Monday, May 11, 2009

Trek: A Military Analysis

You've probably already read a hundred reviews of the new Trek movie, and you don't need mine. (Short form: liked the characters, winced at the baaaad science and coincidence-heavy plot.)

But over at Danger Room, we find the take of a genuine military analyst.

* The villainous Romulan ship pulverizes Federation vessels with volleys of torpedoes. Yet no Federation warship employs electronic jammers, decoys or point defense phasers. Very depressing. Two hundred years later, missile defense still doesn’t work.

* But why does the Romulan ship need torpedoes? If its energy drill can bore holes through planets, then it can slice a starship like a phaser through butter. Future humans must still learn to master dual-use technology.

* Speaking of phasers: The ones in the movie fire bolts of energy, like in Star Wars. What happened to the Marvin-the-Martian-style disintegrator beams from the original Star Trek? Perhaps someone realized that disintegrating bulkheads in a pressurized starship in deep space isn’t the safest way to fight.

* There is only one scene in the movie where phasers are ordered to be set on stun. Otherwise, everyone cheerfully uses lethal force. The classic Star Trek rules of engagement are out the window.

* Kirk and his team are dropped from the Enterprise orbiting above Vulcan, and then deploy parachutes once they’re in the atmosphere. I can see not swatting Kirk with torpedoes or the energy drill. But again, some point defense phasers on the Romulan ship might have swatted them. At least Heinlein’s Starship Troopers had self-contained, individual jump capsules for its troops.

* No one loves the Department of Homeland Security. But just look what happens when DHS isn’t around! Poor Vulcan had no evacuation plans or Code Orange threat warnings.

* BTW, where the heck are Vulcan’s orbital defenses? Wouldn’t logic demand some planetary protection? The Federation receives a report that an alien vessel destroyed 47 Klingon warships. That vessel next appears at Vulcan, and Starfleet only sends seven ships against it? Kirk isn’t the only one with an inflated ego.

* Vulcan must have relied on the Federation, whose main fleet happened to be cruising in a different part of the galaxy. Seems like the Federation is a little big to be covered by one fleet. Want to bet that the head of Federation strategic planning is named Rumsfeld?

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6 Comments:

Blogger Ralf the Dog said...

"The villainous Romulan ship pulverizes Federation vessels with volleys of torpedoes. Yet no Federation warship employs electronic jammers, decoys or point defense phasers. Very depressing. Two hundred years later, missile defense still doesn’t work."

I am sure they did use electronic jammers. They were just 100+ years out of date. My guess is that the torpedoes were far to smart for any kind of decoy (Anyone have a giant inflatable starship?) I think I did see point defense after the first encounter. They were just over matched.

"* But why does the Romulan ship need torpedoes? If its energy drill can bore holes through planets, then it can slice a starship like a phaser through butter. Future humans must still learn to master dual-use technology."

1. The energy drill looked like something quite fragile, "Excuse me Mr. Starship captain. Please don't shoot at me while I real out this long tether.

2. The Romulan was looking for information and revenge. The Federation ships could not hurt his ship, why not take your time and have some fun.

3. The allmighty writers decreed from the hights of Paramount that the story would be quite a bit cooler if the ship was ripped apart by giant stickers like the ones that get tangled in your socks.

"* Kirk and his team are dropped from the Enterprise orbiting above Vulcan, and then deploy parachutes once they’re in the atmosphere. I can see not swatting Kirk with torpedoes or the energy drill. But again, some point defense phasers on the Romulan ship might have swatted them. At least Heinlein’s Starship Troopers had self-contained, individual jump capsules for its troops."

They were using ultra low profile stealth jump suits. The Romulans just thought they were space hummingbirds until they landed.

"* No one loves the Department of Homeland Security. But just look what happens when DHS isn’t around! Poor Vulcan had no evacuation plans or Code Orange threat warnings."

Evacuation was not a logical choice until they figured out the planet was about to explode. By that time all the Vulcan ships had been slagged.

"* BTW, where the heck are Vulcan’s orbital defenses? Wouldn’t logic demand some planetary protection? The Federation receives a report that an alien vessel destroyed 47 Klingon warships. That vessel next appears at Vulcan, and Starfleet only sends seven ships against it? Kirk isn’t the only one with an inflated ego."

The Vulcans had lots of ships. They all got slagged in seconds.

"* Vulcan must have relied on the Federation, whose main fleet happened to be cruising in a different part of the galaxy. Seems like the Federation is a little big to be covered by one fleet. Want to bet that the head of Federation strategic planning is named Rumsfeld?"

Space is big, ships cost a lot. Crews to run the ships cost quite a bit too.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Ralf the Dog said...

I remember getting into a debate with a former member of Delta Force (I did not know he was Delta at the time).

He had just watched Starship Troopers. He was quite mad that they went down into the canyon, "No member of any military would ever put them selves into a spot where they could be ambushed like that....[expletives deleted]

I told him that I was sure he was correct if your enemy had a brain, even a little one. Setting up an ambush requires the ability to plan. If your enemy has no mind and no memory and it can only react to what is happening right now, different tactics are called for.

When 99 out of 100 bugs stay away from low places and you don't want to get eaten by a bug, stay in the canyon. This was a key plot point. The Roughnecks did not know the colony had a brain bug, thus the ability to use tactics.

He told me I did not know what the [long string of rather creative expletives and anatomical references deleted] I was talking about.

12:01 AM  
Blogger halojones-fan said...

(reading)...hm...wrong...wrong...WRONG...did this guy even WATCH THE FREAKIN' MOVIE? He's factually wrong on several points, and the rest are easily countered with a moment's thought.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Ralf the Dog said...

Spoiler alert!

One scene of the movie did piss me off, the bit about the auto pilot. You have a starship with more computer power than we have on Earth today controlling things we can't begin to imagine. The computers can do all of this by one guy pressing buttons on the bridge. Yet the auto pilot was damaged so you could not program it to wait 30 seconds then drive into that other ship?

My guess is the Federation has not yet upgraded from Windows to Linux.

9:49 PM  
Blogger dubjay said...

It's more like Trek hasn't fully upgraded from the 1960s. Elsewhere in the film we see the cadets carrying briefcases from class to class, while in space workers in vac suits are welding the ships' hull plates together.

And of course the Romulans cheated. Not only did they bring a ship from the future, but it was a ship they stole from the Shadows in B5.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Dave Bishop said...

I'm surprised that anyone is surprised that a current manifestation of the Star Trek phenomenon doesn't make sense. No Star Trek TV episode or film has ever made sense to me. All the scripts, from episode 1, have been based on 'make-it-up-as-you-go-along-and-don't worry-your-pretty-little-head-about-sense-or-consistency-between-or-even-within-episodes' plotting.

After all, in all of the episodes that I've seen, we are expected to believe that none of the personnel on the bridge of a starship are even strapped in and are flung around all over the shop whenever the said starship hits anything - even though the thought of a starship hitting anything doesn't bear thinking about!
As I've said, many times before, Star Trek is a soap opera - and only the 'emotional content' of a soap opera needs to make any sort of sense (possibly?).

12:44 PM  

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