Dec 17 2013 4:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Visionary”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Visionary“Visionary”
Written by Ethan H. Calk and John Shirley
Directed by Reza Badiyi
Season 3, Episode 17
Production episode 40512-463
Original air date: February 27, 1995
Stardate: unknown

Station log: O’Brien is lying on a deck in Ops being treated after a plasma conduit blew up in his face. Bashir has given him hyronalin for the radiation, but he recommends light duty for a few days. For once, O’Brien doesn’t argue.

A delegation of Romulans arrive at the station to go over the intelligence reports the Federation has gathered on the Dominion (as promised when they lent the Defiant a cloaking device). Ruwon and Karina introduce themselves to Sisko and Kira and express no interest in relaxing after their journey, getting right down to business. Complicating matters is a Klingon freighter in for repairs. Sisko instructs Odo to keep an eye on things, they don’t need tensions breaking out.

While in the midst of talking Quark into installing a dart board in the bar, he suddenly finds himself on the Promenade watching himself have a conversation with Quark about repairing a holosuite damaged by the Klingons. Then he’s back in Quark’s, having thrown a bull’s eye into the dart board. Then he collapses. Bashir attributes the collapse to the radiation poisoning, and the hallucination is also a possible side effect as well.

Ruwon wants to know why they haven’t interrogated Odo on the subject of the Dominion’s capabilities, and doesn’t accept Sisko and Kira’s assurances that, while he is a changeling, he is not one of the Founders. They demand everything they have on the Dominion, including any classified documents. Sisko says he has to clear that with Starfleet.

O’Brien is interrupted on a walk by Quark, who has the exact same conversation with him that O’Brien saw in his “vision” earlier. Looking across the way, he sees himself, who then disappears. O’Brien immediately reports this; Dax does a scan and finds temporal disturbances a few hours ago in Quark’s and again a few minutes ago on the Promenade. While Dax is in the middle of spewing some technobabble, O’Brien finds himself in the middle of Quark’s during a bar brawl, where he actually gets to save himself from getting stabbed by a Klingon. Then he’s back in Sisko’s office and collapses.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Visionary

Bashir is concerned, as there’s damage to his body from the temporal shift, and it will get worse if it happens again. Sisko agrees to tighten security around Quark’s.

The Romulans want to debrief everyone who was on the Defiant when they encountered the Dominion back in “The Searchtwo-parter and they want unlimited access to the Defiant and to everyone’s personal logs. Sisko says no to the personal logs and only limited Defiant access, but he’s fine with the debriefs.

However, Kira’s debrief focuses on Odo and Kira leaving the Defiant in a shuttle during the attack the Jem’Hadar made on the ship, resulting in their arrival in the Omarian Nebula on the Founder homeworld. Ruwon and Karina ask if Odo has some kind of attraction for her, which Kira dismisses angrily as ridiculous and refuses to answer any further questions, storming out of the briefing.

O’Brien hangs out in Quark’s for a ridiculously long time, including ten straight games of darts with Bashir, waiting for a bar brawl to break out. Bashir insists that nothing will happen, as security is heightened and Quark promised to keep the Klingons out of the bar. But then three Klingons come downstairs—Quark said he’d keep them out of the bar, not the holosuite. Inevitably, the Klingons pick on the Romulans, and the very same brawl breaks out, complete with O’Brien saving himself.

After it’s over, he has another flash-forward, watching himself open a hatch and then get killed by a phaser blast from inside the wall. He then is in the infirmary, back in the present. Bashir says he’s going to be fine, but O’Brien says he’s not, because he’ll be dead in a few hours.

He takes Odo and Sisko to the junction. Odo scans and opens the junction, but they find nothing. Odo places a surveillance device in the corridor, while Dax summons Sisko and O’Brien to Ops. She’s found some low-level tetryon emissions consistent with a singularity, but none of the other signs of a singularity are present. The radiation O’Brien absorbed responds to temporal displacement from quantum singularities, so that might be the issue. Bashir can neutralize it, though he may experience one or two time jumps before the treatment is completed.

Kira has moved the Romulans to new quarters because of issues with the replicators—the new quarters are in the very same corridor where O’Brien saw himself get shot. Sisko decides to still put them there, and let events play out.

Odo detects a device that is beamed into the wall panel in question. They can’t trace the beam, but Odo intends to investigate.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Visionary

In Quark’s, O’Brien is having difficulty processing watching himself die, while Quark tries to convince O’Brien to check the dabo table numbers the next time he jumps ahead. As O’Brien storms out in disgust at Quark’s greed, he jumps into the future again, this time to the infirmary, where he sees his own dead body. Bashir informs him that he died of radiation poisoning; when he goes back to the present, O’Brien needs to tell Bashir to perform a basilar arterial scan—that should show him the damage that he missed until the autopsy.

