Start Trek

[Author’s note: I’ve watched Star Trek, in all its various incarnations, since I was a kid.  Over the years a few things have bothered me about the series.  I imagine there was one meeting that explained everything…]

[SCENE: INTERIOR, STARFLEET MEETING ROOM, ARTIFICIALLY LIT AND CLINICALLY CLEAN.  PRESENT IS DAVE OF AAA AARDVARK ACME STARSHIP DESIGN CONTRACTORS, DAVE HAS A THICK FOLDER OF PAPERS IN FRONT OF HIM]

[LT. COMMANDER ROBERT PRICE ENTERS AND SITS]

PRICE: Thank you for coming in, Dave.

DAVE: Aye, no bother, mate.

PRICE (Slightly uncomfortable): I wanted to talk about you some issues with the design for Enterprise D, but I want to stress that we’re generally very happy with it.  These are just niggles, really.

DAVE: Whatever.

PRICE: The artificial gravity system, for example.  Absolutely brilliant.

DAVE: Yeah, well that’s state of the art, mate.  Dual units, each with its own primary, secondary and emergency power supplies.  Lovely bit kit, but you don’t want to fuck around with your artificial gravity – ‘scuse my Klingon – causes bloody ‘avoc if it goes, that does.

PRICE: Yes, but…

DAVE: But then you sent that sarky memo, is what, mate.

PRICE: And that excuses the anti-matter containment unit, does it?

DAVE: Nowt wrong with that containment unit, pal.  It’s built to Star Fleet rules and regs.  You’ve got anti-matter you want containing, that’s the baby for you.

PRICE: Oh, I agree, the unit’s fine.  Absolutely as it should be, but…well, some of the captains with space-experience are a little worried that it’s being run from a single domestic 13-amp plug.

DAVE: Nothing to worry about – as long as nobody unplugs it you’ll be sweet.  Even if they do they’ll have 10 or 15 seconds to plug it back in.  Totally idiot-proof.

PRICE: You don’t feel that failure of the anti-matter containment might also “cause havoc”.

DAVE: Well, yeah, but much more briefly and with less complaints afterwards.  If you get my drift.

PRICE (Slightly angry): And is complaint avoidance why you’ve planned to have the warp-core ejector system wired into the same plug?

DAVE: No choice, mate. The unit has to be next to the warp core in order to eject it and what-not, and ‘ealth and safety won’t let us run an extension cable to another socket.

PRICE: There’s a feeling that you’ve designed a ship where the artificial gravity is bullet-proof and key engineering systems have massive single-points of failure to….well, to make a point.

DAVE (Pulling paper from his pile): If you send me a memo asking for “…immediate and detailed explanation of how costs have deviated so far from the initial budget” then you can only expect me to a cut a few corners to get it back under control, mate.

PRICE (irritated): Don’t you understand how annoying this is for us.  How can costs even be a problem?  We’re a post-money society.

DAVE: You and your poncy Starfleet pals might be post-money and happy to gad about the galaxy for the thrill of it, but the guy I’ve got coming in from Sector 731 to fit [Checks notes] 862 toilets…well, he’s not so keen on working for free for the greater good of society.  You know what he’s chargin’ me for ’em?  Only a night with my bloody wife, that’s what!

PRICE (incredulous): You bartered your wife to get the plumbing done?!

DAVE: And he was the lowest bidder!  He was the only one prepared to do it for straight sex, no kissing.

PRICE: But…but…we use gold-pressed latinum for financial trades with developing worlds.

DAVE (sarcastic): Well blow me, I never thought of that.  Jumped straight in with my wife’s honour as an opening bid I did.  Whatever was I thinking of?

PRICE: …

DAVE: I offered ‘im gold-pressed latinum and he said (quotes from notes) “The value of latinum it is based entirely upon replicators being unable to produce it, which is clearly a ridiculous proposition when one is engineering at a molecular level.  Nobody is trying to replicate it because doing so would render it worthless.  It is, in effect, a position of artificial scarcity supporting an economy which only exists because of a technical oversight, and I find that a poor foundation on which to build my business.”

PRICE: I though you said he was a plumber from sector 700-and-something.

DAVE: ‘Ere, just because he doesn’t have a plummy sector-001 accent and does a job which you clearly think is beneath you doesn’t mean he’s not an educated bloke!  Starship plumbing’s a highly specialised skill, mate.  If you’re installing what is, ‘sentially, a very long tube with the infinite freezing vacuum of space at one end and your arse at the other you don’t it wired in by a bloke who signs ‘is name with an ‘X’.

PRICE: But, your wife…

DAVE: The deal’s done, pal, just let it drop, eh?  One thing I will say is that this bloke’s work is fine, up to code and whatnot, but he’s not one for aesthetics, if you follow me.  You don’t want to be showing them dunnies off to anyone.  Strictly functional, like.

PRICE: The toilets won’t look nice?

