The Science of Star Trek Into Darkness

So, by now, we’ve all seen Star Trek Into Darkness. Some of us loved it, some of us hated it, some of us said, “meh.” But, forget about what you thought of the movie for a second. What did you think of the science? Let’s take a more in depth look at some of the most sciencey moments from STID. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways, that this review contains SPOILERS!!!


Into the Volcano
The Nibiru volcano scene was revealed in the IMAX preview of STID last December. We basically saw the entire scene back then, but there are a few points that I didn’t catch the first time around that I’ll touch on here.

Spock takes a stroll in the Nibiru volcano

The look and feel of the volcano is pretty spot on

For the most part, they get this part right. Speaking as a volcanologist who loves to nitpick geology scenes in movies, there is not much for me to gripe about in Into Darkness. Of course, the visual artists did dramatize the scene a bit, but for everything they got wrong there’s another detail they got right.

What was wrong visually? I can tell you from experience that the inside of an active volcano doesn’t look quite like what we saw in STID. The biggest flaw? Flames. Too much fire and brimstone. Yes, volcanoes produce hot steam, ash, and magma, but what’s depicted in STID looks more like a forest fire — embers and flames swirling around Spock. Again, this is a somewhat minor point, so it’s forgivable.

The visual details that are spot on. The geologist in me was giggling with joy when she saw Spock standing atop real lava! The ropey, black rock beneath Spock’s feet is really something that came out of a volcano: a type of lava rock called Pahoehoe. And, if one was to flash freeze molten volcanic rock as Spock’s “cold fusion device” did, it’d look a lot like what we saw on screen: jet black volcanic glass. The best part of the volcano, though, was the bubble burst. A gigantic bubble of gas rose through the lava lake and formed a huge dome of lava that loomed far above Spock’s head. The pressure built up inside the bubble until it burst open, sending bits of molten rock flying in one large catastrophic explosion. That is EXACTLY what happens in real lava lakes.

Spock in a seriously cool looking volcano

BONUS: Fumaroles on a nearby planetoid! Recall the scene where Carol Marcus and Bones shuttle down to a nearby planetoid to have a go at diffusing of the mysterious photon torpedoes. What you probably didn’t realize was that this was a “volcanic” scene, too! My eyes immediately jumped to the flat plain of lava rock (scoria, a type of basaltic volcanic rock) where Carol and Bones were fiddling with the torpedo. In the background was a beautifully rendered fumarole – a crack in the ground where volcanic gasses escape into the atmosphere. The look and feel of the scene was completely scientifically realistic. What’s even better is that it felt like a barren, vast, wasteland. No vegetation, no animal life. This made it really feel like some small volcanic moon or “planetoid”. I’ll go out on a limb here and say this is in my opinion the most realistic looking planetary body I’ve ever seen in a movie. Props to the visual artists! Below is a couple of examples of real world locations reminiscent of the torpedo disarming scene in Into Darkness.

Volcanic plains resembling the torpedo disarming scene in Into Darkness

Verdict: The visuals were great. The volcano looked more realistic than any film I’ve seen, minus the swirling embers.

What a real volcano looks like

The science behind the volcano: Oh so close, but not quite right

We cannot take the heat, cap’n! Here’s where the volcano scene took a turn for the less believable. Both Sulu and Scotty suggest that the heat from the volcano is too much for the shuttle or the Enterprise to withstand. Huh? Let’s count the logical fallacies, shall we?

  1. Spock’s volcano suit. How is it that a human(oid) in a special suit can stand INSIDE OF THE VOLCANO literally feet from the lava, but a shuttlecraft (or, heck, the Enterprise herself!) cannot withstand the heat? Are we really supposed to believe that Spock’s magical volcano suit is made out of stronger stuff than starships? Why not make the whole ship out of that suit, then??
  2. We’ve seen starships like the Enterprise or even shuttlecraft fly through much hotter places than a volcano. Just entering the planet’s atmosphere would subject the Enterprise to temperature of around 3000 °F (1650 °C), which is hotter than the hottest lava on Earth’s surface, typically around 2200 °F (1200 °C). But, even crazier, we’ve seen shuttles and starships fly very close to suns, which are more like 8000 °F (4500 °C). I think big E would be able to handle a little old volcano, don’t you?