Odo has traced the transporter to an empty cabin, where the replicator has been altered to a small transporter with a device from Davlos III, a world on the Klingon border that trades almost exclusively with the empire. Odo has also learned from his sources that the three Klingons on the station are actually a covert strike team that reports directly to the High Council. Odo will hold the Klingons until the Romulans leave.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Visionary

O’Brien tells Bashir to perform the basilar arterial scan, and Bashir’s reply is “Who am I to argue with me?” Afterward, Bashir gives O’Brien a clean bill of health once the treatment runs its course, and Dax has traced the singularity to something orbiting DS9 in an elliptical pattern.

Then O’Brien jumps forward again, this time to a runabout. O’Brien was awakened by an alarm and went straight from his cabin to the runabout to evacuate as many people as he could. He doesn’t know what happened to anyone else, as communication’s down. Before O’Brien goes back to the present, he sees the station and the wormhole explode.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Visionary

Sisko orders an evacuation prepared quietly so as not to alert any potential saboteurs. O’Brien suggests deliberately prompting a time-jump, flooding his body with the radiation in question. He and Bashir think they can make it work so that he’s only three hours in the future rather than the five he’s been jumping. He also has to be careful, as he’ll be suffering radiation poisoning.

He jumps ahead to his quarters, where he’s asleep. He wakes himself up and gets himself and himself to Ops, but then a Romulan warbird decloaks and attacks the station. Future O’Brien realizes that the singularity they detected was the one on the Romulan ship. But the present-day O’Brien is dying of radiation poisoning, and so he gives the recall device to future O’Brien, who travels to the past. Bashir is confused by the fact that O’Brien has no sign of radiation in his cells, at which point he realizes it’s future-O’Brien.

O’Brien alerts Sisko to the presence of the cloaked Romulan ship. Sisko interrupts Ruwon and Karina’s debrief of Quark, accompanied by Kira, Odo, and two security guards. Sisko believes that the Romulans planned to destroy the station and collapse the wormhole in order to keep the Alpha Quadrant safe from the Dominion. Sisko also has fifty photon torpedoes trained on the cloaked ship. Ruwon and Karina then decide it’s time to leave, with which Sisko readily agrees, and off they go, escorted by Odo.

As for O’Brien, he knows exactly how the darts game he’s playing with Bashir is going to end, and he also torments Quark by knowing when the table’s about to hit dabo.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently a singularity can make a particular type of radiation encounter temporal instability, and send someone who has that radiation in his cells five hours into his own future because SCIENCE!

Don’t ask my opinion next time: After Sisko tells Kira to be diplomatic with the Romulans, she proceeds to be completely (and predictably) undiplomatic, yelling, hitting the table, and walking out on them.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Visionary

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo figures out who sabotaged the replicator and the wall junction and feels the need to explain to Sisko his entire process for acquiring the information. When Sisko asks why Odo didn’t just cut to the chase, Odo says, “Well, sometimes I have to remind you just how good I am.” At another point, he provides Sisko with a list of people he's going to investigate, with Quark on the list. Sisko is surprised at this, as this doesn't seem like something Quark would be involved in, at which point Odo says, in as close to a “duh!” tone as Rene Auberjonois is ever likely to use, that he always investigates Quark...

Rules of Acquisition: When he’s debriefed by the Romulans, Ruwon says he thinks Quark is lying, and when Quark asks about which part, Ruwon says, “All of it.” Quark allows as how at least he’s consistent.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Kira is outraged at the insinuation Ruwon and Karina make regarding Odo being attracted to her, and Odo pretends to be just as outraged.

Victory is life: Ruwon describes the Dominion as the greatest threat the Alpha Quadrant has ever faced—and he puts his money where his mouth is, as the Romulans plan to blow up the station and collapse the wormhole in order to avoid that threat.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Visionary

What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: Quark only rents out the holosuites to Klingons if they pay double because of all the damage they do, and he talks them up to triple after he bans from the bar to avoid O’Brien’s bar brawl (which happens anyhow, but hey, Quark still gets his latinum).

Keep your ears open: “Well, you do have one problem: if all you can hallucinate about is Quark’s maintenance problems, you do have a sadly deficient fantasy life.”

