Charting a Course through TNG Season 3 from Tau Cygna to Mintaka and back...

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by TJ Sinclair, Jan 16, 2020.

  1. TJ Sinclair

    TJ Sinclair Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2000
    Location:
    There and back again...
    As I mentioned in this thread, I enjoy trying to narrow down the locations of places mentioned in Trek that haven't been covered by Geoffrey Mandel's Star Charts or Larry Nemecek's Stellar Cartography. It began back when I was a kid, interested in real astronomy, kept hearing star names like Rigel and Deneb pop up in TOS and TNG, and wondering where all the made up stars fit in between. It eventually became a tool in keeping my writing consistent, if only for my own sake, and now, for the last decade or so, being on medication that makes writing difficult for me, it remains one of my few more creative outlets in which I can indulge with any regularity.

    Oh, before I go any farther, let me say that yes, I know that stardates, warp speeds, distance and so much more are thoroughly inconsistent in Trek, and cannot be treated as absolute measurements. But as broad guidelines, they can provide a framework in which to theorize. That's all I want to do. I'm also fully on board with the "high-speed warp lanes" concept of Star Charts, as well as the assertion that there's more than one Deneb, more than one Rigel, etc, because these ideas makes sense out of a lot of things that would otherwise be irreconcilable. Of course, as with all of this, your mileage may vary.

    Recently, I've been taking my boyfriend through TNG in preparation for Picard (we're almost done, and I'm relieved to say he's loving it!) and it's brought up a lot of old questions for me. In my mind, I keep coming back to "Who Watches the Watchers," because it's one of my favorite episodes. I love that we had "proto-Vulcans" for once instead of generic pre-industrial humanoids, and I've always been disappointed that we never returned there, nor was anything like that ever really done again. In any case, Mintaka being a real star, especially one in Orion's Belt, always stuck with me, too. But does Mintaka III orbit the real world star known as Mintaka, or a fictional, closer star? Star Charts says the former, and I'm inclined to agree, but there is plenty of room for debate.

    As best we can tell, the real Mintaka, Delta Orionis, is pretty far out there, though I'm finding conflicting data about its distance. According to Wikipedia, and the data it references the star is about about 1200 light-years away from Sol, even farther than the "true" Rigel, Beta Orionis, at approximately 850-900 light-years. But the Hipparcos data from 2007 indicates a distance of about 690 light-years, and I'm not sure which is more accurate. Either way, Mintaka is a long way past the main body of Federation space as presented in Star Charts' interpretation of the Trek universe. Still it is possible for Federation ships to make it out that far (even if the greater distance is accurate), and the star's remoteness may explain why Mintaka and the Mintakans haven't been brought up again.

    I started looking at the episodes surrounding "Who Watches the Watchers," early in TNG's third season, to see if I could sort of "plot a course" from one to the next that made any logical sense, and possibly place other locations along the way. In doing so I went back as far as "Evolution" and as far ahead as "The Enemy."

    Here's the rundown of those episodes, with locations, stardates, and Gregorian date conversions:

    "Evolution" - stardate 43125.8 - February 15, 2366
    The Enterprise is in the Kavis Alpha sector, previously unheard of and never seen again.

    "The Ensigns of Command" - stardate unknown - date unknown
    Data's mission to Tau Cygna V in the de Laure Belt, between the borders of the Federation and the Sheliak Corporate.

    "The Survivors" - stardate 43152.4 - Febuary 25, 2366
    The Enterprise visits the planet Rana IV in the Delta Rana system, and later departs for Starbase 133.

    "Who Watches the Watchers" - stardates 43173.5 to 43174.2 - March 5, 2366
    A distress call from Mintaka III sees the Enterprise traveling a significant distance at high warp at the beginning of the episode.

    "The Bonding" - stardate 43198.7 - March 14, 2366
    The Enterprise surveys an unnamed planet, which turns out to be the homeworld of the Koinonians.

    "Booby Trap" - stardate 43205.6 - March 17, 2366
    The Enterprise responds to a distress call from the Orelious IX asteroid belt, the site of an ancient battle between the Promellians and the Menthar.

    "The Enemy" - stardate 43349.2 - May 8, 2366
    The Enterprise is at Galorndon Core, just inside Federation space near the Romulan Neutral Zone.

    From what I can find at Memory Beta, the only novel or comic involving the Enterprise-D that takes place between any of these episodes is Doomsday World. The novel involves the planet Kirlos, which might be interesting to add to this list, but as I haven't read it, and its stardate places it at practically the same time as "The Bonding" (literally the same day, if we go by standard date conversion), I'll have to ignore it for now.

