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Old 09-26-2014, 11:35 AM
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Default Feature: Eleven Is Prime

Hey! Been a while (okay, a year, not counting the April Fool's gag), but I've got a real treat for you today.

Wowbagger needs no introduction, mostly because the last update was all about his fan series. What you may not know, however, is that he is also a master of the time-honoured Trekkie art of rationalization. (Call it "fanwanking" if you absolutely must.) For instance, I've made fun of the four-day trip to Qo'noS in "Broken Bow" many times, but any fan worth his salt can come up with an explanation for it. The bigger the contradiction, the more elaborate the explanation has to be -- but there's no upper limit.

Some time ago, I discovered a long piece of writing Wowbagger had done at the Trek BBS a while after the reboot movie came out. I knew within a few paragraphs that I had to have it for this site. It is the Great Pyramid of rationalization, the towering work that will stand for millennia as a testament to what is possible. (It also has a title no number theorist could resist.)

What is it? A completely reasonable explanation that the 2009 movie is not a reboot. No changed history, no alternate universe. It's all one timeline.

I have lots more to say about this thing, but I'll save it for the comment thread. Without further ado, here's Wowbagger with Eleven Is Prime.

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Old 10-04-2014, 06:53 PM
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I needed time to cool down after that absurd claim of "completely reasonable". It's nonsense and I feel insulted and offended by this entire situation. The producers intended a new timeline so they wouldn't feel constrained, so they made one. Period. The contradictions pile up in heaps wherever you look, whether it be in the character's personalities, the level of technology, the sociopolitical status of the various races, and so forth. Oh, and Vulcan is now gone, kind of a dead giveaway that this is a new universe if you ask me.
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Old 10-04-2014, 10:33 PM
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Did you read it, Nate? I don't mean to be rude, but your post really makes it sound like you didn't. Literally the first thing Wowbagger does is explain, "No, I don't really think it's all one timeline; this is strictly a hypothetical experiment".

As for my own opinion, I figure I made it clear when I summed up this piece as the Great Pyramid of fan BSing. It's like hyperbolic geometry: a towering, internally consistent structure built on assumptions that aren't actually true. (Yes I know space is partly hyperbolic you know what I mean)
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Old 10-05-2014, 02:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeke
It is the Great Pyramid of rationalization, the towering work that will stand for millennia as a testament to what is possible.
I was so pleased to receive this comment. Prior to this, the only blurb I had was from my wife, which read: "Yes, I am your wife. No, I did not finish this."
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Old 10-05-2014, 01:13 PM
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I read it. If I missed a sentence here and there it shouldn't matter. Quite a lot of pontificating and shoehorning went into that essay. You, Zeke, had the audacity to put the phrase "completely reasonable" in italics. Don't ever do that unless you mean it. I took that statement to mean that you were a believer in this nonsense. I therefore had to take some time off to cool down before replying. I'd say I didn't take enough time, but every time I came back to your initial post I'd just get angry again, so eventually I just went "This is never going to stop ticking me off, so I may as well reply now."

"What I am attempting to do is write a single historical narrative that reconciles the "Neroverse" and the "Primeverse" as being part of the same universe, with no resort to an explanation involving alternate universes or rewritten timelines." Wowbagger, whether or not you took this seriously, you wrote quite a lot of material that made it look like you were. If you didn't believe it, why write it in the first place?
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Old 10-05-2014, 09:41 PM
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Because it was . . . fun?

That was a lot of work and thought, Wowbagger. I enjoyed reading it.
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Old 10-05-2014, 10:29 PM
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Okay! Time for the comments I promised in the newspost. (You're about to see why it took me until now to post them.) I'll be calling "Eleven is Prime" XIP for short.

First, I already said this in the post, but it bears repeating: this thing is amazing. It takes two worlds that are blatantly, obviously mutually exclusive and sews them together with barely a seam.

Sometimes this kind of project is actually done officially or semi-officially for a series. Some of the Reeves-Stevens' Trek novels are like this (Millennium, a DS9 trilogy I love to death, comes to mind); the Marvel miniseries Avengers Forever does something similar; and of course it was practically the mission statement of ENT's fourth season. These projects always walk the line between ridiculous and sublime. For instance, while I enjoyed ENT S4, it often felt a lot like fanfic.