Bashir’s diagnosis of O’Brien’s first time-jump, which they think is a hallucination.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Visionary

Welcome aboard: Jack Shearer, who previously played Vadosia in “The Forsaken,” is Ruwon; he’ll be back as two different Starfleet admirals, Strickler in Voyager’s “Non Sequitur” and Hayes in Star Trek: First Contact as well as theVoyager episodes “Hope and Fear” and “Life Line.” Annette Helde makes the first of several Trek appearances as Karina; she’ll be back in “The Siege of AR-558” as Larkin, and also in Voyager’s “Scientific Method” as Takar and an assimilated Enterprise crew member in First Contact.

Trivial matters: O’Brien experiences six time jumps: he sees his future self talking to Quark about holosuite repair, he sees the brawl in Quark’s, he sees himself shot by a phaser blast from a wall, he sees himself dead in the infirmary, he sees Deep Space 9 evacuated and then destroyed, and then he goes three hours into the future and is killed. This means the O’Brien we get for the rest of the series is one from three hours in the future.

Although veteran novelist and some time screenwriter John Shirley got sole teleplay credit, the script received an uncredited rewrite by Ronald D. Moore, who was the one who had the present-day O’Brien dying and threw in the reference to hyronalin, the radiation treatment first mentioned in the original series episode “The Deadly Years.” This was Shirley’s first script for live-action television, though he’d written for animated TV series in the past, as well as the screenplay for The Crow.

This episode has the dart board, which debuted in the previous episode, “Prophet Motive,” moved to Quark’s for the first time. It will remain there for the rest of the series.

The Federation promised to share intelligence reports on the Dominion in exchange for use of the cloaking device in “The Search, Part I.” Having been stymied in their attempt to collapse the wormhole, the Romulans will put this intelligence to other uses in “The Die is Cast.”

Walk with the Prophets: “I hate temporal mechanics.” On the one hand, this feels like yet another TNG story that wandered into the wrong studio on the Paramount lot by accident. It’s loaded with craptons o’ technobabble, with lots of made-up science (with just enough real terminology like “singularity” and “radiation” and—well, that’s it, really—to make it almost sound convincing), and the solution happens because of a manipulation of the made-up science that sounds clever but isn’t because it only works at all because the script says it does.

Having said that, there are some important differences. For one thing, it’s still got lots of very DS9-ish stuff, most notably following up on the Romulans’ quid for the pro quo of lending a cloaking device, which is nice to see. In general, it’s good to see more Romulans on the show, and we’ll be seeing them again very soon.

But what sets this in particular apart from the standard TNG (and later, Voyager) style technobabble episodes is that the episode is blessedly absent of any moralizing over changing the timelines or mucking about with history. Everyone is pretty straightforward about O’Brien actually changing history for the better where at all possible. No agonizing, no angsting, just trying to make sure that people don’t die.

Which, frankly, is how it should be.

Having said all that, the episode isn’t all that memorable because it’s ultimately a technobabble episode. Worse, it’s a bad technobable episode because it doesn’t even keep up with its own stuff. It was established back in “Timescape” on TNG that Romulans use singularities to power their warp drive. Why wasn’t a Romulan ship the first thing they thought of when Dax detected a singularity in an elliptical orbit, especially since there are Romulans right there on the friggin’ station????

The best moments are, as always the character bits: O’Brien all but bullying Quark into installing a dart board, Kira blowing up at the Romulans, Odo showing off to Sisko, and so on. It’s a fun vehicle for Colm Meaney—particularly his “Not you again!” to himself on the final time jump—but that’s all it is.


Warp factor rating: 6

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1. bookworm1398
I rewatched this episode only a month ago, but have only a hazy memory of it. Definetly in the forgetable pile.
Matt Stoumbaugh
3. LazerWulf
Yeah, the treknobabble is confusing and makes no sense, but I still gotta like this episode. For my money, though, I thought Bashir's reaction after that final jump shouldn't have been "Why aren't you flooded with radiation?" but rather "Why are you in your bathrobe when I just saw you in uniform?"

Also, the temporal mechanics in the episode were a bit wonky. It was clear from the first two time jumps that we were clearly seeing the mutable future. The first time, O'Brien realizes he's having the exact same conversation he saw himself having, but stops short of actually completing it as he remembers in time to see his past self fade away. The second time he sees himself get beat up by a Klingon in the barfight at Quarks, but is actually able to interact with the future, stopping another Klingon from knifing his future self. Once he goes back, he tries to prevent the barfight from even happening, but it still does, yet this time he's the one beating up the Klingon, and while his past self still defeats the knife-wielding Klingon in much the same manner, Future!Miles shouts out "Watch the Romulan!" instead of "Look out!". The third time he sees himself die (probably because some idiot distracted him by shouting "Miles?" just as he was opening the panel, which he was obviously investigating because he detected the same transporter beam that Odo detected in the altered timeline...), and the fourth time he sees himself already dead, but these two times he takes measures so that the future changes enough that he doesn't encounter his past self, so where did that past self go?

