Thursday, August 19, 2010

Standoff of the Space Cowboys

This post is in response to a comment left by A.J. a few days ago:
Oh, and if you don't mind me asking what part of your Star Trek idea did the film incorporate? I think it's safe to assume it wasn't the part where they cover everything in lens flare.
The short answer: the creation of an alternate timeline, split off from the "canon" timeline, was something I was going to implement in my story.

The long answer. . .

The title of this post is the name that I was gonna give to my story. It's a silly name, loosely based on Gene Roddenberry's own nickname for Star Trek, "Wagon Train to the Stars". Nonetheless, in my mind the name stuck. The outline of the story is as follows:

A Federation Starship accidentally travels back in time to early 1960's Earth, crash-landing in the Caspian Sea. Their ship heavily damaged, and straddled between the Soviet Union and then US-allied Iran, things seem hopeless for the crew. Even if they could somehow manage to hide from the two biggest superpowers of the time, they won't last long without supplies.

However, they are quickly discovered and contacted by an oil tycoon hoping to mine the vast underground reserves of the Caspian Sea. The crew is offered protection and supplies in exchange for. . . well, they're not really sure, since the crashed ship is not all that terribly useful as an oil drilling platform. Neither is it terribly clear how an oil company, no matter how rich it is, can hide a bloody starship in the middle of the ocean from the Soviets and Americans. Still, the crew is hardly in a position to turn down his help. On top of all this, the crew has to clean up the messes they've made, like a photon torpedo landing on the border of two hostile nations, or crewmembers fleeing the ship.

Unfortunately, the ship's very presence in the twentieth century-- not to mention its contact with the oil company-- has opened up the possibility of historical alteration, destroying the timeline they know. However, the crew, initially, is in a position where they cannot be sure whether this is happening. The severe damage done to the ship's computer has almost completely erased its voluminous historical records. For instance, while some of the crew knew that an American president was going to be assassinated, no-one can be certain on what date it was supposed to happen. For all they know, the assassination that happened yesterday was supposed to happen tomorrow. As a result of this ambiguity, they cannot be certain whether their presense leads, in a hidden way, to the history they already know-- whether they were always part of history without even knowing it-- or whether history has actually changed.

The ship remains at the bottom of the Caspian Sea for five years. Up until this point, the crew has managed to adjust to their situation, and has seemed to contain any major historical changes. Unfortunately, the crew soon make what from their standpoint is a horrific discovery: a TV show called "Star Trek" that appears to be based upon their own future history.

AN ASIDE: Yes, yes, I went there. How cute of him, you all say. But aside from all the predicatable metafiction, I was always fascinated by the behind the scenes story of Star Trek. Indeed, it would be pretty interesting if they made a docu-drama TV series about the making of the show, with a title like "These Are the Voyages..." or some-such. It could serve as a sort of late-sixties companion piece to Mad Men (are you listening, AMC?).

Anyway, it's seeming more and more likely that history has indeed been changed and that the Federation, at least as it known by the crew, will never come to be. An ideological scism occurs, and the crew divides roughly into two camps: those who think that the original timeline must be restored, even if it means interference in the social and political structures of the day; and those who believe that this new history must be allowed to take its own course. The remainder of the series follows the conflict between these two camps.

That, more or less, was the idea of mine that was incorporated into the new film. There were all kinds of other aspects to this story, though. Most of them were only halfways thought through, and some might not have made it into the final version. Here are a few of those ideas, listed in no particular order:

- A powerful alien artifact stored within the hull of the ship-- this is actually what causes the time travel accident.

- A Klingon math genius who adopted the Vulcan way of life (can you tell it's fanfiction?) and is the only person who understands the artifact. She falls into a coma following the crash of the ship.

- An artificial insemination program that uses said Klingon's ova in combination with donated sperm to try and breed another math genius who can understand the artifact. This program does eventually create another genius, a young woman who is not only brilliant but also extremely volatile, due both to her Klingon genetics and her upbringing in a society that she doesn't really understand and that really doesn't understand her (she's not raised on the ship, but rather in contemporary human society).

- Remember the accused saboteur I mentioned earlier? As part of her plan to escape, she used nanobots and technobabble to change species, from alien to human. The process kills her within a few days.

- A human-Q hybrid, created to destroy the alien artifact (the artifact is like Kryptonite for "full-blooded" Q). As his powers are controlled by his human mind, he finds that many instances where his powers are used are either unconscious or occur in an almost rambling "stream of consciousness". The hybrid, very human in personality, is born in Venezuela and raised Catholic (SUBTLETY!).

- The whole series would be eighteen episodes long, and its structure would loosely be based on the James Joyce novel "Ulysees" ('Cause Bloomsday in Dublin is like a Star Trek convention-- that's my flimsy excuse and I'm sticking with it!)

That's about as far as I'll with this story for now. I know I keep promising a new Sailor Moon piece, and I'm working on it. It'll be up sometime.

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