Star Trek: Discovery Is Smart-Sounding Scientific Nonsense, Season 1, Episode 4 Recap

"You were always a good officer. Until you weren't." -Saru, from Star Trek: Discovery

Science is full of great ideas and brilliant discoveries, and some of those more recent ones have made their way into the popular consciousness. TED talks, popular blogs and online magazines, and Facebook pages and internet memes have helped disseminate bits of knowledge to millions. But how much of what's come through is actually worth knowing, versus how much is simply science-sounding buzzwords that's content-free?

Outside the event horizon of a black hole, General Relativity and quantum field theory are completely sufficient for understanding the physics of what occurs; that is Hawking radiation. Image credit: NASA.


As we dive deeper into the world of Star Trek: Discovery, that's what I fear we're looking at: the IFLS of a Star Trek series. Invented terms an misinterpreted legitimate science is the norm now, as though no one could be bothered to speak with a science consultant. It's like the filming/script-writing crew is suffering from the same myopia as the crew of the Discovery: unable to look beyond of their own, bull-headed path.

In the early 21st-century, we've successfully mapped out practically all the stars in our neighborhood in three-dimensional space. Somehow, we're to expect that starfleet doesn't have vastly improved maps of star systems and black holes hundreds of years in the future. Image credit: Richard Powell / Atlas of the Universe.


The terms may sound smart, but this is jumping from science fiction into science fantasy, and leaving morality behind.


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"Black Alert" sounds like something the Wayans Brothers would put on a Star Trek send up.

Shame to hear the reviews. While I'm not paying for access, I did hope the series would be good and not Star Trek: then Next Cancellation.

Crikey when you read your summary you wonder how the hell this got approved.
Yet again everyone was dumb, and don't forget the angry dumbass who took on the water bear and got sliced was the SECURITY officer!!
As to water bear driven space travel with spores all I can think is Dune and the spice. This is not Star Trek.

And the Captain, who has a drive that doesn't work yet and could take them anywhere uses it to jump? Really?

And the hsip, which Ive said many times now I hate with the rings and people peering at each other through the windows and the horrible triangle hull. In this episode the rings rotated in opposite directions but only when they jumped. Whats that for? And if they are only needed when they jump, and they didn't know how the spore drive worked, how did they know they would need it and build the ship like that? Or do they fulfill another function we haven't seen? And what of the people in the spinning disks? I suppose we are supposed to think the artificial gravity and inertial dampers take car of that. How do you cross from the ring to another part of the ship when its spinning since internship beaming is not safe (though we used it again this week)? Yuk.

Orville ep 4 however was another hoot, and Charlize Theron was in it - Mcfarlane got to write a script where he has to kiss her - oh the pain. We had a dark matter storm, a couple of things i won't say as they are spoilers, a good running joke on practical jokes, and jealousy affecting command decisions. Just realized they have quantum drive and tractor beams, but NO transporters (but they will have in the distant future). (I hope you know the transporters, probably the hardest part of Trek, were originally devised to save money so they didn't have to film ships landing). They even had a crashing into the sun scene not as good as Trek in effects but more fun. AND this episode was directed by Johnathon Frakes and you can tell. AND Seths wife in real life is the voice of the computer.

Yet again the Orville beat ST. I am so sad.

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 09 Oct 2017 #permalink

As to water bear driven space travel with spores all I can think is Dune and the spice. This is not Star Trek.

Herbert wrote Dune in 1965 (and as you say, it's a different sub-genre of sci fi). So I think completely missing the boat on the capability of 21st century astronomy can be forgiven.

Granted he might still have been behind the times; even in 1965, I doubt physicists would have agreed with the premise that relativistic non-simultenaity makes it impossible to predict where other systems are at any given local time t.

Yea yea. It was the 60s.
To conquer space travel you have to get high. OK. Dude. Cool. Live long and procreate.

But back then i was reading Asimov, Aldiss, Niven and Clarke. Non of this bullshit!!!

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 09 Oct 2017 #permalink

And in terms of what Star Trek did, wow, then there is Blade Runner. The old and the new. Wow.
It is a slow film, but you need to have that to get into what happened to Ryans character.
And Harrisons.
I cried.
But I cry real easy.
More human than human.
We all need to be that. We really do.

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 09 Oct 2017 #permalink

Hey Ethan,
I didn't miss of course your not so subtle plea to be science advisor for Star trek.
Forget it.
How about you write your own real science based fiction novel?
I am sure you have thought about it.
With this web site you won't be lacking for help. :-)

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 09 Oct 2017 #permalink

If you don't like it, don't watch, or read. Write your own, then we can judge your views. It IS fiction, after all. It is a bed for ideas upon which we gain an understanding of where we want to be in our future.
By the way, Rippers nose(mouth) is reminisce of the star nosed mole of Canada.
Since the series is a lead-in to Kirks time, it can only become more comfortable as the series progresses. After all, this is only episode 4.
Enjoy it.

