Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Percentage of Star Trek Episodes that Include Weapons Fire

That was my exact query on Google, and I came up with nothing useful.

More explosions means more exciting...?
Subsequent queries where I altered the phrasing, dropped words, changed what I was asking, and so on yielded nothing useful. Why was I looking for this information? Let me tell you.

As I mentioned a little while back, I’ve been watching Star Trek: Enterprise. This marks my nearing the end of my goal of watching every Star Trek series released (with the possible exception of Star Trek: The Animated Series). For the most part, I’ve really been enjoying the various crews on their respective ships (or space stations) and all the hilarious hijinks they manage to get themselves in. The galaxy can be a crazy place, sometimes!

I have noticed a trend as I’ve been watching Enterprise, and I’m not sure I like it: almost every episode contains weapons fire of some kind.

Now, the reason I was looking for specific statistics on the percentage of episodes of Star Trek that contain weapons fire is because I’m pretty sure that Enterprise has a far higher percentage of episodes containing phaser discharge than previous Star Treks. If you have gone through every episode of every series of Star Trek and meticulously catalogued every instance of someone shooting at someone else, and every time a starship tried to blow up another starship, feel free to let me know in the comments if I’m right or not. I’m pretty sure I’m right.

The reason I don’t like it is because the combat scenes in Star Trek tend to be the uninteresting part of the show. A shootout scene can be gripping if it’s directed well, and if it adds to the plot, but generally speaking it’s not very meaningful compared to the actual story bits of the show. Sure, you can add plot elements to shootouts, such as having an important person become injured and needing to be treated within a certain amount of time in order to prevent permanent removal from the cast. This adds urgency to the story, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this specific scenario a few dozen times by now, so it’s kind of lost a bit of its impact.

Star Trek is at its best when it tells good stories. Guns are usually only an accessory to the story, helping to drive the plot. For example, in the Original Series episode A Piece of the Action, Kirk and Spock end up on a planet full of 1930s Chicago style gangsters, and they have to find a way to unite the gangs into a single faction in order to prevent a (gang) war. They do this through clever use of their advanced technology and by using slick dialogue to convince the gang bosses that they’ve got the best idea on how to unite the crimelords under one banner. They do use the Enterprise’s phasers at one point, but it’s integrated tightly into their scheme, not as part of some gratuitous firefight.

Good dialogue is paramount to a successful Star Trek episode, in my opinion. Since I’m watching them on Netflix, and since I’m usually doing something else at the same time as watching (because there’s just so much content), I rely heavily on the show having a dialogue-heavy composition. This allows me to follow the story while I’m reading news, writing things, or playing a video game. In Enterprise, I’ve noticed the firefights not only because I keep seeing and hearing phasers over and over again, but also because I end up having to watch the screen a bit more closely to follow what’s going on. This makes it harder for me to multitask, and in turn, leads to me enjoying the show a little less than others.

I’m not saying that more firefights make a show bad. Not at all. I love a good action flick. My instant queue is full of them. What I’m saying is that I feel like Enterprise is focusing a little less on what I consider to be the things that make Star Trek good, and moving that focus to mediocre action scenes. That makes me a little sad inside.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, Star Trek action sequences are usually just shaky cams and people jumping. TNG and DS9 usually did them right, the Dominion war, Wolf 359 etc were really action oriented but tense at the same time. That being said, there's definitely a wrong way to do it. Data and Picard driving around Dune Buggies and jumping across hull breaches like in Nemesis is just really stupid. Picard pulling out a holographic tommy gun in First Contact was pretty cool though.

    What I want to know is why phasers aren't set to stun by default, it seems like every time someone pulls out a phaser they have to say "Set phasers to stun." Why are they not already on stun? 99% of the time that's what you're going to use it for anyway. I guess it's like in movies where action heroes carry around guns that are uncocked and unloaded just so you can get that sound effect when things get serious.