Thursday, April 11, 2013

Science Fiction Wishlist (A Grabbag) — Part Three: Spaceship

     At this point, I have a lightsaber on my hip and the ability to get around (on the ground, in the air, in space) with my VF-1J Veritech Fighter.  Now I need – as much as any fanciful, hypothetical Science Fiction wishlist can have any element of need – a spaceship with which to get around.  Sure, you can do Sci-Fi without a spaceship.  But there is something about the ability to safely travel between the stars that opens up the possibilities of a Sci-Fi universe, and if I am going to be even half-way serious about putting together the wish list, I am not going to leave spaceships off of it.
     Lets start with the rejects, the ships that no sane person would ever take as their first choice.

   Luke was right in that the thing was a piece of junk.  Seriously, it has exposed bits that should cause the whole thing to explode (or at least suffer meaningful structural damage) upon atmospheric entry.  It has the weird cockpit mounting – I'll leave it to the individual viewer to decide what happens to those guns that are mounted above it for one scene in the Alderaan system – that ensures that it is going to take a long while to learn how to do any precision repulsorlift maneuvering (you know, like landing on a small pad or inside a relatively small landing bay on Tatooine).  It also clearly has substandard wiring and faulty systems.  Sure, some of this could be chalked up to disputed owner/operator Han Solo; it is entirely possible he was spending to much time on his hair and practicing his lopsided grin to keep the ship in good working order.  Indeed, isn't almost all of the appeal of the Millennium Falcon rooted in the desire to be (or be like) Han Solo?  And if we were just talking A New Hope Solo, I'd agree.  But Solo doesn't get better as the universe expands and his ship really is the Sci-Fi equivalent of a 1977 Ford conversion van (complete with pilot's chairs).
      This is another instance of a ship being less than optimal.  The bulk of the appeal – to my understanding – of the Firefly class ships was that they could be made to keep flying with basic maintenance.  They were never going to be the best of anything, but there was some level of reliability.  So, if the Millenium Falcon is a conversion van, Serenity is like a Beetle Cabriolet.  It looks cool, and it probably could be maintained (to a degree) with the same level of know-how it takes to fix lawnmowers, but it isn't big, fast, or all that safe.  The appeal of the Serenity largely derives from it being captained by Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, before his head started looked like it belonged on Frankenstein's monster) and his "crew" largely being good looking people.  Beyond that, it is just a strange looking craft with an internal layout I've never been able to figure out and too little cargo space to make it a good freight hauler.  There is also the problem that it is meant to operate in a single solar system.  Since I want a possibility of Earth still being a home base, the Serenity doesn't do me a lot of good.
     I don't think there is much need to kill this idea.  It really is just the IJN Yamato scraped off the ocean floor, fixed up, and launched into space.  Okay, there is more to the story than that, but it was – at heart – an effort to recapture some of the national pride Japan lost after getting their asses kicked in WWII (and there are versions of it that severely amp up the Sci-Fi look of it).  I'm not saying that Star Blazers (the TV version I knew as a child) is without merit; I enjoyed it.  But I am not taking an Imperial Japanese ship as my primary.  Or secondary.  Yeah, I don't want it.  Not anymore than I would want a space version of the Bismarck.
     The computer will kill you.  Oh, and it doesn't have a lot of the cool bells-and-whistles one would want given the infinite possibilities the genre allows.  But the computer will kill you.  It also is meant for in-system use, but I am not cooling on the killer computer.  Yeah, HAL has a soothing voice (far better than Majel Barrett-Roddenberry's).  But HAL wants to kill you.  And me.
