Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another reason why obsessing about Star Trek is silly

Have you ever met one of those obsessive Star Trek fans that is really, deeply upset by continuity errors? Probably the funniest is listening to Trekkies complain about the change in appearance of the Klingons' foreheads between the original series and The Next Generation, and trying to come up with an "in universe" (as they say) explanation -- in other words, something better than "makeup techniques are better now and we have a larger budget" -- and debating endlessly about what is the "correct" explanation... as if things that haven't explicitly been depicted on screen "really happened" elsewhere in this fictional universe...

Although it's already pretty silly to care that much about a fictional universe, there's an even better reason to make fun of this obsession: if Star Trek technology existed, the universe actually could contain real "continuity errors". Not only does Star Trek's mythology encompass explicit time travel, faster-than-light travel (even if it's achieved by warping space) also implies time travel. With time travel possible, strict cause-and-effect is doomed -- history and your associated memory of it could actually contain discontinuities, paradoxes, and contradictions. Trek's many time travel stories certainly contain examples of individuals who are aware that time has changed to be inconsistent with their memories, as well as others who are not (often with no clear reason as to why some have memories and others don't...).

So the next time you get cornered by an obsessive Trekkie who wants your opinion on the critical Klingon Forehead question, just shrug and say "time travel".

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