More of the series on technology in Star Trek: the sensors.
If the Star Trek folks did a good job in retaining limitations in the engines, an area where they've failed the viewers miserably is the sensors. There were certainly limitations to the sensors in the original series, but Voyager has pretty much no limitations except when it suits the plot, in which case they make up reasons — sometimes lame ones — about why the sensors can't see something.
Seriously, here. The sensors can tell how many life forms there are, and of what species. They can tell how many dead bodies there are. They can tell exactly what sort of weaponry is available, and whether they are “powered up” or not. They can detect “energy signatures” and “weapon signatures”, and determine, say, that a Borg ship has been here recently, or that someone has fired a Federation phaser 'round these parts. They can scan a planet and tell Voyager just what level of technology they have there. Heck, they can even detect technology that Voyager doesn't have — it's a good trick, making scanners that can find things you don't even know about.
When they need to stick scanner limitations into the plot, well, we usually get “subspace interference” or some mysterious sort of “cloaking technology”. But sometimes, when the scanners can't find what they're looking for, the crew just needs to “recalibrate” or “remodulate” them — a process that apparently happens at the press of a button, and there's no explanation about what they're calibrated against, or what sort of “modulation” we're talking about.
The remodulation thing also magically changes the effectiveness of the shields and of the weaponry. The odd thing here is that with the removal of limitations of other sorts, there's still a ridiculous limitation that the captain has to give an order to “remodulate” something, at which point a crew member says, “Aye, captain,” and suddenly it's all better. As sophisticated as the equipment and the computer system are, wouldn't that happen automatically, with no specific human command and response?
This is where I find things the most maddening, and where it requires the greatest suspension of disbelief. It's simply a question that when it helps the plot for Voyager to know what's what, the sensors can give the information... and when it helps the plot for them to be in the dark, the sensors can't see it. And there's just no consistency to it. It's a part of the system that I just can't see as reasonable technology, even for the 24th century.
While I'm here, three unrelated Star Trek notes:
- Nice quote from the episode titled “Someone To Watch Over Me”: Seven of Nine is observing B'Elanna and Tom, by way of studying human mating behaviour. B'Elanna is annoyed when she discovers this, grabs Seven of Nine's notes, and reads them.
B'Elanna: “Star date 52648, 0300 hours, intimate relations resume.” How the hell do you know when we're having intimate relations?
Seven of Nine: There is no one on deck 9 section 12 who doesn't know when you're having intimate relations.
- I've just watched the episode titled “Blink of an Eye” (season 6 episode 12), and I consider it to be the best Voyager episode so far.
- You may have heard that the ashes of cremated actor James Doohan (Scotty from the original series), along with those of astronaut Gordon Cooper and about 200 other people, have just been sent into space. I love technology.