Friday, April 22, 2011

BLASTERS MONTH Phaser

Superman was the most popular superhero ever, am I right?
No?
Well, why not? He had almost every super power in the book. He had super strength, super speed, super heat vision, super x-ray vision, super breath, he could fly way up in the sky, he could fly in space without a spacesuit, he could fly under water without oxygen, he was bulletproof, in fact, let’s face it, he was everything proof.
So why are Batman, Spiderman, Thor, Green Lantern, hell even Wonder Woman and that guy who looks like an ugly Arnie made out of clay, more popular you ask? I’ll tell you why, because all those powers make beating bad guys too easy. Kicking some two-bit pickpocket’s rear end was a walk in the park for Superman, so much so, that after a while he didn’t even bother. The problem with being too good at everything is that, after a while, everything is boring.
And that’s how I feel about the Phaser, as wielded by the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek the Next Generation.  As much as I’d like to, I’m not looking at the early model used by Kirk and Spock (or even Archer and Tripp), as there is some overlap with the Ray Gun, reviewed below.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved a lot of Trek, but the best episodes didn’t involve blasting stuff with phasers IMHO. Star Trek (as overseen by Gene Roddenberry) prided itself on resolving conflict without using weapons. While this may be noble and praiseworthy and undoubtedly more sophisticated and mature than blasting the hell out of everything in sight, it did make things kind of…well, let’s just say a few more do-or-die-firefights could have made The Next Generation a little more interesting.
But the weirdest thing in all this was that despite not wanting to make killing aliens look cool, and despite Trek side arms resembling nothing more than modified Dust Busters, the phaser was potentially the most powerful, and versatile weapon of all time. The phaser had at least sixteen stun settings –SIXTEEN!
WTF?
Phasers could do everything from burning through solid rock, to heating your lunch. Phasers could incapacitate, stun, kill or disintegrate almost anything in their path (aside from the odd Borg). I bet you could even make one into a light sabre if you really wanted to. And in a pinch you could turn a phaser into a bomb by setting it to overload and running away real quick.
Phasers might have looked lame, but they were actually a totally kickass weapon and therein lies the point of Trek (well, early Trek anyway). You can have the biggest gun, and the most sophisticated weaponry, but that don’t mean you gotta to use it. Okay – I get that, but on the other side of the coin, what was the point of developing all that super-cool tech if they were never going to put it into action?
It’s like training with your football team every weekend, but never playing a game.
The notion of negotiation through mutual respect Trek purported to follow, was underwritten by military muscle, which defeated the whole point as far as I’m concerned. Wouldn’t it have been a far better thing to have gained respect without the threat implied by the Federation’s superior fire-power?
The phaser scores high on my scale of TOTAL AWESOMENESS but it can never win, due to the fact that I believe it was misused on the one hand, and totally underutilised on the other.

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