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The Problem of Doors, and Other Concerns about Space Travel

by on August 6, 2014

I’ve been watching the first season of Babylon Five recently, and before that I was going through Voyager and Deep Space Nine and TNG, all various incarnations of Star Trek.  Looking back on it now, there’s a few things about life in 24th century space that bother me. So, naturally, I thought I would blog about it.

1) Seatbelts.  Specifically, there are none. Whenever Captain Janeway is sitting in the captain’s chair and Voyager is suddenly attacked by the Kazon or the Borg or whoever they’re fighting this week, the ship lurches wildly, and she lurches with it. Pretty much anyone sitting down on a Star Trek ship is thrown out of their seat, or at least whiplashed horribly around, at least once per episode. So, my question: where are the seatbelts? They’re practically mandatory now, in the 21st century, such that you’re ticketed if you’re not wearing one, even if you’re only driving the car you bought from a little old lady who drove it to church on Sundays. Yet, at some point in the future, when mankind takes to space, we apparently decide as a species to forgo the seatbelt. We keep tricorders, comlinks, holograms, teleporters, on and on and on, but somehow in all this advanced tech we lose the most basic way of keeping someone secure in their seats. Curious.

2) Doors.

It happens a million times. The scene begins, intro music plays, and we see Captain Picard sitting at his desk reading over some report. There is a noise from the door, that little “dee-doot” sound indicating someone wishes to enter. What does Captain Picard, or Sisko, or Sinclair of B5, immediately do? “Enter!” The door slides open, and only then do they see who it is. This, to me, is a serious security problem. I haven’t gotten very far in B5 yet, so I don’t know what happens (and no spoilers, please), but in Star Trek: DS9, at least, several seasons take place during a galactic war. Even in the more peaceful Next Generation era, there were Borg to contend with, and Cardassians, and Data’s evil twin brother, and a myriad other security risks. Yet, apparently, there’s no way to check that the person ringing at the door of your quarters is in fact a person you’d like to see. It could be a Changeling, for all you know. Does that seem right to you?

3) Television

I know they’ve got holodecks and holo-novels and what have you. But is it a condition of space-travel that people forget about television and movies? I think maybe there were a few instances on Voyager where Tom Paris would watch some old Earth film, and in the first episode of Babylon Five we learn, hilariously, that Garibaldi is fond of Looney Tunes. But other than that, either someone’s reading a book (way to be retro), or they’re on a holodeck.  Apparently holodecks completely crowded out the television scene. Which is a shame, really, especially now that there’s so much good stuff on. Bashir and O’Brien can reenact the Battle of Britain, but they’ll never know about Francis Urquhart or Shawn Spencer of Psych, or (perhaps worst of all), they’ll never know about Doctor Who. C’est tragique.

4) Bathrooms

They may boldly go where no one has gone before, but how do they, y’know, go? Has this ever come up? I vaguely recall that someone apparently reviewed a map of the Enterprise on the Internet and located “refreshers”, which might be the Trek equivalent of bathrooms. I hope it’s true; otherwise, those five year missions are going to get really uncomfortable.

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