Let’s get even more sciencey. The graph below shows the temperature experienced by a Space Shuttle orbiter on reentry to Earth’s atmosphere. The hottest lava on Earth is around 2200 °F. The Space Shuttle, the first flight of which was in 1981 can withstand temperature of up to 2500 °F. Nineteen Eighty One. In 200 years, I hope we will have advanced far beyond even that!

How they could have made this right, while keeping the stakes high for Spock and the crew. Sulu has one line that I wish they’d have played up more in this scene. He mentions that the ash from the volcano is getting into the shuttle’s systems and causing all kinds of damage. THIS is extremely plausible! Volcanic ash is very corrosive, especially to electronics. And, it interferes with air intake systems in engines, which is why airplanes can’t fly through volcanic ash clouds here on Earth. This would have been the scientifically accurate reason that the shuttle was struggling, and why it’d be dangerous to take the Enterprise in. I’m not sure why anyone mentioned the heat being a problem at all.

Verdict: The heat would NOT cause any problems for a shuttle or a starship. They should have used volcanic ash as an excuse.

How ash can damage airplanes (and maybe shuttlecraft, too)

Spock’s Planet Saving, Volcano Stopping “Device”. Here’s where things get really hairy. Spock has some device capable of stopping a volcano. You know what? It’s the beginning of the movie, things are pretty crazy, so as a moviegoer I’m going to go ahead and accept that humans have developed the technology to somehow “render a volcano inert”. But, the geologist inside of me wouldn’t let it stand when we saw how the thing worked. As said above, the visual was very cool and quite realistic — if one were to “flash freeze” some lava, it woud turn into exactly what we saw. But, flash freezing lava in a volcanic crater would not, by any means, stop a volcano from erupting.

Volcanoes are essentially surface expressions of the deep, churning earth. It’s where our planet is turning itself inside out — the very hot, very pressurized molten rock living deep in the Earth’s crust (and sometimes even below the crust) finds its way to the surface in a grand explosion of fire and light. Freezing the top layer of lava at an erupting volcano is like putting the lid on a pressure cooker turned to 11. The pressure beneath that lid is just going to build up until that volcano erupts even more explosively than it otherwise would have. Of course, sci-fi caveat, one could assume that the device somehow managed to penetrate all the way down (we’re talking 10’s of kilometers deep) to the source of the volcano and freeze it from the inside out, but I just have a very hard time believing that.

Spock, get your volcano suit on. We need you to detonate a cold fusion device inside an active volcanic crater.

The NIF Warp Core
One of the aspects of the film that I really enjoyed, and not everyone will agree with me on this, was the warp core. Particularly, the shots of the outside of the warp core, which were all filmed at a real life science facility: The National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California. When I imagine what a starship’s engine room should look like, I certainly don’t imagine this. I imagine a massive piece of equipment that looks like something that could accelerate particles fast enough to create anti-matter. Something thats so massive and complex, it is essentially built into the ship itself. In modern facilities, instruments like particle colliders are a part of the building in which they reside — it’s not like wheeling a computer into the middle of a room.

Some have argued that the NIF warp core feels too modern; that we would be miles beyond that kind of technology by the time Starfleet is around. But, I’m not so sure. Warp cores are essentially gigantic particle colliders that can store massive amounts of antimatter and use it to power the ship. Why wouldn’t a warp core of the future to some degree resemble their 21st century ancestors? Besides, maybe this scene will encourage a few kids to learn about particle physics, and that’s just fine by me.

