Always Wear A Bulletproof Vest on the Holodeck

And other things I’ve learned from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’

Ever since I discovered that all seven seasons of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” are on Netflix, I’ve begun re-watching them all from the beginning. At this point, I’ve made it halfway through Season 4. Based on the vision from the early 90s, here are some things I’ve learned about what the future will be like.

1. It doesn’t pay to be the resident tough guy

Lt. Worf, a fierce Klingon raised by peaceful humans, is the head of security aboard the USS Enterprise for almost all of the show’s run. His presence basically boils down to two roles:

  • He brings up safety concerns or recommends aggressive courses of action, only to be denied by Capt. Jean-Luc Picard
  • He is routinely beaten up to emphasize how “tough” the bad-guy-of-the-week is. (This has become known as “The Worf Effect.”)

In the future, it doesn’t pay to be tough. Unless you’re Picard, of course.

2. If you know what time, dimension, or reality you’re currently in, you’re having a good day

At the start of each episode, you are reminded of the Enterprise’s mission: “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” While this exploration obviously involves new alien life forms and planets, it also frequently involves sudden and confusing shifts in time, location, dimension and reality.

In episode 63, an older version of the Enterprise arrives from the past. In episode 163, Worf starts randomly shifting between parallel universes. In episode 82, Riker experiences a projection that convinces him he’s woken up 16 years in the future. And don’t even get me started on the holodeck, which can simulate any location or experience.

The future aboard the Enterprise, then, is much like living in a pot-fueled mind trip. What is reality, man? What if we’re all just a dream? What if, indeed?

(Editors’ note: And don’t even get us started on the whole space-time-and-thought-are-the-same-thing deal.)

3. Simple malfunctions are terrifying

Everyday technology aboard the Enterprise includes things like the above-mentioned holodeck, faster-than-light engines, and of course the transporter, which disintigrates things (and people) in one place and reassembles them molecule-by-molecule somewhere else. However, a recurring plot device is seeing what happens when this incredibly advanced technology fails. And it fails All The Time.

Crew members repeatedly get trapped, hurt, or killed on the holodeck when it malfunctions. When the transporter has a glitch, it’s capable of turning you to dust. (Editors’ note: Or splitting you in two, or trapping you in suspended animation.) And the engines, other ships, space stations, and whole planets’ climate or energy systems are continually malfunctioning or crashing or exploding.

Really, is there any technology in the future that won’t kill me?

4. Leisure wear is going to become super sexy and pastel

Probably my favorite part of watching TNG is seeing the ridiculous leisure outfits Picard wears whenever he’s out of uniform. Perhaps it’s prompted by the restrictive nature of the full-body uniform, or maybe in the future our notion of modesty disintegrates, but those open V-neck shirts and jackets and pajamas are just too much.

Here’s hoping I won’t be caught wearing one of these ensembles when I get sucked into an alternate dimension or the transporter glitches and turns me into dust.

Article © 2012 by Melissa Reddish