I always suspected that replicator technology was based off of transporter technology (a transporter deconstructs, then converts to data, then reconstructs while a replicator is just reconstruction based on previously stored data), but had that been confirmed anywhere before this episode? Also, the case of Thomas Riker, who was cloned (or, dare I say, replicated) in a transporter accident seems to point to the fact that there are safeguards to prevent using a transporter as a replicator (otherwise it wouldn't have taken an accident to create him), not to mention the whole ethical situation of the thing, but couldn't a really unscupulous evil genius bypass those safeguards and create a clone army? Has that ever been addressed?
Christopher Bennett
4. ChristopherLBennett
Perhaps it's telling that an episode in which one of the regulars dies (technically) is considered unmemorable. I found this an okay episode myself, but nothing really stands out. I did briefly mention its events in my novel Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock, but only because I tried to reference every Trek time-travel episode or film at least obliquely.

Except, why is it that the biggest cataclysms are always conveniently timed to occur just when a fluke of circumstances allows the main characters access to time travel and the opportunity to fix said cataclysms? Not that the trope can't be done well; the early DS9 novel Fallen Heroes by Daffyd ab Hugh is a particularly impressive example.

Oh, and if Romulan ships' singularity drives give off detectable tetryon signatures even when cloaked, doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of cloaked ships? Okay, they did say Dax didn't initially find anything until she did a deeper subspace scan than usual, but still, you'd think somebody would've noticed the emissions before and made it part of a standard "scan for cloaked Romulan ships" protocol.

Also, why would the warbird be orbiting DS9? The station isn't massive enough to generate much of a gravitational field. (Artificial gravity fields never seem to extend beyond the hull for some mysterious reason.) Let's see, Memory Alpha says the station's mass is a shade over 10 million metric tons, or 10 billion kilograms. If my math is right, then if the warbird were, say, 100 kilometers away, then the gravitational pull the station would impart upon it would be about seven trillionths of a gravity, and it would take two days for that gravitational pull to move the warbird a single meter closer. So there's no reason why it would be in orbit of the station. And if Dax saw something appearing to orbit the station with a period of only 5 hours or whatever, she'd instantly know it had to be a forced orbit, and thus that she was detecting a vessel or powered object of some kind.

And then there's the cavalier reference to how some kind of radioisotopes can be temporally displaced, as if it's no big deal. Come to think of it, the more I reflect on the details of this episode's technobabble, the more annoyed I get. It didn't make a damn bit of sense. Maybe that's why I don't remember it much -- I haven't been eager to revisit it.

@3: I don't know about onscreen mentions, but the behind-the-scenes intent was always that replicators were an offshoot of transporter technology -- and I think that's pretty self-evident from the fact that they use the same sparkly materialization effect. The rationale for why transporters and replicators can't reproduce living organisms is that it requires quantum-level resolution, while replicators can only handle molecular-level, which would produce too many errors for the replicated subject to be viable. Transporters can only temporarily store information at the quantum level before it degrades, because there's just too much data to be stored in a stable, permanent medium. (An analogy might be the difference between a bucket of water and a water pipe section of the same dimensions as the bucket. There's a maximum to how much water the bucket can store, but no maximum to how much water the pipe can have passing through it temporarily. The idea is that transporters only pass the data through rather than storing it, so they can handle a much greater amount of data than they can retain.)

Although I'm not sure that explanation really holds up today. At the time, it seemed plausible that there would be limits on computer storage capacity, but these days it just seems to increase exponentially and we have far more storage space than we'd ever need.
Matt Stoumbaugh
5. LazerWulf
@4: Thanks, that actually does make sense.

As to the orbiting warbird, I just figured that they kept in motion as to be less detectable. Supposedly, a quantum singularity on the move would be harder to track than a stationary one would, plus there's that whole "distortion of space" thing that cloaked ships do which would be pretty obvious if you know where to look. The whole "space is big" thing kind of helps with the camoflage, I guess, but with a detected singularity pointing right at you, it's probably better to be on the move.
6. critter42
"This means the O’Brien we get for the rest of the series is one from three hours in the future."


