Problem Child

By Amy Chused and Charles Dickson

Background Information

Hello all! What you are about to read is a single episode of "Star Trek, The Cruton Generation." "Problem Child" was a collaberative effort by myself and the brilliant and beautiful Amy Chused, who was attending Harvard University at the time. STTCG was one of those in-joke things of the type that are created all the time by college kids at universities everywhere; I was lucky enough to be a fringe member of the Harvard community at the time STTCG was going on, about 1990. As you can tell from the title, it's kind of a Star Trek: The Next Generation parody; STTCG actually is a continuation of the "Star Trek" continuum, approximately 50-100 years later than Star Trek The Next Generation with appropriate advances in technology. It was started by some folks at some other school on the West Coast, and had continued for a couple of years before some of their members transferred to other schools, and whole suites of stories began to be written around the country. The stories were written between classes of the authors and transferred around through the then-exciting medium of e-mail lists. STTCG was always written in screenplay form, with a variety of ships, personnel, and enemies. As with all geeky college groups, the authors imagined a fannish Star Trek universe, but what I think was a cool thing was that the various characters on the various ships were not written as being the authors themselves, but rather were a little more independently developed, and listed as being played by us and our friends. Some people, of course made their characters glamorous; Katherine Bryant, who brought the whole thing to Harvard and who was an author of maybe hundreds of STTCG episodes, was the captain of the "Harvard" ship (the Heisenberg), and had some supernatural powers. Other people's characters were based on their personal interests; Amy's character was ship's counselor. Naturally, when it came time to write my own character I chose to be a low-level engineering technician. Anyhow, there eventually developed a universe of many ships populated by crews from several universities, with almost five years worth of stories.

The reasoning behind the whole Cruton motif is too involved to explain and doesn't involve my little group anyway. However, it served as a fascinating basis for naming things; technobabble in STTCG was often eerily food-based (although that isn't too strong in Amy's and my story). Of particular note were the foes of STTCG, the two main ones being the "Lucky Charms," a powerful alien race with superior technology, and the "Hidden Valley Ranchers," a wild-west based spacefaring race with a lower level of technology than the Federation, but constantly attempting to encroach on Federation space. Among other subtexts of the HVR, it helps to know that the captain of the Heisenberg, Captain Kabeta, is in this universe the unrequeted object of desire of one of the HVR commanders, a Mr. "Bloocheez". Sadly, the Lucky Charms do not appear in this episode, but are the subject of one of my favorite episodes, written by Angela Winner, and to which I will add a link Real Soon. All five "seasons" of STTCG are collected by the way on Katherine Bryant's web page, but are massive and still in the process of being sorted.

I was frequently surprised by the quality of the writing on STTCG. As time went by, people began to put a lot of effort into the scripts, a few reaching novel-like lengths such as this one. Often the exploration of the Star Trek universe, the science-fiction content in general, or the humor transcended the in-joke level and the stories stood on their own. However, the main objective of STTCG was humor, sometimes outright silliness. There were many pokes at the standard formulas of Trek (the redshirts, and indestructible artificial gravity), sometimes it careened wildly into filk, with people writing songs which they worked into the script in unlikely ways, sometimes it was just local humor or ego-gratification. Amy and I attempted to come up with a story that was both humorous and internally consistent, trying to tread a path between silly and readable. Re-reading it after all these years, I still think that even with the motley characters and slightly obscure background, it reads well on its own; for this reason I have gone to the trouble of chopping it up into web pages and presenting it for your entertainment. If you are into Trek, and don't mind some outright silliness in places, I think you might enjoy this story. If you are not into Trek, well, you should probably run away now. You will quickly notice from the title that it is also a parody of a non-Trek movie, which I highly suggest you not rent, as Amy and I found it to be pretty bad.

"Problem Child" is very long; I've chopped it up into about 20 web pages averaging 4 screens each; they are organized into a primitive ring with a top page also. I expect to try alternative navigation concepts when I get ambition for more exotic HTML coding. If you undertake to read it, I would very much enjoy your feedback; feel free to mail me. I'd be interested in knowing how strong an impression you got of the characters, which we worked to flesh out and have some fun with. Note that we made a decision to make this a story which does not involve the captain of the ship much, sort of a day-in-the-life of more ordinary crew members as you sometimes see done in Next Gen episodes.


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