Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Out here in the black

One of the countless little details which made Firefly (as one good SciFi example) so great was the absence of sound during the scenes happening in open vacuum. Sure, other concessions to form were made like the ship interior artificial gravity in an otherwise relatively low-tech SF setting where such technology seems to find no other use for some reason, but I can understand keeping characters floating all the time would have put a real damper on possible scenes, not to mention the budget. The "in space no-one can hear you scream" bit was a handy, budget-friendly way of (get this) not insulting your audience's intelligence unnecessarily. We all know at least that much physics. If not, it's a fun way to find out for a ten-year-old.

We can also be assumed to know that light does not travel faster than the speed of light. Re-watching Star Trek: TNG has reminded me of this old pet peeve I had figured out even when I was ten or twelve. You know all those scenes where the Enterprise is "warping" to and fro and the stars around elongate to yield that nifty speed-lines effect Hollywood loves so much? That's fine for the stars in front of the ship but as you get to the middle, shouldn't they be red-shifting and finally disappearing? Everything behind the ship should be utterly invisible because it's outrunning the light which would convey any image. You would actually have no way of detecting anything pursuing you using the EM spectrum.

Yeah, I very much doubt I'm the first to gripe about this over the last two decades but still... first off, that would have made for some excellent tension-building chase scenes which would add quite a bit to the otherwordly speculative appeal of a show. More importantly, it would be cheap, so cheap to create. It's just... blank screen. No sound in space means you get to skip creating some sound effects. No backlight while warping means you just paint the rear-view mirror completely black. Sure you can split hairs over whether the ship's engines should be visible looking back from the saucer section but that's no reason to avoid the main effect. This is the sort of thing which makes one lose hope in mass-produced entertainment. Forget all the nit-picking in which nerds have engaged over the speculated physical properties of pretextium crystals or phasers or glazers or Klingon face ridges or whatever. It's the cheap, facile gimmicks which show whether you either give your audience a little credit or assume them to be complete imbeciles.

A central reason I stopped watching TV years ago (except when visiting family) is that I got sick of having my intelligence constantly insulted. I can't remember if Voyager or Enterprise bothered to address such easily-fixed details. I'm betting not. They were godawful enough in other respects that they never got my attention. Don't even get me started on the reboot. I'll take the unnecessary speed lines over that macho, gung-ho hyper-militarized laser-tag travesty any day. Pew-pew pfouie.

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