Verdict: Up for debate

The NIF Target Chamber (click for super high res version)

Another of the many scenes filmed at the NIF

Transwarp Beaming: A forgivable plot device?
In Star Trek (2009), we are introduced to Scotty’s magical transwarp beaming technology. Yes, Scotty invents a way to beam from place to place across insane distances while at warp. This, if you remember, is how Kirk gets back onto the Enterprise. Okay, so it doesn’t work perfectly (Scotty ends up inside one of the water tubes in the engine room), but it works. Enter Into Darkness. Khan needs a way to get from Earth to Kronos, and he’s on the lam so he doesn’t have access to a starship. Khan is also involved in Section 31, the secret agency within Starfleet who, we’re told, confiscated Scotty’s transwarp equation. That’s how Khan was able to beam over to Kronos. Thanks, at least, for being internally consistent with the 2009 film, but I still have to point to this as a totally unrealistic plot device, which moreover makes it way too easy for our heroes to get around. What’s the point of a fleet of starships when we can simply beam across light years?

It’s hard to comment on the real life science of the transwarp long-distance beaming, since to beam a person even a short distance with today’s knowledge of physics would cost unimaginable computing power, and the reassembly of a human being would require the energy input equivalent to about 3,200 suns. So, yeah, transporter technology’s not in the near future. But, this transwarp thing isn’t even good Trek science. It’s not even good writing! It just makes it far too easy. It was a forgivable plot device in the first film, but let’s just forget it ever happened and move on. Otherwise, we might as well scrap the fleet and just beam everywhere.

Verdict: A poor plot device. Not internally consistent with other Trek technology

Transwarp beaming in Star Trek (2009)

Ludicrous Speed! Travel to Kronos in minutes!
This is one movie “mistake” that almost everyone I’ve talked to, scientist or not, has picked up on. Kronos (or Qo’noS), the Klingon home world, may be relatively close to Earth, but according to the pilot episode “Broken Bow” of Star Trek: Enterprise, Kronos is about 4 days away from Earth at warp 4.5. In a later Enterprise episode, “Two Days and Two Nights”, it was established that this was around 90 lightyears from Earth, as that is the farthest distance anyone had traveled up to that point. In Into Darkness, the Enterprise apparently travels at Ludicrous Speed and somehow manages to reach Kronos (and get back to Earth from Kronos) in what seems like only a few hours.

Verdict: Another poor plot device that defeats the idea of the Final Frontier.

They’ve gone to plaid…

Pointing out what’s wrong (or right!) with the science of Trek might seem like pointless nit picking. But, that’s what we Trekkies do best, and having a meticulous community with such attention to detail means that we demand a certain standard from the people who create new stories that fit within the Star Trek universe. There are volumes dedicated to establishing what is “canon” in Trek, something fairly unique to our franchise. But, the Transwarp long-distance beaming and the ability of a starship to travel at Ludicrous Speed are two things that transcend nit picking. There are multiple references in the movie about “deep space” and the upcoming five year mission of the USS Enterprise. But, if you have ships going from Earth to Kronos in a matter of minutes then there is no “Deep Space” within the galaxy. And, going back to Trek canon, it essentially wipes out the premise of Star Trek: Voyager and most of Deep Space Nine (who needs wormholes?). More to the point, these two seemingly harmless plot devices completely dismiss the idea of the Final Frontier. The Enterprise and her crew are taking a risk when they are out there exploring the unknown, days or even months from home or the closest reinforcements. It’s what makes Trek work as a “western in space”. Without that peril, that feeling of isolation, you loose one of the things so intrinsically interesting to the exploration of space: the vastness of space itself.


Follow me on Twitter: @kaylai.

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You should consult for the next Star Trek movie.

I recall that there was some shooting in Iceland for this movie…and If so, I think they filmed the Torpedo Autopsy there, given the locale….so it’s not so much Kudos to the set designers, but to the location scouts

Precisely. Fans will overlook an occasional flimsy plot device to help advance the narrative, but not when the same device is used in consecutive films, then made even more absurd. The implausibility of beaming all over the galaxy becomes an unnecessary distraction.

