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Random Musings

This is a catchall section where I'll be putting random comments, rants, complaints, congratulations and musings on a variety of topics. Some will be short, a paragraph or two to note something in passing. Others might be longer, some might end up becoming full blown articles of their own one day. These aren't necessarily topics I have thought of myself - many will be my take on things I've read elsewhere. Much will be familiar to anybody who reads the stuff I post to newsgroups. I hope you enjoy them...

Table of Contents

Shield Shapes

Trek has historically tended to depict shields as a large ellipsoid bubble around the ship. We see this clearly on the Enterprise-D in episodes such as 'Silicon Avatar', 'The Arsenal of Freedom', etc. We see it on DS9 in 'Emissary'. We see it on the Sovereign class Enterprise-E in 'First Contact' - see my Sector 001 Battles page for a good image of this.

However, sometimes the shields seem to change shape radically. For instance, in 'Call to Arms', DS9 suddenly seems to have a shield bubble around the central core but skin-hugging conformal shields around the rest of it. In 'Nemesis' the Enterprise-E has conformal shielding. Why the change?

It's possible that the switch represents a major change in shield technology, but this seems unlikely. DS9 used both types of shield at the same time - if conformal shields were better, why keep using bubble shields? It seems to me more likely that ships and stations can alternate between bubble and conformal shields more or less at will, much as you can extend shields around nearby objects at will.

We know from those times when ships have extended their shields that the shields grow weaker as they grow larger. So for a given shield system, conformal shields should be stronger than bubble shields.

However, we also know that ships can take damage through their shields. At a guess, some small fraction of the weapon impact tends to "leak through" to the hull underneath. With a bubble shield, such leaks would happen far from the hull, and so might disperse before reaching it. With conformal shields leaks would be directly onto the hull.

So there is a tradeoff at work here. Bubble shields are weaker and so allow more enemy fire to leak through, but that fire that does leak through does less damage. Conformal shields are stronger and so allow less fire to leak through, but what does get through does more damage.

Keeping Track of the Timeline

Some of the major points in the future and their related points in the past :

Who / WhatWhenSeriesEpisode
The Guardian of Forever.50,000,000th Century bcTOS"The City on the Edge of Forever"
Tox'Utat was left here. This is also where Rasmussen stole his time pod, and where at least part of the Temporal Cold War is being fought out on Enterprise.22nd CenturyTNG, ENT"Captain's Holiday", "A Matter of Time", Various Enterprise episodes.
Federation discovers time travel.23rd CenturyTOS"The Naked Time"
Rasmussen Time Pod.
The Xindi component was from this century, in the year 2573 if the quantum dating was correct. This was also the century in which the Xindi homeworld was reported to have been destroyed by Humanity.
26th CenturyTNG
"A Matter of Time"
"The Expanse"
Tox'Utat / Vorgons was from here.27th CenturyTNG"Captain's Holiday"
Daniels says his enemies are from here. This is the period "Future Guy" is from, and it seems likely that Future Guy is one of Daniels' chief enemies, though this is never stated directly.28th CenturyENT?
Timeship Aeon.29th CenturyVOY"Future's End, Part I & II"
Timeship Relativity.29th CenturyVOY"Relativity"
Crewman Daniels.31st centuryENT"Cold Front"
The Pod Timeship came from here - possibly part of Daniels's group?31st centuryENT"Future Tense"

What to do About the Daedalus?

We have all long assumed that the Daedalus class was a prominent fixture of the early Federation - that it was in fact the main predecessor to the Constitution class Enterprise that kirk used. This is not just a fan assumption - the Daedalus design is featured in model form on sets in various episodes, appears in official books like the Chronology and Encyclopedia, etc. Many of the ship names mentioned as early Federation vessels - the likes of the Archon and the Horizon - have been assumed to be Daedalus class in these sources. In fact the only ship canonically established as a Daedalus class vessel is the USS Essex, in service at least 2167 or before.

But now that Enterprise is making a big deal of the NX class, what can we do about the Daedalus? The Horizon was mentioned as being operational in 2167, some 16 years after Enterprise was launched. The Essex was in service at least this early. So the Daedalus has to be a contemporary or successor to the NX. That rather messes up the progression in design - instead of the previous transition from sphere to circular saucer to elliptical saucer, we would go from circular saucer to sphere back to circular saucer and then elliptical saucer. We could live with this by suggesting that this design represents some sort of low-speed ship, something like a cargo carrier or colonist ship that needs lots of internal space rather than sleek lines for high warp speed. But this doesn't jibe too well with the Essex being out so deep in space that the Enterprise-D was exploring the same area two hundred years later.

So you have to ask... do we really need to keep the sphere hulled design at all now? Our only canonical proof of the existence of the design comes from models seen in the background. Those could just as easily represent ships that never existed - proposed designs that never made it, perhaps.

In my humble opinion, the sphere-hulled design cannot represent a cutting-edge explorer Starship any more. So the logical conclusion is that the spherical hulled ship is not in fact the Daedalus class. Either the sphere-hulled ship represents some other class name, probably a cargo or colonist ship of some sort, or it represents a fictional ship that never existed at all. There was a Daedalus class, but it looked more like a successor to the NX class. Ships like the Horizon and Archon may have belonged to the NX class, or may be part of this new-look Daedalus class.

