What is an "ion pod?"

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

  1. Bruno

    Bruno Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2009
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    ^
    Not to interrupt, but I understood the "red alert" to be Finney's last warning that the pod was about to be jettisoned. As long as they were at Yellow, he would think he still had time.
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    My starting point here is that the pod was not ready to launch. In fact, ion pods virtually never are, because ion storms are such fickle beasts; one has to hunt for them, but carefully, because this places the ship at risk, and one has to launch the pod when one has the chance. But ship's safety is always paramount, and the Captain is the one to decide on that.

    Thus, if the ship is only mildly endangered (yellow alert), pod preparations can proceed. If the skipper feels it's time to go, there's only a second or two to respond, so the skipper is expected to hit red alert, at which point dozens of crewmen snap to action: the pod specialist withdraws and the pod is launched as is (so that the whole risky thing hasn't been done for nothing), the helmsman wrestles the ship out of the storm, and no doubt other people do other things to protect the ship.

    If the procedure at hitting red alert in an ion storm merely consisted of securing the ship, then the pod would go unlaunched and the mission would be a failure of sorts. So pod launch would be integrated to the procedure, with all the control of every aspect of the procedure on the skipper's fingertips.

    Note that in TOS, yellow and red alert do not automatically correspond to things like "shields up" or "weapons hot". Those are separate commands, and situation-dependent. Probably in red alert, the crew must be ready to raise the shields immediately; in yellow alert, they need not be that prepared; etc.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. Green Shirt

    Green Shirt Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2005
    Location:
    U.S.S. Enterprise, Starship Class
    My wife jettisoned our son's i-pod for failing two classes this past quarter. :eek:
     
  4. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Forgot to comment on this one...

    I don't think Kirk ever thought he would be launching Finney into space (and certain death there) - not even during or after jettisoning the pod. I don't think anybody thought that this would be admissible under any circumstances, either. Kirk said he gave Finney every second he would have needed for getting out of the pod - and after the incident, he initiated a shipwide, shipboard search for Finney, not a search for the pod, clearly with the implication that he thought Finney would have gotten out.

    Kirk might have been negligient in not verifying that Finney really got out. But he did give Finney that very command, before which he had heard Finney making all sorts of A-okay comments, and after which things got busy and Kirk had to use his trigger finger for doing multiple things, including commanding red alert and then completing the mission by launching the pod. Cogley might have based his defense on Finney not obeying orders and thus causing his own death, but of course he didn't want to go that route.

    Kirk would have been worried about the safety of his ship, but not at the expense of safety of Finney. It wouldn't be a case of "Red alert -> pod must go or else ship suffers", but of "Ship is suffering -> red alert -> now-or-never for pod launch -> pod launch and retreat to safety".

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  5. ahkyahnan

    ahkyahnan Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2003
    Location:
    WV, USA
    Timo,

    I agree with the timeline you lay out above, and also that Kirk initially believed that Finney had gotten out of the pod. And that he'd given Finney every opportunity to get out before jettisoning. The problem I have is that 'giving him every opportunity' isn't enough for an operation that's optional and can be aborted if necessary. Essential steps in such a process would be positive verification that the crewman was out before jettisoning, not hitting that launch button until you had such verification, and simply aborting the mission if that verification never came before it was necessary for Enterprise to depart. To my recollection there's no discussion of anything like that. Finney had plenty of time, but an accident or mishap could've occurred that would prevent him from getting out, and I'd think they'd have procedures in place to prevent the pod from launching with a crewman still inside.

    Now it's possible those things occurred off-camera and Finney altered those records as well, but the problem I still have is that after all is said and done and it's discovered that Finney didn't escape, the investigation and court martial doesn't focus on "how & why did you launch the pod with a crewman still aboard when your (altered) computer records clearly show he was still inside" or "why did a needless death occur in a situation that was preventable and why weren't there sufficient safeguards to prevent something like this from happening?" Rather the entire investigation & proceedings for the remainder of the episode focus on "were you or were you not at Red Alert when you jettisoned the pod?"

    It's this sole focus by the Commodore and the court on the Yellow Alert vs Red Alert condition that bothers me. If Finney's death was needless and fully preventable, then Kirk should've been facing an investigation & court martial as soon as he arrived at Starbase. Instead he doesn't get into trouble at all until the Commodore suddenly realizes the ships records don't show they were yet in a Red Alert situation, and it's that specific focus point that suddenly shifts the direction of the entire episode. Implying that something that was previously considered justifiable and simply unfortunate when at Red Alert, is suddenly unacceptable at only Yellow Alert. It should never have been acceptable under any Alert condition for a crewman to end up dead in an abortable operation, and Kirk should've been in hot water as soon as Finney was presumed dead.

    To me, if the makers of the episode viewed the pod jettison as a standard part of the operation, then they would've written in at least a little something about Finney's death being unnecessary under any circumstances, and had Kirk question himself as to whether he could've done more to make sure Finney was indeed out beforehand, rather than focusing solely on when in the sequence of events did the death occur.

