ST:TOS, TAS, TNG, ENT

If you knew immediately what the title of this article means, you are almost certainly a Star Trek fan. You also know that a full list should contain DS9 and VOY. (And that, actually, there should be a ST: in front of each of them.)

If this all seems alphabet soup, here’s the deal. They’re all three-letter acronyms (TLAs) for the six different Star Trek TV series. This first article today begins “Star Trek Saturday” (a one-time event) here at Logos con carne. There are two or three ships still in dry dock… (big voice: …In Space) getting finishing touches for a launch later today.

To tantalize your taste buds, I’ll just mention that they concern galactic energy barriers, transporters and replicators. Those are ships of war; photon torpedoes loaded and primed. There is a third ship with a different mission that may also launch today. (Tantalized? Terrific!)

This first post is just an announcement, a statement of intent, along with a brief bit of discussion about an aspect of how we name things (to make the announcement part less boring).

Before we get to that, the announcements! I have a couple other items I’d like to cover. There are some new pages under the Raves rubric I’d like to mention. One, mentioned previously, is a recent rave about blessed, beautiful beer. I added two others last night: a page about the Bushido Code, and a reprint of a 1990 (paper!) article, by Judith Stone, Why are you being such a bitch? Both of those come from my library of cherished favorites. I hope some of you will enjoy them as much as I have.

Now let’s talk about the word, “the”…

The Trilogy

There are works in science fiction that have achieved being known as The Trilogy. There are two aspects to this.

Firstly, science fiction seems to lean towards trilogies (where an over-arching story takes three books to tell). In some cases, each book has a tale that stands alone, but to be a proper trilogy, something in the plot must link the books together. It is not sufficient that the characters re-appear in each book if the plots are unrelated. That’s just a series that, so far, only consists of three books. Science fiction, by nature an idea-heavy genre, often requires the space that a trilogy provides. Many authors acknowledge that their “trilogy” is really just one book that, for size considerations, is split into three acts.

Secondly, to be “The Trilogy,” a work must be so universal that people know what you mean without you mentioning the title. One problem here is that, over the years, that criteria applies to more than one great work, and so some context can be required to disambiguate the meaning.

Here are three very well-known examples:

The (SF book) Trilogy—The Foundation series; by Isaac Asimov. Although the next entry is usually what people mean when referring to “The Trilogy” in a science fiction context, among fans of “hard” science fiction, this work is almost as revered. (30 years later Asimov would go on to write two sequels and two prequels, making this actually “The Septalogy!”)

The (fantasy) Trilogy—Lord of the Rings; by J.R.R. Tolkien. Used to be just fantasy book category, but might become the fantasy movie “The Trilogy”

The (SF movie) Trilogy—Star Wars; by George Lucas. There is only one true trilogy here. Lucas may have made some other movies related to “The Trilogy,” but they aren’t worth mentioning (let alone watching or actually purchasing).

So it depends quite a bit on context. And while I’m on the subject of science fiction trilogies, honorable mention to a favorite of mine that is not so well-known:

The Darkest TrilogyThe Chronicles of Thomas Covenant; by Stephen R. Donaldson. At some point I plan to do some writing about this amazing series. I say amazing, because it is one of the richest, darkest, most real, most intelligent, most compelling, most difficult to read of them all. In fact, Donaldson wrote a second trilogy and then a final tetralogy (10 books in all, although not all are out, yet). This meta-trilogy comprises the full Chronicles, which are named The First, The Second and The Last (Chronicles).

This is, in many regards, science fiction at its finest (and darkest). An examination of the human condition that delves deep into our darkest corners. These are books with a “hero” so infuriating you’ll want to hurl the books away from you, only to find the story so compelling you have to go pick it up and continue.

Just to give you a taste of what you’re in for, the Chronicles concern a writer, Thomas Covenant, who is diagnosed with leprosy. This, as you can imagine, crushes his spirit and destroys his morale. He loses his wife and child; the people in his small town despise him.

(click for big version)

Then one day he is transported to The Land, a place of powerful magic. Part of that magic heals his leprosy making him healthy again. Believing himself in a dream, a product of his mind trying to escape his miserable circumstances, he refuses to believe in the reality of The Land. He refuses to help the people there who are under attack by the evil Lord Foul, The Despiser, even though the people see him as the fulfillment of ancient prophesy: The White Gold Wielder.

His restored health and unbelief cause Covenant to act like a prick, and one of his first acts is to rape a young women, Lena, he meets early upon his arrival (she was the one who healed his leprosy). This act, and the child that results, figure prominently in the plot that follows (are instrumental, in fact).

Think of these books as the anti-Tolkiens. No light-hearted Hobbits here. Unlike Tolkien’s theme of absolute power corrupting, these are about when and how you must wield power to fight evil.  The power of these books is revealed in how I meant to just mention them in passing, but couldn’t help going on a bit.

To return to the light, I close with…

The Doctor

Of course, the Doctor refers to Doctor Who! And this delightful British TV series has gone far beyond being a trilogy (would you believe: 32 seasons and counting; the show began in 1963)!

As I mentioned recently, I’m a new convert, and I have to say Doctor Who is better, richer, more engaging, more human, than Star Trek (which is really saying something). The show regularly makes my eyes leak, something Star Trek only accomplished now and then.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

15 responses to “ST:TOS, TAS, TNG, ENT

  • Chyina

    Well you have added a couple of books to my reading list. A task not hard to do really, but I have to say that I am intrigued and excited about “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant”!

