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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old August 2 2011, 04:28 AM   #1
Mister_Atoz
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Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

In the episode 'Conscience of the King' we learn that an exotic fungus had wiped out most of the food supply on Tarsus IV causing Govenor Kodos to euthanize 4000 colonists so that the others would survive. Apparently, the supply ships arrived earlier than expected making their deaths unnecessary.

would anyone care to speculate on what would cause such a delay that Kodos felt these executions were necessary, conversely would anyone care to speculate on how it came to be that the relief ships arrived earlier than expected?
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Old August 2 2011, 07:15 AM   #2
Tiberius
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

I don't think it was a case of a delay.

I always thought that the supply ships came once a year or something, and there was a plague that contaminated the food, meaning that there wasn't enough to last the whole colony until the next yearly ship arrived. But the next ship came before the full year was up.
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Old August 2 2011, 12:22 PM   #3
Timo
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

Or then there were no supply ships scheduled at all - quite possibly, the colony was supposed to be self-sufficient and isolated, just like Sandoval's little paradise in "This side". But when the famine struck, a call for help was sent, and the Federation responded with "Hang on, we'll send ships immediately, and they'll get there in, oh, just over four months".

That'd give Kodos his excuse for arranging the massacre. For all we know, he himself sabotaged the food supplies and carefully calculated the time needed for the relief ships to arrive, so that his 4,000 chosen ones would assuredly survive.

Timo Saloniemi
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Old August 2 2011, 06:32 PM   #4
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

Mister_Atoz wrote: View Post
would anyone care to speculate on what would cause such a delay
On May 18, 1980, Mount Saint Helens erupted in Washigton State, cutting off the western and eastern halves of the state from each other.

The grocery stores ran out of food in less that a week. If the fungi effected the stored food too, starvation would arrive quickly.

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Old August 2 2011, 07:00 PM   #5
Timo
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

...The interesting thing here is that there was no mention of a crop failure - only a specific mention of the spoiling of "the food supply".

8,000 people on an entire otherwise uninhabited planet simply cannot starve even if their "food supply" is removed. All the 8,000 should be able to survive for decades simply by eating various grubs and beetles the planet has to offer: culling half of them would serve no purpose. And if the planet doesn't offer any grubs and beetles, then obviously it cannot yield any crops, either, and the entire colony sustains itself on imported or synthetic food.

Now, if it's a case of all the food being imported, then the supply ships must be arriving on a known schedule (and they must have been doing so ever since the colony was founded). Culling half the population could be argued to double the time the rest can hope to survive, allowing them to see the arrival of the next supply run. But doubling survival time is a trivial feat in case of starvation: simply cut the rations in half! That holds true no matter how much food there is left. Starvation is a slow business and can be stretched out almost indefinitely. Mere doubling of odds is not a sufficient reason for the drastic action that Kodos took.

No matter which way one looks at it, Kodos seems to have acted illogically if his intent was to save a maximum number of people. His actions are logical if he simply wanted to kill 4,000 people, though. But how could he have expected to get away with it? Even if some of the desperate colonists agreed with him during the months of despair, obody would buy his logic afterwards. Did he always expect to fake his death and escape? A strange plan, that - its only possible aim the committing of mass murder. Did Kodos really want to earn his place in the history of mass murderers? Or was he committing an ABC murder where his real goal was to eliminate a select individual or a few from among the seemingly random 4,000 victims?

When the villain has such a dubious motivation for his deeds, it wouldn't be surprising in the slightest if he himself engineered the original calamity. Or if he simply were utterly insane, in which case it becomes likely that somebody else was pulling his strings...

Timo Saloniemi
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Old August 3 2011, 03:53 AM   #6
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

You certanly could starve to death on an uninhabited planet. I don't believe it was ever stated that Tarsus IV was class M. Maybe it was a mining colony similar to Janus VI. Losing your hydroponics in that case would cause famine. Perhaps an earthquake or volcanic eruption destroyed the subspace antenna on the surface and collapsed the part of the complex that grew the food leaving just the stored supplies.
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Old August 3 2011, 05:08 AM   #7
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

Timo wrote: View Post

When the villain has such a dubious motivation for his deeds, it wouldn't be surprising in the slightest if he himself engineered the original calamity. Or if he simply were utterly insane, in which case it becomes likely that somebody else was pulling his strings...

