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What Happened?

kurtb8474

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Report this Jun. 14 2011, 4:04 pm

What has Star Trek become?  Well, obviously there are many answers to that question.  It has become a huge franchise since the 1960s NBC TV series debuted.  Millions and millions of dollars are spent every few years in an attempt to make a version of Trek that is an improvement on the last.  The special effects. which are a must in a futuristic space travel movie, keep getting more collosal and more expensive all the time.  The same with the new actors that come with each new movie or TV show.  But with all of over 45 years of Star Trek improvements, one very important aspect, which made Star Trek great in the first place, is now becoming a casualty - the stories.


Yes, the stories are becoming casualties of the ever-growing Trek empire.  They are getting more unintelligent, more convoluted, more predictable and more poorly-written as the budgets get bigger.  The last movie to bear the name 'Star Trek' was about the most poorly-planned, poorly-written Trek movie story I've seen yet.  Oh sure, it had DAZZLING special effects.  It had skillfully-created, mind-blowing CGI.  It had young, pretty people in it taking off their clothes, too.  But the story?  What exactly was the story?  I saw the whole thing (I'm glad I didn't pay to see it) and I don't remember the story.  That's because the story was too convoluted with character back-stories, private lives and plot changes that were irrelevant.  It was a mess as Abrams tried to tie up all of the loose ends that were dangling out there for 40 years.  But ,the Abrams movie is at the end of a line of disappointing movie plots created for the Picard crew.  Before that was 'Enterprise.'  A good idea that was mismanaged.  "Star Trek Voyager" which I lost interest in halfway through season 2.  "Deep Space Nine" or more appropiately, 'Deep Sleep Nine.'  "Star Trek:  The Next Generation" was good, but that's where the decline began.  But, my biggest gripe about all of these incarnations of the original series?  Space battles.


Around 1991, I sent to Paramount for a writer's guide to "Star Trek:  The Next Generation."  I'd hoped to develop some treatments to be used as episode story lines.  As I flipped the pages, I ran across all of the "don'ts" for a story treatment.  One of the biggies was... space battles.  "They are too expensive" the guide said.  Along with that one was "the Enterprise crew are not galactic policemen" and "no starship can exceed warp 10.  That's the cosmic speed limit.  Any attempt to go beyond it and the ship will cease to exist"  That last one cracked me up.  Anyway, the producers began to break all of their own rules about a year after I received the guide.  It increased even more after Roddenberry died.  The more seasons that went by, the more the space battles increased.  Soon, there were full-blown wars going on with hundreds of ships blasting away at each other.  Remind you of another franchise?  Luke Skywalker ring a bell?  Getting lost in all of the phasers and explosions was the phrase "seek out new life and new civilizations."


Now let's compare my previous conclusions to Star Trek:  The Original Series.  Anyone remember the one about the spores?  Spock got shot with them and fell in love with Jill Ireland.  Kirk had to make him mad to get him back to normal.  Or how about the one about Lazarus... and Lazarus?  Or the one where two planets were fighting a war, but with computer data and not real weapons?  The First Federation, Charlie Evans, Gary Mitchell, the Gorns and Metrons, the Organians... all characters and stories from Star Trek, season 1.  All of them involved the crew encountering new life and new civilizations or experiences.  Real science fiction.  There were space battles, but they were limited.  Now, everyone the crew runs into is a troublemaker and the story ends in a cataclysmic space duel. 


I think the reason that the true science fiction angle of Star Trek is suffering is because of the target demgraphic.  Without trying to sound elitist, it seems there are more people who don't understand science fiction than those who do.  There seems to be fewer people who are curious of the mysteries of the universe than those who are.  A space battle just draws in more fans.  George Lucas proved that.  It's that larger demo that the Trek producers seem to be going after.  The original series, it is said, bombed because most people didn't understand it.  So, where did the popularity come from?  Why did people constantly watch the re-runs for the ten years it took to come out with the first motion picture?  Why did the first Trek convention have TEN TIMES more fans there than they predicted?


