Does it matter if it’s not a new plotline?

Star Trek 9Phil: Needing something to read on the train a few days ago, I picked up a second-hand book for a couple of quid. Star Trek 9 contains adaptions of 6 episodes from the famous sci-fi TV series. Ideal reading for a modest journey and cheaper and easier to manage than a newspaper.

Story 5 is called “The Return of the Archons” and involves the Enterprise crew searching for the remains of a missing spacecraft. Arriving on a planet, they discover the population appear to be preparing for a “festival” that begins shortly after they arrive at the “Red Hour”. This turns out to be a bacchanalian display of anarchy and violence.

It transpires that the world is being controlled by a computer which keeps the population under control to remove all violence. Realising that this means there won’t be any of the population control usually provided by war, it invented the “Festival” as a way of reducing the overall numbers with an overnight period when all forms of control were shut off , every moral law abrogated and every person sees every other as their enemy.

Now, I’m reading this and find myself reminded of a film from last year I read about: The Purge.

To quote the description in Wikipedia, “Crime and unemployment rates are at an all-time low due to the government having instituted an annual 12-hour period called “the Purge” during which all criminal activity (including murder) becomes legal”

Sound familiar?

It is said that at any time of the day or night, somewhere in the world, there is an episode of Star Trek appearing on television. It’s not too far-fetched to suggest that the writer of The Purge saw The Return of the Archons and somewhere part of the plot lodged in the back of his mind. On the other hand, the concept of a special law-free period for population control isn’t a big leap. Similar concepts have been used in the films Death Race 2000 and Rollerball, although in these dystopian futures, the focus was on a “sport”.

Are there any new ideas out there?

Does it matter?

Perhaps people like to see ideas given a new spin. Both Archons and Purge take a similar concept but use it in very different settings. Possibly, the newer film has the advantage that it is possible to set this in a reasonably contemporary setting whereas years ago, you’d needed it to be on an alien planet for the audience to accept it. Like all good sci-fi, both are really talking about human nature but using a slightly fantasy setting to do it.

All this has got me wondering what hidden influences our book has. Ideas lurking in the back of our minds that have subliminally influenced our writing.

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