13 comments on “Transfigurations

  1. I love that both Geordi and Christie facetable in the opening scene. Good catch from Derek on the irony of Worf’s poetic advice.

    HAHA, forgot that Geordi was patient zero in “The Naked Now.” At least they’re consistent about his low CON score. Shame they felt a literal space Jesus was needed to raise his CHA score.

    Kind of wish the alien’s flight instinct had kicked in earlier, to make a running gag of him crawling and staggering through the background of other people’s scenes.

    I suspect humanity’s eventual ascension would be a combination of scientific endeavor and biological accident. Maybe start from research on galactic barriers and then a retrovirus moves humanity into the embryonic god stage. Narratively, I think the whole series would have to be constructed around the discovery and transformation. Not a huge fan of how Voyager handled Kes; Enterprise’s time war probably isn’t the best model either. Curious to see if Orville patterns Isaac’s people’s long term goals on V’Ger.

    Incidentally, I may need to rewatch Voyager. I had no idea that Lamar’s promotion was lifted from their third episode (“Parallax”).

    • I was disappointed, but not surprised, by Enterprise’s use of the temporal cold war. I need to go back over TOS and see if I can find evidence for temporal wars–cold or otherwise–explaining all of the abandoned, isolated civilizations they find.

      • A temporal war would target civilizations while they’re small; “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” isn’t a perfect fit, but it’s the only one I can think of. …Maybe “Assignment: Earth” qualifies too.

        • The effects of the Earth-Xindi(?) Temporal War resulted in a devastated future Earth with destroyed buildings and everything. If simply setting off a nuke over Africa some 200,000 years ago or bombarding Earth with anti-time bullshit during the primoridal ooze worked, we would’ve seen an Earth with no civilization.

          Also, all temporal wars would be won by whoever shot first and mugged their opponents in the crib. Worse, figuring who did anything first is a huge pain during a temporal war.

          The rules of a temporal war would have to support move and countermove in such a way that an utterly destroyed advanced civilization is a possible fail state. I gathered some literature on it, but never got around to it because my plate was full.

          Sargon and friends. The salt vampire. The civilization that made Corby’s androids. The bioweapons of “Miri” and “The Omega Glory,” possibly even “That Which Survives.” The energy cloud made from survivors of Zetar. The guys who made the robot factory in “I, Mudd.” Sargon and crew. The Guardian’s civilization from “City on the Edge of Forever.” The Talosians. There’s tons of advanced civilizations that just…collapsed instead of–or after–becoming interstellar players.

          There are lots of species, but few elder races. The Gamesters of Triskelion, the Metrons, Apollo, and the Melkotians…they’re all very insular.

          The only exception I can think of are Gary Seven’s “people,” who meddle in humanity’s present, but know a lot about humanity’s future. He says they remain unknown in Kirk’s time, but we never hear from them again.

          That’s all due to the format of the show, with one-off destroyed civilizations in a series that’s not about elder races pushing humanity around, but inevitable temporal wars make a lot of sense with the series’ increased use of time travel as time goes on.

          It’s gotta become a problem and with Braxton coming across like such a sloppy idiot, that it seems inevitable.

  2. Okay, yeah, I forgot about the Guardian on the Edge getting destroyed on Earth. Those are all fair points. I don’t think temporal war is necessary to explain these dead or unwelcoming elder civilizations, but I also don’t think the rules of temporal war were nailed down enough to even try ruling it out. Kinda getting a headache trying to figure it out; at the very least, I suspect timelines work differently than in the Time War of Doctor Who.

    • “the Guardian on the Edge getting destroyed on Earth” wait what?

      Did Doctor Who ever pin down how the Time War, Last Great worked? I figured it was a noodle incident where anything went.

      I don’t know if it’s “necessary,” but it’s weird there aren’t a lot of old, interstellar races. The Bajoran civilization is over 10,000 years old, but they didn’t seem really eager to get into space. Weyoun claims The Dominion is 10,000 years old, but if anyone believes what Weyoun says, I’ve got a bridge to sell them…

      • Hm. The Guardian of Forever wasn’t in the scene I thought it was. (Feels like we had a similar exchange on this point ten years ago.) I guess I’m misremembering it the same way I misremember the conclusion of “All Good Things…”

        The Last Great Time War is still a noodle incident, but it follows the same basics as most of Doctor Who: single timeline, and anyone or anything which leaves its native time is unaffected when the timeline changes. Star Trek is much more comfortable with parallel and branching timelines (the Xindi ; when you do change a timeline (in Enterprise, anyways), the change propagates forward in such a way that time travelers have a grace period to return to a future point before the change reaches it; the change does also eventually reach the time travelers themselves.

        The future Earth in Enterprise could have been devastated by the whale probe from STIV: The Voyage Home – an example of elder races crushing younger ones underfoot. So I’d dispute the idea that there aren’t many elder races, but it *is* weird that none of them (Dominion excepted) seem as imperialistic as the younger races.

        The Bajorans might not be the best example. Their culture has been continuously tampered with by ascended beings; they seem to have several naturally habitable worlds in their native system, which would’ve distracted them; and DS9’s Kon-Tiki episode paints them as a people of space-canoes on a space-archipelago.

        • The Last Great Time War does have stupid ‘sky trenches’ and Gallifreyans in Starship Trooper gear, and most of the war seems to involve that kind of basic war (plus about ten Dalek invasions of Gallifrey).

          Trek is way more comfortable with parallel time lines. Like, incredibly more comfortable, but in the LGTW they’ve also got millions of people dying and being reborn at its heart and races being warped by the rapid changes and paradoxes in the timeline. The Could’ve Been King, the Meanwhiles and the Neverweres are all ‘horrors’ of the LGTW that seem to have time or potential timelines at the core of their identity (or at least their names, since that’s all we know about them). One part of LGTW history refers to a year A10%.