Timo Saloniemi
Personally, I always thought that the whole affair was suspect. How long really could it have taken fresh supply ships to travel to the colony? I mean, the killings took place about what...15-20 years prior to COTK? Were ships so much slower then that it would have taken so long for help to arrive? Several times in TOS we hear of starships carrying emergency medical supplies or rushing to decontaminate some planet's atmosphere within hours or a few days at most. I think Kodos killed because he was a power-tripping madman with his own warped ideas of eugenics. His mental health issues were obviously congenital as Lenore certainly did not have all of her dogs barking.
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Old August 3 2011, 05:59 AM   #8
Tiberius
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

A.V.I.A.F. wrote: View Post
How long really could it have taken fresh supply ships to travel to the colony? I mean, the killings took place about what...15-20 years prior to COTK? Were ships so much slower then that it would have taken so long for help to arrive? Several times in TOS we hear of starships carrying emergency medical supplies or rushing to decontaminate some planet's atmosphere within hours or a few days at most.
But we can't conclude that starships were bring the supplies, not freighters.

I think Kodos killed because he was a power-tripping madman with his own warped ideas of eugenics. His mental health issues were obviously congenital as Lenore certainly did not have all of her dogs barking.
Without a doubt
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Old August 3 2011, 06:43 AM   #9
NSTrekfan
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

A.V.I.A.F. wrote: View Post
Timo wrote: View Post

When the villain has such a dubious motivation for his deeds, it wouldn't be surprising in the slightest if he himself engineered the original calamity. Or if he simply were utterly insane, in which case it becomes likely that somebody else was pulling his strings...

Timo Saloniemi
Personally, I always thought that the whole affair was suspect. How long really could it have taken fresh supply ships to travel to the colony? I mean, the killings took place about what...15-20 years prior to COTK? Were ships so much slower then that it would have taken so long for help to arrive? Several times in TOS we hear of starships carrying emergency medical supplies or rushing to decontaminate some planet's atmosphere within hours or a few days at most. I think Kodos killed because he was a power-tripping madman with his own warped ideas of eugenics. His mental health issues were obviously congenital as Lenore certainly did not have all of her dogs barking.
In 2254, when the Enterprise encountered the "survivors" on Talos IV Tyler says "The time barrier's been broken! Our new ships can...". The massacre on Tarsus IV took place in 2246. Perhaps something did change in that short time. Of course, the change might have been any time after the Columbia was lost.

Emergency supplies could have been sent IF Starfleet knew of teh crop loss. Kodos could be such a control freak that he handled all off planet contact himself and he simply didn't call for help or lied about it.
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Old August 3 2011, 08:05 AM   #10
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

T'Girl wrote: View Post
Mister_Atoz wrote: View Post
would anyone care to speculate on what would cause such a delay
On May 18, 1980, Mount Saint Helens erupted in Washigton State, cutting off the western and eastern halves of the state from each other.

The grocery stores ran out of food in less that a week. If the fungi effected the stored food too, starvation would arrive quickly.


This sounds reasonable, if the fungi like you said effected the stored food. As for crops, crops are seasonal and can't just be willed into being there, they take time to grow from seed. If that seed had also been effected by the fungi you couldn't grow replacement crops. Would there be enough local flora and fauna to sustain a popultation of that size?

As for why the supply ships took so long to get there. Even today it can take a day or two minimum to respond to a famine crisis on Earth. Goods have to be taken to the Airports/ports, planes and ships loaded, then flown there. So where was the availble food, where were the available ships, how fast could they travel, how far away from the colony where they. There is a lot we don't know.
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Old August 3 2011, 12:01 PM   #11
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

The ships were in the Laurentian system.
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Old August 3 2011, 12:05 PM   #12
Timo
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

Let's assume the colony was one of those isolationist refuges, founded so that the settlers could avoid contact with the Federation. That would give Kodos maximally free hands - as a charismatic, Sandoval-type leader, he could control communications, assemble death squads and exaggerate food supply problems.

However, such a colony would be highly unlikely to receive regular food shipments. And we'd prefer regular shipments over emergency ones, because as argued above, emergency ones should arrive pretty quickly. And it was specifically mentioned that the shipment that saved the colony arrived earlier than expected, which would be unlikely if it were an emergency mission - because an emergency mission would have to be summoned through communications, and consequently this mission would communicate back its arrival time.

So let's instead assume a colony on an almost uninhabitable planet that offers no alternate food, and relies on regular shipments that arrive many, many months apart even if the actual flight to the colony only takes a few weeks. A fungus then removes virtually all food, and Kodos exaggerates the problem, swaying a sufficient number of people to support culling instead of rationing as the survival method. But in that case, the colony wouldn't be completely isolationist, and should have a communications channel back to civilization. A fungus is an unlikely disaster for removing both the food supply AND the communications link. So Kodos ought to have been able to call for help, or then he had to engineer a further accident that removed communications - and history books would remember this suspicious occurrence, so Spock's story should not deal with a controversial leader who took drastic but possibly necessary action, but should instead expose a villain who arranged for the unnecessary deaths of 4,000 people.