    I'll admit I haven't watched the ep in awhile though, and will try to review tonight to see if I'm misremembering. Are episode transcripts available online anywhere? Just curious.

    Mark
     
  6. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2008
    Location:
    Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA, Terra
    And, of course, they would have called the button the "LAUNCH PROBE" button instead of the " JETTISON POD" button. I think it's pretty clear that having the pod leave the ship is never part of the routine operation of the device. It can be "jettisoned," if necessary but it is never ultimatley "launched." It remains attached, manned for ion storm readings, then the crewmember vacates when the measurements are done and the pod is buttoned up until it is needed again and it never leaves the ship.

    Also, for what it's worth, a Phase One search was implemented to find Ben Finney:

    "It's a painstaking, thorough attempt in and around the ship to find a man who's unable to respond."
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2010
  7. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    On the issue of whether the mission was abortable or not, I'd solidly say not. After all, Kirk seemed to sail into the storm with the sole purpose of sailing into the storm! This was a ship-jeopardizing act that caused significant material damage even when the mission was a seeming success (notwithstanding the faked death of a crew member), and might have well cost 430 lives, yet apparently Starfleet wanted Kirk to do exactly this.

    Kirk went into the storm, with his seat console specially configured so that he could jettison the pod. It seems clear that his intent was to jettison the pod, sooner or later. At no point in the dialogue did the possibility arise that the pod might not be jettisoned; all parties seemed aware that it eventually would be, because no verbal commands or comments were needed when the jettison in fact took place.

    "Pod", "probe", "bell", "sonde", "rover", "buoy"... All sound like acceptable names for a measuring station to be immersed in a hostile environment. And every other pod ever mentioned in Star Trek has been a free-flyer. (Or a jettisonable, like antimatter pods.)

    Yet Kirk doesn't face investigations and court martials whenever he returns to starbases after losing a Security redshirt on landing party duty. Needless deaths are no doubt routine enough in the Starfleet line of work - and I dispute the idea that Finney's death at pod jettison (say, him being still aboard the pod, or in such a location that the launch would kill him) would have been preventable. Kirk never checks that the shuttlebay is empty before ordering hangar doors opened. Apparently, he relies on his trained crew hearing the klaxons and seeing the signal lights. And those are the very things activated by pressing the alert buttons...

    If Finney died despite being informed of the situation, it was his own damn fault. Kirk's task wouldn't be to hold the hands of his crew - it would be to correctly signal them so that they can do their trained jobs.

    Which negates the idea that losing a crewman would be punishable in itself.

    Kirk's crime is "wilful perjury", or lying about the details of the death. It doesn't matter what part he lied about, the crime is that he lied in his detailed report and maintains the lie against Stone's verbal inquest - and thus in all probability is trying to hide other, worse crimes. The exact timing of red alert is not his crime, it's merely the thing he lied about, the hint that he has been up to no good.

    Of course the court homes in on the red alert issue: it's the only fact at their disposal. But prosecution isn't really concerned about that. Prosecution's attack is directed at Kirk's person from the very start, with the intent of establishing hostility between him and Finney - and the red alert records are only brought up once it has been concluded that Kirk might have had a motive to murder Finney, and are shoehorned into the scenario where such a murder did take place.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2010
  8. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2002
    Location:
    ssosmcin
    I'm more interested in what Finney's job actually was on the ship. Records Officer is painfully vague. Is he the guy in charge of the file room? Is he in IT? And what makes him so great that "the service can't afford to lose men like Lt. Cmdr. Finney?"

    I can also understand rotating duty assignments, like cross-training, or everyone having an Emergency Preparedness Assignment in case vital crew members are killed. But wouldn't it be more efficient to have a specialist in the pod instead of your file guy who gets seven hours of refresher training once a year? Or - idea - make this function automated instead of having some poor file guy crawling into a pod and jettisoned from the ship.
     
  9. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Since only Kirk, Spock and Finney could have faked the computer records, I'd guess "Records Officer" is an expression for the ship's leading computer wrangler. Either he's an especially skilled officer (like I think Spock would be), or then an officer with exceptional access (the case with Kirk, most probably). I'd vote Finney is the match of Spock in skill, hence quite a prize for Starfleet.

    I also guess it makes sense not to assign anybody permanently for a single piece of equipment that may see use once per decade. Yet if the ion survey gear is high tech that gets plugged into the side of an old starship, some expertise is probably called for in operating it. People with special competence on things that go beep-beep in the night, such as the science department or the computer folks, would then plausibly rotate on that duty - and the list may be relatively short, perhaps not much longer than the list of people who could falsify computer records...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  10. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    I'm trying to figure out a way that the little bump back there can be the pod with a guy in it...

    Howzabout this: The whole aparatus consists of more than just the jettisonable pod. The part that the person is actually manning is a small room just inside the ship's hull; the pod itself is purely a sensor array, and thus completely disposable. When the pod is jettisoned, that room is now open to the great black yonder; no environmental force field here, that'd screw up the readings, and the room's too small to wear an environmental suit, so when that red alert starts screaming, and that transluscent dome in front you is getting ready to go buh-bye, you either get on the other side of that door, or hope you can hold your breath long enough to get picked up by a ship equipped with an infinite improbability drive.