For now I'm waiting - I want to see if other NX class ships turn up and what their names might be, and if we get to see other Starship designs anytime soon on Enterprise. Perhaps the creators will throw a little canonical light onto the issue.

Why are Klingons and Romulans mono-species empires?

In TOS "Errand of Mercy" we see that the Klingons are not averse to invading other species. In fact Kirk makes it sound like this is a very common thing.

Yet we have never seen a single non-Klingon living on a Klingon planet or serving on a Klingon ship. Okay in Kirk's time the populations were kept under tight control - so it is unlikely that they get to serve in the military, and possibly illegal for them to leave their planets. Fair enough.

But what about in TNG times? The Empire is now a much more "moral" place. What's happened to all those slave species? Did the Klingons withdraw from those planets? Surely not all of them - IIRC, the planet Krios where Kamala came from in 'The Perfect Mate' was later said to be a Klingon world. Yet we still never see any non-Klingons.

Similar thing with the Romulans. We now have the Remans, who apparently do serve in the military, yet we have never seen a single non-Romulan in the empire. Do they have slave races like the Klingons do? In TOS their attitude was that they should invade anybody who was weaker than they were.

Starfleet's Not So Finest

Okay, here is a list of some Starfleet officers and their activities :

Admiral KennellyBetrayed Federation principles to work with the Cardassians against the bajoran resistenceTNG"Ensign Ro"
Admiral LeytonTried to stage a military coup on Earth.DS9"Homefront" / "Paradise Lost"
Admiral PressmanIllegally developed a phase cloak device.TNG"The Pegasus"
Admiral RossCo-operated with Section 31 (boo! hiss!) during the warDS9"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges"
Admiral SatieStarted accusing and condeming people falsely and without due process.TNG"The Drumhead"
Captain GarthWent insane, tried to wipe out an alien species. Tried to kill Kirk.TOS"Whom Gods Destroy"
Captain JanewayMurdered Tuvix. Multiple Prime Directive breaches. Multiple Temporal Directive breaches.VOY"Tuvix" / Various
Captain KirkMultiple Prime Directive breaches. Stole and subsequently destroyed the USS Enterprise.TOS"The Apple", etc.
Captain PicardAt leastnineviolations of the Prime Directive, including one committed only so that a Starfleet officer's life could be spared, despite repeated statements that Starfleet personnel vow to uphold the Prime Directive even if it means their lives.TNG"Justice"
Captain SiskoBetrayed the Federation Council to reveal information to the Cardassians, thus causing the Federation-Klingon war.DS9"Way of the Warrior"
Captain TraceyBroke the Prime Directive to live forever, tried to kill Kirk.TOS"The Omega Glory"
Admiral Mark JamesonBroke the Prime Directive to give weapons to a primitive planet in exchange for hostages; justified it by arming the other side as well, causing a massive civil war.TNG"Too Short a Season"
Admiral CartwrightConspired to assassinate the Klingon Chancellor and the Federation President.Star Trek VI : The Undiscovered Country

Methinks Starfleet needs to improve its personnel selection methods a little...

End of an Era

Two of the more interesting episodes of Enterprise have been "Fortunate Son" and "Horizon". In many ways the latter is almost a remake of the former, something that Enterprise is doing a lot of in its second season. Both involve Earth cargo ships, old vessels which are only capable of warp 1 or 2. Since journies therefore take years or more, the ships are largely crewed by extended families.

Both episodes focus on family difficulties, but for me the subtext beneath these conflicts is much more interesting. Because Star Trek usually depicts scientific and technological advances as Good Things, most especially bigger, better and faster Starships. But in these episodes, we see that Enterprise is destroying an entire culture just by virtue of its existence.

Having a crew which lives and works together for year after year, with only relatively short breaks to drop off or pick up cargo, must surely breed a very insular and self contained community. Each cargo ship is a world in itself, almost totally contained and isolated. Now the warp five engine has arrived, and suddenly you can go to another star ten or a hundred times faster than before. In "Horizon", the captain bemoans the fact that it is becoming very difficult to find new crewmembers because everybody wants to join Starfleet. Crewmembers like Travis have already left to go the same way.

Perhaps worse than this is a more subtle effect. New cargo ships with high warp engines are surely rolling off the production lines. No old ship is going to be able to compete with these - the Captain of the Fortunate admitted as much. And as the new ships proliferate, the very nature of cargo hauling is going to change. Less and less will there be multi-year missions interspersed with a short stops. Cargo ship crews are going to be open to a far greater and wider range of outside influences, which can do nothing but help to break down their insular nature.

In short, their whole culture is dying. You get the feeling from these two episodes that some of them can see it coming, and resent it. You can't really blame them for that.

What can be done about this? Well, nothing. Time marches on, and all that. Something similar has probably happened as the multi-year sea journies of a couple of centuries ago shrank down to weeks and months - and now with air travel, down to hours and days.

I hope that we see this aspect of Enterprise developed further over the next few years. It would also be nice to see eventually that, yes, although one way of life is being destroyed, it is being replaced by something better. Perhaps as much as Starfleet's mighty ships, the future of Earth and the Federation is going to be carved out by the cargo ships and their crews. For them the birth might be a painful one, but they are building a future that is worth having.

