First we see a teaser, a normal man or woman, maybe Russian, maybe not, who has their day interrupted by something otherworldly or downright weird. Maybe someone has a bizarre or monstrous encounter. Maybe there are bright lights in the sky or men in trench coats smoking menacing cigarettes. Jump scare, then someone is dead. Fade to black, and that iconic music starts. It is simple yet spooky, single synthesizer notes with a whistling accompaniment. Even now you can probably hear it in your head. Another episode of The X Files has begun, but you need to ask yourself: Are you simply watching just another TV show or modern mythology?… The truth is out there.

The Unidentified Trojan Object
The X Files was rated #81 on IMDB’s Top 250 TV Shows of all time. It won 93 Golden Globes with 202 nominations, including 3 Best TV Drama awards, and there is a reason for the show’s success… And we’re not saying its aliens, butThe X Files touched a nerve in the American public, some unforeseen and unknown element of our baser instincts and suspicions. It may have started the idea of the modern episodic story-arc that now dominates network and cable dramas, but there is more to it than good writing. The X Files is a modern myth, like the classics of Homer. It gives us a picture of a world both familiar and unfamiliar, like one only glimpsed in our dreams or our nightmares.

The X Files could only have arisen and existed in the 1990’s, and we’re not just talking about the plot conveniences of giant cellphones and lack of Google. The cold war was over and America was beginning to feel uncomfortable as the sole superpower of the world. As humans, but especially as Americans, we naturally tend to distrust the powerful, and with no more enemy to fear abroad we turned some of that distrust inward. Couple that with a country where slightly more than half of the population believes in extraterrestrial beings, add in every trope and cliche about abductions, folklore, and government cover-ups and you had a hit 1992 TV series. Yet, the appeal of The X Files was about more than just capitalizing on a mindset of the American people. It both participated and drove the conversation of conspiracy and aliens, just like any good mythological story.

Classical Greek and Roman myths have some very distinctive storytelling elements that are often mimicked in the show, which star the two will-they-won’t-they FBI agents. Classical mythology deals in the affairs of gods and kings, as Greeks were not concerned with the affairs of the common man. Among some of the major elements of classical myth are ideas about evil, responsibility, family, and inter-generational conflicts, but always a desire to explain the way the world works. Myth is meant to teach stories about the origins of the known and unknown, something The X Files attempts to do in every episode, whether it be the Jersey Devil or the Kennedy Assassination. It is the attempt to bring order and explanation to a disordered world. Mythology does this by relying on gods, monsters, magic, and prophecy, and though words like magic and prophecy do not appear very often in The X Files, the premise still remains the same. The supernatural and pseudo-science are used to fill the gaps of our modern mysteries and misunderstandings. Ancient audiences did not always believe their myths verbatim, but they realized that those stories were telling truths about their world and the influences that affected their lives. That is not too far off from how many viewed the adventures of Mulder and Scully, a fiction with a deeper truth.

Smoking Man and the Argonauts
To really understand the correlation between ancient mythology and The X Files, we need to look at it as the people of ancient Greece did, or as the people of the ancient 1990’s did. The world is run by gods and powerful men. There is no such thing as coincidence, because we are all being moved on some greater chess board by some greater hand. For the Greeks -and to a lesser extent the Romans- that meant gods. For Mulder and Scully that meant people like The Smoking Man and the Syndicate, the unforeseen forces that control the world. Even the American government is just a pawn in their greater schemes. Above them are the alien colonists whose bidding they secretly carry out and fight to supplant.

To the 1990’s American this idea was the same concept as a pantheon of powerful gods, not the aliens, but the humans that ran everything from the banks to the Presidency. They had unlimited power to cover-up, kill, or do almost anything that fit their agenda, and they were far from perfect. One of the major factors in mythology is that the gods have human traits and human flaws. They squabble and disagree, often causing chaos for the humans below them. The same is true for the Syndicate, this shadow government. It is often shown that the members do no agree, and rival factions takes matters into their own hands. These are not simple arguments, but conflicts that end with assassinations, kidnappings, and alien-human hybrids. Meanwhile this pantheon of shirt-and-tie-divinities sit above it all, often untouched by the chaos they create.

Sometimes the gods choose to visit the realm of mortal men and lend them aid. Deep Throat, in the first season of The X Files was one such supernatural helper. He often gave information and assistance to Mulder in his search for the truth, even as a member of the Syndicate. He paid the price for his help when he was killed. The Smoking Man is probably the most common of the gods to walk among men, often standing in the background like Hades or Ares, a lit cigarette glowing in the shadows. Others occasionally pay our favorite FBI agents a visit, but only when it suits their personal agendas and needs, much like the gods of old backing ancient heroes to further their own plans. In fact, it is often this tension of the hero’s will versus the gods’ machinations that create the central conflict of The X Files, and ancient mythology.

Oedipus Fox
Fox Mulder is the epitome of an ancient Greek hero. As a prominent and Oxford educated FBI profiler he is not an every-man. Like the Greek stories The X Files are not about common people, but about two highly trained and prestigious government agents. In ancient Greece, in order to be considered a hero you had to be of noble or godly birth. Mulder’s father was a member of the Syndicate, which in essence makes our hero half-god. There is even later hints that the Smoking Man may be Mulder’s true father, but regardless who his father is, the father/son conflict drives The X Files‘ plot and greater mythos, just as it did in ancient times.

To be a true hero one also had to perform extraordinary feats or trials. Mulder proves himself week after week in a various series of trials. Specifically, we are referring to the “Monster of the Week” episodes where our two FBI agents must uncover the truth or defeat a literal monster of the week, whether they be flukemen, inbred brothers, or the Loch Ness monster. Like Hercules defeating the hydra or Perseus slaying Medusa, every hero faces trials and challenges, and like those ancient heroes Mulder always seems to triumph against the odds.

A hero of ancient myth is more than just a good person, they often possess a superhuman-ness except for one fatal flaw. Achilles is the most famous, with his invulnerable skin, except for his heel. Mulder is like this, but we would relate him more to Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam of Troy. She was gifted with the ability of prophecy but cursed with the fact that no one ever believed her. Mulder’s true strength lies in his belief, his faith. Scully puts it best when she says, “You’re in the basement because they’re afraid of you, of your relentlessness, and because they know that they could drop you in the middle of the desert and tell you the truth is out there, and you’d ask them for a shovel.” Yet, that is also his flaw because it makes him sound crazy, even to his partner. Mulder’s tenacity is almost superhuman, but it sometimes causes to him leap before he looks or talk-out regardless of how loony he sounds. Like Achilles, it a strength and weakness born from a significant childhood event.

Another interesting characterization of a Greek mythological hero is an ignoble death. Jason, of Jason and the Argonauts fame, dies when a beam from the Argo falls on him. Mulder is presumed dead a few times throughout the series, and at one point might have actually been dead -it get’s weirder in later seasons. Of course, he does not actually die. However and more interestingly, Peter Boyle, who plays a psychic that can foresee  people’s deaths does mutter something about autoerotic asphyxiation to Mulder, so an ignoble death is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Dana Scully, though noble in her own way, does not fit the bill of a Greek hero. Instead, she fills the role of the deuteragonist, the second most important character. Many mythological heroes had deuteragonists, Hercules had Iolus, Achilles had Patroclus, and -though this is not a Greek myth- Gilgamesh had Enkidu. In each of these examples, the deuteragonst is one of the most important people in the antagonist’s life. Achilles goes crazy after Patroclus is killed at Troy, in the same way that Mulder goes crazy after Scully is abducted. However, a deuteragonist is more than just a sidekick or second-banana. They also serve as a foil for the hero, highlighting aspects that the hero is lacking, such as how Scully’s logic and science often compliment Mulder’s intuition and paranoia. The irony is that even when Mulder is right, Scully still looks like the smart one.

Odds and Odysseus
Odysseus offers perhaps the greatest classical correlation to Fox Mulder. Both are men caught in the whims and games of the gods, and both choose to oppose them. Odysseus defies Poseidon just as Mulder defies the will of the Syndicate and the Smoking Man. Each is a hero who wins through their intelligence and force of will, and each is driven by their obsession to return home. For the main character of The Odyssey home is a real and familiar place with loved ones. For Mulder that means reuniting with his sister, Samantha. It is a place that no longer exists and stopped existing the minute his she was abducted. Over the years his family crumbles and dies, and Mulder is left to fight for the ideal of his lost home and family, and the truth behind why they were taken from him.

In the Season 1 finale, The Erlenmeyer Flask, Mulder discovers crucial information at 1616 Pandora. With that season finale both Mulder and The X Files opened a literal Pandora’s Box, launching the shows overarching mythology. There have also been plenty of other references to Greek myth throughout the show, but more telling is the fact that we call the show’s main story its “mythology.” The word itself has become ingrained with the show, and for good reason. The correlations between Ancient Greece and 1990’s America may be few, but the similarities of the mythologies that define each time period are striking.

Perhaps the comparison is not always perfect, but every myth embodies the time in in which it was created and The X Files is no different. It speaks to something greater within us, what we believe, what we think, and what we feel. It captures a time and a national mood that existed in an era of woman’s shoulder pads and a Clinton Presidency. Like any good myth it touches on truth and fantasy and makes us all say, “We want to believe.”

The holy grail of any science fiction story, and truly any hope of extended manned spaceflight is -without a doubt- the ability to go faster than light. An FTL engine is a piece of technology that has been depicted countless times in literature, movies, television, and the sugarplum dreams of children for nerds. Whether you want to call it a hyperdrive, a warp drive, jump drive, mass drive, improbable drive, or whatever we have seen it over and over again and for good reason.

The Milky Way Galaxy is about 100,000 light years across, and it is more than 4 light years to our closest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri. We can never travel at the speed of light because that would be impossible, thanks to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and not just because of all the weird time dilatation stuff. Traveling the speed of light would require infinite energy to accomplish, and infinite is kind of a hard number to come up with in practical terms, even with today’s cheaper gas prices. Yet, even if we were to figure out how to travel that fast it would still mean that it would take 4 years to reach Alpha Centauri, and that just won’t do when you are trying to keep a dramatic pace in your science fiction Disney-owned blockbuster. That is why the entertainment industry has given us to following:

It Ain’t Like Dusting Crops, Boy
Hyperdrive is the engine of the Star Wars universe. It allow ships like the Millennium Falcon and others to enter what is called “hyperspace,” Though Star Wars is not the only science fiction property to theorize such a dimension, they are the best known for it. According to Star Wars canon -at least we think it’s still canon but who can tell anymore- hyperspace is “a dimension of space-time that could only be reached by traveling at lightspeed or faster.” In essence it’s like a higher dimension or a pocket dimension that exists next to the Star Wars universe. Somebody took the time to do the math, but what is the most interesting aspect of this superluminal space is that it is still affected by the gravity of the normal dimension. Thus, hyperspace calculations are incredibly difficult because objects with enough mass can pull ships out of hyperspace, sometimes fatally. There are only certain routes that people use to navigate the galaxy, much like highways and back roads through hyperspace that avoid most major gravity wells. This also is used to explain Han Solo’s boast, “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” The mining world of Kessel is situated next to the Maw, a cluster of black-holes, so getting to it is more about daring the shortest and most suicidal route rather than the fastest time -yes, by the way, we’re those kind of geeks.

We have talked about the science of Star Wars before, but it is worth covering this part more in depth. To begin, the rapid acceleration that we see in the movies would leave Han and Chewie as a fine paste on the back of their seats. Human beings -and possibly Wookiees- can withstand about a max of 5 g’s for about 2 minutes. Accelerating to lightspeed, even at 9 g’s would take about 19 days, though our favorite smuggling duo would be dead long before they reached it. We know the crew experiences at least some of the force of movement, because in The Empire Strikes Back R2-Ds falls backward when they jump to hyperspace. So we can only assume that the Falcon has some amazing inertial dampeners.

