Star Trek Continuity Issues Part II: TNG

Part one is here.

Charge it to my account

One of the key features of the enlightened 24th century is that the Federation no longer uses money – this comes up as a key plot point on a few occasions in TNG and DS9. But in Encounter at Farpoint, we see Crusher purchasing some fabric from Farpoint Station, with instructions to the vendor to “charge it to my account”. This line was written before it was definitively established that Federation had no money, but can we make sense of it in-universe?

One possible explanation is that Crusher’s account was entirely fictional, and she was just pulling a fast one on the vendor – making off with the goods before he realised what had happened. Given that this conduct is unbecoming of a Starfleet officer, however, perhaps there’s another explanation.

Although never explicitly stated onscreen, it is generally held to be true among fans that, while the Federation does not use money internally, it has some kind of reserve – probably latinum – for dealing with other civilisations. Federation citizens who need it – such as those living on DS9 – are given a stipend from this reserve, and it can also be used in trade negotiations. It may well be that Crusher’s account is a part of this – she may never handle the money herself, but the vendor will charge the Federation for the fabric she bought, and they will supply recompense in either latinum or the local currency.

The Morgana Quadrant

When you’ve watched a lot of Star Trek, it can often feel like the galactic quadrant system has been around forever. DS9 had its wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant and Voyager’s whole gimmick was being stranded in the Delta Quadrant.

In fact, the quadrant system only came in during TNG’s The Price, when the Enterprise has to negotiate for access to a wormhole to the Delta Quadrant. Before that, things were very different – ‘quadrant’ basically meant ‘this bit of space’ rather than ‘a quarter of the galaxy. Take the start of TNG season two, for example, when the Enterprise-D is busy exploring the ‘Morgana Quadrant’.

Well, you say, maybe the galactic quadrant system was only brought in sometime between the second and third seasons of TNG. And indeed, in our universe, that’s correct, but the Star Trek universe complicates things somewhat by having the USS Excelsior mapping the Beta Quadrant decades before the Enterprise-D even launched. Of course, The Undiscovered Country was released after The Price, but since it takes place before it, we must come up with an in-universe explanation.

The author of the Star Trek Star Charts does try to address this, claiming that whenever a ‘quadrant’ was referred to it TOS or early TNG, what was actually meant was a sector “quad”, presumably the name for a much smaller region of space. As explanations go, it’s pretty thin, but it’s hard to come up with anything better. The best I can do is to say that, over the years, stellar cartographers had ended up with sector-sized “quadrants” (lower case q), and also Galactic Quadrants (with a capital Q). This was obviously a confusing convention, but it had stuck around so long that people just put up with it. Lower case quadrants were, in any case, more common than references to Galactic Quadrants, so usually people could tell by context what was meant.

By the 24th century, however, more and more people were talking about Galactic Quadrants, thanks to developments such as the Barzan and Bajoran wormholes. To reduce the ever-increasing potential for confusion, Starfleet made a concerted effort to only refer to Galactic Quadrants as quadrants, and to refer to the smaller regions as ‘sectors’.

Troi reads a Ferengi’s brain

In various episodes of TNG and DS9, we’re told that Betazoids can’t read the minds of four-lobed species, most notably the Ferengi. This is frequently important to the plot, as it means that the sneaky Ferengi plot of the week can’t easily be extracted from their minds.

However, a couple of times in early TNG, resident empath Deanna Troi claims to be able to sense Ferengi emotions. In The Battle, she tells Picard, “Captain, I sense considerable deception on Bok’s part. And danger.”. Two seasons later, in The Price, Troi’s ability to sense the emotions of the Ferengi DaiMon Goss is key to the Federation’s negotiations. What’s going on?

There are two possible explanations here. The first, which seems to be the one favoured by Memory Alpha, is that just because Betazoid telepathy doesn’t work on Ferengi, doesn’t mean that simple emotion sensing is completely out of the question. Sure, a full Betazoid like Lwaxana can’t read any Ferengi thoughts, but since she’s so used to having access to the minds of others, just being able to sense vague emotions might seem essentially useless to her. Deanna, on the other hand, as a half-Betazoid empath, is used to working with much vaguer and fuzzier emotions rather than fully formed thoughts, so she’s more attuned to the much weaker Ferengi signal.

