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V'Ger

Specs

Universe : Prime Timeline
Affiliation : Unknown
Class Name : V'Ger
Type : Originally insystem probe. Boosted to long range interstellar probe, later evolved into independent sentience1
Unit Run : Only one vessel known to exist1 1 built in total. 1 have been lost in all.
Commissioned : Late 20th century; upgraded to V'Ger in early 21st century1
Dimensions : Length : 97,500 m2
Beam : 27,700 m
Diameter : 32,000 m
Mass : Unknown, but likely to be trillions of tons
Armament : Unknown, but not known to have armament in the normal sense; capable of launching plasma-based devices intended to absorb targets for study.1
Defence Systems : Unknown
Warp Speeds
(TNG scale) :
Unknown. May be capable of very high warp speeds or have some form of transwarp or other advanced drive.
Diplomatic Capability : Diplomatic functions conducted by custom built remote probes
Expected Hull Life : Unknown, but probably indefinite

Notes

Perhaps the most unique vessel ever encountered by Starfleet, V'Ger was first detected by the Epsilon Nine station in 2271 as it crossed Klingon space hidden within an 82 AU-diameter cloud formation. Three K'T'Inga class Klingon battlecruisers attempted an attack on the cloud while the station watched; all three were destroyed in minutes by some form of plasma bolt which disintegrated the vessels somehow. V'Gers projected course would take it directly to Earth at high warp speed; the high speed made it virtually impossible for any Starship not directly ahead of the phenomenon to intercept it. It crossed the Federation close to Epsilon Nine, destroying the station as it passed.

Fortunately, the USS Enterprise was just completing an extensive refit under Captain Decker in Earth orbit. The ship was assigned the task of intercepting the advancing cloud and investigating it with a view to ascertaining the danger to Earth and taking whatever action was possible. Starfleets Chief of Operations at the time - Admiral Kirk - argued that Decker was not experienced enough for the mission and convinced Admiral Nogura to hand over command of the ship to him for the duration of the crisis. Despite some technical problems, the Enterprise was able to intercept V'Ger before it reached Sol. Initially attacked by the same plasma weapons which had destroyed the Klingons, the ship was able to communicate its peaceful intentions and was allowed to move into the cloud.

The cloud proved to be a twelve power energy field, which given its size meant that the power required to generate it was greater than the total output of Earths sun. At the heart of the cloud the Enterprise discovered a colossal spacecraft.1
The ship was almost one hundred kilometres long; the Enterprise conducted a close examination of the surface which revealed single components kilometres across. The aft section of the ship consisted of a group of six radial towers, while the bows contained a huge structure similar to a hangar bay. The Enterprise was captured by a tractor and dragged into the bay,1 which itself was over a hundred cubic kilometres in volume.

V'Ger absorbed the Enterprises navigator, Lieutenant Ilea, and created a probe in her image in order to interact with the crew. The probe revealed the ships name and claimed that it was going to Earth in order to contact its creator - a statement which caused considerable surprise to the crew. While the ship continued to attempt meaningful communication with the probe, Captain Spock took a thruster suit and penetrated further into the vessel in an attempt to gain more information about it. He found an even larger chamber which contained images of ships, space stations, planets - whole galaxies scanned and stored in perfect detail. One of the images was what appeared to be a planet of living machines - Spock conjectured that this was V'Gers home planet, and that V'Ger itself was a living thing.

Spock attempted a mind meld with V'Ger, and although the experience caused him considerable mental trauma he was able to gain some insight into the vessel. The machine had been travelling the universe for centuries, gathering huge amounts of information in an attempt to learn everything possible. Once V'Ger had amassed knowledge which spanned the universe it had become determined to return that data to its creator, which it believed resided on Earth.

When V'Ger arrived at Earth it attempted to communicate with its creator via a simple radio signal. When this attempt failed it informed the Enterprise crew that the "carbon units" - organic lifeforms - which infested the planet were preventing the creator from responding. V'Ger decided to destroy the infestation, but Admiral Kirk was able to bluff it into believing that he knew why the creator would not respond. Kirk insisted that he be allowed to give the information to V'Ger directly, and was duly taken to the heart of the vessel.