As for the dimension of hyperspace itself, it is a very cool storytelling element, but for the most part it is fictitious. The closest we have come to even discussing it on Earth is in terms of the Heim Theory which tried to purport a unifying theory between quantum physics and general relativity. It allows for the existence of such higher dimensions that could theoretically be accessed and used like hyperspace. Burkhard Heim even speculated that a rotating magnetic field could reduce the influence of gravity on a spacecraft enough for it to take off, and -for a while- these theories actually made him something of a celebrity in the 1950’s. Unfortunately, they also never quite passed peer review and Heim is no longer studied as part of mainstream scientific research.

Spinning Up
The jump drive is another fantastical engine that is best portrayed in Battlestar Galactica where ships are instantaneously transported from one point in space to another, light years away, but is also appears in other science fiction media. Unfortunately, shows like Battlestar Galactica seemed to be too preoccupied with high impact drama and suggestive PG-13 sex scenes to really go into the mechanics of how their FTL drives worked. So we are left with only speculation.

It is possible that a jump drive would be related to a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling. In its purest form, tunneling is the process by which a particle passes through a barrier that it would not normally have passed through. It has a very low probability of happening at all, which increases as the target barrier’s thickness decreases. Also, as rare as this phenomenon is, it happens quite frequently inside the core of our own sun, mostly because the unfathomable number of particles in the sun means that statistically even low probable actions still take place on a regular occurrence. Scientists like Günter Nimtz, claim that when a particle tunnels through an object it does so instantly making its movement faster than light, though that has been heavily debated. Still, if that were to be true, this could be the basis for what you would call a jump drive.

Unfortunately, quantum tunneling has several major set backs. First of all, it has only ever been observed at the particle level, and would be incredibly hard to scale up to more complex forms of matter like you, or Starbuck, or Edward James Olmos. Even if we could scale it, quantum tunneling happens an improbably low amount of the time. An FTL drive that only allows you to jump 1 out of every 1,000 times is not going to be great when you’re fleeing from cylons. Even then, it is only possible over short distances, and we’re not talking four or five light years. We’re talking about minuscule distances, centimeters and multiple planck lengths. Lastly, scientists cannot even seem to agree if the particle even is traveling faster than light, as it would be inconsistent with Einstein’s Special Relativity. So we’re thinking a jump drive is probably fracked.

Chevrons Locked
Wormholes could offer a better solution. They have been portrayed in various science fiction properties, most notably in the Stargate franchise and the Mass Effect series. The best part about wormholes is that they are scientifically plausible. It has become almost cliche at this point to make the old analogy of space-time being like a piece of paper. You may not be able to go faster than light from the top of the page to the bottom of it, but if you fold the paper over and create a bridge through it than you could travel there almost instantly and still stay on Einstein’s good side. -We are also aware that we called the example cliche and then proceeded to use it as our example, but if it works it works- General relativity even predicted their existence, though we have yet to observe one.

Size is the first issue. If naturally occuring wormholes exist, they happen on a microscopic scale. Another issue is stability. As of right now we have very few ideas on how we could open a wormhole and even less on how to keep it open. It would require some sort of exotic negative mass or negative energy to do so. Both of which are theoretically sound, but we have yet to reliably observe them, let alone harness them for our purposes. Another tiny problem is the fact that, even if we could create or find one big enough, and even if we could keep it open and stable, we have no guarantee that inserting a foreign object or a human body would not cause it to immediately destabilize and collapse. Then even if does remain stable the affects of gravity inside the wormhole would unevenly affect anyone entering it, turning them into spaghetti, which would be very bad for MacGyver or whoever else was inside at the time.

We come now to the warp drive. It is one of the most talked about and plausible science fiction faster than light engines ever dreamed up, though we at the NYRD personally believe that is because most NASA scientists are also Trekkies. Star Trek has laid out the details of the warp drive pretty extensively. So we know it is powered by a mater/anti-matter reaction which is mediated through a non-reactive substance held in check by an electromagnetic field. This creates warp plasma which is channeled through warp coils that ultimately distort space around the ship. Now most of that is sci-fi technobable, but it has a foot in actual theoretical science, we mean at least as much as any show about Tribbles and green women can.

The Alcubierre Drive is a theoretical warp drive worked out by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, and essentially it works just like a Star Trek warp drive -again because Alcubierre is a Trekkie. According to Einstein, nothing can go faster than light, except -and its a big exception– space itself. At the moment of the Big Bang the fabric of space expanded faster than the speed of light, and space is still expanding to this day. The Alcubierre drive would essentially warp the space itself around a starship, causing the space in front to contract and the space behind the ship to expand. All the while, the USS Patrick Stewart is contained safely in a bubble of normal space time. Thus, a ship can achieve speeds faster than than light and the crew inside the ship would not even feel the inertia of acceleration.

Unfortunately, Alcubierre himself stated that this would take an amount of energy on par with the mass of the observable universe, though some scientists at the Johnson Space Center, believe they have gotten that down to about the mass of Voyager 1, which is better but still not ideal. Even more problematic, maintaining the stability of the warp bubble around the ship would again require negative or exotic matter, same as it would for the wormhole solution. However, and despite all its flaws, this theory is the current front-runner for the most plausible superluminal engine we have yet to come up with.

So, sorry Star Wars fans. You may have cool things like lightsabers, the Force, and a deep seated hatred of Jar Jar Binks, but Star Trek has the most plausible fictional way of traveling across the galaxy. Still, it is worth mentioning that Star Wars has always been more about myth and fantasy than science, and that is okay. The Jedi are samurai, Han Solo is a cowboy, and originally no one ever put much thought into how things work, just that they looked cool while doing it, but even impossible science fantasy is as a vital part of the human imagination and science. Ultimately, if you remove either science or imagination from the human experience, the remaining one would not be as strong as they it is today. The fantastical worlds of writers and artists inspire scientists and vice versa. Unfortunately, in the realm of interstellar flight our collective imagination is still outpacing our scientific achievement, at least until that day we all get a visit from a British man in a police box.

Personally, we would have went with the title Independence Day: Veterans’ Days, but that is just us. However, it could be accurate as both Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman are looking much older than their former alien fighting glory days in the new Independence Day trailer. Of course, Will Smith is nowhere to be seen, which will remain to be seen whether that is a good or poor decision on the part of DC’s Deadshot. Still despite all of this we are intrigued.

Independence Day is one of the seminal Roland Emmerich disaster movies. When it was released 1996 it set the new record for not only what a disaster movie should be, but gave us a new ideas of the alien invasion movie. Also, Will Smith had all the good one-liners.  However, from what we see of this new trailer, it is possible that this next movie will be more of a sci-fi adventure movie, rather than a disaster movie. After all, Earth has adapted and rebuilt. It has used the technology from the crashed alien ships to upgrade their technology, which looks like it includes new fighter jets, laser guns, and Jeff Goldblum on the moon.

You would think this new fight between Earth and the invading aliens will be a bit more balanced, which could lend for even better drama or could prove this new Independence Day was a blockbuster too far. Let us know what you think? Will the aliens win this time? Will a bearded Bill Pullman give an even more epic speech? Is Will Smith Dead? let us know your thoughts below.

Independence Day: Resurgence opens in theaters on June 24, 2016.

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Zak woke with a start, sweat beading his forehead. He might have screamed but he couldn’t be sure. Some people were looking at him as if he might have. He ignored their stares and reached for the small woven rope that encircled his wrist, as if to reassure himself it still existed. Goose bumps rippled his arm and neck as he shivered despite the crush of human bodies around him. Almost every inch of the cold metal floor was occupied by men, women, and children. Families huddled close while strangers eyed each other from across the room. He ignored them all and tried to find sleep again.

The small blanket was barely enough to cover his body, but along with the bracelet it was all he had left, except for maybe his dreams. Sleep was the one place he could escape, and in those dreams he was back home, a small town in Iowa with his family. They had been lucky, most of the war hadn’t touched their part of the world. The big cities like New York and Chicago had felt the brunt of the destruction, but not their small rural community. No, for them it was more about the drought.

He still remembered when his father had announced that they couldn’t stay. “Earth is dying. The powerful and the demagogues are fighting over what’s left and it’s people like us who are going to get caught in between,” said his father to his mother when he didn’t think Zak was listening. “I know this guy from the dockyards. He says there’s a ship leaving and we can get on it.”

“Leave Earth?” Zak’s mother began to cry. She tried to hide it like she did some times, but Zak knew. He always knew when his mother cried. “Where will we go?”

“The ship is bound for the Laan Consortium. Once we get into their space they have to take us. It’s their code or something, at least that’s what some of the guys were saying.” He put a comforting hand on his sobbing wife’s shoulder. “It’ll be okay. We can start a new life there, a new home.”

“But this is our home. I grew up here. I thought Zak would…” The tears cut short her words.

At the mention of his name their son ducked behind the corner before they noticed him, but not before he heard his father say “Maybe we can come back someday, once the war is over and the famine…”

That little house seemed so far away now. He tried to find sleep again, but it wouldn’t come. Zak’s eyes slid to the media players that were mounted on the walls beyond the energy shield, which separated the humans from the rest of the spaceport. The video feed itself was in Standard Laanish, but the media player translated it into all spoken languages including Terran English. Two creatures, one a dark hairy muscular beast and the other a hairless smooth pale creature with giant eyes sat talking as footage played in the background.

“These humans are scum,” said big eyes. “Their planet is a mess of war and pollution, and now they expect to come here? We don’t want their burden or their problems. We have enough of our own.”

“They are a sentient species, like every person in the Consortium,” said his hairy opponent.

“No, not at all like us. They are primitive and savage. They can’t even stop from killing one another, and now they are bringing their violence here. There are billions of them on that planet. Do you expect us to accept every single one?”

“There are plenty of worlds in the consortium that have already opened their doors to these poor creatures…”

“And look what happened to them. Look at the violence taking place in F’rag’hul’ja? Thirty Consortium citizens are dead because a few humans decided to build a bomb. Why? Because their god told them to?”

“Those were human extremists. Most of them were let into the Consortium on temporary passes. There was only one asylum seeker among them.”

“Isn’t one enough? Even if less than 1% of humans are criminals, isn’t that enough reason to condemn them all, especially if it keeps our people safe. They don’t deserve to come here and just take opportunities away from citizens of this Consortium. We built our worlds, and we can’t let savages like them tear them down.”

“You can’t judge all human on the actions of a few.

“They are either criminals or will be criminals. They can’t help it. Look at human history, look at their world. They can’t control themselves, they are all killers and deviants. They don’t even celebrate Shad’lat or speak Laanish, like any decent sentient being…” Zak had heard enough. When he turned his head away the sound automatically stopped .

He realized he was playing with his bracelet again, feeling every bump and scratch of the coarse braid against his skin.The colors were fading and the small strands of rope were fraying from time and wear, but it still held together. If only barely, in some spots. He moved his hand away for fear of stressing it more and walked toward the energy fence that encircled the small human enclave.

Running a dry tongue over cracked lips he held out his hands and uttered the Graakic word for water. It had been a while since his last drink, but two soldiers beyond the fence just growled something to one another in their guttural language before cackling in what he recognized as laughter. Then the lizard creatures walked away, never once looking back at him or his outstretched hands.

“I don’t think they’re going to help you, boy,” said a kindly older man sitting near the perimeter of the energy field.

“What did they say?” said Zak.

The man hesitated for a moment but translated. “Something about how we all smell so bad of dirt and piss that they could smell it even through the fence.” He shook his head and spoke into his chest. “Why did I ever leave Earth?”

No one had meant to land on Graak, a small planetoid on the outskirts of the Laan Consortium. They had always meant to keep going to Trimble IV or even Deshdo where humans were being welcomed, like the promised land. It hadn’t worked out. Their ship had never been very space worthy to begin with, and in the end it just couldn’t take the journey. They had spent two weeks adrift in the void before a Laan patrol had found them.

