Replicators: When?!

When I’m building ships, I like to think of what tech would be available for the time. Example: If I’m doing a really small ship in the TNG era, I don’t have to worry about as much cargo or “crew niceties” space on the ship because they have replicators to “create” both food and equipment. So, there’s no need to devote internal space to things like a galley and you can get by with less cargo bays. However, when considering a ship in the Enterprise-era, you have to factor in that they’d need a galley and more cargo bays. A ship like Enterprise that’s out in unexplored space has to bring lots of food and cargo with them because there are no supply bases in operation yet and they can’t guarantee they’re going to find what they need on the planets they visit. The problem I’m having is with the TOS-era. Did they have replicators? Unfortunately, there is evidence that supports both having and not having them. (typical of TOS and its lack of continuity)

Going back to Enterprise, they had something called a protein resequencer, which is obviously a forebearer to the food replicator. As I understand it, they could carry a block of protein and nutrient enriched “blank” food stuff with them and then use the resequencer to form it into whatever food the cook feels like making. This allows them to not necessarily carry specific food types with them, some of which may need refrigeration or can go bad. This is very important when doing something like space exploration. Also, the ship has a (never seen but mentioned) botanical garden aboard, as the later Enterprises did. This allows them to grow fresh vegetables and also generates oxygen. For drinks, we see them using the beverage slots on the wall, but these don’t necessarily mean they have anything terribly fancy behind it. It may work on the same principle as the modern day soda “gun” that restaurants use, where you push a button and the correct drink syrup is mixed with carbonated water and comes out the tap. The crew of the Enterprise may simply know what drinks are on hand and order them and that drink dispenser puts it into the drinking vessel in a predetermined amount, or it may even have sensors to tell it when the glass/mug is full. (of course, in real life, it was just some person on the other side of the wall pouring the stuff through a tube for them 😛 ) All of that I’m good with.

Now, on to TOS. Firstly, we know the ship had a galley, it was mentioned in Charlie X. (admittedly, not one of their best episodes) In fact, this is actually what got me thinking of this, because yesterday was Thanksgiving in the US. In that episode, Kirk tells the galley: “On Earth today it’s Thanksgiving, the crew has to eat synthetic metloaf, but I want it to taste like turkey.” Ignoring the problems with “On Earth today it’s Thanksgiving,” that whole thing raises some issues. Firstly, what is synthetic meatloaf? Does that mean replicated? Or, does it mean that they use something like the protein resequencer to make it? If they can make synthetic meatloaf, why can’t they make synthetic turkey? Obviously, if they had something like a replicator, it wasn’t creating the finished meal, since they still had to bake the food. Now, admittedly, this was simply a plot device so that Charlie could use his powers to turn the synthetic meatloaf into real turkeys. Unfortunately, this is one of only two examples where I can remember a galley being mentioned. The other is Star Trek VI. (the infamous “Why not simply waporize them?” scene) In that movie, we see the galley. Hell, we even see stewards setting places in the observation lounge officers’ mess. They’re in the galley when Chekov (who, as security chief should know better) asks why somebody wouldn’t just vaporize those gravity boots and Valeris vaporizes a stock pot, setting off the ship’s internal alarm. So, there’s evidence that, even in 2293, the ship was using a galley.

The problem is, most of the rest of the time, evidence supports replicators. In almost every other episode where somebody is eating in the mess hall/rec room, we see them get their food out of those slots in the wall. These are all over the ship, even in the transporter room (for when Kyle gets the munchies, I guess.) Of course, you could simply say that these are sophisticated dumbwaiters. It could be an elevator, or it could even be a transporter. (just because intraship beaming is dangerous for crew members at this time doesn’t mean they can’t beam more simple things) The crew could make selections based on what is available and the galley crew makes it appear in the slot for them. This is challenged in a few episodes, most notably Tomorrow is Yesterday. In that episode, when the Air Force guard is aboard and stuck in the transporter room, Kyle asks him what he wants, and he ponders it a moment and replies “chicken soup.” Kyle flips through a few of those data tapes they have and puts one in the slot next to the food slot, and out pops chicken soup. “Isn’t it amazing they just happen to have exactly what you asked for?” That question was posed by Cdr. Riker in Encounter at Farpoint, when the “station” was able to convert energy into matter and created the exact fabric Dr. Crusher wanted. I find it terribly coincidental that the galley crew of the Enterprise just happens to have chicken soup on hand that day and can put it into the food slot in seconds for that guard. To me, that suggests replication. And, in other instances where they used the food slots, the crew got whatever they wanted. Of course, they could be making choices predetermined by what is on the menu that day, but that example from Tomorrow is Yesterday suggests otherwise, as the AF guard has no idea what’s on the menu. (unless Kyle gave him a menu while we weren’t looking, but I doubt that) Going back to Star Trek VI, the ship not only had a galley, but it had replicators as well. Now, I know that was the “budget” ST film and they used a lot of redressed TNG sets, but Kirk’s quarters had a replicator with dishes in it.

