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Trek Tech Pass me the quantum flux regulator, will you?

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Old February 4 2013, 03:38 AM   #1
Wingsley
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What killed the Defiant's crew?

Quoting Doctor McCoy's intercom conversation with Spock, mid-episode:

MCCOY
The disease is not transmitted by the men, Mister Spock. The cause is the area of space we're in. It's affecting the whole crew. The molecular structure of the brain tissues in the central nervous system are distorting. And the madness that affected the Defiant's crew will soon happen to the Enterprise. Now you've got to get this ship out of here.
I'm a little confused here...

Is McCoy offering Spock an official diagnosis and prognosis for the crews of the Enterprise and Defiant? Is he saying that the Defiant's crew died of brain tissue disease caused by the unusual spacial distortion taking place in this particular region? If so, does this mean that if the Enterprise hangs around long enough, everyone will die regardless due to the deleterious affects this distortion has on brain tissue?

The Theragen-derived antidote McCoy unveils later would seem to indicate that a chemical solution can be used to keep this brain tissue malady in check.

It seems a little contradictory. Did the Defiant's crew all go crazy on each other, and that was the cause of death? It looked like someone let the air out of the ship's interior, and Kirk's boarding party needed space suits with gravity boots to explore the derelict Defiant, suggesting there was no longer any life support available. Or did something else happen?
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Old February 4 2013, 11:13 AM   #2
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

The Defiant's crew probably died of their own insane actions long before any physical pathology. The physical distortions might have led to death eventually. What McCoy did was come up with a "pain killer" to numb the fun house mirror sensations—temporarily.

Gravity boots? No mention of that in TOS. Anyway, since the Enterprise sensors could not detect the Defiant, it might have been some kind of mirage. I think the environment suits were a wise precaution. They might have been beaming into space. The ship appeared to have power, although the air might have leeched away. McCoy passed his hand through a table and one of the corpses. I always figured that the air was intact, and McCoy had wandered down to a threshold between the universes.

To coin a phrase, "'brane and 'brane! What is 'brane?"
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Old February 4 2013, 11:31 AM   #3
Timo
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

Indeed, we were never told that the ship would lack air or other life support. Instead, our heroes were unsure whether there would be a ship at their destination at all, or mere empty space.

But Spock did say the ship was "functioning" and suspected that "mutineers" would be hiding elsewhere in the ship; had there been a life support shutdown or failure, Spock would probably have referred to it at this point, if only to clarify the tactical situation vs. the mutineers.

That Kirk and pals didn't immediately remove their suits was obviously against Hollywood convention and Star Trek precedent. It made sense, though, as the ship had been observed doing the "now you see me, now you don't" act previously, and the results would be fatal on an unprotected boarding party.

As an anti-contamination measure, the suits would obviously not have worked too well, because they wouldn't stop "fabric of space" from hurting the wearers. But anti-contamination has never been attempted with suits in Star Trek anyway. Spacesuits and other protective gear seem to be worn only against "the elements": cold, hot, vacuum.

Supposedly, the crew of the Defiant had three weeks to kill each other. They could have achieved total loss of life without having to resort to means of mass murder (opening of airlocks, toying with gravity, using intruder control gases etc.), at least if we assume that the final bouts of murderous rage would result in suicides when there were no other victims immediately available. The brain damage itself need not have been one of the causes of death, merely the driving force.

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Old February 4 2013, 11:42 AM   #4
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

McCoy said that the Defiant crew killed each other. From http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/64.htm:

[Defiant Bridge]

KIRK: Get back up here.
(Chekov has a dizzy spell, and totters out of Engineering.)
KIRK: Kirk to McCoy.

[Defiant Sickbay]

MCCOY: McCoy here.

[Defiant Bridge]

KIRK: Bones, can you tell me what they all died of?
MCCOY [OC]: I'd say these people killed each other.
KIRK: They what?

[Defiant Sickbay]

MCCOY: You heard correctly, Jim. These people killed each other.

[Defiant Bridge]

KIRK: Could mental disease have infected all of the crew?
MCCOY [OC]: According to the ship's log, the medical surgeon down here didn't even know what was going on.

[Defiant Sickbay]

MCCOY: The best I can do is get all the readings I can get and analyse them later.
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Old February 4 2013, 03:52 PM   #5
Robert Comsol
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

Timo wrote: View Post
But anti-contamination has never been attempted with suits in Star Trek anyway.
I wouldn't say "never" as the one from "the Man Trap" (and "Where No Man Has Gone Before") looked a lot like a candidate for a protective radiation suit.

