Monday, May 30, 2005

RoTS Venator: A-type and B-type

Aha . . . computer restored.

In the meantime, I was working on the RoTS tech review. Having re-watched the film again, I was able to note a little discrepancy that was interesting and which I wished to share.

The film opens with a close flyover of a Republic assault cruiser, Venator class. Interestingly, though, there is a difference between this vessel and others of her class. The one we see first has two pairs of white blocks on the main hull's upper spine . . . a small pair about the size of Obi-Wan's fighter and, about four small-pair's lengths back, a larger pair.

Later, we see Obi-Wan's fighter emerge from another Venator that has only one pair of white blocks. He emerges from doors on the upper surface, doors that are 4-5 small-pair's lengths in size.

So do we have multiple types of Venator, or perhaps an extendable structure? A door-like structure may exist on the opening-shot vessel, though this isn't clear yet. However, the bay Obi-Wan exits does not appear to have any objects within that could extend out like that, judging by the shot of his exit. Further, given the exposure of almost everything else on a Republic ship from bridge to engines to major guns to dorsal bay, it seems unlikely that any structure would be retained within the hull.

So, it would appear that there are two types of Venators. The "A-type" with four blocks and perhaps a smaller dorsal bay (if one at all), and a "B-type" with only two blocks and a large dorsal bay. It isn't clear if the Venator-A and Venator-B have different roles, but it might follow.

I'll be reviewing the lesser canon to see if there is any distinction made there.

SW3 Review

Well, joy. My SW3 review has been lost thanks to this malfunctioning computer. I'm seriously tempted to go back to paper and pencil.

In any case, as I said before my text was so rudely deleted, I'll go back and fold the tech comments into the Lesser Canon pages. But for some reason the only HTML editor that will work on this machine right now is Notepad. Call me lazy, but I have no desire to edit pages in Notepad anymore.

In any case, for the most part my review was positive, but there were some bothersome points. Here's the highlight reel:

1. The CGI was generally brilliant, though I did notice a few quirky spots. Windu boarding the gunship to go arrest Palpatine, for instance.

2. The music was fantastic.

3. Natalie Portman is damned hot. She's never looked better than she did in the scene before Anakin's dream. I could forgive the poor dialog just for the raw eye candy.

4. Lucas had confessed previously that the Jabba scenes from RoTJ were largely filler material. Here, we get the same thing again . . . what was the point of all that Kashyyk stuff? Why did we have to lose Mon Mothma and the start of the rebellion for that? Why cut Qui-Gon's lines for that? The whole thing was just pointless, and was kept in spite of things that would've been more meaningful.

4a. Grievous was similar, though not quite so bad . . . he at least served as post-Dooku badguy, not to mention proto-Vader (though he could've been designed better for such a role).

5. The original review was based on two main points. This is one:

At no point in the prequels have we seen intentional single-combat by the Jedi, and indeed they've usually gone out of their way to gang up on the Sith. They abandoned Padme who they were supposed to protect in Ep1, left her laying on the desert in Ep2, tag-teamed Dooku for the rematch in Ep3 while the guy they were rescuing was left imprisoned, sent four Jedi after a Sith Lord in Ep3, and so on. Yoda even left the battlefield to challenge Dooku after the latter wiped out two other Jedi in Ep2, and Yoda didn't even offer him a breather.

So why is it that with only two Jedi left and the fate of the galaxy in the balance, Yoda and Obi-Wan decide to split up? Why don't they both go after the big cheese and then take out the apprentice at your leisure? Obviously the notion of honorable single combat is lost on them . . . so why?

It's a huge logic hole in the film series.

6. I've lost all respect for Yoda. Oh, he was smooth against the clones at the entrance to the Jedi temple, but he ran from Palpatine like a scared little girl, even down to his cracking voice as he tells Bail to hurry.

At least in the book Stover implied that it was a strategic withdrawal, and based in part on Palpatine cheating by bringing in swarms of clones. That would've helped. But in the film, all we get is The Laughing Emperor who gets surprised every five seconds by Yoda, but who Yoda also runs from at the first opportunity. Then he complains about having failed, and says he must go into exile.