"Eleven Is Prime", however, IS fanfic. So no problem! Moreover, its goal is to reconcile things that aren't actually supposed to be reconciled, so the need for a stretch or two is understood.

What impresses me most about XIP is how rarely Wowbagger has to rely on characters being dishonest. That's the classic way to do a retcon, of course -- just claim what we saw was a big conspiracy. (For instance, it would be easy enough to have Vulcan's destruction be some kind of fake set up by Section 31 or whatever.) Wowbagger manages to avoid that almost completely; everybody's telling the truth as they see it most of the time.

Even more surprising is the one irreducible lie: Spock talking about Kirk's father. Interestingly, Wowbagger's hand was forced here only by the filmmakers, not by any previous canon. Everything about Kirk's father, up to and including his name, was fanon before the reboot. If anything, I've always had a general sense that Kirk's dad is dead in TOS, if only because Jim never mentions him -- especially during the tragic events of "Operation: Annihilate!" (By the way, the book most responsible for the fanon about George Kirk is Diane Carey's Final Frontier, where he's the original first officer of the Enterprise under Robert April. It's one of my favourites. If you think Honor Blades (a Duane/Rihannsu reference Wowbagger threw in) are nasty, wait'll you see what the Romulans use in that book!)

The movie, however, went the other way. It was a good storytelling move: finding out his dad wasn't "meant" to die young both gives Kirk something to feel good about and makes it personal between him and Nero. (Of course, for us it also has the sad implication that George probably outlived his other son, Sam -- and maybe even Jim too.) This is one of the two contradictions that the movie uses to prove we're in a new timeline, the other, of course, being Vulcan. But amusingly enough, the death of an entire planet poses a smaller challenge to Wowbagger than one man. After all, you can always find a new planet and call it Vulcan. Jim was not about to find some new guy and call him his father. Thus Spock Prime has to have been lying -- no way around it.

By the way, in looking up George on Memory Alpha, I discovered a subtle point about the "reboot": it actually adds a bit to our Kirk's canonical backstory. The trick is that this movie is very specific about where the timeline diverges (Nero's arrival), so anything before that is now canon. This includes George having been in Starfleet, probably Jim's birth in space, and most amusing, the origin of Jim's middle name.

(An even more subtle point: we now know George was in Starfleet, but there's room for debate on whether Winona was. The filmmakers say so, but she's never shown in uniform.)

So if I like XIP so much, why don't I marry it? Not so fast. I do have some problems with the piece, and the biggest one -- biggest two, actually -- is Spock.

First, believability. This is Spock's story; it lives or dies on how he's portrayed. And for about the first two thirds, there's no problem. But then Spock comes up with his plan to Bring Back Kirk. A plan he has years to think over. A plan that involves blowing up stars... and takes place in the year Nero came from, seeking vengeance on Spock personally. And not once does it occur to him that he might be responsible for the supernova.

For any character, that would be a stretch. But this is Spock. He's not just smart, he's the smartest main character in all of Star Trek. On the spur of the moment, or under emotional stress, he might overlook something important. But in XIP he has sixteen years to coolly contemplate his plan -- and he overlooks the most bonehead-obvious thing in the world. Hell, I don't even buy Scotty not pointing it out to him.

That's the first problem. The second is where the story ends up. In many ways, I admire Wowbagger's explanation for the supernova. It fills in Spock Prime's story neatly and makes several characters' actions make more sense. If I'd been writing this thing, I would have been pretty pleased with myself for having the idea...

...before reluctantly deciding I couldn't use it. Because no matter how well it gets the job done, it utterly destroys Spock.

In this story, Spock is a man who, through his own unbelievable stupidity (see above), is directly responsible for millions of deaths. To "save" a friend who had already lived a full life, he caused a race to be wiped out. I'm not saying that couldn't happen -- it was an accident, after all. I'm saying you cannot have Spock responsible for that and still the same man afterwards.

