Thursday, May 05, 2005

I'm sorry captain, I shouldn't do that

Star Trek and pedophilia. Really
May 5, 2005

We’re repeated several times the mantra "correlation does not equal causation," but sometimes the parallelism just can’t be ignored, not because it is good science but because it is really interesting even if it proves nothing. Take the story in the Los Angeles Times about pedophiles by Maggie Farley, who reported out of Toronto on that city’s police investigation of child molesters. Down buried in the story was this:
Their work is a daily sojourn to the underworld. [Det. Sgt. Paul] Gillespie has a team of 10 men and six women who spend hours in front of their computers, extracting leads, writing warrants and sifting photos for clues. The payoff is the day they get to kick down a door and take the "bad guy" away. The mood is light and the humor often off-color to ease the horror.

On one wall is a "Star Trek" poster with investigators' faces substituted for the Starship Enterprise crew. But even that alludes to a dark fact of their work: All but one of the offenders they have arrested in the last four years was a hard-core Trekkie. [Emphasis added]

Det. Constable Warren Bulmer slips on a Klingon sash and shield they confiscated in a recent raid. "It has something to do with a fantasy world where mutants and monsters have power and where the usual rules don't apply," Bulmer reflects. "But beyond that, I can't really explain it."
Keep in mind, no one in his or her right mind thinks or said that all or most or even a modest number of Trekkies are child molesters. The policeman only said that all but one of the child molesters they’ve caught in the last four years are. It would take a psychiatrist to explain that phenomenon and Constable Bulmer’s explanation seems as good as any.

All this comes at a time when Paramount has finally pulled the plug on the franchise, canceling the last series, Enterprise. The cancellation was long overdue, as science fiction writer Orson Scott Card points out in the same newspaper. The original Star Trek, that of cult status, was terrible. It was bad science fiction badly done. Some of the spin-offs weren’t too awful; I particularly liked Deep Space Nine, but for real science fiction fans—and I’ve been one since I was 10, back in the days of Heinlein—they were disappointments. Science fiction is better than that. It is even possible to do good science fiction on television, for instance Firefly (cancelled by Fox but available on DVDs) and the best of them all, the new Battlestar Galactica now running on the SciFi channel—science fiction for grownups. Doing it well, however, usually involves imagining aliens who were not just humans with strange foreheads, all of whom speak English. (OK, the Borg was great--it’s a collective noun, I think-- but the metaphor was never used to its best effect). If there are other creatures out there, they probably look nothing like us, behave nothing like us, and--one hopes--think nothing like us. None of the programs had the vast scope required for merely good space operas, even after the development of cheap special effects, the kind of stuff you see in Star Wars (also second-rate science fiction). And none even try to emulate the newer, darker and weirder stuff of people like China Mieville or even the old hands like Larry Niven, who can make imaginative jumps that leave you breathless.

This gets us back to the Times’ story. Why on earth would a program as mediocre as Star Trek become a cult? I know a splendid, intelligent, kind and generous woman who spent (maybe still spends) a fair amount of her life somewhere in Gene Roddenberry’s universe. I can’t explain it. It was not even that attractive a place. (In her case, doing something morally reprehensible is out of the question, which is the danger of painting with too broad a brush in things like this.)

Meanwhile, the Times is getting slugged and is defending itself. Copyright Lawyer Ernest Miller was one of the first people to pick up on the story on his blog. He verified the statement by the Toronto folks with them and with the Times reporter. They said it, and it is apparently true. Check it out here. I have no idea what all this means, but as I get more, I'll post it.

And these were the voyages of the Starship Enterprise....

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