     Yeah...I hate Doctor Who.  With a passion.  Probably because I was made to watch the show in the early 1980s and I know how much it sucks.  Even without the £500/episode budget for set design and effects, the show is bound to suck.  And not just because it can just reset things whenever it wants with a new Doctor, because they can all travel through time and muck things up.  No, wait.  That is why the show sucks so much.  It demands no continuity.  It is the on-going version of a perpetual Marvel What-If universe, where the "what-ifs" in question can always be changed.  I hate Doctor Who more than I hate the JJ Abrams version of Star Trek (which I do not consider to be Star Trek, and I hate like Fred Phelps thinks God hates homosexuals).  Having written all that, I'm sure the ability to travel through time gives the TARDIS some virtue.  But apparently you can just fly around the Sun and travel in time.  Or through some weird Borg energy pulse.  Or you can microwave a container of JiffyPop near a Supernova.  Besides, there is the moral imperative to not time travel (as it almost guarantees invalidating the choices and actions exercised by other individuals).  Besides, no matter how big the TARDIS is on the inside, it would be a nightmare to dock the Veritech to it.  Now, were it stocked with infinite fresh cookies...well, I'd still hate Doctor Who, but I'd take the TARDIS and then just sell the cookies.  I'd eat many more than I should, but I'd go into the cookie selling business and give up the notion of exploring the galaxy.
     The ship is 19 kilometers long.  That is just too damn big.  I don't care how many of those little MSE droids you have running around, something 19 km long is going to require a fair amount of human labor just to keep it looking decent. Seriously.  I'm not saying I want a ship where I can be alone (actually, we'll address that later), but I certainly don't want a crew of thousands I have to oversee.  Well, actually the Captain would have to oversee them, but given that I am not considering any ISF Captains to command my ship (take that, Lorth Needa!).  Besides, Star Wars technology – despite the very loud ignorance of the Lucasites – is inferior to everything in the Star Trek universe.  Hell, the only threat the Super Star Destroyer would pose to a Federation Runabout would be the tractor beam.  Which means that it would lose a fight to the school bus of UFP ships.  I like the fighter compliment, but  not if they have to be TIE fighters (even if they are Interceptors).
     She is a living ship.  Not really sure why that would be appealing, except for the ideal that she could heal damage.  That isn't how it works, though, because she gets sick.  She gets infections.  She is afraid of fire.  And...she can get pregnant.  She has no weapons and her best defensive maneuver effectively wipes out her navigational orientation.  Add to the fact that she was a prison ship (so no luxuries), and she is just a terrible choice.  Not that I don't want the DRDs or translator microbes.  I want those.  I just don't want Moya.
     On the outisde, there is a lot to like about the Bird of Prey.  But then TNG and DS9 (and, if we are going to be honest, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) ruined it by repeatedly showing that Klingons don't believe in any kind of amenities.  They don't believe in good lighting.  And it is sure to be stocked with Klingon food and drink, which isn't appealing.  Does the Klingon smell come out?  Yes, it has a cloaking device, but it does not operate when firing weapons.  Besides, I like the idea of the Bird of Prey as an enemy ship, and Klingons are the enemy.  At all times.  And every single one of them.  Don't every forget it.
     I'm not sure if it is that the ship is cursed or that Laurence Fishburne is going to show up at some time that keeps this ship from consideration.  Or that it didn't really work.  And I hated the movie.  But it looked okay.  I just cannot imagine anyone choosing it as their one spaceship.
Maybe the INSS Lenin