          The bit you mentioned where changes propagate at some speed. It’d be at a rate of time per time and since a change is more powerful the further you go back, you instantly have the “big, slow attack versus the light, fast attack.” There’s immediately a paradigm there. Destroying humanity by messing with our genes 10,000 to 200,000 years ago doesn’t matter because the effects might not reach us for over a century.

          Even better: imagine sending a spy to 1910 France as a time scout. They hang out, blend in. Do some Bohemian things. Meet some writers before they die penniless. Before our scout knows it, it’s New Years, 1911. It’s a like a gap year.

          But then the enemy changes history before 1910. Those changes echo up the timeline. That same scout travels back to 1910 and from the moment her arrives, it’s a blasted hellscape. They scrabble over the ruins to find a history book, an eyewitness, residual radiation traces. Something to explain what happened, and then they have to get good intel and then get back to the future quickly enough for the future to prepare a response (and which future does he report to?).

          Our good scout lives an easy, leisurely life and at the same time every mission is a race against time in the wake of a lost battle.

          That even assumes that Paris’ night life and coffee shops aren’t plagued with some more insidious plot trying to weave its way past scouts and into the future (Bradbury’s “Zero Hour” isn’t about a temporal war, but it’s similarly insidious).

          You can tell a story with that simple paradigm. Shooting humanity in its crib is neither here nor there for science, but it’s dreadful for a story. At best, it should be the temporal war equivalent of shooting Stalin in the head during the Cold War–nice to have but requires a lot of preliminary steps. The nature of a temporal war should preclude it.

          Getting back on track, the Whale Probe is the one elder race I can think of. The dinosaurs are another one. Generally staying out of everyone else’s business seems to be conducive to their survival. A time war would explain that. I’m sure there’s more living elder races out there, but I’d be surprised if there’s more than two or three of them out there.

          Sargon in “Return to Tomorrow,” implies a technological chokepoint which surpasses that of nuclear weapons and requires wisdom to navigate, an “ultimate crisis.” He speaks of the power of his mind and that’s the obvious, textual meaning. Encroaching temporal technologies wielded by the likes of the Klingons or Ferengi might also qualify.

          Advanced races become time-capable (if Starfleet is any indication). Then, if they become too much of a problem, there’s a time war and time settles into the most stable timeline; the civilizations that messed with time develop just enough to destroy each other and/or themselves.

          That’s a lot like how “Year of Hell” ends: timey-wimey stable liney.

          • The names “Could’ve Been King,” “Meanwhiles” and “Neverweres” suggests timetravelers whose origins were temporally erased, in keeping with Doctor Who’s standard rules of time travel. Competing branched timelines is a whole other thing. Not that Enterprise used branches either – that turned out to be a single, alien parallel timeline (the Sphere Builders) invading a single Federation timeline.

            The propogation delay is a promising mechanism. It doesn’t completely eliminate the ability to snipe pivotal personalities in your opening moves, though, which is why I was hoping for branch-hopping being more important in Enterprise.

            The whales aren’t alone. Off the top of my head there’s the Organians, Apollo’s ascended people, the Traveler’s people, Kevin Uxbridge, and the Sheliak Corporate. Isolationism and diaspora do fit as the fallout of a far-reaching war, but I don’t think it’s in Star Trek’s ethos to push those results as a necessary outcome.

          • Who’s use of time travel goes from very simple, single timeline to FUBAR magic time. Beings whose existence is an innate contradiction seem to be part of the madness-inducing battlefield of a time war. I’m inclined to believe the LGTW has the potential for being a more imaginative temporal war than traditional Dr. Who fare, or even the LGTW as seen so far.

            The probe and the dinosaurs are advanced, but not ascended. I didn’t count ascended guys because they’re on a whole other plane (pun intended) and restrained in how they interact.

            Also, I’m not sure why the Sheliak would qualify. They’re assholes with basic understanding of contract law. A powerful combination in Star Trek, but I don’t see them as being on the level of the Dino-Nerds of the Delta Quadrant.

          • LGTW does seem like the place to find ouroborous people and whatever other kinds of paradox people couldn’t be created through Who’s normal time travel.

            If we’re asking “why are there so few elder races on the material plane,” I don’t think the possibility of ascension can be ignored. Even if we were to treat ascended races as a separate category, we still have the question of why there aren’t more of them in known space; historically, when new vistas open up to a civilization, the civilization expands without abandoning the old vistas.

            The Federation ceded worlds to the Sheliak as part of the original treaty, and that episode never contradicts the Sheliak’s view of humanity as an inferior, verminous species. If the Federation hasn’t had contact with them for a century it’s because the Federation has been avoiding them.

          • For all the blustering races in Star Trek, I don’t think we have to believe the Sheliak by default. One of the things I like about TNG is how they don’t have to assert dominance at every opportunity, like Commander Riker not having to assert that Kurn couldn’t kill him in “Sins of the Father.”

            Historically, exploring a new world hasn’t meant leaving the old. But human expansion is piecemeal and not total. Not everyone got to go to America. European population expanded to fill both continents. Ascension in Star Trek is played differently; the non-interventionist bent of ascended races seems to include not having a world for Klingons to invade and commit mass-murders on and it’s portrayed as total; none of the Q get left in proverbial Europe.

            Except Armus, who is a whole other thing.

  3. Fair point on blustering Sheliak. The worlds ceded to them might’ve been uninhabitable or unexploitable for Federation people too.

    Agreed that ascension works as described in Star Trek. But I think we do have to ask why it works that way, because the reasons might begin being relevant in the pre-ascension, elder race stage.

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