In TNG: Contagion Data and Picard find an ancient Iconian gateway. This gateway provides the ability to instantaneously transport oneself around the galaxy.

In Voyager, Janeway and her crew explore many ways of trying to get back to Federation space. We also learn that Janeway is an expert in quantum mechanics

Why didn't Janeway ever explore the technology behind the Iconian Gateway as a means of getting her crew back home?

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    I've removed two of the tags. 1. I don't see how [instantaneous-galactic-travel] is a very useful tag. Seems pretty moot to me and didn't really need to be created. If you think it's necessary please take it to Science Fiction & Fantasy Meta. 2. The question is less about Quantum Physics and more about Janeway's lack of exploring a different technology. An expert in Quantum Physics wouldn't necessarily know the answer to this. Finally, I removed the [star-trek-tng] tag because the question is asking about her motivations in Voyager not tng the technology merely comes from tng. Same expert argument applies
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 9:09
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    @Edlothiad - I've put TNG back in. The question relates to tech seen in a TNG episode, not Voyager.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 10:52
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    @Edlothiad - Because the question can be answered with zero reference to Voyager. It's basically "What happened to the Iconian tech seen in TNG: Contagion"
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 10:56
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    @Valorum It is a better formatting to me, especially since it differentiate between the series and the ship with the same name.
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 14:22
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    @Valorum I get your point, but I was just trying to improve it, not to change the whole meaning or disrespect the author. Anyway, fine like that.
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 16:10

3 Answers 3


Picard intentionally destroyed all records of the Iconian's technology including the gateway, the probes and all of their own scans.

PICARD: (handing the tricorder to Worf) Destroy this.

WORF: But, sir, it contains the record of all that we have discovered here.

PICARD: And that is precisely why it must be destroyed. Time?

WORF: Three minutes.

PICARD: (to himself) I am running out of time. We all are.

Picard kneels beside Data and pulls him up until the android is supported against his shoulder. Worf lays the tricorder on the floor of the chamber and fires his phaser at it. The tricorder VANISHES.

PICARD: (continuing) This room and the technology contained in it must be destroyed. It cannot be allowed to fall into Romulan hands.

TNG: Contagion - Original Screenplay

What remains are simply the recollections of the crew, little better than broad descriptions of a technology that's so far in advance of the Federation's that it might as well just be magic. We can assume that the post-mission debrief went something like this...

Federation Scientist: So, Captain Picard, can you please describe the Iconian Gateway in as much detail as possible.

Picard: It was a sort of glowing window thing that went places.

Federation Scientist: OK. Thanks for that. Very useful.

As regards any scans taken of the second Iconian Gateway seen in DS9: To the Death, based on Worf's account of the previous mission, and noting Starfleet's approval of Picard's decision to destroy all data about the Iconian Gateway, it seems very likely they would have done the same with any readings taken on that gateway, even had it not had a dampening field around it preventing closer inspection.

WORF: I was on the mission that discovered the Iconian homeworld. We were forced to destroy the Gateway we found there rather than let it fall into Romulan hands, and Starfleet Command supported our decision.

DS9: To the Death - Original Screenplay

That being said, it doesn't stop rumours from spreading...

PARIS: If it'll make you feel any better, I'll let you in on a little secret. I was on the bridge this morning when we received a hail from an Iconian scientist. He claims to have a trans-dimensional gateway that can take us anywhere in the galaxy.

KIM: I'm not that gullible.

