Speculations on the future direction of Star Trek Online

So, for all, what, three of you? who didn’t immediately lose interest on seeing the headline, I have some thoughts on where Star Trek Online is likely to go after its current plotline, which has been confirmed to be headed into its endgame.

On the off-chance someone who isn’t already an STO player is reading this, a brief summary of where the game’s story is right now: the Iconians, believed to have gone extinct 200,000 years ago, actually escaped to another galaxy, and now they’re coming back. A large number of events during and before the game (the supernova that destroyed Romulus in the “original timeline” in the 2009 movie, the Undine/Species 8472 resuming hostilities against our universe, the resulting Klingon-Federation war that embroiled most of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, and the sudden emergence of the Vaadwaur as a major and very aggressive military power in the Delta Quadrant) are all ultimately part of their plan to soften up the galaxy for reconquest. The actual Iconian invasion started with new content that dropped this year (real-world year, I mean), and it is NOT going well for the Milky Way. However, in the most recent two missions, a possibility of salvation has emerged: the Iconians are psychologically incapable of handling time travel, and the Krenim have now provided the Klingon-Federation-Romulan alliance with plans for “temporal annihilation” technology–a weapon that can cause the target to never have existed.

Endgame is, it seems, next month with the final Iconian War mission “Midnight,” but with the announcement last week of an upcoming Season 11 (presumably late this year or early next year, based on the roughly two-a-year pattern of past updates), the end of the Iconian War is clearly not the end of the game. Indeed, the announcement of the new season suggests that it will focus on “rebuilding and hope” and include a “brand new civilization.” (It also showed a small army of Tholians charging toward Starfleet troops, and it’s been announced that there will be new PvE queues involving fighting an invasion from the Mirror Universe led by Mirror Leeta, which is both glorious and gives me hope we’ll finally get an explanation for why the fuck random Tholian mobs sometimes include Mirror Universe ships.)

So they’re not ending any time soon. And plans for Season 11 aside, it’s unlikely that there won’t be another combat-heavy arc building up, simply because the developers have made pretty clear that they find it really hard to make non-combat-heavy content that is still fun to play. So what could that conflict be?

I have a speculation on what they seem to be building to, because even before the first hints of the Iconians showed up, there were references to the Temporal Cold War. And those references have never entirely gone away–the Xindi have made a few cameos, the Delta Recruit gimmick added as part of the run-up to the Iconian War heavily involves a Temporal Investigations agent, the same agent is involved in the project to build the temporal annihilator. And on top of that, the developers made a cryptic (haha) remark at their panel at STLV last weekend: that Season 11 would include the origin story of an enemy species from the TV shows. There aren’t many options for enemies whose origin stories could happen <I>after</I> their first appearance, and all of them involve time travel.

They also mentioned having to deal with the fallout of the way the Iconian War was won. And what caused the Cold War? Superpowers, once allied against a common enemy, now fought each other. But their weapons were so powerful that they didn’t dare use them, so they fought using proxies instead.

The Iconian War is the World War II-equivalent, the temporal annihilator the nuclear bomb-equivalent, and whatever it ends up erasing to defeat the Iconians the Hiroshima-equivalent, for the Temporal Cold War. (Bonus points if the Iconians are somehow on the verge of losing/ready to make peace anyway when the annihilator gets used.)

Evangelion Realtime Viewing Project: Planning and Guesswork

So, a couple of weeks ago I floated on Tumblr the idea of watching Evangelion in realtime (that is, watching each episode as close as possible to my best guess of when in 2015 it occurs) and recording my reactions. It got a pretty positive response, so I think I’ll go for it.

This post, which I state freely in advance will be completely ridiculous and mostly bullshit, is my attempt to determine when to actually start the project based on taking the few dates given in a work that was obviously actively avoiding giving dates precisely because it doesn’t have a coherent timeline, and constructing a timeline for when the episodes occur.

So, here are the five dates/timespans I am completely arbitrarily deciding to use as the skeleton around which to build this project:

  1. The first episode has a subtitle stating that it takes place in 2015.
  2. The final episode has a subtitle stating that it depicts Third Impact and takes place in 2016.
  3. In End of Evangelion, Maya’s computer readout suggests that Asuka’s fight with the Production Series Evas takes place in 2015; Third Impact occurs later that night.
  4. Episode 9 has a calendar indicating that the defeat of Israfel takes place on Friday the 11th, month unstated, one week after the first fight with it.
  5. In Episode 20, Shinji is stated to have been dissolved in Eva-01 for 30 days.

