Lasers, Phasers and Blasters, oh my!

Lasers, Phasers and Blasters, oh my!

I recently wrote about my favorite magical doodads, which are a staple of fantasy fiction. My other favorite genre is science-fiction. I don’t need magic. If it gets me far enough away, or has interesting enough mechanics, sci-fi keeps me just as entertained. And hey, science! Bonus! Much like the fantasy genre, what you tend to remember are the fascinating bits of tech. Of course I also hope everything on this list will one day exist. (And may I live to see the day! XD)

5. The Go’auld Sarcophagus (Stargate/Stargate SG1)

What it does: Simply put, it heals wounds, no matter how fatal. And if you’re dead, it brings you back to life. Neither the show nor the movie offers a complex explanation of how the sarcophagus manages to do these things, it just does. Though both also suggest it works particularly well on human physiology. The original Go’auld, Ra, realized he could live almost indefinitely with the power of the sarcophagus combined with a human body. It’s pretty easy to imagine what you could get up to if you had the ability to live forever and no reason to fear death.

One of the drawbacks, though, is that pretty much everyone who has one of these is a bad guy (probably because they can do whatever they want without fear of death XD). Those Go’auld who fight for the good side abstain from use of the sarcophagus due to the negative side-effects of its use. Of course that means there are far fewer of them.

The most interesting use of the sarcophagus, depicted in the show, came from Baal. He used its healing properties as a form of torture, killing and resurrecting Colonel O’Neal countless times while trying to extract information from him. Talk about using the power to give life for evil o.o

Why it’s great: Near immortality. Need I say more?

It’s Major Downfall: Apparently protracted use of the sarcophagus drains all the good out of a person, reducing them to an evil SOB, which is apparently why the Go’auld are so nasty. Prolonged use by an uninjured party can also produce an addiction similar to drug use, which makes the user highly open to suggestion as well as paranoid. Is it worthwhile to live forever if the price is your humanity?

4. The Transporter (Star Trek)
What it does:
Breaks a person down to their base particles and reassembles them in a new location. The fastest and easiest way to get from point A to point B!

The most interesting thing about this iconic Star Trek technology is the reason it was included in the show. Gene Roddenberry needed a way to get Kirk and his crew off their spaceship and onto alien planets for exploration. BUT he didn’t have the budget for a shuttle craft. So he invented the Transporter because it was cheaper. And, of course, it became a staple of the series.

Though it started as a way to get from the ship to the planet’s surface and back again, the transporter’s function grew as new series came along. Aside from a handy way to get out of danger quickly, the transporter could also be used to get from place to place within the same ship when the situation was too dire for someone to run through the corridors and up the turbo shafts, ect. The transporter also seems to have become a form of mass transportation, allowing people to travel quickly across the surface of the Earth. Instead of a train or a plane, one just goes to the nearest transporter station, commutes to work, visits family and then pops home at the end of the day. (Why do we not have this yet?!) Imagine how much easier moving to a new house would be with Transporter assistance!

Why it’s great: Instantaneous travel anywhere within range (which is apparently quite far) with little to no effort. Also handy for getting out of trouble when you’re about to be killed.

It’s Major Downfall: You can’t teleport through shields or force-fields. It just isn’t possible. Nor is it a particularly good idea to use the transporter during storms (this has resulted in malfunctions on multiple occasions). You also need to know exactly where you’re going or you might end up reforming in the middle of a wall and promptly ceasing to live. Other dangers include: getting stuck in them, getting infected with weird diseases because of them, getting split into your good and evil parts, and ending up in alternate dimensions (where your evil self has a goatee).

In fact the main problem with the transporter is that it breaks all the time. And lots of things mess with it’s function (and you do NOT want to be in need of teleportation when that happens). In fact user error can also contribute to transporter failure. So while it sounds great in theory, they’ve probably still got lots of kinks to work out of it.

3. The Sonic Screwdriver (Doctor Who)
What it does:
Just about everything.

Anyone familiar with the Doctor Who series knows that, when the Doctor waltzes into danger (because seriously, that’s what he does), he does so wielding only his trusty Sonic Screwdriver. It’s a screwdriver. And it’s sonic. And also awesome. By adjusting the frequency by which the screwdriver resonates, the Doctor can do pretty much anything. He can lock and unlock doors, hack computers, tell what’s making a person sick, and there’s even a setting for reattaching barbed wire.

Why it’s great: The greatest thing about the sonic screwdriver isn’t so much what it is or what it does, it’s what it represents. Most heroes have a trusty weapon; a gun or a sword or some clever contraption only they can use. While the Doctor is a hero, and even sometimes a fighter, his ‘weapon’ of choice isn’t a weapon, it’s a tool. Proof beyond doubt that the Doctor favors intellectual, peaceful solutions over violence every day and any day.

It’s Major Downfall: It doesn’t do wood.

