In which I get back to my roots of speculating way too much about the use of a single model for eight seconds of screen time, I do some math, and we meet the Kwisatz Haderach.
So, the reason I just put up “The Magicks Of Megus-Tu” on Friday was because this episode was coming up, and it seemed more appropriate and also more tolerable than going back to watch “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. And with that spoiler… actually, I really have to find out. Is there anyone following along with this who hasn’t actually watched these already? I mean, I enjoyed letting the episodes unfold naturally and reacting to them in TOS, but that’s going to get pretty hard now that we’re in show’s I watched as a kid and several times thereafter. Sound off in the comments. Or, you know, don’t, ’cause you’re lazy.
The Enterprise has met up with the Fearless, an Ambassador Excelsior-class hull still in use, which is pretty impressive and gives us a sense of the lifespan of some of these hulls. No doubt the computer systems and wiring have been retrofitted, but 60+ years is a quality design. Full disclosure: I have no idea how long US Naval hulls remain in service, but I do know from Hardcore History that in the WWI era, a navy less than a decade old would be just mercilessly squished by a new one. We know that Constitution hulls were in service from at least 11 years prior to Kirk’s time (Pike took the Enterprise herself to Talos and were obsolete enough to be refitted for the movie era, and were obsolete shortly thereafter. That’s a 30-year service life, and of course we don’t know how long the Constitutions have been around prior to the events of “The Cage.” The fact that the Ambassadors Excelsiors are in service basically two generations of modern humanity later is pretty impressive and is either a testament to both Federation design processes and maintenance expertise, or an indictment on the budgetary considerations of a society for whom scarcity is that guy from middle school who you were never really friends with but who occasionally ‘likes’ your Facebook posts.
Anyweay, the Fearless is actually here to deliver a couple of scientists working on improving the way Warp Drive works by messing with fuel characteristics and ratios and possibly tweaking some field dynamics. What’s odd is that the designs don’t make any improvements when running simulations, but in previous trials there was an improvement. Opinion is split as to whether this is a failure of computer modeling (this would make a certain degree of sense, as one would expect simulations to be run during the design process and designs to be skipped during field testing if they didn’t do anything) of whether the tweaks just fix engine problems but won’t have any effect on new mint-condition engines. Riker thinks Kazinsky (the scientist-guy) is a hack, because he ordered the simulations run. One thing that’s surprising me about Riker is that he’s a really good XO even before the beard. Riker Gets Shit Done.
Although when Riker goes down to the transporter room to meet them, he brings Troi. This screams of something a little sinister – the casual invasion of privacy in the name of security. It’s not that I necessarily think it was the wrong thing to do, but more that there’s barely even a discussion. “Captain, I’ll bring Troi along to brain-scan our visitors.” “‘K.” Kazinski himself seems kind of miffed that the Captain didn’t take the time to wander down to the transporter room and meet him personally. His assistant, an unpronouncably-named native of Tau Alpha C which Troi can’t even read, let alone interpret. This is Odd.
Wow, that was a lot of writing for not even getting to the theme song.
Kazinski, it turns out, also hates the fact that Wesley has access to his Area, much the same way that Picard wouldn’t allow him onto the bridge. Kazinski is also very miffed that the current chief engineer (not Geordi) of the Enterprise doesn’t ‘get’ his work. It’s not the first time he’s had to explain that his work functions despite not working in the computer models. Wesley watches the assistant’s work and looks puzzled about it. Wesley appears capable of understanding what Kazinski is doing, and even improving on it, even as Kazinski is flim-flamming and talking down to Riker without actually imparting any useful technical information. In fact, Wesley has altered some of the field dynamics, with the tacit approval of the assistant. They’ll try the ‘standard’ modifications at low warp, with Kazinski unaware of the changes. Then the system goes haywire and the assistant starts phasing in and out of existence, everyone looks worried, and the Enterprise goes to Ludicrous Speed.