First take the in-story perspective. A human who had done what Spock did would kill himself. No questions asked, no ideas about redemption, just fly into the nearest star. Assuming Spock didn't do the same, then yes, as in XIP, he would do his best to fix the situation. But in this case, that does not translate to "help Kirk beat Nero, then just hang around in case anyone needs advice next movie." No, unless Spock is utterly devoid of responsibility, it translates to "help Kirk beat Nero, then at the absolute earliest chance, fix Romulus."

I can get behind the idea of Spock being loyal to the "true" timeline (which is something that bothers me massively about the actual reboot). I can just barely buy him not trying to save Vulcan -- because he believes that was supposed to happen, and maybe for fear of the alternative being worse somehow. (Now would be a good time to build that gizmo from "City on the Edge of Forever" and find out.) But Romulus is different! History will be unchanged as long as Future Spock and Nero think the Romulans have been wiped out. With everything he knows now, and 200 years to work with, Spock can easily fake that. He doesn't even have to be around personally; all he has to do is leave the right messages with the right people, and he can see to it that Romulus actually does get evacuated before the nova without either his past self or Nero finding out.

It's like the guy hasn't read any time travel stories at all. Including the ones he was in.

So in-story, it's silly that Spock would just hang out in the past and give the occasional inspiring talk to a rebooted character. And it's even worse from the out-of-story perspective. A Spock who could be responsible for millions of deaths and just carry on is not one I can relate to. His voiceover at the end of STXI goes from nostalgic to almost obscene. If XIP were canon, next time I watched the movie I'd be cheering for Nero. (Worst of all is the tag in XIP with Spock wondering if he might still be able to save Kirk when that year rolls around again. The arrogance required to have that thought -- to wonder if he might still make an omelette from the broken eggs of accidental genocide -- is just incalculable.)

So, long story short, my biggest problem with XIP is that it gets all the details right, but is careless with the big picture. (Sorta like how some people felt about STXI itself.) Wowbagger does a tremendous job of making us feel Spock's pain leading up to the Nexus plan, enough that we can almost believe he'd be dumb enough to try it, but then doesn't deal properly with what follows -- a guilt and a responsibility which would dwarf everything in Spock's life to that point. Neither his feelings nor his actions thereafter are remotely commensurate with what he did.

Besides, at the end of the day, it just feels wrong. The Star Trek universe is not a place where heroes accidentally kill entire species. (Intentionally is another story. Ask Phlox.)
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[03:17] FiveMinZeke: Galactica clearly needs the advanced technology of scissors, which get around the whole "yanking on your follicles" problem.
[03:17] IJD: cylons can hack any blades working in conjunction

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Old 10-05-2014, 10:29 PM
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Now some shorter points.
  • There's a line between "this should be explained" and "nah, just ignore it" that each of us draws in a different place. In reading XIP, I was reminded where I draw mine: after events, but before visuals. Wowbagger does a great job justifying the differences between the original and reboot Enterprise. If you like that sort of thing, it's the sort of thing you'll like -- but I wouldn't have bothered. After all, if we need to justify the ship looking different, don't we need to justify Chris Pine not looking like William Shatner?

  • I take exception to the idea that Kirk's death was like Tasha's, “a death without purpose.” It's one of the most common complaints about Generations, that Kirk somehow didn't get a heroic death, and I couldn't disagree more. His death wasn't just heroic, it was more heroic than Spock's. Spock died to save his friends. Kirk died to save people he didn't know, and who would never know he did it. (The Enterprise-D crew probably found out, but the millions on Veridian IV didn't. Thanks, Prime Directive!) You would probably die for a family member, but would you die for a stranger? “An empty death,” my ass.

    (All well and good, you may say, but we in the audience will also never meet those people -- for our sake, shouldn't Kirk die for people we know? Good news! He does that at the start of the film. Veridian III is more like an encore.)

  • In one way, this explanation is actually too detailed for its own good. It creates what I call a “Voyager Conspiracy” problem. In that VOY episode, Seven accidentally assimilates paranoia; she digs up some odd details about how Voyager wound up in the Delta Quadrant and comes up with a total of three crazy theories to explain them. Those theories are quickly debunked, but for other reasons -- we never get a real explanation for the odd details. (See the Cynic's review under “Mysteries of the Week”.)

