have spoiled the myth.

    There's only so much a mythical figure can do (or mythos o' figures). Here are some of the more horrendous deviations from the "A leads to B leads to A again" that I can think of off-hand (a little Spidey-centric, I'm afraid):

    * The brilliant folk at Marvel kill off Aunt May. (She's back now)
    * The brilliant folk at Marvel decide Spider-Man is really a clone. (The clones have all disappeared now)
    * The brilliant folk at DC kill off Superman and then have several return. (I think we're back to one, but I don't read Superman)
    * Patrick Duffy leaves Dallas. :^) (Last season was a dream!)
    * Felix Lieter (sp) has his leg eaten by a shark in Licensed To Kill. (Haven't fixed that yet, but they did ditch Dalton, even if it isn't his fault that movie stunk to high heaven)

    This is why, I believe, these fictional stories rarely do things that are irreversable, like have Peter Parker age [much] or main characters get married (last I looked, Marvel was still struggling with that one, even having MJ disappear). It's also why shows tend to die after the leading man & woman get romanticly involved -- see Moonlighting. Or why they die when they switch tone -- see all those Carol Burnett[-esque] episodes later on in Magnum, P.I.

    So, in one sense, the reason Star Trek is always the same is the same reason everyone was on pins and needles when Diane left Cheers. :^) Anyhow, it's no surprise Star Trek is often similar. It's part of the myth that "resonates with our archetypes". Hey, someone much smarter than me said that. Stop making fun. :^)
  • Reminds me of an old joke, told, I think, about Metallica:

    Two dudes are listening to a new Metallica album.
    Dude 1: Dude, all these songs sound the same!
    Dude 2: Yeah, but Dude, it's a good song!

  • I have to admit that there are only so many unique plots out there, and most of them have been well used by HG Well's time.

    The same is true for any branch of literature. Science fiction has a much wider range of possible plots than mainstream fiction. The point is that they don't develop these plots in any interesting way.

    Look at Johnny Mnemonic. They took a pretty good short story, and made a pretty boring movie out of it. There is lots of good science fiction to make movies out of. Hollywood does not want to make movies that require people to think, which is the whole point of science fiction, not blowing stuff up.

  • Only So Many Plots (Score:2, Informative)

    by pyrrho (167252)
    I hate it when people say "there are a limited number of plots", imo, it's nonsense. There are only so many plots that taste like sugar, play to preconcieved notions and which thereby are likely to be hockable to the mass public of media consumers --- there are a limitted number of boring and pointless plots!


    All the plots were explored by Shakespeare... by the Bible, I've heard it all... PROVE IT!


    limited imagination, if you ask me... which you didn't. For example... Stanislaus Lem's plots... try to map them to HG Wells and find yourself making quite a big stretch.

  • I personally would pay Berman/Braga et al $20 if they never have a holodeck or time-travel-based plot ever again.

    Au contraire! I was afraid the holodeck would be terribly misused when they introduced it, but some of the most interesting and creative episodes involve the holodeck, albeit in the series, not the movies:

    • Ship In A Bottle

      Moriarity makes the crew think they're not in the holodeck, then <spoiler deleted>

    • It's Only A Paper Moon

      Holodeck lounge singer Vic shows Nog a reason for living

    • A Matter Of Perspective

      Using the holodeck to recreate testimony and look at different viewpoints

    • Hollow Pursuits

      Holodeck addiction --- something that would be a real problem

    • Booby Trap

      Using the holodeck as a simulator, what would probably be one of its most useful uses

    While they aren't always the best episodes otherwise, it's not because of the holodeck, and some are among the best...

  • An exciting epic featuring all the repetitive sagas of a daily news site. Including a giant karma sucking troll as the head of the evil M$ Corporation. Featuring repeated posts from the NY Times (registry required) of the latest plot of the M$ troll to takeover the world (Killer asteroid, robbing us of music, this mysterious disease BSD that they all keep talking about.). Popular polls of where the geek masses eat, sleep, drink, and #@!%. The heroes of our film? A dynamic duo of CmdrTaco and his little buddy CowboyNeal.