Well, that was his choice. Maybe he should've stuck around and tried to kill the Emperor instead of farting around spinning things in mid-air. It might've been different if Yoda had been seriously (or even visibly) wounded, but even if he was simply Force-exhausted that doesn't really excuse his bolting.

The fate of the galaxy depended on the two Jedi vs. Sith battles. For Yoda to leave the galaxy to the Sith? . . . sad.

7. Stover tries to paint Obi-Wan's departure in a similar vein, saying that Obi-Wan left Anakin because he saw the Emperor arriving. However, the film makes it clear that the Emperor did not arrive until much later . . . the sun angle changes entirely, for instance.

Obi-Wan simply left Anakin to die. I'm cool with that.

8. Here's the second major point from the original writing of this:

There's a big characterization problem in the film. While I understand Anakin being fixated on Padme . . . who wouldn't be? . . . nowhere in the canon do we get any explanation for his leap from there to the Jedi being evil and Palpatine being trustworthy. Oh, sure, he was troubled by them ordering him to watch Palpatine. Well, Palpatine did then reveal himself to be a Sith Lord, didn't he? He had been deceiving Anakin for the past 13 years, hadn't he? He had just been playing helpless in Force-releasable restraints while Anakin killed his apprentice, hadn't he? He does mislead Anakin into believing he already knows how to save people from death, doesn't he?

I can understand Anakin not being able to do the full measure of the math, here, and not realizing the full extent of how he and the galaxy had been played by Palpatine. But as far as can be found in the canon, Anakin doesn't even try. He just goes Sith, starts killing kids, and spouts "power of the Dark Side" nonsense, apparently as an excuse for his Padme fixation.

9. Speaking of nonsense, what in the hell was Obi-Wan yapping about before the fight? "Only a Sith deals in absolutes"? . . . The hell?

In the novel, Stover expands on this with Obi-Wan saying truth isn't black and white. He then contradicts himself by saying Padme needs medical attention. Sorry, bub, that's a statement based on fact . . . you can't have it both ways.

Anakin might not have had a basis for saying the Jedi are evil, but they certainly aren't the exact opposite of evil, either. A self-appointed theocratic oligarchy that espouses ideals of detached selflessness and rejects objective truth in favor of subjective relativism does not have the moral high ground.

Worse yet, Mr. Point-of-View who is willing to lie to Luke about his father gets on to that same father when he says the Jedi are evil from his point of view. "Well, then, you are lost!" he cries. Lost? Lost from what? Surely Obi-Wan isn't trying to say that Anakin is lost from the truth? Truth is an absolute. And Obi-Wan can't even call Anakin lost from the Jedi point-of-view, because if all is non-absolute point-of-view then what the hell makes Obi-Wan's any better than Anakin's?

And, of course, there is Obi-Wan's claim that Palpatine is evil. Evil? Evil as a concept that cannot exist in an anti-absolute, anti-objectivist mindset, where everything is the same shade of gray. To call someone evil is awfully black-and-white for a subjectivist.

Even Palpatine uses subjectivism when trying to cloud Anakin's mind. "Good is a point of view", he said.

Well, good to see the Jedi and Sith in agreement.

There is no "true" or "false" in such a worldview . . . there is only "neither". In the real world, however, some things are true, some are false, and some things can be both. There is black and there is white . . . there are also many, many shades of gray.

To deny the existence of either the extremes or the middle is foolish.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

StarWars.com Blogs

At blogs.StarWars.com one can find some interesting blogs from various VIPs. (This, I suppose, is the replacement for the much-missed VIP thread in the EU section of the forums.)

So far there's not much of interest, but there is one by Leland "Tasty Taste" Chee so we'll see what comes up in the future.

Also, I want to note that time constraints and a computer difficulty have produced a delay on updating. I'm thinking I'll probably fold most of my movie commentary into the current Lesser Canon project pages, thereby creating a single overall resource.

I'll also need to review the timeline of the film, which will probably be done on a separate page. This will impact the hyperdrive speed issue, and the hyperdrive pages will probably need a once-over after Stover's injection of the EU's orbital mirrors in regards to Coruscant.