There Kirk found the NASA space probe Voyager VI, launched from Earth during the late 20th century. Voyager VI had fallen through a wormhole while on its journey and was believed destroyed. In fact, it had emerged intact near the machine planet. The machines misread the damaged nameplate as V-GER; they recognized Voyager as kindred to themselves and interpreted its simple programming literally - Voyager was to learn everything that was learnable, then return that information to its creator on Earth. They built the gigantic vessel in order to allow V'Ger to fulfil this simple program.

While on its journey, V'Ger acquired so much knowledge that it became a conscious entity in its own right. However, it was still limited by its original program - compelled to learn everything possible. Once V'Ger had accomplished this it lacked any real sense of purpose, and was unable to create a new mission for itself. Kirk attempted to trigger V'Ger to transmit its information by broadcasting the old NASA code designed for this purpose, but V'Ger burned out its radio to prevent reception - it was determined to physically join with its maker. V'Ger wanted to access higher dimensions, but was unable to prove the existence of these by pure logic alone. It needed to acquire Human intuition in order to continue its mission. Captain Decker took up the challenge, wiring himself directly into Voyagers ground test computer. The result was startling - before the eyes of the Enterprise officers Decker and V'Ger merged into a single being. The entire hundred kilometre long vessel vanished in a flare of light, leaving the Enterprise alone in Earth orbit.

Since the event there has been no further contact from the new lifeform and none seems likely. Captain Decker and Lieutenant Ilea were logged by Captain Kirk as "missing", a status which remains to this day. We can only assume that V'Ger accomplished its goal.1

Yellow text = Canon source Green text = Backstage source Cyan text = Novel White text = DITL speculation

References

# Series Season Source Comment
1 Star Trek : The Motion Picture
2 Speculative Scaled against the USS Enterprise in 'Star Trek : The Motion Picture'. Note that image is somewhat speculative.
Film: Star Trek : The Motion Picture
Source : Speculative
Comment : Scaled against the USS Enterprise in 'Star Trek : The Motion Picture'. Note that image is somewhat speculative.

Comments

Amazing as it may sound, this entry started life as a bored Monday night! There was nothing on TV, so I put Star Trek : The Motion picture into the machine and started watching. After I finished, I realized that the film never gives us a single solid statement as to just what V'Ger looks like or how big it is. The thought was irritating (not a new thought, just an irritating one!), so I started a thread on rec.arts.startrek.tech and startrek.expertforum.ricksternbach to see what the folks there thought.

I'm indebted to all those who contributed their thoughts on that thread, which rapidly went beyond simple size and shape and into V'Gers capabilities, TMP in general, and Trek as a whole. Special thanks go to Admiral Korel, Timo S Saloniemi and especially Mike Dicenso.

Mike and I have both done independent calculations of V'Gers size by calculating the speed which the Enterprise travelled at during its long fly-by and multiplying by how long the trip took. Here are my own figures :

Our first good view of the E's speed comes as they are passing over the bulk of the ship, just before Kirk orders "viewer astern". We see the ship cross what seems to be a hull area with large open chasms in it, with light spilling out of the chasms.

I measured the ship as being 19 pixels long, and the lighter patch it crossed as being 80 pixels; that makes the gap 1,284 metres wide along the E's course line. The ship takes about 3 1/4 seconds to cross the gap.

Speed for this shot = 395 metres per second.

The next shot I tried was the one shortly after we see Decker watching the view screen, and about 20 seconds before the ship passes four big glowing orange spheres. The ship traverses a dark patch of hull surrounded by a lighter area. It's hard to judge distances here, and it doesn't look as square on as before, but my estimate of the ship is 17 pixels. It crosses a patch of hull between two surface features equal to about 84 pixels (1,507 m) in about 3.8 seconds.

Speed for this shot = 396 metres per second.

Finally, I tried the shot just before Kirk orders "hold relative position here". This is a good square on view, but there are very few features to measure the ships speed against. Since V'Ger is stationary relative to the camera I took two pictures and pasted part of one onto the other. The ship measured 16 pixels in this shot, and covered 323 pixels (6,157 metres) in about 16 seconds.

Speed for this shot = 384 metres per second.