The “instantenous travel” could have been avoided by simply adding a short “Captain’s Log” narrative along the lines of “stardate 2259.60 – we have been on our way to Kronos for 3 days”. Simple as that, isn’t it?

“Transwarp beaming” encore could have been avoided by beaming Harrison to a ship in orbit which would have taken him to Kronos.

Spot on.

yeah i have problems with transwarp beaming
the only way out of it from a story point would be both the prime timeline and the jj timeline section 31 has it, and will not give it up to anyone, which will explain how sloan gets around,and ok you can travel to distance stars so quickley but how many planets will you miss along the way?the 5 year mission is about exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new lifeforms, so even with transwarp beaming, you will still need a slower form of travel
thank you for the science for it

The Science of Star Trek after the Original Series was always more Fantasy than Science.

There a show on last night on the History channel about Star Trek and how it has been influenced by science and how it has influenced science. It was two hours but I only caught the last hour. I hope they play it again. They talked about the SETI program, and number of other things, they showed a ton of behind the scenes clips of STID. They talked about fusion power and the location where they filmed the warp core. It was great.

They’ve traveled extraordinary distances in little time in Trek before. The Final Frontier is pretty ridiculous in the time it took for the A to get to the center of the galaxy. There have been episodes where they’ve traveled further than expected in little or no time. In Unification, the Enterprise travels between Vulcan and the Romulan Neutral Zone while stopping off at the ship depot facility, implied to be rather far away from the Romulan border.

Also, Voyager, traveling as far as it did, without the various boosts they got, is rather unrealistic.

Great stuff Kayla!

When the word got out that the new movie was filming at Lawrence Livermore I was happy, it looks much better than the brewery stuff :)

@8 The History Channel repeats things ad-nasum, so don’t worry it will be on again. I have one of the repeated showings that I recorded to watch in my DVR right now.

Upcoming times:

I agree with all of this .. but the one thing that gets me about this whole film is… while the ships were drifting into the atmosphere, why didnt a ship tractor them back up, thus avoiding 100s of people getting dicked on the ground by a falling starship!

Good stuff Kayla…

I have to agree that the careless story-telling and implausible scenarios, what we are asked to believe about the plot and characters really detracted from what was otherwise a helluva a lot of fun by some insanely talented people who made it happen. Phil Plait (Bad Astronomer) has an interesting review on his blog at

and also

BTW, shooting at Lawrence Livermore was a good move; shoulda stayed out of the brewery altogether.

12. craig keith – May 18, 2013
“…why didnt a ship tractor them back up, thus avoiding 100s of people getting dicked on the ground by a falling starship!”

For the same reason they didn’t beam the crew off the falling ships to the planet or no Starfleet vessel came to the aid of either ship during the standoff.

Don’t forget the fact that they fell to the Earth from LUNAR ORBIT, and did so in a matter of MINUTES!

That whole scene was so badly written and filmed, it was painful. I literally looked away from the screen. I hope the writers and directors are properly ashamed of themselves for that whole sequence.

Funny article. It implies there was science in this movie. Obviously, there was none.

Harry Potter had more explainable science than this.

It kills me how JJ Abrahms’ Trek is still being labelled as sci-fi but some people. More and more, it’s being thrown under the “fantasy” category where it should be.

Sad. Sad. Sad.

I was hoping they could say that transwarp beaming isn’t instaneous. Harrison could have been bits of molecules for a few hours until he reached Kronos.

Not just Kronos is a few minutes away from Earth at ludicrous warp speed, but when they leave the Enterprise (which is supposedly inside the neutral zone) using Mudd’s ship, Kronos is visible by naked eye.
That means the neutral zone is within the Klingon solar system!
If you think about it, the plot doesn’t make any sense. Kirk agrees to go close enough to Kronos to be able to see the planet by naked eye, fire 72 torpedoes on the planet’s surface (and probably cause major damage) and get out without being noticed by the Klingons, which are as technologically advanced as the Federation. Really?

