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Headscratchers: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
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     Sulu Knows Best 
  • How did Sulu know where the Peace Conference was happening? And for that matter, how did Kirk know that Sulu would know?
    • He didn't. Spock was the one who said to contact Sulu. Earlier in the film, Sulu contacted the Enterprise and said "we stand ready to assist you." So it was a safe bet that Sulu would be ready with the info they needed. Presumably Sulu his security clearance as captain to find out where the conference was going to be. The peace conference wasn't a secret. It was publicly announced at Kirk and McCoy's trial. So I don't imagine it was that hard for Sulu to get.
    • The first conference wasn't a secret. The second was. Still, Sulu's a respectable captain. He could have gotten that info.
    • Kirk is a pretty respected captain. It's not outside the realm of possibility that significant forces within Starfleet Command let that information slip to Sulu in hopes that it would somehow help Kirk. Or, failing that, he might have just been briefed and told to keep a lookout for anyone trying to sneak in to cause trouble. A terribly Genre Blind or a secretly helpful person might even give that information to Sulu telling him to make sure that the Enterprise, Kirk's old ship which went missing soon after the attack on the Chancellor and Kirk's arrest, doesn't get anywhere near that conference.
    • Excelsior was close enough to Klingon space that it was hit by the shock wave from Praxis exploding. Most likely, Sulu was given the location of hte conference in case shit hit the fan, much as it did. Enterprise wasn't given the location because A) she was supposed to be en route back to Earth, and B) Uhura had claimed that the comms were malfunctioning, so there was no reason for ''Enterprise'' to be contacted.
      • And C: The conspirators had every want to prevent the Enterprise crew from intervening in the second assassination.
    • It's possible that the Excelsior was supposed to be working guard duty at the conference, but after the Excelsior received the location, someone noticed Sulu's relationship with Kirk & Crew and ordered them to stay where they were, since news might have gotten out that the Enterprise wasn't returning calls and Kirk (the supposed assassinator of Gorkon) had escaped from jail. Another ship might have been guarding the peace summit, but their crew could have been taken prisoner by the Bird of Prey while some Klingon relieve crew took control of that ship to keep it in orbit so they don't seem inconspicuous.