So all figures agree to a pretty good accuracy on a speed of 390 m/s.

Now it's a little unclear exactly when they begin to pass over V'Ger or when they complete the trip, but the flyby sequence lasts about 4 min 10 sec. All of which gives V'Ger a total length of (drum roll please)... 97.5 kilometres.

This is the figure I have used on the specs page. I hesitated over whether I should make the number yellow to indicate canon, since it was directly based on the on-screen images. However, while the speed seems pretty solid there are several cuts during the Enterprises fly-by and this makes the timeline uncertain.

As usual with craft which the "real" Daystrom Institute wouldn't be expected to know much about, I've been fairly willing to pepper the rest of the specs with "unknowns" or speculations. The Notes are almost entirely drawn directly from the film; the size of the cloud is mentioned by the Epsilon Nine personnel, the fact that V'Gers cloud is a twelve power energy field is mentioned by Sulu. The reactions of the others to this statement indicate that it is not the twelve power reference that is amazing, but rather that something of this size could measure so much. It seems that the number refers to power per unit area or volume, and this is how the specs page treats it.

V'Gers shape is based in large part on what we see in the film, but Timo tells me that the Reeves-Stevens book "ST Phase II: The Lost Series" has some drawings of V'Ger. While the drawings are not marked as final, Timo assures me that at least one image corresponds nicely to what we saw. He gives the following description :

"...what we see is an elongated, perhaps a bit squidlike design that might be close to that 75 km figure - no scale is given, but the array of (six?) finlike radial protrusions at the bow corresponds to the huge towers seen next to the teeny-weeny 300m Enterprise in the movie. At the very bow is the shutter-like "mouth" that swallowed the starship, and apparently the glowing surface greeblings are mainly located between the radial fins and thus obscured from view."

I haven't gone into this much detail in the specs page, but have used the basic towers at the back, cavern at the front layout seen in the film.

V'Gers history is surmised by the crew largely based on Spocks observations of the inner chamber. This contained images of planets, and apparently whole galaxies. We see no actual images of galaxies in the film; obviously even a 100 km long ship can't hope to accommodate such images at 1:1 scale, but then we do see several planets, and it couldn't accommodate these either. Nor is the image of Ilea stored at 1:1 size. My assumption is that V'Ger stores objects it "digitizes" at whatever size is most convenient for study - considerably larger than the original in the case of something as small as a single person, considerably smaller in the case of a planet. So V'Ger certainly can have images of entire galaxies stored even within itself.

The idea that V'Ger has been destructively digitizing whole galaxies is a difficult one to accept. Especially given some of the other claims - Spock says that it's knowledge "spans our universe", while V'Gers return to Earth indicates that it has fulfilled its program to "learn everything which is learnable". The conclusion would be that V'Ger has in fact digitized everything in the universe! If nothing else, the fact that our own galaxy at least continues to exist shows that this cannot be so.

The logistics of this task are also improbable, to put it mildly. If we are not to assume some form of time travel, V'Gers origins in the late 20th century limit its journey to around 280 years. Assuming the average Galaxy contains around 100 billion stars, even digitizing one single galaxy would mean absorbing nearly a million star systems a day. This is obviously a little hard to credit.

I would suggest, then, that V'Ger only digitized things which particularly interested it - or annoyed it, as the Klingons seem to have done. Presumably it gained its knowledge of the remainder of the universe via some non-destructive form of scanning. The distances covered indicate that V'Ger was capable of impressive speeds - the sort of speeds that the E-D achieved in "Where No One Has Gone Before" are probably in the ballpark, if not the infinite speeds achieved by Tom Paris in "Threshold". My own mental image is of V'Ger using something like these drives to zip around the universe in a matter of seconds then using a more standard form of warp or transwarp to travel through the relatively dense groups of galaxies, scanning them as it passed.

However you imagine it, if the descriptions of V'Ger given in the film are accurate, it must be just about the most incredible piece of hardware in all of science fiction history. Capable of speeds well into the billions of times light speed, scanning over ranges of tens of millions of light years, storing almost incomprehensible amounts of information - truly awesome.
Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 27,398 Last updated : 3 Sep 2006