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

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Old August 2 2011, 01:59 AM   #1
Warped9
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What did Cochrane invent???

It's pretty much accepted that Zefram Cochrane invented warp drive...or did he?

In TOS' "Metamorphosis" when Kirk learns the identity of their marooned stranger he says, "Zefram Cochrane? Of Alpha Centauri? The developer of the space warp?' To which Cochrane replies, "That's right, Captain?'

Kirk says, "The developer of the space warp." and not "The inventor of warp drive."

Is there a distinction? Perhaps. Maybe Cochrane didn't actually invent what we recognize as warp drive in terms of the actual technology and hardware to go FTL. Perhaps what he developed were the theory and mathematics that later led to the actual engineering to exploit the science.

This is something of a thought experiment and not meant to rewrite four decades of accepted canon. But what if through all these years we've made the wrong assumption in terms of writer's intent? Remember that early on in TOS there is strong subtext based on references from "The Cage," "Where No Man Has Gone Before," "Balance Of Terror" and "Space Seed" that pre TOS starflight was crude and slow.

Could the reference in "Metamorphosis" really mean that Cochrane developed the theory and science of how to achieve a space warp and thus enabling someone else to engineer the necessary technology and hardware to exploit the science perhaps decades or a century later?

Recall that historically theory has always preceded the actual technology. The theory of atmospheric powered flight existed quite sometime before someone devised a means to actually fly. Theories and mathematics about spaceflight existed sometime before the technology existed to exploit the knowledge.

Thoughts anyone?
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Old August 2 2011, 02:03 AM   #2
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

I thought Kirk exclaimed "The discoverer of the space warp?"

I assumed that he meant that Cochrane invented the nacelle-based warp mechanism that had since become so commonplace in the Federation.
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Old August 2 2011, 02:10 AM   #3
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

Wingsley wrote: View Post
I thought Kirk exclaimed "The discoverer of the space warp?"

I assumed that he meant that Cochrane invented the nacelle-based warp mechanism that had since become so commonplace in the Federation.
You're right, the word was "discoverer." But that doesn't change my initial thought. A space warp is a mathematical construct, isn't it? Are there naturally occurring space warps? Maybe Cochrane discovered a way to create an artificial space warp yet before the technology existed to actually make it work. Even today there are all sorts of ideas, theories and mathematics regarding how to travel to the stars, but we don't yet have the means, the technology to actually do it.

Lots of people have discovered the science of how to do something, but then the science remains untested and unproven until someone comes along to develop a way to make the science work in practical terms.

For some years now we've had theories regarding space warps and even Alcubierre's warp drive idea, but even he states that while they can do it mathematically no one has any idea as to how to actually make it work.
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Old August 2 2011, 02:11 AM   #4
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

Discoverer, not developer

KIRK: Mister Cochrane, do you have a first name?
COCHRANE: Zefram.
KIRK: Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri, the discoverer of the space warp?
COCHRANE: That's right, Captain.
MCCOY: But that's impossible. Zefram Cochrane died a hundred and fifty years ago.
SPOCK: The name of Zefram Cochrane is revered throughout the known galaxy. Planets were named after him. Great universities, cities...
Could have been the one that exploited the discovery. OTOH, might not have been as well...
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Old August 2 2011, 02:18 AM   #5
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

Note, too, that I'm looking at this in regards to what may or may not have been writer's intent when the episode was produced. It's irrelevant what might have been done or said later in TNG, FC or ENT because it's all based on the same assumption we've all had for so many years. But could the assumption be in error?
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Old August 2 2011, 02:19 AM   #6
Nerys Myk
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

From the dialog I get the impression Cochrane might have been an engineer. So it's possible he invented a device that created a space warp.
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Old August 2 2011, 02:27 AM   #7
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

One thing I've always wondered is why his name is revered throughout the known galaxy if other races already had warp travel. It would be like someone in Tibet inventing the airplane years after the Wright brothers. An impressive feat to be sure but hardly likely to make your name revered. Spock makes it sound like nobody else had FTL or at least something comparable to warp drive. Perhaps previous FTL drives had a limited range, put you out of contact with the rest of the galazy while travelling, were much slower or something. Imagine a system like jump drive in Traveller except instead of Jump-1 being 1 week per parsec it took you 2 years and you couldn't communicate with anyone else for all that time.
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Old August 2 2011, 02:49 AM   #8
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

I have always thought he discovered the formula or theoretical underpinning of what would later be warp drive technology.

This meshes with "The Cage" dialogue.

And with TAS, in which the Bonaventure is said to be the first ship with warp drive, which was, by all the evidence, not a hundred and fifty year old ship.

As usual, it was later trek that reinterprets things and made a mess of the time line and chronology.
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Old August 2 2011, 02:54 AM   #9
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

There is another wrinkle in this little bit of TREK history: Cochrane must've used some kind of FTL transportation to get "out there" on the deep space frontier to find and live with the Companion. The way I remember Cochrane making it sound, he was an old man, a recluse, out exploring space Harry Mudd / Cyrano Jones style in some FTL scoutship. He didn't actually say it that way, but that's the strongly implied impression I was left with.