Planet Distribution in Our Galaxy

In "Balance of Terror", McCoy declared that there is a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type worlds in our galaxy.

In "Strange New World", T'Pol declares that Minshara class (M class) planets account for only one in every 42,000 of the total planets.

So putting this together, we get that there are 126,000,000,000 planets in our galaxy. This actually seems a little low; our galaxy contains at least a hundred billion stars, so this is an average of only 1.26 planets for every star system. Since we often hear planets numbered after their star (Nimbus III, Rigel XII, etc), and since those numbers tend to be in the three to ten range quite often, it seems that most solar systems have quite a few planets. So the only conclusion is that most stars have no planets at all. If the average system had ten planets, for instance, then only one in eight stars would have planets.

My Guess for the Titan

The (deleted) "She's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen" line from Nemesis indicates that the Titan is a new class, IMHO. The name indicates that she is a large ship - Starfleet doesn't necessarily always give ships names that are fitting, but can you really imagine a new Nova class ship being called the Titan?

I would guess that the Titan is a Galaxy successor. Sovereign-generation technology, perhaps a little more advanced, and scaled up to be slightly larger than a Galaxy class in volume.

I wonder if the Titan might appear in future books/games/comics/etc? A novel series set on the Titan would not surprise me at all... I hope they give us some nice cover art of the ship.(Some years on.... And now we know, we did indeed get a Titan book series. And they did make quite a deal out of coming up with a Titan design - they ran a competition to let fans submit designs, and the winning one was the design they went with! Pretty cool. But the ship didn't turn out to be a big Galaxy-class replacement, though, but rather something around the size of Voyager. Shame.)

Kira and the Chain of Command

Sisko and the other Federation types are in command on DS9 purely because the Bajoran provisional government asked them to do the job. Kira was put there because the provisional government wanted a presence in the command staff. She was an official part of the chain of command, with a clearly defined place. All of which is fine.

What puzzles me is why Kira would have any place aboard the Defiant. The Defiant is not a Bajoran ship, it has nothing to do with Bajor. Although it forms part of DS9's defences, it frequently conducts missions that are purely for the Federation, nothing to do with Bajor or that area. So why the hell is Kira apparently second in command of the ship? Any time Sisko is injured or out of touch, Kira instantly assumes command as a matter of course - no questions asked.

Kira is not a part of Starfleet - at least until she was given a commission before she went to Cardassia in the final stages of the war, by which time she had been taking charge on the Defiant for several years already. She has shown several times that she doesn't take orders from Starfleet - most notably in "Shadows and Symbols". And nor should she take their orders, since she is not one of their officers and has never sworn any oath to them. So Starfleet is effectively putting one of its most powerful warships under the command of somebody who can do anything she likes with it?

This may seem minor, but if you talk to a military person they will tell you that having an unclear chain of command is a MAJOR problem. Suppose Kira decided to go take the ship off on a joyride one day. What could Starfleet do about it? They can't court martial her, after all!

Of course, this hints at a deeper problem; Defiant really should have its own dedicated crew and captain. In fact, this might have been an ideal position to give to Worf instead of the bogus "Strategic Operations Officer" desk job that they landed him with. The only reason that it doesn't is, of course, that the producers didn't want scenes or even whole episodes where the stars of the show would be away from all the action.

The Computer - Enemy or Friend?

Star Trek's treatment of computers really showcases society's attitudes towards these gadgets. Back when TOS was being made in the 60s, computers were very primitive affairs - the military and the space program were pushing for smaller computers, but a typical model would still be at least as big as a wardrobe if not a room. Still, they were just starting to get their first toe-holds in business. A lot of people were very worried about computers back then - it seemed that computers were threatening jobs (which indeed they were), and might even one day begin to replace Humans since they could "think" so quickly and accurately.

These fears were often played up in TOS. The Enterprise had "good" computers, of course, but we often saw "evil" computers - in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" and "The Ultimate Computer" the threat was that computers would literally replace us, while in many other episodes computers were depicted as godlike beings exerting control over their biological minions. Rarely if ever did powerful computers contribute much that was positive. Even the godlike V'Ger didn't recognise "Carbon Units" as true lifeforms worthy of existence.

By the time TNG rolled around, computers were far more common. Half the population was using them at work or at home, and the internet explosion was on the horizon. They were less threatening to us - computer controlled mechanisation had destroyed jobs, but computers themselves had created whole new sections of the economy. So - after one or two early episodes like "The Arsenal of Freedom" - computers were somewhat more passive, more friendly affairs. Look what happened in "Emergence", when the main computer of the Enterprise-D "comes alive". In TOS the computer would surely have tried to kill all the crew, and probably a passing planet or two as well. But in TNG, all the computer wanted was to create a new child. The message is that computers can be people, too.

Of course this attitude is personified in the form of Data - the ultimate friendly, helpful, non-threatening computer. Data sums up the TNG attitude to computers more than any other element, and it is telling that a machine could become one of the most beloved characters in the show.