    It's interesting that from that seven-episode spread, apart from Tau Cygna, Mintaka and Galorndon Core, none of the other 5 locations specifically visited by the Enterprise-D that are depicted in Star Charts, and as far as I can tell, are likewise missing from Stellar Cartography. On one of the larger-scale maps in Star Charts, the former Promellian and Menthar space is seen, but Orelious IX is specifically indicated, and the book seems to conflate it with the planet Orellius from DS9's "Paradise" by giving Orellius' star the alternate name of Orelious. More on that later.

    By far, the location of most interest is Tau Cygna V, which seems fairly remote to the main body of the Federation, but still has to be close enough for an Earth colony ship to get swept off course there on its way to Septimus Minor (another location that isn't in the Charts, unless it's conflated with the Septimus system from DS9, which also seems unlikely to me). Star Charts puts Tau Cygna about 500 light-years outside the Federation core. Memory Alpha, on the other hand, currently places it at five-thousand light-years beyond Federation space, not because of an actual line in the episode but because of a line in a briefly graphic display of the Treaty of Armens. The latter definitely seems more than a little excessive, even ridiculous, to me. Regardless, both of them put Tau Cygna coreward and to the west of UFP space, in the exact opposite direction of the rimward-and-east Mintaka, because the Sheliak species in the episode seem to be named after the real star Sheliak (aka Beta Lyrae) which lies in that direction. However, the episode itself says the Sheliak come from the Shelia system, and does not mention Beta Lyrae, which in my mind leaves it as open to interpretation as the multiple Denebs and Rigels. The Sheliak come from Shelia, and therefore could just happen to have a similar-sounding name to an ancient Earth designation for a far away star. And just to muddy the waters even more, Tau Cygna might be a misnamed real-world star Tau Cygni, which is (as far as my research can find) only about 69 light years from Sol. In any case, even if the Sheliak do come from Beta Lyrae (which is actually visited in TAS' "The Slaver Weapon"), a distance of five-thousand light-years for Tau Cygna would put it well beyond even that, and would make the fact that the Federation had to cede such a remote world to the Sheliak at all, let alone in a treaty signed a year prior to Discovery's first season, seem quite odd indeed.

    So do the Sheliak come from Beta Lyrae, or just from a similarly named Shelia system? And what does that mean in regards to locating Tau Cygna? That's an open question, and even more problematic than the similar question about Mintaka.

    So "Evolution" gives us Kavis Alpha, which on its own is no help, and "The Ensigns of Command" gives us Tau Cygna, and by extension Shelia and/or Beta Lyrae, which opens up even more problems. The next episode is "The Survivors" which takes place at Delta Rana, with the Enterprise leaving for Starbase 133 at the end. As I said, Delta Rana and Starbase 133 are both missing from the Charts, but thankfully the starbase is not only mentioned, but seen one more time, a year later, in "Remember Me," after which the ship departs for the likewise-unplaced Kenda II. That episode on its own doesn't really give us any more clues to its location, but the surrounding episodes might. Going by stardates, "Suddenly Human" precedes "Remember Me" by about a week, and takes place near the Talarian border, which Star Charts postulates, and most of us seem to agree, is near Cardassian space. That at least gives us a starting place. The next episode is "Legacy," and by stardates that's three weeks to a month after "Remember Me," which is probably too long a gap to be very useful. But in any case, in "Legacy," the ship is en route to Camus II before being diverted to Turkana IV. Thankfully we know the location of the Camus system, according to the Charts, is in the "southern" Federation, just on the Alpha Quadrant side of the Alpha-Beta Quadrant border, south of the Betreka Nebula, and between Cardassian and Klingon space. This tracks with "Suddenly Human," and at least keeps the ship in same very general vicinity. Turkana IV, curiously, isn't in Star Charts that I can find, but it did get put into Stellar Cartography, close enough to Camus for a distress signal diversion to be plausible.

    Back to season three and "The Survivors," it's possible that Delta Rana might be the real-world star Delta Eridani (aka Rana), something speculated at Wikipedia (and which used to be theorized at Memory Alpha, though that line of thought seems to have been removed). Delta Eridani is only about 29 light-years from Sol, well within reach for a Federation colony. I'm not good enough at galactic coordinates to translate the position of the real Delta Eridani onto the maps in Star Charts, but if someone out there is so inclined, that could prove most instructive in helping narrow down the locations of both Rana IV and Starbase 133. Wherever it is, 29 light-years is reasonable enough that a diversion there shouldn't throw off a "course" between "Evolution" and "Watchers."

