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Silent Bob Rants - Continuity
By Bob Hubbard

Continuity is a key component in writing a good series, or even movie. Defined as “The state of being continuous; uninterupted connection or succession;” Continuity in the context of a TV show means that facts and behaviors presented in one place, will behave similarly in later episodes of a series, or even later moments in the same. While the casual viewer may never notice such things, there are those fans who do notice. Whether they be the ‘nitpickers’ who watch every mud dab and sparkle, or the ones who simply want their fantasy and fiction to be consistent, a consistent and continuous universe allows for the greater suspension of disbelief and encourages better story telling.

Some examples of continuity errors in movies and tv shows follow:

Establishing in an early episode that the maximum speed you can travel at is X. In a later episode, you can suddenly go at X+2. Still later in the series, you are now back to X being your maximum speed. This happened with the original Star Trek, where Warp 6 was considered maximum safe speed, then bumped to Warp 8, then back down again. One episode raised that maximum speed incredibly due to alien modifications to the engines, however the following week, the engines were normal again. Why they didn’t keep the ‘super warp drive’ is of course never explained. Even 1 line saying “We are returning to StarBase X where they will take possession of the alien engine parts for further study.” Would have fixed that continuity problem.

Distances between planets changes simply to add tension. In Star Wars, the distance between Naboo and Coruscant seems to change in each movie, depending on the ‘tension’ needed to be there. In Enterprise, the Klingon homeworld is a few short days away, yet in Next Generation it is several weeks away. Now, perhaps the moon explosion in ST6 caused a rerouting of intergalactic travel routes, but I don’t think so. It is poor planning. An Outpost or colony world could have easily been used in the “Prequel” with no loss of drama or tension, and maintained established details.

Super Weapon of the Week Syndrome. You need to add tension, or kill off a main character, so you resort to the ‘SWOTW’. In the series V, the alien invaders bring in their “Disintegrator Cannon”, and proceed to kill off one of the main characters. The weapon is never used again through out the series. In the Pilot episode of ST Voyager, ‘Quantum’ Torpedoes are used. Never again through out 7 seasons however do we see them again. Regular photons are used. In the case of V, a comment “only one in this quadrant, it’ll take months to bring in a replacement” or “It’s the only one of its kind, newly developed.” could have fixed the error, and added additional tension. Regarding Voyager, again 1 line “Captain, we only have 2, lets make em count!” would have cleared up the issue.

Mystery Races that can’t possibly be in that place, at that time. Enterprise continues to recycle Next Generation aliens as if their star systems are a short hop away. They have already introduced the Klingons almost 60 years early, brought in the Ferengi who though not ‘identified’, can’t possibly have been in that area as their own space is well out of the range of the early Federation borders. Now the debate is on bringing in the Gorn, a race who are at the limits of Federation space in TOS time.

Continuity errors occur for many reasons. Some writers simply aren’t aware of the history of a franchise. Some series don’t have a well-prepared writers guide. Some ‘fixes’ were in fact there, but were edited out during the cutting and such that happens. Sometimes, it’s just plain sloppiness.

Some issues such as coffee stains, alternatively wet and dry mud blotches, and the odd out of place prop are a nuisance, but easily understood as being the result of multiple takes. Some directors do go through great effort to make certain that such little details are in fact addressed.

We would never accept Jar Jar Binks switching between his ‘MushMouth’ Gungan, and Harvard English, and we would never accept a tap dancing Spock. Would we have accepted Conan if from take to take his physique fluctuated, his sword changed, and his hair changed lengths? Would we have accepted LOTR if Frodo suddenly towered over Gandalf? So why should we accept moving planets, impossible physics, and ridiculous plot devices? Simply put, we shouldn’t.

When I watch science fiction, I want to believe that what I am seeing is possible. When I watch fantasy, I want to believe magic exists, dragons can fly, and 1 man can slay an army.

In order to ensure that we receive the best quality movies and tv series, we need to hold the producers accountable for their creations. We must insist that they pay attention to established histories and special geographies when planning their stories. We must insist that when they depart from what is considered ‘canon’, that they explain it in a logical manner. Only then, can we truly suspend our disbelief and immerse ourselves in the universes we love.

Bob Hubbard also known on various on-line forums as "Silent" Bob, and just "Kaith", is a long time sci-fi fan. Currently head of the I.K.V. Devisior, an independant science fiction, anime and fantasy fan club, he has held positions with numerous other groups. He has organized activities at Media Play and Barnes & Nobel, worked con security, participated in club challenges for charities, and participated in masquerades, art shows and model shows at several Toronto conventions.
You can reach Bob at his website,

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