The Chase is Just Not A Good Enough Episode

If you don’t know it by name, “The Chase” is the episode of The Next Generation where they reveal why most of the aliens in Star Trek look just like humans with funny ears or whatever.

I haven’t rewatched the episode before making this post (if I can’t bother to check for typos when I do these, I’m certainly not adding homework) but I have seen the episode probably about five times in my life, so I know the gist. The Enterprise is one of a group of competing ships who go on a rollicking adventure around investigating the DNA of various alien cultures to find clues to some great treasure. The find it and it all comes to a head with all the groups meeting at the final place, they turn the stone and look beneath it, “Peace On Earth” was all it said. Or whatever.

The gotcha moment of the episode is the humans and the Klingons and Cardassians and Romulans all being embarrassed when an old alien pops up and is like “I’m from the species that seeded all your planets and I’m happy you found this because it means you all worked together” but actually they hadn’t. It’s supposed to be a lesson about how, deep down we’re all the same or some baloney. I don’t like that lesson. Even beyond Star Trek, we shouldn’t use “we’re all the same” as a reason to get alone, because large or small, we have differences and the lesson that paints our similarities as the thing that connects us implies that our differences are actually bad. That’s not good. We should celebrate our differences. Star Trek especially is supposed to value Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Instead we get this episode as an excuse to not make aliens look different. Is that better?

But furthermore, evolution just doesn’t work like that! Even if life was seeded onto the planet Earth millions of years ago (something I believe is contradicted by “All Good Things” anyway), it does not follow that that microbial life would then evolve to humanoid form because that is the form that seeded the planet. Evolution is not the process of life going “forward” in a march toward humanoid form. Evolution just goes every which way finding whatever works. Even if we assume the progenitors encoded their DNA with instructions so that it was closer to intelligent design than actual evolution, what happens when life becomes humanoid? Does it just stop? Does it act as if it has reached the pinnacle? What about all the rest of the life on Earth? Do ants just keep evolving until they become humanoid? And dogs and bats and whales? Are they all on the path to humanoid form? Is Bojack Horseman the future of the Star Trek universe?

“The Chase” is a decent but dumb episode of TNG that proves something proved by other episodes: Star Trek writers don’t understand evolution. And those other episodes are even worse. I’m sure I’ll get to them at some point.

Trek Aliens Could Be Better

Any person who knows me and has ever had to endure my thoughts about Star Trek knows one thing for certain: PDR wishes the aliens in Star Trek were better. I am, in general, a fan of science fiction that presents us with aliens that are weird and imaginative. Classic sci-fi novels have given me a taste of alien minds and I just crave more forever. I feel like if we can expand our minds to encompass the weirdest and most unearthly viewpoints, then understanding our fellow humans gets a little easier. That’s one of the coolest things about sci-fi, I think. Star Trek is the most prominent ongoing source of cool sci-fi ideas that I ingest, so I want the best aliens to be in that franchise. They’re not though.

Star Wars, for example, had aliens that really impressed me as a child. Growing up I very much enjoyed a documentary called Star Wars Classic Creatures: Return Of The Jedi. I’d go do far as to say it was my favourite Star Wars movie. A lot of it is about the design of the aliens in Star Wars and how they brought them to life with puppets and stuff. When I came to be a Star Trek fan around aged ten, one of the first things I did was sketch little alien puppets that I would put on the show if I could. Even then I recognized the “rubber forehead aliens” the franchise was famous for as a weak spot.

But why do they look like humans? Well, the budget is one of the first and foremost reasons. It’s hard to make the actors look like aliens without paying for it. And also, they want those actors to be able to emote and stuff to get things across to the audience. Of course, they’ve given an in-universe explanation for why the aliens in Star Trek are basically just humans, and believe me I’ll get to that garbage in a future Star Trek thoughts post.

As for the desire to make it easy for audiences to connect to the characters? Well, I call that laziness at this point. We’ve got Vulcans and Klingons and Bajorans and literally a hundred other aliens that already can do that. Use one of those if you need to. Any time they create a new race of aliens that looks like humans they are simply being too lazy to work that little bit harder and make the connection to the audience through better writing or acting skill. I’d go so far as to say that if you put that effort in to reach the audience, the connection would actually be stronger.

It’s hard to argue with the budgetary concerns. Star Trek is a show being made to profit some jerks and if those jerks don’t get their profit they stop making Star Trek, with or without cool aliens. But make-up technology has surely gotten cheaper over the years. CGI as well. And puppets are an almost untapped potential for aliens in Star Trek. Also, at this point either one or two ongoing Star Trek shows are animated (the fate of Prodigy is up in the air as I schedule this post). The shows have done a little bit of cool alien design, but they both feel like they are sometimes limiting themselves to humanoid aliens because that feels more like “Star Trek”. I consider Lower Decks especially guilty of this. This animated show has given us aliens that looks just like humans but are orange or have bumps on their head or whatever. Look at the aliens on Rick and Morty, a show that I believe shares some creative DNA with Lower Decks, and those aliens are ALIEN. Lower Decks could do that. But, apart from the occasional exception, they don’t.