Should we start calling him TiVO'Brien?...
Christopher Bennett
7. ChristopherLBennett
@5: Actually, I think a moving singularity would be more detectable, because moving masses generate gravity waves.

As for cloaking distortion, I suppose you're thinking of The Search for Spock, but the ripple effect seen there hasn't been a feature of cloaking devices in any other Trek production ever (except for the actual moments of cloaking and decloaking). Presumably it was a fault in the particular iteration of Klingon cloaking technology in use at that time, and was corrected in the next upgrade. (Given how many times we've seen cloaking tech penetrated in one era and yet undetectable in a later era, and just given common sense, it stands to reason that there'd be a constant arms race between stealth and detection, so instead of one consistent cloaking technology, there's a succession of new and improved ones as the old ones get penetrated and rendered obsolete.)
8. Lsana

RE: Your last paragraph. A friend in the disk drive industry, and he thinks we have just about hit the limit of magnetic storage capacity. You need a certain number of atoms to be able to hold a magnetic bit, and the closer you get to that threshold, the more other space you need to devote to error-correction to be sure you can actually get back what you wrote. It's possible that we'll someday shift to a different storage medium (DNA computing being the obvious possibility), but the current increases aren't going to go on much longer. It is definitely plausible that 24th century computers will not have enough space to store the data on every subatomic particle in the body of 1000+ human beings.
Matt Stoumbaugh
9. LazerWulf
@7: That assumes that quantum singularities have mass. And if moving, cloaked ships could be detected by following the gravity waves, why wouldn't they do that?
Dante Hopkins
10. DanteHopkins
I remember watching this one wondering, where's Subcommander T'Rul? This would have been a good oppurtunity to see T'Rul again. I suppose it may have been because Martha Hackett was in her recurring role on Voyager as Seska at this point, but it was a recurring one still. Another missed oppurtunity.

The only thing I remember about this one was liking it way more than the previous episode, which was a Ferengi episode that I watch just to get to the next one. Following up that mess with a episode with Romulans and ever-cranky O'Brien time travelling and keeping the station from blowing up, got a big "Ahh, that's better" from me. Although I admit if you asked me why O'Brien was time-travelling, I honestly couldn't tell you, even having rewatched this episode a few days ago. Maybe krad is right about "technobabble" after all.

And I did say out loud when they were detecting the singularity, "Wait, don't the Romulans use a quantum singularity in their warp drive?" when Dax was scanning and technobabbling in Ops. This, inexplicably, is forgotten by everyone, even with Romulans just having come aboard the station, as krad points out, and I was more than a little annoyed at that.

Still a nice tense hour of television, and I did like this one. I'd give it a 6 overall, too.
Christopher Bennett
11. ChristopherLBennett
@9: Uhh, that's what a singularity is -- an infinitely dense concentration of mass.

And I wasn't talking about cloaking effects and detection. I was simply addressing the specific claim that a moving mass would be harder to detect than a stationary one. All else being equal, assuming detection were possible at all, the reverse would be true.

Indeed, it can be argued that gravity waves were the basis for the "motion detector" that allowed them to track the cloaked ship in "Balance of Terror." Although clearly cloaking devices advanced to deal with that problem by the time of "The Enterprise Incident."
12. Idran
@8 While there's some truth to that, we're already moving past magnetic storage onto solid-state, so that's not a tremendous barrier

Beyond that, though, you're right in principle, because we do know by conservation of information that at best, to store all the information about every particle in some mass, you would need at least need that much mass, and that's with 100% efficient information storage. No matter what the actual amount of information is, no mass of particles can possibly store more information than would be required to describe that mass of particles itself. So, for example, it would be physically impossible to store all the information describing the particles that make up a 50kg person on less than 50kg of storage medium, no matter what the specific means or implementation of storing that information was.
Christopher Bennett
13. ChristopherLBennett
@12: That's a very interesting point, and it helps make sense of it. Still, the computer core on a Federation starship is supposed to be a massive object several stories tall, and there are typically two of them per ship. And a starbase or ground facility could easily contain a larger mass of computer storage. So if that's the bottleneck, it should theoretically be possible to store enough data to create "backups" of living people.

Not that you'd really need to, though, since there are simpler ways to do it. As I said in the first-season rewatches, between the quick-cloning of "A Man Alone" and the consciousness-transfer technology of "The Passenger," they've got the ingredients for immortality already, but just aren't using them.
David Levinson
14. DemetriosX
Another episode in which the universe shits on Miles O'Brien. Stuff like this is why I suggested a Luck of the Irish header back when we started. At least he has it a little better than Harry Kim, who actually dies several times.