     One planet, one empire 
  • Praxis explodes and strips the ozone layer from Qo'noS meaning that the planet has only fifty years of oxygen left. Just how does the loss of one planet, even if it is the capital world, doom the entire Klingon Empire? The Klingon Empire is supposed to be a major interstellar power that's the equal of the Federation, they don't have a load of colony worlds they can get help from or evacuate to? It's rather like saying New York City is destroyed in a freak yachting accident and this means that the rest of the United States of America collapses. Also the whole giving the Klingons sanctuary in Federation space thing is never, to my knowledge, mentioned again. Throughout the next decade of Trek we regularly see the Klingons swanning around Qo'noS shouting their heads off about honour and blood wine.
    • There is the possibility that, since the Klingon's main energy facility is gone, their ships can't keep up with both guarding the Neutral Zone AND evacuating billions off Qo'nos. If they keep up their massive military defense (the primary purpose of which is preparing for war with the Federation) the citizens of Qo'nos would have to be left for dead, because their key energy facility is gone. Therefore, their ships only have a very limited amount of fuel. Also, there could have been a civil war against the government resulting from the deaths of billions of Klingons if they hadn't of gone to the Federation to negotiate the end of the Neutral Zone. The end of the neutral zone would mean that the Klingons could lower their defense budgets, thus giving money to the rescue efforts on Qo'nos (since I imagine the planet's citizens are in dire need of extensive medical assistance after the Praxis blast).
    • True. But what if, instead of New York City, the city being destroyed is Washington DC? (Forgive the Yankee-centric conversation, by the way!) It wouldn't spell instant death for the nation, but it would be a hell of a knock nevertheless, one that would take years if not decades to recover from. The same principle applies here. As for your second issue: Presumably even in-universe, Science Marches On. They probably found a way to either fix the problem or do without.
      • Actually I considered using Washington but I figured the USA would recover faster than if New York was hit. DC is smaller and more focused on a single industry, Government, than New York and presumably the US government has contingency plans for losing the capital left over from the Cold War
      • An example of either city doesn't really work since the city would be destroyed instantly, while the Klingons had half a century to evacuate Qo'noS.
    • And by the time of The Next Generation, the Klingon homeworld is still Qo'noS. So either the damage wasn't as bad as they thought, or they got some ozone-creating technology working right quick after the disaster.
      • Or they named the new Homeworld after the old one. And chose it further away from the Federation than a four day flight at Warp 5.
      • In the initial briefing to the crew, it's mentioned that the loss of their homeworld will lead to the dissolution of the empire at least in part due to their overabundance of military spending, the colonies couldn't turn their economies to reconstruction in time to help. I believe there is background material somewhere which states that peace treaty with the Federation allowed the Klingons to use Federation technology to repair the damage to Qo'nos.
    • Think colonially. All the apparatus of state is on Qo'noS, everything goes through there and it is the heart of the Klingon Empire. Now, instead of trying to compare it to 20th/21stC USA, think of it as the 18th or 19thC and imagine Qo'noS is the UK. If the island of Britain was rendered uninhabitable in the 19thC how long do you think it would take for the British Empire to fall apart? Even if it took a few years to take effect it would still rip the heart and identity out of the Empire. That's a better analogy.
      • Far out! You just precisely described the backstory to S.M. Stirling's novel, The Peshawar Lancers. Comet fragments impact across North America and Asia in the late 19th century, and while Britain is spared direct devastation, the resulting 3-year-long winter reduces the island to a cannibalistic wasteland. The Empire is able to survive by relocating its ruling class and technological capacity to India. Of course, the Klingons would have to do this while simultaneously fending off encroachment by potentially hostile foreign enemies. The Federation isn't overly likely to take advantage, but the Romulans, the Cardassians, etc?
      • Incidentally, during the Dominion War, Gowron did move the seat of the Klingon government to a heavily-fortified facility called Ty'Gokor, said to be deep in Klingon territory. It's not unreasonable to guess that the Klingon government made this a contingency plan in the wake of the Praxis incident—similar to the US having a number of alternate sites from which to govern in the event of a disaster affecting Washington DC.
      • Also The Empire, being an Empire, probably has a lot tighter leash on its member worlds than The Federation. Qo'nos in trouble is a potential trigger for all sorts of uprisings, rebellions, separatist movements, etc to flare up on subjugated worlds.
    • It's not just Qo'nos that's the problem, Praxis was their key energy production facility. That's a very nasty one-two punch for the Klingons. And by way of comparison, the Xindi, Dominion, Borg, Romulans and Remans all viewed an attack on Earth as the key to defeating the entire Federation. Why shouldn't it be different for the Klingon Empire?
    • Qo'nos also has a lot of deep cultural, spiritual, and philosophical importance to Klingons. While it's theoretically possible that in the fifty years when they were frantically trying to relocate an entire planetary population they could also manage to hold their government together, it might have had much deeper effects on their society. There might be a sort of sentiment that Kahless had broken his bat'leth over his knee and said "Fuck all of you, go screw yourself" and that's why Qo'nos got screwed up, leading to them abandoning their Proud Warrior Race ways and becoming just another bunch of bumpy-headed cantina scene filler.