    That work?
     
  11. Kirk here

    Kirk here Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    Location:
    Arkansas
    It never ceases to amaze me how much thought and energy can be poured into trying to explain a piece of techno-babble, or, as DS9Sega called it, a minor MacGuffin.

    ;o)
     
  12. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Walking distance from Starfleet HQ
    The only reason I can think that you'd have to jettison something like that is because it endangers the ship in certain situations: like having a lightning-rod on the hull that makes the ship more likely to take a whack in certain circumstances.
     
  13. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    Location:
    North Wales
    I think it's the way it's so vaguely dealt with in the episode (yet plays a pivitol part) that keeps people coming back for more! I am continually impressed at the evolving theology surrounding this "Minor MacGuffin" - Treknology at its finest!
     
  14. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    Location:
    North Wales
    Love that last bit! :lol:
    As for the rest; I'm a little worried about the personnel - why design a room that's too small even for an enviromental suit to be used? That leaves you with a hole in the hull (and thus a point of weakness) by design? That leaves all your instrumentation exposed to the vaccum of space? It gets around the issue of the (too small) aft light being the ion pod though, but it sounds a bit cavalier, even for TOS Starfleet!
    Hence I think you were on the right track with your earlier design of having a "bay" of iod pods, even the exact location might be better suited further aft. I imagine something like an extendable boom (similar to Franz Joseph's tractor beam thingy) coming from the bottom of the ship (out of one of the many hatches there) with the ion pod on the end of it. That way you make the pod as large as you like!
     
  15. Green Shirt

    Green Shirt Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2005
    Location:
    U.S.S. Enterprise, Starship Class
    For real! He flys into the thing at Warp 1, then asks the Engine Room for 1/3 more thrust.

    I guess its like getting a shot, or taking a band aid off. Do it faster, and it hurts less.
     
  16. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Location:
    T'Girl
    I don't think Kirk immediately knew that Finney was missing. If the ion pod was the sole reason to enter the storm, then after it was jettisoned Kirk would have concentrated on getting the ship out of the ion storm. If the Enterprise's regular sensor could gather additional readings, Kirk would have stayed in the storm longer, before leaving. When would Finney have been missed? He should have called in as soon as he was out, perhaps to Uhura, then reported to his red alert station. Kirk would have started by simply calling him on the shipwide intercom A shipwide search would have had to wait until the ship was both out of the storm and secure.

    I like the idea that as records officer Finney was the ship's I.T. geek.

    We've all been assuming (me too) that the ion pod was small, but what if it wasn't? What if the pod was very large? Something that was attached to the length of the secondary hull, a dozen meters across and fifty or sixty meters long. When Kirk ordered warp one, then told engineering to increase power by one third, that may have been to compensate for the presence of the pod. The size of the pod interfered with the Enterprise's ability to maneuver properly, created torque, slowed her down. Kirk jettisoned the pod not because it was becoming contaminated, but because it mere presence endangered the ship.

    When jettisoned the combination of the Enterprise being at warp, leaving the warp envelope, and the surounding ion storm would have torn the pod apart.
     
  17. TIN_MAN

    TIN_MAN Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2007
    Well, I think that's why some folks think the pod was on a tether of some kind, because such a setup would account for the meneuvering difficulties and other things that could endanger the ship? But there's nothing on the ship exterior that corresponds to something as big as your describing, unless we assume that the pod is inflatable or something? Or, are you suggesting that a seperate 'attachment' was picked up at a starbase, with the specific intent of heading straight to the nearest storm?
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2010
  18. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    Location:
    North Wales
    It's entirely possible - we never saw any exterior visuals of the ship during the ion storm.
     
  19. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    ...Such a "room" would probably best be explained as simply the airlock or access corridor through which Finney reaches into the pod to get the measurements going. At the moment of pod jettison, three things could happen:

    1) If the pod is big enough, Finney could be in there, and might be launched with the pod - a potentially survivable situation, but only if the pod doesn't quickly get fried by the storm.

    2) If the pod doesn't allow Finney to squeeze all the way in, or if Finney times his exit wrong, he could be caught in the doorway, and be sucked into space through the hole left by the departure of the pod, or perhaps cut in half by the closing door.

    3) Finney might also manage to get out of the doorway in time, but be hurt somehow, perhaps by the door mechanism.

    I agree that Kirk would be too busy to worry about Finney's fate right away. And (as per Kirk's damage report at SB11) there might be pressure alerts going off all across the ship at the time, so the presence or absence of one at the pod socket and the adjoining interior spaces wouldn't be an immediate telltale, either.

    This sort of "nautical" reacting to spatial storms is also seen in ST6:TUC, where Sulu thinks his ship will better survive a tidal wave in space by turning her bow into that wave...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  20. Elder Knight

    Elder Knight Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2002
    Location:
    SE USA
    I believe than an "ion pod" is one made mostly out of the element #26 Ion, which is found in the Touch-Typist Table of the Elements between #25 Chomium and #27 Coalt.
     

Share This Page