On the good side, though, there's no rush now. With the final chapter of Star Wars now complete and no new Trek due to be completed anytime soon, we have plenty of time.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Oh, here we go . . .

As noted previously, the EU novel Labyrinth of Evil was the attempt by Lucas Licensing's publishing department to lead in to Episode III. A similar and occasionally-contrary effort was done with the "Clone Wars" cartoon, which has been used in favor of Labyrinth.

However, the EU-philes at SD.Net are a selective lot, with selective views of history. To their mind, the ICS children's books are the highest form of EU, followed by the adult novels, and then the comics and cartoons come in somewhere after that. So, they are intent on having Labyrinth be considered the highest source, and I've been watching as the claims about the book and its validity have slowly but steadily increased.

This has culminated in a peculiar statement Poe made recently to advertise his list of Labyrinth quotes. He stated that "Lucas sat down with Luceno personallly and gave him the entire backstory for the prequels."

If you didn't know better, this would sound like a remarkable fact. "Wow!" you might think . . . "Luceno, who never even got to talk to Lucas about the NJO, was actually brought in to be trained in the Star Wars arts by Master Lucas himself, and given the backstory for the prequels in the process of writing his Labyrinth! Must be pretty valid!"

But, naturally, this is false. As Matt Stover points out, Luceno only received answers to some questions that Stover 'smuggled in' for him, which is better than most EU authors get. There is no reference to Lucas and Luceno meeting independently. Indeed, we only get a reference to a single meeting between Stover and Lucas for the official E3 novelization, so it hardly seems likely that Luceno would get one too for an EU book.

And, we have Luceno's own words, as quoted on the Random House / Del Rey site and also on StarWars.com's EU section. He says he talked to Pablo Hidalgo, Jonathan Rinzler, and Sue Rostoni. And, like much of Licensing, he was in possession of the script. Well, whoop-te-doo.

He never implies that there was any sort of pow-wow with Lucas, and indeed the only person to claim such a thing to my knowledge is Poe.

Is it a major point? Not really . . . but it's just one of those little counterfactuals which the opposition uses, in aggregate, to bolster false claims. An insidious technique, to be sure, but it is often effective against the unsuspecting.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Nice

. . . but I'm still sleep-deprived after the midnight showing, so this won't be a full review, or even a slight one. (I know, I'm old, and can't miss sleep like them-thar young whipper-snappers.)

In any case, last night's viewing was for pleasure. I'll probably engage in a "technical viewing" this weekend and report back then.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Less than 12 Hours

Four days ago, I saw the end of Star Trek. In less than twelve hours, I shall see the end of Star Wars.

Someone remind me to always speak of these universes in the past tense from now on. :)

EDIT: Ach! Dumbasses!

(Sigh) . . . so I bought my ticket for the midnight show a few days ago, and hadn't thought of it much since then. Haven't even been seeing any trailers, since of course I've spoiled myself quite enough. As a result, I hadn't even thought of the release date . . . I was just going by my ticket.

The ticket reads:

12:01am Wed 5/18/05


Now, for most of civilization, that would mean that some nine hours after this edit (occurring at 3pm), the movie would be on. Today is Tuesday, after all, and at midnight it becomes Wednesday, May 18, 2005. One minute after midnight is 12:01am Wed 5/18/05.

However, the movie theater industry seems to see things differently. Not only is my local theater incapable of correct timekeeping, but even Yahoo's zip code example of Fremont, CA has it wrong. The Century 25 theater there also reports that they're having midnight showings tonight.

Idiots.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Reversals of Fortune

The Star Wars EU work Reversal of Fortune is the subject of an interesting tidbit.

The EU is awash in tie-in efforts with the last film, and many EU-philes have been all excited because RoTS characters and events got introduced in EU materials prior to the movie's release. Naturally, they are ignoring the fact that the makers of the EU have simply been quicker on the trigger this time, basing things off of production information.

Take, for instance, Anakin's scar. Lucas joked that it was obtained in a shower slip, but in reality it was simply an effective way to rapidly convey that the war has taken its toll, and that this is a battle-hardened Anakin. (Similar techniques have been used in Trek . . . the mirror-universe Sulu from "Mirror, Mirror"[TOS] had a nice scar, as did a sulking, even-less-cuddly alternate version of Worf from "Future Imperfect"[TNG].)

