Alien Bladder Tea
by Richard Kadrey

I hate "Star Trek." Oh, the teenybopper deep inside me still has a certain speed-freak affection for the original series, but that's understandable. Any teenager can relate to a show in which all the main characters are clinically insane. The updated shows that have come after—"Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine," and "Star Trek: Voyager"—are different, however. They're sticky with a condescending kind of McNugget humanism that makes me want—at best—to break things or—at worst—tear my own head off. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is what the universe would look like if all the "liberal" parents from the PTA took over. And don't ask me about that Voyager thing. I tried to watch it once. Some idiot alien was giving a cooking lesson. He looked like a Yorkshire terrier that had been spin-dried in a microwave oven, and he was dressed like a rich Deadhead. I had to leave the house afterwards because turning off the TV just wasn't good enough. I knew he was in the box somewhere, ranting in his 24th-century tie-dye...

Considering that it's a dramatic series, Star Trek has very little mystery. It's a house of cards built on its own screwy internal and plot-convenient logic. In virtually every episode, some crew member pulls a bit of untested or darkly rumored technology out of his or her ass to save the day. Or someone remembers a stargate. OR a wormhole. Or messes with Data's "positronic brain." But if you sort of half-close your eyes and ears, the flood of techno-gibberish can be soothing, like the murmuring of an infant or a heavily sedated schizophrenic. From this safe place, here are some of the things I think about when Star Trek comes on:

  • Why is the Enterprise carpeted like the lobby of a Ramada Inn in Pensacola, Florida?

  • Why does everything on the bridge have round edges? I know, in my heart of hearts, it's so crew members won't hurt themselves on sharp edges in case of an emergency. Yet those soft edges always make me think of the blunt scissors issued to mental patients during arts-and-crafts hour.

  • Who does the laundry? Who shines the officers' boots?

  • What's the skin cancer rate among crew members vho work near all the neon-glowing gewgaws down in the engine room?

  • Why do all the civilians of the future look like they got their clothes by mugging the leather mug maker at a second-rate Renaissance Faire?

  • Considering that "sick building syndrome" is a problem now, an enclosed starship must be the greatest candidate ever for this situation. How many people on the Enterprise end up crippled or suffer long-term illness as a result of the mixture of weird engineered materials, molds and fungi in the ship's air-filtration system, constant, high-level exposure to electromagnetic fields, all combined with the residues of so many different species of aliens (i.e., the accumulation of flaked skin cells in an enclosed environment, sweat in clothing, organisms exhaled into the air, etc.)?

  • There are dozens of planets in the Federation. Each with its own pests and wildlife. Within the close quarters of a starship, cross-contamination has to occur. What kinds of vermin live in the food dispensers? What kinds of mutant STDs are being developed by cross-species fucking? What is safe sex in this environment?

  • Are there semen stains on the space suits, left there by couples who want to have sex in free fall? And don't say they can do it in the Holodeck. Anyone who's played with a computer simulation only craves the real thing more and more.

  • What's the most extensive case of interplanetary bigamy recorded?

  • When the Enterprise is in dry dock, how often does someone on the cleaning crew sneak a lover on board so that they can fuck in the captain's chair?

  • What kind of shady corporate conspiracy keeps the Holodeck running? The damned thing has almost destroyed the ship more than once. Wouldn't it be safer just to give everyone in the crew a bag of hallucinogens and a Slinky? Dangerous devices like the Holodeck get modified or yanked off military craft very quickly—no commander is going to deal with a tarted-up video game that might blow her ship to Poughkeepsie. And yet, the Holodeck persists. Obviously, someone is being paid off. Here are some more questions: Does Star Fleet own the Holodeck, or is it leased and paid for by the minute (by the crew?) as a kind of addictive drug?

  • Who on board the Enterprise is monitoring and recording people as they act out fantasies on the Holodeck (the "Star Trek" equivalent to videotaping yourself having sex with someone)? Who's selling bootlegs of the officers' most obsessive and personal moments? How many crew members are acting out their snuff fantasies and passing the recordings around at space-bar beer busts?

  • How often does a communication officer or engineer hack other crew members' communication badges to eavesdrop on them? Like the Holodeck recordings, are these listened to at parties? Is the information obtained used for personal gain?

  • Are there hazing rituals on the Enterprise, as there are on in many military groups? Do newbies get transported around the ship in weird ways? Without underwear? Naked and in the cabin of another crew member with whom they're secretly in lust?

  • Other transporter questions: Did a crew member pulling a double shift ever transport anyone without his bones? Or skin? What if there is a tiny glitch in the body-reconstruction software, or might the hardware malfunctions and transports someone, giving that person some tiny brain defect? Perhaps inoperable cancer? Lobotomizing her, or leaving her permanently paranoid?

  • How often does the gravity balance/dampening go wrong so that everyone in one section of the ship is squashed like wine grapes when the ship goes into warp speed? Who cleans up the mess? Probably the same losers who have to wash the uniforms.

  • With a large crew that has access to deadly weapons, how often does someone go postal and start blasting away at everyone in the rec room? How often does some crew geek blow away the girlfriend who jilted him, or the civilian that wouldn't date him in the first place? Has anyone ever gone nuts and tried to blow out the hull to destroy the ship?

  • There is no objective up or down in space. The Enterprise (and other Starfleet ships) regularly run into new alien races. Since the aliens probably use different navigational points to orient themselves, does the Enterprise ever enter into diplomatic arguments about whose ship is upside down?

  • Are 24th-century tampons an improvement over the 20th-century model? Are they flushable? Safely perfumed?

  • Much far-future science fiction makes me think about toilets. "Star Trek" always makes me think of these essential devices. For instance, what kind of toilet paper does Picard use? Does he bring his own brand, or use standard Starfleet issue? Or, in this grotesquely sane future, do they have some technologically sweet fix for this? There are Japanese toilets on the market now that squirt water at your ass when you're done. Perhaps the Enterprise is equipped with these Japanese toilets. If so, how many crew members have developed a fetish for that intimate little squirt? And how any angles must the squirting mechanism adjust for to accommodate the aliens on board?

  • And what happens to all these waste products, both human and alien? Are they jettisoned into space, like those big chunks of weird blue ice that occasionally drop from the nether regions of a jumbo jet, crushing some poor farmer's prize heifer? Or can the wastes mix in some double-hulled titanium holding tank in the (for lack of a better term) bowels of the ship until they dock with a Starfleet base where some intergalactic white trash salaryman named Eustace or Luther can shamble onto the gangway and pump the thing out? (And will they have trailer parks in the future for these warp-speed losers, or will they have to build squats out of the discarded waste tanks of decommissioned starships from the original series?)

  • One last thought about bodily waste. A military vehicle that's equipped for long periods away from port has to recycle a certain amount of its essential rations. So how many times has the water in Picard's tea been through some alien's bladder?   </end>

Art penned by Steve Raymond.
Star Trek logo TM is the property of Paramount Pictures Corporation.
Up Talk!