Really. If you don't like it don't watch it? How you gonna know if you don't like it till you watch it?
I am a die hard ST fan of 50 years - what the hell are you talking about?
ST changed America, Europe, maybe the world. Not in 'reality' of course (its a TV show you know that right?). But in our mindset,. Our hopes. Our humanity.
For real. I am not making this up.
Please don't patronize me. I don't even know you,
Express an opinion but leave me alone.
Star Trek was groundbreaking. This show is not. I borrows. They can do so much better. It needs visionary writers like DC Fontana.
Not commercially driven studio hacks.
Any more than real research in the USA need business men telling them what to do.

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 09 Oct 2017 #permalink

The link, as written, does not go anywhere. Perhaps one has to sign up first??
Oh, I didn't address you personally, SB. I'll see your 50 years, and add another 14 of my own.
As I wrote earlier, it will be interesting to see how they blend into Kirks era.



It's a fiction no need to keep on hammering on.

The idea of the spores and this sub-creature knowing it's way through the underground is quite fascinating. One of the coolest concepts I've seen in a while. It makes me think of the portals in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

By Elle H.C. (not verified) on 09 Oct 2017 #permalink

I thought Dune was actually about a lot more than drug use. It was very provocative because it explored the idea of human progress and what that does or does not mean. The characters in Dune struggle with the fact they don't agree at all what perfection is, or how it should be expressed, or what the role between people and power should be. When one group finally gets their fondest wish and creates what they thought was the perfect superhuman, it turns on them, refusing to be used as their weapon, and enslaves them instead. The entity eventually goes mad when the ability to see the future locks it into a destiny it can't change, the price of actually knowing the future is the inability to change it and having to be captive to it as it plays out.
Most people don't know the fascinating backstory to Dune, in which humanity at one time did have utopia-like space faring civilization (like the federation), then got lazy, created artificial intelligences that dwarfed human ability, and they in turn enslaved humanity as pets. The humans managed to take their own freedom back eventually, but had to pay a heavy cost, they were forced to eschew computers and self aware technology above a certain level of sophistication so they wouldn't ever become sentient again. Making a self aware 'machine' in Dune is one of the highest to creating artificial life or resurrecting the dead, all of which they have the capacity to do, but are culturally inculcated never to do. To compensate for this loss in computing capability, two divergent groups evolved to fill the void, the Mentats, male living human computers entirely devoted to pure logic and mathematics, and the Bene Gesserit, female bio-engineers who decided superhuman intuition and psychic abilities via genetic manipulation were the key to supremacy. Between the two groups was the spacer's guild, humans mutated into near monsters by the use of a drug that allowed their minds to perceive space and time differently, and somehow change it, basically much like the 'jump drive' from STD. This was combined with the feudal system of government expressed through 'houses' (like game of thrones), which were then ruled by an Emperor who with the vital help of the Bene Gesserit and Mentats and Spacing Guild managed to keep the worlds in communication and commerce with each other, while managing sanctioned wars between houses as almost chess like ritualistic sport to prevent humanity from ever being destroyed by uncontrolled violence. I actually learned a lot about western and eastern civilizations by examining many of these ideas and examining their historical origins. This is science fiction world building at its finest.
When I was young, I always assumed the future would be more democratic or socialistic, and much more clean, polished and shiny looking, with machines doing everything (pretty much George Jetson). Frank Herbert turned this idea on its head by going back to the grittiness of actual history and realizing this is usually not the case, human civilizations flourish then collapse and people forget the past very quickly, most people never consider how much of their lives is unquestioning acceptance, democracies tend to be highly unstable long term, and are relatively short lived in almost all precedent. Good science fiction should do more than entertain, it should wake you up to look around and think about it.

The Dune omnibus is the best sc-fi epic I have ever read! Yes, I love ST and SW and Asimov and Clarke and everything else, but Dune is something else. The amount of wisdom and social observations that are present in Dune books, I haven't found anywhere else. Tolkien comes close in terms of scope of the world. But Dune goes beyond. There are passages in Dune, that just make you stop and think about yourself, humans, politics, philosophy, etc. An incredible piece of writing!

“The flesh surrenders itself. Eternity takes back its own. Our bodies stirred these waters briefly, danced with a certain intoxication before the love of life and self, dealt with a few strange ideas, then submitted to the instruments of Time. What can we say of this? I occurred. I am not...yet, I occurred.”

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 09 Oct 2017 #permalink

Troll !!!!
My first time. I guess i asked for that.

