Most annoying sci-fi TV/movie tropes

Look how many plot complications from thrillers and detective stories don’t make sense anymore because we have cell phones. And I’ve solved several plot complications in my life through Google and Amazon. But - and this was my second point - I didn’t find any new magical properties of them. And, as people have brought up many times, I’ve never forgotten new functions later - the way that most new discoveries from themselves or from aliens get forgotten in Star Trek. The cloaking device being one of the rare exceptions.

In TOS they seem somewhat aware of lots of places they’ve never been to before, through “long range scanning.” They don’t seem to have the AI to do really good survey jobs. By TNG time they seem to have been everywhere already.
But all these series suffered from not having any guiding mentor who thought in terms of consistent technology and sociology. For 1966 TOS did this far better than any other sf show, but the post-Roddenberry people didn’t seem to give a shit. The regular world is kept pretty fuzzy. Are the freighters they meet very rare, or are there tons running around?
My theory is that Star Fleet keeps the Earth in the dark about what is going on out there. There was a Borg cube in the solar system about to enslave everyone on earth. And yet Picard’s brother treated his as someone who played around in space doing things that had no relevance. Maybe the Federation makes Oceania look like amateurs and censoring the news.

Yeah, most sf, and especially episodic sf, failures from a massive failure of nerve. Earth shattering things happen and no one reacts. Aliens land - ho hum. Life after death is proved - ho hum. Even 2010 is a failure of nerve considering the situation at the end of 2001. Bowman is master of the world and what does he do with it? Take his mother off life support and give a ghostly message to Floyd. Ho hum.

I won’t get into details so as to no spoiler it, but IIRC Star Gate Universe didn’t suffer from many of these technological inconsistencies.

My favorite peeve is kind of the opposite of the reset button (though I hate that one too): it’s when a supposedly long-standing situation or long-existing technology suddenly creates a problem that should have happened the first day the situation or technology existed, and which there probably should be a long-established solution.

Example: Holodecks have existed for decades on Picard’s Enterprise, but there are apparently no methods on a quasi-military vessel for automatically detecting or preventing holodeck addiction. Come on. We’ve been anticipating the equivalent of holodeck addiction since 1909 (“The Machine Stops”) - how can this be a surprise to anyone on the Enterprise?

Good Athena, OP. Criticizing video SF for unrealistic tech (that advances the story) is like criticizing a chocolate cheesecake for being fattening.

Too bad it suffered from being a battlestar wannabe, though.

Obviously concessions have to be made to bring science fiction to a wide audience and/or have a show on a reasonable budget every week, but many of these things are annoying because they could be better without too many production issues.

Look at Battlestar Galactica. IMO, the storytelling sucked, especially in the last two sesons (I can’t stand people who do stupid self-destructive stuff and I don’t watch SF for the made up religion) and the shakycam sucked, but they averted and subverted many of these tropes: real space flight mechanics, surviving a short exposure to vacuum and probably more that I’ve forgotten.

One other trope that I should have included: force fields. Both to keep prisoners or air in, or to protect ships from debris and equally implausible weapons. Maybe a very strong magnetic field will deflect charged particles, but I’m guessing it’ll have to be extremely strong. Other than that stuff just doesn’t work like this.

The problem with lots of SF on TV / in the movies (and especially Star Trek) is that the technology is so advanced that it’s hard to get into trouble and easy to get out. It should be the other way around.

That said, I can forgive a lot as long as the rules are clear up front. I didn’t watch 7 seasons of Voyager because I hate it so much. It’s just that it could have been better with some relatively minor changes.

Well, my pet theory is that the people on the Enterprise and other vessels aren’t the best and brightest; they’re the attention deficit disorder troublemakers who can’t sit still and actually learn to develop and build the advanced technology underlying their existence. Rather than keep them around, they’re put on board ships with highly sentient computers and presented with the illusion of danger that they technobabble their way out of by having the computer “solve” all of their problems. (Notice the great frequency at which a senior crewmember asks the ship’s computer for a solution or has it perform “an analysis” with nebulous direction only to receive a precise and applicable answer.)

It is clear that the “crew” isn’t actually in charge of anything. The ship’s computer runs everything, as they have been programmed to do by previous generations of more intellectually capable humans, and its is mission to keep the crew comfortable and entertained. Occasionally, when one of the crew become too curious about some aspect to the ship’s operation, they’re put into mortal peril or distracted by some personal problem which is actually concocted by the computer. This also explains why Starfleet can’t build or replicate mass copies of the android Data; he’s actually in on the game and serves to keep the crew misdirected.

This makes even more sense for the J.J. Abrams reboot movies where things happen for absolutely no reason whatsoever. In that “alternate universe” the computers have become unhinged, suffering from some kind of malware infection which has also damaged the graphics system so that many imaging defects (colloquially known as “lens flares”) occur with alarming regularity.

Think about it…


This is almost the way that Banks’ Culture would handle things.