The thing is, the Trek movies have often been highly inconsistent about distances. In TUC they travel from Earth to to the Neutral Zone to Rura Penthe to Khitomer in what appears to be a few days. In Trek V they infamously travel all the way to the center of the galaxy in about an hour. In First Contact they appear to go all the way from the Neutral Zone to Earth in minutes. Given that history, I say the new team are merely keeping with tradition.

And I’ll also dissent on the Transwarp Beaming issue. Trek also has a history of introducing miraculous tech in one episode/movie and then conveniently forgetting about it in the next. I appreciated that they kept connections to the previous story and transwarp beaming wasn’t simply another macguffin of the week.

@4: But if Harrison had just beamed to a ship and then flown to Kronos how would Kirk et al know where he was?


With regard to the issue of time taken to travel between planets, as far as I can tell there’s nothing in-film which categorically precludes extra hours off camera. In the 2009 film there was the indeterminable time that Kirk was unconscious on the way to Vulcan; and plenty of opportunity for extra time on the way back to Earth while chasing the Narada as well.

The same is true of STID. We don’t know how long it took between jumping to Warp and the emergency shut-down. And they didn’t make it all the way to Kronos in any case, they travelled the last part in the freighter; again with no indication of how long they spent in that craft on the way there and back to the Enterprise.

Admittedly things get slightly more complicated once they capture Harrison. How long did it take Chekov to repair the coolant leak? Enough time for the Vengeance to warp from Earth after Starfleet was informed? And then the limited opportunities for time passage off-screen during the chase back to Earth.

But that said, even Scotty’s statement that he was only off the ship for “one day”, which I’ve seen some people use as categorical proof of the lack of time passage in the film – he could easily have been exaggerating for effect!

20. Slornie – May 18, 2013

“With regard to the issue of time taken to travel between planets, as far as I can tell there’s nothing in-film which categorically precludes extra hours off camera.”

But there is. When they hit warp again Carol races from sick bay to the bridge to warn Kirk. When she arrives they’re attacked and drop out of Warp near Earth. So the travel time is minutes unless she took a nap somewhere in between running.

19. sean – May 18, 2013

“The thing is, the Trek movies have often been highly inconsistent about distances.”

Yes, but in those movies the actual travel time is usually not given. E.g. in FC we do not know how long the battle with the Borg raged until the Enterprise arrived. In this one we can quantify the travel time from the Neutral Zone to Earth at Warp as the time it takes to get from sickbay to the bridge.

“Trek also has a history of introducing miraculous tech in one episode/movie and then conveniently forgetting about it in the next.”

True and I was ready to ignore that from ST09, but then they used it AGAIN in this movie.

as for the transwarp beaming, maybe after action reports on the Nero Attack point out the security flaw that Transwarp Beaming creates to the UFP, and Star Fleet comes up with a protocol to prevent that in the future (use of shields of some sort, perhaps a new functional use of Deflectors, etc), thus making it impossible to use TWBing… derp?

23. Pensive’s Wetness – May 18, 2013

” Star Fleet comes up with a protocol to prevent that in the future (use of shields of some sort, perhaps a new functional use of Deflectors, etc), thus making it impossible to use TWBing…”

Regular shields should already do that, but do they also put transport inhibitors on all planets and colonies? That would be a bit impractical as they would have to shut down once actually wants to transport sth.. And for exploration there’s nothing stopping them. I thought about it causing a deadly disease etc. but Spock Prime would likely not have given it to them if it did.

Kind of surprised no one has talked about the magical healing blood. That’s pretty biochemically preposterous

At the end Dr. McCoy says he’s made a serum out of it, which means it’ll be a lot tougher to have characters die without someone just whipping out the Khan-blood-serum hypospray.