With this I am going to stop commenting at all in this forum on Star Trek and stay with real science.I am not being understood. Of course its fiction - but its special to me and my trolls. I am clearly too emotionally involved and hold ST to too high a standard for my own good - my wife at least, that poor soul, understands this ;-). I am the physicist/astronomy nutcase that pushed Neil Armstrong out of the way to get to Nichelle Nichols after all. Very embarrassing.
Yes Dune was a lot more than spice, but the idea of a drug based or mushroom spore based space drive teeters off the edge of any real joy of imagination or creativity rooted even a tiny bit in the real world. Its lazy. Its not much to ask that the idea inspires rather than wanders off in to Harry Potter land where anything can be a magical talisman. Its like making it rain on Dune. It looks like Michael is going to lead a crisis of conscience using the cuddly water bear as a space drive for moral reasons. OK. But the Klingons, maybe Romulans and certainly the Ferengi wouldn't stop using a drive that can take you anywhere in the universe in an instant. What power. The needs for ships at all would become obsolete. Water bears would be more precious than dilithium. The human batteries of Matrix. So if the Federation chooses not to use it for moral reasons, well, they would quickly become insignificant if not extinct. And thats where forward thinking sic-fi that has a strongly established cannon bitterly disappoints, ESPECIALLY in a prequel (why oh why - sniff sniff).
For me anyway.
And that a comedy is standing up to cannon better than the real (fictional, I know) thing. At least Abrahams understood. Lord I hope these Discovery clowns don't get to make a movie.
At least my oh so precious Blade Runner hasn't bee violated. What a joy that sequel was - talk about the human condition! Ryan's characters emotional roller coaster - well - no spoilers here.
With that, signing off on ST. (Still gonna watch it :-)

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 10 Oct 2017 #permalink


"the idea of a drug based or mushroom spore based space drive teeters off the edge of any real joy of imagination or creativity rooted even a tiny bit in the real world. Its lazy."

It's not lazy, it is a lack of imagination from your part.

Let's imagine the spores and the critter have a kind of metabolism that converts their Proton-shaped bodies, into a kind of particle that is 'superfluid', like how you could turn a 'dead' copper-wire into a magnet, by just twisting it into a coil and run a current through it generating a magnetic field.

Let's say those spores and the animal can solder all quarks thanks to a unique mechanism into an invisible state or code that can flow through sub-gravitational pathways.

Think of SpaceTime as a foam were waves ripple through, from bubble to bubble at a slow steady pace; but how on the other hand electricity can run just right through the edges, at a speed that is a billions time faster; or how our nerves-cells work, sending fast electrick pulses through our solid body vs. our heartbeat at 60 bps.

What you need to ask from your imagination is, what SpaceTime is made off?

By Elle H.C. (not verified) on 10 Oct 2017 #permalink

Oh Elle. You're winding me up aren't you :-)

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 10 Oct 2017 #permalink

And in terms of what Star Trek did, wow, then there is Blade Runner.

Philip K. Dick's writing was more weird and psychedelic than Herbert's (or Roddenberry's screenplays). Valis is probably the go-to example. Yes they've adapted a couple of his stories into very mainstream movies, but claiming Dick had his head on straighter than Herbert...I'd say not by a longshot. Dick saw visions. Literally. He wrote autobiographically about it.

@eric wrote:

Philip K. Dick’s writing was more weird and psychedelic than Herbert’s (or Roddenberry’s screenplays)

Philip K Dick was also paranoid. In that way he was the 180 degree opposite of Roddenberry. GR wanted to see the state as benevolent while PKD had a deep mistrust for all authority. It is that mistrust of authority that seems to resonate with modern audiences. No one now puts total faith into our government, or the press, or corporations. The studios couldn't license PKD's stuff fast enough while CBS seems to have given up on Roddenberry's original vision in producing this darker interpretation.


"Oh Elle. You’re winding me up aren’t you ?"

Now this is awkward …

By Elle H.C. (not verified) on 10 Oct 2017 #permalink

Wow, finally watched the fourth episode! What a mess.

@Ethan: Great review! Especially calling them out for the Hawking Radiation Firewall and the obviously chair shaped device that was somehow a great mystery.

@CFT: Great recap of Dune's backstory!

@ Steve Blackband: Good point about the weird spinning ship parts!

The mention of the Glenn running into a Hawking Radiation Firewall was hilarious! I'm glad Ethan pointed out how foolish that was. It's easy to say, 'Wouldn't they be more worried about the black hole in that case?' but clearly the writers were using a random science term generator or something.

Here are some of the other problems I had with the episode, in no particular order.

Science (other than the 'firewall')

The first would be the first time the Discovery jumped, they accidentally showed up next to what they claimed was a type O star. But the star was yellow! A quick trip to Wikipedia would have cleared that up for the writers.

Speaking of which, if they can't aim their ship and their destination is based on probability, wouldn't it be much more likely that they would get stranded in the middle of nowhere?

