SciFi Weekend: Science Fiction and Terrorism; Star Trek Time Travel Theories; Eliza Dushku on Dollhouse

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Just under  a year ago I had an item on how the Department of Homeland Security was picking the brains of science fiction writers for creative scientific ideas for fighting terrorism. The Washington Post describes how this is an annual event:

The line between what’s real and what’s not is thin and shifting, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has decided to explore both sides. Boldly going where few government bureaucracies have gone before, the agency is enlisting the expertise of science fiction writers.

Crazy? This week down at the Reagan Building, the 2009 Homeland Security Science & Technology Stakeholders Conference has been going on. Instead of just another wonkish series of meetings and a trade show, with contractors hustling business around every corner, this felt at times more like a convention of futuristic yarn-spinners…

The cost to taxpayers is minimal. The writers call this “science fiction in the national interest,” and they consult pro bono. They’ve been exploring the future, and “we owe it to mankind to come back and report what we’ve found,” said writer Arlan Andrews, who also is an engineer with the Navy in Corpus Christi, Tex.

Andrews founded an organization of sci-fi writers to offer imaginative services in return for travel expenses only. Called Sigma, the group has about 40 writers. Over the years, members have addressed meetings organized by the Department of Energy, the Army, Air Force, NATO and other agencies they care not to name. At first, “to pass the Beltway giggle-factor test,” Andrews recruited only sci-fi writers who had conventional science or engineering chops on their résumés. Now about a third of the writers have PhDs.

…Homeland Security first reached out to science fiction writers a couple of years ago. At last year’s conference, the attendees rated a panel led by the writers as the best of the week “by far,” said Chris Christopher, the agency’s conference director for science and technology.

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J.J. Abrams has discussed some of the theories discussed by Star Trek fans. Abrams used time travel to get around established Star Trek canon but there were some changes which are not still not easily explained even considering the changes made in the time  line by Nero.

The “Kelvin Crew Knows Who Romulans Are” Theory: In the classic “Trek” series, humans didn’t know what Romulans looked like prior to Captain Kirk’s time; in the new film, a Romulan craft kills the humans aboard the U.S.S. Kelvin. According to one fan theory, the attack on the Kelvin leads to a slip-up by Abrams, because the human crew recognize their attackers as Romulans.

“It’s not mentioned in the scene on the Kelvin, but they are aware of it,” Abrams confirmed, agreeing with the sharp-sighted fans. “Because later in the movie, Kirk mentions that they were Romulan. And we very purposely begin the film with a moment that, for fans of ‘Star Trek,’ is a left turn from the timeline they are familiar with.” For anyone who thinks they “caught” Abrams, however, the director is quick to point out the opposite. “For fans of ‘Trek,’ yes, the Romulans appearing breaks with what is known to be ‘Trek’ canon. But that is on purpose.”

The “Sleeker, Faster Response” Theory: If the new “Trek” gives us the Enterprise equivalent of a Blu-Ray disk, then the ship on the original “Trek” looks like a Betamax tape. One fan theory is that the attack on the Kelvin forced the Federation to build sleeker, faster spacecraft in the movie’s new reality.

“Right,” agreed Abrams. “The idea of the story is that at the beginning of the film something happens that changes the course of history. They cross paths with this futuristic ship, and it changes everything that would’ve been the classic series ‘Trek’ fans are familiar with. … One could argue that, based on the readings they got from the [Romulan] ship that showed up, it inspired ideas and technology that wouldn’t have advanced otherwise.” Hence, the huge difference between the old Enterprise and his version. “On the one hand, you could answer the question by saying that history got a boost, an adjustment, from this moment at the beginning of the film,” he grinned. “And if you don’t want to answer the question, you could say it’s just a movie.”

At least on the interior views I would prefer to stick with saying it is just a movie as opposed to questionable theories such as these. Who would really expect a movie released in 2009 to stick to the cardboard effects of the 1960′s? I’m willing to accept a newer view of the Enterprise without need for an explanation.

Changing the time line does solve one problem. One of the reasons William Shatner was not used in Abram’s first Star Trek movie is that in the Roddenberry Star Trek universe James Kirk was killed.  Now that they are in a new time line, Abrams has said this leaves open the possibility of old Kirk or Kahn appearing. Unfortunately using Shatner as old Kirk would mean yet more time travel, which has been over used. I would prefer not to see time travel used in the next few Star Trek movies unless they have a really good idea, or they use it to repair the time line.  There is really no reason to bring back the older Kahn as they can retell the original meeting between Kahn and the Enterprise if they desire, possibly with differences in the Abrams time line.

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Eliza Dushku was interviewed by TV Guide after Dollhouse was renewed:

TVGuide.com: Will the “missing” 13th episode, “Epitaph One,” now serve as the Season 2 premiere? Or is it still DVD-only?
Dushku: You know, I dont know. I just got off the plane, so I dont know.

TVGuide.com: “Epitaph One,” which was produced on the studio’s own dime, was used to convince Fox that Dollhouse can be delivered on a smaller budget. Are there any differences the viewer might pick up on?
Dushku: No, our set is pretty solid and top dollar. I think the show will continue to be visually stunning.

TVGuide.com: So, as you filmed it, you didn’t pick up on anything different?
Dushku: Well, it was faster — and that’s always nice!

TVGuide.com: How will Echo be different going forward, considering the events of the season finale?
Dushku: Being downloaded with all the personalities, the build-up was about Echo becoming self-aware. It will give the audience a chance to connect with Echo more, because she’s not just that blank slate. There’s something behind her eyes creeping out. That’s the center of the show — can you really erase someone’s identity? The answer seems to be no.

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