    Similarly, one of the triumphs of XIP is how it actually explains some peculiar things both in canon and in the reboot. The actions of characters like Stiles, Pardek, Nero, and even Spock make more sense in the united timeline. Inevitably, that leads to disappointment when the reader remembers that Eleven isn't Prime. Spock wasn't really to blame for Romulus and Nero knows that perfectly well, making his destruction of Vulcan the most cartoonish, supervillainous overreaction in Trek. (Second place: Shinzon putting Earth on his things-to-destroy list basically for the hell of it. Then come the villains from all the other movies. It's kind of a recurring problem with them.)

  • This is a bit picky, but Kirk's line that "Spock would have found a way" sounds much more inspiring before you look it up and realize the context. It's from STIII, after Sarek checks Kirk for Spock's katra and doesn't find it. In other words, Kirk was saying Spock would've found a way to save himself, not someone else.

  • The twenty-year sentence for destroying an uninhabited star system is hilarious. Don't get me wrong, I completely believe the Federation would have such a law. The act in question is either morally neutral (no life, no harm done -- I lean this way) or atrociously evil (who knows what life might have arisen there someday?). It's either not a crime or the worst crime ever, so let's compromise and call it twenty years!
That's all I have so far, but if I remember anything else I meant to say, I'll post again. Meanwhile, thanks again to Wowbagger for writing one of the most interesting things we've ever posted here. (How interesting? Even this reply had to be split into two posts because the forum wouldn't let me post it in one!)
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[03:17] FiveMinZeke: Galactica clearly needs the advanced technology of scissors, which get around the whole "yanking on your follicles" problem.
[03:17] IJD: cylons can hack any blades working in conjunction

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Old 10-11-2014, 12:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nate the Great View Post
Wowbagger, whether or not you took this seriously, you wrote quite a lot of material that made it look like you were. If you didn't believe it, why write it in the first place?
Why did Captain Kirk climb El Capitan?


Quote:
The act in question is either morally neutral (no life, no harm done -- I lean this way) or atrociously evil (who knows what life might have arisen there someday?). It's either not a crime or the worst crime ever, so let's compromise and call it twenty years!
...but God help you if you save the Boraalans.

I hate what the Prime Directive became. Phlox is one thing; he was always a little morally shady. But I never forgave the producers for allowing Picard to become a mass-murderer-by-negligence.

Quote:
First take the in-story perspective. A human who had done what Spock did would kill himself. No questions asked, no ideas about redemption, just fly into the nearest star. Assuming Spock didn't do the same, then yes, as in XIP, he would do his best to fix the situation. But in this case, that does not translate to "help Kirk beat Nero, then just hang around in case anyone needs advice next movie." No, unless Spock is utterly devoid of responsibility, it translates to "help Kirk beat Nero, then at the absolute earliest chance, fix Romulus."
Well, I wouldn't kill myself, but I might be depraved.

Still, you raise a point. XIP just sort of dumps a bereft Spock Prime on the 2260s universe and lets him lie there. There were a few reasons for this:

(1) Honestly, I was just mentally exhausted.

(2) Spock Prime is in a predestination paradox, and now *knows* he's in a predestination paradox. He'd know better than anyone who difficult -- and dangerous -- it is to untangle one, assuming it's even possible (and canon evidence on this conflicts). Even crushed by profound grief, it's not clear to me that Spock would do anything besides live out his life, as best he could, in the absolute penance of near-perfect isolation.

(3) The question of "what does Spock Prime do in the past" is sort of out-of-scope, or so it seemed to me. XIP aims to resolve inconsistencies in the two timelines. Whatever Spock Prime does in the past, we know it doesn't have any impact on anything (beyond what I mentioned in XIP) up until at least 2387.

It is, to my mind, entirely possible that Spock Prime does orchestrate a plan to save Romulus and undo his greatest sin. In order to ensure that the predestination paradox doesn't unravel, however, he would have to do it in such a way that the Spock of 2387 still sees Romulus destroyed, and Nero still comes back in time and seeks vengeance for it. Otherwise, the Spock Prime who set the plan in motion will never exist, and the original timeline will reassert itself.