So, when the hell did this technology come about? Can we ignore Charlie X and part of what was done in Star Trek VI and simply say that they had replicators? I think there’s incredibly strong evidence to support this. Please, share your thoughts on this.

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16 thoughts on “Replicators: When?!

  1. I don’t see a huge problem in having both. In ST6 they were dining in the officer’s mess, a dedicated space for a small portion of the ship’s crew. I could see eating ‘real’ food for special occasions, much like the difference between tossing microwave dinners on the table versus a from-scratch meal. Probably wouldn’t do it all that often, but I could see the need for special guests, etc.

    • Yeah, but the “Why not simply waporize them?” scene takes place long after the Klingon diplomatic party has left. Kirk and McCoy were in prison and the crew was involved in a ship wide search for Klingon blood stained uniforms and gravity boots. Yet, the galley crew is hard at work preparing a meal. That hardly says “special occasion” to me. When the stewards were setting places at the long table, they had just rescued Kirk and McCoy and were paging the “court recorder.” (which is another continuity error all together) These instances suggest that galley prepared sit-down dinners were routine.

  2. Everything is almost already automated in our world. In the world of Star Trek, no doubt automation would take place with greater frequency. I imagine that replicators already existed during the time of TOS. However, for a teaching ship, especially in Star Trek 6, perhaps they require tasks to assign to ensigns who are just learning. Who knows?

    • Teaching ship? Since when? The original Enterprise was a teaching ship when it got old, but the Enterprise-A was a newly built, fully functional ship. I believe the conventional wisdom is that Kirk and his crew set out on another 5-year mission after Star Trek V. The Enterprise was due to be decommissioned in Star Trek VI, but it wasn’t a teaching ship. (now, the wisdom of decommissioning a 6-year-old, fully functional ship is a bit suspect, but I think that was just because it was being replaced by an Excelsior-class ship already being built)

  3. Excellent points here. I’d have to go with a combination of protein-resequenced prepared food and an automated transporter dumbwaiter system. The preparation of simpler items, such as beverages and soups could be fully automatic, as well as things such as food cubes and other “junk-food” items (e.g. Scotty’s bag of ‘chips’ in STV), while entrees and officer’s mess items could be made to order based on sequenced protein or stored food. Kyle may have been giving that USAF guard the equivalent of a Knorr soup packet, the tapes containing its physical pattern being communally shared like condiments to produce a wide range of simpler menu items. It would make sense to use some sort of physical media as well, at least in the context of TOS, because a transporter pattern obviously constitutes something like exabytes and exabytes of data, even for a thing as seemingly simple and delicious as your Ktarian chocolate puff.
    So we see an evolution here: In the Enterprise era, they were able to reproduce basic forms of protein, prepare it in a traditional manner and deliver it by hand or mechanically. In the TOS era, we see some automation introduced to the food preparation process (similar to how today’s next generation of 3D printers will have the ability to add circuitry and other diverse materials to products) to create simple foods and drinks through pure chemistry, while more complex items would be prepared by hand and beamed. The food cubes, the way I see it, would be a quick-and-dirty form of nutrition (perhaps color-coded in order to denote dietary value). It’s not as if people on earth would eat them– they are computer-generated, anytime nutritious snack food for people stuck on starships and asteroids. The transportation process itself remains extremely resource-intensive and unreliable at this point– in its wireless form. It’s possible that they were able to develop a routine form of teleportation-by-wire. Maybe not enough bandwidth for a human being, but a synthetic turkey-shaped meatloaf thing? No prob!
    The tapes make sense, too, because they would free up the pattern buffer (all 64k of it) for more critical operations. I’ve also got a theory about why we’re back to “microtapes” by the 2260s. Can you imagine how much data a tightly-wound spool of graphene could hold? Anyway, by the time TMP rolls around, we’re still having deeply traumatic childhood transporter problems, and even in the ’90s you can’t transport unless you’re physically standing on the pad. The dishes in Kirk’s quarters are interesting. I would say that by STVI we’re seeing that same wired transport tech miniaturized to where the foodstuffs are being produced to order in the galley, and even complex patterns can be sent to individual quarters (without tapes, because of advances in storage). The process was probably too slow at the time to actually produce the food itself– 19th century photography comes to mind. Nobody wants to wait 90 minutes for a turkey sandwich. We also see very distinctive transporter emitters (ridged yellow pads with black indentations on either side) on Federation starships starting with the Ent C era, which leads me to believe that this is the turning point after which one would see early holodecks, replicators, site-to-site transport and other TNG fixtures. There really does seem to be a whole new technology at play.
    On subject of the age of the Enterprise A, I’m going to theorize that since all of the original 13 Connies were destroyed, the NCC-1717 Yorktown/Ti-Ho (Enterprise Alpha’s conjectured original names) would have been from a later run of pre-refit Constitution-class heavy cruisers. Remember, the Enterprise was launched in 2245. When Scotty refers to EntA as a “new” ship in STIV, he may just be referring to her being a newer vessel than his own, having been possibly produced during the time of the five-year mission or Phase II and later refit like the Enterprise.

