Monday, April 5, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 095: Magnetic Interference

Apropos of nothing, Sulu says: "I'm telling you the math doesn't add up," as Chekov approaches Kirk, McCoy, Sulu and Uhura clustered around a workstation.

"Captain Kirk! Captain Kirk!" calls Chekov.
"Yes Chekov, what is it?"

"Based on the Narada's course from Vulcan, I have projected that Nero will travel past Saturn.  Like you said, we will need to stay invisible to Nero or he'll destroy us.  If Mr. Scott can get us to warp factor 4 and if we drop out of warp behind one of Saturn's moons...say...Titan, the magnetic distortion from the planet's rings will make us invisible to Nero's sensors.  From there, as long as the drill is not actuated, we can beam aboard the enemy ship."
There are so many defects with this nonsense from Chekov it hard to choose a starting point in addressing them.  Let's take them in the order raised, first: how does Chekov know the name of Nero's ship, is he telepathic as well some kind of uber-techno-genius?  I don't recall the ship name being mentioned but perhaps somewhere in the preceding dialog it was.

So what if Nero will travel past Saturn?  Is the Narada unable to scan anything near a trajectory it has taken in the past?  That would be a pretty ridiculous defect for the ship that we are shown can easily detect, count, plot destinations, and even identify the politics of ships travelling at warp and even while they are many light-years away.  Watching the film, I got pretty tired of technology that keeps alternating between miraculously or even insanely powerful, and suddenly becoming less effective than a tapioca doorstop.  The characters are written in the same chaotic manner, leaping from supernaturally gifted telepath to salad grade idiot in a single comma splice.  How could the Narada's path be relevent to remaining "invisible"? It couldn't.

Checkov's next mistaken point is that remaining invisible to Nero requires a pursuit approach at a speed of warp 4.  What possible difference could that make to the sensors of a ship from the future where such a speed is considered fairly slow?  It couldn't make any at all.

Chekov's next error the notion that parking the Enterprise near Titan will somehow take advantage of magnetic interference.  The whiz kid clearly doesn't know his home planet's neighbors very well, since Saturn has a very weak magnetic field ( with only 5% of the flux found around Jupiter, and even that pitiful field strength is almost undetectable when measured over a million kilometers from Saturn where Titan orbits.  Why would anyone in their right mind who knew anything about Saturn and Jupiter suggest Chekov's proposal? They wouldn't.

Chekov's next goof refers to the non-existent "magnetic distortion from the planet's rings"  First: despite their beauty, grandeur, and complexity, Saturn's rings have no significant effect on the magnetic field surrounding that planet, and second Titan is 10 times further from Saturn than the last of the visible rings making them an unlikely source of potential interference for detection of a ship near Titan.
"Aye, that might work." chimes in Scotty, still getting water out of his ears.  Nearly drowning in a conduit, barely avoiding dismemberment in a turbine, and surviving what would normally be a fatal fall  in the engineering section of the starship in question apparently qualifies Mr. Scott to understand how to modify the maximum output of a ship launched while he was exiled to Delta Vega using engines he's never seen - and presumably he can do this while the ship is already at flank speed.  Anyone with even the mildest interest in engineering or maintenance can tell you how likely Chekov's proposed scenario is, and Scott's approval.  Neither is plausible, and the script continues to feature one nonsensical line following another...for example,
McCoy now asks: "Wait a minute kid, how old are you?"

"Seventeen, Sir."

"Oh, good...he's seventeen!"  Where is McCoy's questioning going? Nowhere at all as Spock appears magically on the Bridge without the sliding doors making a sound, (nor closing, are they broken?) apparently having not merely recovered from his breakdown of 60 seconds ago, but fully composed after 20 seconds of transporter room therapy with his lying Dad.  He proclaims "Mr. Chekov is correct."  The obvious question now would be, why are former Starfleet officers who RESIGNED now allowed to barge onto the Bridge and start announcing anything as if they had some authority?  This action itself suggests the former officer remains unfit for duty.

"I can confirm his telemetry," Spock continues as Uhura moves forward in a gorgeously framed shot, relatively free of camera shake and lens flares.  "...and if Mr. Sulu is able to maneuver us into position I can beam aboard Nero's ship, steal back the black hole device and and if possible, bring back Captain Pike." Whoever told Spock the black hole device was stolen?  Kirk is the only one who knows, and he was nonsensically sworn to secrecy by Spock Prime without any justification.

