5 Ridiculously Improbable Moments in Science Fiction


Samuel Coleridge coined the phrase “willing suspension of disbelief” in 1817 to describe a concept central to all works of fiction; the audience disregards previously held notions of reality for the opportunity to be entertained by some flavor of fiction.  This literary precept is essential for the enjoyment and creation of fiction – without it plot lines become so cumbersome that a story gets straggled in technical details.  Particularly with genre fiction, the suspension of disbelief is essential.  Without warp drive, there is no Star Trek.  Without lightsabers and the Force, there is no Star Wars.  And yet there are moments when Coleridge’s literary precept is stretched awfully thin.  I’m not taking about the laws of physics that make faster than light travel impossible or how all the aliens conveniently speak English.

Star Wars: A New Hope

“Going somewhere, Solo?”

When you’re a freelance spacer doing what you have to keep flying, its easy to make enemies.  It’s important to have a partner you can count on, a partner you know will back your play – like Chewie is there for Han.  Chewbacca is as fierce and loyal a partner as there ever was, except when he is not.  After their fateful meeting with Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke, Han and Chewie are on their way back to Docking Bay 94 when all of a sudden Greedo steps between them and Chewie leaves the bar.  Even though Chewie was on his way to prep the Falcon for liftoff, his keen Wookie situation awareness would’ve told him to his partner was in a jam.  WTF, Chewie!


“Apone, we can’t have any firing in there.”

Lt. William Gorman, Platoon Commander of a U.S. Colonial Marine Rifle Platoon (2nd Battalion, 9th Regiment) assigned to U.S.S. Sulaco committed a blunder so incredible it surely would’ve got him drummed out of the military.  Having been dispatched to LV-426 to investigate why communications from the colony had gone dark, Gorman’s unit discovers the colonists in the bowels of the atmosphere processing station.  When the civilian advisor tells him his Marines’ weapons could inadvertently destroy the station, Gorman orders his Marines to proceed on mission without any bullets for their guns.  Sure he’d already seen to holes eaten in the metal floors and the facehuggers in the med lab.  But what’s a bit of facehugging between friends?  I’m sure Mama Gorman was proud of her boy.  Way to go, Billy!

Star Wars: A New Hope

“All right men, load your weapons.”

You’re scouring the streets of Mos Eisley – a most wretched hive of scum and villainy on a desert planet just this side of the ass end of nowhere – looking for rebel spies with encrypted plans to a bad ass Imperial battle station which has Lord Darth Vader’s panties in a super twist.  There are cut throats, pirates, smugglers, and thugs around every corner.  None of them have much love for the Empire – so of course you order your troopers to go around with unloaded weapons while every swinging cod is going about locked and cocked.  Yeah.  Right.

Independence Day

“Do you really think you can fly that thing.”

“Do you think you can do all that bullshit you just said?”

A Mac laptop run by a guy working for a cable television company does what all the PCs and super geniuses in the world can’t do – stop an alien invasion

At a time before iPods and iTunes  Apple was struggling to stay afloat.  But when the big baddies came and parked their ships all over the planet Jeff Goldblum somehow managed to use his Mac laptop to devise and transmit a computer virus that crippled the defenses of the invading alien horde.  Of course, this feat is only slightly less impressive than Will Smith’s miraculous ability to pilot an alien spacecraft after watching it fly and becoming “well aware of (it’s) maneuvering capabilities.”  Bitchin’.

Star Trek

Captain Kirk?  Really?

One minute Jimbo is on academic probation and about to get expelled from Starfleet Academy, and the next minute he is the captain of Starfleet’s flagship?

As a side bar, I would’ve happily spent a movie or two watching Ensign Kirk mature into Lieutenant Kirk, onto Commander Kirk and so on.

A former english professor of mine told how he loved Shakespeare until he took a Shakespeare class in graduate school.  He said the endless analysis just sucked all of the joy out of the stories he once loved.  Perhaps its best not to cast too critical an eye at the stories we love.  Maybe it doesn’t matter a whole lot what deck Riker’s quarters are on or what fish are in Picard’s ready room.  Maybe Chewie did see Greedo and just figured Han would be fine on his own.  I mean if Chewie had stopped Han would not have needed to shot first – which we all know is what really happened.