That serum along with the transwarp beaming situation really is going to make it tough to avoid gaping plot holes in future stories. For example, if they’ve got transwarp beaming, why not just beam one of the fancy super-scary torpedoes to Khan’s location and let that be the end of it, as opposed to sending an entire ship a little bit closer to fire that same torpedo. I enjoyed the movie, but some of the “science” decisions have me worried long term.

This article:

A: Exists on multiple levels of awesome
B: Is easy to fap to.

Would it be wrong to maybe assume that Starfleet vessels in the new timeline now travel using transwarp? The “at warp” effect does look similar to the transwarp effect in Voyager. If the reason why the Enterprise and the technology works differently is because of the Kelvin’s sensor scans of Nero’s ship, then couldn’t it be possible that Starfleet could develop transwarp travel and rewrite the warp scale to accommodate the increase in speed because of those scans?

Does the term “cold fusion” have anything at all to do with what we saw on screen, or did Orci et al just grab another science-for-millions term and paste it on “Lost In Space” style?

I totally agree that inter-planetary beaming is a huge mistake. It not only makes Starfleet obsolete, it also makes most of the oh-so-devious plots by Khan and Admr. Marcus cumbersome and foolish.

Also — anyone… Why did Khan set his personal transwarp beam to Q’on’os (or however you spell that)? Marcus wanted Khan there, but wouldn’t Khan have wanted to go directly to the Vengeance so he could crack a few heads (literally) and take over? Also, he killed a dozen top brass at Starfleet and beamed out within a few hours, right? He later says he did his killin’ while under the (wrong) impression that his augments were dead. But, in the time between killin’ and leavin’ Earth, he found time to discover his crew, redesign photon torpedoes, and put his crew in them. And again, knowing his crew was alive, he went to Klingonland (with its already-blow’d up several movies too early moon) hoping that Kirk would fire and soft land his buddies in their torpedoes??

Which part of this plan makes sense?

“It’s hard to comment on the real life science of the transwarp long-distance beaming… But this transwarp thing isn’t even good Trek science. It’s not even good writing!” Spot on.

Nice article that hits on some of the bad science. I take this flavor of Trek for what it is and don’t sweat the implausibilities too much. But as a NASA lunar scientist, I did have to shake my head when they stated the wrong distance for the Moon’s orbit!

@ “We cannot take the heat, cap’n!”

You mean they left that nonsense in? After fans alerted them about it, literally half a year ago on this very website, they couldn’t find a handful of $ to re-dub a single sentence? Respect, lost. :-P

The platelets biology and free-fall physics would still be worth a paragraph here… or the comparative pressure values of the Nibiru ocean and similar situations from other episodes ;)

On the way home from seeing STID last night, my 8-year-old son asked me why Kahn didn’t just thaw out his people when he had the chance instead of hiding them in torpedoes. With his people with him, he could’ve been more deadly and not easily been stopped.

I LOVED the new warp core! It seemed more like a reactor than the giant, glowy tubes.

I agree 100%.

I also couldn’t work out why one volcano would threaten the planet. Earth was poisoned by volcanoes and we turned out fine. Threaten the local natives, maybe. If it erupts for years I suppose it might warm the planet or disrupt global weather patterns to a small degree but I suspect that we’re pumping out way more pollution every day than one volcano can in a year.

And as I’ve said before, Uhura had no real purpose on that mission. They really should have had a volcanologist or geophysicist on board. Sulu is a physicist as well as a pilot but Uhura is a technician. I can accept that she was there as technical support for the shuttle but they still needed a scientist on the shuttle as well.

Great article. The science aspects didnt take away my enjoyment of a great film. The film series already hit rock bottom when Riker piloted the Enterprise with a joy stick, so I just ignore stuff like this and enjoy a good movie.