"I won't allow you to do that Mr. Spock." says acting Captain Kirk.  "Romulans and Vulcans share a common ancestry.  Our cultural similarities will make it easier for me to access the ship's computers and to locate the device."  At least we can be relieved that this foreshadows an infiltration and computer hacking scene, rather than another insipid shootout followed by Spock telepathically raping a disabled victim.

Of the six speaking roles in this segment, none are women.

Nero lowers the drill on Earth in Star Trek by the Minute 096: Earth, the Only Home I Have Left.


muser said...

Spock knows a lot more about Romulans in this timeline than he did in TOS "Balance of Terror," in which no one even knew what they looked like.

As to the warp 4 question, they need to get to warp 4 to outrun the Narada, not to hide from it. Once they arrive near Titan, then they hide. But as you point out, in OUR Star Trek warp 4 is nothing. The NX-01 Enterprise is faster than that! This is one of the arguments that I make on my own blog to indicate that this Trek, which you call nuTrek, actually can not be considered to take place in the past of what I'll call Original Trek. Rather, this HAS TO BE a completely different universe, not just a different timeline. Even if Nero saved Romulus here, it would have no effect on his own time or his own home. It's not clear if Nero knows that or not but it does explain why Spock Prime doesn't seem too worried that THIS planet Vulcan is destroyed. I won't go into more of my arguments on this, as anyone interested can look at my blog if they care to.

Congratulations however on noticing this point, which seems somehow to evade most viewers of the film.

BurntSynapse said...

I agree, Spock certainly knows a great deal about the Romulans, in conflict with canon.

I don't believe the claim warp 4 was to outrun the Narada can be supported by the dialog. Chekov's sentence wording and intonation clearly indicate 2 conditions are necessary and sufficient for remaining invisible: warp 4 and dropping to sublight near a moon.

Additionally the Narada appears to have already arrived, targeted Starfleet Headquarters on Earth and was preparing the drill when the Sulu tells Scotty the Enterprise had reached Titan. There is no indication or reason given to have the Enterprise overtake the Narada, AFAIK.

muser said...

Thanks for your reply. It was certainly my impression they were trying to outrun it, but it's been some time since I've seen the movie so I'll have to view it again since you might be right. In any event it doesn't change the fact that Chekov says "if Mr. Scott can get us to Warp 4..." something the Enterprise should easily be able to do if it can go to warp at all.

BurntSynapse said...

I'm not sure that as a general rule we would normally consider that if something can reach speed X, it can easily get to 4X, especially without stopping for modifications, but the film played quite fast and loose with speed and technology...overly so in the opinion of many.

R. Anthony Steele said...

Muser is correct, the immediate predecessor to the Enterprise in the film would have been the NX-01. I forget what it's top speed was said to be (warp 6? 8?) but it was more than the 4 that the new Enterprise was going to have to be nursed up to.

Your engineering points are well made, but it's a common problem in Trek, having the engines being worked on while they are in use. Software tweaking? Can't be hardware, that would require that the engines be taken offline in a general sense. Perhaps there are redundant systems which can be isolated and turned off for tuning, or some such? No idea, but like I said, it's not the first time.


Chris M. said...

Continuing to love this series of posts, as I have since #1. :)

This scene stands out as particularly ridiculous in my memory... why would the Narada's route past Saturn have anything to do with how to hide from it? And since when can you beam onto a shielded enemy ship from halfway across a solar system?

And despite your impressive attention to detail, there's even *more* idiocy here than you mention. For instance: even if we handwave away the Federation's increased knowledge of the Romulans, the "common ancestry" Spock refers to was *two thousand years earlier.* By what conceivable logic would that not be enough time for their computer systems to diverge to the point of unfamiliarity?

BurntSynapse said...

Unfamiliarity does not necessarily refute Spock's claim that his cultural experience would make it easier for him to interact with the Narada computers than it would be for Kirk, but Uhura was really the correct choice for that away team if the computer search was the real plan.

If the plan were suddenly changed to one where our heroes mind rape a fallen enemy on the battlefield for information, then Spock would be a proper choice, having telepathic powers and no sense that the Geneva conventions (enacted in response to Nazi atrocities) are worth observing.