Lesson From Star Trek: Don’t Cheat Your Characters

Another thing I’ve noticed during my romp through the episodes: they spent all sorts of time building up their characters, and then sometimes cheat them in their core characteristics for the sake of drama.

The biggest example of this is Worf.  In Worf, we have a trained warrior, from a warrior culture, whose body also apparently has backup organs to act as fail-safes. He’s tough and mindful, both of his duties and his environment.

Why, then, do people get the jump on him time and time again?   Why do his instincts and training inexplicably fail?  in the episode “Man of the People,” Worf and the captain have beamed down to stop something nefarious.  They’re confronted, and then the camera cuts to show Worf under phaser guard and being disarmed by two on-planet guards.  How did that even happen? Why didn’t he see them coming?

Even if someone did get the jump on him, he should be able to take more than one hit.  Why does he get knocked out with one blow to the back over and over?  The Klingon pain ceremony in the episode “The Icarus Factor” proved his endurance beyond any doubt.

These instances are frustrating as a viewer because I know, based on what I’ve seen before (based on characterizations over many episodes), that these things would never happen normally.  Instead, they’re just used to scoot the episode along to where the writers wanted it to go, and in the process, cheat both the viewer and the character.

Good storytelling renders a character’s strength meaningless or temporarily ineffective.  Don’t just chump-shot the warrior: give me a situation where he has to face an army, an enemy he can’t fight, a situation where he has to go against his instincts and surrender to save someone else.

 

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