@Kayla on that last part of the article, namely the Transwarp beaming and the fallout for space travel, different universe. Warp drive developed differently, due in part to Nero’s incursion. What I surmise happened, is that, as the post-Nemesis novels detailed, after Nemesis Prime Starfleet began developing quantum slipstream drive, and there already was a proto-transwarp beaming in effect: In Star Trek The Next Generation, episode Bloodlines, Picard used a subspace transporter modification to beam to Bok’s ship from light years away at warp. Additionally in DS9 The Dominion had similar transport capabilities. Not to mention the fact that Nero’s ship was supposed to also be hybridized with Borg technology and an encounter with V’Ger (Countdown comics and the Nero comic series, both IDW).

It’s probable that Starfleet in Abramsverse, after deciphering the scans of Nero’s ship sent by The Kelvin before it was destroyed (which no doubt had a detailed database of the technology of the era from various powers, including Typhon Pact technology (they, in the novels, worked on their own quantum slipstream drives etc.), tried to reverse engineer the quantum slipstream technology and it resulted in a much, much faster warp drive for Starfleet. The warp effect in the Abrams films does more closely resemble Voyager Quantum Slipstream effect and Borg Transwarp effects than Prime Starfleet Warp Drive, and Spock did give the transwarp beaming equation, which Scotty probably developed AFTER his release from The Jenolen in ‘Relics’ and which was probably based on Dominion tech and Borg tech and insight derived from Seven of Nine.

As for what this means for the concept of ‘Deep Space’ and exploration: the scope of New Trek is bigger. No longer would Starfleet be limited to exploring one Quadrant of the Galaxy but the whole of The Milky Way and beyond. The Universe IS an INFINITE PLACE, full of countless galaxies.

Remember, JJ rebooted Star Trek to its base operating system. Clean slate. What we knew of the old Trek is but a guidebook, not a, pardon the pun, script.

Back to the wonder of TOS. Where we were not constricted by rigid canon. True, it can hint at later stuff, like The Cardassians, the Borg, The Ferengi, The Dominion and The Breen, The Hirogen and the Krenim and Xindi and Suliban, and more… and can move freely incorporating The Best of All Worlds into a New Paradigm, one where the Imagination and Wonder of TOS is restored, as Kirk and crew can travel now thousands of light years in the time it would have taken them to travel a couple hundred in TOS.


First Contact makes it clear the Enterprise is in the Neutral Zone, and based on what we see, there’s no way the fleet could have lasted an hour, let alone several. So either way, the time it takes the Enterprise to reach the battle is ridiculous and inconsistent with where they’ve always told us the Neutral Zone was.

“True and I was ready to ignore that from ST09, but then they used it AGAIN in this movie.”

And that was my point, they stayed consistent within their own universe. I prefer that to the old ‘Oh look at this miraculous thing we’ll forget we have next episode’.

I don’t really care. Movie have less science screw ups than other features with less sci-fi in them. in that sense ST was a great success.

37. NuWisdom – May 18, 2013

“Back to the wonder of TOS.”

The wonder of TOS was based to a large degree on the Enterprise having clearly defined limits in the vastness of space. Those limits were often based in Treknology and overcoming them was what presented the challenge. Now humans have powers similar to those of Q, which creates a huge problem for storytelling in this universe. It’s not a clean slate. Those new rules are in a way more limiting than the old canon since there are only three ways to deal with them.

A. Embrace them. Ok, so the next Star Trek will no longer feature the Enterprise. It’s become obsolete.

B. Ignore them. Which will make many people wonder about logic of the movie and take them right of it, i.e. why go to Kronos with a starship if you can beam there? I mean, if you could beam to a different continent, would you still use an airplane and fly there for hours?

C. Put a latern on them. I.e. explain in everytime why a certain technology does not work in the specific situation, which can be quite annoying.

All three of those ways are bad. If people start to wonder how sth. makes sense, they are taken right out of the moment. In ID that happens to lot of people – at least to those who don’t as a rule switch of their brains on arrival. You can say that this is a Trekkie problem – it’s not. The explanation you have given above is based on Trek canon. You know some SciFi and even Trek examples where sth. similar happened. General audiences don’t. They don’t go “they’ll explain it in a comic book” or “I’ll fix it in head-canon”. They go: WTF?