2. Stargates/Farcaster Portals (Stargate/ Stargate SG1/ Stargate Atlantis/ Stargate Universe/ The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons (novel))
What it does:
The vast majority of the tech on this list involves travel. Like transporters, Stargates offer near-instantaneous travel to distant locations. Only this time you don’t have to be near the place you want to go, there just has to be a Stargate on the other end. The Stargate network is often compared to a telephone system; in order to get where you need to go, each destination needs the proper device and the traveler needs the phone number which corresponds to their destination. Likewise, if a person wants to get home, they need the telephone number which corresponds to their home (hence the entire plot of the original movie). As the show goes on, they discover multiple gate networks and ways to interconnect them using extra symbols, usually described as ‘area codes.’

Stargates link the vast distances of the galaxy using wormholes. You step into the wormhole at one end and when you get to the other side you’re on another planet, moon, space station or spaceship, light years away from where you started. In the original movie, the second Stargate was located on a planet at the edge of the known universe. That’s pretty damn far.

Farcasters are similar in many regards to Stargates. They appear in the Hyperion Cantos written by Dan Simmons. I don’t believe the books ever describe exactly how the Farcasters teleport people from point A to point B, but it is similar to stepping through a Stargate. The main difference is that Farcasters are usually always operational (Stargates need to be activated and the pathway can generally only be open for about thirty-eight minutes before it will cut off and need to be re-established). In fact Farcasters were more than just tools of exploration, they were used for daily commutes. Some people even had houses spread across multiple planets connected by Farcaster portals at the doorways. Have your kitchen on one planet and your bedroom on another! Pretty awesome.

Why it’s great: Shortening the vast distances between planets is an awesome and humbling concept. Imagine what you would do if you could go anywhere. Imagine being able to live on one planet and work on another. More than just visiting family and friends quickly and easily, you could take lunch on a distant exotic moon and be back at your desk before it’s time to go back to work.

It’s Major Downfall: If the system goes down, you’re stuck. Imagine living in a house connected by Farcaster portals. Imagine being in your kitchen cooking dinner for your kids in the living room. The moment that system goes dead, there are light years between you and your kids. If you’re lucky, the number of light years is low enough they wouldn’t be completely grown by the time you saw them again.

In the case of Stargates, there are extra complications. It’s possible to travel to a planet which has a Stargate, but not the device (Dial Home Device or DHD) which is required to get you home. Also, if you ‘dial’ a planet’s number, but its Stargate is already in use, you’ll get a ‘busy signal’ and the gates won’t connect. Furthermore, someone can purposely block the use of your gate by dialing it and keeping the passage open for the designated thirty-eight minutes. And if they can dial faster than you, you’re screwed because they’ll just keep calling you over and over and you can’t do shit about it.

1. The TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) (Doctor Who)
What it does:
As the name suggests, the Tardis travels through time and space (and sometimes to alternate dimensions). For those unfamiliar with the term, the Tardis is the Doctor’s spaceship in the Doctor Who series. It usually appears as a blue police phone box. The Doctor explains that the Tardis has a ‘chameleon’ system which is supposed to let it take different forms in order to blend in with its surroundings. However, when he landed in the 1960’s, the circuit got stuck. The Doctor decided he liked the police box and decided never to fix it.

The Tardis is better than Stargates and Farcasters because it isn’t limited to traveling great distances. It can also travel between the beginning and end of time. The Doctor explains that the Tardis was once able to travel between dimensions, but the rifts between alternate realities had to be sealed when the Timelords passed away. Aside from that, though, there are pretty much no limits on where the Tardis can take you.

Why it’s great: The thing that sets the Tardis apart from all the other technologies is that it’s alive. In fact, the Doctor suggests at one point that the Tardis was grown rather than built. Though the Tardis isn’t able to speak, it often displays its intelligence. When the essence of the Tardis once resided in a woman, she informed the Doctor that, while she may not have always taken him where he wanted to go, she always delivered him to the places he was needed.

It’s Major Downfall: Unfortunately, since the Tardis is a living being, it can die. Also, while it’s a magnificent piece of technology, it doesn’t seem to have any kind of lockdown protocol, so it can be stolen (in fact that’s how the Doctor got it in the first place, or so he thinks. According to the Tardis, it wanted to see the universe, so it stole a Timelord).

2 Replies to “Lasers, Phasers and Blasters, oh my!”

  1. Great entry, and great choices for all of them too.
    I especially like the things you pointed out about the transporter as downsides – it really does break down all the time, and does become a ‘do-everything machine’ along with the holodeck on occasion.

    I particularly recall an episode of TNG where some of the crew contract a disease or some other kind of mutation that makes them age abnormally quickly. Dr. Crusher comes up with a solution that involved beaming the specific DNA strands out of their bodies.

    Congrats, Doc, you just invented immortality…!
    Luckily no one ever mentions it again – but such is the problem of non-arc syndicated TV, no one ever refers to past events again, as it might screw up the running order.

    I love gadgets too, especially spaceships. I should get a blog and do things like this myself!

    1. Haha, thank you! :) I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      You’re right, there was one too where a transporter accident made three of the crew members kids again and another one where they discovered people like trapped in the transporter because Broccoli was all paranoid about it. I remember thinking ‘soo… his fears were totally justified then?!’ XD

      Buuut if they could work out all those kinks, it sure would be great to visit friends who live far away without having to drive or fly for 14 hours!

      Let me know if you decide to go with the blog! I’d love to see which doodads you choose! ;)

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