Regarding replicator and transporter technology, I think it was made explicit in a TNG 1st season episode. The one where the Enterprise is hauling around some diplomats for a couple of mutually hostile species, one of whom only eat prey they hunt and kill themselves. The title escapes me, but it was one of the weaker episodes in the early 1st season.

And due to the discoveries in "Rascals" the Federation also has rejuvenation technology, which also contributes to immortality. The only drawback there is having to go through puberty every few decades.
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@14: In fact, there were two prior uses of the transporter for rejuvenation, to reverse rapid aging in both TAS: "The Lorelei Signal" and TNG: "Unnatural Selection." The former episode implied that the transporter pattern of an individual was stored and could be retrieved later, which conflicts with what was later established, but the TNG episode presented it as using the data from the subject's uncorrupted DNA to "edit" and restore the damaged pattern.

And really, with that capability to modify a transporter pattern, to correct errors or damage by using a partial pattern as a template, there's immense medical potential that's been virtually ignored by the franchise. Why bother beaming someone directly to sickbay when the beaming itself could be the treatment?
16. critter42
@12: but couldn't a pattern be "compressed" ala .zip files and the like?
17. Idran
@16: That's kind of a tricky question to answer. While technically you could write an algorithm to encode a specific input into as small a space as a single bit (just write the algorithm "(desired input)=0, (any other input)=1(any other input)"),
Shannon's theorem proves that for any lossless compression algorithm, there exists at least one input string that results in a larger output string than was input; it's impossible to create an algorithm that does better than the information density limit for all possible input strings, one bit of storage per bit of information. (Essentially, this is because if every set of possible input strings of length n is being mapped to a string of length sible configuration of matter that would require more than its own mass to store using this algorithm, even if on average most patterns were able to be stored in a smaller amount of space.

Now, if you used a lossy compression algorithm, this obviously wouldn't be a problem. But then you'd lose data in the original string; that's what a lossy algorithm is, one that only gives you an approximation of the original input when you reverse it. (Like JPG compared to PNG; PNG exactly describes an image, while JPG only approximates an image, resulting in artifacts.) This can be thought of as what the molecular level vs. quantum level storage of patterns is describing on Star Trek.
18. Idran
Whoops, that comment got a little mangled and I didn't catch it in preview. The end of that first paragraph should've said:
(Essentially, this is because if every set of possible input strings of length n is being mapped to a string of length less than n, then at least two input strings would have to be mapped to the same output, because there aren't enough strings of length less than n for each string of length n to get its own unique output. But then that string couldn't be uncompressed, because there'd be no way of knowing which of the two inputs were the original.)

Analogously, this means that there must exist some initial configuration of matter that would require more than its own mass to store using this algorithm, even if on average most patterns were able to be stored in a smaller amount of space.
19. RichF
@15: And there was even a time when the transporter was used for re-de-juvenation: TAS: "The Counterclock Incident".
Brian Haughwout
20. bhaughwout
@ "Should we start calling him TiVO'Brien?..."

critter42 wins the Internet for the day.
Christopher Bennett
21. ChristopherLBennett
@19: I do not acknowledge that that episode ever happened. It's just too nonsensical. Even Alan Dean Foster's novelization explained it away as an illusion.
22. McKay B
@4: Heh, EXCELLENT point about the orbit. For that Romulan ship to be "orbiting" the station, it would have needed to exert a very noticeable force on the station. You definitely caught this episode in yet another lapse in science!

But as for the data storage question, there's a big problem that Idren has hinted at but not stated directly: the amount of quantum variables needed to describe a human-sized object exactly is STAGGERING. Like, many thousands of times more than the number of seconds that the universe has existed. Even if computers' astronomical storage capacities continue to grow at amazingly exponential rates, I think it would take us a lot longer than 360 years to get to that level of technology.

@7: The difficulty with detecting cloaked ships by their gravity waves would be pretty high considering how difficult it is to detect gravity waves at all -- as in, we're still failing to do so in 2013 even with objects like the sun. But then again, obviously detection of gravity is one of the technologies that changes most drastically in the near future in the TrekVerse (since detecting it would presumably be prerequisite to manipulating it. And curiously, artificial gravity is commonplace enough to be taken for granted by the mid-2100s in Trek, even before the transporter or shields get invented). So yeah, as CLB said, maybe detecting gravity waves (and then countering that detection) are the less-jargon-y way to describe the arms race that surrounded cloaking devices in TOS.