“I also couldn’t work out why one volcano would threaten the planet. Earth was poisoned by volcanoes and we turned out fine. Threaten the local natives, maybe. If it erupts for years I suppose it might warm the planet or disrupt global weather patterns to a small degree but I suspect that we’re pumping out way more pollution every day than one volcano can in a year.”

And you would be incorrect. A volcanic eruption of sufficient magnitude can be an extinction-level event, and is far more hazardous than any co2 we might be pumping out.

38. sean – May 18, 2013

“…based on what we see, there’s no way the fleet could have lasted an hour…”

Yes, if you assume that it was just one fleet like at Wolf 359. However, this time they could have opted to have several hurdles for the Borg to cross. We also don’t see the initial size of the fleet, maybe what we do see is merely a small remnant. The point is: We don’t see it. It allows us to speculate. We can gloss over it and make it work for ourselves. STID spells it out, i.e. no room for speculation.

“…they stayed consistent within their own universe.”

They stayed consistent with something that will come to haunt them. See my response to 37. NuWisdom – May 18, 2013

How about the Enterprise ‘falling’ from the moon to earth (380,000km, though they get that figure wrong) in just a few minutes? It would take DAYS, even if it were physically possible.


And yet, unless the battle lasted a week, it still is inconsistent. Face it, the show has played fast-and-loose when a plot required it, and in that sense, the new bunch are simply upholding a fine tradition.

@43 danjonwig

How about THIS! According to sulu the Moon to Earth distance is just 237000 km:-)

This is the REAL major error in the Movie:-D

Kayla.. is the pahoehoe pretty much the same as the “Black Smokers” that Ballard discovered? Spent a few days at Woodshole a few years back awesome stuff.

Great article, Kayla! Very much appreciated!!

TOS and TNG both had science consultants that reviewed each episode for precisely the sort of stinkers that you point out and that we all noticed in the movie, whether consciously or not. With their $190 million budget, it’s unforgivable that Abrams, Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof didn’t bother with a consultant. Again, it’s yet another example of the makers of STID going for style over substance. They could have fed us a balanced three-course meal that would have satisfied our bodies, minds and souls as well as our palates. But instead they served us birthday cake and little else.

44. sean – May 18, 2013

“Face it, the show has played fast-and-loose when a plot required it, and in that sense, the new bunch are simply upholding a fine tradition.”

I never said it didn’t. It just didn’t stare you in the face most of the time. Much of FC was very strange, e.g. why didn’t the Borg travel back in time at some other place and then warp to past Earth neatly avoiding Starfleet altogether? However, I only remember realizing that after seeing the movie – not during. This time: Ok, they go to warp. Carol starts running. Carol arrives. They’re back in the sol system. It’s so obvious, you can’t ignore it. I couldn’t care less about how long it actually takes from Klingon space to Earth, but if you portray it that way, it makes the universe small and uninteresting. It kills the fun. It kills the wonder. “Oh, wow we just went to the edge of the galaxy. Let’s go back to Earth and meet at the pub in an hour. No biggie.”


Eh, I just view it as a flub, like the flub in FC.

“Verdict: The heat would NOT cause any problems for a shuttle or a starship. They should have used volcanic ash as an excuse.”

They did, didn’t they?

Also… “cold fusion” device?

Okay, so how was the Enterprise (and Vengeance) able to be in visual sight of Kronos (and, later, Earth) for hours without being detected? This doesn’t fit known Trek science so well where positronic signals can be detected across the galaxy — but does it fit modern science?

So, they showed Praxis already blown up? And that’s why that province was abandoned? It would have to be some other reason, wouldn’t it? Hmmm.

Although, everything being super-close actually makes the prospect of real unexplored space that much more interesting — how far away would they have to be? Pretty cool.