Ever since I was a kid I was a fan of Star Trek.
The whole concept of going out into space, meeting aliens, having adventures, just spoke to me as kid. If I had a genie pop out of a magic lamp when I was 10 years old, I'd have had a fully equipped and functioning starship. And that was before Next Generation, and all I had were the reruns of the original series.
However, there was always something about Star Trek that sorta, kinda, bugged me. Even when I was a kid.
They didn't really have any.
In fact, they actively avoided any economic talk in the original series, and generally avoided it in the Next Generation, with a blanket statement that no one in the Federation "used money," viewed those that did use money with suspicion, if not contempt, and left it at that.
Now I can understand Gene Rodenberry giving short shrift to thoughts of economics and money when creating the show. Talking in any depth about money, how it works or where it comes from is considered gauche in Hollywood circles, and they don't call economics the "dismal science" for nothing.
However, it is a key component in universe building because economics is the study of interactions between people, their society, and between societies.
To just ignore economics and hope that thinking up replicators would make it go away is something that I think hurt the franchise in the long run because it raised some questions that they couldn't answer.
1. How did the Federation trade with other interstellar powers? Seriously, without any sort of market system that allocates accurate costs and values to goods and services there really is no way for nations to trade beyond the most basic bartering.
2. How did everyone get paid? Seriously what is to stop a citizen from going to the replicator and just giving themselves all sorts of junk. While the replicators are good at transforming and recycling matter, they still need a steady supply of raw materials because you can't just create matter out of nothingness.
They need farmers and miners to produce those raw materials and they need something to control how much people use and prevent people from wasting them. A free market society uses money to control consumption. If you want to consume more, you must provide some sort of good or service to the wider world so you can earn more money so you can consume more.
Does the Federation government ration what resources people can use? If so, how does the Federation determine how much of said resources each person can use? How do they determine how someone gets since there's no real way to determine value? Is it based on your productivity, your rank, or your political connections? If it isn't, then what reason do people have to work hard at the sort of unglamorous jobs that make the comfortable lives of the Starfleet officers, Federation technocrats, and Academics possible?
And that's just the beginning of the questions.
Some people nitpick Star Trek's technobabble, I nitpick their incomplete social models. I know I'm not the only one who does this. Joss Whedon's Firefly was pretty much an expose of what life would be like under a Federation style state where you either served the state, served the politically connected elite who ran said state, or you had operate in an underground capacity, actively avoiding the state when you could.
GENERAL CONTRIVANCE STRIKES AGAIN
I was channel surfing the other night and came across some cheap-ass sci-fi monster movie about mutant bugs killing people. It was an exposition scene where the guy who knows what's going on explains things to those who don't know what's going on.
The explanation for the killer mutant bugs was that they were created by the US military to use a weapon.
Now this wasn't the first time I saw this, in fact, I can't keep count of how many time I have seen this or a variation of it. When there's mutant bugs, green irradiated rage monsters, man-eating mythical beasts, undead horrors, and or alien creatures running amok, there's often some guy with fancy rank insignia on his shoulders and scrambled eggs on his hat who either created it, or brought it to our world, or just stumbled onto it, but they want nothing more than to make it the next entry in America's arsenal.
That really sorta, kinda bugs me to no end.
Because it doesn't matter if this "weapon" can't be controlled, and will most likely kill all sorts of innocent civilians without doing any damage to any enemy, they want to have it, and won't let logic or strategic considerations stop them.
I call this character General Contrivance, because that is what they are: a contrived excuse for a plot.
You see everything in storytelling is contrived to one degree or another. Characters have to do certain things, often fantastical, at certain times to move the story along, that's contrived. However, the trick to avoid looking contrived by giving these things a basis in rational thought or some sort of reality, even if it's an alternate reality that operates by its own natural laws.
However, when someone does something that is obviously stupid for reasons that make no logical, or strategic sense the writers are creating an obvious contrivance.
Now there are two reasons to call in General Contrivance and his ilk.
1. LAZINESS: Coming up with new reasons for monsters to run amok requires burning calories. It's better to just slap in something about the military, because the uniforms are cheap to rent, and let it end there.
2. STATMENT!: The writers think they're using their monster movie to make some sort of statement about the military/industrial complex, when in fact they're just rehashing a cliche.
Those are two things that sorta, kinda, bug me. Leave what sorta, kinda, bugs you* in the comments.
*Warning: This blog and its author does not count as something that sorta, kinda, bugs anyone.