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Old February 9 2013, 05:28 PM   #1
Ketrick
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22nd Romulan Cloaking

What if the ship and mines in "Minefield" didn't use cloaking devices but rather used holographic camouflage in combination with stealth technology and sensor jammers to mimic the effects of cloaking and this wasn't discovered until the Earth-Romulan War? Do you think this theory suitably explains why the Romulans appeared to have cloaking technology a century before they were supposed to have it?
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Old February 9 2013, 05:57 PM   #2
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

^If you look over the whole history of ST, there's plenty of evidence that cloaking devices aren't a single technology, but a succession of different technologies that get penetrated and then replaced by new stealth systems in an ongoing arms race between concealment and detection. Consider: In "Balance of Terror," the Romulans' cloak rendered them invisible to optical detection, but their ships still registered on motion sensors; yet by "The Enterprise Incident," that problem had been solved and the ships were totally undetectable. By ST III, Klingon cloaks were detectable by a visual distortion, and had to be dropped before a ship could fire; yet by ST VI the Klingons invented a new type of cloak that had no visual distortion and that could be kept up while firing. And Spock figured out how to penetrate that type of cloak. Yet by TNG, over 70 years later, cloaking technology is impenetrable again and ships do still need to decloak in order to fire.

So canon already gave us several cycles of different cloaking technologies being rendered obsolete and supplanted by new ones long before ENT came along. Therefore, ENT's 22nd-century version of cloaking is not a mystery or a paradox at all; it fits in just fine with all the other forms of cloaking that have been developed, penetrated, and discarded.
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Old February 9 2013, 06:09 PM   #3
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

Ketrick wrote: View Post
What if the ship and mines in "Minefield" didn't use cloaking devices but rather used holographic camouflage in combination with stealth technology and sensor jammers to mimic the effects of cloaking and this wasn't discovered until the Earth-Romulan War? Do you think this theory suitably explains why the Romulans appeared to have cloaking technology a century before they were supposed to have it?
A much less convoluted answer: They simply ignored Spock's lines about cloaking devices being an amazing theoretical technology in "Balance of Terror", as well as what was said about the level of technology used during the Romulan War.

Remember, for the spirit of Spock's comments to work (he didn't refer to the Romulans but the technology of invisibility in general), you also have to ignore or work around the cloaking Xyrillians and Suliban from Enterprise too. Looking at Trek's "big picture", cloaks very much weren't theoretical but something proven to work in the 2150's. Therefore, it's easiest just to go with the retcon.
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Old February 9 2013, 06:20 PM   #4
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

^I don't agree. I think it's likely that it's something like what Ketrick suggests -- that those early cloaks were just some sort of holographic camouflage (consistent with the Romulan technology seen in the "Babel One" arc) or sensor masking, something which Federation science had long since penetrated, so that what we saw in BoT had to be true invisibility, something that even the best Starfleet sensors couldn't see through -- and that's what Spock was saying was extremely difficult to achieve.

Sure, there are times when it's just too much trouble to rationalize an inconsistency and it's simpler just to accept it as a continuity error and not worry about it. But this is not one of those times. It's not that hard at all to reconcile. Particularly since it fits neatly into the progression of different cloaking technologies that's been implicit in ST since 1968. It would be a mistake to treat all cloaking technology as a single thing. Common sense alone tells us that there would be a constant competition between stealth and detection technologies -- the idea that cloaking tech in the 24th century is anything like cloaking tech in the 23rd is irrational on the face of it, even aside from the onscreen evidence. There would have to be a progression of different stealth technologies which might not be related to each other at all, which might use totally different methods of concealment than those used by previous stealth technologies that were penetrated decades earlier. Even if one were creating an entirely new universe and postulating the existence of some kind of cloaking tech, that would be a logical assumption to make. And it just happens to provide a perfect explanation for the apparent inconsistencies in the onscreen portrayals of cloaking tech in ST. This is one case where those onscreen inconsistencies actually make things more believable.
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Old February 9 2013, 06:49 PM   #5
Ketrick
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

Christopher wrote: View Post
^If you look over the whole history of ST, there's plenty of evidence that cloaking devices aren't a single technology, but a succession of different technologies that get penetrated and then replaced by new stealth systems in an ongoing arms race between concealment and detection. Consider: In "Balance of Terror," the Romulans' cloak rendered them invisible to optical detection, but their ships still registered on motion sensors; yet by "The Enterprise Incident," that problem had been solved and the ships were totally undetectable. By ST III, Klingon cloaks were detectable by a visual distortion, and had to be dropped before a ship could fire; yet by ST VI the Klingons invented a new type of cloak that had no visual distortion and that could be kept up while firing. And Spock figured out how to penetrate that type of cloak. Yet by TNG, over 70 years later, cloaking technology is impenetrable again and ships do still need to decloak in order to fire.

So canon already gave us several cycles of different cloaking technologies being rendered obsolete and supplanted by new ones long before ENT came along. Therefore, ENT's 22nd-century version of cloaking is not a mystery or a paradox at all; it fits in just fine with all the other forms of cloaking that have been developed, penetrated, and discarded.
You make some good points. Though, my understanding was that cloaking had to involve the bending of light around an object to make it invisible not the use of a hologram projecting an image which makes the object blend in with its surroundings. However, I suppose that's just an argument from semantics.


