Tech the Tech Tech, Part 2 - Complications Ensue
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Ron Moore confirms that STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION staff writers did not even bother to write in the technobabble. They just wrote lines like, "Captain, the tech is overteching the tech" and trained monkeys science consultants filled in the tech.

(What it confirms to some is that Ron Moore needs to go back to Science Skool to understand what "mitochondrial Eve" was, but that's another story.)

I find the same is true of HOUSE episodes. The medical arguments are completely opaque to me. To me, you have two doctors saying, "We can't tech him, with the tech he has, it'll kill him." "But if he actually has tech, then if we don't tech him, he'll go into tech!"

So what is the audience really following? In ST: TNG, of course, it was the characters and the moral argument. In HOUSE, it's mostly watching HOUSE be a jerk and then be right. And the human drama of whatever patient they're nearly killing this week.

That's one things that's always bugged me about the idea of doing a HOUSE spec: you have to research and research the medicine, and it's all tech. I wonder if anyone would notice if you just made it all up?

9 Comments:

Ever since Ron revealed this tidbit on the Battlestar podcast a few years back, I've wanted to shoot a scene from TNG (with the same actors, of course), in which they read the *original* shooting script. Geordi would suddenly seem a lot more absurd.

By Blogger Gregory, at 12:09 AM  

Instead you'd have to try to write an amazing House spec that is similar to their mystery of the week format, but a lot more simple in that it's in the vein of the "Three Stories" episode, which is widely regarded as the best episode the show's ever had.

By Blogger Nicholas, at 1:52 AM  

We did the same sort of thing on our first drafts of Traders but on the second drafts we usually folded in the consultant's notes. It was like cramming for a test and for a brief few days after writing the script the writer would understand the mechanics of short selling etc...

It has all left our brains by now

By Blogger Frank "Dolly" Dillon, at 10:34 AM  

I didn't think it was so hard, really. I just went on WebMD and found a rare disease that almost never affects adults. Then I looked at what other diseases share those symptoms and made a list. Then every time I needed the patient to exhibit another symptom, I just went to my list, plugged it in, then had the doctors respond to that symptom.

I actually had fun with it, although for about three months I was convinced I had every disease ever.

By Blogger Emily Blake, at 2:03 PM  

If I pick up a factual detail from a show, I feel I ought to be able to repeat it elsewhere without making myself look stupid.

On the UK version of Eleventh Hour we had some people in the food chain who thought the scientific accuracy unimportant, and I didn't have final word.

So I had the pleasure of being cornered by a middle school science teacher about inaccuracies his pupils were taking away from the show, and of receiving a stinging Times Educational Supplement review from a former government Chief Scientist. The same review praised the way that Numb3rs handled a similar subject.

By Blogger Stephen Gallagher, at 2:10 PM  

This summer I met two (Canadian)tv agents who encouraged me to write a 'House' spec. I was going to do it but the rare disease or common disease with a rare symptom was too much for me to research. I got sidetracked by wondering if I could have any of these things I had been researching and running to walk-in clinics for tests and asking relatives in the medical field their thoughts.LOL.

But I agree with you. The more I watched previous seasons episodes, the more I understood the patterns, act breaks and each character's world-view and personality. All I had to come up with were storylines for the patients that to conflict their illness but were thematically in step with storylines for the regular characters. Then add on the complex medical situation.

I'll try again.

By Blogger JamaicanInToronto, at 6:54 PM  

This entry just makes me wish for a little more science in my, hello, *science* fiction. I've had my fill of race relations, gay rights, environmentalism, god stories and modern takes on frankenstein maquerading as SF. The into to Left Hand of Darkness is worth a look.

By Blogger leannet3, at 10:33 PM  

ok but try writing a show with lots of guns and watch what happens if you get a model number wrong or mention the wrong kind/number of bullets; there are people out there who actually *care* about that stuff.

By Blogger mark m., at 10:20 PM  

His Kurtzman's syndrome has complicated into Montezuma's Revenge! Put him on Bioflibnol with three doses of Marzipan.

Yeah, you could make it up easy.

By Blogger M.W. Schock, at 8:50 PM  

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