Voy: Inside Man

  • What is the reference for your second quote?
    – hawkeye
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 20:35
  • @hawkeye I'm guessing that's just a made up joke. I agree it might work better if that was clarified, though. Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 20:41
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    @hawkeye - Sorry, that was my little fanfic about how you'd explain something like that if you didn't know how it worked.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 20:47
  • This answer focuses on Picard's encounter with the technology and what data they collected. But what about when Sisko's crew helped Weyoun defeat a rogue group of Jem'Hadar trying to take control of a gateway in the Gamma quadrant? Did they not collect any data or information then?
    – jpmc26
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 21:52
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    There's also the minor detail of Voyager not encountering an existing gateway, either. Although considering two other quadrants had functioning gateways, it's reasonable to believe there was one somewhere in the delta quadrant.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 23:32

There are several reasons why USS Voyager could not have used the Iconian Gateway system to go back home:

  • As per Revenant's answer, the underlying principles under which the whole Gateway system worked were not fully understood by Federation science. The Iconians were extinct since about 200.000 years prior of the TNG era, so it is unlikely that new discoveries could be made, at least in a small timeframe and by a single ship's crew.

  • We are not talking about a new kind of engine or drive that could be installed and used on a starship to enhance its performance, but about a series of fixed Gateways, that you use in place; in order to use one of them (or even just to study it, for that matter), you must know where it is located, and for what we know, only two of such gateways were known during the TNG timeframe: one on Iconia itself, another on Vandros IV in the Gamma Quadrant. Running around the Delta Quadrant in the hope to find a (working) Gateway could potentially have required far more time and luck than trying to directly go straight home the long way.

  • The planet Iconia, the Iconian homeworld, is located in the Beta Quadrant, in the Romulan Neutral Zone near the Federation space; it is the most likely place to gain more knowledge and to fully understand how the Gateways work, but it is really out of the Voyager reach. Furthermore, the Gateway that was located here was purposely destroyed by the crew of the Enterprise along with all the other structures, so further successful research is highly improbable, at least there.

  • We don't really know, but the Gateways appear to have a set of fixed destinations, it does not seem like one could just choose where he want to go with the current level of knowledge about how they function; or at least, given that this technology is highly obscure, it is not known how to do that if it was indeed possible (but it is very probable that the Iconians were capable to do this, being the creators of this technology). Even if they were lucky enough to find one, they should also hope that the destination suited their needs (just getting closer was not sufficient, since they should have abandoned the ship; see the following point).

  • The Gateways we know of were small and could only let people trough (or objects of similar size), not an entire Starship; Iconians themselves were known to rule a vast empire without the use of spacecraft.
    (Granted, this point is debatable, since if they accidentally found a Gateway with a suitable destination, they could have used it to transport the crew and self-destroy the Voyager).

  • Being Janeway an expert of quantum mechanics doesn't seem to be relevant: as stated, it is not fully understood how the Gateways really work, it is entirely possible that they work on completely different principles.

  • In STO they had gateways large enough to let entire starships (and fleets) come through.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 14:28
  • They found a gateway in the Delta Quadrant. The Iconians traveled far and wide and evidently took their gate-building technology with them
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 14:29
  • @Valorum Thanks for the insights, I don't play STO so I was not aware about this. My answer was based on the TV series.
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 16:05
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    "It does not seem like one could just choose where he wants to go." This is potentially indirectly contradicted by Weyoun, who believes that the Jem'Hadar can use the gateway to accomplish a full takeover of the Dominion and beyond. A technology that does not allow someone to go to a place of their choosing would seem to have very little military value; it's certainly hard to believe such a technology would be so militarily devastating. Regardless, excellent answer. +1
    – jpmc26
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 21:57
  • @jpmc26 good point, I've updated my answer.
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 12:45

The first sentence on the linked page to the gateways answers your question.

The Iconian gateway was a technology developed by the ancient Iconians, whose underlying principles remain well beyond Federation science.

While Janeway may be an expert in quantum mechanics its highly doubtful she is the top of the field in the entire Federation.

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    This seems (largely) irrelevant. The whole point of the Iconian episode is that Picard thinks that the technology will be comprehensible to Federation (and indeed Romulan) science. That's precisely why he destroys it.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 12:08
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    @Valorum it's been years since I watched this episode so I can be totally wrong, but maybe Picard destroyed the technology out of fear that someone could just use it, not necessarily understand it.
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 13:55
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    @Sekhemty - He also ordered Worf to destroy the Tri-corder that had collected readings about it.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 14:07

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