So whatever Spock Prime does to save Romulus, it would have to be similar to what The Doctor (of Doctor Who) did to
Spoiler: MASSIVE SPOILER 
Telling that story would be a tremendous thrill in and of itself, and I think you're right that Spock The Accidental Genocide could not simply come to terms and give up, any more than he could come to terms with the death of JTK -- but it seemed like Bring Back Romulus was a step beyond the story XIP could plausibly tell. (Of course, some readers might say that XIP was already well beyond the point of plausibility.)

(4) Above all, I didn't want to touch on what Spock Prime did in the 2260s, beyond what seemed necessary, because I was afraid the producers might use him again in Twelve, thus complicating things for me in the revision. And, sure enough, they did -- but pointlessly, I'm glad to say.

Quote:
There's a line between "this should be explained" and "nah, just ignore it" that each of us draws in a different place. In reading XIP, I was reminded where I draw mine: after events, but before visuals. Wowbagger does a great job justifying the differences between the original and reboot Enterprise. If you like that sort of thing, it's the sort of thing you'll like -- but I wouldn't have bothered.
I actually draw it the same place you do, but I predicted that, if I didn't touch on visuals, that's where the theory would get banged on the hardest. I hate what I came up with, too. "Defit" my foot.

More later, hopefully. Must run now.
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Old 10-11-2014, 01:15 AM
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There were ways to write that essay in a "I am not taking this seriously, it's just in fun, just to see if the logic holds together" that you didn't take. Incidentally, production team intents aside, the logic does not hold together.
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Old 10-11-2014, 01:18 AM
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When Spock visits Vulcan in "Amok Time" and "Yesteryear", everyone is acting like this is the original home planet of the race. Maybe if Earth was destroyed humans would just label another planet "Earth" and name a few cities like the old ones. And for all we know there are locations on Romulus that are named identically to places on Vulcan. But the Vulcan race proper is too logical to pretend that anything is something that it is not.
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Old 10-15-2014, 07:41 AM
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I thought I had more to say to Zeke, but it turns out all I have to say is this:

I actually think the canon evidence (the "inconsistencies" pointed out by the Cynic) demonstrates that there really was a Voyager Conspiracy of some kind. What it was and who was involved, I'm not sure, but the stuff Seven uncovered doesn't just go away because everyone hugs in the end.

My biggest problem with the episode has always been that they took this hugely ambitious and exciting premise, a huge opportunity for Seven-as-Outsider to define herself and shake things up, and threw it away for an another easy "Seven goes berzerk" J/7 'shipper 'sode. Still fun, but there should have been a conspiracy.

And I think that tells you everything you need to know about the man who wrote XIP.
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Old 10-17-2014, 08:58 PM
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I just remembered something that really bothers me about the '09 film. This seems as good a place to bring it up as any.

The scene where George and Winona Kirk decide what to call Jim is both moving and funny. Maybe that's how the conversation went in the "prime" timeline. But you know what? This baby's father just died to save him.

There is no way in this timeline or any other that he's not getting named George.
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Old 10-18-2014, 11:05 AM
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Except that in the original timline Jim Kirk already had an older brother named George — Jim calls him "Sam," but his full name is George Samuel Kirk.

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/George_Samuel_Kirk

Quote:
George Samuel Kirk was the brother of Starfleet captain James T. Kirk. He was usually called George, but his brother always called him Sam.
Sam was born in 2229, Jim in 2233.

(And that George Foreman business of giving all his sons the same first name is asinine, so no, that wouldn't happen.)
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Old 10-19-2014, 09:49 AM
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This has now been pointed out to me a few times (here and on Facebook). I think I must have had it in my head that George was the younger brother, in which case he wouldn't exist in STXI's timeline. Actually, since his scene in the movie was cut, that's still a possibility -- I'm pretty sure canon is neutral on which brother is older.

Anyway, I still think there's a pretty good chance Jim would get George for a middle or "silent" first name. Believe me, if somebody died saving my newborn child, I'd give the child that name no matter how many times I'd used it already.
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[03:17] FiveMinZeke: Galactica clearly needs the advanced technology of scissors, which get around the whole "yanking on your follicles" problem.
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