Star Trek, TOS went beyond what most people normally understood at the time.  It was like nothing else on TV or in our culture.  It created it's own culture.  It was unique.  It didn't follow any popular ideas, it created them.  It changed the way we think.  It got us used to the idea that the galaxy is a big place.  It showed us how spaceships could be big enough to carry hundreds of people and not just 3 astronauts.  It created things.  Some of these things were deliberate, while others, like the transporter for example, were just last-minute solutions to save production money, but they became very real theories.  Some of today's technology is similar to that seen in Star Trek TOS.  It helped us understand science theories like faster-than-light travel, time travel, other dimensions and harnessing extremely powerful souces of energy.  It made us a little more prepared should we encounter life on other planets.  And last but not least, the one thing that gets trumpeted the most, it broke down racial and cultural walls.  Star Trek didn't follow trends, it created them.  It did all of this, through it's creative stories.  But today, Trek isn't like that.  It follows trends, but does not create them.  Star Trek today, in my opinion, with all of it's billion-dollar budgets and popularity, is inferior to that under-budgeted, poorly-rated, unpopular little 1960s TV show.


Funny thing is, all those years ago, I was afraid that, with Star Trek's rising popularity, it would turn out this way.

3 of 12

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Report this Jun. 14 2011, 5:50 pm

The one big thing that I have seen in the Star Trek series is that the TOS crew met aliens that were alien! Most aliens in the later series were humaniod with slight facial changes.

OtakuJo

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Report this Jun. 14 2011, 9:35 pm

If it makes you feel any better, DS9 has plenty of space battles.


But in any case, I would have to disagree with you entirely that the stories beyond TOS are convoluted and poorly written. What they are, in many cases, is grounded in a broader historical framework. And while it might not be what you enjoy, it is quite enjoyable to someone.


And I would equally have to disagree with you that 24thC. Star Trek fans "do not understand sci-fi." Science fiction has as much potential for variation and -- dare I say it -- believable realism, as any other genre.


Have you ever danced with a Tribble in the pale moonlight?

kurtb8474

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Report this Jun. 15 2011, 12:03 am

*sigh*  Maybe my post was too lengthy.  I'm more of an essay writer, i guess.  Because both of you who responded are mostly incorrect. 


 


3 of 12, television in the 1960s was incredibly low-budget, unlike the TV shows of today.  Big bucks just weren't spent on telelvision shows.  Producers, for a young series like TOS, could not afford to pay for the type of extensive makeup work that you would see in the later Trek series.  So, they had no choice but to make the aliens look humanoid.  You must look beyond the lack of big-budget production value and concentrate on the stories in those episodes.  Some were written by very famous and reputable sci-fi authors of that era.


 


OtakuJo, I understand about DS9 and the space battles.  That's one reason why i stopped watching.  Initially, I was pleased that TNG had spawned a first-ever spinoff.  But, my enthusiasm subsided as the stories became less interesting.  And space battles do not necessarily make a story interesting.


 


And you may disagree with me all you want.  But, yes, the post-TOS stories were convoluted.  Instead of a single story for each episode, there were subplots along side the main plot.  The producers mentioned that themselves.  Most of the stories were anti-climatic and the subplots bored me.  The movies "Insurrection,""Nemesis" and most of the 'Enterprise' series were sophmoric and predictable.  The Abrams movie was so convoluted with subplots, plot twists and Trek inaccuracies that it was a pain to watch.


 


And when did I say that 24thC. Star Trek fans do not understand sci-fi?  I said that those who are producing Star Trek, today, may be targeting those who do not understand it, in order to widen it's popularity.  So, they simplify the subject matter. 


Science fiction has as much potential for variation and -- dare I say it -- believable realism, as any other genre. 


 That's correct, but i don't see how this statement fits into the discussion.

Vger23

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Report this Jun. 15 2011, 10:59 am

1. Different strokes for different folks. Star Trek is a 45-year old franchise. The fact that there are many different TYPES of Star Trek is a necessity for anything that runs that long.