Voyager took all this to yet another level - with the EMH we are shown that as well as having a computer for a friend, we can even be pals with the software!

Where next for the computer in Trek? I have no idea. Perhaps some sort of internet-equivalent, a galactic super-information-highway. Watch this space...

Law and Order in the Federation

One thing that I have always wondered about is how the Federation conducts its law and order policies. The biggest, most staggering potnetial aspect of this was revealed in "Wolf in the Fold". When Scotty was suspected of murder and had memory problems, the psycho-tricorder was introduced. Along with the ship's computer, this handy device could read a person's memory of an event and detect whether he or she was telling the truth even if they didn't know themselves. They could work through any block, any amnesia.

The implications of this are pretty amazing. We have polygraph machines today - "lie detectors" - but there's a big, poorly kept secret about these machines. They don't work! Whatever you may have seen in the movies, the polygraph is so unreliable that the whole thing is basically a con, designed to make people nervous enough to confess. It is for a very good reason that these machines are not allowed in courtrooms.

A truly reliable, accurate lie detector would be a revelation. We (by which I mean most western countries) have laws that mean you don't have to implicate yourself and have all sorts of other protections. But the only reason for having these is to protect the innocent person from wrongful conviction. With Trek lie detectors and psycho-tricorders, wrongful conviction would be impossible. No reason to fear trials, no innocent people in prison. You would need to set up some sort of independant body to administer the test procedure in court to make sure that the government did not rig the system, but that should be quite easy.

So why don't they do this? Look at "The Drumhead." Much is made of people's right to avoid self incrimination. Much is made of people being wrongly branded as traitors. Both of these things could be completely avoided by using the technology to tell who is a traitor and who is not. So could Riker's trial in "A Matter of Perspective", and numerous other such instances.

In fact, this technology would re-write the whole way in which criminal investigation was done. You would barely need investigation - just a minute or two meeting with anybody who is a suspect in which you ask them if they are guilty or not. You would barely need trials either.

Breaking the Mirror

In my humble opinion, one of the most interesting TOS episodes is "Mirror Mirror". When Kirk and some of his officers beam up during an ion storm, they are swapped with their counterparts from an alternate dimension. This world is a mirror of the one we know - a moral inversion. All the Federation folk are utterly evil in this universe, travelling the galaxy in an Enterprise which they use to subjagate - or annhilate - those they come across.

In DS9 we revisit the same universe, several times. Unfortunately, the writers blow it bigtime.

DS9 is still there, though it is called Terok Nor. We learn that the Terran Empire fell after the mirror Spock tried to implement some changes to it, spurred on by Kirk during his visit. The area is now ruled by the Alliance, a combination of the Klingons and Cardassians. Terrans are a slave race. As the episodes progress we see the Terrans rebel and fight for their freedom from the evil alliance.

What's missing here is the whole point of the mirror universe - that it is a mirror. The most interesting aspect of the TOS episode is seeing the good become evil and the evil good. But in the DS9 version, most people are pretty much the same as before, or at least similar. The Cardassians are virtually identical to the real-universe version. Klingons are a little less restrained than they are here, but that's about it. Meanwhile the Terrans... well, they are a pretty rowdy and undisciplined bunch. But they are fighting for freedom and justice and a better life for themselves, just as Humans in the real universe would be.

There are two exceptions to this failing. One is Quark, who in the mirror universe is a philanthropic guy who helps the Terrans to escape whenever he can. The second in Intendant Kira.

The Intendant is a throughouly nasty, evil character who is pretty much obsessed with sex, power and death in that order. In short, she is exactly what everybody in the mirror universe should be. Nana Visitor plays the role amazingly well, and the character stands head and shoulders above everybody else in these episodes. Why didn't they apply this principle to everybody?

One rather bizzare aspect of the mirror universe as seen on DS9 is that most of the female characters seem to be gay or bisexual for some reason. Leeta is gay, Ezri is gay, Intendant Kira is bisexual - and in a memorable scene, mirror-Kira even tries to seduce herself! And of course all of the gay characters are extremely promiscuous. Gee, I wonder why none of the men are gay?

In the TOS version, incidentally, we see that the mirror Kirk is in an ongoing heterosexual relationship of some kind. True there's no actual affection there, and Kirk seems to be ready to ditch "the captain's woman" any time he thinks he can get something better. Nor do we have any idea if there is any notion of fidelity - it's a morally repugnant relationship, but then that is the whole point of the mirror universe. And for all that, it is an actual relationship.

Here's how I would have played it : The Terran Empire continued to grow after Kirk's visit. They conquered the Klingons. The Cardassians conquered Bajor, and Kira is a collaborator who helped to destroy the Bajoran resistence and was rewarded with second in command of Terok Nor, under Sisko. The Empire and the Cardassians are close allies. The good guys are the Klingons. This way, the power structures are more or less preserved the way it is in DS9 - everybody is in much the same place in both universes. But the moral inversion remains.