    I think we could develop this into one of great film franchises of history. I hear that a cadre of circus chickens are lined up to direct.

    Ideas?
  • by Cyno01 (573917)
    did it bug anyone else that voyager never did an alternate universe episode, not that it wouldn;t have been as nonsensecal as their time travel plots, but its one of those thigns that bridges the different series, like Q, a friend of mine said in the mirror universe vayger wasn;t stranded in the delta quadrant, btu it still would have been an interesting episode ps, i didn't ever watch TNG that much, did they ever do a mirror ep?
  • One missing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hburch (98908) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:51PM (#4247619)
    If the four plots listed are `an exhaustive summary of what can happen in a "Star Trek" movie', why is Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country missing?
  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:52PM (#4247622) Homepage
    The reason why I like ToS more and more is the fact that the writers were only constricted by the Roddenberry "bible" (which at the time was quite loose and open to speculation).

    The way I see it, over the years Trek writers have been slowly building a fence around themselves and now they find that they are creativly constricted.

    They are trying to break out of the mold with Enterprise, but consider that they have already had a "holodeck" AND a "time travel" episode. I think they (the writers, et al) have forgotten that Trek at it's heart is about discovery, adventure and humanity.
  • by brer_rabbit (195413) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @05:07PM (#4247715) Journal
    Has anyone ever noticed how all articles in the NY Times have similar plots? Either:
    • People are dying or dead
    • Some big business is in trouble
    • Something on the president
    • Sports or weather
    Not only is the paper friggin predictable, the story titles usually gives away the ending! No wonder their writers work there, they can't get real jobs like the Star Trek writers.
  • by barfarf (544609) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @06:01PM (#4248011)
    1. Why does Star Trek always have humanoid characters shaped with extra bumps on their head that are all roughly the same size? For instance, I liked the concept of the Horta in the original series - I would have liked to have seen something like a Horta Federation captain or maybe a Denobulan or perhaps even an Andorian.

    2. Why do they make the ugliest characters evil? I'd like to see some character interaction and consistent development with some butt-ugly insects or 30 feet giants to be direct allies with the good guys. I keep thinking that real aliens would probably take all shapes and sizes, from massively huge or small and don't necessarily always take a humanoid size.

    3. Why is it that Picard always tried to play the high ground on the fact that humans had gotten past many of their deficiencies? One of the things that I liked best about Kirk was that he willing to embrace humanity with its character flaws - he said something in "A Taste of Armageddon" to the effect that "yes, we're killers, but the important thing is that we're not going to kill today". I think it'll take more than a few centuries to evolve past our basic human deficiencies.

    4. Why don't they have major characters die on a rotating basis and constantly develop the more ancillary characters? Whenever a conflict in an episode arises that puts a major character at risk, I don't always like the fact that I already know that that character is going to make it out fine. (Tashia Yar and Jadzia Dax not withstanding, but then you always know it before the fact because they announce it in the previews!)

    5. Why is it that whenever a crew member falls in love with someone that's not in the main storyline, they never seem to bother to develop it? The person that they're involved with always leaves, gets transferred to another starbase/facility, or dies at the end of the episode. There have been times that I would have really liked to have seen some of the relationships develop further.

    I think I'm one of the rare few that thought that Deep Space Nine was great. I _loved_ it when Sisko actually hit Q!

    I think B5 had a lot of these qualities too, and is still my favorite SciFi show to date..

  • by defile (1059) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @06:27PM (#4248184) Homepage Journal

    Bart: Hey, I know it was great, but what right do you have to complain?
    CBG: As a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.
    Bart: What? They're giving you thousands of hours of entertainment for
    free. What could they possibly owe you? If anything, you owe
    them.
    CBG: [pauses] Worst episode ever.

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

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