The Discovery:

When they tried to get away from the star, they were 'caught in the gravity well'. Seriously? Those ships can get away from black holes! I think the writers, and therefor the ships crew, all forgot they have warp drives!

When we start the episode, the bridge crew (and no-one else on the ship) are deep within a battle simulation (which just amounts to a video game). They are up against multiple simulated klingon ships (probably birds of prey, although they mostly look like flying triangles when they're in motion), and for some reason the captain isn't helping them, he's letting each station act independently, which is odd by itself. The bridge crew is just babbling to each other while the captain berates them, his advice boiling down to 'shoot them, and keep shooting them until they blow up'. Seems pretty reasonable to me, considering this version of Star Trek doesn't believe in flight maneuvers and so on, but why wouldn't the crew already know this? Is this their first simulation? Is this a green crew? Why wasn't the first officer involved?

Then captain berates the bridge crew again for not considering their ship's ability to teleport itself during their failed simulation, reminding them that they will be able to get to a war time hot spot before anyone else, and so will be alone. Yet this capability wasn't a part of the simulation at all!

Later, when the ship manages to teleport itself above the imperiled mining colony, the captain fires a few shots at the wee klingon ships, then just has his ship sit there, taking fire and damage, just so that he can trick the enemy ships into flying directly at them, and he can drop some unidentified bombs and use the fungus drive to jump away, leaving the ships to be blown up by the bombs. This was a trick he clearly had in mind from the start, but didn't bother telling his crew about. It was also pretty foolish, because they could have just used their regular weapons to blow them up and not damage the ship on purpose. I thought the whole point was to use the fungus drive to pop up behind them or something, not act as a sitting duck! Their ship is not designed for that!

As the Discovery jumps away, the captain makes a quip, something like 'lets give them something to remember'... then leaves no survivors. How does that make sense?

Speaking of which, where did these space mines come from? One of the other science bays? This is something we've never seen before in Star Fleet!

I wonder if ship repairs will even come up, or if the ship will be magically repaired the next time we see it? Is... Is the ship itself an action star? Is this a flesh wound?

One last thing: all of this goes down just above the settlement itself, and I mean directly above and at a low altitude. Not only do they let off this giant triple-ship destroying explosion way too close to the base they're supposedly trying to save, but the pieces of the destroyed ships start to rain down on the colony as well! We cut away as as the residents stare at the falling flaming wreckage. I hope that admiral who sent them there gives him a scathing report.

The Genital Fungus Beast:

So, okay, it's a space tardigrade now. It's a cute cuddly water bear genital fungus beast who can absolutely still tear through the walls of a ship, can tear the bones right out of people with it's clawed tentacles, and is unphazed by phaser fire. It acts like an animal, but somehow has a brain that acts like a supercomputer. It's as if the cute Bone Vampire from Futurama was crossed with a Star Wars astromech droid.

Last episode, the presence of the beast was a secret, but now he shows Michael like it's no big deal, and later Michael shows Saru the First Officer, and her roommate, and the doctor's aren't shocked by the specifics of the Chief of Security's death, so I guess all that secrecy wasn't necessary.

The captain shows Michael the beast, in what is clearly meant to be some kind of jump scare. However, we've seen the beast there already, so it isn't surprising to us, the audience. Then, Michael's reaction is subdued, because of her vulcan training (it isn't a klingon after all), so there's no way to be shocked by proxy. This was a failed scene.

The captain tells Michael to weaponize the beast. Shouldn't she be aghast at this? The captain sold her on the whole idea of staying with the ship by telling her that she'd be working on the fungus drive, after all.

Michael and the Chief of Security mostly attempt to weaponize the beast by staring at it in a darkened room, then looking at a wireframe picture of it like they're stuck in the 80's. Really? They could at least use a tricorder on it!

The Chief of Security eventually decides she's going to knock the beast out with drugs, then shoot it with a phaser to cut pieces off of it for further study. Three things here: First, she foolishly doesn't bother checking to see if the thing's out first, despite Michael bringing it up. It's not like they can just look, it's dark in there! Second, she's clearly forgotten that phasers don't work on it. Third, she and Michael both seem to have forgotten that their ship computers can alter the force fields to put holes in them! She could have just called up a small hole (too small for a tentacle, obviously), and shot through that.

The Chief of Security was killed by the beast just so Michael could figure out it was afraid of light. But why? It's food glows! That doesn't make any sense.

The genial genital fungus beast is trapped in some kind of holding cell, but how? As far as we know, only the end of the tunnel it's in is a force field, and we know it can tear through hardened safety shield doors, but we're left to guess for ourselves what the cell's walls are made from, and therefor why their security doors aren't made from the same stuff.

