Chekov’s phaser

It came to me first through Jeff Bowles on Facebook today: this Mark Stivers cartoon, presenting a small exercise in cartoon understanding:


Two contributions to the cartoon: a dramatic principle; and the Star Trek tv shows and movies.

Chekhov’s gun. From Wikipedia:

Chekhov’s gun … is a dramatic principle that states that every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed. Elements should not appear to make “false promises” by never coming into play. The statement is recorded in letters by Anton Chekhov several times, with some variation:

— “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

— “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” Chekhov, letter to Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev (pseudonym of A. S. Gruzinsky), 1 November 1889. Here the “gun” is a monologue that Chekhov deemed superfluous and unrelated to the rest of the play.

— “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” From Gurlyand’s Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov, in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No. 28, 11 July, p. 521.

Chekov in Star Trek.(Note the spelling.) And his phaser.

On the character, from Wikipedia:

Pavel Andreievich Chekov … is a fictional character in the Star Trek universe. Walter Koenig portrayed Chekov in the second and third seasons of the original Star Trek series and the first seven Star Trek films.

(#2) Publicity photo of Walter Koenig from the television program Star Trek. (NBC Television)

Anton Yelchin portrayed the character in the 2009 Star Trek reboot film and two sequels, Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. Both Yelchin and Koenig were born to Russian parents, but grew up in the United States, and both affected Russian accents for their roles.

Chekov was added to the cast to have  a young character who would appeal to the youthful segment of the show’s audience; the character was created in part in response to the popularity of The Monkees’ Davy Jones.

On phasers, from the Wikipedia entry on weapons in Star Trek:

Phasers are common and versatile phased array pulsed energy projectile weapons, first seen in the original Star Trek series and later seen or referenced in almost all subsequent films and television spin-offs. Phasers come in a wide range of sizes, ranging from small arms to starship-mounted weaponry. There are several specific types of phasers used by the United Federation of Planets’ Starfleet.

Though they seem to discharge in a continuous “beam”, close observation reveals that phasers actually discharge a stream of pulsed energy projectiles into the target. Phaser output can be adjusted in both area of effect and output: a typical hand phaser can be adjusted so that it will merely shock or stun a living organism, while the effects of higher settings range from burning, and disintegration to true vaporization. This versatility means they can also be used as welding torches or cutting tools, and can create heat sources by firing at a large, solid object (like a rock).

(#3) Koenig as Chekov with phaser raised

… Personal phasers can be made small enough to fit in the user’s palm and still be lethal. Larger and more powerful phaser rifles are commonly issued to security personnel.


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