The surgeon was using growth tissue to tend the android's wound when the question came up: "How big would a wound from a phaser be?"
That was a question for John Glassco, a pathologist at Martin Luther King-Drew Medical Center and adviser to Hollywood on way-into-the-future medicine. For this episode of "Babylon 5," he figured out everything from details of the surgical procedure to the color of the test tubes.
He's on the set today in his role as head of Sci-Med, a central source for scientific and medical advice for the entertainment industry. "In the past, getting experts was a costly, willy-nilly process. 'Why don't you call Joe, who knows Bob?' " says Glassco, who formed Sci-Med two years ago after a writer asked for help on a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" script.
Sci-Med advisers include experts in geology, astronomy, forensic psychology, archeology and physics. Most calls are medically oriented (deadly viruses, such as the one he found for "seaQuest," are big). But his favorite calls are for "futuristic medicine and medical extrapolation"--solving medical problems that don't yet exist.
On that score, Glassco has offered advice on genetically engineering a rat the size of a St. Bernard ("Babylon 5"), the impact of time travel on genetic disease (for Oliver Stone's upcoming remake of "Planet of the Apes") and organ replacement in the 24th Century ("Star Trek: The Next Generation"). "My thing is to try and make it at least plausible, scientifically acceptable, in a way that teaches people," Glassco says. "It's medical concepts pushed into the future. It's a nice combination of creativity and hard science."