King Daniel wrote: View Post
Remember, for the spirit of Spock's comments to work (he didn't refer to the Romulans but the technology of invisibility in general), you also have to ignore or work around the cloaking Xyrillians and Suliban from Enterprise too. Looking at Trek's "big picture", cloaks very much weren't theoretical but something proven to work in the 2150's. Therefore, it's easiest just to go with the retcon.
Well, the Suliban having cloaking technology is probably due to Future Guy giving it to them and as for the Xyrillians, a similar argument could be made to explain it as I did for the Romulans since they also had holgraphic tech. Also, I believe it was only said onscreen that the Xyrillians had stealth. Though ultimately, that was a mere technicality.
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Old February 9 2013, 07:03 PM   #6
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

I think the subsequent ENT novels explained it simply enough. The cloaks seen in "Minefield" were so experimental and untested that the ships which used them self-destructed from the power overload. It took a hundred years to develop a cloak that actually worked properly. I don't see the problem in a retcon like that.
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Old February 9 2013, 07:41 PM   #7
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

Ketrick wrote: View Post
Though, my understanding was that cloaking had to involve the bending of light around an object to make it invisible not the use of a hologram projecting an image which makes the object blend in with its surroundings. However, I suppose that's just an argument from semantics.
Well, I've long had a problem with the old stock sci-fi approach to cloaking tech: "Amazing! They can bend light around themselves! The technology is astounding!" The assumption is that bending light requires some kind of advanced, powerful space warp, like a gravity lens. But that's overcomplicating the problem. All you need to change the path light takes is a lens or a mirror. Magicians have been using mirrors to make things "invisible" for centuries. Now we're developing metamaterials that can potentially do something similar on a much finer scale. Before too much longer, ST's idea that invisibility requires some advanced, power-draining energy field may look extremely quaint. It's more of a materials problem.
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Old February 9 2013, 07:42 PM   #8
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

I like the idea of it been a type of holographic phase cloak. Though they do seem surprised at even the idea of invisible ships 100 years later.
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Old February 12 2013, 09:54 PM   #9
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

Take a picture of what's behind you, reverse it, project it in front of you, simple. I've always figured that there was a sort of "arms race" between the people creating cloaking devices and the people creating sensors.
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Old February 12 2013, 11:50 PM   #10
F. King Daniel
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

I think they were essentially explaining to the audience of 1966 that the concept of an invisible spaceship is scientifically plausible and not the pure magic it may seem. Fast forward to 2001, and invisible spaceships were common. That's why I see ENT's use of cloaks as a simple retcon, and no biggie.
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Old February 13 2013, 03:22 AM   #11
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

Christopher wrote: View Post
^If you look over the whole history of ST, there's plenty of evidence that cloaking devices aren't a single technology, but a succession of different technologies that get penetrated and then replaced by new stealth systems in an ongoing arms race between concealment and detection. Consider: In "Balance of Terror," the Romulans' cloak rendered them invisible to optical detection, but their ships still registered on motion sensors; yet by "The Enterprise Incident," that problem had been solved and the ships were totally undetectable. By ST III, Klingon cloaks were detectable by a visual distortion, and had to be dropped before a ship could fire; yet by ST VI the Klingons invented a new type of cloak that had no visual distortion and that could be kept up while firing. And Spock figured out how to penetrate that type of cloak. Yet by TNG, over 70 years later, cloaking technology is impenetrable again and ships do still need to decloak in order to fire.

So canon already gave us several cycles of different cloaking technologies being rendered obsolete and supplanted by new ones long before ENT came along. Therefore, ENT's 22nd-century version of cloaking is not a mystery or a paradox at all; it fits in just fine with all the other forms of cloaking that have been developed, penetrated, and discarded.
I tend to agree about the technological progression, and I can think of at least two instances in TNG - "Tin Man" and "Face of the Enemy" where it was shown that Romulan ships had to balance systems very carefully to keep the ship fully masked by the cloak. Any small imbalance could make detection more likely.
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Old February 13 2013, 11:14 AM   #12
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

The root of the problem is that "Balance of Terror" categorically declares that invisibility of any sort is astounding, theoretical and all-new to our heroes.

Spock has some ideas about the technologies needed to accomplish this, perhaps correct, perhaps wholly erroneous. But he has never seen an invisible ship, so to speak, and has never heard or read of anybody who would have.

This is anomalous even in the context of TOS itself, where invisibility subsequently is rather humdrum. Heck, the Thasians in "Charlie X" had something Uhura considered a "ship", and that one appeared out of nowhere, too!

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Old February 13 2013, 12:32 PM   #13
Cr031k
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

Tucker's arm cloaked accidentally for more than a day was probably a little more than holographic tech... :-)
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Old February 13 2013, 02:05 PM   #14
Ketrick
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

Cr031k wrote: View Post
Tucker's arm cloaked accidentally for more than a day was probably a little more than holographic tech... :-)
True. However, you misunderstood me. I didn't say the Suliban cloak used holographic tech. In a reply, I wrote the Suliban probably got cloaking tech from the future. I only said the Romulans and possibly the Xyrillians used holographics to give the appearance of being cloaked.
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Old February 13 2013, 04:24 PM   #15
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Re: 22nd Romulan Cloaking

Ketrick wrote: View Post
I only said the Romulans and possibly the Xyrillians used holographics to give the appearance of being cloaked.
Which makes a lot of sense, because we know that both groups did use holographic tech -- the Xyrillians in their holodecks and the Romulans in their camouflaged robot ship in season 4.
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