How Would Sci-Fi Icons Deal With the Deep Impact of an Armageddon?
Giant asteroid movies? I guess TINY asteroid movies would be pretty dull, at that. But how fortunate it is that out of 10,000 years of recorded history, the asteroid waited until we had space shuttles and nuclear weapons to deflect it. Imagine an asteroid detected in 1492, or for that matter, 1955. What would we have done, except make our peace with our various Gods?
Yeah, but the quickie-conversion era is gone forever now that we can at least hope to push asteroids around. Which makes you wonder how the future would handle a scenario like Armageddon or Deep Impact ...
James T. Kirk: Beams down personally to the asteroid's rocky surface, where four of his security guards are killed one by one by a mysterious energy field. Finally, Kirk and Spock find a way into a secret control chamber, where they learn that the asteroid is a spaceship, set on course centuries ago to deliver Gary Seven's bedroom set and his paperback collection to his apartment in California. The robot driver has gone loopy in the hundred-year voyage, so Spock has to confuse him with illogic while Kirk resets the steering controls. Discovered in the the process of so doing, Kirk has a five-minute fistfight with the anthropomorphic robot guardian and defeats him by flipping him over his head into the live wires conveniently hanging everywhere.
Jean-Luc Picard: Calls a meeting to discuss asteroid-deflection options. After thirty seconds of technobabble, the discussion turns to whether the Prime Directive permits asteroid diversion for the benefit of primitive cultures. Deanna Troi detects emotions coming from the asteroid, at which point Data discovers it is actually a mineral life-form, akin to the Horta, the Tholians, or Yarnek's species in "The Savage Curtain."
This life-form is intelligent but not well educated, having not met any other smart rocks in its million-year isolation. Obviously, it cannot be allowed to perish just for the benefit of a few billion Earth people. Picard points out, however, the moral equivalence of all life, and therefore suggests we can't very well destroy the Earth to save the asteroid, either. So the Enterprise-D does nothing, and both Earth and the sentient, innocent asteroid are destroyed. Data asks why the letter of the law is more important than sentient life, so they switch him off.
Benjamin Sisko: The Defiant studies the asteroid, only to encounter insectoid monsters on its surface! It seems the asteroid was hurled at humanity millennia ago by the Bugs from the movie Starship Troopers, at about the same time Cro-Magnon man was mastering the creation of fire.
The movie's travails notwithstanding, Sisko and his five-man crew kill all the Bugs in about two minutes. They don't even have flint spears and torches, for God's sake.
Kathyrn Janeway: Postulating for the moment that Janeway is still in command (an unlikely eventuality given the facts that Seven of Nine is much more popular, Tuvok is not able to indefinitely rationalize Janeway's irrational decisions, and Harry Kim only has about six minutes left before he snaps and kills someone), she sees at once that the way to save the Earth is for Voyager to wrap itself in a negative-chronaton standing warp field modulated to a three-quarter sinewave envelope, and slam into the asteroid like a billiard ball. Voyager's relativistic mass will easily deflect the asteroid, while its technobabble field (see above; it's too much work to type all that again!) protects the ship from harm. However, this means Voyager will be hurled back to the other end of the Galaxy, with the Earth snatched away from its grasp just as it was about to get home. Just because.
John J. Sheridan: See James T. Kirk, above, without the fistfight. Sheridan thought to bring an atomic weapon, which worked against both Zh'a'dum and the Thirdspace monsters.
Fox Mulder: Discovers that the asteroid has been coming our way since World War Two. A cabal of rich conspirators has been making decades-old plans, believing they can benefit from the asteroid impact and come out on top of the post-asteroid society, or something. These lunatics spend the rest of their time murdering anyone who comes across the merest, most tenuously connected filament of their grand design, ex except Mulder, whom they kinda like.
Mulder does nothing to actually avert the threat, but that's okay; the asteroid is shown from a variety of tantalizing angles, but never gets any closer.
Having been taken to see Meteor along with the entire eighth grade at Cabin John Junior High School, based on someone's misguided belief that the film had merit for geography students, I have always been a fan of giant rock movies. I mean, who wouldn't prefer Natalie Wood or Robert Duvall or even Bruce Willis to boring scientific reality? Meteor was a Cold War-era movie in which the theme had to do with the U.S. and U.S.S.R. cooperating, using their ICBMs jointly to push the space menace away, but of course the current crop of asteroid movies are themed to the end of the millennium and the end of the world. I find it ironic that many of the Trek shows have actually dealt with similar situations to Armageddon and Deep Impact...
