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.

enterprise next gen

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 …

SPOCK: Captain!

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.


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 …

BOOM. (Oops.)


Categories: Humor, Sci Fi - Fantasy - Time Travel, Television

Tags: , , , , , ,

36 replies

  1. Perfect, except that Spock always said “Cyaptain.”


  2. As a Trekkie I should not laugh, but I did and the Tribbles ep was amazing in Next Gen


  3. I enjoyed David Gerrold’s book about how he wrote “The Trouble with Tribbles” one of the silliest episodes ever written but I still enjoy it. He said that he learned as he wrote his first successful TV script that a good one hour action show had to have a climax every fifteen minutes with the biggest one coming just before the end then a few minutes for the solution and a humorous tag line at the end. It’s true. I was ten when I first saw Star Trek and after just a few episodes I knew that the climax would occur at 8:15pm.


  4. Do you recall the omnipresent percentages? Think of how much time was chewed off the broadcast clock by repeated statements of power or damage in terms of percentages. I recall one episode of “Star Trek: Voyager” where the titular vessel was struck repeatedly by an enemy force as the camera remained focused on a single actor who read off the changing numbers. At least 3 times the following happened, each with the camera’s focus remaining on a single person: The ship was hit, as indicated by sound; the camera shook, but remained locked on the actor; and the actor spoke a percentage that became lower each time this happened. If Star Trek came with a label, it would not read, “Wash. Rinse. Repeat.” No, Trek’s label would read, “Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.” In truth, the preceding reflects the use of a minor storytelling cheat in Star Trek, one which is now an expected part of Star Trek’s televised offerings.


    • Tom Curley and I were involved, long ago when we and the world was young, in a send up of Star Trekg at our college radio station in the 1970s. He continued to produce them right up until today. I wrote the first few episodes. “Sterling Bronson, Space Engineer!” Hang on, let me see if I can find a link for you. It’s audio theater, so you can listen on the computer. It’s got it all. Tom’s a funny guy. Before Next Gen existed so it was entirely based (originally) on V.1 Star Trek.

      This is VoiceScapes — I don’t see a Sterling Bronson episode, but maybe I can get Tom to post a couple there and maybe, if I ask nice, here too 🙂 —


      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. Marilyn was the originator. It evolved over the years and we ended up producing a full length episode.
        It’s at captclerk.podbean.com


  5. Damn it Jim. I’m a doctor, not a stopwatch.


  6. Always good to meet another Trekkie. My favorite still remains the original Star Trek crew though the newest Star Trek movies aren’t too bad either. I always smile when the Red shirt security guys appear in the original series because they are always dead meat. My pet peeve is how in the Picard version, no matter what dire situation they find themselves in, Data will be able to solve the problem by reversing the polarity of some particle beam or other.


    • It’s the Tachyon particles. They are whatever you want them to be. They are everything, nothing, and we absolutely believe that they will cause OR solve any and every problem. Since, we’ve got a few problems, maybe what we need is Data. And more tachyon particles. And some of those beam thingies. Nothing else seems to be working.


    • Or as Spock always did
      Cross fade to channel B


  7. “Keptain! I dunna think she’ll hold!”
    “Scottie, she has to hold.”
    “Aye, but the dilithium crystals, they’re…”
    “What, Scottie?”
    “They’ve been tampered with.”
    “Klingons, Captain.”
    “Indeed, I do not know.”
    “Well find out, dammit, Spock!”
    “Captain, nurse Ratchett has fainted.”
    “Do something, Bones.”
    “I would if I knew what to do, Jim.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always saw a peaceful resolution to the plots in the original Star Trek.
    Let us hope that same script ending will ensue from our current invader, the 45th President.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved your blog. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished in space during a disaster countdown.
    You must understand, though, that, time really isn’t the same thing in space. No planet Earth spinning around next to a big ball of hot, glowing, bubbling hydrogen. Thus, it’s just one long, desolate interminable moment. (even the word second has no meaning)
    Rather cool plot device, though, if you think about it.
    A moment in space could be 12 minutes on Earth or 12 Millennia. Certainly enough time to say, jettison the warp core and escape a Borg cube or even the…. Vogons.

    As I said, fun blog! Great humour!
    TE Mark – Author


    • I understand Einstein’s theory of relativity and I’m a big science and science fiction fan — but I was not talking about relativity or even time. I was talking about overused plot devices. Seriously, how many TV shows use a countdown as the entire plot? And they always solve the problem, rescue the maiden, defuse the bomb, etc. ad nauseum around 2. Occasionally 1. Time and relativity are a different (and very interesting) discussion.


  10. For anyone who was there at The Radio Station waaaay back in the golden olden days, this is just another episode of Sterling Bronson, Space Engineer. All together now …

    Liked by 2 people

  11. But Captain Kirk survived it all, so I suppose he knew how to count.


  12. Spock to the “bridge”

    “Alert!! Captain — we have an alien invasion on the earth one White House. This is not a drill, Captain!”



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