     No plans, no backup 
  • Chang has a Bird of Prey that can fire while cloaked, and it presents Enterprise and Excelsior with a huge tactical disadvantage. Why did the Klingons only make one prototype like this and forget about it by Picard's time?
    • See No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup. Not a justification, just that it's a very common trope.
    • Kirk demonstrates how to defeat this version of the cloaking device by the end of the movie, so the Klingons didn't bother to build any more.
      • I've always assumed that Starfleet also developed tactics to deal with such a vessel. In Star Trek: Nemesis, while fighting a starship that has the same ability to fire under cloak, Captain Picard employs a battle plan very quickly, and he even seems distracted while he's doing it. Later, Riker orders "defensive pattern Kirk epsilon." Considering that Kirk was the first Starfleet captain to battle a warship with this capability, he probably developed plans of action for this kind of situation, and Starfleet named these tactics after him.
    • But they do make loads more regular Birds-of-Prey, so either the Klingons solved the gas emission problem or Kirk and Crew were so mad about being retired they never told Starfleet how to find a cloaked BofP.
      • The gas problem was something only the modified Bird-of-Prey had. Its cloak couldn't completely mask the emissions because of the power needed for the weapons, which allowed the Enterprise to track it with the gas sensor. Regular cloaked ships put nearly all the power to the cloaking device to ensure everything is hidden.
      • Now that makes sense and explains why the Klingons never made anymore of the modified BofPs and why Starfleet never used the same method to find regular BofPs.
      • Not to muddy the waters, but wouldn't it be a simple matter to equip future birds-of-prey with countermeasure "flares" that throw off ionized gas to confuse torpedoes? Today's military aircraft are often equipped with infrared flares that confuse IR-seeking missiles, and when the movie was written, that technology was already decades old.
      • Then you'd see flares popping out of nowhere, which would instantly betray the cloaked ship's location even more than the gas emissions. Think of it more like a submarine running silent rather than a stealth aircraft: stealth doesn't work if you make too much noise, and if they've found you then making more noise by launching countermeasures is only going to draw more attention to yourself. If Chang wanted to survive he should have dropped his cloak, raised shields and withdrawn, but that wouldn't be the Klingon way.
      • That's how countermeasures WORK. Sneak up on your enemy as much as you can, sure, but once you're spotted-and ONLY once you're spotted and you know your enemy is taking a shot at you- full tilt boogie on the engines, evasive maneuvers, and launch decoys. (if you've done stealth right, you'll never have to do this. But failing that...) Stealth is already completely lost, now you're trying for "dazzle". You're hoping that whatever targeting method the enemy's weapons work on, they'll prefer to lock onto your decoys instead of the real you-and you do this by having the decoys be even more obvious than the real you.
      • Actually, depending on how that torpedo was tracking the ship it might not be like a heat-seeking missile so much as a self-guiding missile. Rather than homing in on a particular signature, it's actually following the gas emissions back to its source. You could no more develop a countermeasure to that than you could suddenly create new boat wakes or decoy footprints in the snow.
    • Chang probably had the ship built in secret and may have had the scientist(s) who built it murdered, or maybe just put aboard with him. He was a rogue general plotting to use it to assassinate his Chancellor and start an intergalactic war in alliance with some of his empires deadliest enemies. That's probably not the kind of thing you advertise. Even if the thing was built before the whole Praxis incident, it is still conceivable that he kept it from the rest of the Klingon High Command- they certainly don't appear to know that such a ship exists.
      • You know, TNG established that some of the Klingon Great Houses have their own fleets which are separate from the regular Klingon Navy. As dysfunctional and antagonistic as Klingon politics is often shown to be, I wonder if there's always a bit of an arms race between the Houses. Whichever house Chang belonged to—or even the collective efforts of any of the Great Houses that were sympathetic to the conspiracy— might have even built the prototype without the Klingon government knowing about it.
    • In fact, Fridge Horror indicates that it's pretty much impossible that such a conspiracy as presented in the movie would be so neatly rolled up by the authorities once Kirk foiled the assassination attempt and killed Chang. There was likely a purge as the conspirators, particularly in the less happy-fuzzy Klingon Empire, tried to cover their tracks. So it's entirely possible that the Klingon scientists (and when's the last time you ever saw a Klingon scientist?) were killed off to keep them from spilling the beans on their sponsors.
      • TNG episode. Beverley made friends with him.
      • If you mean "Suspicions," the Klingon scientist was female and definitely nobody's friend. Crusher does state "I don't think Klingons regard scientists very highly."

     Do not wait for the translation! 
  • "Don't wait for the translation!" - If Kirk and McCoy don't wait for the translation of your question General Chang how will they know what you asked them?
    • It's a Shout-Out to something said to the Russian ambassador by the American ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It made as little sense in Real Life as it did in Star Trek.
      • Actually, it made a kind of sense if you read the subtext as, "Don't use waiting for the translation as a way to stall for thinking time that you shouldn't need to answer a question that you should know the answer to. . . only if I say all that (and all this) I'll have given you exactly what you wanted, a stall for time, so I'll just tell you not to wait for the translation and then shut up so you can be on the spot in front of everyone."
      • Except neither Kirk nor McCoy speak Klingon, and what we're hearing is Translation Convention. Why couldn't they use universal translators? They wouldn't even know he said "Don't wait for the translation" until they heard it in English. Same with the Russian ambassador. It was just a political trick to make it seem as if the other person is stalling.
      • The Russian ambassador in real life probably did understand English just fine. He was an ambassador, understanding one of the most-used languages in the world (Japanese sailors had to learn it during WW2 because a lot of their charts and machine manuals were printed in English) would have been necessary for his job. Kirk and McCoy aren't ambassadors, so in Chang's case it was purely grandstanding (instead of only partly).
    • The Translation Convention is ambiguous enough that Chang could have been questioning Kirk (and McCoy) in English while addressing the court in Klingon. The dinner on Enterprise indicates Chang speaks English and questioning the accused assassins in their native tongue may have been legally apropos.
      • This makes for a delightful multi-layered bit of Fridge Brilliance. If he's speaking English to them, as an obvious show of graciousness to the foreign defendants, this is his chance to put them on the defensive for showing enough respect to their hosts to wait for the translations into Klingon before they answer. He puts them in a position where it would be rude to not wait, and then sinks their image by making them appear overly hesitant to answer.
    • Kirk and McCoy may indeed speak enough Klingon, or at least know enough of the language, to understand what was being said.
      • There's never really any indication of that though. Picard's the first Starfleet captain to be shown as explicitly fluent in Klingon.