The first time Zak saw the ship that his father had called the SS Alban, all he could think of was how gray it looked. It wasn’t like some of the cool looking military craft he had seen a few times, or even like one of the luxury spaceships that only the rich people could afford. No, the Alban was slate gray, as if it was still waiting to be painted something more exciting. It also wasn’t very big.

He was told the ship had been designed to hold fourteen people. They packed in twenty-seven and two babies. There had barely been a place to sit, let alone lie down. Even worse, the journey was slow. The FTL engine only did about .8 past the speed of light, and they felt every bump and whine as the Alban cruised through warped space.

More than a few people got sick from the motion of the trip, including Zak. He remembered retching up his small meals of bread and water. That was when his mother had made him the bracelet. She put it together from different pieces of rope and string she had collected from others on the Alban. He could still remember watching her as she wove each piece together, humming softly, a small smile turning up her lips.

“What if I don’t get better?” he had asked her as she tied the token around his wrist.

“Sometimes, you just need to have hope.” She kissed him on his head and it was true. Days later he recovered. It had only ever been nausea and space sickness. Unfortunately, others were not so lucky.

Zak and his family were fortunate enough to be closer to the front of the Alban. A few in the rear compartments had gotten very sick from a radiation leak in the engine. The crew eventually managed to fix it, but not before three people, including one of the infants died of FTL poisoning. The bodies had to be ejected into space, not just because of the radiation, but also because the ship had no place to store them. They had held what little ceremony they could for the dead, but it didn’t feel like enough, at least not to Zak.

Every fews day after those deaths his mother would take back his bracelet and add another strand of some piece of string or cloth that she collected from the ship. Maybe it was her way of reminding him that he was alive and every new moment should be cherished. Maybe it was her way of saying how they were all connected; they lived interwoven, like the braids on the bracelet; or maybe she just did it to keep busy, a way to keep her mind off the tragedies they had all witnessed. Unfortunately, the Alban was not done with tragedies.

Three weeks into the journey a small electrical fire broke out in one of the cargo compartments that housed some of the passengers. The doors on the ship sealed automatically and the people inside were trapped. Those that didn’t burn were killed by oxygen starvation. Five people died in a matter of minutes, including his mother. She had been in the compartment chatting with one of their old neighbors, possibly trying to get more strands to add to the bracelet. He was never certain. All he knew was that she would never see Earth again, dead or alive. As before, all the bodies had to be ejected into space. The Alban limped on, and so did Zak.

He could remember the sound when the engines finally died. He had thought they had already crossed into Consortium space, but he found out later that they were barely on the border. The FTL had been slowly growing fainter for more than two weeks, their speed ebbing away like a tired old man losing his fight against time. When the engines stopped completely all he had heard was quiet. It was like there was something missing, a familiar hum in the background that they had all grown accustomed to. It was like a mother’s touch, you never really noticed it till it was gone, and afterwards the world seem much lonelier and crueler.

That had been almost a year before. Zak was thirteen now, his birthday had come and gone, at least he thought it had. It was hard to keep track of the time of the year on a planetoid with a thirty-one hour day and only three quarters gravity. Everything was so alien, so different. He had grown up in the tundras of the American Midwest with wide expanses and fresh air. Now he was being held in the corner of a spaceport where the air was staler than the bowls of pudding-like substance they gave them to eat. It all happened while other beings, hundreds of thousands of light years away, debated if he and his people deserved the right to be free and happy, as if debating whether they were animals or people.

A small girl, with three eyes and a pretty face smiled at Zak from the distant side of the energy fence. He smiled back at her and she started to walk toward him before a restraining hand grabbed her and yanked her away. Her mother or father -Zak couldn’t really tell- was pulling her along and scolding her in a flute-like language. She looked back at him once more, this time in shock and with a new hint of fear. He couldn’t understand what her parent was saying but he had heard similar things enough times to make an educated guess. Fear and suspicion were higher than ever, especially after the attacks on F’rag’hul’ja. Everyone was on nerves and no one seemed to need look far for reasons to hate humans.

In the first camp they brought him to, Zak had met another boy, Peter. He had seemed nice enough, but pretty soon he started talking about everything he wanted to do to the people of the Laan Consortium. “Abominations against God,” he had called them and started reciting all these Bible verses. “It is the duty of humans to exterminate any creature that was not created in God’s image. The aliens of Laan are an affront to Jesus Christ.”

Zak didn’t see much of Peter again after that. There were never a lot of human extremists, but you found them here and there. Mostly it was just talk, old men venting about how it was in a world that they no longer walked on. His father had made sure to keep his son clear of people like that, but sometimes it was inevitable, and sometimes it was more than just talk. Sometimes it was far worse than just talk.

A Graakic month after they arrived a few humans attacked a Graak humanitarian worker. There was a fight and the Graak died along with one of the humans. It was Peter. Most people just shook their head and said how sad it was, or that Peter had been a hothead and he got what he deserved. Most of the people he knew in the camp felt bad over what had happened. “That’s no way for a human to behave,” said Mr. Glenrose. “That’s no way to repay the hospitality of these people.”

Unfortunately, the Graak weren’t satisfied with the remorse of humans, or maybe they didn’t believe it. A group of armed and angry Graakic citizen attacked the camp. They burned down tents and the make-shift barrack houses. They beat anyone they found near to death, calling them all “dirtlings,” and yelling how humans should go home. Mr. Glenrose and four other people died in the attack, and hundreds more were badly injured, including Zak’s father.

He had stood up to some of the Graak when they came, protecting his son. Zak could still remember his screams as they kicked him and beat him with clubs, but he refused to move. He refused to leave his son at the mercy of the mob. After that they took him to a hospital somewhere, but that was the last Zak saw of him. A few weeks later they transferred all the humans to different camps, and no Graak, Desh, Trim, or any alien who spoke Terran seemed to be able to tell him what had happened to his only parent.

He looked again at the fading braid on his wrist. The night of the attacks it had been nearly torn off, but it had held. Zak examined the bracelet and picked at the fraying ends of the weaker parts. It was as if he could not stop digging at it, like touching at a raw nerve in hope or disbelief. His memories were like that too. Sometimes, no matter how much he tried not to, he found himself seeing his mother’s body; hearing the cries of his father; or feeling the raw gut pain that came when he thought of the poor baby that did not make it to Graak. Part of him wanted to forget, but part of him also wanted to know why it was all happening to them. So he picked at his memories, at his pain, and at the small memento that sat on his arm.

“We are receiving word now,” said the blue-skinned newscaster on the media player, “that because of the attacks on F’rag’hul’ja,” the Consortium council has been forced to deport several hundred refugees back to Earth, for their own safety.” The video changed to show footage of attacks on human aid centers all across the Consortium. Fires burned and people of all types were fighting with fists, weapons, claws, and tentacles. “Officials have told us that those being moved are currently in the highest risk zones for anti-migrant violence. This decision also comes after the leaders of many worlds have begun openly refusing to accept any humans, saying that they pose too high of a risk to their native populations.”

A mummer went up from the people around Zak as more and more people were suddenly paying attention to the news feed.

“Humans in detention centers on parts of F’rag’hul’ja, Rangul, and Yulide are already being put onto ships for the return trip to their own homeworld of Earth. Consortium officials believed it was best to keep this secret for fear of further reprisals against the human migrants as they were transported to launch sites.” The video feed changed again to show lines of humans with armed guards surrounding them. Men, women, and children shuffled forward as they were loaded back onto waiting ships that seemed no sturdier than the Alban.

“That’s a death sentence,” said the older gentleman sitting beside him. “Half the warring factions on Earth will shoot any approaching ship out of orbit, and the other half will take them hostage to try and use as leverage.”

Zak just looked at him and twisted his braid nervously on his wrist, before returning his attention back to the distant media player. That was when he saw it. One of the shuffling figures. His shoulders were back and his head was down. He looked at the camera only once, but that was enough. It was enough for Zak to recognize his own father. He looked older and thinner than his son could remember. It was as if something had broken inside of him, as if he no longer cared.

“The Consortium Council is still trying to decide what they will do with the rest of the humans still currently being held in temporary detention centers, but more deportations could be expected. Experts are trying to determine how much of a threat the humans are to the the security of Laan and its member worlds. There is also a debate among many people of the Consortium of how deserving these creatures are of the same rights as every citizen of Laan, with many polls showing that a majority of Laan now believe that humans are less than sentient.

Zak felt the tension release before he heard the final snap. When he looked down his mother’s bracelet was in his hand. One of the ends had finally broken under his nervous tugging. Part of him wanted to cry,  but the rest of his body didn’t have enough water to allow it to happen. So he just stood there, watching the live feed as the ship holding his father blasted off into the dark violet skies of some alien world. The camera held for a second longer as the fast moving ship disappeared from sight, leaving only a small trail of smoke behind it.

In 75% Earth’s gravity the braided rope took longer to find the floor than Zak would have anticipated. He closed his hand around the nothingness that replaced it and watched the bracelet for a long moment, debating whether to pick it up again. Maybe it could be fixed. Maybe it could be made whole again. Instead, he just stepped over it and walked away finding that someone had already stolen his blanket. So he just laid down on the cold floor shivering, feeling suddenly less than who he had been, maybe even less than he would ever be again.

It is rare that we here at The NYRD give “props” to the SyFy Channel for anything they have done. After they canceled Farscape we were never the same again. However, even we have to admit that the floundering network that was once dedicated to science fiction has done some things right over the past few years. They are going to great lengths to try and introduce new and dramtic miniseries, movies, and in some cases they are even experimenting with actual science fiction. Unfortunately, the SyFy Channel still sometimes has problems with getting out of its own way, and like any good friend, maybe it is time for us to all sit down with the network we used to love and have an intervention.

When Science Fiction Became SyFy
The first hints of the SyFy network’s decline started way back 2009 when the Sci Fi Channel changed its name to the SyFy Network. -Properly pronounced See-Fee– It was a small change, but a big premonition of things to come. The change happened for two main reasons. First, NBC Universal realized that they could not copyright Sci Fi, because it was a fair-use genre name, and not a corporate brand. So in a trend that would become all to apparent, the channel made a change in the name of the bottom-line at the cost of ever so slightly isolating their original fan base. Secondly, -and most sinisterly- the change was made to “broaden” Syfy’s appeal. That is corporate Hollywood speak for, “we are trying to disassociate ourselves from our original nerd fan-base and aim for the people who watch MTV,” and tried they certainly did.

The SyFy Network became like that friend you used to have in high school who used to be happy to play Magic: The Gathering with you, but then one day found out that MTG wasn’t “cool.” So he changed his name to Todd and spent the next four years throwing dirt at anything or anyone who might try to remind him that he had once been a nerd. So, as the years progressed, SyFy continued to make decisions in the name of “broader appeal,” which would also further jilt their original fan-base and a proverbial straw would be added the camel’s back. SyFy canceled fan favorite shows -including the network’s flagship show, Stargate– in order to make room for broadcasting aimed at attracting the Twilight tweenbase. Then, SyFy stopped making serious miniseries and movies to instead make Sharknado and other B-movies aimed to attract people who just want something to post about on their Facebook. This particular trend also further turned SyFy into a joke, as people began to associate the network with “all those terrible TV movies.” Lastly, SyFy doubled down on the cheap reality-show market instead of investing in new and interesting fictional dramas.

Every step that SyFy took was made to chase certain fads or attract typically “non-nerdy” people to watch the channel. All the while, the message that original and nerdy fans got from SyFy was, “We don’t care about you. You’ll watch anything we say you will. We want the people who watch Jersey Shore.” All the while that original fan base felt more and more disrespected. You see, SyFy was trying to fo what channels like TLC and the History Channel had accomplished, and for those networks “broader appeal” meant less shows about history or learning and more about watching reality shows about hillbillies do hillbilly things, even if a lot of those things were staged. It didn’t work as well for SyFy. The network never really attracted new viewers, and their original fan-base moved on. The sad truth is that most of them forgot about SyFy, just like most of us forgot about Todd. After all, if SyFy wasn’t willing to accept the nerd community, than the nerd community believed that it could find better places to put its time and money, and it certainly did.