On top of that, we learn how the beast got on to the Glenn - it fungus teleported itself in, in search of food, in the form of spare fungus spores they were keeping in their hold! We know the beast can still fungus teleport, because it teleports the ship. We also know that force fields don't hinder it, because it does it from inside a force field anyway. Long story short, there seems to be no reason the beast can't leave at any time under it's own power. At the very least, they could have kept losing it and finding it again in their fungus forest, which would have been a good clue.

Michael befriends the beast by bringing it some spores to eat. (Stolen? Maybe, I guess! Also, seems like a bad move to trust this thing... she should have just teleported the spores in there, or tossed it through the force field really quickly, or pushed them through a small hole in the force field, or maybe used the air handling system to do it as with the knockout gas earlier. This is so poorly written!) Anyway, she releases the spores into the air, they form a cloud, and the beast makes some weird chomping motions randomly in the air. This was both really poor CGI (was it two entirely separate CGI bits that fail to interact?) as well as poor creature design. Shouldn't it be inhaling the spores somehow?

Later, after Michael has sort of befriended the beast, she finally realizes that it's supposed to be clamped into the machine that they found in the Glenn (which they somehow installed, hooked in, powered up, and so on without knowing what it was or what it did) and she's concerned about it's feelings. That's great and all... but then why doesn't she dim the lights? Later, after basically torturing the beast (twice), Michael is shocked that it doesn't like her anymore. What was she expecting?

It was also weird how the Chief Science Officer described the interface with the beast, specifying that a map of all space currently cataloged by the Federation was in the beast's brain, presented in an easy to use visual display. Wouldn't that be more of a clue that the map came from the device?

Don't they all feel silly now that they blew up the Glenn, now that they know there was only the one beast on there? You know, if the beast was so easy to capture that they eventually did it off screen (still don't know how, especially considering their continual screw-ups), there was no reason they couldn't have downloaded all their computer logs first (a tried and true Star Trek trope), salvaged the valuable components from it (wait, they must have at least gone back to get the beast chair equipment!), or just towed it back to space dock as a valuable ship for the ongoing war!

Michael's inheritance:

Okay, so at some point the Discovery, while on a super secret mission, gets a delivery: Some sort of carrying case that she inherited from her former Captain. It's all very sad, since she mutinied against her in the first episode and is responsible for her death. When she finally opens it, we discover that it contains the old-timey (we don't actually know if it's an antique or a new replica) optical telescope they were using on the old ship! This is absolutely ridiculous because it means that that thing was salvaged from the abandoned ship, while the super high tech, valuable, and equal sized 'dilithium processor' is left behind for the klingons to salvage. Also, the telescope was all beat up, but paired with the identity locked case and private message, so they must have found it, found the case, put it in the case, and then carried it out, all while they were evacuating!

We know they didn't come back for it later, because the klingons have just been sitting there right next to all the wrecked ships for the entire six months between the second and fourth show!

The Klingons:

Evidently the Klingons don't have replicators, because they have power, but no food. Even when they finally get the 'dilithium processor' (and what the heck even is that?) and have enough power to move the ship, they still don't have any food... even though they've been stuck out there for ages before the start of the show.

It seems crazy that these religious fanatics decide to follow the new guy... I know the new guy brought food, but seriously, they were about to go get some! They couldn't wait a few more minutes! As we've already established, you can get from one side of the Empire to the other within two hours max.

I guess the deposed albino klingon is going to get some kind of super spy training from his new girlfriend? If it's so good, why hasn't she used it to.. do whatever it is she thinks its going to do for him?

Worst part of the show:

Overall, the worst part of the show was when they casually recount eating the body of the first Captain. Holy what? That's just insult to injury. It sounded like they ate her right away too, not because they were eventually starving. Cannibalism doesn't have a place in klingon lore, and it doesn't have a place in this show.

This episode wasn't enjoyed, it was endured. I hope the entire series doesn't end up the same way!

In terms of science advisors for Discovery, I couldn't find anything online. The IMDB list of complete crew doesn't list anyone in that position.

What I did find however, is that Andre Bormanis, who was science advisor for both TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise, and who did gigs with CBS before, isn't on Discovery team. But he is active... he is advising and writing for....yup.. The Orville ;D

On the other hand, if you check the writers of ST:Discovery, and what they did before this... the types of TV shows that they wrote for... is well, as much as a let-down as what ST:D is looking to be (Pushing Daisies, Pepper Dennis, Wonderfalls, GCB, Roswell, 90210 etc.. baah). There is only one or two writers who actually did any ST before). So that might be the reason why this ST seems to be so shallow and bad.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 11 Oct 2017 #permalink

Some more observations about the Captain's desire to be an effective fighting ship along with his mission to develop new weapons tech for Starfleet:

There's no word on how he or Starfleet reconcile having super secret and super sensitive weapons tech testing on a vessel that's putting itself in harms way, or traveling to where the klingons are, or even just drifting around in space. Look what happened to the Glenn! Supposedly they had just as much going on on that ship, just as many wacky schemes and crazy ideas, but one accident later and it's all gone. We know it's all gone because the guys on the Discovery couldn't get all the info on the one project they most needed!