But, when asked by Pablo Hidalgo how the scar occurred, Pablo reported that Lucas's response (beside the shower slip joke) was to point to Howard Roffman of Lucas Licensing, since his people would undoubtedly have to explain it.

And, lo and behold, they did so. It is presented as a lightsaber wound obtained from some chick who was a "dark Jedi" or a "dark Force-user" or a "dark ysalimiri" or something, and she gets a name-drop or ten in the RoTS novelization by Stover.

Indeed, the author of the RoTS novelization wanted to participate in the EU tie-in routine, and thus threw in a large number of EU references (many of which Lucas personally deleted). He also tried to work with James Luceno, author of Labyrinth of Evil, the EU book designed by Lucas Licensing as the lead-up novel to RoTS.

The plan backfired a bit. To be sure, it will undoubtedly drive up sales of LoE (I plan to read it sometime after the film comes out . . . but not before lest it improperly color the canon). But Stover ended up leaving out a lot of plot from the canon novel under the theory that it was covered in the non-canon LoE, and with his EU interjections stripped by Lucas the result is that a lot of EU data didn't get included into the canon novel except in name-drop form.

But in any case, I digress. You see, Labyrinth of Evil is thought by some EU-philes to be of greater ranking than other novels, being the EU's version of the setup for RoTS. (This ignores the fact that Luceno has never met Lucas to my knowledge, unlike novelization authors like Stover, but that's neither here nor there.)

But, per Paul Ens ("Ghent") of Lucas Online, Reversal of Fortune does not necessarily follow the LoE version of the Palpatine kidnapping story. Instead, it follows the version as seen in the "Clone Wars" cartoon shorts, under the theory that more people saw the "Clone Wars" version. Such a concept has been elucidated by Leland Chee of Licensing before as a possible way of handling discrepancies in the Licensing continuity, but this is the first time I've seen it employed.

You would think that if LoE were on the highest level of Licensing's continuity, it would be treated as such. Instead, it seems that people are at liberty to ignore the novels in favor of whatever gets seen more.

The point of all of this? Well, the Star Wars live-action TV show is coming. As Lucas put it:

"We're going to do a live action show based on minor characters in the Star Wars series. [...] It's a spin-off, it doesn't involve any of the key characters. It's a different world unto itself [...]"

So:

1. This spin-off is a different world unto itself, and is hence EU.
2. Lucas Licensing follows the Chee theorem (demonstrated by Ens) that what gets seen the most holds the highest-level EU continuity.
3. Lucas will be involved in guiding the TV show for at least the first season.
4. Lucas has historically avoided EU materials or the inclusion thereof, except in very specific instances.

To synthesize the above, it seems likely at this point that the TV show is going to rewrite much of the EU, meaning that we might get to see a lot of retconning as the EU hangs on for dear life to ride the tail of Lucas, as always.

But, of course, time will tell.

In the meantime, I'm planning a nap for tomorrow evening prior to the midnight showing of Episode III, and hopefully will get enough of one to allow me to post a brief entry upon my return.

RoTS Lesser Canon Project Update

Just wanted to let folks know (since some have inquired via feedback) that the Revenge of the Sith Lesser Canon Project is going to continue, but probably not before next weekend. It's time-consuming and I've been busy with Trek stuff lately, what with the end of Enterprise and all. Now that Wars is coming to an end, I'll be shifting focus back to that.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Enterprise Finale

Braga said it would be a "valentine" to the fans. Instead, it feels more like we've been the victim of grudge sex. It screws up "Pegasus"[TNG7] and tries like hell to screw up Enterprise by using the characters and referring to events that occurred while also contradicting both at every turn. It is, in effect, the ultimate expression of Berman and Braga's inability to write.

That, of course, is the nice theory . . . the alternate theory would be that it's a two-for-one special of retribution . . . after all, not only does the Enterprise part of the tale attempt to unwrite the threads woven through the fourth and best season of Enterprise (which was not run by Braga), but furthermore the episode wrecks all sense out of one of Ron D. Moore's babies, "Pegasus". (The bitter end between Ron Moore and Brannon Braga after the end of DS9 has been commented on elsewhere. Suffice it to say that Braga had a great deal of jealousy, no doubt heightened now due to the success of Battlestar Galactica.)

