austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

He is closer now and the search is on

I am, without shame even given the last movie and TV series, a Star Trek fan, and for the most part it's fun. It sometimes leads me into some great stupid arguments, though. I left one forum entirely after a stupid argument about ocean-going boats in the 24th century. (Not Usenet, incidentally; Usenet's Trek newsgroups are horribly shrunk, but what's left is high-quality.) Sometimes the dumb argument turns into a deep question, in this case: when does it stop being a typo and become an alternate spelling?

Somewhere in the past of the Next Generation episode ``The Defector'' either Earth or the Federation fought the Battle of Cheron with the Romulans, which was a humiliating defeat the Romulans still haven't forgotten. Some folks, who like the Trek universe to be as small and tightly-bound as possible, say this is merely an alternate spelling to Pluto's largest moon, Charon. I've always sided with the ``universe is really big and it's a wild coincidence when two things line up'' model; so I point out that if it was supposed to be Charon they would have said Charon.

Unfortunately here a weird bit of Trek folklore messes up things: the idea the ``Battle of Cheron'' was named in the original Star Trek episode that introduced the Romulans, and it's not fair to hold as a substantial difference an error in one letter in naming a body which wouldn't be noticed in the real solar system for another dozen years. That's appealing, but nothing in the Original Series names a single battle of the Earth-Romulan War, nor where the war took place -- near Earth, near Romulus, in-between, wherever. There was an Original Series episode naming a planet Cheron -- it's where the half-white, half-black people came from -- but there's no obvious reason it would be fought over between the Federation and Romulus. (Apart from its being a highly industrialized -- if needing repair -- yet unpopulated planet.)

Where things last stood: I was advancing the theory that Cheron was not meant to be Charon since by the time ``The Defector'' was made in 1990 the production teams knew of the existence of Charon and could have made it that if it was supposed to be. (Admittedly, this assumes the production team knows the major bodies of the solar system.) The counter-argument: there's lots of web pages listing ``Pluto'' with ``Cheron'', so that's just an alternate spelling. My counter-argument: That's (per Google) 485,000 for ``Pluto Charon'', versus 1200 for ``Pluto Cheron'' and 685 for ``Pluto Cheron Charon'', indicating ``Cheron'' is just a typo. When I bailed out of the thread I saw a four-paragraph explanation that Charon is a mythological name from a very long time ago and many myths aren't written down. I'm sure this is addressing a point important to my opponent, but it is not to me. Fun trip while it lasted, though.

Trivia: Charon was the largest moon discovered since Neptune's moon Triton was found in 1846. Source: Planets Beyond: Discovering the Outer Solar System, Mark Littmann.

Currently Reading: Vectors, Charles Sheffield. Good old 1970s hard-flavored science fiction in a non-gloomy future except for the bit about a billion people murdered.

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