How SyFy Missed the Nerd Bus
A strange thing happened in the late 2000’s and early 10’s, geekdom started going mainstream. About the same time SyFy began its disassociation from its nerdy roots, the rest of the media found their inner geek. Iron Man debuted in 2008. The Walking Dead broke cable records in 2010, and Game of Thrones broke all the records in 2011. Star Trek became a blockbuster movie franchise and Hollywood started clamoring for everything form superheroes to spacemen. Suddenly, the nerd was the king of pop culture, and SyFy was left holding the bag. Most of their base had already abandoned them for more serious networks, like AMC, and the network who once believed that nerdy interests meant “ratings poison,” suddenly became the laughing stock of cable TV. All they had to offer was second-rate reality shows and B-movies about different types of sharks, -ghost sharks, tornado sharks, Jersey Shore sharks, etc-

Perhaps the greatest irony of all was that SyFy, was the channel that had been practically built for shows like Sleepy Hollow, Gotham, Agents of SHIELD, or any one of the other numerous projects that exploded onto cable, broadcast, and streaming channels, but it was too late. SyFy had altered their image so much, and gone so far in the opposite direction of who they had been, they couldn’t compete. They got scared of their own content and fan base, and they paid the price for it. The biggest irony of them all is that people have begun to forget the good that the old Sci Fi Channel once did for us geeks.

Sure, some people still remember Battlestar Galactica, as one of the first of the new breed of compelling episodic science fiction dramas. Yet, how many people remember that it was SyFy that started showing Doctor Who, before Matt Smith ever made it into the “American” pop culture phenomenon that it became? SyFy should have doubled down on their fan base instead of isolating them. Maybe then we would be living in a world where SyFy had bought the rights to Firefly or where they took a risk on a mega-production and made a 10-episodic epic before Game of Thrones ever became a a glimmer in HBO’s eye. What if SyFy took control of lesser known comic universe, like the WildCats, and turned that into their own serious comic book multi-show universe, like what Netflix is currently doing with Marvel?

Trying to Make Amends
About a year ago SyFy basically admitted that they screwed up, and if this is an intervention than the first step to getting better is admitting you have a problem. Ever since then, the channel has been doing its best to get back to their roots. The miniseries Ascension was decent. We cannot call it a home run, but definitely a step in the right direction with an interesting premise. Other new projects like Hunters and Childhood’s End also show promise. Dark Matter is doing well, though we cannot find a single person who has actually watched it. The disappointing truth is that everyone here at The NYRD stopped watching SyFy about the same time they lost Eureka and Warehouse 13, and we are not alone.

SyFy’s overall ratings tend toward cancellation. More of their shows are cancelled than are renewed, including a lot most people have never heard of. Currently, SyFy seems to be putting all its chips on Krypton, the new DC drama that will take place decades before the birth of Superman. It has been promised to basically be like Gotham and Game of Thrones in space. We are dubious about another superhero prequel show, but here is the weird thing, we are secretly rooting for SyFy. Part of us our nostalgic for the days when we could plop down on couch on a Friday night and turn the TV to Sci Fi to watch classic movies and fun science fiction shows. However, with a plethora of reality shows and wrestling still occupying their airwaves, there is a lot more work to be done.

When the Sci Fi Channel was started back in 1992 it was launched with a big ceremony at the Hayden Planetarium. The MC was Leonard Nimoy. The advisory board was made up of people with names like Asimov and Rodenberry. It was started as a place to show classic Star Trek and classic sci-fi movies like Frankenstein. SyFy has come very far from those origins. They have made their mistakes and taken their lumps. Now it is time for them to get back up and find their way back to where they started, back to what they could have been. We do not want to lose Syfy the way we lost History or TLC or numerous other networks with new “broader appeal.” SyFy needs to learn the lesson of every nerd in high school, “sometimes in life you don’t need to impress the kids at the cool table. Sometimes the only person you need to be is you, because, for the people that love you, that is already pretty damn impressive.”

It has been rumored for quite sometime that Star Trek would be returning to the small screen. According to multiple outlets, Alex Kurtzman who co-wrote 2009’s Star Trek and its confusing and terrible sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, will be the executive producer of the new show. Many fans have already come out with comments on how troubling it is, as Kurtzman is among the creative team that turned a show about science, exploration, and idealism, into a two and half hour parade of explosions, lens flare, and plot holes so big you can comfortably fit a Galaxy-class starship through them.

The show will premiere in January 2017 and will be produced by CBS Studios. The pilot will air on CBS and then, the entire show will move to the CBS video on-demand and streaming service, CBS All Access. This is even more troubling news because it means that this new Star Trek is being developed specifically for the CBS streaming service, a paid for service that fans will need to purchase for an additional monthly fee. Internationally, the show will, however, “be distributed concurrently for television and multiple platforms.”

No one is yet sure of the time frame, universe, or plot points of the new show, but rest assured it seems as if it will be set in the new ST09 universe. We only have the official press release to go on:

The brand-new “Star Trek” will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966… The new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film “Star Trek Beyond,” which is scheduled to be distributed by Paramount Pictures in summer 2016.

That, at least, is a little bit of good news. If the official release is to be believed, Star Trek will look to return to its roots to explore socially relevant themes, hopefully with that dash of optimism and science that was have come to expect from the 50 year old franchise. The bad news is that CBS is really looking to use Star Trek to force people into paying for their streaming service.

“This new series will premiere to the national CBS audience, then boldly go where no first-run Star Trek series has gone before – directly to its millions of fans through CBS All Access,” said Marc DeBevoise, Executive Vice President/General Manager of CBS Digital Media. “We’ve experienced terrific growth for CBS All Access, expanding the service across affiliates and devices in a very short time. We now have an incredible opportunity to accelerate this growth with the iconic Star Trek, and its devoted and passionate fan base, as our first original series.”

This news has left a lot of people with a mixed reaction. It has been too long since Star trek has been on TV – more than 10 years- but many worry this could be more like a deal with the devil. The network is basically holding the show hostage to boost their sales, and that alone could be enough to kill it. Kurtzman and CBS think they will have the automatic loyalty of Trekkies, but they have a big hole to dig themselves out of. Without creative names like, Rick Berman, Jeri Taylor, Brannon Braga, or Ronald D. Moore attahced, a lot of people remain wary of the future prospects of this franchise on TV.

We at The NYRD will -try to- withhold our judgement until after we see the next movie, Star Trek Beyond. However, like a resurrected loved one, we have to wonder what we will actually be getting back: the franchise we all love and cherish, or just a shambling corpse that only serves the purpose to remind us what once was.

Image Courtesy:

Do you remember the Genesis Planet from Star Trek: The Search for Spock? It was created by Dr. Carol Marcus and the Genesis device. Ecologically the planet contained every possible weather system of Earth all “within a few hours walk,” from one another. That meant you could literally stroll from desert conditions to frozen tundras to hurricane level storms all in one leisurely -albeit- wardrobe defying journey. Well the past few weeks have left us here at the The NYRD feeling as if we are living on Genesis with its crazy weather and possible Vulcan graveyard. One day is hot, the next is cold, on the next it’s like Ceti Alpha VI exploded. Looking out the window these days makes us wonder if we should step outside in shorts or a parka, and it has us worried that we may not always “live long and prosper.”

A United Federation of Commitment
Last week, 150 countries made a pledge to cut carbon emissions, lending optimism to supporters that a real climate treaty could be a possibility for France’s 2015 Climate Summit. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany have promised to double their climate spending by 2020. President Obama has laid out a comprehensive plan to cut carbon emissions in the US by regulating power plants and their output of CO2, and more than 80 companies pledged to make big cuts to their emissions. Even more encouraging, a group of countries have agreed to create a $100 billion-a-year green climate fund, which will help fund climate projects around the world, especially in developing nations. These are all very good signs, but unfortunately they are only a start. The truth is that we have yet to feel the full impact of what is to come, and we are still short of realizing any real goals that will be necessary to save the planet from being just another cosmic redshirt.

The commitment of the international community is only going to halt the warming of our planet to about 3 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, most scientists seem to agree that if the temperature of Earth raises by more than 2 degrees the damage to our planet could be catastrophic. It is hoped by many that the estimates of carbon reduction given by the countries are conservative and those amount will increase going forward with better technology and a growing sense of international urgency. More bad news, because damage has already been done. Even containing our levels of global warming below that 2 degree mark still means that we have changed the very balance of our planet’s climate.

The Neutral Zone
Even staying below the 2 degree neutral zone will still mean big changes for the way we live. According to the Proceedings of Natural Sciences who has mined the data of a large selection of different computerized models, they have identified a possible 18 different abrupt climate changes we could experience between now and 2100, even if we stay within conservative warming estimates. The 2 degree limit has been a guardrail of international climate discussions for decades, but we are beginning to realize that any warming -much like any incursion into the Romulan Neutral Zone- could have varying levels of repercussions.

Many simulated models produced events such as: rapid melting of Arctic sea ice, partial or full shutdown of North Atlantic current circulation, and even one model that showed an increased in growth of Indian Ocean sea algae. It is worth noting that other experts have expressed caution about these findings, but they acknowledge that they are not inconsistent with other collected climate change evidence. Messing with Earth’s climate is like letting James T. Kirk monkey around in the past, even the slightest change could alter our future. In fact, if oceans rise a mere meter -3 feet- that still spells a lot of problems for waterfront communities and island nations that could and will lose their homes. Worst of all, this isn’t some future occurrence, this is happening right now. The population of the small island country of Kiribati needs to be evacuated because the country is already sinking and the Maldives could be next.

Climate change is already here and it is already happening. Parts of the Arctic have warmed as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit since 1960. Droughts and desserts are expanding all over the world, -just ask California- including place such as the Amazon, which is slowly losing its ability to cleanse the air of Co2. Miami is on the verge of sinking, having already lost 3.7 inches of beachfront. 2015 is on track to be the hottest year ever recorded in human history and the top 5 warmest years ever recorded have happened in the past decade. This is not a problem for just Miamians, the Kiribati, Andorians, Arctic polar bears, or people in the developing world -though developing countries will be disproportionately affected by climate change. It is a problem for everyone, “but Captain, what can we do?”

To Boldly Go
The nerd and geek community has never been shy about showing their commitment to anything. Just ask any Klingon at a Star Trek convention. Well, it is time we get involved again, and not just for us but for all the future Trekkies. What can you do to help? Well there is always the mainstays of recycling, conserving household energy, and carpooling to work, but there is  also much more we can do as individuals to help the problem, and the first step is being informed.

One of the most important things you can do is to stay up to date on the science and changes going on in our world today. So much of the climate debate is happening because people are taking what is said on cable news channels at face value. The Internet provides us all with a sort of universal translator. We can take what we hear on the news and certain nerdy/informational websites and go further. We can find out the answers for ourselves. Trust us, it doesn’t take a lot of time to come up with a wealth of resources and opinions on any subject just by doing a simple Google search. The more informed the public is about this -hugely important- topic the harder it will be to fall for misinformation or the scare tactics of the news media.

Secondly, get involved. There are multiple bills currently being considered by the US Congress, and not the least of them is the Keystone Pipeline, or the coming vote to ratify the Paris climate treaty. Let your representatives and congresspeople know how you feel. Remember, back in 1997 the United States signed the Kyoto Protocol on the environment, but it was never submitted for ratification by the Senate. In essence it became just a piece of paper with no binding legal authority. Eighteen years later we have to make sure that doesn’t happen again, because the world followed our example in 1997 and with any luck we can get them to follow it again in 2015. If you do not know who your representative is you can look up their contact information at

I’m a Doctor Not a Weatherman
Regardless of who you are, you can do something, because this planet is worth fighting for. The Federation has the technological ability to terraform planets and heal environmental damage, but we do not. We have to work with what we have and that means slowing and stopping global climate change before it is too late. Our world is going through a change even as you read this, but we can still lessen the severity of those changes and save our world and our civilization from climate chaos. We want to believe that humans have good intentions, even if they sometimes lead us down the path to Gre’Thor.

