What is an "ion pod?"

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Jeri, Feb 5, 2010.

  1. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    The earliest reference--well, conjecture--I can find that the ship's "ion pod" is way back on the engineering hull, back by the shuttlecraft hangar/hanger deck near the 1837 Frame Reference marker is in the book StarFleet Assembly Manual Number 3 by Paul M. Newitt. (This is copyright 1978.) This ion pod location coincides with a small little button/knob thing that's present on the eleven-foot Enterprise model which has a little rapidly flashing strobe light.

    Here are a couple of shots of some diagrams from the book:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It looks like for the Star Trek Remastered project, the team decided to locate the ion pod where Mr. Newitt had located it back in '78.
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I guess so. I mean, I doubt anybody would remember what that list looked like if ion storms were only rarely encountered.

    That would definitely cinch this as a carefully preplanned crime, then, and not a spur-of-the-moment action that Finney then perfected by "posthumously" faking the visual records of Kirk's finger movements during his "demise". The former makes so much more sense anyway.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    My idea was that the ion pod is similar to a travel pod. The Enterprise's mission was to do surveys of ion storms and was carrying several ion pods on the flight deck. The pod was docked to a docking port on the side of the secondary hull. The pod carries new, special instruments and sensors that the Enterprise doesn't possess. In order for the sensor to work to full effect the Enterprise had to have her shields down when she entered the storm. If the shields conform to the shape of hull of the ship, the pod protruding out the side would prevent the shield from being fully raised, so the pod would have to be jettisoned to raise the shields. The diagram seems to show the dock being just off the shuttle maintenance shop, my idea was that the docking port was in the same position as in TMP on the side of the secondary hull, but usually covered with an armored hatch.

    The Enterprise was in an area of space known for intense ion storms, perhaps diving into stronger storms each time. Much like the Air Force flying into hurricanes. Finney did manipulate the duty roster to his own needs, he avoided the first pod duty because he needed a record of Kirk pushing the button on a pod jettison. When he was ready he placed his name at the top of the duty roster, probably altered any sensor logs showing the docking port hatch to show himself still in the pod when the hatchs closes prior to jettison.

    I still can't work out how Finney would eventual ever get off the ship.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. The Squire of Gothos

    The Squire of Gothos Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    A reference that may go over the heads of the US posters, perhaps even most of those from the UK, but it always reminded me of the poor sod in the Zepplin observation pod in a Charley's War story.
     
  5. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    For what it's worth, there is slightly more exposition in the old novelization for "Court Martial" by James Blish in the book Star Trek 2. Blish worked from slightly earlier versions of the scripts, so his adaptations sometimes have some content that differs a bit from the final episode. In this case, there's a tiny bit more explanation about ion pods--although I don't know if it was from an earlier version of the script or if it was just Blish's fertile imagination:

    "The pod is outside the ship, attached to the skin. One of our missions is to get radiation readings in abnormal
    conditions, including ion storms. This can only be done by direct exposure of the necessary instruments in a plastic pod. However, in a major storm, the pod rapidly picks up a charge of its own that becomes a danger to the rest of the ship, and we have to get rid of it."
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2010
  6. Jeri

    Jeri Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Huh, well that is interesting; thanks. And T'Girl, I also had the escape-pod notion; when I saw the remastered configuration, it recalled the port where Jim's pod was jettisoned by Spock from the STXI Enterprise. I'm wondering which of those came first.

    Thinking of how Finney planned to get off the ship, I am reminded of Dr. Simon Van Gelder beaming aboard in the shipping crate with a breathing mask. Both Finney and Van Gelder were mentally unbalanced, and Van Gelder still came up with that. And I don't think Van Gelder had anyone to help him either, as Finney wouldn't.

    Edit: Just want to mention this kind of clears up a question I entertained about Memory Alpha's page; I didn't understand how the pod would be a danger to the ship. It said: ...The pod's exposed position was a potential vulnerability to the ship...
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2010
  7. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Or in Howard Hughes' 1930 World War I epic Hell's Angels.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Or, for that matter, the free-flyable observation gondola in Miyazaki's Laputa.

    I'd like to disagree on this, on two grounds.

    First, the episode never mentions an issue with the ship's shields. And second, if the ship really were that vulnerable going in, I'd think Kirk would never even attempt the ion pod study...

    Rather, if the pod really were a launchable device (and I undersign all of your speculation there), the necessity of launching the pod would come from Kirk wanting to get the hell out of there, which he naturally couldn't do until the pod was successfully launched. That's IMHO the simplest explanation...

