Robert Comsol wrote:
Do we seriously want to deprive ourselves of this poetry? Of course a starship wouldn't entirely depend on the "wind" of gamma radiation and/or dark energy.
Since a starship has its own power source the analogy would rather be one of the mid-19th Century steamships that still had sails and thus could save their onboard supplies if the winds were favorable.
If the "space wind" is omni-directional and effectively constant, then the comparison to sailing is pretty much worthless. The mid-to-late 1800s Royal Navy cruisers had to have sail rigs because the early engines weren't fuel-efficient enough to give them the range to patrol the empire. That doesn't seem comparable to anything in Trek.
Not exactly. TOS did scan ahead for space and energy density (especially if it is something that they might have to fly through) and their "weather scans" spotted things like ion storms, etc. That might not exist in TNG because of different reasons but in TOS (and thus "Balance of Terror") the environment does seem to play a role in starship propulsion.
But that's different from being propelled by the "weather." A nuclear aircraft carrier tracks the weather ahead, but not because her propulsion depends on it.