Other writers like Sussman have said that the view of B&B as evil Trek-destroyers is misguided. And yet, it is so very difficult to see how this could be the case. Braga stepped back, Coto stepped forward, and the fans loved what Coto helped to create.

The reasons for the demise of Enterprise have been and will be discussed at length. There will be unceasing discussions about UPN, Paramount brass, "franchise fatigue", and so on. In the final analysis, though, Coto and the writers of the fourth season proved that there are still good stories to be told in the Trek universe, and that the only fatigue involved was that of Berman and Braga and of the fans in relation to their less-than-stellar talent.

They may not have intentionally destroyed Trek, but they certainly served and aided the Trek-bashers. Whether the franchise can ever return after bashing became such a popular pasttime for some so-called fans is unclear, but I predict that over time ENT4 will remind people of what might've been, and what could be again.

I hate to see Trek off the airwaves, but if that's what it takes to enable talented people like Coto or the Reeves-Stevens duo to come back in a few years and make Trek the way it should be made, I'm all for it. And if Trek never returns . . . if the real world catches up too far and makes the whole thing too anachronistic, or if the powers that be never get their act in gear . . . well, at least with the last season of Enterprise we got to see good Trek again, instead of there being no counterpoint to the idea of "too many trips to the well".

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Cancer

Let it never be said that the behavior of the SD.Net crowd toward opponents is unique . . . as scary as that may be.

This posting at imrics.net sums it up best:

Maureen O'Gara (employed by SYS-CON) the infamous anti-Linux writer has been indulging in yellow journalism for quite some time now. She has reached an new low, however. Now she is attacking individuals by revealing the names, addresses, and photographs of Pamela Jones and her family. Pamela's 'crime'? Publishing legal documents and commentary that not only refute M. O'Gara's articles thoroughly, but expose the very nature of the SCO group's lawsuit against IBM. SCO, as you probably know, has decided that Linux 'belongs' to them exclusively. They have violated the GPL repeatedly, and brought a 5 billion dollar lawsuit against IBM without evidence of wrongdoing. Indeed, much of their lawsuit has revolved around actually trying to get IBM to give them source code so that they can find the evidence they need. Over the course of their lawsuit, M. O'Gara has been printing press releases from SCO almost word-for-word, and has been growing more and more shrill as SCO's legal tactics, theories and actions have been revealed (again, through the actual court documents) on Grocklaw.

O'Gara's smear tactics have now fallen to a new low; she is trying to discredit Ms. Jones by painting as some kind of crackpot, and by sending private investigators (funded by SCO?) to 'expose' Ms. Jones' private details to the public. This can only be because Ms. Jones has always tried to maintain her privacy. O'Gara has claimed that she is the victim of threats from the Linux community (again without evidence - though she claims this, she never even tried to call the police, for example) - this can only be her twisted idea of revenge.

Ms. O'Gara has finally gone too far, in my opinion. She has gone from a sad, clownish figure, to an abusive menace. She must be stopped, as a lesson to other yellow journalists in our field.


O'Gara was terminated by Sys-Con yesterday and all of her writings have been deleted . . . an appropriate end.

See also:
http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20050509145744287
http://linuxtoday.com/infrastructure/2005050900926OPBZ
http://blog.stodge.org/204
http://turner.linuxworld.com/read/1262099.htm
http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20050510114214525

Of course, one could play tit-for-tat with the SD.Net crowd . . . I could post pictures, phone numbers, addresses, and so on of them . . . and though I have such information available, I have no intention of doing so.

It is an irony that those who take the low road are protected by those who don't. PJ of Groklaw won't be stalking O'Gara . . . I don't post the info of the SD.Net freakshow . . . criminals get trials . . . and so on.