Bob
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Old February 4 2013, 04:00 PM   #6
Timo
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

Would it do any better against contamination than the orange suits of "The Naked Time"? The hood doesn't appear hermetically sealed in this case, either.

The vest does have the look of a radiation protection system based on absorption of radiation by "armor plates" covering key body locations... But it wouldn't do much good against contamination. Okay, perhaps it is easier to wash than the regular uniform, but in order to be of help, it would need to cover the entire uniform.

In any case, too bad that this sort of diversity was lost later in the show.

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Old February 5 2013, 04:10 AM   #7
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

There's something very ironic about the whole pass-your-hand-through-a-solid-object trope. As with TMP's "The Next Phase" and STARGATE SG-1's "phase out"/cloaking trope, one has to wonder: if this altered state makes you invisible and/or unreachable, or able to pass through solid objects, how come the ground/deck you stand on effectively stops you from drifting through the floor/ground?

(The reason I suggested gravity boots wasn't based directly on canon; it was retconned based on the way Kirk and his boarding party seem to cautiously move about while on-board the derelict. I just retconned that in from TMP6 and FIRST CONTACT.)

So, are we assuming that the violence resulting from the brian-tissue-disease-induced madness is what killed the Defiant's crew, and that this brain-tissue-distortion is not conclusively fatal? FWIW, I have no problem with most of the crew beating each other to death, and maybe someone depressurizing the ship during the Defiant's "last days" (or maybe the life support system just went offline after there was nobody left to maintain it).

There is also the possibility that even a fully-functional Federation starship, left in this area of space long enough, may be affected by the spacial distortion. Maybe if you leave the ship there long enough all the ship's systems will be knocked offline and/or powered down. If the distortion can have an effect on brain tissue, why wouldn't it also affect the ship's sensitive instrumentation?
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Old February 5 2013, 02:30 PM   #8
Timo
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

There is also the possibility that darker forces are at play there. "In a Mirror, Darkly" suggests the Mirror Tholians were behind the whole rift thing; perhaps they also engineered the rift so that it would disable the crews of the victim ships, without damaging the ships themselves...

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Old February 6 2013, 03:07 AM   #9
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

Wingsley wrote: View Post
There's something very ironic about the whole pass-your-hand-through-a-solid-object trope. As with TMP's "The Next Phase" and STARGATE SG-1's "phase out"/cloaking trope, one has to wonder: if this altered state makes you invisible and/or unreachable, or able to pass through solid objects, how come the ground/deck you stand on effectively stops you from drifting through the floor/ground?
Personally, I would say it's a matter of degrees for how much you're phased out of sync with normal matter. If the effect in "The Next Phase" had caused Ro and Geordi to fall through the floor, it's logical to assume they would have encountered other potential problems like not being able to breathe (the air particles would have passed through their phased lungs and not been retained for respiration). Since neither of those problems surfaced in their case, I think it's fair to assume () the effect wasn't quite that strong. We also saw it was relatively easy for them to be dephased even by Data's lowest wattage field, and they simply had to bump up the strength.

I don't watch Stargate, so I have no clue how they managed the effect.
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Old February 6 2013, 11:45 AM   #10
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

Wingsley wrote: View Post
if this altered state makes you invisible and/or unreachable, or able to pass through solid objects, how come the ground/deck you stand on effectively stops you from drifting through the floor/ground?
Lots of TV shows and movies feature invisible men—where their matter is actually invisible, rather than cloaked by a Harry Potter-style covering—yet they are still able to see the world around them. If their atoms have been altered so that light passes right through, or does not interact normally... (The makers of the game QUAKE thought of that, which is why users of the "ring of shadows" were not totally invisible. Their eyes still showed, even in the game.)

As for partially shifted people passing through the floor, why should gravity still affect them? Or inertia? Perhaps a higher-tech visual effect could be created where the Defiant side of the shift will "give" a little, like rubber—"smearing" a bit like paint as McCoy's hand passes through and "snapping back" afterwards.

For that matter (no pun intended), why should the suits the landing party was wearing not start shifting through their own bodies? If their own bodies no longer contacted themselves, the landing party would quickly turn to mush. (How's that for insanity-inducing pressure?)