    That's it for the episodes preceding "Who Watches the Watchers," so let's look at the episodes following, which, if Mintaka III is orbiting the real star of that name, could form a lengthy journey back to the main body of Federation space.

    "The Bonding" is problematic, but only in as much as there's no data about where it takes place, beyond an unnamed planet which is home to a race known as the Koinonians. According to its stardate, the episode takes place a little over a week after the Enterprise departs Mintaka.

    Next comes "Booby Trap," which gives us a lot more detail about where the Enterprise is, but not too much about where that might be in relation to anything else. They're at Orelious IX, the asteroid belt remnants of a planet destroyed more than 10,000 years before, and the site of a battle between the ancient Promellian and Menthar races. The episode's stardate places it a mere three days after "The Bonding," so either Jeremy Aster is still on board, or the ship has already been to Earth and back out again. On page 36, Star Charts places the former space of the Promellians and the Menthar coreward and west of Sol, "north" of Cardassian space. Again, I think this placement stems from conflating Orelious IX with the planet Orellius in the DS9 episode "Paradise." We can either take Star Charts as accurate, or dismiss its placement of "Booby Trap" as a confusion of two similar-sounding planets.

    I would be inclined towards the latter, but for Christopher's novels, The Buried Age, Tower of Babel and Face of the Unknown, which all reference and expand on the history of the Promellians and the Menthar to one degree or another, and based on location presented in Star Charts, necessitate their space being relatively close to that of the First Federation. I still don't think Orellius and Orelious are necessarily the same, but if those novels are to be taken into account, they're likely in the same stellar neighborhood. Otherwise, former Promellian space might be quite a bit closer to Mintaka. But, if we do take the novels into account, then going by season three stardates, it takes about 12 days for the Enterprise to leave Mintaka, visit the Koinonian planet, and arrive at Orelious IX, somewhere between Cardassian and Ferengi space, almost due "west" of Sol, possibly visiting Earth to drop of Jeremy Aster on the way.

    Compare that to 8 day time frame from leaving Delta Rana/Delta Eridani in "The Survivors," stopping by Starbase 133, and then high-warping it to Mintaka III in response to the observation team's distress signal.

    That means in a span of 20 days, the Enterprise made it from Delta Eridani to Mintaka and back to relatively near-Earth space, with a stop at a starbase on the way out, and an unknown planet on the way back. Once again, I fully acknowledge that warp speeds, stardates, and distances in Trek are not reliable, absolute measurements, but even so, that's hauling some serious tail however you quantify the factors involved.

    I've blathered an extremely long time in this post, and I'm not sure any of you are still with me. If you are thanks for sticking with it this long. One more bit of business before I wrap this up.

    Two of the most popular fan-created maps, based on Star Charts and/or Christian Rühl's map which preceded and inspired it, depict the areas involved in this discussion, but in more-or-less opposite ways.

    The Stellar Cartography site at www.startrekmap.com places Tau Cygna right at the Federation border, underneath the Talarians, and in the same vicinity as Megara and Galen on the third fold-out map in the back of Star Charts, with an arm of Sheliak territory coming right down to it. It places Kavis Alpha, Delta Rana, Orelious, and Mintaka itself all in the same area, along with the Grizella system and the theoretical Armens (as in Treaty of), apparently just because all the episodes take place back-to-back. I should also note that this site does distinguish between Orelious and Orellius. It also places a star called Shelia iniside Sheliak territory, much closer than Beta Lyrae would be.

    The other significant and popular fan-created map is from Star Trek: The Final Frontier at www.sttff.net, and that map is a massive expansion of Rühl's original, which of course includes info from the site author's own stories, as well as novels, comics and games (like A Final Unity). I think the map is, in general, exceptionally well-reasoned and well-designed, though I'm not always on board with its assumptions. In this case, it puts Mintaka roughly out where the real star is, but puts the Sheliak, Tau Cygna, Kavis Alpha, Koinonia, Semptimus (as in Septimus Minor), Delta Rana and all that in roughly the same vicinity.