The other weird thing is that with all this focus on new weapons tech, the Captain walks in on his team's battle sim to see them barely keeping up with the battle. Why? Normal Start Trek stuff, where all flying and all targeting is done by typing commands on a keyboard. Of all the Star Trek tropes they wanted to keep, why keep that? Why doesn't the Captain walk in and say, "Guys, what the heck? Can't we set the Ops up like an old time fighter jet, and get the guys firing the phasers some gunners nests? Or maybe a video game controller or something? Or a mouse? Or a touch screen? And maybe, since we can fire more than one thing at a time, we could have multiple people ready to aim and fire them? What do we even have battle stations for, if not for that? Why don't we have the computer do it automatically? Wouldn't that be faster? Someone plug that robot in, see if that helps! Lets get some seat belts and some plastic shields to protect people from the inevitable console sparks! Make it so!"

I guess he's too busy being shady to think about little things like that!

The more I think about the spore drive and the lack of spore drive in any other Star Trek show, the more it feels like a huge plot hole for the series. I'm guessing that the tech is going to be lost at some point, because it's never seen again, and since all the info for it is self contained on the star ship Discovery. However, we've seen countless other civilizations over the various shows, and none of them have this tech either.

It sounds like these spores are everywhere already (that's the whole point of them), and if you grow enough of these spores, spore beasts eventually teleport in, which you would think would be a big clue.

Maybe there's another, even more dangerous beast that shows up eventually, or a preexisting civilization using spore drive that shows up to keep the process to itself, or maybe the spores actually do infect people (like I originally thought they were going for) and anyone who comes in contact with it eventually is forced to evolve into a spore beast of some kind and teleports away (sort of like what happened to Geordi that one time)?

The very last time.

Sorry Elle. You must be winding me up, or really still missing the point. I belabor it and get told to stop hammering on. And now I lack imagination. And then there is this.
"Let’s imagine the spores and the critter have a kind of metabolism that converts their Proton-shaped bodies, into a kind of particle that is ‘superfluid’, like how you could turn a ‘dead’ copper-wire into a magnet, by just twisting it into a coil and run a current through it generating a magnetic field."

Its a word salad. And a terrible analogy. Something Deepak Chopra might say.
BTW a straight copper wire will have a magnetic field.

I can imagine the universe used to be just dark matter, and that dark matter beings were experimenting with protodark matter, when an unanticipated interaction with virtual dark matter caused an irreversible and completely adiabatic increase in the eigen-sate of just one single dark matter gluon. The resulting chromo-dynamic quantum cascade lead to the creation of the first matter which, when entangled with itself in a transdimensional fractal matrix, amplified. Just like when you blow air into a balloon and it gets bigger. The matter started absorbing all the ambient dark energy in the universe, threatening to consume dark matter itself, like an infection. In desperation, the dark matter beings sacrificed 4 of their 27 dimensions, pushing all the matter into them centered on a singularity that was detonated by a gravimetric Higgs anti-boson field generator., aka the big bang. What matter had been generated was scattered so dilutely, just 4%, it could no longer amplify. Matter, if you like, is intergalactic herpes that dark matter can live with. The outcome of this treatment will not be known for millennia or until the flatness of this 4-dimensional sub-universe is unambiguously verified or not, in which case a second singularity may be required, like an intergalactic booster shot. The dark matter beings have formed a monitoring division, the Intergalactic STD Corps, who's sole charge is to monitor the infection and report to Admiral Penny E. Cillin.

OR, the universe is a giant creme brûlée and fluctuations in density depend solely on how heavy handed God was with the torch. Its hard to be sure.

(Common now. Thats funny.)

Now you've made me a liar. I said no more Star Trek. One last time.
Unintended sarcasm in the above aside, this is the last i will say.
I love fiction, superheros, The Magicians is a guilty pleasure, Dr Strange etc etc. but they sway way over to fantasy, and are nothing more than entertainment.
Its just that I, and many others, hold Star Trek through Rodenberrys vision to a higher standard (as he did). As I said before the science in it, even if flakey sometimes, has at least SOME root in reality as we know it (well, mostly - I can guess the episodes you are thinking about right now :-). Its then how humans, life (whatever that is) react to that. Wagon Train in science space. I think ST:TNG did it best and they got scientific advice.