The other explanation, however, is the one I personally prefer, and that is that Deanna is simply bullshitting about the extent of her ability to read emotions. We have enough evidence from episodes like The Loss that she does have some empathic abilities, but is she really able to read alien emotions over a viewscreen, as she seems to do quite often? It’s more likely that Troi is assessing the body language and speech patterns of all those alien commanders, and then telling Picard that she’s actually sensing their emotions, rather than making an educated guess. After all, if he finds out the truth, he might be less inclined to trust her judgement and let her in on all those juicy, top-level discussions.

Tactical Officer O’Brien

We all know that Miles O’Brien is a non-commissioned officer who never went to Starfleet Academy – he’s never made a secret of that fact. And yet, in TNG’s The Wounded, O’Brien reminisces with his old CO Benjamin Maxwell about his role as a tactical officer on the USS Rutledge. Hang on, how does that fit in?

We do know that O’Brien’s time on the Rutledge was during the Cardassian War, and whilst Starfleet rules on field promotions are themselves quite inconsistent, that does seem a likely time for a non-commissioned crewman like O’Brien to earn a field promotion to an officer role. It’s still unclear as to why O’Brien, who for the most part is portrayed as a career engineer, would be serving in the tactical division, but lets assume desperate times called for desperate measures.

By the time we meet O’Brien on the Enterprise-D, however, he is back down in the ranks, with no battlefield commission in sight. The most likely explanation is that the battlefield promotion was only ever meant to be temporary, and with both the Cardassian War and O’Brien’s stint on the Rutledge over, he reverted to his previous rank. He may have been given the opportunity to make the promotion permanent by attending some courses or Academy classes, but presumably he was impatient to get back to his beloved engineering.

Scotty’s memories

In the episode Relics, Scotty is revived after 75 years in transporter suspension. When he learns that it was the Enterprise that rescued him, he assumes that his saviour was none other than his old captain, James Kirk.

However, in Star Trek Generations, Scotty is one of the celebrity attendees for the maiden voyage of the Enterprise-B, under Captain John Harriman, during which time he witnessed Kirk’s apparent death. What gives?

Now, of course, Generations was written long after Relics had aired, so Kirk’s ‘death’ in 2293 was a bit of a retcon. But how can we reconcile the two?

Fortunately, there’s a straightforward potential explanation. Geordi himself states that there has been a 0.03% degradation in Scotty’s signal – potentially enough to explain his forgetfulness.

Spot the Cat

One of the many highlights of TNG was Data’s beloved pet cat, Spot. But Spot underwent some changes during the show’s run. In his first couple of appearances, he’s a long-haired Somali cat. Then, he becomes a ginger shorthair. In season seven, ‘he’ becomes ‘she’, when it’s revealed that she’s expecting kittens.

Many joke explanations have been bandied about to explain these changes in Spot’s breed and sex. Maybe Spot isn’t an Earth cat, and is perhaps at least part alien. Perhaps she was involved in a transporter accident. At a push, we could say that Data simply goes through multiple cats called Spot, but we know from the dialogue that it’s meant to be the same cat throughout. If his colleagues were replacing Spot when he was on shore leave, or if Spot was actually a Changeling who assumed different feline forms, a detail-obsessed android like Data would notice. After all, he found out his own ‘mother’ was an android by noting that her two viola performances were identical – there’s no way he wouldn’t notice such big changes in his cat. We might just have to throw our hands up and accept that we’ll never be able to satisfactorily explain this one.

Join me next time to focus on DS9, including the changes made to the Trill race, why no one has seen a Breen, and the Ferengi’s changing attitude to gold.

2 thoughts on “Star Trek Continuity Issues Part II: TNG

  1. Pingback: Star Trek Continuity Issues Part III: DS9 – Azure Flame B-Side

  2. Pingback: Star Trek Continuity Issues Part IV: Voyager and miscellaneous – Azure Flame B-Side

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