#97 – Law & Order: Alpha Quadrant

29 Comments on #97 – Law & Order: Alpha Quadrant

I gotta be honest, Dax is kind of a snore. Or at least it feels that way on a rewatch; I suppose it’s not fair to it in retrospect to see it after having already had the Jadzia/Dax character developed further and Dax and Sisko’s relationship built out some, because some of this stuff may have felt a bit more exciting and “ooh, is that how it works?” on first blush. But it’s a clunky court-drama framing for character development with a lot of exposition and surprisingly little drama for what’s framed as a dramatic situation.

But at least that Arbiter lady had a round gavel. IT’S LIKE WHAT WE KNOW HERE ON PRESENT DAY EARTH, BUT DIFFERENT IN SOME WAYS.

Also, in my first draft of this strip I let Data use a possessive ‘s form (something about “Jadzia’s something”), and then had a sudden moment of self-doubt. Can Data do that? I mean, it’s not actually the same sort of contractive structure as stuff like “it’s” or “there’s” or “I’d”, so it seems like the rule needn’t apply; but it is an informal elliptical shortening of an underlying grammatical structure. There’s no possessive ‘s form that couldn’t in principle be rewritten as something else (“Jadzia’s freckles” becomes “the freckles Jadzia has on her skin”, etc). It might be stiff and awkward, but that’s, idiolectically speaking, Data’s whole fucking thing.

A quick search of scripts suggests, in any case, that Data does in fact use the possessive ‘s form regularly. Which is entirely sane, but a little disappointing. I suppose this is one of those “it would make terrible television” things, mostly; having Data spend two words where one would do is fine, but never ten where two would. We can have him be a touch prolix, but let’s not go full-on pleonastic, right?

I like the idea of there being whole tiers of tiresomely grammatically formal styles of AI speech, actually. Data’s “I do not use contractions” thing could just be the tip of the iceberg; the no-possessive-‘s thing would be another step down that road, but why not just eliminate pronouns entirely as well, to further save computational complexity in your language software? No more he or she or they, and thus no need to match antecedents. No passive voice constructions. And so on. Basically your budget AI speaks more or less like a See Spot Run book.