There is actually a vision of the mirror universe that treads this path, although it is done from a TNG point of view rather than a DS9 one. Diane Duane's "Dark Mirror" features the Enterprise-D being pulled into the mirror universe and encountering their version of itself. Troi and Geordi - and utimately Picard - must go aboard the enemy ship and play the role of their counterparts in order to work out what is going on. Because it sticks to the moral inversion, because it explores a dark version of the way things could have gone - and in parts this novel is very dark indeed - "Dark Mirror" is far more interesting than anything that DS9 ever did with the mirror universe. Of course it also helps that the novel is (as usual) superbly written by Ms. Duane and has an utterly gripping story from beginning to end.

I really wish I could have seen this book make it onto the screen in some form. It would have made a great TV miniseries, for instance (and as a fan of both Troi and marina Sirtis, I am eternally sadenned that I will never get to see her in that outfit. Sorry Diane, but even your words couldn't make up for missing that image!) That we will never see it is a great shame...

Is the Federation a Democracy?

One rather strange element of Star trek writing that I've noticed is that they almost never mention the word "democracy". We have never once heard of an election being held in the Federation. Indeed, characters often talk of such things in strangely roundabout ways. A government leader might talk of being "selected" to hold his office as Chancellor Durkem did to Picard. Selected by whom - the electorate? The king? A roll of the dice?

Nor does there seem to be any great level of debate in the Federation. For instance it is always assumed - often stated with certainty - that the Federation will fight if morality indicates that it should do so. But democracies are rarely so clear-cut about these things. Dictatorships on the other hand...

Of course, at no point have we ever been told that the Federation is not a democracy. Remember that we concentrate almost exclusively on what serves as the military arm of the society - and how democratic would the USA look if all you ever saw of it was the decision making process that go on inside a navy ship or army base?

The Idiot Trap

Remember the Salt Monster from TOS "The Man Trap"? This thing was the last of its kind, sharing a deserted planet with a Federation scientist called Professor Crater. It lived quite peacefully with Crater for some time; the monster could use some type of hypnoitic suggestion or telepathy to assume whatever appearence it wanted - it could even look like different things to different people simultaneously. It fed by draining the salt from people's bodies, killing them quickly and painfully.

In the course of the episode, it becomes clear that the Salt Monster is quite intelligent. It attends a conference disguised as Dr. McCoy, where it holds a conversation with the other officers. It doesn't seem to be the brightest tool in the box, but this is no wild beast we are talking about.

All of which begs the question - why didn't the monster just ask for salt in the first place??????

I mean, if somebody walked up to Kirk and said "Hi, I look Human but I'm actually a shape shifting alien. I desperately need salt to survive, and we're almost out here. Can I have some?" And then proved it by changing shape a few times, what would happen? Kirk would give it the salt, of course! He'd give it tons of the stuff if needed! Then he'd go on his way and leave it in peace. He's not on a mission to collect specimens, after all, and even if he was he wouldn't be collecting intelligent ones.

Crater is a Federation citizen, he must know that the creature is in no danger from a Starship crew. Surely they must have talked about it before the ship arrived! And this would have completely removed any need for the murders, as well as the creature's own death.

So why not? Because it would have made a short episode, that's why not.

The Records of Trek

Once upon a time I started a thread on RAST to come up with a "Guiness Book of Star Trek". I wanted to find some records - the biggest, fastest, most powerful, that kind of thing. I don't have too many, but here they are. Many of these come directly from the newsgroup, but after various computer crashes I've lost the emails I saved. If you recognise one of these as yours, let me know and I'll add a credit if you wish.

Highest Speed

The episode 'Where no one has Gone Before' features the Enterprise-D travelling from a point 2.7 million light years from our galaxy to a point 1 billion light years away. The trip takes 20 seconds.

So they covered a minimum of 997,300,000 light years in 20 seconds. ThatÌs 49,865,000 light years per second - 179,514,000,000 light years per hour - which equates to a staggering 1,573,619,724,000,000 x c. One and a half quadrillion times the speed of light. To put this in perspective, at this speed you could cross the Milky Way galaxy in something like two milliseconds.

The Voyager episode 'Threshold' features Tom Paris travelling at literally infinitie speed in the shuttle Cochrane. This, surely, is the ultimate unbeatable speed record!

Largest Structure

The Dyson sphere shown in the episode 'Relics' is 200 million kilometres in diameter. This is the only depiction of a Dyson sphere in TV or film that I know of, though there are plenty of books with such structures, and some with larger. This is the largest physical structure that we have ever seen in Trek.

The V'Ger cloud from Star Trek : The Motion Picture was "over 82 AU in diameter". An AU is an Astronomical Unit, equal to the average distance between the Earth and the sun. 82 AU is approximately 12.3 billion kilometres. However, the recent special edition director's cut changed this size to 2 AU, which is 'only' 300 million kilometres or so. This is the biggest artificial object in Trek, most especially as there is structure all the way through to the middle rather than the hollow shell of a Dyson sphere. If you generously assume that the "Relics" sphere is 5 km thick, then the small version of the V'Ger cloud still has more than 20 million times the sphere's total structured volume.

Largest Fleet

The largest genuine fleet we have seen are the Federation-Dominion forces which joined in battle in DS9 "Favor the bold" and "Sacrifice of Angels". The Dominion forces numbered some 1200 vessels, the Federation forces 600. Larger fleets may have been involved in the final battles of the war, but this is one of the few occasions in which we have solid numbers given on screen.