    • OK. Wow, you wrote almost as much as I did in my post. 😉 I agree with a lot of your points, such as replicators in use but only for more limited items. If they can only make certain, more simple items, that leaves a need for a galley as well. This works really well, in fact. The food slots could definitely be some kind of transporting mechanism only. We never saw what went on behind the door. That only leaves the burning question of, if they can make synthetic meatloaf, why can’t they make synthetic turkey? 😉 Meatloaf is made with ground beef and various other ingredients. Turkey is only made of turkey and, therefore, would be more simple. (unless the synthetic turkey tastes like crap, or something)

      As for the Enterprise-A, there are two (unofficial) back stories on it. One is that it was the USS Yorktown, which was disabled by the Probe in Star Trek IV, that was recommissioned the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A. The problem with that being that the Yorktown was by no means a new ship and shouldn’t have been having the system errors the ship experienced in Star Trek V. One could blame that all on the probe, but we saw that other vessels/stations disabled by it appeared to have no issues after it stopped transmitting. Theory two is that the Enterprise-A was a newly built but yet to be commissioned Connie, which was named Enterprise after Kirk and his crew saved Earth, which is the theory I prefer. That explains all of the brand new systems (such as touch screen controls) and the fact that Scotty calls it a new ship.

      The dishes in the replicator in Kirk’s quarters may have been a simple way to try and disguise the familiar alcove. Due to budget issues, they used redressed TNG sets for STV and STVI. (though, those were mainly redressed TMP sets anyway) Since TNG was still being produced, they couldn’t get rid of the replicator, they had to work with it. If that’s not really a replicator, it could simply be a place where Kirk’s Yeoman puts his food when it’s brought in (maybe a place to keep it warm) and Kirk returns the dishes there when he’s done and the Yeoman had yet to pick them up.

      • Yeah, this is one I’ve thought about, so the second I saw this post my eyes lit up and I immediately hyperjumped into geek mode ;). I think the Yorktown was a second-gen Connie from the ’60s, most likely originally built in the style of the Phase II Enterprise. She had been functioning perfectly fine (post-TMP era refit) until her computer core was corrupted by the probe in STIV and starfleet was forced to replace her M7 multitronic system (Richard Daystrom still has an institute named after him by the 24th century, so I’m assuming he eventually got it right and went on to design the early TMP refit computers) with the “LCARS 1.0” system we see in the TMP series after #4 and its accompanying interfaces. Maybe the Yorktown had completed 2 five-year missions like the Enterprise (well, really, the Enterprise would have had like 7 altogether), and had finally come in for the refit, had her crew reassigned (like the interim between Phase II and TMP) and then had her systems destroyed in drydock shortly after its completion. Every change that had been made to the ship was designed for 2.5 gen (Ent=gen1,TOS=gen2,TMP1-3=gen2.5 and TMP4-6=gen3) hardware, but suddenly an entire ship’s worth of 2.5 computer systems has to be replaced with the brand-spanking new, Excelsior-grade equipment, made by a totally different company on a different planet (probably part of some huge [non-monetary] defense/exploration contract the Fed DoD had signed with the Andorians or the Tellarites or whoever). Oh, but it uses SATA and NTFS, right? We’ll MAKE that GPU fit! Power supply what?!?

        I’m thinking the Enterprise-A was some senator’s pet project– domestically something too politically sweet to delay, and a show of power to the Klingon Empire, who were after Kirk’s head for his ‘murder’ of an Imperial crew and hijacking of a BoP– the Enterprise had long been a symbol of Federation power. Following her martyrdom, her quick resurrection and Kirk’s impunity were meant to draw a line in the sand, effectively saying, “Nope, we’re the good guys and Kirk is one of us. The Interstellar Community has spoken, and the Klingon Empire is on the wrong side of history.” The former captain of the Yorktown goes on to become a bothersome Commodore on a starbase somewhere, while most of her crew are scheduled to be assigned to the U.S.S. Excelsior when they return to duty (she was likely operating on a skeleton crew in STIII, possibly contributing to their inability to counteract Scotty’s act of sabotage) since the Excelsior would be ready for active service before the Yorktown/Enterprise. Her permanent captain has not yet been selected by the time of STV, and of course Sulu eventually steps into that position.