    That the pod itself would present a technobabble risk to the ship is often speculated, but that sounds like a needless complication, and isn't directly supported by the episode. The dialogue at least is fully compatible with the idea that Finney would have to prepare the pod for launch from the inside, then get out, and Kirk would fire the pod as soon as he possibly could - preferably so that Finney would have finished setting up the "readings on ion plates", but sooner if necessary, based on his personal judgement on the severity of the storm. Shields would be up the whole time, assuming they are of any use against ion storms.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, and:

    It seems that the transporter can be operated so that a single person first sets a destination, then sets a delay, and then climbs onto the platform. Didn't Lazarus do that a lot? Finney could transport down whenever he wanted, since transporter rooms are apparently rather seldom crewed yet still always at hot standby. He could skulk to one of the cargo units on the lower decks (say, the one that allowed van Gelder to infiltrate Deck 14) when the ship is visiting a planet where Finney's face isn't too well known. And he could program the computer to forget all about the transport...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  10. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

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    Regarding the location of the Ion Pod itself again; assuming that ejecting it is part of the standard procedure, wouldn't it make more sense to place it at the front of the ship, not the side rear? After all, there are those three tempting little circles at the leading edge of the saucer...
     
  11. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I'd actually think that a stern launch would be more logical. That way, the pod doesn't stand in the way of the mothership after launch, but rather allows her to hit the pedal and get out of the storm without doing any fancy maneuvers.

    If the pod were something ejected at high relative speed, then perhaps bow launch would be good. But I'm fond of T'Girl's idea of something that looks essentially like a travel pod, only with sensors in place of the window, and with a narrower docking collar - and is not as much launched as it is jettisoned (the term also used in the TOS episode), at low relative speed and without significant propulsive capacity of its own.

    The bonus of this sort of thinking is that it agrees with TOS-R and makes use of all the pseudo-logic already associated with that. Such as the proximity of the shuttle maintenance facilities, the clear path for Finney to escape to Main Engineering, the idea that Finney would take quite some time to get to the location from his quarters or whatever, and so forth...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  12. Jeri

    Jeri Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There's not a reason given why someone must set the ion pod up at the time of a storm -- why it shouldn't be ready to go at any time, like other probes.

    And I'm not ready to dismiss the non-canon written reason of the pod being a danger to the ship; that's pretty good evidence.
     
  13. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    There's also some dialogue on the tape extract playback that Lt. Shaw plays as evidence for the court:

    Uhura: Call from the pod, sir.

    Kirk: Tie in.

    Finney: Finney here, Captain. Ion readings in progress.

    Kirk: Make it fast, Ben-- I may have to go to Red Alert.

    Finney: Affirmative.


    So evidently, the pod wasn't simply being readied to take readings; ion readings were actually in progress.
     
  14. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    I suppose I can accept the pod being docked back by the hangar deck (I'm still rather fond of my idea of pods extended on an umbilical from the B/C superstructure, but oh well....).

    What I'm still not in favor of is the light being the ion pod. Not nearly big enough.
     
  15. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

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    Especially on a 947' ship, Finney could barely squeeze his head into it!

    There's also the issue of reloading the pod after use (without having to go outside the ship). Rather than have a section of the ships who's sole purpose is to prep and jettison ion pods (a rare need) it makes much more sense to have a multi-role system.

    Timo - I agree that if it's merely being jettisoned (rather than launched, as I alluded to) then perhaps a "kick it out the back" setup might be preferable.
    In which case, there are any number of hatches along the bottom of the secondary hull that could house the neccessary machinery.
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    We don't have any evidence that other probes would be "ready to go", either. Even Picard often has to call for a probe to be prepared, rather than simply launched.

    It all makes good sense if we view it as a parallel to today's tornado hunting. You never know when your elusive subject or study will appear, so you can't stay in constant readiness. Your instrument has a limited lifetime, so you only fire it up just before hitting the phenomenon. And your driver is at least as important to the results as your instrument operator - it's up to him or her to drive the truck right onto the path of the tornado at the exact right time, using his or her best judgement, and to be in command of the deployment sequence, a finger figuratively (or sometimes literally) on the trigger button.

    I'd dismiss it outright. If the pod is a grave danger to the ship, Kirk would simply refuse to use it.

    We've never heard of shields being disrupted by a geometry change in the ship's outline (say, when sections are blown off in battle), so that's automatically out. Keeping the shields down so that they don't disrupt the instruments... Kirk wouldn't do that in a situation amounting to a yellow alert, and in any case it would not offer any rationale for the need to jettison the pod. If the instruments don't like shields, screw them - if need be, fry them when the shields must be raised. Or just shut them down.

    Sure. But that's what would happen if the pod were being readied, too. The officer rushes to the pod, starts firing up the experiments; some of them start whirring and beeping; the officer informs the CO that he's achieved a milestone but isn't ready yet; and the CO tells him to make it fast and give the final A-OK so that the thing can finally be launched.

    I'd argue here that the pod would be inserted deep within the hull, with only a sensor head (or possible porthole) showing. In fact, several such coffin-sized devices might be housed there, beneath the hangar deck and ready to deploy sidewise. These would indeed perform a variety of functions - but none would be big enough to be multifunctional by itself. Instead, there'd be a spectrum of the things.

    For example, the operator would crawl into the thin cylinder, kick free of the ship, and deploy multiple arms from this heavy duty spacesuit, in order to begin repairs on the exterior... An eminently logical tool for starships, and quite familiar from 1930s-50s scifi comics. One wouldn't enter it vertically, because climbing into a thin cylinder from the top or bottom is awfully clumsy. Sliding into it horizontally from the bottom would be much easier.