The fleet of alternate-Enterprises seen in "Parallels" comprised at least 285,000 Galaxy class Starships, since this is how many hailed our own Enterprise-D. Data projected that the fleet was growing at a rate which would entirely fill the sector within three days. Since a sector is (officially but non-canonically) a cube 20 light years on a side, if you were to place Galaxy class starships nose to tail, nacelle to nacelle, and standing on top of one another, filling a sector would be quite a job!

20 light years is about 189,345,600,000,000,000 metres. Since the Galaxy class measures 641 metres long by 470 metres across and 145 metres high, we can do a simple calculation and work out that you would have 295,390,951,638,065 by 402,862,978,723,404 by 1,305,831,724,137,931 ships - a staggering total of 155,396,689,558,921,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 ships!

We are told by Data that the numbers are increasing exponentially. So if we take 285,000 ships as the starting point, we will need at least 128 doublings to reach this number. Given the time projected, that would mean that the number of ships was doubling at least every 33 minutes. So if it took Worf about one hour to get back to his own ship, we would reasonably expect the fleet to have reached in excess of 1,000,000 ships by that point. Bet they wish they'd had those on hand in the Dominion war!

Oldest Living Thing

It's hard to judge the age of a Q, but the female in "The Q and the Grey" indicated that she had been dating Q for several billion years. Q himself has insisted that the Q have "always existed", but Quinn said that the Q achieved their amazing abilities at some unspecified time in the past, indicating that they had a more mundane existence prior to this - and, by extension, possibly an origin similar to more conventional species. Then again, since the Q can travel through time at will there is no reason that they couldn't live out the whole life of the universe, then go back and live it over again ad infinitum.

In summary then, there are Q individuals at least billions of years old. They are possibly much older than this, with no upper limit.

Largest Living Thing

The V'Ger entity was considered to be a "living machine". My estimate of its length is approximately 100 kilometres.

The interstellar animal seen in Voyager "Bliss" measures about 2,000 km across.

The single celled organism seen in TOS "The Immunity Syndrome" had a length of approximately eleven thousand miles (17,700 km), and it's width varied from two thousand to three thousand miles (3,200 to 4,800 km). Put another way, it was more than twice the size of Africa and about a third as thick as the planet Earth.

However, the undisputed winner is the cloud entity encountered by Voyager in "The Cloud". This beastie was 7 AUs in diameter, equal to about one billion kilometres. If the cloud was spherical (I don't know if it was), you could fit the world into it more than five hundred trillion times over.

Most Destructive Weapon

Without a doubt, the most physically destructive weapon was the trilithium solar probe built by Dr. Soran. One probe measuring about seven feet long (actually a photon torpedo casing) was capable of destroying a star, which produced a level twelve shockwave that could destroy all the planets in a solar system. There's no reason at all why any starship could not carry hundreds, even thousands of these casings - though storage of trilithium might possibly be more problematic. I once calculated the energy release required for the event seen in Generations (at Amargosa) as more than 4x1046 Joules; to get that you would need to convert about a fifth of the total mass of the star into energy.

In terms of the most widespread effect, the most destructive substance is the Omega molecule seen in Voyager "The Omega Directive". When Omega became unstable - which it tended to do very often - it disrupted subspace, making warp drive unuseable within the vicinity. Even small amounts of Omega - a few hundreds of millions of molecules, which sounds a lot but would be far too small to see even with a good optical microscope - were sufficient to disrupt subspace over at least an entire quarter of our galaxy.

The most destructive event would probably be the time/antitime anomaly in "All Good Things". In the distant past this covered an entire quadrant of the galaxy according to Q; since it disrupted cellular activity it probably destroyed all life in that region. According to Dr McCoy's numbers from "Balance of Terror", this would comprise some 750,000 Earth type worlds.

Most Densely Inhabited Planet

In TOS "The Mark of Gideon", the population was unrevealed but was so dense that even right outside the most important project on the planet, the people were literally standing shoulder to shoulder. Normally you would have to have large areas of farmland no matter how crowded your cities were, but Kirk makes clear in "Errand of Mercy" that the Federation can increase crop yields at least 1,000-fold over primitive production methods; if replicators existed at this time no farmland would be needed at all.

If the planet was literally shoulder to shoulder throughout, an Earth-sized world would hold 500 trillion people. With tall buildings, you might increase this anything up to thousandfold or more. As a practical matter I would be reluctant to go this far though - but the population of Gideon was likely in the trillions to tens of trillions at least.

In the episode Gideon's leaders plan to use a disease to cull much of the population. They apparently are successful in this, or at least they seem to be about to do it at the end of the episode. If they went ahead this probably counts as one of the biggest genocides in history.

Biggest Fall

Kirk was to have a scene in "Generations" in which he made a parachute jump all the way from Earth orbit! Although it was cut, we did see Torres make an orbital skydive on the holodeck in "Extreme Risk".

Longest Range Transport

Normal transporter range for a Starship transporter is about 40,000 km, as per 'Lower decks'. In "The First Duty", transporters on Mimas beamed the cadets of Nova team out of their crashing ships as they flew around Titan. Mimas and Titan never come within half a million kilometres of one another, so the transport range must have been about that as a minimum. As a maximum the range would increase to around 700,000 kilometres.