(2) and (3) can only be reconciled if Asuka’s fight, and hence most of the first half of End of Evangelion, takes place on December 31, 2015, with Third Impact occurring in the wee hours of January 1, 2016.

There are only two months with a Friday the 11th in 2015, September and December. However, if Episode 9 took place in December, that would push Episode 20 well into 2016, after the date we’ve already established for Third Impact; therefore, Episode 9 ends on Friday, September 11, 2015, and thus the first fight with Israfel was on September 4.

So that gives us three firmly established dates to work from; now things get more speculative.

In Episode 9, Asuka is clearly still adjusting to life in Japan, and hence cannot have been there very long. Hence, Asuka moving in with Misato and Shinji (which occurs immediately after the first fight with Israfel) is likely no more than a week or two after Episode 8, when Asuka arrived in Japan, putting episode 8 at somewhere around August 21 – September 2 (since Asuka has attended school at least once prior to moving in with Misato and Shinji).

In Episode 8, Asuka was nearing the end of her sea journey (along with Kaji, Eva-02, and the Adam embryo) to Japan, which is stated in the preview at the end of Episode 7 to have set out (during or prior to the episode) from Wilhelmshaven, Germany. Wilhelmshaven is a military base, so I couldn’t get an exact figure, but according to this site a sea journey from the nearby civilian port of Bremen to Tokyo would take about 34 days. We don’t see any indication that the flotilla accompanying her is particularly faster, or even significantly different from, naval ships of the real-life late 20th and early 21st century, so we must assume Asuka was in transit for about a month.

Now, she would not have been sent to Japan with Germany’s sole Eva unit unless the UN and German government knew that the Evas were attacking Japan. The UN military seems to be far less well-informed on these things than Seele and NERV in the first episode, so we have to assume that they did not know in advance that the Angels would primarily target NERV HQ. (In particular, the Vatican Treaty, which states that no country can have more than 3 active Eva units, is spectacularly wrongheaded if everyone knows that the Angels will focus their attacks on one country.) Hence, we should assume that Asuka set out after Sachiel’s attack in the first episode, meaning that attack can have occurred no later than the last week of July. (This is corroborated by a sign visible on a construction site in Episode 2, which states that construction ends in August 2015.)

Let’s look at the first episode. Rei’s injuries in that episode are later revealed to have been caused by Unit-00 going berserk in an activation experiment; Episode 5 is stated to take place 22 days after that experiment. Hence, the first five episodes cover a time span of at most three weeks. However, Ritsuko also states that the activation experiment took place prior to Misato’s arrival at NERV, and Misato has to have been at NERV at least a day prior to the first episode (to give time for her “fanservice” letter, which she must have sent after starting work at NERV, to reach Shinji). Episode 5 is therefore at most 20 days after Episode 1–and in Episode 2, the next day, Gendo estimates Rei will take another 20 days to recover. Hence, we can conclude that Misato probably did arrive at NERV the day before Shinji  (which explains why she’s clearly still unpacking in Episode 2, though as a fellow slob I will note that I have been known to live out of boxes for months, even years, because unpacking takes time and effort), and Rei was injured the day before that.

So far, the first eight episodes seem to be able to fit into roughly a month, but there is a wrinkle: Episode 6 occurs on a full moon, the day after Episode 5. The last full moon that could occur before Asuka’s arrival is August 29; however, if Episode 5 were August 28, that would place Episode 1 no earlier than August 8, 26 days prior to the last day Asuka could arrive in Japan. Even if she set out the instant Sachiel attacked Japan, that’s still shaving it really close.

The last full moon before that is July 31. That would place Episode 5 on July 30, and Rei’s injury on July 8. Misato arrives at NERV HQ July 9, and Shinji July 10, making that the date of the first episode. So:

  • July 10, 2015: Episode 1. Sachiel attacks.
  • July 11, 2015: Episode 2. The morning after Sachiel’s attack, Shinji wakes in hospital.
  • July 13 – 21, 2015: Episode 3. Shinji starts school the Monday after Sachiel’s attack. Shamshiel’s attack at the end of the episode is stated by Hyuga to be three weeks after Sachiel’s attack, but this is contradicted by the 20-day time span for the first five episodes and by Toji being out for “two weeks” due to his sister’s injury in the Sachiel fight. Either Sachiel was tearing up the countryside for a week prior to the first episode, or Hyuga’s just wrong. If Toji’s last day in school were Friday July 9, and his first day back were Tuesday July 21, that makes a statement that he’s been out for two weeks exaggerated, but not impossible, since he missed an entire week, plus two days prior (Japanese schools have class on Saturdays) and one after.
  • July 27 – 29: Episode 4. Shinji spends two days running away, then the train station scene happens on the third. Misato states before he runs away that he has missed five days of school since fighting Shamshiel; assuming that she’s including “today” when she says it, those would be the 22nd through 25th, and the 27th.
  • July 30: Episode 5. Rei is released from the hospital, exactly 22 days after being injured and approximately 20 after Episode 2.
  • July 31: Episode 6. The final fight with Ramiel occurs on a full moon.
  • Somewhere in August: Episode 7. The cleanup of Ramiel’s corpse and repairs to Unit-00 are still occurring, so probably closer to the beginning than the end. Asuka has already left Germany for Japan.
  • Somewhere in August 21 – September 2: Episode 8. Asuka arrives, about a month after leaving Germany.
  • September 4 – September 11: Episode 9. The first fight with Israfel is September 4, and the second on September 11.

I think that’s enough to get started with.

Sites I found useful (though not authoritative) in working this out:

Deep Space Nine: Where Are They Now?

Between Mark Watches starting TNG last week and me playing as much Star Trek Online as possible in the hopes of getting to the 5th Anniversary Mission before they take it down at the end of the month, I have Star Trek on the brain. So, here’s me imagining what the cast of Deep Space Nine (and maybe a couple of other people) did after the end of the show:

Spoilers abound!

Continue reading

The Babylon 5 that (thankfully) never was: Babylon Prime and afterthoughts

Continuing my series attempting to reconstruct how Babylon 5 was originally (for certain values of “original”) “supposed to” go. More detailed explanation and Season 1 are here. However, since that original post I have acquired the actual treatment by JMS and am therefore working from that, rather than summaries. Thanks again to Glenn for giving it to me!

Babylon Prime

Although Babylon 5 was originally planned to end with defeat and destruction of the station, JMS’ plan was immediately to move into a sequel series, essentially additional seasons under a new title, Babylon Prime. 

Known: This series would open with Sinclair, Delenn, and their child in hiding, together with Garibaldi and a Narn (“a friend or relative of G’Kar”). They meet with the Grey Council-in-exile, who refuse to do anything to help Because Prophecy, and express the need for a base of operations. They go back in time and steal Babylon 4, but there are time distortions that cause problems. (Interestingly, even in this early stage B4 goes into the future relative to the date it’s being sent to, then settles down in the correct date.)

This time travel would cause Sinclair, Delenn, and the baby to age very quickly, so the baby would actually be an adult for most of the series. Meanwhile, Londo would become Emperor and be implanted with a creature that spies on him and reports his activities to the Shadows. Londo captures Sinclair and Delenn, but then rebels against his not-actually-called-a-Keeper at unspecified “terrible personal cost” and frees them. Meanwhile, their son becomes “something greater than human.”

Earth wins the second Earth-Minbari War and Sinclair’s name is cleared. Babylon 4 takes part in a great battle that ends with the final conquest of the Shadows, and the victors form an interstellar alliance led by Sinclair and Delenn’s son. Delenn leaves Sinclair to resume her position on the Grey Council and help her world heal. The series ends with Sinclair retiring to an uninhabited world and going fishing.

Speculation: The most likely place for Delenn and Sinclair to hide out is Epsilon III, where Draal can protect them. Likely additional candidates for their allies include Ivanova (if she survived the destruction of Babylon 5), Kosh (if he survived the end of the Shadow War), Draal, G’Kar and the Narn resistance, Talia/Lyta, and possibly Vir (though he is unmentioned in the treatment).

Some version of Talia/Lyta becoming a living telepathic doomsday weapon would likely have still occurred in this series, given that both Lyta’s closeness with the Vorlons and Talia’s telekinesis are set up in the pilot and Season 1, respectively.

In all likelihood, the “terrible personal cost” for Londo freeing Sinclair and Delenn is the same as in the broadcast series: his death at the hands of G’Kar.