Ive been to a Trek conference - it seemed half full of PhDs. The writers, actors, producers know the cross they bear with Trek, and they accept it. In fact they revel in it. They understand its influence. Thats why Neil Armstrong talked at one even though he had become reclusive. I saw the SpaceX guys talk there. Scotty got an honorary degree from Brown University when a survey showed how big an impact his character made on people going into engineering (goes with a funny story Koenig told). Even Shatner now understands and regrets his 'get a life' tease. Its why serious scientists would write books on Trek tech and physics. What other TV show has done such a thing? And yes its fun and entertaining. And i am a Dr Who fan and do not hold that to the same standard, Good Lord, next thing you know the Dr will be a woman.....

I am sorry but I hold ST to that vision and its cannon, and consequently I, and many others, get very upset when Discovery is appearing to trample all over it.
I will recover. There will be other shows to pick up the torch. But its still disappointing.

OK thats it. For good. No more!!!
I have my novel on intergalactic herpes to complete........

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 11 Oct 2017 #permalink

Phillip K. may have had his demons, as do many, but he was visionary and ahead of his time. Where Asimov saw robots as programs simulating emotions and reacting to them, Phil saw the roots as human.
He may have had weirdness and visions - apparently 'sane' people see angels and Gods and slaughter each other over them. As they say, there is a fine line between genius and madness. I say there is no line at all - more a gradient of moral perspective.Maybe. Will have to chew on those words.

Interestingly some of the 19th centuries musicians great works came under some degree of what you might call mental illness. Check out the influence of syphilis....…

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 11 Oct 2017 #permalink

#21. Had me in stitches.
"Its food glows!"

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 11 Oct 2017 #permalink

@Sinisa Lazarek wrote:

he is advising and writing for….yup.. The Orville ;D

I wonder if he advised on the Dark Matter Storm.

In all seriousness, there was a moment in ST:D when the chief of security was working with Michael to drop the force field to the tardigrade pen, and I thought for half a second: "No big deal. The Chief of Security is far and away the strongest person on board".

Between the two shows I am liking The Orville better.

@Denier #28,
What make me kind of laugh is, Orville has far more invested in humor, yet when I think of the crew of STD meeting the Orville crew, I can't but help but think Captain Mercer would look at their counterparts angst ridden faces, observe their inhumane and illegal activities and say "What the flying #$%*@ is wrong with you guys?"
The way things are going with the plot lines, please tell me if I'm wrong, but doesn't STD seem more like a Mirror Mirror universe than the federation all the other series belong to? I've been curious if that's the rabbit they are going to pull out of their hat, that someone survives the terrible nasty dark federation universe and somehow jumps realities (al la the magic of Abrams) to warn another parallel federation of what not to do. The franchise has a history of altered history, now they can screw around with alternate realities as well.

@19: every reader takes something different away from an author. Personally I don't see paranoia in Dick's writing but rather something related to that: a concern/exploration of the notion of identity. If you're invented, or your memory's changed, or something is beaming thoughts into your head...are you still you? What's the "you" in that case really mean? But I'll also admit it's been many years since I read a PKD book.

@26: I fully agree Dick was a visionary writer in a lot of ways. I was really only quibbling with the implied point in your @4-5 that Dick belongs with Asimov etc. in being considered a more 'hard' sci fi writer. I don't think he ever (or...hardly ever) wrote with science realism in mind.

@29: Now you've got me hoping the Orville writers do a 'mirror, mirror' episode...


"I belabor it and get told to stop hammering on."

The world has its Einsteins but also its Whinesteins.

My comment #11 was addressed @Ethan.

By Elle H.C. (not verified) on 11 Oct 2017 #permalink

Discovery Is Smart-Sounding Scientific Nonsense

So, exactly like every other Star Trek then? ST has never really been hard sci-fi - it's always been filled with sciency-sounding bafflegab and magical technology that has exactly whatever capabilities and limits the writers require at that moment in time (and change wildly from episode to episode).

I mean, I love Star Trek, and I've been (re)watching its different incarnations on a more-or-less continuous loop for almost my entire life, but let's not pretend that this is a radical departure. I can't help feeling that a lot of people criticising Discovery are comparing it to some entirely imaginary version of Star Trek that they've got in their heads rather than the real thing. Go back and try to rewatch the first season of TNG with an impartial eye, I dare you - by any objective measure, it's terrible. Yet we love it.

It's Science Fiction, not reality. Does it really matter if the science is correct? Can't we just enjoy the show without a bunch of people tearing it apart for not being real enough?


"So, exactly like every other Star Trek then?"

Precisely, as if beaming a person, made of atoms and molecules, is so different from a critter than can 'beam' itself from one place in space to another.

By Elle H.C. (not verified) on 11 Oct 2017 #permalink

@Steve Blackband:

Whoa, that fictional paragraph you came up with would make a great comic book backstory!


One of the great things about star trek has always been at least a nod to both science and continuity. They would write the story first, then, when something sciencey would hapen, they'd write 'tech' into the script, to be filled in later with official technobabble. So, the main story might involve some pop science, then how they deal with it would be in continuity with Star Trek lore.