In TNG "Tin Man", Data was beamed by Tin Man across a distance that the Enterprise-D was said to be able to cross in about a quarter hour at full impulse. Taking that as 1/4 lightspeed per the TNG TM, we're looking at something like 67,000,000 kilometres.

The Dominion long range transporter seen DS9 "Covenant" snatched Kira from three light years away - about 28 trillion kilometres. A subspace transporter used in "Bloodlines" crossed roughly similar distances.

However, far better than this is the transporter that moved Gary Seven around in TOS "Assignment : Earth". Gary was transported to Earth - and intercepted by the Enterprise - from at least one thousand light years away!

However, by far the record is held by the Sikarian Trajector technology encountered by Voyager in "Prime Factors". Using this device, the Sikarians were able to transport across distances of at least 40,000 light years - that's almost half way across the entire galaxy!

Oldest Human Being

Flint from 'Requiem for Methuselah' was 5,000 years old, though he was expected to die shortly after the episode. Some non-canon sources indicate that there are others like flint around who are of similar age.

Smallest Sentient Being

The crystal from TNG "Home Soil" was microscopic in size. However, the record holders have to be the nanites from "Evolution". Their name implies that these would be about one millionth of a millimetre in length.

The Q and Omnipotence

Q frequently claims that the Q are omnipotent. In fact this cannot possibly be so, and the show itself makes it fairly clear that they are not.

As far as actual evidence goes, the fact that Q was continually outwitted by Picard and company goes to show that Q is not omnipotent. For instance, if Q knows everything then why didn't he know that Picard would solve the riddle of the Farpoint station? Why didn't he know that Riker would eventually turn down the power of Q?

Of course, we could assume that he DID know this. We could assume that he has been playing the E-D crew along all the time, deliberately losing for reasons of his own. But it doesn't seem likely.

Quinn settles the matter in "Death Wish". When somebody asks if the Q are omnipotent, he specifically states that they are not.

But more than the evidence, there are the logical contradictions. It is impossible to be omnipotent. It simply cannot be done.

There are a number of classic insolvable tasks to demonstrate this. The most famous of all is - could Q make a rock so heavy that Q himself could not lift it? If he cannot, then there is something he cannot do - he cannot make the rock heavy enough. But if he can, then there is still something he cannot do - he cannot lift the rock. Either way he fails.

Another - can Q make a genuine £10 note? Of course not - because by definition, a note is only genuine if it is printed by the Royal Mint. Q might be able to make a copy that is atom-by-atom perfect, but so long as it is him that is making it, it is just a perfect fake.

The pithiest one I have ever come across is this : can Q make a mistake? If he can then he is not perfect. If he cannot, then there is something he cannot do.

All these arguments were created to apply to religion, by the way. Specifically to prove that the Christian god is a logical impossibility.

The Borg, Personified

One of the interesting aspects of the Borg is that they lack character. By which I don't mean that they have a bad character, but that they have no character at all. At least in theory. One insider compared the Borg to a hurricane - there's nothing personal in it, you just have to get out of the way.

Unfortunately, writers have a very hard time dealing with an enemy that has no character. So since day one they have ignored their own rule about the Borg. Many people complain that the Borg queen seen in First Contact and Voyager trivialised the Borg, which she did, made them just another "evil" bunch of baddies rather than impersonal machines. It's true that the Queen is the ultimate in personification of the Borg, but in fact she is merely the end of a trend that started as early as "Q Who?"

In that episode, the Borg opened a comm channel to the Enterprise-D and demanded that it remain where it was. Why? Do the Borg care if the Enterprise-D runs from them or not?

In "Best of Both Worlds" they jumped a big step further, and gave us Locutus. Locutus was there to act an an intermediary, to ease the Federation's assimilation. Well, wasn't that nice of the Borg? They want to make things easy for us. Locutus went around spouting threats, arguing the case for assimilation, etc - all the things a classic baddie does.

Then of course we get the Borg queen. Why do the Borg need Picard as an intermediary when the Queen seems perfectly able to speak for herself? We're never told. The Queen is even more the classic baddie - by the end of Voyager, the Borg were assimilating or not on the basis of a whim, and their battle with the Federation had been reduced to a personal grudge match between the Queen and Janeway.

It's a great shame. The Borg were much more menacing as a hurricane than when they were twirling their mustaches and cackling evilly.

Armus - Silliest Idea Ever?

The episode "Skin of Evil" makes no sense at all. Here we have Armus, a sort of living oil slick, who claims that he was created when a race of near-perfect beings decided to shed all of their remaining negativity as a physical skin. This negativity then became alive as Armus.

This has to be one of the most bizzare ideas in all of Trek history. But not only do the characters in the episode accept it totally without question or doubt, even the audience don't seem to think it's all that odd. I don't think I've ever seen a single person question the existence of Armus or the feasibility of shedding the "evil" parts of yourself as a living, thinking being.

Strange, isn't it?

The Tkon

According to "The Last Outpost", the Tkon were capable of actually moving stars around. This is pretty impressive!

Our sun is a pretty typical star. It masses 2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons. If you were to accelerate our sun to just 1 metre per second, you would need to input 1x1030 Joules. That's a whole load of energy!