     "'Let Them Die,''' You Said 
  • How did Valeris know Kirk said that? She wasn't in the briefing room when Kirk and Spock were having that conversation. Did Spock tell her about it? Or did the conspirators have a hidden mic planted in the briefing room?
    • It was once claimed that there is a silhouette briefly visible in the conference room, suggesting that she was secretly there. I was never able to find it; is there any photographic evidence or can we chalk that up to an unfounded rumour? In any event, it's not all that hard to explain; the conspiracy's tendrils seem to be everywhere, so a hidden mic, as you suggest, or somebody telling Valeris is hardly unreasonable.
    • After the meeting is dismissed, and everybody but Kirk and Spock leave, there is clearly someone standing in the background to the right side of the screen (just to the right of the three frosted glass panes with the Starfleet insignia on them), but it doesn't look like Valeris, at least not to me. It seems to be a male Starfleet officer wearing command white, and he's just kind of lurking there ominously. It's weird, because he's more than a silhouette—obviously I can pick out some details of his uniform—but he's just standing there during a private conversation between two command-level officers, and it goes completely without comment form Kirk or Spock. My guess is that he's one of the conspirators.

     Public Mind Rape 
  • Spock forcing his way into Valeris mind was... dodgy, to say the least.
    • The needs of the many...
      • Nimoy's acting specifically addresses this point, he did what he had to do and it's obvious it hurt Spock to do it.
      • But did he have to do it right there, on the bridge, in front of everyone? I mean, I realize time is an issue, but still, seeing him do that in front of an audience was... greatly uncomfortable.
      • They didn't have time to move her anywhere.
      • Besides, that's really going to make the rape metaphor any better? "I don't want people to see me doing this to you. Let's go off somewhere out of sight, like say your quarters." Besides time being of the essence, Spock is essentially saying "If I have to do this, I'm not going to hide it, let everyone here judge me as they will. I probably deserve it."
    • I believe the novelization addresses this somewhat. Spock tried to do it as comfortably as possible for her. Only when he tried to dig up information which she did not know, it got painful. It would make sense than when reading someone's mind, on the surface you can't tell the difference between "doesn't know" and "knows, but is hiding it really well". If you believe the case to be the latter, you'd try to dig it out with all you've got for a while before realizing that crap, the person really doesn't know.

     Prototype Revisited 
  • This movie features a Klingon Bird of Prey prototype that can fire while cloaked. Yet in Trek series set 70-80 years after this movie, we never hear anything more about this ability. Being able to attack while invisible grants an enormous tactical advantage, so the Klingons wouldn't have just abandoned this.
    • Didn't you just ask that right above here?
    • Though given what happens in the movie, the prototype was a failure. Expanded Universe information indicates that firing while cloaked took enormous power and the ship couldn't sustain it for long; of course it wasn't intended to need to, but once Starfleet worked out how to easily detect such a ship by its engine emissions it lost its tactical advantage. Later series would make cloaking device/detection technology more of an explicit arms race - any development on one side gives only a brief advantage before the other side catches up, and no cloak is perfect.
      • On Deep Space 9, the power of the Defiant's engines keep running under cloak from being a viable option. Once a weapon is fired, it marks something off and other things once hidden will come to light. Probably another reason the UFP ditched cloak-tech—you spend way too much time beating the next upgrade in detection tech.
      • They did that because their deal with the Romulans specifically prohibited the Federation from developing and using cloaks. Remember the TNG episode with the phasing cloak?
      • By the time Deep Space Nine rolls around, it's pretty clear that detecting cloaked ships is straightforward enough that they have a standard procedure for it, so cloaks are only useful if the enemy hasn't thought to actively look for you yet. In that case, a device like Chang's would have almost no real value.
    • Note that we never again see the engine-emission-homing photon torpedo that Scotty jury-rigged to counter this new cloak, either. Another case of Reed Richards Is Useless.
      • Actually, Scotty didn't modify the torpedo, which was something that always bugged me. Spock, the ship's science officer asks Dr. McCoy Enterprise's chief surgeon to help him modify a torpedo. Why does Spock need a physician to attach scientific mapping equipment to a weapon system, and more to the point, why would he want the good doctor's help?
      • All McCoy did during that scene was hold stuff/hand it to Spock. Why take up the time of an Engineer fighting to keep the ship from imploding when McCoy is just standing around snarking and all you need is someone to hand you the parts in the right order?
      • The problem with that is of course that Enterprise was getting an intensive beat down, and Spock was keeping him from doing his damn job. That Bones was up on the bridge in the first place is irritating—especially to the people burned and/or hemorrhaging in sickbay. If Spock needed help, why not call one of the botanists? Space Seed establishes that Enterprise has an historian on staff (at least at the time of that episode); why not get him or an equally useless crewman to meet Spock in the torpedo bay?
      • Perhaps Bones has a large medical staff ( which we don't see on the TV show due to cost of hiring extras ) that could handle things. Also, if someone suitable wasn't already on board, wouldn't Starfleet assign the Enterprise a temp Senior Medical Officer once Bones was arrested?
      • Additionally, you're getting torpedoed and thus the ship is being shaken. You're making very delicate modifications, so you want a steady hand to prevent the torpedo possibly exploding before you fire it. Who'd have a steadier hand than the surgeon?
      • The Watsonian perspective would be that they didn't want to waste money shooting scenes in sickbay with injured crewmen being hauled in and treated, and thus gave that for McCoy to do, otherwise one third of the Power Trio would be a total dunsel in the climax of the movie.
      • In-universe Science Marches On. Build a better cloaking device and someone will build better sensors. In the dozen years following this Starfleet starting making sensors that could detect and extrapolate from exhaust vapours, and someone in (or under contract to) the Klingon and Romulan empires was racing to try and find a way to mask this. As soon as they found that way all those sensor modifications Starfleet came up with were obsolete.
    • It's also been stated that the cloak was adjusted to allow for weapons fire but not shields. One torpedo shot was all it took to take the cloak down. The Scimitar in Nemesis may very well have been built expressly to handle such power requirements for cloak, weapons and shields, but it seemed to be a custom-built ship from the ground up (not using a prior starship model) that was in no way viable for mass or semi-mass production. Even today most stealth ships are meant for recon or nuclear payloads, the F-22 had to sacrifice some stealth capability in order to be combat efficient. If you're going to do recon or first-strike stuff, regular cloaks work just as well.
    • Considering the prototype has been discovered and destroyed while it was attempting to ruin a peace conference, we can suppose this peace conference immediately forbid this type of cloaked vessels.
    • Neither a Klingon chancelor nor a Romulan praetor would allow the existence of ships that can be so advantageous for a Civil war or a putsch.