The quality of Star Trek’s aliens has definitely improved since I was a child, I don’t deny it. But it also feels like a failure every time they take the lazy way out. And I will complain about it until that changes. I’ve kind of rambled this time, but I can promise now, more of my Star Trek thoughts will be about this, though more focused.

Planet Gurx: Nibnassin Bids Farewell

Goodbye To Gurx

We have, for the time being, finished looking at the planet Gurx. We will return, but for the time being our gracious educator, Nibnassin, is leaving us to do other thing. Hopefully we understand the Strondovarians and their homeworld better now than we did when we began.

In contemporary Strondovarian culture, there is no especial weight given to goodbyes. Already an unsentimental people at the best of times, Strondos are now millennia into society in which suspended animation and space travel are commonplace. A friend or relative may go to sleep for a hundred years and not be seen again. But while they may physically be distant, so long as we keep them in mind, they are still with us in a way. And while living minds can only remember so much, the Knowledge Bank will remember us all forever.

Planet Gurx: A Final Batch of Animals

I am nearing the end of my current series of posts about the planet Gurx, but I still have a bunch of drawings of animals from that world, so here’s one last post of them just to use them up:


Sooashoo are related to Twooay, but are not eusocial like them. Instead, these are solitary animals who only come together when it is time to mate. During their lives they travel far and wide, but they are driven to return to their place of birth when it comes time to mate, resulting in mass migrations to certain points in Gurx’s oceans that attract the attention of many predators.


Gudiv are ubiquitous across Grux, and have been for long enough that they are enshrined in the myth and idiom of Strondovarian culture. Gudiv primarily prey on corpses, and breed in them as well, so Strondos consider them signs of death and a metaphor for one being forgotten as time goes on. As such, they’re not popular.


Bweggel are cave-dwelling creatures that are completely sightless and rely on overdeveloped Rel that allow them to hear, smell, and even feel the slightest of air movement in the pitch dark environments. Bweggel grow to be about 30cm tall on average and have a gecko-like ability to climb walls. They tend to live near the openings of caves or near underground streams, which are locations where they might find small Vootuph to prey upon.


A small Vootuph species that live in the grasslands, Gethaihiti are notable for a mating ritual in which the two interested parties impregnate one another and then fight to the death so only the strongest of the two will get to raise the next generation. Strondovarians consider this to be highly humorous, since no matter how “strong” the resulting generations are, Gethaihiti are still just little bugs.


A massive form of seagoing Lapaouger, the Emoaisa are ambush predators that hang out near watering holes waiting for some unsuspecting land creature to come by for a drink. The Emoaisa’s forelimbs are adapted into strong grasping appendages that pull their prey into a set of barbs and clamp down, making it nearly impossible for the victim to struggle free before being drowned. They have been known to, on occasion, make the mistake of attacking some piece of Strondo technology like a boat or a robot, which doesn’t end well for anyone.


A pretty standard Glounaph species, Iveakkia are large and live in massive flocks (though their numbers are much lower now than they were before the Strondovarians industrialized the planet). Iveakkia mate for life and put more care into raising their offspring than most other Glounaph. They are extremely clever and have been observed using tools.

Planet Gurx: Strondo Mechs

Strondovarians Love Mechs

The Strondovarians have plenty of kinds of vehicles, including wheeled ones, flying craft, and boats. We’d recognize all of that here on Earth. But one of the most popular kinds of conveyance on planet Gurx are what we’d call “Mechs” (and they’d call “Strenyacav”). You know the ones: armoured machines that are like big robots with a living pilot. Strondos love those.

One element of Strondovarian technology, relevant not just to the mechs, but all electronics and machines designed by Strondo culture: it’s all designed to be modular and universally compatible. Parts and components can be salvaged and reused with easy. And planned obsolescence would make designers into pariahs. All this, combined with the generally lackadaisical Strondovarian attitude toward possession of material goods, has resulted in a culture of mech pilots that have their own unique custom designs, but don’t specifically own their own mechs. When they need a mech, they’ll grab the nearest available one and quickly modify it to match their preferences. Often this is done simply by bringing the mechs into large hangars that perform the customization based on the pilot’s profile as it is registered in the Knowledge Bank. In a way, this makes mechs the largest reactive devices a Strondo is likely to use.

This is a pretty standard Personal Mech as one might find being used by security forces. Designed for a single pilot, they can probably fit a single passenger if they’re not specced so heavily that there’s no room left. In addition to security or combat, single-pilot mechs will often be adapted to roles such as construction or exploration of dangerous areas.

The standard design of a Personal Mech is made to emulate the exoskeletal Vootuph species found on the planet Gurx, and as such will occasionally be referred to by the names of such species if the resemblance is enough that the Strondos find the comparison funny.

This second example has a body plan much more like that of a Strondovarian, and is much more massive in physical size, standing as they do around 50 metres tall on average. While they’re often designed so that a single Strondo can pilot them, to operate one of these to the full extent of its potential usually requires two or three pilots working together in the cockpit.

These massive machines have peaceful uses, they have much more room for transportation of passengers for example, but they are generally designed for combat. On planet Gurx, it is now rare for combat of this sort to be necessary, but every city has several such mechs waiting for a day when gigantic fighting machines may be needed.