2. To that point, you can't run a franchise for 45 years and not have some staleness.


3. Evolution. If something isn't changing, it's dying. No matter what your PERSONAL viewpoints are, there are plenty of fans of the later shows and the last movie was a massive hit with audiences and critics alike, completely re-energizing the franchise and kicking things off in a bold new direction. It's a different world now. Movies and television aren't the only game in town like they were in the 60's. For something like Star Trek to be successful, it has to be ENTERTAINING first (sometimes at the sacrifice of being "good science fiction") to the general audience.


4. Broadening- They can't cater to a dwindling, aging, nit-picky, impossible-to-please fanbase any longer. They need to capture the hearts and minds of a new generation of people who, for better or worse (and please resist the tempation to criticize how the new generation is stupid etc etc etc.) have differnent tastes and sensibilities.


5. The orignial Star Trek was lightning in a bottle. Literally, it was probably the greatest television show ever produced. Each "spin off" cannot hope to be much more than that- a derivitive product of the original classic. Expecting that level of excellence and uniqueness for a 45 year stretch is completely unrealistic. You either accept that and embrace the interesting attempts at furthering the lore and universe of Star Trek (as I do) or you can simply ignore them because they don't meet your expectations.


 


If what's happening doesn't appeal to you personally, then stick with what DOES appeal to you. Star Trek is a vast and diversified portfolio. I for one didn't really like VOY or ENT, so I just didn't get into them that much. But, there were a lot of people who did...and I'm happy they discovered a Trek that speaks to them. I also don't broadly comdemn them as being stupid, sophomoric, or inferior simply becuase they don't appeal to me.


So, let's not judge one version or another as being "inferior" or "dumbed down" just because it doesn't appeal to your personal tastes.  There are goofy, inconsistent, plot-hole-riddled efforts throughout Trek history...not just recently. In fact some of Trek's greatest classics are full of goofyness and plot-holes.


 


I AM KEE-ROCK!!

Ezri Janeway

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Report this Jun. 15 2011, 1:34 pm

Quote: kurtb8474 @ Jun. 15 2011, 12:03 am

>

>  Because both of you who responded are mostly incorrect. 

>


Woah. People who have a different opinion as yours are not 'incorrect' they just dont agree with you take on a subject.


But hell shove me into the 'incorrect' pile if it makes you feel better as I happen to agree with O-Jo and 3 of 12. While I have deep respect for TOS I also have deep respect towards change and towards what Trek has tried in all its guises. Without yielding to the need for change we wouldnt have had the hundereds of hours of enjoyment we have had with all the series which we still enjoy to this day. Well, most of us anyway.


Just my opinion, as correct as anyone elses and in no way invalid.


As Vger said, different strokes...


"Let me see if Ive got this straight. You're risking the ship, the crew, and the mission on the assumptions that Helkara and Leishman are engineering geniuses, Tharp is a piloting savant, our transporter chief can work miracles, and the Breen are unwilling to sacrifice themselves in a kamikaze attack?" "Yup." "Damn I LOVE this job."

Vorta_the_point

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Report this Jun. 15 2011, 3:33 pm

kurtb8474:


 


And you may disagree with me all you want.  But, yes, the post-TOS stories were convoluted.  Instead of a single story for each episode, there were subplots along side the main plot.  The producers mentioned that themselves.  Most of the stories were anti-climatic and the subplots bored me.  The movies "Insurrection,""Nemesis" and most of the 'Enterprise' series were sophmoric and predictable.  The Abrams movie was so convoluted with subplots, plot twists and Trek inaccuracies that it was a pain to watch.


I perhaps disagree with you that having sub-plots or a multiple story arc means that something is necessarily 'convoluted' in a negative way; they serve to broaden the storyline, expand characterisations and enable far larger and more complex scenarios than the sometimes slightly limiting "go to planet, meet new alien/phenomenon, on to next planet" format. Complex, multi-faceted characters like Gul Dukat or Garak from DS9, for example, would be impossible without this sort of format.


As far as them being mainly boring or anti-climatic, as the others have suggested, this is something of a subjective opinion; I was able to follow the plots of the episodes without confusion, certainly, and enjoyed many of them.