In the time of Star Trek, the Federation and Starfleet travel the stars. They explore strange new worlds, and seek out new life and new civilizations, but Earth is still their home. Humanity, despite all its technological prowess and drive to go out into the galaxy still cherishes our small blue marble above all else. Perhaps it is ironic that those humans of a fictional future hold Earth in the highest of regards and yet we, a people who are still stuck upon its surface and depend on it for our own lives and health, only rank it as a mild concern or just another political talking point.

Remember the Genesis project resulted in an unstable world of drastic weather and geological shifts. We can’t just let our planet become that, another human failure borne of the best intentions. Green energy independence and other new innovations for slowing carbon emissions are already possible. We just need to have the will to implement them, because this problem can’t be left to The Next Generation. The recent flood of commitments from local, international, and business communities is encouraging, but there needs to be more. If we all do our part, then we can achieve a carbon neutral world. “Yes we KHAAAAAN!”

We have all been hearing a lot about this Star Wars thing lately. The newest trailer dropped last week and the Internet has been talking about nothing else since. Unfortunately, the thing the last trailer lacked was any sort of solid idea of what Episode VII might be about. Well the guys at Science Vs. Cinema decided to try and fix that.

They edited last year’s teaser from Star Wars Celebration along with the most current and final trailer to blend together the scenes to give us a sense of the order of the movie. We are not sure if it reveals anything more or less about what how good Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be, -we are reserving our Jar Jar judgement on that one- but it at least gives us a better idea of what old JJ Abrams is working with.

This fan trailer gives puts order to the chaos of the images we see, starting on a desert world and ending in the climatic battle which very well could be the movie’s climatic battle. Be warned, if you want to go into Episode VII without expectations or spoilers than you should not watch the following trailer, but if you are the kind of person -like Todd- who needs to know everything so they can dissect, conjecture, and digest it all, then this Star Wars trailer is for you. Check it out:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released on December 18, 2015. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, then you are probably already out of luck. You may just have to wait a week.

Image courtesy:

They say you should never talk about religion in polite company, so instead let’s talk Star Wars. For all their flaws, the prequels reveal something that is worth considering about the Jedi Order. It gives us a glimpse of a rigid dogmatic organization that finds itself being tested by new challenges and new ideas. So much so, that when the Jedi do eventually fall to Palpatine’s machinations, you have to wonder if it is not so much because of the careful planning of Darth Sidious, but more because of the Jedi’s failure to adapt and change with the times.

Currently, there are 804 million declared Christians in the Americas, which is the largest Christian population on any continent, but religion all over the West, especially in the eastern United States, has been in a steady decline for decades. Yet, for this past week it has been impossible to get anywhere in New York City as the streets have become clogged with faithful followers trying to catch a glimpse of his holiness, Pope Francis, as he completes the American Run in less than 12 parsecs, in what we are going to call Pope-a-palooza??

Pope-Wan Kenobi
All week New York and the east coast have been bracing for the Pope’s visit, like an approaching Imperial invasion. Streets are being blocked off, stadiums are being prepared for capacity seating, and in Philly 4.5 miles of Center City are being cordoned in preparation for Sunday mass. Catholics and non-catholics alike are clamoring for a view of the Pope, even at a time when according to a Pew Research Survey, the normally steady ranks of American Catholics have dropped by 3 million followers in the past 7 years. It could be that there is still some tendency in us all to recognize religious authority, even if we do not always believe in religion?

After all, after the destruction of the Jedi Order, Masters Yoda and Kenobi no longer had a basis for any sort of political power. Yet, both Luke and the audience found themselves in awe -and not just because of their super-mind powers. According to Dr. Andrew Newberg, the human brain might be programmed for religion. A common thread among mystical, spiritual, and religious practices is that for people who are engaged in them there is a tangible and powerful emotion created as all the areas of the brain work together. This Jedi mind trick, combined with cultural pressures, scientific uncertainties, and good-old fashioned superstition, may contribute to why we still flock to see an old man in a funny hat, and why we can claim it as a tangible “religious experience.” A part of us is still hardwired to believe in “hokey religions,” -which may or may not be a match for a good blaster. Yet, we are also hardwired to reproduce as much and as often as possible, and according to a myriad of surveys both birthrates and religious attendance are declining.

Order 666
External forces caused the downfall of the Jedi, but there was evidence of cracks in their organization beforehand. Anakin Skywalker, for instance, was driven to do what he did partly because of the intractable rules of the organization. The Jedi have rules against their knights being able to marry or fall in love, much like another unreasonable monolithic powerful religious organization you might know. Of course, Anakin was also a bit of a jerk, so maybe he is not the best example. Count Dooku, however, was a well respected Jedi Master, and according to Wookiepedia he lost his faith in the Order after a disastrous battle he was forced to fight with no support from the Jedi Council. After leaving the Order he fell to the Darkside, but there is plenty of other evidence in Star Wars lore that the rigid Jedi doctrine drove as many people to the Darkside as it raised people to the Light.

The decline of religion in our times is not a result to some hidden order imprinted in the DNA of clone troopers, and yet attendance for organized religions, and Christianity especially, are at all time lows. A 2009 American Religious Identification Survey found that 86% of American adults identified as Christian in 1990 but only 76% did so in 2008. In England, the number of Anglicans -THE Church of Britain- fell from 40% in 1983 to 27% in 2004. Some estimates say that by 2033 the Anglican Church will be gone completely, which may explain why so many English have started listing their religion as Jedi, on their census surveys.

America has always been something of a Death Star of Christianity, an impregnable bastion of religion the size of a small moon. However, we still have one or two exposed thermal exhausts ports which are proving to be an undoing. Millennials are becoming less and less affiliated with organized religions, with 34% of people between the ages of 25 and 34 no longer associated with a church, mosque, or temple. For young adults, twice as many people, between the ages of 18 and 22, said they never attended religious services in the 2010s, as opposed to the same age groups in the 1970s. 75% more 18 year olds said that religion was “not important at all” in their lives as opposed to forty years ago. In fact, when you break it down by numbers, 23% of all Americans no longer affiliate with an organized religion, which has surpassed the number of Catholic Americans (21%) and mainstream Protestants (15%). Even “spirituality” has declined, with 20% fewer college students claiming they are spiritual as opposed to the same age group in the 1990’s.

Lightsaber Chart

The Apathy Strikes Back
There are many reasons for this decline, and most people’s knee jerk reactions may be to blame technology, or Dark Lords of the Sith, or “these padawans today,” and though some of those things may be a factor they are just part of a larger picture. Religion suffers in societies that have a high value on individualism. Like the Jedi Order, adherence to organized religion requires that followers put their faith in the larger organization and follow the rules and tenants set before them. If you have someone who thinks and acts as an individual, such Anakin, then the entire structure is threatened. In essence, individuality is a mark of the Sith. The Jedi believe in freedom, but not freedom of thought or belief for their followers. The Jedi philosophy sees individualism as chaos, and the church is no different.

Religion requires respect for authority, but that is also at an all time low and for various reasons. After all, it is hard to have respect for the authority of an organization that puts itself above others. Religions and the Jedi separate the chosen from the non-chosen, the Jedi from the non-Jedi. Religion promotes a specialness that is not always attainable by those who do not have the right Midi-chlorian count. That also means that religion does not have any respect for the rule of civil law, because it was made by non-special people. In Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi literally plot to take over the government when they discover Palpatine is a Sith Lord. Mace “L.” Windu says that the Jedi need to cease control of the government to ensure a “smooth transition,” because obviously it can’t be left to lowly unspecial people to handle the job. Only the chosen are capable of creating a stable rule of law.

This arrogance combined with a rising level of individualism has driven people away from organized religion. Baby Boomers, Generation Xer’s, and Millennials have all shown an increased focus on the self over the community, which has led to less interest in social organizations, apathy for the political process, and feelings of detachment from the community and the church. Of course, it has also led to a higher tolerance of diversity, respect for others’ opinions, and the ability to question the status quo. Not all those things are good, but neither are they all bad, but this rise of individualism has fueled by a distrust of the government, politicians, the media, the medical establishment and other large organizations, the church included. Now, thanks to technology we are connected like never before, and this democratization of communication and information has taken even more power out of the hands of religious and secular rulers. Social media has even given us a platform to proclaim our  own specialness, outside of the context of being a member of a chosen people. Yet, all of this has happened before… a long time ago.

The Great Force Awakening
Whenever it seems that religion is in decline some new evangelical movement whips up and reignites the passions of the American Christian. In the past, America has had Three Great Religious Awakenings, plus several other smaller revivals, because like the swing of a lightsaber, growing religious apathy cuts both ways. It may cause more people to leave the church, but it often invigorates those that remain. That is why, unlike other denominations, evangelical Protestants have experienced less decline and even net gains in some areas between 2007 and 2014. In fact, for every person who has left an evangelical Protestant denomination 1.2 people have converted or joined, slowing their decline from 26.3% to 25.4% in the past seven years, which maybe less of a revival and more of a cauterizing of a wound.

Any new Great Awakening would need to come with compromise. Religion -and Christianity especially- are now seen by many as narrow-minded and even bigoted. Rules about homosexuality, science, premarital sex, the changing nature of the family, and other modern concepts have left them behind. A need to adhere to past dogma has hindered many people’s enthusiasm for organized religion, especially in Catholicism. Religion would need to become more humble and more accepting, because when an organization becomes only about black and white, sin and saviors, Darkside and Lightside, it also becomes about immutable beliefs that make it unable to accept change.

Revenge of the Secular
There is a moment in Revenge of the Sith when Yoda is fighting Palpatine, and in the movie version it appears as if Yoda just gives up and abandons the fight. However, in the novelization the reader learns that Yoda has a revelation during the battle. He realizes that he and the Jedi Order cannot win, because unlike the Sith they failed to adapt with the times. The Jedi were stuck in practices and ideas that were no longer relevant to a modern galaxy. The Sith on the other hand had changed and adapted, and they become stronger for it.

We cannot predict what the next episode of this saga will be, whether organized religion will go the way of Jar Jar Binks, or if the Force Awakens. “Clouded the future is,” but there is evidence that much like Yoda, Pope Francis, has come to understand the downfalls of his organization. The Pope has become known as a reformer. There are hints that his Holiness sees that the times are changing and is trying to get the Catholic Church to change with them. It is not about abandoning core values -service, forgiveness, love, generosity- but core dogma. The Pope has touched the excitement of the religious and non-religious because he does things that are both more humble and more Christian than any Pope in modern memory.

Maybe that is why so many people are excited to see him, and also why we had to sit in traffic this morning.

Do you have a hankering for domination? Is one world not enough? Do you fear incursions by hostile alien forces? Do you enjoy building your own star-ships or doomsday super-lasers? Then you might want to see a therapist because you may have had a psychotic break after that 12 hour Firefly marathon. However, if you are not currently being treated for wearing a tinfoil hat maybe you are just the right type of person who might be thinking of checking out StarDrive 2, a turn-based strategy game currently for sale on Steam.

This successor to the original StarDrive is all about using your economy, military, diplomacy, intelligence, or science to try and dominate the galaxy at large. Being a turn-based strategy game, we already know that StarDrive 2 will not be for everybody. It takes a lot of hours and a lot of micro-managing to really get the full enjoyment out of the game and that’s not everyone’s bag, but that’s cool. Some people play video games turn off their brain, however, we here at The NYRD -well except for Todd- are avid fans of clunky customization TBS games, and if there is one you can say about StarDrive 2, it can be clunky.