     No witnesses 
  • When that prison guard shot the shapeshifter and said "No witnesses," how did he know he was shooting the shapeshifter? Or did he not care who he was shooting at and only realized he killed the shapeshifter after it died and just said that to sound badass?
    • It didn't terribly matter which one he shot first, the other one wasn't going anywhere. It was a quip after he saw which one he had offed. In fact, had he shot Kirk, he could have said the exact same thing as a Pre-Mortem One-Liner before shooting the shapeshifter.
    • She had taken off her leg cuffs. Kirk still had his on.
    • How would the guard have known that? He doesn't seem like a big deductive thinker. note 

    Torpedo accuracy 
  • Couldn't they pinpoint the origin of the Bird of Prey's torpedoes and have a phaser bank or a torpedo standing by to fire at that location? Hell, tie the firing controls to the computer for faster reaction.
    • Except that would require the Bird of Prey to fire from the same position twice, something which they appeared to be avoiding. Phasers could theoretically be used to return fire, but they have been shown to be inaccurate without a solid lock in the past (recall The Wrath of Khan, where the Enterprise, getting the jump on the Reliant, failed to hit her with phasers from about a hundred meters away when they were in the nebula).
      • Small problem with the inaccuracy explanation. As shown in TWoK (the very example above references), TOS, and in the EU, starship-grade phasers do not need to hit the target to do damage. In Wrath of Kahn, Reliant was shown reeling from near misses by Enterprise's phasers. TOS shows this in the episode Balance of Terror, where Enterprise's phasers act like today's depth charges against the cloaked/submerged Romulan Bird of Prey.
      • The nebula is also outright said to screw up targeting sensors, making it damn hard to get a clean lock without a lot of prep time. Reliant, despite knowing exactly where Enterprise fired from, missed horribly when it shot back. In normal conditions, phasers are aimed by computer and are very precise.
    • As noted above, Picard employs these exact tactics, named after Kirk himself no less, in battle against a similar ship. This is the first instance of such a ship in Federation history. After the fact, either Kirk or some Starfleet tacticians probably went over the battle and thought "how can we beat such an enemy without a magic torpedo?"
    • There's another problem that just occurred to me: Chang's transmitting pretty much the whole battle, and it's kind of implied that he's just leaving the channel open so that he can ham at will. Shouldn't they, especially after Excelsior shows up, be able to get an approximate direction and range based off of Chang's signal—at least enough to lay down a field of fire? I wouldn't bring this up at all, except its something we can do today. In fact, we have missiles that seek radio signals in our inventories right now.
      • It would make sense that Klingons and Romulans have detected a way to broadcast communications that don't give away their position while cloaked, especially if it's just something relatively simple like audio. Chang's just broad-beaming out some audio, he's not exactly directly transmitting a full audiovisual of a Klingon opera. As noted below, they're probably leaving his monologue on so that they can try to pinpoint him, they're just not able to.
    • Could be Chang was routing his monologing through one of Khitomer's communication satellites so they couldn't trace the transmission directly to his ship.
      • Immediately after Chang starts talking, there's a cut to Uhura tapping frantically at her console and then giving a confused shrug. Presumably, this is meant to show that she tried to trace back the signal and couldn't.