James T. Kirk faced a situation like this, where a big chunk of rock was found to be on course with a nice planetful of helpless people who couldn't divert it. It turned out that the asteroid was actually an artificial construction housing a civilization, but this was an atypical episode in that McCoy, not Kirk, got the planet's leader to fall in love with him. Kirk was conveniently able to reprogram the spaceship/asteroid, but I would not put it past him to try something similar with any such threat: M-5 programmed diversion, Vulcan mind-meld, or loud speeches to convince the meteor to go on its way and leave the noble people of Earth alone. However, in another asteroid episode, Kirk as "Kirok" couldn't divert the big rock just by screaming at it...so he'd probably resort to blowing the damn thing up with one well-placed photon.
Jean-Luc Picard also faced a similar situation, in which a planet was about to be destroyed by natural causes, and decided - I am not making this up - that that was the proper order of things. So even if the asteroid were nonsentient and there were no question of the relative balance of all life-forms, Picard would decide it was a violation of the Prime Directive, natural law, and all sorts of other abstracts to save the Earth, and let the planet be destroyed. The only exception would be if he realized that the asteroid was diverted towards Earth by the Borg to make conquest of the Alpha Quadrant easier, in which case he would go back in time, launch Zephram Cochrane's rocket directly at it, and everyone would have a big party with the early Vulcans in the post-apocalyptic midwest.
Benjamin Sisko has also been in similar situations, but he's not just a Starfleet Captain; he's the Emissary, meaning that when HE shouts, "I am Kirok!", everyone listens, even asteroids. I bet he would assume that any such object had come through the wormhole courtesy the Cardassians, the Jem'Hadar, the Founders, or all three. Of course, Bajor would be its destination, not Earth. He might try to split it into three pieces and create a Sword of Stars like in that ancient Bajoran prophecy, or he might contact the Klingon Fleet for assistance - no point in asking Starfleet, those idiots never send ships when he really needs them. Under any circumstances, he'd save Bajor with the blessing of the Prophets, and no one would even mention the Prime Directive. Good for Sisko.
Kathyrn Janeway would only have to deal with this situation in the unlikely situation that Voyager finds a way home...though Wonder Woman Seven of Nine can surely get them there by sticking her Borg implants into the ship's engines. The old Janeway, the real Janeway, is actually the captain I'd most like to serve under during such a crisis. She may spout technobabble, but at least she's a scientist: she knows a lot about particles no one else has ever heard of, and is more willing than Picard to blow off the Prime Directive in favor of saving her crew. The old Janeway would have deflected the asteroid while making a stunning scientific discovery in the process. The new one...well, she'd probably come up with a plan to use all-powerful Omega particles but chicken out at the last minute, thus putting Earth and Voyager in the path of doom unless Seven could once again find a way to save the day. Maybe Seven could bounce the asteroid off her bosom; that would deflect it with only minor inconvenience on her part.
John Koenig of Space: 1999 -- played by Martin Landau, who appeared in Meteor as an army general too stupid to believe an asteroid could ever pose a threat -- faced deadly collision courses more than once, though his people lived not on Earth but its runaway moon. In one instance, his solution was to ignite the nuclear waste buried on the moon in the hope that he could divert its course from a planet. This worked so well that one wonders why he didn't think of it earlier, when he had to take on faith an alien's prediction that the moon would not crash but simply touch her planet. Koenig sometimes seems touched indeed.
John J. Sheridan would never believe that an asteroid was just an asteroid. He'd assume it was a plot on the part of a corrupt Earth government, the Vorlons, the Shadows, the Drazi, an evil faction of Centauri, or someone else. Assuming that no noble self-sacrificial Ranger managed in time to bounce it out into deep space, Sheridan would sacrifice two-thirds of the White Star Fleet to narrowly divert it from Earth, which he'd feel badly about, but at least he'd come away without a scratch and end up safely on Babylon 5. An investigation would be launched but ultimately he'd end up with a promotion.
Fox Mulder would suspect at first that the asteroid was a conspiracy to get people to hide underground so that CSM and his ilk could freely smoke in movie theaters again. But eventually he'd decide that killer cockroaches were trying to decimate the surface of the planet so they could take over when all the large mammals are dead, so they must be behind the asteroid. He'd try to reveal the cockroaches' evil dealings with the aliens who launched the thing, and to develop an all-powerful insecticide using government technology, but eventually Scully would get him committed to a mental institution and he'd realize that the conspiracy, his affair with a vampire, and Samantha's abduction were all hallucinations from a bad LSD trip. Hey, can YOU come up with a better explanation for the stuff on The X-Files?
Hercules, of course, would probably resort to crying, "Dad!" But Xena could simply chakram the big rock out of the sky...
This column was originally written for AnotherUniverse.com.