Saturday, April 10, 2010

Star Trek: Forehead Proliferation

I've been on a Star Trek kick ever since I met up with Steve Zieser a while back at a convention and we played Federation Commander. I'm a big fan of the original series and the animated series. Granted, the acting is strained at times, dare I say a bit exaggerated? But nonetheless there is just something about it that seems so much more interesting than a lot of the later series. Part of it I think is that the crew went on adventures.

Sure, the props are hokey sometimes, but they get an A for effort. The hallmark of the original series is the crew going planet side to engage in various shenanigans. I actually do like The Next Generation in many ways, which is why I started watching it from the beginning again recently. I hadn't seen as many of the earlier episodes for a long time, and I was struck by how much the first season and a lot of the second season actually did have a lot of that original series feel. The women even wore similar short skirts in the first few seasons. Even though I think there are a number of excellent episodes in later seasons of TNG, the overall trend became less about going on adventures and more about unusual situations on the ship, mostly cerebral sort of problems, with a very heavy reliance on making up more and more technobabble to create a problem to which the crew needs to find a solution. So what I'm getting at is that rather than go to new worlds more often (and they do sometimes, don't get me wrong) where they find adventure, instead we are introduced to more and more exotic made up radiation, particles, etc. that wreak havoc.

And, we cant forget, forehead proliferation. In the beginning of TNG it was neat in a way how the makeup looked. But after a while I started to cringe whenever a new alien is invented, because they always are completely human except for a weird forehead. It starts to get ridiculous, and I can image a bunch of writers and makeup specialists sitting around trying to figure out how many sorts of unique forehead prostheses can be made. It just became too silly. I could submit a number of other criticisms and present arguments about how I think a lot of TNG is actually more racist than the original series, and promotes an incorrect perspective of cultural and biological evolution, but I'll abandon that for the moment. I have to write academic stuff often enough that I feel too lazy to do it here.

Coming back around to the subject of RPGs though, I think the original and animated series of Star Trek are great models for how one might set up a sci-fi campaign of this type. Hmmm, come to think of it I'm not sure I've watched all of the episodes yet from my animated DVD series set. I better go do that!


Norman Harman said...

I recently picked up a few supplements from FASA's RPG including the awesome tricorder "prop" thingy. And The Star Fleet Technical Manual and The Medical Manual which I'd never heard of. Which are books not RPGs.

I was thinking how cool it would be to run a TOS game based on pretty much just whats in the Technical and Medical manuals.

But realistically, were am I gonna find a group who wants to play game based on a 50 year old TV series and who aren't insufferable, cannon spewing trekkie dorks?

Pookie said...

If you can find a copy, Star Trek the Original Series RPG is worth finding. It is very well done.

mthomas768 said...

How! Can you SAY! The acting! Is! Exaggerated?!


Talysman said...

You know how I know you're right about the absurdity of forehead proliferation?

Because when I and my friends watched TNG, we invented the term "forehead alien". And as we came into contact with other people who watched the show, we discovered that practically everyone else had invented the term "forehead alien", too.

Obvious creative laziness is obvious.

Talysman said...

Oh, and The Onion beat us all:,4265/

PapaJoeMambo said...

Those of you looking for an excellent version of the Original and Animated TREK series as Old School styled RPG (based on the MicroLite d20 rules)are invited to check out "WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE" available for download at this site right here:

Steve Zieser said...

Papa Joe is right, those are good rules.

We used to call this phenomena "forehead of the week"

Will Mistretta said...

Although he was in the Voyager show and not Next Generation, there's a hilarious short interview clip online featuring Ethan "Neelix" Phillips ripping on some of the more awful aliens (and forehead-of-the-week syndrome).

Anonymous said...

The aliens also generally had standard human culture and values, except with one or two differences. HOW?!

It's like Sliders. My problem with Sliders was that every universe had one change, one difference from the home Earth universe. Maybe it was "dinosaurs didn't become extinct" and then other things followed from that. But mainly, it was like the writers sat around and thought, "okay, this week the world will have only see-through clothes".

For one thing, it was very transparent (har!) that they were doing this. But when you think about it, it meant that the home Earth was actually a very special place.

Because anyone who went from the home Earth to another universe would see exactly one new feature. Someone who went from Universe X to the home Earth would find exactly one changed feature. But someone who went form Universe X to Universe Y would notice exactly two changed features! Any slide involving a non-Home Earth results in double the number of strange differences.

Of course, we're not meant to think about that.

Anonymous said...

The best description that I heard for the alien foreheads was "aliens with seafood on their head" and that stuck in my mind.

I, too, love the original series of Star Trek. Some of the reasons: a positive view of technology and exploration. Star Fleet is military. Free traders.