But what point is there to moving a star around within a system? I mean, if you want the sun to be closer to a planet or something then moving the planet is a far simpler and more energy-efficient way of doing it than moving the sun - in fact you would pretty much have to alter the planet's orbit no matter what you did to the sun. On an interstellar scale, moving a star by a few million km would make no difference at all.

It only really makes sense to move stars around if you can do it over interstellar distances... at warp speed.

So how much does that take? Well according to the TNG TM graph, moving the nearly 5 million ton Enterprise-D at warp 1 takes about 200 MegaWatts (the graph actually says MegaJoules, but this seems to be a mistake). Since a star is about 400,000,000,000,000,000,000 times heavier than the E-D, engines with that level of efficiency would take about 8x1022 MegaWatts. That's pretty amazing! The chart shows how the power increases with increasing speed :

per Cochrane
Power for E-D
Power for Star

The obvious way to power all this is not some huge powerplant, but rather to just use the output of the star itself. Since our star kicks out around 3x1026 MW, if you could harness all that then you could kick the speed up to about warp 3.

Of course, I'm just speculating. In reality we don't really know what the hell the Tkon used to do. Maybe they moved stars around strictly within their own solar system, just for fun or to mess aorund with the seasons or something. Maybe the legend Data reported isn't true and the Tkon never moved stars at all. But isn't the idea of stars running around at warp speed a deeply cool one?

The Transporter

In "The Savage Curtain", Kirk describes the transporter thusly :

Kirk : "A energy matter scrambler sir. The molecules in your body are converted into energy, then beamed into this chamber and reconverted back into their original pattern."

Note that the transporter does not squirt your molecules through space - it converts you to energy and sends that through space. So this seems to mean that when a 70 kg man is transporter, the transporter emits 6.3x1018Joules! That would make the transporter one hell of a weapon!

In TNG the transporters seem to work differently. The TM describes a process where your body is torn apart atom by atom (or even smaller). As this is done a template is created which describes where all the atoms go and what state they are in. The stream of particles is then sent through space the template is used to re-assemble them at the other end.

Many questions offer themselves, for one, are you conscious during transport? It is very difficult to say. You are certainly conscious during part of the transport - Saavik and Kirk talk during their transport up to the ship in ST II. Barclay was conscious inside the transport process during the worm episode. But the whole point of the transporter is that you are re-assembled exactly as you were. So if you were halfway through a conversation when you disintergrated, you would pick it up from the same point during the rematerialisation process without even knowning there had been an interruption. And Barclay was not beaming properly, he was suspended partway through the process.

It's very hard to see how a person could remain conscious when his brain is a trillion trillion unconnected freefloating particles.

But if you are not conscious... then technically you could argue that you have died, and that what re-appears is not in fact you but a duplicate of you. Personally I don't see this as a problem - if the "duplicate" is a perfect copy of you then it is you, by definition. A difference that makes no difference is no difference, in my humble opinion.

Another thing - Kirk's splitting. One Kirk beams up, two Kirks emerge. So where did all the extra mass come from? Surely each Kirk should have been like a "mini-me", half the size! Well, maybe not. I tend to think it worked this way :

In TOS, presume there was a safety system in the transporter. What it did was this... if the matter stream was lost during transport but the pattern template made it through, the system could supply matter from an emergency stock within the transporter and use the pattern to recreate the lost matter stream. So, when Kirk beamed up the mystery rock stuff scrambled the transporter controls and we can assume it did two things - firstly, it duplicated and distorted the template pattern so that there were two versions of it in the system, each a distorted version of Kirk. For some reason the transporter operator didn't realise this had happened; so he picked one of the patterns, the "good" Kirk, and he rematerialised it using Kirk's original matter stream. As far as he's concerned something went wrong, but they got Kirk through okay. The console, thinking it now had a second person in transport, would presumably flash some sort of alert, but I think we have to assume that the transporter guy missed it - after all, he was thinking the transport had been completed. So the console is waiting for somebody to tell it what to do... but everybody just left. We know patterns in the transporter will degrade after a little while, so now the computer is faced with a degrading pattern and no instructions as to what to do with it. So it went to emergency measures to save the transportee before the pattern degraded - it accessed the stock of spare matter and used it to complete the beaming process. Hey presto, two Kirks.The re-integration of the two halves would then consist of reversing this process. Both men are dematerialised to create new patterns. These are then combined to create one whole, normal pattern. Half the matter is used to rematerialise a whole Kirk, and the rest goes back into the emergency storage system. Hey presto, one Kirk. It's actually kind of plausible given the technology, no?

Telepathic Issues

Does the Federation have laws about mental privacy? It sure doesn't seem to. Deanna goes around sensing people's emotional states as a matter of course. Lwaxana reads - or claims to read - people's minds in great detail whenever she talks to them. Nobody so much as objects to this, let alone suggests that it is against the law.

So if I am telepathic, do I have freedom to read anybody I like? What if I'm in a business meeting?

Colour key

Canon source Backstage source Novel source DITL speculation

© Graham & Ian Kennedy Page views : 59,529 Last updated : 16 Jan 2021