(But, then, it is always fun to see the worst scumbags howl when they get out-evilled by someone they never considered to be that sort of threat. Oh, temptation . . . )

The main problem with uncivilized behavior like O'Gara's, though, is that it poisons the well of discourse altogether, and those who don't take the low road aren't interested in that sort of thing. "Oh," you say, "but with O'Gara fired there is no discourse, so the high-roaders are hypocrites!" No, there's still discourse, just not with O'Gara . . . or in other words, like chemotherapy, the poison in the well has simply helped clean out the cancer.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The End of Trek Sucks . ..

. . . but you have to realize that for those like me, the end of Enterprise is simply our first chance to catch up in 18 years.

Hey, that's familiar

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Loving ENT4, but . . .

. . . some of the tech is a little wonky, here at the end.

For instance, both parts of "In a Mirror, Darkly" were quite fun and pretty well-written, and it was nothing but joy to see the TOS Constitution Class ship rendered in full HDTV-quality CGI glory. (That said, I wouldn't have minded a little revisionism insofar as adding a faint blue glow to the warp engines and deflector, but that's just me.)

However, the ship was much weaker than she ought to have been. I mean, sure, the Defiant completely owned everything around, but only her phasers seemed to demonstrate the sort of authority one would've expected. The torpedoes were rapid-fire, but not as devastating as one might've expected. (Perhaps they simply hadn't figured out how to set them for max yield?)

Then we come to the final two-parter starting with "Demons". A neo-Nazi-esque Dr. Evil (or the Romulan copy thereof, though that's entirely my guess) takes over a comet-redirecting superlaser on Mars. He threatens aliens with it, and uses the FTL verteron destructo-beam to strike the moon northeast of Mare Humorum (at, what I might add, are terrible angles . . . Earth shouldn't show up in that shot at all, and Mars should've been roughly in the direction of the badly-placed Earth). His takeover occurs via a lunar facility with warp drive capable of propelling it at speeds of 25-100c (depending on whether one uses the screen time or the stated five-second warp jump).

(To the show's possible credit, there are indications in the episode that the facility-ship might've normally been capable of take-off and relocation on the lunar surface already, with the warp drive just a nice addition. But it's still a reach.)

The shot at Mare Humorum by the comet-redirecting verteron beam produces an enormous blast on the lunar surface, which leads one to wonder just what the hell kind of megacomets that verteron array was playing with previously. Judging by the crater Tycho also visible in the shot, the dust cloud covered hundreds of kilometers of the surface, and assuming the original crater to have been only one-quarter the size of Tycho it was 21km across!

And if the thing was meant to redirect comets, why is it an FTL beam? That's my main problem with the idea. Having this as an FTL beam just makes it too uber-fied. As Paxton says, he can fire on ships with it. So where was such a beam in the Bajor system when Cardassian ships would fly in uninvited? Why were the Cardassians so pleased over their planetary defense platforms . . . basically mini-space-stations with ship-like weapons . . . in "Tears of the Prophets"? Why no beams coming from Earth in ST:FC or BoBW? The Borg cubes should've been pummelled all the way in. And, of course, we find that the verteron array of six uber-beams is a relatively small facility, apparently unmanned. What, no miniaturization so that it can be put on starbases or even ships later? And what's the range limitation of this uberbeam? Assuming it can go 100c, what was to ever stop Cardassia from zapping the shit out of Bajor or DS9 within a matter of months?

In short, what should've been the case is that the beam should've been STL or lightspeed-only, of atomic-level yield, and used to threaten fixed locations like Earth cities, Starfleet Command, et cetera. Earth apparently doesn't have planetary shields at this point, so it would be believable. An STL or lightspeed beam of significant-but-non-uber power would've been more than enough to defend the array if ships came knocking in Mars orbit, with tracking systems aboard the mining facility enabling the array to hit the ships. But having the array able to smack ships around system-wide is just too much, and just about kills the idea of ships altogether.

End of rant.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Breezy Bajor

I was checking out NASA's SpaceWeather site earlier, and it occurred to me that Bajor's sun must produce a much, much stiffer wind than our own.

As of this writing, our sun is putting out 0.6 protons per cubic centimeter, and they're being flung at a velocity of over 377 kilometers per second. Obviously, 377km/s wind at atmospheric pressures would put all known hurricanes to shame, and any known sailing vessel would be dust (along with just about anything else on the surface of the planet).