The whole thrust of Cochrane's character, in both "Metamorphosis" and STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, was that of someone who (perhaps sometimes wrongly) styles himself as both self-sufficient and as a do-it-yourselfer. It's not a leap to recognize his house, on the Gamma Canaris planetoid where Kirk and company discovered him, was made from part of his scoutship.

Could the scoutship have employed a crude version of the "space warp" engine whose nacelle-based technology he was credited with discovering? If you put those two stories together, it seems that way.

And there's yet another wrinkle in this topic: throughout all of ENT, IIRC, the characters never referred to the term "warp drive". Could it be that true "warp drive" was the mythical "warp seven" technology that Archer and Trip toasted to, and occasionally admired from afar? Could the starships of Pike's day have finally achieved what previous generations struggled to reach for so long, a "warp drive" based on an evolution of the Cochrane's space-warp nacelle technology that could finally reliably sustain Warp 7 and above?
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Old August 2 2011, 03:01 AM   #10
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

Wingsley wrote: View Post
And there's yet another wrinkle in this topic: throughout all of ENT, IIRC, the characters never referred to the term "warp drive". Could it be that true "warp drive" was the mythical "warp seven" technology that Archer and Trip toasted to, and occasionally admired from afar? Could the starships of Pike's day have finally achieved what previous generations struggled to reach for so long, a "warp drive" based on an evolution of the Cochrane's space-warp nacelle technology that could finally reliably sustain Warp 7 and above?
While I cannot say for sure whether or not the phrase "warp drive" was uttered in ENT, they did constantly refer to their engine as the "Warp 5 Engine" and where it was built, the "Warp 5 Complex".
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Old August 2 2011, 03:09 AM   #11
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

Cochrane could have discovered the theory and science of how to generate an artificial space warp and later within his lifetime someone else made it work in practical terms. That still allows him the means to get out into deep space as an old man where the Companion finds him.

Nerys Myk wrote: View Post
From the dialog I get the impression Cochrane might have been an engineer. So it's possible he invented a device that created a space warp.
Yes, you're right. It could have been the other way around. Someone else could have developed the theory and Cochrane was the one who made it work.
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Old August 2 2011, 12:32 PM   #12
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

Warped9 wrote: View Post
Cochrane was the one who made it work
Systems integration?

The Wright brothers didn't discover the venturi effect, or the internal combustion engine. They just put the pieces together in a package that actually worked.
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Old August 2 2011, 12:41 PM   #13
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

OTOH, ST:FC offers the perfect setting for combining the two steps in the one man.

That is, Cochrane could have been the theoretician who came up with a new formula or correctly identified a new phenomenon. He then became part of a great team to build a device based on the formula or the phenomenon. And then the bad guys came and nuked the team to kingdom come.

Cochrane would still be left with the necessary handful of technicians to put together the already half-finished device. He'd be no test pilot himself, as amply demonstrated, but circumstances would force him into that role as well. And thanks to the convenient massacre, he'd end up sitting on so many chairs that history would forever remember him as the renaissance man who did it all. Even if he did virtually squat.

Also, given how iterative ST:FC ended up being, half of Cochrane's achievements might in fact be the achievements of the centuries that followed his discovery, recycled back into Cochrane's work through LaForge.

There are other, less likely possibilities, too. Perhaps Cochrane always was merely the test pilot for the program, or some sort of a janitor, and took an even greater share of unfair fame from deceased teammates. It would be his word against those of numerous corpses and those of numerous incinerated records... Assuming that Lily Sloane was in cahoots with him, which would be a logical course of action for her.

Clearly, Cochrane is more legend than man for Jim Kirk and his friends. And still Kirk has no idea what Cochrane looks like, as he cannot identify him by looks alone. In "Metamorphosis", we supposedly see him restored to the very age of his greatest achievement - why doesn't Kirk/history remember that face? Does it remember an older face? Or an alternate face, which our heroes take in the stride because face-swapping is trivial and commonplace in their world? Again, that nicely meshes with the odd ST:FC decision to use an actor with radically different looks...

Let's also add the mystery of Cochrane's disappearance. Why did he flee to die in space (a move that sounds uncommon when discussed in "Metamorphosis")? Was he feeling guilt for his faked fame? Or just basking in the glory of the discovery that made possible such deep space suicides?

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Old August 2 2011, 07:53 PM   #14
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

Perhaps his simply discovered a Space Warp, like a wormhole. It took him to some other planet and helped to unify the galaxy.

Or not.
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Old August 2 2011, 08:29 PM   #15
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Re: What did Cochrane invent???

The material we are given in TOS alone is somewhat ambiguous. Kirk mentions that Cochrane "discovered the space warp." He did take a faster than light ship to the planetoid. So, a warp engine was indeed built. As to him building it all himself or employing a team of people who helped him translate his space warp discovery into an engine that can utilize it is not really all that important. TNG credits him as having invented the first warp drive. Usually the person credited for something of this nature has a team who worked with them.
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