DAVE: Hell, no.  We’ll pick the best one and call that the Captain’s quarters, but he’ll want to keep that quiet or he’ll ‘ave an ‘ell of a wait every morning to make his log, if you know what I mean.

PRICE; Er…well, moving on.

DAVE: All I’m saying, pal, is that if you spent a little less time ravin’ about yer Engineering corp and a bit more time recruiting for the Star Fleet Plumbing corp you wouldn’t have these kind of issues.

PRICE:  Yes.  Now…

DAVE: Or perhaps you can find yer crew from a species what doesn’t have any arseholes.  There must be some of them.

PRICE (firmly): Moving on…The captains are very happy with the ship’s defensive capabilities; virtually impenetrable shields, 400 photon torpedoes, 8 independently targeting banks of phasers, detachable saucer section with its own battle bridge.  Impressive stuff.

DAVE: Oh yeah, mate, that’s all top-notch latest military stuff.  Very nice it is.

PRICE: And, just to be clear, you did read the part of the project brief about this being a mission of peaceful exploration and discovery, didn’t you?

DAVE: Was that the bit about seeking out strange new worlds and civilisations?

PRICE: Yes.

DAVE: Oh yeah, I read that.  Then I thought to myself, “You wouldn’t go to a strangers house without packing a few guns, would you?”, so I stuck on all them things you just said.

PRICE: It never occurred to you that turning up heavily armed at a new planet might not convince the inhabitants of our peaceful intentions?

DAVE: Nah, the way I see it sooner or later you’re going to fly up to some world where the Norvern ’emisphere ‘as been at war with the Souvern one for millennia, millions dead on both sides, a hundred generations of tit-fer-tat retaliations and what-not and if you turn up in star-ship with “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam” painted down the side they’re not going to pay much attention for you.  But if ol’ Captain Trigger-Happy turns up and tells them they’ve got 45 minutes to bury the hatchet and get properly into the spirit of universal love or he’s going to start shooting at continents wot are looking at him funny they’re going to be the best of friends before you can say “orbital war-head dispenser”.

PRICE (shocked): That’s monstrous! Star Fleet doesn’t work like that!

DAVE: Whatever, mate, but you just look at ‘istory.  The Middle East was trouble for years, then Professor Photon, or whoever, invented his torpedo and suddenly we had near-East, mysterious crater, far-East and a lot of people being very polite.

PRICE (even more shocked): That was a terrible act of terrorism!  Star Fleet has a strict policy of non-intervention!  It’s our Prime Directive.

DAVE (laughing): Yeah, right. Ooo, look, a new and unexplored world…let’s all beam down and ‘ave a look shall we?  But, captain, what about the risk of contamination?  Contami-what, science officer?  Less chat, more beaming me down!

PRICE: Our transporter system removes alien organisms.  That’s basic star-ship design, Dave.  We expect you to know this sort of thing!

DAVE: Alien organisms aren’t your problem, pal.  Basic biology is…every ‘uman is ‘ome to billions of micro-organisms and the transporter doesn’t remove them…I’m knowing this because transported people arrive alive and stay that way…unless they’re wearing a red jersey.  So if you send them down to an alien world every time they breathe, sneeze, cough, blink, shake their head, fart or scratch their arse they’re showering the landscape with alien microbes.  You might as well give them all smallpox-infected blankets and be done with it.

PRICE (uncertain): I’m…I’m sure it’s all taken care of.

DAVE (incredulous): Taken care of?  You never wonder why the entire galaxy is basically populated by oxygen-breathing ‘umanoids roughly the same as us?  It’s because ‘alf an hour after you lot have “discovered” a strange new world that’s all that can still survive there.  Your ‘ole operation is shonky as ‘ell…new recruit, teach them navigation, tactics, engineering and orf they go.  You lot just don’t see the detail.  It’s the toilet thing all over again.

PRICE: We train our people to the highest standard!

DAVE; Yeah, right.  [Mocking voice] “Are the inertial dampers on-line?”, “Yes, Captain”, “Excellent – accelerate us forward at 400,000,000g!”…”Captain, we’re going to crash into a planet at a few thousand miles an hour!”, “Oh no, the sudden massive deceleration will kill us!  If only there were some way to dampen our inertia.  Abandon ship!”

PRICE: We can crash ships into planets?

DAVE: Well it won’t do ’em much good, but we put the inertial dampers at the bum end for a reason, you know.

PRICE: Look..how about we just pretend this meeting never happened, eh?

DAVE: So the design’s signed off then?

PRICE: Well,,,unless there’s something you can do about the toilets.

DAVE: Are you married?

PRICE: No.

DAVE: Well, yer probably stuck with ’em, then.  Just find someone expendable to boldly go where no man has gone before.

PRICE: Hey, that’s got a nice ring to it.

DAVE: Yeah, let’s ‘ope he still ‘as afterwards.  See ya, mate.  Cheers.

[DAVE RISES AND EXISTS ROOM.  PRICE PUTS HIS HEAD IN HIS HANDS.  SCENE ENDS]

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