Two things stand out as intriguing: Babylon 4 still swings into the future as a result of the time distortion, meaning that wasn’t actually an obvious patch between a “Babylon Squared” that assumed it was being stolen to fight a war in the future and a “War Without End” that had it stolen to fight a war in the past. Also, Sinclair and Delenn’s son being “greater than human” recalls Ironheart–it suggests perhaps that his role as spiritual leader who has odd powers and ultimately ends up leading a new alliance was ultimately divided between Sheridan and Lorien.

Afterthoughts

Frankly, while better than what we got of Crusade, this entire treatment is basically crap. With the sole exception of the Catherine Sakai as mole thing (which itself, recall, was speculation) none of this sounds likely to be as good as the series we got. It’s much more straightforwardly about good against evil and the Shadow War, G’Kar’s arc is jettisoned almost entirely, the Earth Civil War (which in my opinion was a better storyline than the Shadow War) is entirely gone, the ancient cycles of violence and “get the hell out of our galaxy” are gone, the massively powerful elder races whose technology is millions of years more advanced than the younger races are defeated in a war, Ewok-style, rather than persuaded to go away on moral grounds… this is simply not very good.

The timeline surrounding the theft of Babylon 4 is clearer and more sensible in this version, true. In “Babylon Squared,” it’s pretty heavily implied that the station is being pulled into the future. The retcon in “War Without End” requires that Draal first pull the station into its future so that passengers can be offloaded, then throw it into the past, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. On the other hand, the treatment suggests an accidental trip into the future, so maybe that’s what was going on in “Babylon Squared.” On the other hand, the price of that sense is losing Sinclair-as-Valen and the reveal that all that Minbari prophecy is just him remembering the future. Which makes Sinclair Merlin, bringing in all the references to the Arthurian legend, of which there is no trace in the treatment. Plus, I love a good ontological “paradox.” (As I have noted a few times on this site, it’s only a paradox if you believe that information cannot be created ex nihilo. As someone who creates information of one kind for a living and of a couple of other kinds as my primary hobbies, I take rather a large amount of exception to such claims.)

It’s notable, too, that this belies a number of claims by JMS regarding how closely he stuck to his original plans. For example, he has claimed that he knew what the last shot of the last episode of the series would be before Season 1 began. However, if he meant the end of the planned Babylon 5 series, then the shot of the station being destroyed while a single shuttle leaves occurs a few minutes before the end of the aired finale and in a very different context than originally planned (the actual final shot of the series, if credits are not included, is the sun rising over Minbar as Delenn reaches out for it; if the credits are included, it’s a split screen of a young Londo as he appeared in the first season and the aging Emperor Londo seen in the flashforward in “War Without End.”) If he meant the end of Babylon Prime, then there is no equivalent scene at all to Sinclair fishing.

There’s also his claims in response to fan comments on the apparent contradiction between JMS’ statement that after Babylon 5 finished he planned to stop writing for television and the announcement of the Crusade spinoff. JMS claimed that he had “always” said there was one possible spinoff idea he might explore given the chance, but that otherwise the end of Babylon 5 would be the end of the series, and indeed early on he did make claims that the series would consist of a planned five-year arc, possibly followed by a spinoff. Given this treatment, however, it seems clear that the spinoff he referred to in those early comments was Babylon Prime, and as such his citation of those comments in defense of Crusade is at the very least equivocation, if not outright prevarication.

None of this should be taken as a criticism of Babylon 5, nor is my point to suggest that JMS is a bad person or anything of the sort. Babylon 5 is truly great work, and JMS has done some other really great work in TV and comics (such as The Real Ghostbusters or the fantastic Rising Stars comic series). His scriptwriting textbook is excellent, as well. I am merely observing that some of JMS’ statements regarding the series seem very likely to be deceptive statements with the aim of making it look more planned than it really was; as such, it calls into question his reliability as a source on the genesis and development of Babylon 5.

What we have here, ultimately, is a classic example of why at least the soft form of Death of the Author is necessary.

The Babylon 5 that (thankfully) never was: Season 5

Continuing my series attempting to reconstruct how Babylon 5 was originally (for certain values of original) “supposed to” go. More detailed explanation and Season 1 are here, although note that since writing that original post I have gotten access to JMS’ “original” treatment and am no longer working from summaries.

Known: Season 5 opens with the return of G’Kar with evidence of Londo’s alliance with the Shadows and their meddling in the Centauri-Narn conflict. The Minbari military caste stage a coup and take over, resuming the war with Earth. The Centauri lay claim to the neutral sector that includes B5, which Earth contests, leading Londo to break off diplomatic relations. Shortly thereafter a massive Vorlon ship carrying most of their civilian population is destroyed by the Shadows, although Earth is framed. Londo helps in the attack, though without the knowledge that it will result in hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths.

