Saturday, December 13, 2008

You Say Utopia, I Say Planitia

To update an older discussion - I came across one more glimpse of Utopia Planitia that predates the Voyager episode "Relativity." In the seventh season TNG episode, "Parallels" there is an image of Utopia Planitia taken by the Argus Array (see the image in the lower right of the display). Admittedly this is the Utopia Planitia from a parallel universe, but "our" Worf didn't identify any major discrepancy between this Utopia Planitia and the "real" one.

While the visual evidence is not entirely clear, it looks to me like this is not an orbital facility, but rather something on the surface of Mars. The display seems to make a distinction between orbital stations on the left and planetary locations on the right. It also appears that all of the structures are built between the craters. An orbital station would visually overlap at least some of the craters on the ground.

On the other hand, even if it is an orbital facility it still looks markedly different from what we see in "Relativity." However the last season of TNG should roughly correspond with the time period just before the first season of Voyager - the time period we're witnessing in "Relativity."

Three possible explanations for the inconsistency: (1) The shipyards are very large and we are just seeing two different portions of the same facility in these two episodes. (2) The orbital facility is modular (which it appears to be in "Relativity") and its configuration can be significantly changed even within a few months time. (3) There is a ground-based and an orbital part of the shipyards. Perhaps some components are fabricated on the ground and then ferried into orbit where major construction is completed. Interestingly, the existence of a ground facility would also provide some justification for the ground based production of the Enterprise as shown in the trailers for the upcoming Star Trek movie.

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