There is a lot going on and a lot to oversee, which as we said, is a plus or minus based upon your gaming desires. However, it also seems as if StarDrive 2 sometimes has an unfinished quality. The galactic map is beautiful, if not a little annoying to navigate, especially when your empire really begins to expand. Even the star-ship battles, despite the fact that they take place on a 2D plain -we guess someone hasn’t seen Wrath of Khan– are still very fun and engaging. The land battles however are pretty straightforward and their graphics are far below those of the rest of the game. Also load times seem longer than they should be, and the game has a tendency to lag, especially in ground combat. When you are given a mission the text display is often painstakingly slow, but for some of the instances you can at least click to get the full paragraph without having to watch as each word gets spelled out in front of you. However, the studio, Zero Sum Games, has been working hard to fix all those bugs and we applaud their efforts. More importantly, for all the flaws there are a lot of upsides.

What we enjoyed the most was that StarDrive 2 is almost as customizable as you want. You can rearrange the traits of starting races, you can rename planets and ships, and you can even redesign the specifications of those ships. This allows any-would-Admiral-Ackbar to create new roles and strategies, based upon how you build your fighters, corvettes, battleships, etc. Our biggest complaint is the fact that you cannot rename any of the star systems, which is a minor flaw, but when you are making the galactic civilization equivalent of the Seven Kingdoms, it would really help to keep you in the moment if you could be allowed to rename an entire star system to “Dorn,” or “The North,” but we are digressing… Seriously though, All we’re saying is that Emperor Robert Baratheon ruling from the planet of King’s Landing, should be situated in the star system of The Crownlands, not Sol… Okay, we’re done.

Another thing we enjoyed about playing this game was some of the tongue-in-cheek jokes that you find along the way. Admittedly, the stupid robot anchorman for the Galactic News Network got old fast as it kept popping up to interrupt our game-play. However, the parody references to Star Trek, Futurama, Mad Max, Rambo, and others of our favorite properties did not go unmissed or unappreciated. Even better, each anomaly, hired hero, or random event comes with a story line you can choose to pursue. Doing so not only gives the universe a real personality, but often results in some sort of scientific, economical, or military boon to your civilization. Unfortunately, those events do not randomize from game to game, so once you complete them once, you always know what to expect.

Lastly, the AI of other galactic civilizations is a mixed bag. Each civilization has its own personality and interacts with you in different ways by using different strategies, however they are not really that different. Besides a few minor things, each AI player still follows the same path of making demands, and -no matter how unreasonable those demands are- if you do not meet them, they hate you almost immediately. Even the friendlier races follow this same basic principal so most of galactic diplomacy comes to debating which unreasonable demands you can accept and which you can ignore to hold off an opposing player long enough for you to build up your space fleet and preemptively strike at their bases before they do the same to yours. During replays this can make the game follow similar rhythms, regardless of your race or build strategy, and ultimately it feels limiting to the replay value of the game.

Overall, we would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys and is well versed in turn-based strategy gaming. For casual gamers this may not be for you, especially at a price tag of $30.00. Our advice is to wait for the next Steam sale before you pick it up. It will give the developers more time to iron out some of the glitches and you can save a few bucks in the process… or BC’s as they say in the universe of StarDrive. Regardless, remember to hold onto your tinfoils hats, because we promise its going to be a crazy drive.

Image courtesy:

“Oxygen levels, seven percent,” said the tinny emotionless voice.

Two days since the accident. Two days, since the death of the crew. Sometimes I can almost see a face, soft and warm with red lips, like roses, and the greenest eyes of spring lawn. A man could lie in them for hours and forget the world. A man could almost feel the grass blades between bare toes, and the cool nighttime breeze across goose-pimpled skin, like when I was a kid, left to lay for hours gazing at the stars.

The stars, I could never get enough of them, sitting outside till I was dragged to bed. The irony has not escaped even my oxygen starved brain. I suppose the universe does have a sense of humor. Those stars will be the last thing I ever see. Still, they are beautiful.

The sky outside rotates slowly, an endless cycle of glittering diamonds. The explosion that kicked me clear must have sent me into a spin, slow enough to not be dizzying, but fast enough that I can trace the movements of constellations across my viewplate. I have become a world unto myself, small and alone, floating through the void and surrounded by billions of tiny reminders of light and possibility. Some are known to me and others still deeply unfamiliar. If only I had an eternity to unlock their secrets, but I am down to mere hours.

Hair as soft as silk and as dark as the endless void, it smelled of lunch meat, but that was only in the morning. The kids used to laugh as we played rocketship, while she made their lunch. I can almost see her face. James, I love you, come home to me. It floats before me, obscured and distorted, like a figure trapped under the ice, kicking and screaming for air, but it’s gone. Now, I am alone.

The only thing real is the groan of my stomach, louder than before. The only image I can hold is the tube of paste I ate for breakfast so many days ago. I think it was banana. It tasted like metal. They always tasted like metal. I’m thirsty, but not “I just ran five-miles thirsty,” just “I could use a drink” thirsty. A beer would be nice. The saline indicator on my helmet is below zero. The emergency supply ran out hours ago, or days ago. There is no difference anymore.

Saturn rises across my field of vision. Its rings are back-lit by the sun and the powdery blue dust that surrounds the god-planet’s rings are shining like a thin wire of razor, beautiful and bright. It gives the whole planet the illusion of a motion faster than any purported by science. The great orb is like a spinning top on a whirling axis. It was my obsession, my only religion for so many years. All I wanted to do was see it with my own eyes, and now my eyes turn beyond it. In the distance, sits a bright blue dot.

Home is not a place, it’s a feeling, it’s family. Whenever you think of us, you’ll be home. The words come distant and half-remembered. My father spoke them on the day I left for college or was it the academy. He is dead now, and when I think of his face I see nothing. I feel only the cold in my fingertips. I never made it home for the funeral, a six month mission made it an impossibility. Everyone said they understood, of course they did. Maybe I never could.

“I’m sorry, Dad.”

Never say you’re sorry for that which is beyond your control. I am proud of you, son. Was it in my head? Was it my imagination? Did the suit’s communication system just come to life? It’s not possible. There is no one within a billion kilometers. I am the only human, the only thing alive out here. I am truly alone, and I am delusional.

“Oxygen levels, five percent.”

The flames, the rush of air, the silence. I come awake with a start from the half remembered dream, or was it a half-dreamt memory. Saturn is in full view. Even at this distance it dwarfs everything. Distantly, I hope I get to see it one more time, before I finally let go.

Hold on, son. Hold on to life. As long as you draw breath there is hope. I remember when he first said that me. His voice echoed from below, through the winter trees. We were camping and I had slipped from a tree limb. I had climbed too high. The limbs were too weak to support me. I have been trying to reach something, but the goal itself is beyond memory. Only the climb remains.

Hope is everything. Never lose it. This time the comm indicator sprang to life. The words weren’t imagined. They were real, spoken over the short distance channel.

“Dad?” my voice is raw and cracked. It hurts to speak, but it is maddening to stay silent. “Dad, is that you? Where are you?”

The only reply is my own breathing. I am beginning to slip. The isolation has taken its toll. Hypothermia is beginning to set in. The suit’s internal life support is slowly shutting down, like a deer succumbing to snow and frost, stumbling ignorantly towards its cold lonely end.

“Oxygen level, three percent.”

I wake. “Dad.” I don’t know if I screamed it. It’s hard to gauge how loud something is inside a helmet of plastic and metal. I struggle to get control of my flailing limbs. They no longer feel like part of my body. They no longer feel like flesh, just wood, nothing more than useless branches attached to a dying and forgotten tree.

I remember his eyes. They were bluer than the sky, bluer than the icicles that used to form on our garage.

I’m here, son. The LED indicators on my helmet are dead. There is no way of verifying the transmission source, but I am certain it is a transmission all the same. Saturn is gone now, replaced again with the endless ocean of stars.

“How is this possible?”

Moments fade, even memories die away, but love remains. Suddenly, there is light and color and I can see his face. It is a distant memory. I must have been very young. He still had his hair and that stupid mustache, but it was the same toothy grin.

“You’re not here. You’re dead. Gone.” I close my eyes and the light fades. Only the stars remain, eternal and fixed.

Everything must end. Even the stars are not forever. Their light is older than we can imagine. Most are dead even as they shine down on us. He is older now. His face shaded beneath the nighttime sky, only half facing me. His eyes sit transfixed on something above us.

“Dead.” I let the word hang there. Maybe for the first time I truly begin to question its meaning. Death, the concept seems almost beyond the scope of imagining, if not understanding. How can one word hold so much meaning and so much abstraction?

“Oxygen level, two percent,” says the computer as if in rebuttal to my musings, but even its voice of certainty is beginning to grow slow with the frost. I never considered what might happen to that voice. It will die with me, without ever having been alive. For some reason the thought saddens me. Man and machine will meet their end together.

But just because something ends, doesn’t mean it goes away. Look at the stars. Even after they have disappeared from the universe their light continues to shine. They continue to inspire and drive us. They are still beautiful. So why does death need to be any different? I could almost feel his hand on my shoulder as we stood before the casket of my mother. His face is blurry, but only because I watch him through tears.

“You’re not here. There is no life after death. No heaven or hell.” Such fantasies were sweet lies told to children to give comfort in times of grief. I know that. I’m a scientist and I know what happens to a person after death. Neural pathways shut down, the body stops pumping blood, cells starve for oxygen. They die, nothing less and nothing more. There is no light. Their isn’t even a tunnel.

My son, the scientist. You know so much. What do you know? Nothing. Quantum mechanics, string theory, dark energy? His face is angry, distorted somewhere between rage and pity. Fancy words to mean that for as much as you think you know, you still know nothing. Maybe God isn’t in the sky. Maybe he’s in us, tangled in the places between quarks, or unseen in the fifth, or sixth, or even thirteenth dimension? What if he is speaking to us now through the vibrations of a quantum string or calling to us through cosmic radiation?

“There is no God. We live. We die.” My mouth moves mechanically, rehashing the old argument, but the words just feel cold in my mouth, as if they too have been frozen by the void around me.

What good is your science if it only dashes hope? Hope is everything.

“We’re dead particles, brought to life for a brief second through a freak accident of nature. Dust to dust and ash to ash.”

Stardust and cosmic ash, perhaps. Those particles were forged in stars, created at the beginning of time itself. We are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out. There is a spark of the cosmos in us and that is no accident. We are part of something greater. How can that mean nothing?

“I miss you, Dad.”

“Oxygen level, one percent.” The hum of the air filters quiets. I had grown so accustomed to them I didn’t even realize they were still on. Now there is no sound. All the suit’s systems are dead. I am not far behind. My eyes feel heavy. I close them to rest, if only for a moment

Death is nothing to fear. Take it from a dead man.

“I want to believe you. I wish you were here.”

I am always with you. If space and time are one, then do any of us truly ever exist, ever truly stop existing? Maybe we never really go away. Maybe we are always here, like faint echoes bouncing around the great vastness.

“Even after you’re dead you’re still lecturing me.” I try to put the joke to my voice, but it comes out flat especially in the lonely dome of my helmet.

Only trying to show you the way. Like a light from a long-gone star.

Could the voice be right? Time is an illusion tethered by gravity, and if there is one thing I am lacking, it’s gravity. Then why am I so short on time? I open my eyes. Saturn has returned and I can almost feel it smiling down on me, like an eternal deity. In that moment, I remember my mythology. My father would have laughed. Saturn is the god of time.

I wait, but the voice says no more. Real or imagined, it’s gone. The only sound is my shallow breathing. I know am breathing in my own CO2. Each slow gasp seems more unsatisfactory than the last, but those are distant sensations. My body seems suddenly unimportant, because my eyes are growing heavy and before they close the last thing I see is my god.