        On the last point, I do like the idea that the “replicator” is just a heating/holding area for food and dishes. There might actually be a disposal transporter in the maintenance area of each section and the Yeoman carts the dishes off to be discarded there. It would make sense that the power requirements of a replicator were still too high for personal use. We know that the crew of Voyager had to ration their replicator privileges, so it remains resource-intensive even in the late 24th century (partly due to the length of the journey, but there’s a lot of hydrogen and carbon and oxygen out there– it must take a lot to make a salisbury steak dinner). Flash forward 80 years and you could see the design of the modern replicator as simply a skeuomorphic cue that it’s a place for food, and would be as recognizable to an average person as a refrigerator/microwave today*. No matter what the actual process, we understand that when you go to somebody’s house, that’s where the food is, so once “real” replicators are invented, they look exactly the same.

        *I’m imagining a device capable of instantaneously heating and cooling items individually in an open area while in their serving dishes, and perhaps using vacuum forcefields to keep food fresh indefinitely. It would be so precise that you could warm up a cup of coffee while holding it inside the field, and the heat from it would only reach your hand once it naturally passed along the handle.

  4. I suppose the director could just have simply pulled a JJ Abrams- to hell with scale/precedent/design/sanity, I want a damn galley and stewards…
    All interesting replies, though. Other than tradition, I don’t see why a Constitution class ship would waste all that volume and tonnage with galley fittings if it didn’t need them because of food replicators.

  5. Star Trek VI was directed by Nicholas Meyer, the same director as Star Trek II. He’s the same man who wanted to give Starfleet a more militaristic look with the uniforms and also the one who wanted to put a “No Smoking” sign on the Enterprise bridge. (It is there in a scene or two, from before Roddenberry had him remove it) So, yeah, I figure he probably did just do whatever he wanted. He probably thought it would be cool to see a galley and stewards on the Enterprise, despite the fact that the previous two films showed a push towards the TNG-era look and tech. He also had that weird thing where we saw Enterprise crew members sleeping in a big barracks-like room with three high bunks. That also went against what we usually see on Trek. I think it’s best to just ignore the oddities of ST6.

      • I actually like it. (it’s better than Generations, in my opinion) Is it the best? Of course not. Too bad Shat didn’t get the make the movie he really wanted to, or it may have been better. Or, it could have been even worse, it’s hard to say. 😉

        Even though ILM didn’t do the effects, the house that did made a few really cool effects sequences, such as that shuttle crashing into the bay. (Remember, there would be no Type 6 TNG shuttle without this film 😉 ) They filmed that at super high speed using a couple different scales of shuttle and bay. It’s really nifty and looks great on film.

      • I didn’t know the original script was different than what we saw on film. Would it have been much different?
        And Generations… Yeah… 😦 lol.
        I think the next TNG film should have started with a few court martials… Riker for not bothering to pummel an old bird of prey. Failing shields or not, it wouldnt have taken much. Also LaForge for just yelling abandon ship instead of ejecting the warp core. But I guess they needed to nuke the -D, so it had to happen somehow…

  6. I want to know why they didn’t remodulate the shields after the first Klingon torpedo passed right through them. Unless LaForge is staring at a monitor with the shield frequency, the Klingons wouldn’t have been able to keep up. That’s one of the many plot holes in that film. Hell, the entire plot is a hole. “I’ve spent 80 years looking for another way.” REALLY?! I don’t think so. If Soran can fly into the Nexus with a ship and the ship is destroyed but he still makes it into the Nexus, who cares if the ship is destroyed? 39 years is a long time to learn to fly and there are warp capable single person ships. He could have been in the Nexus 39 years before the TNG part of the film even happened.

    As for STV. Well, Shatner had a very ambitious script with lots of effects, especially more stuff that should have happened on the planet but wasn’t in the budget. It’s hard to say if it would have been better. There were major problems going on at that time. For one thing, Paramount kept slashing his budget. Another issue was that they didn’t have ILM to do the effects, for some reason. Plus, there was a TV writers’ strike in 1989 that affected the second season of TNG, that’s why it’s shorter and why the season ender sucked so badly. They literally had part of a script, so the filmed what they had and filled it in with a “flashback” thing that sucked donkey balls. Due to the strike, Paramount was pushing Shatner to get the movie done so that they’d have something for Autumn/Winter. Shatner wanted an extension, but they wouldn’t give it to him. So, all of that contributed to the movie being what it was. If Shatner could have made the movie as he wanted, it may have been better. Or, it may have been worse. Having read a number of his novels, I think it could have gone either way. 😉

    • Yeah, “The Ashes of Eden” was his first Trek novel. (maybe his first novel period) That one was good. However, “The Return” sucked ass. A couple of his other Trek novels in the Mirror Universe were OK, but they were just that. I actually like his Tek War series, or at least the first few books. I think it was good that he did a departure from Trek and the hard-on he has for Kirk. (seriously, he died in Generations, get over it) I have Tek War on my Kindle, and I plan to get at least a few of the others in the series.

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