    A prime example of the YMMV Principle, these two fans created maps based on the data presented in TNG, and with different assumptions came out with vastly different results. I have great respect for both. However, personally, I don't find either completely satisfies my take on the episodes. It's convenient to have them all together on one end of Federation space or the other, but I'm not convinced its necessary.

    So there we have it, all of the data I can find on these locations. What do you think? Is the Mintaka of "Who Watches the Watchers" the real star Delta Orionis, or another closer system with a similar name? Do the Sheliak come from as far away as Beta Lyrae, or from another, probably closer Shelia system? Is Delta Rana actually Delta Eridani? Where is Starbase 133? What about the Kavis Alpha sector, and by extension, the nanite colony created at the end of "Evolution"? Are all these places lumped over by Cardassian-Talarian space, or on the opposite, rimward end of the known Beta Quadrant? Or are they spread out along points in between?

    Again, if you've made it this far, thanks for sticking with me and my rambling attempts to quantify a fictional reality. I'm extremely interested in what anyone thinks of all this, or if anyone even cares. :)
     
  2. TJ Sinclair

    TJ Sinclair Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2000
    Location:
    There and back again...
    ...crickets...

    Well, okay, then.
     
  3. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Don't mistake the sound of a dozen TOS computers clicking and beeping in the distance for crickets. This one simply takes a bit of processing time...

    The remarkable thing about this stretch of episodes, apart from them representing a "stabilized" season of TNG with sequential stardates and all, is that basically every adventure is a response to a distress call of some sort. Sure, "Evolution" starts the run at a location and a timepoint that were actually known decades if not centuries in advance by Starfleet, but from this one on, the Federation Flagship rushes to aid, investigate or intercept.

    Since we know the E-D is a pretty fast vessel, and that she is infamous for abusing her high warp capabilities ("Phantasms" et al.), it might be attractive to argue that there is little in the way of a "course" here, no "traveling salesman" routine is helping our heroes conserve their lightyears, and the ship may in fact zigzag significantly. We can then take two tacks: either going to (real) Mintaka from a location hundreds of lightyears away is a fairly routine hop for an emergency response team, or then the E-D happened to be the ship closest to this emergency while USS Insignificant and USS Irrelevant dealt with the emergencies closer to their locations.

    Personally, I favor the former model. No doubt the RNZ has plenty of ships patrolling, but rushing a giant Galaxy to respond to an apparent serious infiltration seems prudent - if said Galaxy is fast enough for the task. And since in this model she demonstrably is, she can then go to Mintaka and back on emergency call, too.

    "The Bonding" involves a survey of a planet, but one where the heroes had no idea what they would find, i.e. who lived down there. Sounds like they went places for reason X, and once X was out of the way, they took a look around to see if there was anything of interest there... Placing that one location between the bracketing emergency response ones seems justified, then. And since the place was a big unknown, it's all right for one of the brackets to be a distant location such as Mintaka.

    Apart from that, though, the implication IMHO is of significant zigzagging capabilities, and thus of the hopelessness of nailing down a theater of operations. But I would definitely want to sever the connection between Tau Cygna and the entire constellation Cygnus, including Sheliak. The double spelling errors/choices, Cygna instead of Cygni and Shelia instead of Sheliak, seem both reason and excuse enough.

    As for the 5,000 ly distance, it's a poor match with the J-25 issue where mere 2,000 additional ly amount to a trip taking years. I'd rather insert a decimal point there, lost in the blurriness of that as such sorta-readable text. But I'd have the distance as 500.0 rather than 50.00 ly, and not just for formatting reasons. Sure, 500/7000 = t/2.8 yrs makes t a longer time than we wish to accept here - but I also argue that these things are not linear, and that with increasing distances the speed of a starship also drops, due to required cool-off times and pit stops, and that the drop is particularly acute when one proceeds from hundreds of lightyears (all almost literally in a day's work in many Trek episodes) to thousands.

    Of course the text if closely read presents assorted other problems as well, including timeline ones. But rationalizing those away is a separate exercise...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
    Spaceship Jo and Henoch like this.
  4. TJ Sinclair

    TJ Sinclair Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2000
    Location:
    There and back again...
    Thank you, Timo. You bring up a lot of good points. When I used the title "charting a course," I wasn't thinking of trying to do so literally, as if the Enterprise started out at Kavis Alpha, set course for Mintaka, and every thing else just happened more or less along the way. Just that looking at where those episodes fall in relation to each other, might help us theorize about the locations missing from Star Charts. That's a fairly big run of episodes to have so little coverage in the book.

