What is an "ion pod?"

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

  1. Jeri

    Jeri Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ "...that ought to be just about right..." - James Kirk, "Tomorrow is Yesterday." :lol:
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2010
  2. cgervasi

    cgervasi Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    My understanding is that the ion pod doesn’t have any communications equipment. The CO communicates with the officer getting ready to enter the pod with an estimate of when he’ll have to jettison it. “I don’t think I’ll have to jettison for the next five minutes or so.” Or “Make it quick, this storm is looking bad.” The CO is responsible for estimating how long preparing the pod will take, waiting at least that long, and sounding a red alert prior to jettison. The person in the pod can hear the klaxons, but doesn’t have any other communication with the rest of the ship. He’s hurrying through a manual procedure, so he can’t use a communicator easily. Starfleet failed to provide any kind of handsfree communication.

    This is a poor system that would probably have been improved by TNG and would probably not be allowed in a civilian job. But in a TOS-era Starfleet job, this risky operator-judgment-intensive procedure was seen as acceptable.
     
  3. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Kirk communicates with Finney while he present in the pod, warning him that a red alert and a ejection might be coming soon. Given that a red alert is the signal for Finney to get the hell out of the pod, it's reasonable that both a light signal and a klaxon would be present inside the pod.
     
  4. Destructor

    Destructor Commodore Commodore

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    It's really ridiculous any way you cut it. Why would someone need to be INSIDE the pod to take measurements? You are asking for trouble? Given that the whole case hinged on something that was never well explained (what the pod was, why someone had to be inside it, why it had to be jettisoned, why Finney wasn't given enough time to get out, why bridge camera records weren't the very first piece of evidence consulted, etc), it just throws this ep on the pile of 'bad Trek episodes', which is a shame, as it wouldn't have taken much effort to make the central conundrum the same without having such a contorted, hard-to-explain scenario at the core of it.
     
  5. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    It is great fun. Cogley's overacting, his love of books, Finney's voice, "Heloo CAP-tain." Flawed, yes. Like me and many other things. But not a bad Trek episode in my opinion.

    Peace to all.
     
  6. cgervasi

    cgervasi Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I agree. I would have preferred a little more info into the incident that triggered all this, which is esp appropriate in science fiction, and a little less court drama.
     
  7. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I wouldn't call veteran character actor Elisha Cook Jr.’s performance “overacting,” considering he was playing a lawyer who's “well-known for his theatrics.” Besides, he had a cool-looking jacket.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Destructor

    Destructor Commodore Commodore

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    I didn't mind the courtroom drama, but given that it hinged so heavily on technicalities, they could have made those technicalities less obscure.
     
  9. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    It's also probably one of the very few times he wasn't playing someone who would normally be on trial himself.

    He played a lot of gangsters in his time.
     
  10. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The pod did something that the Enterprise was incapable of. If the Enterprise was capable of taking the reading without the pod, there would have been no pod.

    The readings could not be taken remotely. this thread has gone though a number of possibilities.

    Spock can monitor most of the sensors from the bridge, but not the ones from the pod. Sulu can fire the phasers from the bridge, but there is still a phaser control station elsewhere. Scotty can do a lot from the engineering panel on the bridge, but there are still jeffries tubes, engineering rooms and spaces through out the ship. Finney was in the pod because somebody simply had to be.

    Kirk said he had to jettison because of the storm.

    Given that he actual did get out, apparently he was provided enough time..

    But the records were altered by Finney, possibly by Finney prior to his entering the pod. Consulting the cameras would have produced no truth.
     
  11. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    I doubt Kirk would have bothered to check his own bridge cameras for verification that he pushed buttons in a specific order. He knew he had pushed them in the right order, after all. And the prosecution already opened its case by establishing that the computer had indicated Kirk pushed those buttons in the wrong order; visual evidence would be superfluous (if dramatic) and showing it early on would really just make the court think that there was some reason to doubt the words of the prosecution.

    I guess the more interesting question is why cameras around the ion pod were not checked. The 1960s audience might not have expected them to exist - and indeed TOS doesn't indicate that there would be cameras everywhere. Just remember how Scotty had to rig extra visual recording gear for the Martine/Tomlinson wedding... But the 21st century audience would certainly assume that the ion pod, or at least the corridors close to it, would be under visual surveillance. Now, Finney would definitely have made sure that surveillance didn't thwart his dastardly plan. But if the defense thought that the visuals on bridge activity were wrong or tampered with, but couldn't prove anything, they'd certainly go through the ion pod camera material with a fine comb as well, looking for discrepancies or oddities they could use for propping up their faltering case.

    (Of course, there'd probably not have been any cameras in the pod itself, if we assume that no other remote technology was available, either. If Finney had to manually operate stuff there for treknological reason X, the only way to get visuals out would obviously have been by midget draft artists and carrier owls.)

    Generally speaking, I'd think the whole ion pod affair would ring true to those who were familiar with 1960s or preceding military technology. Lone assignments where men risk their lives in servitude to stupid pieces of machinery were and are very much part of the military life, especially so in hostile environments such as the sea or the air. What might bother the audiences is that a high-ranking officer was lost, in a job that to their experience should have been assigned to an expendable enlisted.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  12. johcomp

    johcomp Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think the reason they lost communication was because it was an Ion-Pod 4, and Finney was standing on the antenna, shorting it out! They weren't due a rubber bumper for it until more stock was delivered to the nearest Star-Base.
     
  13. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Love your avatar. I always knew Capt. Kirk had great legs! :lol:
     
  14. A beaker full of death

    A beaker full of death Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Really? If ever there was something that didn't need explaining, it was the ion pod.
    Need I add it's a fucking FTL spaceship. You're not supposed to know how it works, because we don't know how it works.
     