    The Dreaded Makeup Chair 
  • Why, when compared to other Klingons, does Chang look so (for lack of a better word) human? Did Christoper Plummer just not feel like spending a few extra hours in make-up?
    • From what I heard, yes.
    • Maybe his mother was one of those smooth-headed Klingons? Presumably after the third or tenth fellow warrior got killed for making Your Mom jokes about it, they felt he was Bad Ass enough not to bring it up again.
      • Of course, having an eyepatch bolted to your skull immediately grants you badass status, no matter what your forehead looks like.
      • That's apparently not that badass among Klingons... apparently they don't believe in straps for eyepatches, they're all bolted on. And maybe he is a smooth-headed Klingon but he just had some plastic surgery done to restore some of his original look.
    • Even from what little is known about Chang, it seems plausible that most of his hair was burned off, likely in battle.

     Since when do we trust the Romulans? 
  • In a scene deleted from the theatrical release but included on some home video releases, the Klingon Ambassador's conference with the Federation President is immediately followed by Colonel West and Admiral Cartwright presenting a plan to rescue Kirk and McCoy by force. Not only do they carry this classified material into the President's office just as the Klingon Ambassador is leaving, but the Romulan Ambassador is still there, listening to the whole presentation.
    • Maybe that's why it's a deleted scene. Someone caught the discrepancy.
    • This may actually be foreshadowing as all three West, Cartwright, and the Romulan ambassador are in on the conspiracy. Beyond that "Operation Retrieve" was little more than a thinly veiled attempt to restart open hostilities with the Klingons. The Klingon ambassador seeing the plans on his way out of the office would only help things along.
      • This movie opened in December of 1991, by which time Star Trek: The Next Generation had firmly established a story arc in which the Romulan Empire was trying to sabotage the Klingon-Federation alliance. It's very possible that the Romulan was there as a subtle clue for diehard Trek fans. It's fairly esoteric, but it's subtle enough that it wouldn't distract casual fans.
    • Perhaps this was an attempt at coalition-building. There are a number of reasons that the Federation would want the support of the Romulan Star Empire in an armed conflict with the Klingons, and they're only likely to get that support if the Empire thinks the Federation has a good chance of winning. Show the Romulans a plan that you're sure you can pull off, and then go out and do it, and you've shown the Romulans that you're strong, resourceful, and that you're the team they should be backing.
      • I might buy this if the Romulans had some involvement in the proposed rescue mission — if they had to go through Romulan space to get to the Klingon homeworld faster or something. But no, it just seems like they're too lazy to clear the guy out of the room before the top secret discussion goes on. Actually, I've always been pretty hazy about the Romulans' role in this film, period. Why are they part of the Khitomer Conference? And what is Nanclus's part in the conspiracy — is he representing his government or is he in it alone for some reason?
      • Non-canon sources indicate that the whole thing is a double switch by the Tal Shiar; they're playing Chang and Cartwright against each other to prevent the peace settlement, out of fear that they'll be marginalized once the balance of power shifts. Come to think of it, that pretty much happened, with the Romulans spending the next 80 years or so in an isolationist funk and acting as smarmy quasi-villains-of-the-week afterwards.
    • The Romulan empire wasn’t indentified as a treacherous enemy during Kirk era. The relationship between the Federation and the Romulans could have improved between the five-year missions and the Praxis incident. Transparency with the Romulan emissaries is a way to show them that the Federation and Klingon Empire are not plotting against them. The prior movie already introduced some trilateral relationships between the three superpowers.

