Theresa Haffner

Rookie - 15 Points (August 25,1945 / Plainwell, Michigan)

The Next Generation

(STARDATE 45122.3. The sensors aboard the Starship Enterprise have detected a subspace anomaly. The nature of the anomaly is as yet unknown, but Commander Data has reported a slight drain on the warp core generator. Captain Jean Luc Picard has alerted the senior crew members to keep him informed of any changes and meanwhile continue on course to the colony on Aldebaran III)

“It must mean we’re really getting old when the only thing we talk about is television, ” I say to Bobby. He sits across from me, the flickering colors from the TV screen playing across his face, the dim light illuminating the room like a lunar landscape.

We are watching episode #232 of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’ There are no more new episodes. We have seen this episode before, but we are watching it because it’s better than not watching it. We watch it at the same time every night. We are watching it because we are addicted to its predictable action, its monotone dialog, its hypnotic cinematography. We watch it because we have seen so many episodes that we know all the characters, their life histories, their personal characteristics, their predilections and idiosyncrasies, better than we know some of our own family members.

(Commander Data has been experimenting with oil painting. All of his subjects appear to be meticulously drawn but do not express feeling. Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi suggests that he attempt abstract art to explore his subjective experience.

Their conversation is interrupted, however, by a message from the bridge. The subspace anomaly has greatly increased in both its size and intensity. If it continues to grow at its present rate the Enterprise will soon be in danger of being drawn into it and being destroyed.)

I feel that my life is slipping away, that I am trapped, helpless, in a void of television shows, TV dinners, and a routine of daily activity, doing the same thing at the same time each day, that makes the days go by as quickly and painlessly as possible. I feel that each week that passes is a week that I will never have again. That I am dying, slowly, the life energy being sucked out of me, a little bit each hour, each day, in a plethora of ‘Seinfeld, ’ ‘Friends’, ‘The X-Files, ” and ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’ That I am caught in a time warp and slowly and inexorably being drawn into its vortex.

{The subspace anomaly continues to grow and to draw energy from the Starship’s warp core generator.

“Shields at 14 per cent, ” says Commander Worf.

“At this rate the Enterprise will be destroyed in 13 hours,28 minutes, and 32 seconds, ” says Data.)

Somehow I’ve got to escape from this, to rejoin the flow of humanity, to begin my life once more. If only I could meet the person, write the poem, sing the song, paint the painting. If only I could break the cycle. But it’s too safe remaining here. And I use television like a drug, insulating me from my own feelings, insulating me from my own sense of loss, substituting instead the fictitious emotions of fictitious characters, lived vicariously at the same time each day, with a standardized format designed to keep the self distant, removed, safe, anaesthetized from the pain of indirect living.

Bobby says, “You really know you’ve been watching too much television when everything on the cable is a re-run.”

(Captain’s Log Supplemental: The Enterprise has escaped from the subspace anomaly with 1.4 seconds to spare. The senior officers on the bridge look at each other with a sigh of relief.

“Ensign, lay in a course for Star Base 67, bearing 6571, mark 82, warp six, ” says Picard.

“Engage! ”)

Submitted: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

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