On a similar theme, the presence of large scale space battles is again not necessarily a negative aspect; if over-used or used needlessly they can lose their impact or become tiresome, certainly, but used correctly they can enable a greater sense of drama or even awe due to the far larger consequences and effects the event can create. Additionally, there is usually an element of excitement to such things that can enhance the episode (as long as it isn't relied upon as a sole point of interest).


 


3 of 12, television in the 1960s was incredibly low-budget, unlike the TV shows of today.  Big bucks just weren't spent on telelvision shows.  Producers, for a young series like TOS, could not afford to pay for the type of extensive makeup work that you would see in the later Trek series.  So, they had no choice but to make the aliens look humanoid.  You must look beyond the lack of big-budget production value and concentrate on the stories in those episodes.  Some were written by very famous and reputable sci-fi authors of that era.


I think you may have misunderstood 3 of 12's point; I believe that he was actually saying how the lower-budget TOS actually produced more 'alien' looking aliens than the later series, which despite their higher budgets did seem to have a propensity for making aliens looking like humans with odd forehead features.


 


Science fiction has as much potential for variation and -- dare I say it -- believable realism, as any other genre. 


 That's correct, but i don't see how this statement fits into the discussion.


I believe OtakuJo was referring to the fact that you appeared to be defining "real" science fiction as exploring new planets and civilisations, when in actuality the science fiction genre is far more diverse than simply these themes (for example, focusing on themes such war, cultural shifts and implications, space opera, technological innovation and stories within a far more contemporary time period than Star Trek, to name but a few).

kurtb8474

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Report this Jun. 15 2011, 3:35 pm

It's difficult to respond to multiple arguments, but here goes:


I said MOSTLY incorrect.  Not completely.  O-Jo stated that the later stories were not convoluted, which they were.  "Convoluted" has two definitions: 


1. (esp. of an argument, story, or sentence) Extremely complex and difficult to follow.

2. Intricately folded, twisted, or coiled.


In TOS, there were virtually no subplots in any of their epiodes, where, in TNG and after, there were.  Most of these subplots were not as interesting as the main story.  So O-jo's statement was incorrect.


The fact that there are many different TYPES of Star Trek is a necessity for anything that runs that long.


While attending Trek conventiions in the 70s, my friends and I were hoping for the day when Trek would move beyond the original 79 episodes.  We had no problem with the concept of new directions and ideas for the series.  We wanted to see more.  Now that it's been this long, I see only the technology for filmmaking evolving while the art of storytelling is devolving.  That is not just my observation, alone.


They can't cater to a dwindling, aging, nit-picky, impossible-to-please fanbase any longer.


So, you take offense at my usage of the word "incorrect," yet, you decribe my generation that way?  Dwindling and aging is natural, we don't live forever.  Nit-picky?  No way.  We watched and embraced every new incarnation of Trek and stopped watching if any became uninteresting.  I began recording each new series when it first aired in hopes that it would be a good one.  And "impossible to please" is the kind of judgmentalism you've come close to accusing me of.  Personally, I am very easy to please.


They need to capture the hearts and minds of a new generation of people who, for better or worse have differnent tastes and sensibilities.


Whose hearts was Roddenberry trying to capture back in the 60s?  Who was he catering to?  Did he poll a group of people to find out what they wanted to see, then design the show for them?  He fought the studio execs over every decision he made.  It was those execs who wanted to cater to what they thought were the tastes and sensibilities of that generation.  Star Trek was Roddenberry's idea of the future, not a result of polling data or research groups.  Now, you're saying that it should be the other way around.


Your reply, Vger23, stated that if something isn't changing, it's dying.  Our bodies are changing all of the time, but we are still dying.  Change is not evolution.  Evolution is growth and development.  You also stated that expecting that level of excellence and uniqueness for a 45 year stretch is completely unrealistic.  That doesn't sound like evolution, either.  Star Trek has gone through many changes, indeed.  But, I see the reverse of development.  And I am speaking of, and this is what I've been referring to throughout this whole blog, the stories.

kurtb8474

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Report this Jun. 15 2011, 5:01 pm

Vorta, you're right.  I did misread 3of12s post.  Apologies.