The series ends (yes, ends) with the Minbari attacking and destroying Babylon 5. Sinclair, Delenn, and their baby escape on a shuttle and flee into hiding, with every remaining power in the galaxy considering them enemies: the Minbari because of Delenn’s ties to the deposed Grey Council and the Warrior Caste’s belief that the prophecy is one of destruction, Vorlons because they believe Sinclair helped Earth destroy their ship, Shadows and Londo because they believe Sinclair and Delenn suspect who really did it, and Earth because they’ve been fed false intel that Sinclair betrayed them.

Speculation: Given how much happens in this season, and how little happens in Season 4, it seems likely that some of this would have been moved earlier. Any of a Centauri attack on Babylon 5 as part of them seizing the sector, the fall of the Grey Council, or the destruction of the Vorlons would have made good season finale material (though the last might be too soon for the war to end in this version of the story).

Given his human-Minbari hybrid wife and the renewal of Earth-Minbari hostilities, it seems likely that Earthgov’s false intel makes Sinclair out to have betrayed them to the Minbari. Likely sources for the intel are the Minbari, Centauri, and Shadows, all of which have good reason to want to isolate Sinclair and Delenn and thereby cut them off from Earth support.

It’s up for grabs whether the warrior caste are being manipulated by the Shadows in this version of the story. They almost certainly weren’t in the actual series, but by this point the treatment and the show have nothing in common except Delenn’s pregnancy.

And yes, this colossal downer really is how the series ends in the treatment. But it’s not how the treatment ends–that still has another page and a half, almost a quarter of its length, to go. We’ll cover that in the next and final installment of this series.

Concluded next week!

The Babylon 5 that (thankfully) never was: Season 4

Continuing my series attempting to reconstruct how Babylon 5 was originally (for certain values of original) “supposed to” go. More detailed explanation and Season 1 are here, although note that since writing that original post I have gotten access to JMS’ “original” treatment and am no longer working from summaries.

Known: Delenn gets pregnant with Sinclair’s child. Garibaldi quits his job as Chief of Security as a result of his drinking, and begins operating as a mercenary out of B5. There is no mention of a Psycorps connection, Lise, Edgars Industries, or Zack Allen.

The Shadows would first be shown onscreen at this point, and the description of them, while vague, is consistent with how they appear in the series. They would initially present themselves as fighting to free the other races from the Vorlons, but in truth they desire to rule.

Speculation: Between the lack of a rebellion against Earth and the general slower pace of the treatment as opposed to the series, very little seems to happen this season. Perhaps G’Kar and the Narn resistance would have gotten focus episodes, or some variant on the Centauri Cartagia/rise of Londo plot might have occurred. Another possibility, given events in the treatment’s version of Season 5, is that the Minbari Civil War might have started, but not been resolved, during this season.

At this point it should be clear that the series as aired had gone completely off the original rails in Seasons 3 and 4. The Shadow War was resolved in early Season 4 in the series, yet is still a proxy war at the END of Season 4 in the treatment. Babylon 5 is still part of the Earth Alliance, Garibaldi never leaves the station, the entire Mars plot and associated cast is nowhere to be found, and Clark is still in charge with no resistance from Sinclair and company, despite manipulating his way into power via assassination just as in the series.

The Shadows as rebels against Vorlon manipulation is an interesting concept. It leaves open the question of whether the Shadows are one of the younger races manipulated by the Vorlons who have advanced far enough to turn against them, another race of equivalent age and power who just never bothered to get involved before, or, perhaps most interestingly, renegade Vorlons. This would cast an interesting light on the “angelic” presentation of the Vorlons, making the Shadows “fallen angels.” It also seems likely that something similar to the “meeting” scene from “Z’ha’dum” would have happened in this version of the show, where someone would explain to Sinclair the Shadows’ rationale for their actions. Perhaps Catherine/Caroline would have had that duty. Regardless, it seems that both the treatment and show versions give the Shadows a reasonable-sounding rationale, but belie that rationale through the destructive and manipulative behavior the Shadows have exhibited to this point. In the original plan, it seems likely that there would be a good deal of dramatic irony regarding this point, as the implication in the treatment is that the audience knows how the Shadows are manipulating Londo more or less from the start, but the human characters don’t find out until the season 4/season 5 bridge.

Continued in two weeks…