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I'm seeing a lot of movie/TV questions being answered with comments or answers saying, "Bad writing" or "It was a plot hole the writers forgot about".

How useful are these answers? They don't provide any data that might explain a situation in-universe. It also seems like an insult to the work in question.

I don't think SciFi.SE is the place to start flame wars and it seems these types of answers/comments are breeding nothing but.

Some Examples:

Why didn't Seven of Nine assimilate the Voyager crew when she was separated from the collective?

Why didn't the time cops try to stop Janeway when she traveled back in time to rescue Voyager?

Why only use Seven's nano probes to revive Neelix?

  • Got examples you can point to? – user1027 Nov 26 '11 at 23:04
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    @Keen Any question about Star Trek: Voyager, pretty much. – OghmaOsiris Nov 26 '11 at 23:12
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    I tried to point out in what may become a flame war, "bad writing" is not a fair answer when stated by someone non-writers who haven't seen all the things that can go wrong along the way. Many times we encounter plot points that may be oversights and people are honestly looking for in-universe explanations. Asking such questions is legitimate, but I think "bad writing" should be banned as an answer and those leaving comments with that phrase in it should be given a simple, "Citing bad writing is unconstructive. Are you sure you want to post this comment?" requestor on saving a comment. – Tango Nov 27 '11 at 0:33
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    @TangoOversway: No one is blaming writers specifically. As you say, it isn't an easy task. Not nearly as easy as being an armchair general. However, if there is a plot hole, inconsistency or whatever, then I don't think it is particularly constructive going at great lengths to justify them, either. – Goran Jovic Dec 1 '11 at 16:39
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    @GoranJovic: That's true, but there are also cases where you don't know until you ask. For instance, the episode "The Next Phase" from Star Trek: The Next Generation always raises the question of why two characters don't fall through floors but can go through walls. That answer was in the script and writers and other cast members have mentioned that in interviews. So, while the explanation is not actual canon, there is an answer, yet people still say the reason is "bad writing." It isn't. The omission was due to timing and editing decisions. – Tango Dec 2 '11 at 19:22
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    Personally, I don't know that they are plot holes until someone explains it. Often there is a decent in universe explanation, but I just missed it. – Wikis Dec 21 '11 at 21:14
  • @Tango There's somewhat of a blurry line between an asker asking in good faith for an in-universe explanation for a discrepancy, and just poking at plotholes in a "why didn't the writers think of this" way. In the latter case "It's just a plothole, end of story." is the most appropriate way to say "It happens. Get over it". I think the usefulness of "plot hole" as an answer is at least somewhat contingent on how the question was asked. – Zetta Suro Jun 21 '13 at 19:39
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    @ZettaSuro: The thing is, many times we don't know if it's a plot hole. Sometimes a line or scene is cut in film/video, for example. The fictional universe may have been planned with facts that didn't make it to the final version and just calling it a plot hole when there was an explanation that was left out is an easy way to just blame someone without knowing all the facts. And sometimes what looks like a plot hole is actually a seed for a later story arc or for a resolution to a story arc. – Tango Jun 22 '13 at 8:15
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I'm going to second Kevin's answer. It's NOT OK to say that "any answer of a 'bad writing'/'plot hole' type" is a bad/inappropriate/offtopic answer. While in some situations such an answer can range from sub-optimal to trolling, in others, properly formulated, it's THE correct answer.

What makes such an answer more acceptable?

  • If the answerer researched (widely) all expected in-universe resources, and demonstrates so. Ex:ample: "This is not mentioned in any book, guide, or author interview - I just re-checked".

  • If there is demonstrable lack of in-universe answer otherwise (e.g. no answer after a reasonable period of time, say 2-3 weeks).

  • If there is a general fandom consensus outside of SO question agreeing that this is a plot hole. Again, ideally demonstrated via links.

  • If the "plot hole" is a note at the end of the answer which actually contains in-universe explanation/retcon, but states dissatisfaction with its logical quality/consistency.

  • Obviously, if there's an actual reference, e.g. someone involved with the work admitting "we screwed the pooch here". A good example is an afterword to "Ender in Exile" by O.S.Card which openly addressed some inconsistencies with the original version of "Ender's Game".