 


they serve to broaden the storyline, expand characterisations and enable far larger and more complex scenarios than the sometimes slightly limiting "go to planet, meet new alien/phenomenon, on to next planet" format.


You make discovering new life, civilizations and experiences sound trivial.  Is it really that uninteresting? 


Complex, multi-faceted characters like Gul Dukat or Garak from DS9, for example, would be impossible without this sort of format.


 


Not necessarily.  A whole single episode could be written for those chaps, and others, for that matter.  But, I believe that was done.  I would rather have that, then trying to cram their plots into an already running story.  For example, and I'm not referring to any actual episode, when the Enterprise D discovers an unusual phenomenon in space, i'm not interested in a subplot with Worf and his son trying to solve a personal problem.  That should be an episode in itself, that way i can choose not to have to sit through it.  And the other story can be told without taking any sidelines.


On a similar theme, the presence of large scale space battles is again not necessarily a negative aspect; if over-used or used needlessly they can lose their impact or become tiresome, certainly, but used correctly they can enable a greater sense of drama or even awe due to the far larger consequences and effects the event can create.


I agree.  The Doomsday Machine is one of my faves.  And I dig some of the battles that the TNG crew got into.  I'm a HUGE fan of Star Wars.  I have no problem with space battles that are well used.  But, space battles HAVE been over-used many times in Trek, including the '09 movie.


 


Additionally, there is usually an element of excitement to such things that can enhance the episode (as long as it isn't relied upon as a sole point of interest).


 


But they HAVE been used as a sole point of interest many times.


I believe OtakuJo was referring to the fact that you appeared to be defining "real" science fiction as exploring new planets and civilisations,


 


No, I wasn't defining it that way at all.  That is simply the original intent of the Enterprise.


when in actuality the science fiction genre is far more diverse than simply these themes (for example, focusing on themes such war, cultural shifts and implications, space opera, technological innovation and stories within a far more contemporary time period than Star Trek, to name but a few).


 


Right on!  I agree!  Science fiction can involve all of those things.  But, that isn't what I've been seeing much of in Star Trek post-TOS (and TNG) story lines.  Yes, the Trek universe is science fiction by itself, but many of the stories were not.  They were familiar, human conventions being injected into a science fiction element.  One Lazurus, in two universes is science fiction.  Encountering a causality loop and reliving three days over and over again is science fiction.  An alien race who put 20 years of prison life into O'Brien's memory, in a matter of minutes, is science fiction.  The NX-01 finding an alien ship that is bigger on the inside than on the outside is science fiction.  Ben Cisco discovering a stable wormhole to the other side of the galaxy being controlled by an advanced race of beings is science fiction. 


 


A war between the Federation and The Dominion is not so much science fiction.  Neither is a war between Earth and the Xindi.  Neither is a war between Voyager and whoever they were fighting.  Neither is a kid who is trying to act like Data.  Neither is the Grand Nagus visiting DS9 making Quark and his brother all nervous.  Neither is Quark's nephew trying to get into Star Fleet.  I could keep going.


 


I can also name some TOS shows that weren't sci-fi as well.  Those were stinkers.  There were a couple that were sci-fi and stunk, too.  But, not as many as in the later series.


 


 

guillermo.mejía

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Report this Jun. 15 2011, 5:24 pm

Star Trek is not what it used to be.....


You are absolutely correct, AND THAT'S A GOOD THING!


Things and franchises evolve. That's just how it works. They become a reflections of the contemporary times and the latest crews in charge of developing them. If something remained the same, it would become stale and un-apealing.


Accourding to the argument by kurtb8474, by the time VOY came out, he lost interest in it and phased out. That right there is what I'm talking about. Even though they are three different shows, the were all in the TNG era, and VOY was not really all that different after a while, since the who starnded-in-the-delta-quadrent situation wasn't such a crutch for the valiant crew.


But accourding to the post, the problem goes back even beyond that. It started with TNG. That means you only have TOS as your basis. That's 3 years (4 counting TAS) out of 45 years of Trek history. The fact that you say Trek is not what it used to be, starting with TNG is a bit odd in my point of view. The franchise evolved back when TNG first came out (3 DECADES AGO) and is now going through another shake up. Sure some of us resist change but it's natural. It HAS to happen.


