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The Star Trek: The Next Generation Writers/Directors Guide from 1987 mentions in its "What doesn't work" section (emphasis by myself):

  1. Treating deep space as a local neighborhood. Too often, script ideas show characters bouncing from solar system to solar system, planet to planet, without the slightest comprehension of the distances involved or the technologies required to support such travel. Fine (and even fun) on SPACE RANGERS but not on STAR TREK.

Let me say that I think this rule/wish was pretty much ignored as the series went on (for what it's worth, this applies to various of the items in the "What doesn't work" list). "Bouncing from solar system to solar system" is exactly what Star Trek crews tend to do in some episodes, and Star Trek certainly has its examples of writers "without the slightest comprehension of the distances involved" (warning, TVTropes link).

That notwithstanding, what does the mention of "SPACE RANGERS" allude to?

  • Is it a reference to some concrete work named "SPACE RANGERS", just like "STAR TREK" in the same sentence? If so, which one? I only know one short-lived show of that name, but it's from 1993 and thus probably wasn't yet in the making back in 1987. The Disambiguation page on Wikipedia doesn't list any other candidates of that name that would really fit, either.
  • Or is the term "Ranger" just meant to evoke a certain generic idea among the presumed U.S. American readers of the document? (One that is still so specific as to match the description in the paragraph? So far, "ranger" usually made me think of vast and sparsely populated areas than a "local neighbourhood", but then, I do lack the right cultural background to know that word in context ;) )
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    My first thought here was a reference to David Starr, Space Ranger, first book of a six-book series by Isaac Asimov; that said, there's relatively little zipping around in that series, and the one time it does happen (when Starr needs to make a high-speed run from Ceres to Ganymede) it is treated as A Big Deal. There was a contemporaneous (but unrelated) TV show, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger; could it be in reference to that?
    – ToxicFrog
    Aug 5 at 21:20
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    There was a short-run contemporaneous comic called "Star Rangers" whose characters somewhat fit the travelling law-makers mold.
    – DavidW
    Aug 5 at 21:33
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Under the circumstances, I believe the writer may be referring to the TV serial 'Rocky Jones, Space Ranger', a syndicated science fiction TV serial from the 1950s.

This show is a perfect example of planet-hopping adventure with no real worldbuilding conception of how travel in space would actually occur.

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    Downvoted because this show is not that culturally significant. The word Rangers is culturally generic - mostly from the TV Westerns that Star Trek competed against - and a clearly play on "Trek" - as both mean to move around. Aug 5 at 21:38
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    @lucasbachmann - I'm a little more confident in this. Roddenberry and Gerrold would certainly have been aware of this show given that it aired within a few years of TOS. Additionally, it's a fair approximation of precisely the sort of show that Roddenberry was keen to avoid.
    – Valorum
    Aug 5 at 21:48
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    The original star trek was ancient TV history for the freelance writers of 1987. It is absurd that a writers bible would reference an obscure 1954 series as a counter example. What a writers bible would do is set up a straw man copycat series - and with their thesaurus handy (as they are professional writers) - create something that sounded just like star trek to compare against. Exactly like one would create Galaxy Quest. Aug 5 at 23:30
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    There were a number of similar shows in the fifties, like Space Patrol and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (all likely inspired by the popularity of Heinlein's Space Cadet), so it's possible the writer's guide was just using "Space Rangers* as a generic term for this type of show. In the book The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, Robert H. Justman references Space Patrol when talking about how fans sometimes want the same-old-same-old (in the context of negative reaction to a new cast on TNG): "Otherwise, why do anything different? Let’s do Space Patrol. It was on and people liked it."
    – Hypnosifl
    Aug 5 at 23:43
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    In addition to the reasons listed in the text of the answer, in the first ten minutes of the episode linked, the characters actually talk about the different planets being neighbors and travel between them seems to take minutes or hours at most, far shorter than the days or weeks depicted in some of the best ST:TNG episodes. The clip makes this answer seem even more likely. Aug 6 at 0:43
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While there was eventually a show in 1993 called Space Rangers (It did not survive competing in the same space as DS9 and Babylon 5). I'm quite certain you are correct that this is meant to invoke an idea with people of a certain cultural background. They could have just as easily said generically "GALAXY QUEST".

Prior cultural examples would be "Lone Ranger" [Edit as Star Trek was originally competing with TV Westerns and followed the same format - just in space.] and Tom Corbett Space Cadet [Edit - I actually should have said Rocky Jones Space Ranger here - but it doesn't matter that show is not particularly significant as the word Ranger is generic western stuff]. Star Trek being originally a "Wagon Train" to the stars.

Addendum: By creating a made up strawman tv show to compare itself to with a similar title - the Star Trek bible is elevating itself above what a cheap copycat show would do. It "treks" according to the physics of that universe. The copycat show "ranges" at the speed of plot. In reality of course Trek has an very mixed record on that front. But compare how much JJ trek changed speeds to instantaneous just serve the plot - that is the point it was trying to make

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    This feels like total guesswork. Can you offer anything by way of evidence?
    – Valorum
    Aug 5 at 21:19
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    I suppose you may be correct, although I am still a bit at a loss to imagine how either "Lone Ranger" (based on what I'm reading about it) or "Galaxy Quest" (also ignoring the, seen from 1987, future scifi parody film) evoke the idea that characters could effortlessly hop from system to system, while "Star Trek" would not. (On the other hand, maybe this rule has been so much ignored on modern Star Trek that I have a hard time making the connection between "Star Trek" and not feeling like they're visiting their "local neighbourhood".) Aug 5 at 21:20
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    @O.R.Mapper By creating a made up strawman tv show to compare itself too with a similar title - the Star Trek bible is elevating itself above what a cheap copycat show would do. It "treks" according to the physics of that universe. The copycat show "ranges" at the speed of plot. In reality of course Trek has an very mixed record on that front. But compare how much JJ trek changed speeds to instantaneous just serve the plot - that is the point it was trying to make. Aug 5 at 21:47
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    I fully understand the concept of "creating a made up strawman tv show" that might be at work here. What I am not yet convinced of is that the presented examples would necessarily evoke the very ideas implied by this paragraph. See, 'It "treks" according to the physics of that universe. The copycat show "ranges" at the speed of plot.' happens to fit the description. However, is 'One show "ranges" according to the physics of that universe, while the other one "treks" to all kinds of places at the speed of plot.' any less likely a connection readers could make? Aug 5 at 21:59

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