I have watched all the variations of Star Trek, from the original with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, through Next Generation with Patrick Stewart. I also watched at least some episodes of the other Star Trek shows, although they never hooked me like V.1 and V.2. But, the thing that all the shows had in common was how they could stretch ten minutes of material to fill 47 minutes of screen time. All they needed was a crisis and a countdown.
Whatever it was — the whosiwhatsis core is about to explode or implode and blow them all to kingdom come — or the next episode, whichever came first …
CAPTAIN: Yes, Spock.
SPOCK: The whosiwhatsis core driver power module is about to turn this sector of the galaxy into a black hole.
CAPTAIN: Explain that in plain English.
SPOCK: We’re doomed.
CAPTAIN: How long do we have?
SPOCK: Eleven minutes, 12 seconds, and 13 microcars.
CAPTAIN: Not much time. I don’t suppose we have a spare whosiwhatsis we could replace it with?
SPOCK: No, Captain. Remember our last episode when you said we didn’t have time to stop to reprovision because you had a hot babe waiting for you on Euthanasia? And I said …
CAPTAIN (interrupting): Okay, that’s enough. So, what are you saying?
SPOCK: We’re screwed. All of us. As are the nearest 5 stars and their planets. Plus all intelligent AND stupid life in this sector of this galaxy.
CAPTAIN: Surely you can do something to fix it?
SPOCK: Don’t call me Shirley. I hate that.
CAPTAIN: Um, how much time do we have now?
SPOCK: Ten minutes.
CAPTAIN: Well, you’d better get cracking and fix the damn thing.
CHIEF ENGINEER: If ya’ have an old coat hanger, some duct tape, and a jar of peanut butter, I might be able to fix it.
CAPTAIN: You should do that. Now, would be good.
SPOCK: Nine minutes, Captain.
CAPTAIN: Shut up Spock.
CHIEF ENGINEER: SHUT UP, Spock.
CREW (in chorus): Shut up, Spock.
SPOCK: Nine minutes.
And so it would go for 45 minutes until in the last two minutes, before that final commercial interruption, the engineer and his clever elves slathered the whosiwhatsis with peanut butter, stuck a wire hanger through the center, wrapped it in duct tape and that gave them just enough time to save that piece of the universe.
SPOCK: Another successful countdown, sir.
CAPTAIN: Someday, we’ll have to have actual dialogue. Maybe a plot. You’d think our audience would get tired of counting down from 10, show after show.
SPOCK: They never tire of it. They love it. Sir.
We do love it. So, let’s just start counting down right now. From ten, because we have ten fingers and that means almost everyone can follow along without calculator.
We know — because we’ve seen it over and over — if we start counting down from ten, by the time we get all the way to two, Deus Ex Machina (will vary with script, series, and creativity of writer) will save the day, the ship, the galaxy, the future of all things in this best of all possible worlds.
Of course, in the Star Trek universe, they had the scriptwriters on their side. In this real time and place, I sincerely and passionately hope somewhere there’s a scriptwriter on our side. If the scriptwriter is with us, we won’t need The Force.
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six …