@15: Yeah, I always wondered why the transporter isn't sickbay's #1 favorite fix-all tool. Even if there's some reason it hasn't caught on among the general medical community, it would be cool to see a specialist character who is a master of transport-healing.
David Levinson
23. DemetriosX
In any case, TAS is considered non-canonical except in one or two very minor things, like Kirk's middle name.
24. Idran
@22: On the topic of gravity waves: you're right about the difficulty, but to be fair, if you're going to detect gravity waves in anything, a rapidly moving singularity would probably be the easiest possible source of gravity waves you could hope for.

@23: Oh, let's not get started on that; especially not to Christopher. :P

Suffice it to say, that was never exactly true except in the sense that Roddenberry preferred to pretend that TAS never happened (but he also would have preferred to pretend that parts of TUC never happened and was literally about to have his lawyer push for fairly huge cuts in it the day before he died; yet I've never heard anyone seriously consider describing parts of TUC noncanon), there have honestly been numerous references to stuff from TAS besides just Yesteryear and "Tiberius" in the post-TNG series (especially in Enterprise), where it does matter Paramount considers everything that aired canon, and "where it does matter" is a lot narrower a category than most people think.

To paraphrase Alan Moore: TAS might be an imaginary story; but then again, aren't they all?
Christopher Bennett
25. ChristopherLBennett
@23: That's a myth. There was a period of a couple of years starting in 1989 when Roddenberry officially distanced the canon from TAS, which was largely because Filmation had gone out of business and the rights to their productions including TAS were up in the air. Also because Roddenberry wasn't happy with a lot of his and others' former work on Trek and considered quite a lot of it apocryphal, including many of the movies and a significant portion of TOS itself. But once Roddenberry died and Paramount (now CBS) secured the TAS rights, that ceased to apply. For the past couple of decades, multiple onscreen works have referenced elements of TAS, the novels and comics have been free to acknowledge it, and it's listed equally alongside the other series in StarTrek.com's episode guides and on the "canon-only" Memory Alpha Wiki.

True, there are parts of TAS that have been contradicted, like "The Slaver Weapon" (in its version of 21st-century history) and "The Magicks of Megas-tu" (in the ease of travel to the galactic center), but then, so have live-action productions like ST V (same galactic-center issue), "The Alternative Factor" (in its inconsistent portrayal of antimatter and dilithium), "Threshold" (whose own writers have renounced it as apocryphal), etc. TAS is like any other part of the screen canon: Presumed true unless contradicted by a later installment.
26. Nix
ChristopherLBennett@11, any gravity waves from something as low-mass as any plausible starship in orbital motion would be far, far too weak to detect. However... all you need is a mass detector, and Robert L. Forward (also notable for diamond-hard SF with reinforced titanium-cardboard characters) invented one long before DS9 or even ST:TMP was produced, which actually works and is in use in the present day, the rotating cruciform gravity gradiometer. It is superbly sensitive: Wikipedia notes Thorne et al pointing out that it can detect the gravity gradient produced by a human fist. A starship should be no trouble.

I can perfectly well believe that they have one of *those* -- but then unless cloaking devices somehow block out your effect on the local gravity gradient, this would tend to make cloaking devices more or less useless. (Gravity gradiometers aren't exactly instantaneous-reporting devices, *today*, but I'd expect that by the 24th century that would have changed.)

Myself I am not sure whether to love or hate this episode. On the downside, treknobabble, and the time-travel is so timey-wimey and internally inconsistent that *the progatonist* hangs a lampshade on it. On the upside, he does it with the immortal line "I hate temporal mechanics!" in chorus with himself.
27. Nix
My apologies to the gods of spelling for the hideous miscoinage 'progatonist'. It got mixed up with progesterone and possibly programming...
Christopher Bennett
28. ChristopherLBennett
@26: Again, I'm not making any assertions in the absolute about how easy the ship would be to detect via gravity waves. The only point I was making was that it was incorrect to state that a moving mass would be harder to detect than a stationary one. All else being equal, the moving mass would theoretically be easier to detect. Not necessarily easy, but easier than the stationary mass.

Anyway, I can't think of any plausible way for "Balance of Terror"'s so-called "motion detector" to work except by detecting gravity waves. Unless... hmm, the analogy was with sonar, since BoT is essentially a submarine movie transposed into space, so maybe it detects radio emissions from disturbances in the interstellar medium? Although I'm not sure if something the size of a spaceship would be able to generate a significant enough disturbance. And if it could do that, I'm not sure it would be as unable to localize the source as the BoT motion detector was.
Mike Kelmachter
29. MikeKelm
There's a simpler solution to why Dax was able to detect the singularity through the cloak but apparently no one else ever does this. I'd have to imagine that a cloaking device has to be pretty tuned into what a ship is doing (which is why I always find it implausible when you just take a cloaking device from one ship and plug it into the other). Presumably, the cloaking device works not only by bending light around the object but also by either dampening or actively canceling any emissions (such as power emissions from a warp core) emitted by the object being cloaked. If the vessel that is cloaked doesn't have a properly functioning cloak, it might fail to fully cancel out the emissions of the singularity at the heart of the warp core.