    I sometimes wish I had the ability to simply touch a book and know what it says as if I had actually opened and read it. I often fear that I am going to end up like the man in the “Twilight Zone” (the original series). The one that never has enough time to read, then the world ends. He, in turn, is left with all the time in the world. Like any great pitiful hero, breaks his glasses moments after pure elation!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      You know, it’s possible you might really like the Covenant books. I will warn you, the frequent sense of revulsion you may experience with regard to the “hero” will make Seinfeld look like long lost, much-loved good friends. Thomas Covenant is one huge asshole!

      But awesome books. You may need a dictionary handy when you read them. The author’s vocabulary is astonishing.

      • Chyina

        Lol, I will keep that in mind. Although I find hard to love characters easier to love when they are in book form. Somehow seeing them “in person” just makes it worse for me.

        As for the vocabulary, great! Now I can learn new words to make my friends think I’m some crazed uppity who speak another language. Which is always fun. 😉

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Interesting comment! I’ll have think about that. I wonder how seeing the physical person affects that. It is true that visual arts eliminate much of the need for our minds to participate; it just goes along for the ride. That would almost seem to make you less inclined to react, but visual arts are also more realistic (which is one reason I think violence on TV and movies is a problem).

        To get you started on vocabulary (and provide a hint of what you’re in for), here’s part of the list (of words to look up) I started making while I was reading: condign, expiation, carious, telic, viridian, sendaline, cymar, obloquy, threnodies, hebetude, vermeil, febrifuge, anademed, chrysoprase, tabid, rede, triremes, coquelicot, innominate, etiolated, barranca, heiratic, anile, preterite, roynish, nystagmus, chatoyant, analystic, catafalque, roborant, benison, malison, mephitic, febrile, nacre, travertine, caducity, architrave, irenic, periapt, mansuetude, macerated, attar, etiology, inchoate, evanescent.

        I think I had a faint idea of what some of them meant. And honestly, I probably remember what I looked up in less that half the cases above. (Hee, hee, and WordPresses spell-checker thinks most of them are misspelled, which means it doesn’t know the words.)

        Thing is, the dude’s vocabulary really does add to the tone of the novels.

      • Chyina

        Wow, that is a vocabulary lesson! I think I might have heard one or two of them, once, somewhere, lol. No clue now thought, but I like a challenge.

        Conan Dole’s work was a challenge when I started reading Sherlock Holmes (at age 10), but I wouldn’t have it any other way now.

        So I’m sure it will add to my experience as well. 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        You know, I probably was about the same age with I read my first Holmes. I’m a pretty big fan of detectives in general, but few more than Holmes. (Robert Parker’s Spenser does hold the top slot, though.) And while I wish I could be a Spenser (but am so not), I way identify with Holmes: his alienation, his love of logic and rationality, his tendency towards ennui and boredom (et alii) if not mentally engaged, and much more.

        In the first novel (A Study in Scarlet), which is also about Watson and Holmes becoming roommates, Sherlock explains to Watson,…

        “You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

        “But the Solar System!” I protested.

        “What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

        And I took that to heart at a very young age. My path ever since has tried to respect that concept (and it would seem to have proved out).

        Now,… do you know about the Holmes / House, M.D. connection? 😀
        https://logosconcarne.com/2012/08/31/house-is-a-holmes/

      • Chyina

        Still love that quote, even if I don’t fully agree with it. 🙂 But I do try to stick to that principle as much as I can. I just fall of the wagon on numerous occasions.

        I have to say that I didn’t know about the Holmes/House connection. It was more that I seen things that reminded me of Holmes, and I wondered if it was purposeful or not. It’s probably why enjoy House so much, lol.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        If you went and read my article you saw it was totally purposeful! They threw in little references on a regular basis, and the references are much too blatant to be accidents (“Adler,” “Moriarty,” “Dr. Bell,” “221-B” and so forth).

      • Chyina

        Yep I did read it, and have to admit it is obvious. Not a lot of people would realize the drug connection either (unless they read the books). Most TV shows and movie (save for the two new ones), always portrayed him as a very prim and proper gentleman. A man that would never consider an addiction. 😛

        I really need to watch this show again. I miss it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        There was one back in the 70s, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, that was all about Holmes’ addiction, and I think I’ve seen it touched on occasionally, but you’re right it’s often suppressed, especially in material for younger audiences.

        Reminds me: need to check if the last season of House is out on DVD yet!

      • Chyina

        I don’t believe I’ve seen “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution”. I may have to add that to my list. 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I don’t recall it being a great movie. There are plenty of other better ones to take up your time!

      • Chyina

        Lol, I’ll keep that in mind. 🙂

  • rung2diotimasladder

    I love anti-hero protagonists. The Thomas Covenant series sounds right up my alley.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I think you’d find them extremely compelling and interesting. “Enjoyable” is another matter… I think it was only the third time I re-read the series that I was truly able to free myself from intense hatred of the main character enough to fully appreciate the story and writing.

      One caution about the Covenant series. Donaldson’s florid and detailed descriptions can get a bit distracting (and his vocabulary forces me to keep a dictionary handy). He gets better over time — tones it down a bit. There is a bit of the baroque to him, but it’s its own form of poetry.

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