    The ion pod would simply be a variant of this repair pod, packed with instrumentation that can be operated on both attached and deployed mode. And like T'Girl says, it would be modern instrumentation, stuff that hasn't yet been integrated to the old mothership, and thus e.g. requires an expert to activate. Modern instrumentation in a modular plug-in package - what could be more logical?

    The repair pods would fly themselves back without need for outside help. The ion pod would be a throwaway item if used on detached mode. (It probably also typically gets destroyed soon after deployment, since no attempt was made to locate the pod in the hopes of finding Finney inside...) Reloading might not be an issue simply because a starship won't be able to afford multiple pods. It's not as if submarines today carry spare ICBMs, either.

    And it would make more sense to provide dedicated berths for the repair pods than to launch them from the shuttlebay. Deploying a single-man pod doesn't require any of the facilities of the shuttlebay, and it would be awfully wasteful to pump all that air and open those heavy doors for no good reason. OTOH, placing the array of repair pod berths right next to the shuttlebay (or, rather, the hangar deck below) would also place the pods ideally next to auxiliary craft repair facilities, spacewalk gear stowage, etc.

    I believe aridas sofia introduced repair pods in this very location in his TOS ship blueprints, although he used variants based on Jeffries doodles, rather than the simple narrow cylinder that would best fit the supposed ion pod berth.

    Finally, here's the supposed reloading of the ion pod in the TOS-R episode:

    http://tos.trekcore.com/hd/albums/1x20hd/courtmartialhd049.jpg

    Replace the simple dome with a cylinder capped by said dome, and you have a perfectly practical small spacecraft to be used as a repair pod... I'd like to postulate that the corresponding (and unseen) portside location features two pod berths, rather than a berth and a porthole, and routinely carries two repair pods.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    Oh, I don't know. At no time in the episode do they talk about "launching" the pod. But they do say "jettison" ten times--and the button on Kirk's chair reads "Jettison Pod." From a semantic standpoint, I'm pretty familiar with what "jettison" means versus what "launch" means--and I think Kirk was being accused of jettisoning the pod prematurely, not launching it prematurely. I think the writer was probably familiar with the meanings of these two different words, too, and used the one he actually meant. What a simple matter it would have been to use the word "launch"--if that had actually been the functionality that the writer intended to convey. Or, for that matter, he would have called it a probe instead of a "pod."
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2010
  18. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I'd completely ignore writer intent here, considering that the McGuffin was never really given any "treknological" thought and thus gives the story unintentional complications if not further rationalized...

    Also, Kirk was indeed accused of premature deployment, whatever the exact word on the nature of that deployment. Nobody seemed to suggest that deployment wouldn't have been the ultimate goal. If something has been built to be deliberately deployed (be it to its assignment, or to its doom) without any intent of later recovery, I'm more or less happy with using "jettison" as the word for that action.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  19. johcomp

    johcomp Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I've got an I-Pod if that helps??
     
  20. ahkyahnan

    ahkyahnan Captain Captain

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    T'Girl and Timo,

    T'Girls idea is intriguing and I can generally buy into it as a valid possibility, but there's still a few things nagging at me.

    For example, how do you tie this into the significance the episode placed on whether or not Kirk had gone from Yellow Alert to Red Alert before jettisoning the pod? I'm not nearly the best at recalling dialogue from memory, but the central issue in Court Martial seemed to be Kirk's claim that he had gone to Red Alert before jettisoning, while the computer log showed they were still only at Yellow Alert.

    Why would that be essential if jettisoning the pod was part of the standard process? I mean if the pod's ready to launch and the ship's in a suitable position, why would it matter what alert status you're at? Why would that change in status be the primary factor that his court martial charges seemed to rest on?

    The implication to me seemed to be that if he had in fact gone to Red Alert before jettisoning the pod, then he would've been deemed justified in doing so, even if Finney was still in there. I don't recall him being charged with some sort of negligence for launching a pod with a crew member still in it, but for doing so prematurely...when the ship was still only at Yellow Alert. In fact the Commodore seems satisfied that Kirk followed proper procedures and a court martial isn't even convened until a review of the computer logs contradicts Kirk's statement that the ship was at Red Alert...not because of any contradiction to being certain Finney was out of the pod or not.

    Now I could buy that going to Red Alert might've been some final indication to Finney to get out now and that launch was imminent, but if launch was a standard procedure and Finney was still in there for some reason, then jettisoning would've still been an offense at any Alert level. You'd just scrub the launch and get out of the storm. The only reason to me that Kirk actions would've been initially deemed appropriate would be if the pod itself represented some sort of danger to the ship and had to be jettisoned whether or not Finney got out, which brings us back to the question of why would the pod represent a danger.

    To sum it up, I recall the hinge factor in Kirk's trial as being the timing of going from Yellow to Red alert, not the fact that a crewmember was still in it. Like I said though, I'm not good at recalling dialogue sometimes, so correct me if I'm misremembering.

    Mark
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2010