    So your take is that Mintaka *is* the actual star, but the places from "Ensigns of Command" aren't. Fair enough, and that totally works. It sounds like your take might be closer to the STTFF map, if anything. It does make me curious, though. Why do you want to completely disassociate them from Cygnus and Beta Lyrae?

    I'm with you on the 500ly distance for Tau Cygna for oh, so many reasons. I don't have a real problem with it being where Star Charts puts it, but again it doesn't have to be there, and in my mind, probably works better towards the Beta Quadrant side of things than out past Cardassian and Breen space like the book has it. And again, I don't like the Sheliak being from Beta Lyrae, but that's just me. I don't like "The Slaver Weapon" going there, either. Actually, I don't like "The Slaver Weapon" as it exists in TAS at all, but it's there, regardless of how I feel about it.

    I also posted my inane ramblings here over on r/DaystromInstutue and got some pretty great feedback from one user there as well, OneMario. He goes the other route, though, and assumes Tau Cygna to be Tau Cygni, from there, using real star positions, he worked up a pretty nice "course chart." Where Timo feels that Shelia isn't Beta Lyrae, OneMario feels that Mintaka isn't Delta Orionis. Again, a lot of different assumptions than I would make, but really great discussion back and forth. It reminded me that SB133 was used as a staging point for the liberation of Betazed in The Battle of Betazed novel, and that coupled with treating Delta Rana as Delta Eridani, and finding where that would be on the Mandel's map, leads me to the belief that Starbase 133 is in the vicinity of Aldebaran. Which tracks with both that starbase and Aldebaran colony being referenced major hubs for crew rotation. The starbase might actually be in the Aldebaran system. It also reminds me how pissed off I am at Memory Alpha's intractable stance that the "Aldebaron colony" of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is a different place than all the other "Aldebaran" references over the years, instead of a simple misspelling of a real star name as was quite common in the early days of Trek. But that's another issue entirely.
     
  5. TJ Sinclair

    TJ Sinclair Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2000
    Location:
    There and back again...
    Again, I'm wondering would anyone besides me be interested in a sort of "master thread" along these lines. Posting a question about where some place is, and then brainstorming about it. Is anyone else interested in something like that?
     
    Spaceship Jo likes this.
  6. DEWLine

    DEWLine Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2003
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    I'd be happy to volunteer my own pre-existing thread to that end, and re-title it accordingly...?
     
  7. TJ Sinclair

    TJ Sinclair Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2000
    Location:
    There and back again...
    I truly appreciate that, and I'm certainly not dead set against it, but I am hesitant, for a couple of reasons:

    1) Your thread is great, but it's clearly broader in scope and focused on other things than just this kind of speculation about "hey, Minos and Damiano aren't in Star Charts, let's try and figure out where they could be." I wouldn't want to try and narrow the focus of your thread down to that purpose as this point in its conversational lifespan.

    2) I literally asked the same question in your thread, if anyone would want the type of thread I propose here, and whether Tech or Lit would be the better forum for it. Christopher was the only one to really respond, and well meaning though he is, that response basically amounted to "you can't fit every place in Star Trek on the maps in Star Charts, so why bother?" and only served to throw cold water on the idea.

    It's because of that I started this thread rather than post my massive rambling data dump in yours, and why I think a fresh thread might be best for starting such a project. Does that make sense? Again, I do appreciate you volunteering your thread. I'm just not sure it's the best option.
     
  8. DEWLine

    DEWLine Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2003
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    Fair enough. The offer stands, but I won't push.
     
    TJ Sinclair likes this.
  9. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Location:
    I said out, dammit!
    I was kinda hoping for an actual star map graphic when I clicked. That picture would be more interesting to me than the thousand words. ;) .
     
  10. DEWLine

    DEWLine Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2003
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    Oh, as to graphics...this one is searchable, if you've got the real-worlds star name(s) or catalogue number(s):

    http://galaxymap.org/dr2/
     
  11. TJ Sinclair

    TJ Sinclair Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2000
    Location:
    There and back again...
    Funny, I was kinda hoping for an actual reply when I clicked. Imagine my disappointment when I found this.

    You may not have intended it that way, but to me, your post comes off as very condescending and assholic. I suppose if I was any good at digital art, I might meet your exacting requirements for validity. Oh, well.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2020 at 4:33 PM
  12. DEWLine

    DEWLine Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2003
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    Starting to work up a map grid template in Illustrator CS4. This is going to take a little while, I think.
     
    penguin44 likes this.