It doesn't seem all that simple to find a Goldilocks version where regular supply ships and communications cuts/lags are logically combined.

We also have to ponder why nobody knew what Kodos looked like. If he were the governor of 4,000 angry survivors, his face ought to be familiar enough. And Starfleet wasn't exactly lacking in photos or even sound bites of Kodos anyway.

But we could assume Kodos was the nom de guerre of some virtually faceless nobody, perhaps a new arrival, who exploited (or arranged for) the crisis, deposed the original governor (a coup is mentioned in dialogue), and organized the death squads. At the conclusion of the horror, virtually nobody out of the 4,000 survivors would know the true identity of this person. And if "Kodos" really was a new arrival, we might argue that the nine eyewitnesses arrived together with him and thus had extra knowledge on his real, original identity - knowledge that could help establish his new identity as well, and thus help in tracking him down.

But new arrivals would imply a ship. Why did that ship dump young Jim Kirk on Tarsus IV and then depart? Or if the ship stayed, why did it not help the colony?

Perhaps Jim Kirk et al. arrived with "Kodos", and then sailed back to civilization, but "Kodos" remained behind, and then engineered/exploited the famine. Kirk, Riley and pals would not have witnessed the massacre (hence they survived it, even though "Kodos" would definitely have wanted all of them dead in the first volley), and indeed nobody claims that they would have - but they would be eyewitnesses to the identity of "Kodos", which is the actual claim made about them.

Hmm... A visiting ship, closely followed by a disaster. Perhaps the colonists believed that the disaster had arrived with the ship, and therefore did not trust outside help? A bit far-fetched...

The communications problem remains the most annoying inconsistency here. If ships really take their time to arrive, there could be a long distance involved, and thus a communications lag as well. But could the lag be almost as long as the ship travel time? That's basically unprecedented in Trek.

OTOH, it's well precedented (or postcedented) that loyal UFP members may refrain from communicating with the central worlds for extended lengths of time. Deneva, a colony of millions that was a crossroads, not a distant fringe world, fell silent at least a year before Starfleet deigned to pay it a visit!

One would still assume any colony would make contact in an emergency. But the silence from Deneva was accepted even though Starfleet did suspect an emergency. Are we to conclude that colonies in TOS lacked the means to send out a realtime SOS? A bit weird, technologically speaking, when Deneva sported at least one private "subspace ham radio"! Was it a range issue?

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Old August 3 2011, 12:11 PM   #13
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

It's hard to say, but the TOS galaxy was big and ships were never just a few hours away as in TNG. A colony out beyond the pale truly was on its own in TOS. Could they have lived off the land as an earlier poster speculated? That would depend on how you view evolution and species develpment. Would an alien biosphere produce enough needed nutritional requirements? Clearly Tarsus IV didn't or the survey of the flora and fauna were incomplete to say one way or the other. Though one would assume that would be a priority under the circumstances.
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Old August 3 2011, 12:15 PM   #14
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

The fact that it took a year for a starship to respond to Deneva (along with the other delay scenarios mentioned) suggest on thing to me - a lack of resources! Colonies in TOS seem spread out throughout the galaxy, and it will take a while for the dozen Starship Class vessels to reach them all. And while we don't have definite numbers on lesser ships, the year-long delay on Deneva would seem to support the "not enough resources" theory.

IMO, of course.
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Old August 3 2011, 12:24 PM   #15
Timo
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Re: Tarsus IV Massacre (where were the supply ships?)

Colonies on worlds that don't naturally support the growing of Earth crops would be understood to be vulnerable to famine, and it would thus probably be difficult to found such a colony without making it tightly connected to the UFP civilization - even if an isolationist group wanted to try it out. All the luddites elsewhere in Trek have lived on lush Class M worlds that would clearly have supported them even if all their crops failed.

If Tarsus IV was a non-arable world, the colony could have been founded for industrial purposes, like Rigel XII or Janus VI. But in that case, the colony would by default be tightly connected with the UFP, because mining or manufacturing would make no sense without shipments.

Hey, perhaps it was a mining world, but akin to Delta Vega - really far out, mainly visited by automated barges? The barges would never be late, because of the industrial interests, so the colony might depend on food being brought by each shipment, with just some "buffer stores" on the planet, enough to carry the colonists through one missed shipment or thereabouts.

There could also be random Starfleet visits to an important industrial station, explaining how the son of George Kirk got to see the place, and perhaps also got to know the guy who would be Kodos.

Timo Saloniemi
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