TOR and Distance

I've been noticing something for awhile that I've been hesitant to deal with, but it has to happen.

I've been hesitant for a few reasons. First, I was a little unclear on how one should treat the remastered original series (usu. "TOS-R", but I prefer "TOR" because it fits the three-letter scheme). Second, and more importantly, I haven't really seen any of it. For the most part I'm just seeing the TrekMovie.com reports so far.

But there are now too many cases confirmable even from TrekMovie reports for me to continue hesitating.

At issue is this: the TOR guys have no conception of distance whatsoever.

The example that broke the camel's proverbial back is this one from TrekMovie:

That is the lead Romulan ship from "The Enterprise Incident" giving chase to the Enterprise near the end of the episode, as Scotty feverishly works to install the stolen cloaking device, and Spock ponders his recent installation regarding the also-stolen Romulan commander.

You'll note that the Enterprise nacelles are clearly visible in this aft view, as if to scream "this is an aft view!" . . . because otherwise we silly modern viewers might not get it.

Here's the problem, though, with thanks to Chakoteya's transcripts site:

KIRK: Mister Spock, distance from the Romulan vessel?
SPOCK: One hundred and fifty thousand kilometres, Captain, and closing very rapidly.
KIRK: Stand by, phasers. Commander, you'll forgive me if I put up a fight.
COMMANDER: Of course. It's expected.
SPOCK: One hundred thousand kilometres. They should commence firing at us within the next twelve point seven seconds.

In the FX reel available at TrekMovie.com, you can even hear "very rapidly" while the image above showing the nacelle ends is on the screen. In other words, the displayed image . . . showing a Klingon ship perhaps a handful of kilometers distant assuming a normal camera image . . . is in fact some 150,000 kilometers away.

One could try to explain the discrepancy via other, intra-universe means. For instance, one could assume a really wonky camera system in use for the viewscreen, or an image display system with a flair for the dramatic. But such in-universe explanations fall flat with other examples.

For instance, we have "Journey to Babel", in which the Enterprise has difficulty firing on a high-warp attacker. In the episode, we see this:

There's a dot which, in the video, looks like a fly buzzing about in space, with the Enteprise phasers trying and failing to track it.

Clearly the CBS Digital guys thought it would be cool to see the Orion ship zipping about. However, they failed to realize this is impossible, even ignoring the inherent peculiarity of seeing a superluminal vessel at all. (I can't fault them for that, though, since TNG, especially early TNG, often showed us the Enterprise flying by at high warp with a normal starfield behind it. It's a convention.)

To be able to see the Orion ship zipping about like that, it must either be helluva-huge or awfully close. By "huge" we're talking about thousands of kilometers. By "close" we're talking about hundreds or perhaps thousands of kilometers for it to show up as just a dot, but in that case it would be moving very slowly.

Even at a bit above lightspeed . . . say, 314,159 km/s . . . a vessel 1,000 kilometers from the Enterprise would be able to orbit the ship 100 times per second. (At best, then, the little dot in the episode would only be akin to how helicopter rotor blades or bicycle spokes can appear to stand still if the frame rate and motion match.)

Episodes like "Elaan of Troyius", which also features both warp strafing and range callouts in the tens of thousands of kilometers, also get this absurd sort of treatment. There are other examples as well, but frankly I'm sufficiently depressed. ;)

It seems pretty clear that, in the end, TOR will be considered canon . . . it will, apparently, be all that is available in the high-def world. Such obvious errors are unfortunate given how easily they could've been avoided with a little research. The fact that Dave Rossi and Mike Okuda are involved in this makes this failure to research and comprehend even more appalling.

While it is tempting to declare all of the remastered effects as mere eye candy illustrations (and indeed, in many cases "illustration" is precisely what it looks like), the simple fact is that we cannot completely ignore them. However, in the case of obvious error like this, we have no choice but to ignore the revisions where they err.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see you're still alive. BTW, what about that massive overhaul you announced way back in November? If it's going to happen, I sure hope it happens soon. I've read your entire site at least a dozen times and it's great. I love your style and especially your intellectual honesty, although I think you're way too generous. It's amazing the opposition still hasn't given you any credit for that.

Best wishes from an anonymous fan way back from Croatia. ;)

Anonymous said...

Of course, you do realise that rabid Warises are going to try and crucify you for this, right?

Author said...

To assorted anons:

1. The overhaul is happening no time soon, I'm afraid. At best, it will end up happening piecemeal, with a new site with like one viable page and a link to all the old stuff that sloooooowly over time gets converted to the new format.

Unless, that is, you're terribly rich and want to sponsor me as a patron for like a year.

No? Crap. That never works.

Thanks for visiting the site from Croatia. Isn't the internet wonderful?

2. Regarding crucifixion efforts by the rabid . . . how would that be different than any other day? They try to spin-doctor crucifixions of me on any day ending in Y.

Anonymous said...

But what I meant by crucifixion was that they're going to take the TOR footage as gospel in an attempt to show that Trek weapons ranges suck (which they don't) and they're not going to let it go...

Author said...

Let 'em try . . . it'll be good for a laugh. Take a look at just the index quick-links here:


By my count, I have examples from nine episodes set in the 24th Century. TOR is a century prior, so even if we give its illustrations maximum credit over the dialog, it's out of date anyway.

Anonymous said...

(Anon1 from Croatia)

Unfortunately, no, I'm not rich. Just a poor college student. The only support you could get from me is a translation of your site to Croatian should you ever have the desire to expand into that oh so quintessential part of Trekdom. ;))) Frankly, with all the poorly and inconsistently translated ripoffs of DITL (which is an amazing site) that dominate the Croatian webspace, we're in a great need for something new. One of the most retarded examples I've seen is translating "Beam firepower" as "tractor beam power". You just have to love the "quick&dirty ripoff" method of creating a Trek website.

Anyway, I just finished re-reading the Battle of Britain section. I always do that when I'm in a bad mood and need a good laugh. Someone should really thank that Ossus guy for that one.

Regarding your treatment of TOR, I don't see a problem with anything you've said. CBS-Paramount Television has made no statements on the status of TOR and TOS with regards to their canonicity. The dialogue remains the same, and the new visuals contradict both the dialogue and other visual canonical range examples. The opposition ought to keep their little hypocritical mouth shut, considering the way they pick and choose new "facts" on their EU-wankfest sessions, not to mention their "we must make da Star Destroyah's willy bigga than the whole of Starfleet"-derived 200GT turbolasers... which, judging by fighter firepower, must be equivalent to 200GJ in Federation units. Considering Ossus' ignorance of 8th grade physics (volt vs. coulomb), that's not very hard to believe.