Most fantasy does not bear close scrutiny. I remember watching a BATMAN episode as a kid, pointing out the silliness of something, like Bat Shark Repellent. (And the fact that our heroes just happened to have a can handy.) My brother laughed and said, "That's the only ridiculous thing you noticed?"
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Old February 6 2013, 01:33 PM   #11
Timo
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

why should gravity still affect them?
Why not? Interaction is selective in the real world, too: some matter is affected by electromagnetism, some is not.

Backstage technobabble speaks of shields being a gravitic technology. That would jibe well with this phasing stuff, because these gravitic shields apparently easily stop matter phased by the transporter from getting through. OTOH, phasing comes in degrees, and enough of it will apparently allow the matter to penetrate even intense gravitics...

why should the suits the landing party was wearing not start shifting through their own bodies?
Or their left arms through their right lungs?

It would make sense that matter that has been recently brought into the field is more solid than matter that has spent time in it. Hence it, and all of it, goes through the older matter if sufficient force is used. It doesn't matter whether the new matter is people, or spacesuits, or dust, or air.

Of course, the phasing done by the transporter merely appears to take an entity from this world and move it intact into a parallel realm; the "phased matter" isn't phased to itself, it's only phased vis-á-vis the normal, unphased matter around that wasn't subjected to the transporter. The phase cloak thing no doubt works the same way: LaForge doesn't become transparent/penetrable to LaForge, merely to the rest of the universe. All the forces of nature that normally keep LaForge together still keep on working, only now in their phased form.

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Old February 7 2013, 02:17 AM   #12
Wingsley
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

^ and by this same token, if the interphase phenomenon affected the derelict Defiant in waves (not the whole ship at the same instant), I suppose that opens the door to the possibility that part of the ship's hull could have phased out, allowing a weird kind of "hull breech" that emptied out the ship's atmosphere as it drifted in space. I'm not saying this killed the crew; maybe they were already dead.

I prefer the notion that the Defiant's internal systems went haywire after the crew died, and the growing malfunctions from an increasing body of the ship's equipment drifting offline may have resulted in the life support systems failing. For all we know, there could be (very thin) air left, and it could be -100º in there.

Whatever the case, I have another question to consider: how do space-suited Enterprise crewmembers beam out from a pressurized transporter room to (what could be) a place with little or no atmosphere without depressurizing first? I'm not speaking only of Kirk and his boarding party beaming to and from the Defiant. I'm also wondering how they did it in VOY's "Day of Honor", when Paris and Torres are floating in space and are rescued by Voyager's transporter.
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Old February 7 2013, 03:24 AM   #13
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

I'm guessing that the space suit is resilient enough to instantly adjust to rapid pressurization/depressurization. Has the transporter ever beamed out or back an object that normally couldn't withstand a sudden change in pressurization?
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Old February 7 2013, 09:31 AM   #14
Timo
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

I prefer the notion that the Defiant's internal systems went haywire after the crew died
Statistically, we'd want as many of the crew as possible to really have died from direct violence towards each other, because McCoy came to this conclusion after visiting something like three random locations on the ship. But mass deaths from other reasons might have taken place, as long as they happened in locations McCoy deemed too dangerous to visit...

I'm guessing that the space suit is resilient enough to instantly adjust to rapid pressurization/depressurization.
The TOS suit is somewhat "magical" in this respect: it is clearly made of soft fabric, but it doesn't balloon at all in vacuum!

Other Trek spacesuits have been hardsuits with some tight, flexible sections, sidestepping the ballooning problem. Possibly the TOS suit is a hardsuit on the inside, too, and the surface material isn't airtight (it's just a thermal/radiation shield) so it doesn't change shape at beam-ins or beam-outs.

Has the transporter ever beamed out or back an object that normally couldn't withstand a sudden change in pressurization?
...Those redshirts in "And the Children Shall Lead".

The transporter clearly adjusts for the conditions of space in some ways: objects beamed in from the extreme cold of space or alien worlds are immediately warm enough to touch with bare hands. That sort of trickery wouldn't be too different from "pressure adjustment" in scope, whatever the physical details.

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Old February 7 2013, 09:47 AM   #15
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Re: What killed the Defiant's crew?

Timo wrote: View Post
McCoy came to this conclusion after visiting something like three random locations on the ship.
McCoy also listened to or otherwise accessed the ship's log, off screen.
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