There’s some evidence by the way that your theory is correct - the introduction to the novelization of STTMP (Star Trek: The Motionless Picture) states that Starfleet deliberately selects staff that aren’t the brightest, because experience has shown that ships with the most intelligent crews tend to wander off to transcend humanity or join up with more advanced alien cultures.

During the period of TOS the crews were misfits who were willing to go off by themselves without family and die most of the time. By TNG time I think you might be right. They are as smug as people born with a silver spoon in their mouth, people who get everything done for them. Helpless as a rich man’s child, as Dylan said.
The closest thing to a badass around there, Benjamin Sisco, got sent far away to not make trouble.
Picard and Riker shot up half the Star Fleet brass without anyone seeming to notice, after all.

I think the galaxy’s supply of sensible plotium was stored on Vulcan, and got blown up along with it. Along with the supply of characterization.
Whatever criticisms I have about SW Ep. VII, it was better than the Star Trek reboot.

I took it as they got looked down on by the New Humans, who were happy for them to be far away. I’m not sure there is evidence of that during the time of TOS, but definitely by the time of the movie.
The TNG crew are definitely New Humans.

Space ships in the Star Trek and Star Wars universe are enormously tough in ways that would put Niven’s General Products hulls to shame. They can fly through the atmosphere and survive ridiculous accelerations and abuse. In particular, the Star Trek vessels are continually crashing into planets and retaining some or all of their structural integrity. This, despite the fact that space craft have absolutely no need to be built like actual World War II battleships, and anything dropping onto a planet from orbit is just going to leave a crater and possibly some charred wreckage distributed over several square miles of landscape.

I would assert that the premise of this thread is fundamentally flawed, and many of these tropes make sci-fi BETTER,not worse. I have no interest in watching people deal with the actual consequences of how big space is, for example. (“Okay, let’s all get into cold sleep for 50 years” or “Well, we’re critically damaged, but the nearest planet is 10 days away, I guess we’re all gonna die.” etc.)

I think more explanation is need for how these things actually make sci-fi “worse” instead of just making it offensive to people who like to nitpick. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

What I find annoying is when the writers try to “solve” the long distance travel in space with suspended animation or hyper sleep. They used this a lot in the Alien franchise and while watching these films I’d be taken out of the story, by wondering:

• How are they ablate survive years like this with no food, no nourishment?
• Whether the body is lying down or propped up the blood will flow and settle and worse, the muscles will atrophy after al that time of non use.
• and after all of that, once the body “awakens” the instability would take a long time to overcome. It would be hard enough trying to orient oneself on a spacecraft, but once they land and set foot on a gravitational planet, they’d collapse,

Ummm…in your second point you posit that the blood will settle, but in your last you posit lack of gravity. How will the blood settle in one part of the body with no gravity?

I didn’t say there’d be a lack of gravity. In fact in the films I pointed out, the Alien films, they had a gravity in their ships. The gravity inside of their ship would be comparable to Earth, the planet where they’re from. But there’s a huge difference between a gravity created for the inside of a spaceship compared to one of a planet. As we know, planets have a varying degree of gravitation, depending on their size. Those lying in stasis in a spaceship for years, even one that has a created gravity, would react landing on a planet like a person adrift on the ocean reacting when they finally reach land.

Huh. Not sure I follow your point about shipboard gravity being “different” somehow.
Anyway, I think you’re not taking into account advances in biotechnology. Star travel is a very very hard thing and if you have the technology to do it, I think it’s likely you’ll have the technology for some sort of hibernation and you’ll be able to bring people out of it safely.

Meh, as far as almost any of the often used technologies in Sci Fi that allows space travel, hibernation has got to be at the bottom of "come on, science/engineering/physics don’ts work that way!!!) list of complaints. IMO anyway.

Some of the annoying tropes are necessary for entertainment purposes. TVs and movies simply don’t have the budget to do much more than aliens with a slightly different color and nose. Also for dramatic storytelling, you need conflict, it would be boring if humanity ventures out into space and we only see super primitive races or nothing.

But the thing that bothers me most is the inconsistency of the nature of time. If you change something in the past, does it instantly realign across all times? Or is there parallel universes and it simply branches off? Or is time like a ripple, where a change in the past slowly gets reflected in the future? I’d watch a show if the premise was simply to explain the nature of time (in universe) consistently.

Sure, like on the old *Adventures of Superman * TV show, Superman at least twice used abilities that would have been useful in other circumstances but were never used again. Once he was able to somehow vibrate himself through a wall to penetrate it without damaging it, and once he was able to split himself into two Supermen (Supermans?) of lesser strength. Those are both hugely useful abilities, used once and only once.

That may be the next step in technology, programmable integrated circuits that do different tasks in various configurations. I’d love to get my hands on the Radio Shack transtator hobby handbooks!

I can not watch any space movie and not be bothered by the one big unexplained feature: Artifical Gravity. Did the Millennium Falcom have some advanced gravity creating system? Or any space ship. It’s never explained.