But, when the pressure is just those .6 protons per cubic centimeter being flung by the sun, 377km/s results in a somewhat paltry force. A craft massing a single kilogram which had a sail of a square kilometer would barely make a 1g acceleration, for instance.

And so, then, we come back to Bajor. "Explorers"[DSN3] has Sisko and Jake aboard a Bajoran solar sailing vessel of ancient design . . . spars of wood, metal fittings, and so on. Her sails weren't large at all.

It should be possible to very roughly estimate the mass of the vessel and the approximate sail size, and thus figure out some possibilities for Bajor's sun. Might be interesting, sometime.

Monday, May 02, 2005

"Hard Canon"

It seems that there are some informal levels of canon in Trek. Levels of canon in Star Wars are, of course, well-known. (For instance, I came across a line in the TPM novelization a few days ago about Qui-Gon's Jedi master having been in the order for 400 years. Dooku was only 80 in RoTS, and of course Yoda has been there for 900 years or so at that point, so it couldn't refer to either of them. So, it's simply an instance of higher (and later) canon overriding the older, lesser material.)

I don't think we've ever really had layers of canon suggested in Trek before.

Mike Sussman, producer of Enterprise and writer of the "In a Mirror, Darkly" episodes, disavowed some information he wrote that appears on a screen in the episode. He says that what he wrote (and some that did not appear on screen) was not "hard canon" in a TrekBBS post, noting in the episode commentary on StarTrek.com that he didn't get them cleared through the producers. On the other hand, he acknowledged in the episode commentary of IaMD's second part that if it's on-screen, it is canon, and that people would be freeze-framing the episode to see what was going on there.

This reminds me of the start of the Dominion War. In "A Call to Arms"[DSN5], the station is lost and the crew piles on to the Defiant and Rotarran. The two ships go to join the Federation/Klingon battlefleet. The producers were shocked, though, to see the episode air . . . the two ships join the fleet, and then the fleet is heading back toward Cardassian space as if to go kick immediate ass. The producers had to go back and change their plans for the start of the next season, showing that fleet trashed, because they'd never intended for the fleet to be headed back like that.

Or, there's the Defiant MSD. Ron Moore was astonished to learn that the Defiant had landing gear, but then when later asked if the Defiant would ever land he simply said it was a pricey effect and probably wouldn't be done.

But I digress. While the Sussman example specifically helps resolve the contradiction I mention in the latest site update (which contains a link to his comments), I'm wondering if it also applies to other information screens. These are commonly done by the art department, and sometimes contain in-jokes and whatnot that are commonly ignored anyway. Are these "soft canon", since they didn't go through the producers?

Of course, it's not too much of a leap from the info screens to say that dialog is considered more important than visuals overall in the Trek canon. Once the episode leaves the writers and producers . . . the guardians (or, frequently in Voyager's case, befoulers) of canon . . . it is left to the artists, VFX guys, and so on. While there are some people there like Okuda who are good about keeping things continuous (sometimes at the expense of the writers), there are other people like David Stipes (or the guys who Rob Bonchune mentions at HobbyTalk) who just don't know anything about Trek, or who change things up for dramatic reasons, or because it's 'kewl', and so on. There is oversight, of course, but it isn't like the writing team is there every step of the way.

It's something to ponder. But, then, it's tough . . . I mean, on the one hand you've got writers like Ron Moore, Manny Coto, Sussman, the "Bynars" Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and so on who can come out with some hella-cool stuff. On the other hand, you've got hacks like Braga or just weaker writers like Andre Bormanis. Do we really want their dialog overriding Okuda's screens or the work of the other Ron Moore, or Gary Hutzel? Imagine the Special Olympiad of a contradiction between Braga and Stipes!

For now, it seems clear that whatever is on the screen is canon, but that while the producers acknowledge this they focus primarily, but not exclusively, on the writers' works. Hence the changes to DS9's sixth season due to the surprise effects shot, and of course Sussman's comment in the IaMD2 commentary that he likes to leave spots open for the art department to go wild putting tech screens in and so on.

In other words, the dialog-over-visuals argument can be made, but I don't think it would ever be an end-all be-all position . . . there would be exceptions.