Who among us has not gazed out into the night sky and envisioned the possibilities. Science fictions are all about possibilities. Our graphic artists have taken some of NASA best images and used their skill to insert some of our favorite stories, because space is a vast and incredible place, and there is no telling what is really up there.

Who knows, we may even be up there ourselves someday. Until then, we can only dream.

This past week Hayley Atwell, star of Marvel’s Agent Carter was asked by fans whether she would consider a role on Doctor Who. Atwell, responded that she did not just want “a” role but “the” role of the Doctor herself. Of course, this was just a one-off-non-binding comment made on Twitter, but because this is the Internet it went viral and people weighed in on both sides of the old argument, “Should Doctor Who ever be a woman?” It is an argument almost as old as, “Can you call the character Doctor Who, considering his name is actually just The Doctor?

There are a fair share of naysayers, so called purists, but hidden among all this debate is a larger issue. In a world where everyday we are becoming more and more accepting of a fluid definition of gender identity, is it really too much to ask that our favorite Time Lord become a Time Lady?

Breaking the Silence in the Library
In order to fully talk about the subject of transgender and gender identity, there are certain aspects that we need to discuss. Think of this like the birds and the bees, except for the fact that that is a terrible example, because birds and bees are creatures driven by biological instinct and human beings have so much more going on than biology.  In fact, even picking just two animals skews the example. According to findings published by the University of Vienna, gender identity is not a duology. It exists on a spectrum of choices and feelings. So maybe we should start talking about the Bird, the Bees, the Grasshoppers, the Squirrels, and the Daleks, because at least that would be an analogy heading in the right direction. So as the Doctor’s greatest enemies might say, “EDUCATE!”

Biological gender is the gender we are all born with, male, female, or Zygon, but it is only one factor of our identity. Like those Zygons we have the choice of who we become. Gender roles are the roles that society expects of people based upon their biological gender. For instance, you might be expected to be a Time Lord if you possess a… sonic screwdriver… if you know what we are saying. However, gender identity, is the gender that individuals associate with themselves outside their biological and societally assigned gender roles. Those are the three big terms but there is a lot more at play, for example gender expression and sexual orientation also play a factor in determining someone’s identity, but there are no hard a fast rules about correlations between them. You could be a biological man, who identifies as a woman, but expresses himself as a man, and has sexual urges toward both males and female. We call that type of person a Captain Jack.

Gender identity is not a black and white issue. It’s about reds, and blues, and purples, and more all mixing together in a wibbley wobbly mess of stuff to make an identity that is as unique as the person themselves. Even better this is a concept that is becoming more understood and more accepted than ever before. Now, we are not saying that everything is Roses and Amy Ponds… but with high profile transgender celebrities, such as a certain ex-Olympian/the ex-worst father on reality TV, the general public and the mainstream media are coming to see the real fluidity of gender identity. So how can geeks and Whovians, in particular, be any less accepting?

The Doctor’s Life
Yes, the Doctor has always been a white male throughout the entirety of his twelve-ish regenerations, -fourteen if you count John Hurt and David Tennant twice,- but does that mean he has to stay male for all of them? After all, there have been made mentions of Time Lords who have swapped gender roles, most notably the Corsair, mentioned in Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece The Doctor’s Wife. The Doctor refers to his many incarnations as both him and her, even adding “Oh, she was a bad girl.” It is a statement which might also imply that there was something more going on between the Doctor and the Corsair during those periods when he was a she, which also implies a general sort of casual acceptance of this gender fluidity by the Doctor. Most recently, the classic Doctor Who villain, the Master even returned as a woman. All of this seems to suggest that the swapping of Time Lord genders seems to be neither impossible or even socially taboo.

Many fans have done a study on the subject and what they have found seems to indicate that most Time Lords have a biological gender. For instance, the Doctor is biologically male. After all, if regeneration was truly random, than the Doctor would have a 50/50 shot of being a man or a woman on his/her next go around, but that has yet to pan out. However, with these instance of gender swaps among Time Lords, it seems possible that, much like humans, biological gender may not influence one’s gender identity. Some fans believe that in order to accomplish a gender swap a Time Lord would need to have a controlled regeneration under a specific set of circumstance, but what if the answer is simpler than that? What if sometimes a Time Lord just feels like being another gender when it comes time to regenerate? It is more likely that on Gallifrey gender roles are not so rigid as they are on Earth, and if someone wants to spend a few hundred years as the opposite gender of their original biologically assigned sex, than there is nothing wrong with it. Unfortunately, as far as skin color goes, we still have no answer for that mystery.

Every time it is announced that there will be a new Doctor, the Internet becomes a buzz with rumors that it will be a woman, even before there was an Internet. The buzz has been going on since the departure of Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor, and yet every time the Doctor becomes another white male with a British accent. Have they ever considered maybe trying out an American one, possibly a New York or Boston accent? What about Welsh? Regardless, in a world where gender fluidity is becoming more understood and accepted, maybe it is time to start rethinking this reoccurring trend in the longest-running science-fiction/fantasy series in human history.

After all, Doctor Who has stayed progressive on certain issues, often priding itself on its strong female companions, yet there seems to be one glass ceiling even the TARDIS cannot break. In a world of Caitlyn Jenner, same-sex marriage, and more, now is the time to seriously reconsider who and what our thirteenth Doctor will be.

The Girls Who Have Waited
If you are taking suggestions, we are solidly throwing our hats in the corner of team Atwell, as her personality, range of acting, action chops, humor, and British accent, make her a perfect candidate for the job. For a show that prides itself on its innovate and creative stories, characters, and themes, this has been a change that has been a long time coming.

Yes, there will always be the complainers and the critics, but those exist no matter what. Whether you go from a 30-something Matt Smith to a 50-something Peter Capaldi or to a 30-something woman, the Internet will continue to be the Internet. More to the point, the arguments against such a change tend to hinge on ideas of tradition, or on skepticism that a woman could even do the job. Even worse, many complain that the dynamic between the companion and the Doctor would be ruined. These types of arguments are no better than many of the arguments thrown against gay marriage or the transgender population in general. Yes, change can be scary, but it can also be wonderful and amazing and open up new possibilities that can take life and 50-year old sci-fi properties in surprising new directions.

Even the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison has gone on record as being against the gender swap saying, “To have a female [Doctor] would be like having a female James Bond. It would be a rather odd thing.” Of course, we would also have to disagree with him about a female James Bond, or a black one for that matter, but that is an article for another day. Traditions are great when they are used to bring people together, but when they start to be used as justifications for discrimination or as a roadblock to progress, it might be time to reevaluate them and take a closer look at the people who are standing on the outside.

The transgender, pangender, cis-gender, and other gender communities are as vastly different and diverse as birds or bees or Sontarans. In the end, we are all our own creatures with out own gender identities, and we all have the right to chose who we get to be. Ultimately, that sounds very much like the moral of a Doctor Who episode, and of the Doctor himself. So we have to ask, if gender fluidity is good enough for one of our greatest nerd heroes, shouldn’t it also be good enough for us?


Entertainment Weekly is all about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and they are showing off some new pictures. The images looks begrudgingly amazing and exciting. Though many of us here at The NYRD are still mourning the loss of the Star Wars Expanded Universe even we have to admit that these shots look and feel like classic Star Wars. However, we are still reserving our expectations until opening day. No one around here wants to come down with a classic case of “Phantom Menace Syndrome.”

EW also talked with cast and crew about some of the questions that fans had in regards to the new movie. Most importantly, they cleared up some fans objections over the character names, which seem to have more whimsy than meaning, unlike the names like Darth Vader, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker. JJ Abrams revealed that the names may have more meaning than originally believed.

The two main leads, Finn and Rey only have first names on purpose. It leaves it open for their last names to be revealed at a more dramatic time and point. In other words, expect one or more of them to have a last name such as Solo, Skywalker, or maybe even Calrissian. The villain is named Kylo Ren, but he is a member of the Order or Ren, which we would guess is hopefully some kind of Sith Order and not something you get as a meal a long time ago at a drive-in window far far away. Also, Kylo is not his real name either, which means he could very well wind up having one of those very same above surnames we were talking about.

Regardless, enjoy the pictures below. Out favorite is the look at General Hux. Check it out.

All photos and captions courtesy:

“You excited?” asked Marc in front of me.

“Huh?” I replied articulately. My attention was rapt on a pudgy fingered woman who was scolding her child for crying. The boy could not have been any older than five or six years, and his mother’s anger was only making him cry louder.

“Are you excited about the trip?” asked Marc again as if he were the one talking to a six year old.

I brought my attention back to where I was and with it returned the sickening feeling I had been having all morning. “Yeah, it’ll be fun,” I said with less enthusiasm than he was expecting.

“Fun?” he looked at me as if I was from a different planet. “Craig, we’re going to Australia. This is going to be more than fun. I promise its going to be the trip of your lifetime. You’re going to love it. I know this great little spot on Bells Beach where the surf and the women are perfect.”

“It sounds fun.” I tried to muster up more excitement for the idea but I couldn’t quite get it past the lump that was forming in my throat.

“Trip of your lifetime.” Marc turned back to peer toward the front of the line. “I hate these security checks. What exactly do they think they’re going to find?” he muttered under his breath.

I was absentmindedly running the thin starched belt-like rope through the fingers of my left hand. It ran from one black pole to another being held together by nothing but small clasps. It separated the lines of people as they waited their turn to pass through the security check up ahead. It was such a small and flimsy obstacle, like the kind of thing you would see at a bank while you were waiting for the next teller. I could walk right over it and it would only prove to be a minor inconvenience. There was nothing holding me there, in that line, or in that place. I could just walk out and never look back.

“You okay, bud?” said Marc. His face was suddenly close to mine. “You’re looking a little pale.”

“I’m fine,” I lied.

We took another step forward with the line. Like a giant caterpillar the throng of people were slowly progressing forward and I could hear the minimum wage TSA agent speaking to a person not more than fifteen people in front of me.

“Step forward and raise your hands,” said the officer in a monotone voice as she waved a wand over the tall business man. “Are you carrying any firearms, restricted food, wood products or exotic metals with you today, sir?”

“We’ve been friends since the third grade, Craig,” said Marc drowning out the security officer. “I know when your lying. You’re nervous about the trip aren’t you?”

“Its not the trip itself,” I admitted, “it’s getting there.” My left hand was gripped around the snap that held together the belt-like barrier. As I talked I played with it, hooking and unhooking the simple plastic clasping mechanism.

“You’re worrying over nothing. You’re going to be perfectly fine.”

“Maybe we should have flown.” I looked ahead to the slow moving line, and wished it would move slower. We were now ten people from the front.

“Flown?” ejaculated Marc with a laugh, “and spend 25 hours couped up in a tin-can. No thank you.”

“I just mean, how safe is it, really?”

“You’re starting to sound like one of those nuts you see on the news.”

“No,” I quickly said, “I’m just a little nervous. I’ve never used a TTP before. I don’t know how comfortable I am with the idea of having my body atomized and transported to the other side of the world.”

“According to the statistics driving a car is more dangerous than trans-teleportation.”

“I heard that its not really you that comes out on the other side. They say that the machine really disintegrates the real you, copies all your information, and then uses it to create an exact replica of you at the other end of the machine.”

“If its an exact replica, doesn’t that mean it’s still you?” said Marc like I was crazy.

“What if its not?” There were four people ahead of us now in line. “What if it’s just some person with all your memories and your personality, but it’s not you. I’m me, what if the person you meet on the other side is me, but not me.”

“Philosophy was never my best class,” said Marc. “Besides, I use the TTP all the time when I travel for work. I’m still me,” he said with a laugh.

“How can you be sure?”

Marc was silent as if considering my thought and for a minute I thought I had got him. Instead, he just broke into a wide grin and clapped me on the back in the way that he always did when he was dismissing my ideas. “Its going to be fine, Craig. Trust me.”

