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Bag of Tricks

2 April 2013

Yesterday, I posted a video on the 47 Echo Facebook page that was about six and a half minutes of Worf from ST:TNG getting beat up and shut down. It is, of course, a funny video, but there’s kind of a point to it.

Apart from a couple of Worf-centric episodes here and there, the writers didn’t really make much of an attempt to make Worf an actual character. Mostly, he was just there to show facets of other characters. Whenever they needed to show that someone was stronger then normal, they had that person kick the everloving shit out of Worf. Whenever they needed to show Picard was peaceful and diplomatic, he basically told Worf to shut up about all this warrior bullshit and keep those damn shields down.

I love Star Trek, and that’s why I pick on it so much. It had its problems, but it’s still a great show… but in TNG especially (well, and the first couple seasons of Voyager), the writers had bags of tricks they kept going back to. If you watch enough, you’ll see things like the Worf Shutdown Maneuver repeated time and time again, because it was easier to use that trick than to come up with a new way of showing that whatever guest star was mega-strong that week.

Look at the aliens on TNG: for a while there, all you had was humans with messed-up noses or forehead appliances. It was a shorthand way to show that they were aliens without putting in a whole lot of effort. Actors didn’t have to spend 14 hours in the makeup chair to get the notion of “alien” across, so the production team kept using that… and most of us noticed.


The point here is not to unfairly bash Star Trek, but to point out something that we all tend to do. We figure out tricks that work well for us, and repeat them all the time, whether we notice it or not. That’s another reason I like sending stuff to beta readers — they’ll catch those cheap tricks I unconsciously employ. They’ll show me the Worf Shutdowns and the Crinkly-Nosed Aliens I didn’t even see in my own work.

What’s the worst offense you’ve seen in repeated tricks in any sort of entertainment medium (books, TV series, film series). Who’s really good at not repeating themselves?

One Comment leave one →
  1. 2 April 2013 2009

    Like you, I agree that it tends to be the “Humanoid Alien” of the week on ALL the Star Trek series (Granted they DID explain what the reasoning for that was).

    I liked that in B5, the aliens weren’t all the same (while many WERE humanoid). Some were insectoid and fishlike too.

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