Out with the New

"The Time Vortex and Bad Wolf" | Art by jasric. Used with permission.

Newer isn’t always better.

Just ask all of the loyal Samsung customers who ran out and bought the new Samsung ‘splody phone. They thought they were getting was new-and-improved technology. What they actually got was the choice between keeping a pocket bomb or trading it back in for last year’s phone. They also got a stern warning not to carry their new phones on airplanes.

If you’re not a Samsung customer, don’t feel too smug. If you’ve got Windows 10, Microsoft has been quietly force-feeding your computer the Anniversary Update, which might improve your device. Or it might turn your perfectly functional computer into a giant paperweight.

Don’t even get me started on iOS 10. I miss the slide-to-unlock feature desperately and wish my iPad and I could just go back to the way we used to be.

As a geek, I should know better than to expect good things from an upgrade. If fiction has taught me anything, it’s that upgrades are usually a very, very bad idea.

Upgrades are bad, right?

When Rose wanted to save the Doctor from the Daleks, she exposed the heart of the TARDIS and was infused with the Time Vortex. Like the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, it wasn’t exactly voluntary. It also didn’t go well. The power was too much for Rose and the Doctor sacrificed his incarnation to save her. Oh sure, we got David Tennant out of the deal, but… actually, that is a pretty good deal.

But as for unnecessary upgrades… do you remember what happened to Lt. Barclay in Star Trek: The Next Generation? He and Geordi went on a little away mission to see why the Argus Array wasn’t working. He got knocked out by an alien probe and woke up greatly enhanced. Eventually he wired the Enterprise directly into his brain so he could control the ship’s systems. As a result, he jumped the ship right to the heart of the galaxy where they met a cool new alien race and spent ten days exchanging information. If Barclay hadn’t been upgraded they would never have never made those new friends.

Hang on… that example doesn’t prove my point either. Upgrades are bad, right?

Let me try again.

What about Extremis in Iron Man 3? Yeah! That’s a baaaad upgrade. Maya Hansen, a research scientist, comes up with a nifty formula for rapid healing. The idea is to help restore lost limbs and generally enhance bodily functions. Unfortunately, she ends up with the human version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Sure, the formula works for a while and the subjects are much enhanced… until they go BOOM! I’m pretty sure they’re banned on airplanes too.

What keeps us hitting the ‘upgrade’ button when our instincts scream that we shouldn’t?

And then there’s Caroline in Portal 2.

Caroline had a sweet gig going working as the assistant to beloved CEO and lunatic Cave Johnson. Things went south for her when her personality was forced into a new computer system named GLaDOS. In that form she was just wicked. And funny. Very, very funny. But still wicked, so I think we can count that one as a bad upgrade.

In fact, the whole computer/human hybrid thing never works out. Just ask Chuck Bartowksi.

His TV series started when he was forcibly upgraded with the Intersect computer. In an instant he went from being a slacker nerd, to being the container for the most important secrets in the world. He spends the next five seasons dodging bad guys, fighting evil, and falling in love with Sarah. If it weren’t for the Intersect, he’d have stayed as a low-achieving geek working as a cog in the exciting world of corporate retail.

Okay, so maybe I was wrong. Sometimes the upgrades do work out. That’s the hope that keeps us going; that keeps all of us geeks hitting the ‘upgrade’ button when our instincts scream that we shouldn’t. Yeah, it might turn out to be an Extremis upgrade. On the other hand, if we get to meet the friendly aliens or fall in love with a fellow agent, it’s totally worth the hassle.

Kevin Cummings

Kevin Cummings

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Kevin grew up reading the ABCs—Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke. Since then he's expanded his fandoms to include films, television, web series and any other geek property he can find.

He has been married to an extraordinarily patient woman for more than three decades and they have two adult sons. Kevin also has entirely too many DVD boxes with the words "Complete Series" on the cover. He enjoys exploring themes of faith through his fandoms.
Kevin Cummings