     The things they don't teach at Starfleet Medical 
  • Why doesn't McCoy know about Klingon anatomy? It seems like something you'd want to know if you're constantly bumping into them and vitally important if you're going to beam over to a Klingon ship to perform emergency surgery. If you don't know the anatomy of the species you're operating on, wouldn't it be dangerous to try treating them? I'm imagining a Zoidberg-esque scene with McCoy in sickbay, "Chang, it's been years since medical school, so remind me. Disemboweling in your species, fatal or non-fatal?" And while the Klingons do seem very secretive about revealing information about their biology (as seen by Bashir being unaware of the smooth forehead Klingons of the 23rd century) wouldn't the Bird of Prey Kirk captured in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock have had a medical library that the Federation would have downloaded?
    • Yes, but they weren't on it for very long. And McCoy doesn't read Klingon.
      • They were on Vulcan with it for three months after they left Genesis. It's another 8 years from ST:III to ST:VI, more than enough time for the Federation's top minds to translate the contents of the computer.
      • You assume they kept the Bird of Prey. Remember, the Klingon ambassador was pretty incensed that Kirk wasn't getting strung up by his own viscera as it was. Starfleet may have made the concession of "Look, here, we're giving you your ship back with no red tape and not taking the time to dissect the thing. Now shut up about Kirk and quit bugging us about the issue."
    • I find this weird, too, but for a slightly different reason. There's no on-screen evidence that McCoy examined the captured Klingon in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, but he did examine one in "The Trouble With Tribbles". He uses a man's heart rate and body temperature to determine that the man was a Klingon spy; showing that he has at least some knowledge of Klingon physiology. He may not have an intimate understanding of Klingon anatomy, but he should know where Gorkon's heart is located.
      • Wonderful stuff, Romulan Ale...
    • They even failed basic diplomatic precautions. If you're rendezvousing with a ship carrying the most important foreign dignitaries ever, and you're bringing them over for dinner and drinks, it's just plain common sense that you would have someone IN YOUR OWN CREWnote  with the medical training to deal with an emergency. Like, say, from one of them choking on a pretzel, to someone tripping and landing gut-first on a steak knife, to someone suffering food poisoningnote . Basically, if your function is to act as diplomatic hosts and military escorts, their well-being is entirely your responsibility, and whether or not they have their own doctors, you shouldn't trust them to account for medical emergencies. Otherwise you end up with scenarios like what happened in the movie.
    • Presumably, McCoy knew the basics of Klingon anatomy. Notice that he delivered the precordial thump with some degree of success (in that it brought Gorkon back for a moment). It would make sense that, given the decades-long war between the two powers, there is some understanding of how the Klingon body is put togethernote . However, that doesn't mean that McCoy has any understanding of how to put that body back together after it's been phasered to Hell and back.
      • Incidentally, Mike and Denise Okuda's text commentary points out that today the precordial thump is considered outdated except in very specific situations; in fact it's generally not even taught in medical schools anymore. With the increasing availability of AED units, its use becoming more and more rare. Bones, however, was able to use it successfully enough to revive Gorkon briefly. Maybe it's still in-protocol for Klingons, and McCoy''s using it indicates that he knows more than we're giving him credit for.
    • Even if a fully-trained surgery team with full knowledge of Klingon anatomy had been standing by, it's unlikely Gorkon could have been saved, with as much blood as he lost and as much time had elapsed. Besides which, the Klingon doctors probably wouldn't have been a whole lot more competent than McCoy. Also, there's the underlying ugly assertion that McCoy considers in the novelization: That a Klingon life isn't worth saving.
      • Would that mean that Chang was right about him? At the trial Chang asked McCoy, "Now be careful, Doctor, have you ever in your past saved patients as barely alive as he?" It wasn't that Gorkon was beyond all help, but that McCoy didn't have the knowledge to treat him. He was, as Chang said, incompetent. And as prejudiced as he might be, I highly doubt McCoy was giving any less than 100% to saving Gorkon since I'm sure he knew perfectly well the only way they were getting off Kronos One was if Gorkon lived.
      • Oh, no, that's not what I meant. What I mean is, that ugly assertion on Starfleet's behalf may be why they haven't trained their surgeons regarding Klingon anatomy in the first place. On the contrary, McCoy was, in fact, quite desperate to save him.
  • Of course, it takes doctors years to learn human anatomy well enough to practice medicine. And that's having operated the equipment in question for decades before undertaking such training. Can you imagine having to become as familiar in alien anatomy? Particularly anatomy of someone who isn't even your own ally, when you have Vulcans, Andorians, etc. to keep up with? Of course, assigning a specialist to the mission would make sense. The omission of such a specialist might give the impression that the mission was meant to fail (which, of course, it explicitly was, otherwise that's the entire plot of the movie).
  • There's also the simple fact that McCoy has a tendency to streamline his language - "I don't know his anatomy!" could have just been his way of expressing "I don't know enough about his anatomy to be sure that what I'm doing is going to help or hurt him." As pointed out above, he probably knew something of Klingon anatomy, but it's a lot easier to figure out where the vulnerable parts of alien anatomy are than it is to figure out how to patch them up while the patient is bleeding out in front of you, so, from McCoy's perspective, it was the quicker, more succinct statement. Of course "I don't know his anatomy" also becomes grounds for a charge of incompetence on his part, but he wasn't looking for how his language would look on a transcript but was speaking to Kirk in the course of a medical procedure.