I hated when he dismissed my ideas with his grin and back slap, like I was a child who needed comforting. Worst yet, he knew it annoyed me, but it also reminded me that it was my friend standing there in front of me. I never questioned that. He was Marc, right down to his idiosyncrasies. He was every bit the abrasive, loud, and sometimes dense man I had always known. He tapped his foot when he was nervous and showed off his big lop-sided smile to any woman who passed.

Maybe he was right, I told myself. I was just being ridiculous. The government never would have approved TTP travel if it wasn’t safe.

“Step forward,” said the squat mannish woman dressed in the blue TSA uniform. Marc put his bags on the machine and did as he was instructed. “Raise your arms. Are you carrying any firearms, restricted food, wood products, or exotic metals with you today, sir?”

“No, ma’am.” Marc gave the woman his biggest grin yet.

She never noticed as she finished waving the wand over his body. “Clear,” said the officer as Marc moved forward. She turned to me. “Step forward.”

By the time I got my bags and joined the line for the trans-teleportation booths I was calmer. I knew I was just over-analyzing. I always over-analyzed everything. Millions of people used the TTP a day. None of them ever came out different. None of them ever talked about dying in the machine. At most people said it was nothing more than a tickling sensation.

I held onto that reassuring thought as we made our way through the terminals and got in line for the NY to SYD TTP booth. I did some deep breathing and by the time I stepped onto the glossy metallic floor I was feeling much better about everything. After all, people had the same doubts about the airplane, the automobile, and the train when they were first put into use. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that people even had the same kind of doubts about the horse-drawn carriage.

My calm shattered like glass once the heavy plastic doors closed around us. They locked it with a final and deafening click. I realized that I didn’t even want to go to Australia. It had all been Marc’s idea. I was more than happy to sit at home. I was seized by the sudden urge to jump at the doors and throw my body against them until they crashed open, but I was sure I didn’t have the strength.

They looked like thin plastic but they were reinforced and coated with a special polymer that made them as hard as steel and able to withstand the force of the trans-teleportation field. There were stories of people so desperate to get out of TTP Booths they broke several bones in the attempt. They were of course promptly arrested afterwards for trying to damage government property.

I looked around at the dozen or so others standing in the booth with me. None of them were panicked or even seemed the slightest bit distressed. Most were chatting lightly or looking around with a disinterested glaze in their eyes. Marc saw me looking and mouthed the word, “relax,” which he followed promptly with a lop-sided grin, though it could have been directed at the pair of college girls behind me.

“Please stand still,” said a calming female voice. “Bioscans in process.”

Almost as one everyone in the booth stopped chatting or moving and stood stock still as the attendant had showed us in the instructional video. With my left hand, I clung to the slick plastic handle of my luggage as if it was a life raft. The grip was digging into my palm but I barely noticed as the bluish light of the bioscan passed over me. I felt a sort of tickling sensation.

“Bioscan complete,” said the automated voice again. “Transport initiated. Have a safe trip.”

My nerves were suddenly on fire and the world went white…

“See,” said Marc as we stepped out of the the retrieval booth in Kingsford Smith Terminal, ” and it didn’t even hurt.”

“I kind of tickled,” I said, the tension of the trip finally leaving me. “I guess you were right.”

“Of course,” he said laughing. “C’mon I know this great little place down in the harbor to get some lunch. I’m starving.”

“Right behind you,” I said as I grabbed my bags in my right hand. The stress of the trip was quickly being replaced by the excitement and euphoria of being halfway around the world. My worries suddenly seeming childish.

“A long time ago in a galaxy far far away” is a lot like saying “once upon a time.” It signals to us that we are heading on a journey that takes place in a different place where we will need to suspend our belief in reality and accept a world of magic, sorcery, and even the belief that George Lucas can still write a Star Wars script. Yet, how much of the impossible must we accept? Is the Force real? Did Han really shoot first? Are we actually seeing the events of a different and distant galaxy? That last one just might be the most fantastical of the bunch. What is more likely is that Star Wars takes place in a different universe, one governed by  physical laws that are completely different than our own.

There is nothing more exciting than Luke Skywalker screaming down that Death Star trench, Darth Vader hot on his heels, or Lando Calrissian spinning the Millennium Falcon through death defying maneuvers as he avoid star destroyers and TIE fighters over Endor. However, as any scientist can tell you, space battles like that are not possible, at least not in our galaxy.

The Darkside of Dogfighting
Star Wars dogfighting was based on World War II dogfighting, right down to the distinctive shape of the X-wings. The aerodynamic X-wings would work very well in an atmosphere, but would be irrelevant in space, almost impractical. Even the way the starfighters move are similar to atmospheric fighter craft. They wing over, dive, roll, and rocket around on full thrusters as if they were fighting wind or gravity. They even do a barrel roll, though that’s not what you think it is.

In truth, Newton’s First Law, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force, would mean that an X-wing or TIE fighter would not need to keep their engines thrusting them forward the entire time. It would be a waste of fuel. Unfortunately, that also means they would be moving in only one direction. To make any turns or maneuvers they would need precision maneuvering jets all over their spacecraft, or some sort of internal gyroscopic system, and even then their turns would be lazier as their momentum kept them moving forward even as they rotated their craft along a different point.

Newton’s First Law doesn’t just apply to the spacecraft. It also applies to the pilots. Thankfully, TIE fighter pilots seem to be strapped in tight, because if they weren’t their bodies would want to keep moving in the same forward direction, even as their craft began moving in an opposite one. If not for the straps, the first time a TIE fighter made even a lazy turn the pilot would run the risk of being rammed against the bulkhead, like a brain being concussed against the inside of your skull. Canonically, X-wings have an internal atmosphere, oxygen and inertial dampeners, though to what limit that is never specified in the movies. It’s why Luke and the rest of Rogue Squadron do not have to wear respirators when they are piloting, unlike their TIE fighter counterparts, who have to wear full survival suits. Similarly, if it wasn’t for the artificial gravity inside the larger starships like star destroyers or Mon Calamari cruisers, crew and equipment would be smashing against the walls like Ewoks at a Wookiee frat part. As an example, in our current spacecraft, who for some reason have failed to master the concept of “artificial gravity,” astronauts need to be strapped in for any maneuver they make, no matter how tiny.

On the plus side, Newton’s First Law also means that a fighter craft could rotate independently of its lateral or vertical movement. So an X-wing could do a full thruster burn, then turn 90 degrees and strafe an Imperial frigate without ever losing significant forward momentum, of course it also means that they would be traveling on a predictable trajectory for Imperial gunners to target, but that is actually a whole separate problem.

In atmosphere-based dogfights, the longer you stay moving in one direction, or if you are moving in a predictable manner, the more likely it is that you will wind up full of bullet holes faster than you can say “Grandma Yoda’s Famous Applesauce.” Yet, at certain times in space combat predictability of movement would be unavoidable. Gizmodo has an incredibly interesting article on the subject where they talk more in-depth about orbits and trajectories, but sufficed to say there are only a limited number of ways a starship could enter into a solar system or make orbit around a planet, and we can predict them based upon mathematical equations.

Gravity and Hokey Religions
Star Wars even acknowledges this, as traveling through hyperspace requires an intense amount of calculation and precision or any object with a large gravitational mass, such as a planet, star, or blackhole, can forcibly pull a ship out of hyperspace or prevent them from entering. To put that another way, it ain’t like dusting crops. This means that fleets entering into star systems do so along predictable routes that can be mined, guarded, or even just observed. Even worse fleets guarding a planet or solar system will be stuck in predictable and calculable orbits.

Any battles taking place near a planet or moon-sized space station would, ironically, need to follow at least one adage of atmospheric dogfighting rules. The higher you are from the center of the gravitational mass, the more advantage you have. Fighting from a higher orbital path down to a lower orbital path would give you a significant leg-up, literally. Essentially, much like Obi-Wan, you would have the high ground, and the force of gravity to help in any attack you make against a lower orbital path, which is important.

Newton’s Second Law, the vector sum of the external forces F on an object is equal to the mass m of that object multiplied by the acceleration vector a of the object: F = ma. In other words, if you fire a proton torpedo at a Nebulon B-frigate, but it misses and continues toward the planet below, the missile’s trust plus the force of gravity acting on it, means that your small meter long projectile could impact the planet below with the force of several nuclear blasts. And we mean that literally, as proton torpedoes most likely utilize radiation.

In space, explosives are useless. Fires burn out before they even begin. Radiation is more effective as it can travel through a vacuum. Yet, the most effective weapon is actually Newton’s equation of force. If you get an object going fast enough, even if it is small, it can do an excessive amount of damage upon impact, and in the void of space where there is no air friction or terminal velocity limit (just the lightspeed limit,) a magnetized railgun fired at the right velocity could do a heck of a lot of damage against a ship’s hull. For anyone who has seen Gravity, as poor as some of its science was, they did a good job of highlighting the dangers of even small space debris moving at incredible speeds.

A More Elegant Weapon
Unfortunately, rail guns or even projectile missiles have a possible drawback in Newton’s Third Law, when one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body, or every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So when you fire a railgun, or a missile or even a laser in space, there will be an equal amount of force that presses back on your ship, changing your heading or slowing your trajectory. However, with lasers that opposite force would be significantly insignificant.

Of course, lasers have other drawbacks. Mainly, lasers are invisible, so there will be no spectacular light show, like you see in Star Wars, and no cool laser sounds, since space is a vacuum. Also, lasers only stay focused for so long. If you fire a laser at a distant target by the time it gets there your concentrated beam of death could look like nothing more than a flashlight to your intended target. That is because light spreads out over distances and even more so if it has to penetrate an atmosphere. Still for close range battles, it is a pretty good weapon, but close range in space combat is a relative term.

The Lightside of Space Warfare
Star Wars depicts battles in small areas with tightly packed swarms of ships duking it out, capital ships firing broadside turbolaser blasts into one another. It is very exciting, but the truth is that with such a tight space and no room to maneuver it is more likely that all the ships would wind up crashing into one another if they were actually that close. Real space battles will need to be fought at extreme ranges, with no visual contact whatsoever. Even worse, when you are aiming your giant cannons you would not be able to aim directly at your target. You would need to aim in front of it, using math to predict its course and trajectory, because the target you would be seeing on your screens would only be a shadow of where the ship had been previously, even if it was only light-seconds away.

For example, the light of the Sun, which is about 92,960,000 miles (149,600,000 km) away,  takes eight minutes to reach Earth. That means the sun we see in our sky everyday, is no longer where we see it. Its light is eight minutes old and the actual sun has moved eight minutes along its given path. And the distance from the sun to the Earth, one AU, is not an extreme distance in space. Even the light from Venus takes 134 seconds on average to reach Earth, and Venus is only about 162 million miles (261 million km) away. In a life and death space battle those seconds could mean the difference between a fatal blow and a near miss.

These distances would also wreak havoc with communications, even if we knew how to send them at the speed of light. Orders would have to be given in advance and then individual captains and commanders would have to be trusted to know their part in the attack plan. Admiral Piett could not call Vader in the middle of a battle to get additional instructions, even if he did not fear being choked to death for his failures.

In the end, space battles would more realistically resemble nineteenth century naval battles. You would know your enemy was coming, you would sit off from each other, each hoping to calculate the right avenue of attack. Fighter craft would less resemble mustang warplanes and probably closer resemble spheres or cubes. A starfighter would probably have jets on every side of it, so that it could turn one way or another, with the pilot rotating inside the craft. This means that the pilot could orient himself however he or she wanted independent of the ship’s exterior and fire lasers that were mounted on all sides of the spacecraft. In the end, it would probably be easier to have droids control fighter craft, instead of just riding on the top of them and screaming when they got hit by an errant laser shot.

Still, it is fun to suspend our knowledge of science and physics, much as we do when we say “once upon a time,” but maybe with Star Wars it would be more accurate to say, “a long time ago in non newtonian-universe far far away.”