The Enterprise can’t even science how fast it’s going and after some stunned silence they reverse engines and appear in the M33 galaxy, 2,700,000 light years away. Lest you be concerned, I checked, and Wikipedia says they’re off by a rounding error, so score one for sufficient scientific accuracy. The Enterprise is three hundred years away from Earth at maximum warp. MATH AHEAD. This, by the way, gives us some hard numbers: Maximum Warp for the Enterprise in this era is 2,698,132,122,000 m/s, or approximately 9000 times the speed of light. Good to know. Also, according to Data, the message they dispatch to Starfleet will arrive at Earth in “fifty-one years, ten months nine weeks, sixteen days…” also known as fifty-two years, three weeks, two days. This gives us a velocity for subspace communication of 1.55×1013 m/s, or about 51,874 times the speed of light, or about 5.7 times faster than maximum warp. In other words, if it takes a week to get somewhere at max warp, it should take a day for Starfleet to get any report on it. Two way communication, therefore, will still expect to see some lag in the outer reaches of the Federation and its neighbors.
Just so you know.
Kazinski looks incredibly pleased with himself, which is fair enough since the Enterprise appears to have passed the speed of information transfer in a region of spacetime that allows swifter information transfer. You can liken it to breaking the speed of light all over again, only this time breaking the speed of light in the region that already allowed you to break the speed of light in normal space. For more on this concept, please (please) watch Babylon 5 and make it to the Thirdspace movie.
Also, more hard numbers – in 300 years of space travel, the Federation has charted 11% of the Milky Way galaxy. Picard is not, however, going to be impressed until they get home. Which is valid. The rest of the senior staff make various recommendations. Worf doesn’t want to let Kazinski back knowing that he might foul it up again. Geordi points out that he’s really their only shot. And Data points out that they’re looking at the formation of a protostar and not filling the computer full of information about what’s happening.
They get ready to head back, but it doesn’t seem to be working until the assistant does his shimmer thing and merge with the computer or whatever. At that point, the Enterprise rockets forward again with more (and even cooler) effects. The Enterprise, according to her sensors, never exceeded warp 1.5, but now exists in a region of dancing faerie lights. Even Data sounds awed, although at this point in his development it’s probably a simulation of what being awed looks like based on the fact that this is a fairly obvious circumstance in which to be awed.
Then a Targ shows up on the bridge – Worf’s pet razor-spined wild pig, which then disappears. Then Tasha’s cat. Then Picard steps off the Turbolift into empty space, but not the empty space that they’re in. Just normal warp-speed space. Similarly weirdt hings happen all over the ship- people being transported into fantasies or having fantasied brought to them. Both good and bad. Like a whole-ship holodeck, or the Shore Leave planet. Piocard’s grandmother shows up to impart the wisdom, that the Enterprise is trapped at the end (or beginning) of the universe. Which is why I went back to do the Megus-Tu episode prior to this. Magic, or the breakdown between thought and spacetime, are the existing laws of physics. To be fair, in the Megus-Tu incident, Lucien (or possibly the whole society of Megans) brought the Enterprise to them, so it may not be a feature of the ‘center of the galaxy’ as initially thought.
The assistant, the one who’s running the whole thing, is unconscious and close to death, and Picard orders a shot of adrenaline or whatever shot into his neck so they can question him. The assistant, who calls himself a traveler, on a journey of curiosity across the Federation and through corporeal space. He spouts some stuff about thought being the basis of reality and that this is the first time his people have visited Humanity because up until now they’ve been boring. This is more or less Q from the other angle. Rather than being upset with Humanity’s prior conduct and seeking to hem them in, the Traveller and his kind simply haven’t bothered helping yet. The Traveler takes a few moments alone with Picard to encourage him to nurture Wesley, and basically calls him the Mozart of warp field mechanics. Basically, the Chosen One. Thus begins an interesting arc that’s going to be executed badly.
Picard gives a little pep-talk telling everyone to focus on either doing their duties or keeping the Traveler healthy, because they’re in a region where that matters. Also, it will keep people from randomly thinking about the Enterprise exploding and thereby blowing up the ship. It doesn’t appear to be working at first, and Picard even makes the mistake of saying that out loud, which might actually legitimaterly screw it up further. Then the Traveler vanishes back to wherever he comes from, and the Enterprise winds up back at their original coordinates.
I have some concerns about these updates Picard is giving, and whether random crewpeople actually have any idea what’s going on. But as a way of encouraging Wesley according to the Traveler’s encouragement, commissions Wesley as acting ensign so he can get started on becoming the god-emperor of mankind, or whatever.
It was pointed out to me that I used the Ambassador classification rather than the Excelsior classification for the Fearless. I don’t normally do edits but in the spirit of accuracy I have done so now, retaining the old working for posterity. What can I say, I was drunk at the time.