    Chekov and Uhura's appalling lack of knowledge 

  • Does it seem likely to anyone that Security Chief Chekov doesn't realize a phaser set to disintegrate will set off an alarm, and Communications Officer Uhura can't speak Klingon? Why the gaping lack of knowledge in the specialties of these two individuals? (And we've already had the talk, just above, about McCoy not knowing Klingon anatomy).
    • Reportedly, Nichelle Nichols was very unhappy at the "fake translation" scene, appropriately reasoning that Uhura would speak Klingon or at least that there would be a mechanism for translating it that doesn't make everyone look like buffoons. In fact, her anger at Nicholas Meyer is pretty obvious when you watch the scene! Star Trek (2009) does some damage control by demonstrating that Uhura certainly does understand Klingon.
      • If you look closely at Uhura's console, you'll notice that one or more screens are displaying the message 'Stand-By.' According to Michael Okuda's text commentary, this was intended to imply that there was some malfunction that was preventing the computer from displaying the translation—requiring them to use books. Apparently "Stand-By" is the Starfleet equivalent of the BSOD.
      • It still doesn't make sense that the communications officer of the Federation's flagship wouldn't speak the language of the species they've been at war with for decades. 30-50 years ago, Russian was the premium language in the military just as Arabic is now. There must have been someone who spoke Klingon on board.
      • Both of the Abrams movies contain a blatant Take That at this scene—going out of their way to establish that not only can Uhura speak English, Vulcan, Romulan, and Klingon (and, presumably Swahili, like her Original Series counterpart), but she also has a working knowledge of Klingon warrior culture. Maybe the difference is NOMAD, who wiped the original's mind in The Changling.
    • The Chekov case is a bit easier to justify as a momentary lapse, but the point is taken that the film feels free to demean the secondary characters' intelligence for the sake for humour. Strangely, the same thing is true of Star Trek V (remember Scotty hitting his head?) but this film never seems to get called out on it.
      • Everything bad about V gets blamed on William Shatner, who is sort of a Butt Monkey of portions of the Star Trek fandom. Since VI can't be blamed on him it's not called out on having many of the same problems.
    • Regarding Chekov, I assumed they were just spitballing ideas; Valaris suggested the assassins might have taken off their magnetic boots in zero gravity before beaming back to the Enterprise. The ones who reprogrammed the computer to show they had fired two torpedoes might have disabled the security sensor temporarily so the alarm didn't go off. Plus, as Spock said: "When you eliminate the impossible whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." A phaser that can vaporize a target without setting off an alarm is as novel an idea as a ship firing while cloaked.
    • Speaking of which, doesn't it also seem weird that there's an unlocked cabinet full of loaded pistols in the galley, and that nobody—even the frickin' chief of security—seems all that irritated that Voleris fired one off in a room full of people?
      • You're talking about a setting where technology exists to beam intruders to any place within range. Such as my sneaky Borg friend standing behind you currently. Keeping weapons stocked in all populated places of the ship is just being Genre Savvy. As for why nobody seemed to care... well Security did come barging into the room moments later, presumably ready to vaporize some Klingon intruders.
      • Except in the context of that scene, security was reacting to the power setting, not the fact that she fired a phaser (which the movie makes clear is potentially lethal even on the stun setting) in a crowded room. In the real world, reckless discharge of a firearm is a very serious crime that could easily cost a junior officer his or her career (and some brig time). Voleris doesn't even get a stern talking-to.
    • As far as the spitballing ideas go, it is worth noting that when you are brainstorming, all ideas are good ideas until you have a chance to consider them. You are not supposed to discard them out of hand without at least dropping them on the table for the others to give their first impressions. And as mentioned above, the computers had been tampered with. It's a bigger gaffe that nobody called Valeris on the possibility that the sensors were too.
      • And note that Valeris does discard Chekov's suggestion out of hand (as does everyone else present). And Valeris's grandstanding stunt keeps Chekov from keeping with that train of thought. Still, it's vaguely troubling that Chekov allows himself to be cowed so easily... he is security chief after all!

    The Klingons' poor holster design 
  • It's a minor thing, but during the attack on Qo'noS One, notice how we see a Klingon's pistol floating out of his holster once the Artificial Gravity fails. One of the more important features of a holster is to help retain the gun, so it doesn't fall out at an inopportune moment. Clearly, the Klingons never saw that as much of a concern, perhaps assuming that any sufficiently skilled warrior shouldn't be so careless as to lose his weapon, or so unresourceful as to be dependent upon it.
    • Holsters designed for quick-draws usually sacrifice some features that would normally secure the weapon, but even so, you're right; that disruptor floated out of his holster way too easily. I'd also point out that the sheaths that hold warriors' d'k thangs hang from an over-the-shoulder strap and don't seem to be tied down at all, making drawing your dagger a two-handed task (as Picard demonstrated in Sins of the Father).
    • And as the RiffTrax puts it: "When you live in outer space, should you really be that terrifyingly unfamiliar with zero-gravity situations?"

Star Trek V: The Final FrontierHeadscratchers/STARTREKStar Trek: Generations
Star Trek V: The Final FrontierHeadscratchers/FilmStar Trek: Generations

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