     So what ships are worth considering?  Probably a lot more than i could ever think of.  The INSS Lenin seems like a fine choice, but I would be more in favor of the MacArthur (had it not been destroyed).  Oh, and I have no idea if the model I found on the internet is an accurate representation of it.  Hard to choose a ship if you don't know what it really looks like.  It certainly has some degree of ass-kicking ability, but the hard science fiction of The Mote in God's Eye is going to leave it severely underpowered against the more fantastical craft available.  Besides, the Lenin needs a huge crew as well.
     Maybe it is because the ship reminds me of an old, yellow pencil topper I had in second grade.  Maybe it is because Futurama produced the single saddest episode of television, ever ("Jurassic Bark").  Okay, probably not that.  But the Planet Express Ship is like the Firefly class ship from the Whedonverse, except that it doesn't have to make sense.  It is largely idiot-proof (Fry), and does not require much in the way of a crew.  Sure, there is no place to dock the Veritech with it, but if Pazuzu can hold onto the landing bay and survive in deep space...I don't know where I'm going with that.  I really just want to point out that the gargoyle survived hard vaccuum. 
NSEA Protector
     Talk about an idiot-proof ship – even Fred Kwan could make it work.  Well, that is one of the advantages of having fans of the TV show build the ship.  I'm not really sure why this isn't my ultimate choice.  It has effective weaponry, travels, fast, has transporter-like technology, and apparently can send people across the universe by use of some kind of goo and a wormhole.  It also has the most ridiculous lay-out (because of the fidelity to the fake TV show).  If it comes with Gwen DeMarco, it may become my back-up choice.
     Actually, we don't know that much about the Sulaco from the movie Aliens.  Like most ships of that universe, it doesn't seem to need much of a crew to operate its transit from system to system.  It also may not carry much in the way of supplies since it freezes the crew instead of keeping them awake for a couple of weeks.  Maybe that is just a plot device, a way of keeping consistency between the films.  I don't want a ship that forces people to doze through the journey.  If I wanted that, I would have taken the ship from WALL-E.  But the Sulaco does have armament, has dropships (and a nice comfy bay where I can put my Veritech fighter), and came from Earth.  It hits a lot of the right buttons.
     More of a troop transport than anything else, the Corvette Transport from Starship Troopers is one of the cooler looking ships out there.  Half ocean going freighter, half warship, it looks like someone took the time to make it look just plausible enough to be real.  And in a Verhoeven film, plausibility is not something that is easily to come by.  Why is it so high on my list?  I mean, it has a large crew, doesn't have kick-ass weaponry or defenses, and it doesn't have a great pedigree.  But Denise Richards (or more appropriately, a character she played) almost died on one.  Any ship that makes an effort to kill Denise Richards needs to be considered.
     In almost every way, the SDF-1 is what I want.  With the Prometheus attached, there is not only not a shortage of space to dock the VF-1J, but plenty of extra Veritech fighters (be they 1A, 1D, or 1S).  The Daedalus can be made into a punching-fist so the Destroids within can shoot the hell out whatever ship we decided to punch.  It has...okay, had, the ability to travel via inter-dimensional hyperspace fold.  Cannot say enough about how cool fold technology is, but the SDF-1 has to give it up in order to put a city in the middle of the ship.  It is also, as far as I know, the only transformer in contention here.  Not that I wouldn't prefer the regular looking configuration to be able to fire the Main Cannon, but one cannot always get what one wants.  Given the immense power of the Main Cannon – it could essentially shoot a hole through the Death Star – it would be sheer folly to not take the SDF-1.
     It also has one of the better stories associated with it.  Alien command ship crashed on Earth (which forces a global war to come to an end), gets rebuilt and (maybe) improved, inadvertently fires the first shot in a war that destroys more than 80% of the planet and has to keep thousands of civilians safe inside after accidentally transporting an island with it to Pluto.  It is the only reason humanity survives the conflict.  We'll just all agree to ignore its ignominious end.
     Yes, I went with the class because if I came out and said the USS Voyager, well I wouldn't expect anyone to take me seriously.  Voyager may not be as generally disliked as Enterprise (and for good reasons), but it certainly is not super-loved, even in Star Trek circles.  That is really neither here nor there when it comes to the ship, though.  It has pretty much everything that makes UFP ships kick ass: phasers, photon torpedoes (even quantum torpedoes), transporters, warp drive, replicators, and – most importantly – holodecks.  As a matter of fact, the lack of holodeck and cramped quarters is why the USS Defiant didn't make the list.  The Defiant looks awesome and has unbelievable killing power.  It even had a cloaking device for a while.  But it is just a warship, and I want more.  So why something that is essentially the Voyager instead of any of the Enterprises?  First, I really do like the look.  There is something fake looking about TOS's Enterprise, and while that is understandable, it isn't something I want.  Sure, the Planet Express Ship is about as fake looking as possible, but it is from a cartoon.  The Enterprise-D looks a little better and has all of the amenities, but it has that ridiculous saucer-separation thing going on.  I really am not in favor of that.  No, the Voyager can land on planets.  Boom!  It's huge to me.  The Intrepid Class ship has enough room for the Veritech fighter (good-bye, one set of less than cool shuttlecraft), which is a plus.  Now, I do want to get rid of those stupid bio-neural gel packs (since they can get infected and replacements cannot be replicated).  It also has the EMH.
     Now I never understood how it was that the Sick Bay could be fitted with holo-emitters but nobody ever thought to put them anywhere else.  This is my cheat around having to have a large crew.  If we accept that the mobile emitter cannot be replicated because it is too technologically advanced (despite the fact that DS9 establishes that replicators can duplicate a device without any understanding of the device being necessary), why not just place holo-emitters on the bridge and engineering?  It cuts down on the need to have real people in positions to do the important things.  There cannot be a huge difference in power usage for running the emitters versus food replicators, sonic showers, and life support for real crew members.  I would want the option the have a lot of holo-crew members is what I am saying.  And not just because then I could guarantee that I'd never end up with a Wesley Crusher-type person anywhere important.  Because it would just be programs in all the important posts.  Maybe.  But definitely no whiny teens. 
    So, yeah.  I want a craft that can land, doesn't destroy space by going to warp, has good weaponry, the ability to manufacture just about anything necessary, and multiple holodecks.  And, for my money, there isn't much that does all of that better than the Intrepid Class.

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