Which could then in turn explain why Dax fails to connect the dots that A) there are Romulans on the station, b) Romulan ships are powered by singularities, c) there's a singularity moving around the station. It's an example where we convince ourselves that something can't be happening because it usually does not. If the Romulan cloaking device normally prevents the singularity from being detected, Dax might detect the singularity but not think that it's a Bird of Prey because normally you can't detect it. Quid pro quo, she doesn't recognize the Bird of Prey for what it is.
Mike Kelmachter
30. MikeKelm
There's a simpler solution to why Dax was able to detect the singularity through the cloak but apparently no one else ever does this. I'd have to imagine that a cloaking device has to be pretty tuned into what a ship is doing (which is why I always find it implausible when you just take a cloaking device from one ship and plug it into the other). Presumably, the cloaking device works not only by bending light around the object but also by either dampening or actively canceling any emissions (such as power emissions from a warp core) emitted by the object being cloaked. If the vessel that is cloaked doesn't have a properly functioning cloak, it might fail to fully cancel out the emissions of the singularity at the heart of the warp core.

Which could then in turn explain why Dax fails to connect the dots that A) there are Romulans on the station, b) Romulan ships are powered by singularities, c) there's a singularity moving around the station. It's an example where we convince ourselves that something can't be happening because it usually does not. If the Romulan cloaking device normally prevents the singularity from being detected, Dax might detect the singularity but not think that it's a Bird of Prey because normally you can't detect it. Quid pro quo, she doesn't recognize the Bird of Prey for what it is.
Christopher Bennett
31. ChristopherLBennett
@30: Err, I think you mean ergo, not quid pro quo (which means a fair exchange, tit for tat).

Anyway, yeah, it's a given that a cloak would have to mask emissions as well as bend light. (I never understood why so much fiction about invisibility talks about bending light as some amazing, impossible feat. We've had the ability to bend light forever, with things called lenses and mirrors. Magicians have been bending light around things to make them effectively invisible for centuries.) Indeed, the emission masking has been shown as the main limitation on cloaks; energy output needs to be kept low, which is why the Defiant's lights always dim when it cloaks. And since cloaks demand lots of energy, there's a point of diminishing returns. Really, the idea that a D'Deridex-class ship even huger than a Galaxy-class could be cloaked perfectly is rather ridiculous. Stealth ships ought to be compact like the Defiant or a Klingon Bird of Prey.
Mike Kelmachter
32. MikeKelm
Your right, I did mean ergo and not quid pro quo. Teaches me to play with dead languages...

I think it's possible to cloak a larger vessel but it would essentially be at a very reduced power level/speed, not racing around at high warp. There's practical examples of this- diesel/electric submarines are extremely quiet when operating on batteries, but are unable to move at a high rate of speed without draining the battery (and leaving it dead in the water). To operate at it's fastest speed, the submarine needs to use its diesel engines, which is far noisier. Also, diesel submarines tend to be smaller, which allow them to be more energy efficient and more maneuverable than nuclear subs, much like a Klingon BoP or Defiant might be.

So maybe a D'Deridex class ship might be able to fully cloak, but it would be limited to a very low speed-possibly sublight- due to the drain on the engines to keep it fully hidden. That would mean that the cloaked vessel could remain hidden in a defense position or in ambush, but that warping deep into enemy territory without detection would probably be much harder if not impossible.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
33. Lisamarie
What always kind if irked me about this type of episode is thinking about stuff like this: In one of the jumps, O'Brien meets Future!Bashir, who then tells him to run the basilar artery scan (meaning that this version of Bashir has more or less experienced the same events the 'current' O'Brien has, since he knows enough about the time shifting to not be freaked out when O'Brien appears and tells him to relay the message to himself). O'Brien goes back to the past and tells the 'current' Bashir to do the test.

Thing is..if this were being told from future!Bashir's point of view, what happens after O'Brien dissapears? Did a new timeline just spawn and he's just progressing down that timeline with O'Brien dead? Or did he just poof out of existance?

I, also, hate temporal mechanics.

Still a fun episode though.

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