Another difference is the more episodic nature of those shows. While that sometimes meant that continuity suffered a bit (like when Spock did, did not, then did have greater than human strength), but it also meant that we got a greater variety of science fiction stories. Star Trek: Discovery doesn't have that, we're getting one really long story, and if they muck it up, the don't get to reset for the next episode.


Okay, that would be awesome. I'd heard something about this, but if we're starting in the Mirror Universe, some story choices and character motivations could make more sense. For example, the Vulcans having a policy of shooting first.

Although, we still have the Federation, not the Empire, of planets, the Klingon Empire exists as an empire and is decidedly evil, the klingons don't look right for that universe either, and the future of the Mirror Universe also doesn't have the spore drive.

Yeah... I think that would have been a good idea! However, at this point, it seems that the Discovery writers have actively discouraged good ideas. I'd say that it would be possible that they're in one of the infinite alternate timelines (as shown in that one TNG episode where Worf keeps winning and losing a battleth tournament), but we were assured we're at least in the main timeline.

We can always hope they tie all this together in a satisfying way though!

The more I think about it though, and as cool as the concept would have been, I don't think starting in the Mirror Universe would make sense. If we're only ten years before the start of TOS, and Kirk is already halfway through Starfleet Academy at this point. I don't think that's enough time to turn everyone into crazy murderers.

Unless... maybe the spores act to flip people's morality if they get infected? Is that why the new Captain is so shady? Ehh, but he and the Security Chief were the most shady, and those spores are all through the ship. I guess they could force it to work if they really wanted to, but it really would seem forced.

It's obviously not the Mirror Universe. In the Mirror Universe, Zephram Cochrane kills the Vulcans who make first contact in 2063, and the Terran Empire is conquering its way across the quadrant by 2155. (As shown in ST:E "In a Mirror, Darkly".)

It's not an a parallel timeline. It's the same time timeline as the original series, set 10 years before Kirk, Spock and Enterprise. There are interviews with producers and even official site mentions that it's not exploring the timeline covered in new movies.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 12 Oct 2017 #permalink

Whinestein!!! Funny. I like it.

I stand behind the vision of a unified humanity, science as a savior, and fiction as a way of communicating and compelling that vision. Fantasy is an escape, an excuse to do nothing, as is religion, taking away our accountability.

After all, we don't have much to deal with. Religious war, overpopulation, the sixth mass extinction well underway, material resources diminishing rapidly, deforestation, global warming, pollution of our waters and seas, the end of antibiotics.

Awww crap. We're screwed aren't we? As Pris said in Blade Runner "The we're stupid and we'll die"

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 12 Oct 2017 #permalink

I forgot Donald Trump.
Damn it. Need beer.

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 12 Oct 2017 #permalink

I forgot Trump.
Damn. Need beer.

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 12 Oct 2017 #permalink

@Dunc #37:
I really liked how the real character of Zephram Cochrane turned out a lot different than the people of the future were expecting, in ST First Contact. :-)

@Frank #40

I thought it was interesting too, but mostly because it seemed as if the Enterprise crew was violating the Prime Directive against themselves! "I don't know, if the Federation can't be established without outside interference, perhaps they're just not ready..." I'm sure they had some very interesting paperwork to file when they got back, at the very least!

It’s Science Fiction, not reality. Does it really matter if the science is correct?

Well we are going very far afield here, so I'll try and bring it back to Ethan's original complaint at the end.

Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. It's okay to be space opera or space fantasy. But most fans dislike a show that implies or touts itself as hard science fiction and then indulges in science fantasy.

That isn't exactly what Ethan is complaining about though, I don't think. He's more complaining that the characters in the story don't act in a rational manner given the plot context in which they are put. He's basically complaining that, like characters in old schlock horror movies, they utterly ignore things right in front of their face. Well sure there's a body dismembered by a chainsaw. But why should I believe there's a killer with a chainsaw on the loose?

Star Trek has never touted itself as hard science fiction - at least, not in this universe.

As for the characters acting in ludicrous ways to serve the plot - again, that's exactly like every other iteration of the franchise.

Whats the difference between science fiction and 'hard' science fiction?

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 16 Oct 2017 #permalink

This is mostly directed toward the author.

Don't worry about the writers not consulting with scientists, or even scientific journals. That is the least of their problems. They apparently didn't feel the need to actually watch any Star Trek before deciding to write an entire series based in an already established fictional universe.
They basically made a version of Lord of The Rings where Hobbits are eight feet tall, and Gsndalf can teleport anywhere with magical ent dust. Oh, and Boromir carries an AK-47.

By Fleet Admiral … (not verified) on 23 Oct 2017 #permalink