  • If the only answers are speculations from SO members, AND the speculations are absolutely weird/not matching the universe/don't make sense/overstretch suspension of disbelief. Example:

    Q.: "Why does Millenium Falcon bank when turning in a vacuum?".

    OK answer: "Because it looks good and dramatic to the audience who grew watching atmospheric dogfights. No in-universe explanation was ever given, despite the fact that banking is required for AIR flight only".

    Not very good, speculative answer: "Because Millenium Falcon probably has a special drive that, when turning, changes thrust in a way that causes banking". Um. No. That was not mentioned in ANY canon. Ever.

What makes such an answer less acceptable?

  • Quick draw "bad writing" shots that don't bother explaining the research done to show that it does NOT, indeed, have in-universe explanation

  • An answer that is contradicted by another answer with in-universe explanation/retcon, no matter how bad (however, saying "here's a retcon, and it isn't very good, so plot hole is a better explanation" is perfectly fine IMHO).

  • A rudely worded answer. "Do you really expect logic in Voyager writing" is not very nice.


Here is a truly excellent answer exemplifying how "no info" answer should be handled:

11

If there's a reasonable in-universe explanation, then perhaps they would be out of line, depending on how they're phrased. But often, especially with the sort of questions asked here (at least about seeming discrepancies), any in-universe explanation requires such mental gymnastics and suspension of disbelief that they just won't cut it.

I think the important part for our purposes, as I alluded to above, is how the comment/answer is phrased, and perhaps how quickly it is posted. I personally like the "made of plot" answers, and I don't think too many people are offended by them, even if there are feasible in-universe answers. On the other hand, a comment shortly after the question was posted to the effect that the writers are idiots is not appropriate (if it's strong enough, probably never appropriate). I think an answer (not comment), without fairly strong sources backing it, flatly saying it's writer error/irreconcilable should not be put forward at least for a day or two, to give others a chance to come up with in-universe answers.

So the final take-away message, as so often happens, is "it depends." If there's a comment or answer you feel is overly rude, flag it and see what a mod has to say about it.

  • I don't think that "plot convenience" answers have any value because ANY question on here could be answered with "cause the writers wanted it that way". Which would defeat the purpose of this whole website. – OghmaOsiris Nov 27 '11 at 7:16
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    @OghmaOsiris - sorry, I disagree. A NULL is a NULL (translated from database design, meaning if there is no data in-universe to explain the whole, then it's a plot whole). And if it's one that requires major gymnastics even for IMAGINED retcon (e.g. one created by the answerer), then it's the ONLY appropriate answer. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 1 '11 at 1:58
  • @DVK: I Agree. Trying to justify plot holes by speculation is even borderline offtopic. Identifying plot holes as well as describing them is ok, though. As ok as discussing movie props, anyway. – Goran Jovic Dec 1 '11 at 16:37
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Let me say this first: If an answer consists solely of "Bad writing/Plot hole/etc", then it is a bad answer, and should be voted down.

Second: The answers to the questions where people posted "bad writing"/"plot hole" comments all involve words and phrases like "probably", "likely", and are generally speculation. This indicates that the particular question being asked was never properly addressed by the show. So, what's the difference between a question asked because of "bad writing" versus a question asked because the person wasn't paying enough attention? Usually, the latter will have an answer or two with references to the media in question, while the former will consist almost entirely on speculation. For instance, this question about Harry Potter: Where did Harry's parents get all of their money from? uses an interview from the author to explain why Harry is rich.

Finally: Finally, comments are usually meant as jokes, or possibly "half-answers". Frankly, I would expect the same sort of comments about anything where the writing just wasn't that great. The reason a lot of people are doing it with the Star Trek: Voyager questions is because Star Trek had/has a large fanbase, and for many of these fans, Voyager was a disappointment. You would see the same thing happening with the Star Wars Prequels.

Alternately, just repeat to yourself it's just a show website, I should really just relax.

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    Voyager is my favorite Star Trek. Everything except the episode where Janeway and Paris became newts and mated... – Kalamane Nov 28 '11 at 18:14

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