So there’s these memes that have been making the rounds on various social media for at least a few years now that, quite often, make me feel seen. E.g.:
Yes, I in fact do sometimes wake up on the middle of the night and lose a good hour or so of sleep, or space out in front of my computer screen at work, thinking about such things. (And I have to admit that it started at a pretty early age: when I was pretty little, I remember being really bothered by the fact that the Howells brought a big trunk full of money and multiple changes of clothes for a three-hour tour or that the professor brought along a shelf-full of general science books for the same purpose.)
I was partly inspired to write this post by a recent discussion in a Discord group I belong to in which one of these conundrums came up – albeit one that I eventually resolved in my own head and doesn’t trouble me as much any more: namely, how Captain Picard was able to deal with living another entire lifetime while under the control of the Kataan probe in the TNG episode “The Inner Light” (S5E24). Basically, the question here is that once he was released by the probe, how could Picard, who had just essentially lived out about three or four decades as a completely different person, readjust to being a ship’s captain and a star fleet officer? Would he even remember how to do the job? Or even the names of about half of the crew? My personal solution for this is that I think the probe had some kind of fail-safe that – once the person is released – allowed the implanted memories to be integrated and the preceding consciousness and memories to reassert themselves, to ensure that the person doesn’t go insane. Because the host going nuts would defeat the purpose of implanting all of that information about their long-dead civilization in the first place.
The next one, though, has occasionally tied my brain in knots since my early teens. Back then, for some reason I started to wonder what would happen if Legionnaires Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy decided to have a baby. Specifically, what would happen if Duo Damsel used her power to split into two separate individuals while she’s pregnant? Would two fetuses also be created, or would just one of the bodies remain pregnant? And if the former is the case, what if she goes into labor while split into two? That means two separate babies would be born, so they then effectively have twins – or would the two babies merge when she merges back into her single form? I’m gonna stop here, because my head is starting to hurt…
Finally, we go back to Star Trek for one that only occurred to me recently, about a few months ago, when I yet again re-watched most of TNG. The season 7 episode “Inheritance” (S7E10) introduces a character named Juliana Tainer, a scientist who claims to be the former wife of Data’s builder, Noonien Soong, and who also had a hand in creating Data – so in a sense she’s his ‘mother.’ As the episode progresses, we learn *spoiler alert!* that Juliana Tainer is in fact an android who was created by Soong after the real Juliana was fatally injured during the Crystalline Entity’s attack on their colony. He implanted all of her memories into the android, but allowed her to believe that she was still human and then let her go off and live her life when she decided to leave him. In a holographic message to Data contained in a chip in the android Juliana’s positronic brain, Soong pleads with Data to refrain from revealing her true nature to Juliana so that she can retain her humanity.
Now, this one really got my wheels turning, to the point that and I literally stayed up in the middle of the night a few times over the past few months pondering the implications of this episode. Because if you think about it, Juliana is Soong’s masterpiece, a far greater achievement than Data. He created a perfect replica of a human being, and even made her impervious to superficial scans (so no one realizes she’s an android unless they *really* look). And, most importantly, Juliana herself is completely oblivious to this fact. This means that Soong had to ensure that she wouldn’t figure it out on her own: not only is she modeled to age gradually like a human, which would also entail experiencing at least the minor discomforts of physiological aging, like tiring more quickly, sore joints, deteriorating eyesight, etc. (and again, she’s built such that no physician she may consult about these problems would suspect that she’s an android), but also – and most crucially I think – she has a functioning artificial digestive system. Not just being able to taste food and beverages (something Data can do as well), but also feel hunger and thirst on a daily basis and so eat and drink, and then generate the by-products of such activities. And said by-products would have to look and, sorry to be so graphic, smell right, so she would never suspect. Furthermore – and I won’t go into great detail here – when Data and the rest of the Enterprise crew meet her, she’s married to another scientist on the planet they’re visiting. So she’s apparently fully functional in terms of physical intimacy as well, with neither her nor her husband being any the wiser.
Anyway, what bothers me the most, I suppose, is that this is a truly impressive feat of engineering that was just sort of passed over by everyone in that episode. I know Data decided to comply with Soong’s wishes and not reveal the truth to Juliana and the world at large, which was naturally the right choice, given that otherwise a bunch of Federation cybernetics specialists would swoop in and try to poke and prod and disassemble her or whatnot (like they attempted with Data at one point). But still, he and several of the Enterprise’s top officers are aware of the truth and you’d think that Geordi at least would have commented on it…
So what about the rest of you? Feel free to share the geek speculation that keeps you up at night.