"Aye. And if my grandmother had wheels she'd be a wagon." - Scotty, The Miracle Worker since 2265.

OtakuJo

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Report this Jun. 15 2011, 8:21 pm

Quote: kurtb8474 @ Jun. 15 2011, 12:03 am

>

>And you may disagree with me all you want.

>


Why thank you. I shall.


The plot of DS9 was not at all difficult to follow. Many of us followed it quite easily. And I totally agree with what Vger and others have said above: If the stories had not evolved, the franchise would have grown stale.


Incidentally though, I did not assume that you were defining sci-fi in terms of exploration. Although I do believe that the definition you propose was quite narrow.


A further point: We are none of us "mostly incorrect". We have differing opinions. That is all.


Have you ever danced with a Tribble in the pale moonlight?

Ezri Janeway

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Report this Jun. 16 2011, 2:58 am

Quote: kurtb8474 @ Jun. 15 2011, 3:35 pm

>

>It's difficult to respond to multiple arguments, but here goes:

>I said MOSTLY incorrect.  Not completely.  O-Jo stated that the later stories were not convoluted, which they were.  "Convoluted" has two definitions: 

>


No it isnt, thats what the quote function is for.


Ok then your posts sound mostly arrogant but thanks for the lecture we so clearly needed.


"Let me see if Ive got this straight. You're risking the ship, the crew, and the mission on the assumptions that Helkara and Leishman are engineering geniuses, Tharp is a piloting savant, our transporter chief can work miracles, and the Breen are unwilling to sacrifice themselves in a kamikaze attack?" "Yup." "Damn I LOVE this job."

konarciq

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Report this Jun. 16 2011, 6:08 am

Quote: OtakuJo @ Jun. 15 2011, 8:21 pm

Quote: kurtb8474 @ Jun. 15 2011, 12:03 am

>

>

>And you may disagree with me all you want.

>

Why thank you. I shall.

The plot of DS9 was not at all difficult to follow. Many of us followed it quite easily. And I totally agree with what Vger and others have said above: If the stories had not evolved, the franchise would have grown stale.

Incidentally though, I did not assume that you were defining sci-fi in terms of exploration. Although I do believe that the definition you propose was quite narrow.

A further point: We are none of us "mostly incorrect". We have differing opinions. That is all.


LOL Exactly.


Personally, I´m not a major fan of TOS. I´ve seen the entire series (not the movies), and it has a number of very interesting SF episodes indeed, but what I miss is any form of character development and/or ongoing story arc. The characters go through all kinds of events, often not the most pleasant, yet this has no effect on them at all. Magical reset button functions with every new episode. That was certainly done somewhat better in TNG (even though not to perfection there either).


As for secondary plots: I rather enjoy them. Often they have some similarity with the main plot, and just lets us look at the same problem from a different angle or different level. Personally, I find these secondary plots wanting in many TOS eps. I know of quite a few TOS eps that I find somewhat dragging and losing my real interest. (Funny enough, I always considered the excessive time spent in all kinds of combat in TOS to be responsible for that ). Yet I don´t think I can name even a handful of that kind (with twice as many eps to choose from to begin with) from TNG.


I agree on the aliens though - TOS had far more "alien" aliens than TNG!


If there is nothing wrong with me, then maybe there´s something wrong with the universe? -Dr. Crusher

OtakuJo

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Report this Jun. 16 2011, 6:15 am

That's true -- the "forehead of the week" thing got a little samey at times.


Some of the bizarrest aliens were those that were not shown, but rather just described. Example: Captain Boday with his huge brain and transparent skull. Or Ensign Vilix Pran who always seemed to be giving birth to litters of tiny winged babies. (Somewhere between 8-18 in the third litter, wasn't it?)


Both described in both detail. Neither one ever shown on camera.


Have you ever danced with a Tribble in the pale moonlight?

Treknoir

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Report this Jun. 16 2011, 9:50 am

"Wahhhhh! I want my ST back."



 


It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want. - Spock

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