  15. StarryEyed

    StarryEyed Commodore Commodore

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    Only if all the fans are lawyers. :lol:

    Nothing person Beaker, but you are obviously out of your element. If the pod contains sensors AND
     
  16. StarryEyed

    StarryEyed Commodore Commodore

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    Only if all the fans are lawyers. :lol:

    Nothing person Beaker, but you are obviously out of your element. If the pod contains sensors and the sensor output can be reduced to data capable of being read and understood by a human being inside the pod, than the same output can be fed to systems inside the ship so that nobody need be inside the pod. That discrepancy does need to be explained because it's very obvious to people with a technical background - as obvious as Cogley's incompetence is to a real lawyer.

    There is a fairly easy explanation though: The pod the Enterprise was carrying was a prototype without an interface to the ship's systems. It was experimental. It wasn't considered a big deal to require a person inside it because it was easy enough to rig a simple red-alert signal through its communications interface that could warn a person to get out fast.
     
  17. Destructor

    Destructor Commodore Commodore

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    Or perhaps the pod's instrumentation needed to be calibrated on-the-fly to compensate for the ion storm's effects, and a direct link from the ship to the pod could provide some kind of 'conduit' for the ion storm effects to leapfrog into the ship's systems, so it had some kind of non-networked system that couldn't be controlled remotely, in order to protect the ship. Although if that was the case... why would the pod EVER need to be jettisoned?
     
  18. StarryEyed

    StarryEyed Commodore Commodore

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    Your explanation works in conjunction with the explanation that the pod was a vulnerable extrusion that might even prevent raising shields in its area.

    All they really needed to say was that it was an experimental pod. That gives enough wriggle room to suppose it needs to be manned.
     
  19. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    Basically, the pod was a small doohickey with a guy inside that's deployed to take readings of any conveniently passing ion storms. This is dangerous to the ship for two reasons: when it's deployed, the shields can't be raised, putting the ship in greater danger than it would be normally, and because the pod is physically attached to the ship, there is added stress at the point of connection. If that connection breaks, we could be talking severe damage to the ship, including having the pod slammed into the hull, hence why it has to be jettisoned when things get too hairy.

    I suppose the 1960's equivalent would be a B-52 going up into a hurricane with some sort of sensor drone with a guy inside, hanging out of the bomb bay or attached to the wing, and the pilot having to dump it when the turbulence gets too heavy; the inherent drama being whether or not the guy in the drone can get back inside the plane before the drone gets cut loose.

    As for why it has to be manned, as mentioned above, the nature of ion storms makes remote operation and monitoring of the pod problematic at best.

    And why Finney and not Ensign Ricky? Nobody in the military has just one job. You've got your primary occupation (in my case while in the Air Force, Administration Specialist, in Finney's case, records officer), your "war skill" (what you do when the shooting starts; I worked in Rapid Runway Repair, and learned all kinds of nifty ways to patch up a torn up runway and about the various types of bombs that are used to tear up the aforementioned runway...who knows what Finney did when the order came to assume battle stations), and apparently in Starfleet, when you're on a ship on a scientific mission, you occasionally have scientific duties to perform, like manning the ion pod when it's your turn.

    And don't worry, Ensign Ricky's name is somewhere on that duty roster, too. It was just Finney's turn.
     
  20. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    The above highlights the dramatic/logical problems of the story rather nicely. If Finney went to the pod completely at random, because he was part of a duty roster 430 names long, then we're watching a coincidence of cosmic scale unfold. How often would the ship face ion storms? Not another time in the three or five years we witnessed! Yet Finney based his whole plan, calling for careful preparation, on such an event...

    Of course Finney could and probably would have manipulated the roster. Yet it would help if the list of names weren't that long - if indeed only certain top officers had the training or the authority to operate the pod.

    Another dramatic/logical shortcoming is the idea that a tiny pod would endanger the mighty starship in any fashion. It just doesn't sound intuitively possible; nothing else did, at least not in TOS. Unless we count the magnetic containment pod in "That Which Survives"...

    Which makes me wonder if the ion pod in fact was unrelated to the ion storm and was not an observation instrument at all. Perhaps it was a key component of the ship's engines (or perhaps some other system Finney was in charge of), and was in danger of exploding in an ion storm unless carefully monitored? Kirk would want to keep the pod aboard as long as possible, because the ship needed the pod - but would have to eject it if problems arose. And Finney would be sent to establish that the pod was safe; if he didn't confirm it was, by taking the required "readings of the plates", it would have to be jettisoned at red alert by default.

    I'm still more partial to the idea that the pod was a delicate scientific instrument that posed no danger and was not intended to be crewed, but was to be prepared for launch by a member of the crew and then fired away uncrewed to study an ion storm. In this analogy to tornado hunting, the preparations would have to be performed on short notice, since ion storms were unpredictable, and would call for a trained specialist. And like StarryEyed suggested, it would be a rarely used and largely experimental piece of hardware, so the list of competent specialists would be short, but their workload high.

    There'd be no scientific return if the pod were released prematurely (it would not be ideally positioned, and Finney would not have all the experiments running yet), but there'd be risk to the ship if she stayed in the storm too long - so Kirk would personally control the complicated joint action of the launch and the escape from the storm with a single button push. When red alert sounded, the crew would snap to desired action: Sulu would start saving the ship, as always in red alerts, while Finney would know that the alert was his signal to leave the pod prior to its launch.

    Tornado hunting is a simple enough analogy here: it explains Kirk's seeming desire to sail into the storm and covers all the technicalities that follow with the same sort of accuracy we saw in Twister - that is, sufficient for carrying the drama. Alas, it's probably not what the writer had in mind, so he didn't insert cues that would make it more obvious that this is a logical motivation for our heroes and villains...

    Timo Saloniemi