1

Janeway's choice seemed like horribly failed diplomacy and greed. Such a simple solution existed if they just let the ship go, this Spatial Trajector could absolutely have helped the crew. Why didn't the crew themselves take the Spatial Trajector shortcut?

JANEWAY: What do you think? Would it be possible to modify your technology so we could use it?

EUDORA: I tried to tell him.

JANEWAY: What is it?

GATH: We cannot share our technology. Once it's out of our control, it might fall into the hands of those who would abuse it, and our canon of laws strictly forbids that.

KIM: But we wouldn't abuse it. Don't you see what it would mean to us?

With good diplomacy they had two ways the Trajector could have greatly benefitted them, and of course, plan C which is to not use it at all:

Sikaris Home Plan

These plans are as follows, and detailed a bit further down:

  • A. STSGMH (Screw The Ship, Get Me Home) 5-year plan (estimate).

  • B. IWMPST (I Want My Pretty Ship Too) - 40-year plan (estimate).

  • C. STCSMS (Screw The Crew, Save My Ship) - 70-year plan (the one they chose)

As Gath said Sikaris' space-folding technology was protected by laws. They were afraid Trajector technology would be abused if they lost control of it. So they wrote their laws to prevent anyone else from making another Spatial Trajector. OK, great! They can KEEP control. They can keep everything! Just get the crew home in two simple steps!

First, Chakotay already confirmed that the Spatial Trajector matrix could be reconfigured to work on a distant planet:

KIM I can't believe they're not going to help us.

TORRES Some kind of hospitality. 40,000 light years. Even if that's as far as we could go, it would still knock about four decades off our trip.

CHAKOTAY And the possibility exists that we could reconfigure the matrix at that point, to take us another 30,000 light-years, right into Federation space.

At this point Tuvok kills the logic train saying "They have already said no." Here they seem to get hung up on moving Voyager and forget the actual mission of getting the crew home.

Possible ways home:
Plan A is a very simple two-hop plan which saves 65 years of risky space travel. It assumes Chakotay was correct and the Sikarian laws are what they claim to be - technology security. Janeway uses diplomacy to get Sikaris to build a Spatial Trajector on the Midway Planet - with no help from Voyager (respect their laws). The crew hops to Midway, then home. Sikaris can keep the new device or destroy it - they still own it. Voyager buys this labor with their valuable stories. Let's assume building a Trajector takes 5 years (blind guess), but certainly much less than 70. Sikaris gets exactly what they want, no laws are broken, no-one steals their technology, the crew is home.

Plan B is an option to just move Voyager 40,000 light years through the Trajector, piece by piece. This considers the possibility that the Sikarian laws were protecting nothing at all, Chakotay doesn't know what he's talking about, and it's somehow impossible to replicate a Trajector. Fine. Some comments suggest this, that Chakotay had no clue what he was talking about re: the claim that the matrix could be reconfigured. If the Trajector can't be copied, the ship most defiitely can be. Maybe it takes 10 years to dismantle Voyager and rebuild her on Midway Planet. Launch the rebuilt Voyager from Midway Planet and get home 30 years earlier than driving the whole way. Sikaris gets what they want, no one steals their tech, no laws are broken, the crew AND Voyager are home. Resources? Sikaris can jump to any system within 40k LY for free, so they had limitless resources to build a new ship.

Plan C was Tuvok's plan - this assumes the Sikarians don't understand their own technology, Chakotay was wrong about reconfiguring the matrix on another planet, and also Torres misspoke when she said the Trajector was incompatible with Federation technology:

TORRES This will never be compatible with Federation technology.

So for this plan we must assume she meant to say the Trajector can't work anywhere but Sikaris and just misspoke her line.

Tuvok's plan was to steal the technology, jury-rig it into a Federation starship, haphazardly rush into a shade-tree garage engine rebuild (causing them to forget about antineutrinos), and anger the Sikarians. After those steps permanently close the door to Sikaris, drive home for 70 years and hope your grandchildren see Earth.

Now I can't even imagine why they didn't consider copying the trajector or rebuilding the ship at the midpoint. No one mentioned it. They seemed obsessed with getting their ship home and never even mentioned the crew.

This is only a problem because on another time, they WERE willing to leave the ship behind. In Eye of The Needle they were ready to beam themselves through a wormhole onto a Romulan research ship. Of course, it took them 20 years into the past so it was a no-go.

Remember they had extremely generous offers for both resources and labor. Building another small personal trajector should be simple. Rebuilding Voyager - a little more challenging but much better than plan C.

  • 1
    When Chakotay said "the possibility exists that we could reconfigure the matrix at that point" he didn't know that the technology depended on Sikaris's mantle of tetrahedral quartz. But he didn't "just make it up" and he wasn't "lying" - he was speculating, for heaven's sake! He only said possibility, after all. – Harry Johnston Oct 3 at 23:33
  • OK I think that is speculation. Mistakes like this typically get called out in the episode at some point - this one did not. Hence the question. In any case, plan B was still better than what they did. – Vogon Poet Oct 3 at 23:37
  • I don't know what you mean regarding Tuvok's plan. Tuvok's plan was to steal the technology and use it. He didn't know about the anti-neutrinos or the tetrahedral quartz. Are you imagining that the characters are all omniscient? :-) – Harry Johnston Oct 3 at 23:37
  • Huh? Chakotay's mistake was called out in the episode. That was the entire point of the second-to-last scene in engineering - that stealing the technology wasn't going to work, because techno-babble. It's true that they didn't explicitly say, "oh, that means Chakotay was mistaken when he suggested it might be possible to reconfigure the matrix at the half-way point" but why would they? What would be the point? – Harry Johnston Oct 3 at 23:40
  • See the edits plz – Vogon Poet Oct 3 at 23:44
9

The two-hop solution wouldn't work.

From the Memory Alpha article on the spatial trajector:

The spatial trajector was a technology utilized by the Sikarians, a species native to the Delta Quadrant, which allowed them to transport to planets up to 40,000 light years away. Operating on the principle of folding space, the trajector utilized antineutrinos as a catalyst for the space-folding process. It then created a neutrino envelope around the object or person to be transported, and used Sikaris's mantle of tetrahedral quartz to focus and amplify the trajector field. This limitation meant that the trajector could only be used on or near the planet itself.

(emphasis mine)

And from the episode transcript at chakotea.net:

SESKA: The trajector field is bigger than anything we've created by ten orders of magnitude.

CAREY: To get a field that size, you'd need an amplifier as big as a planet!

SESKA: I don't understand. How do they get that kind of amplification?

TORRES: I'll show you. Sikaris has a mantle of tetrahedral quartz twenty kilometres thick. The crystalline structure of the mantle seems to focus and amplify the trajector field.

CAREY: If that's how the power transfer occurs, then once we leave orbit we loose the ability to traject.

The idea that this is only because Voyager is so big doesn't really sit well with the stated premise of the technology:

KIM: Apparently it's never been used to move anything as large as Voyager, but as I understand the principle of space folding, the size of the object isn't relevant.

In other words, the problem is generating an anti-neutrino field large enough to fold space at all, and that's why you need an amplifier "as big as a planet". It doesn't have anything to do with the size of the object you're transporting.


Now, out of universe, both the bit about needing the planetary core and the bit about the anti-neutrinos could be argued to constitute a Diabolus ex Machina - basically, an implausible excuse to justify the protagonist's failure. And that could be considered bad writing, though personally I don't hold Star Trek to that sort of literary standard. But whether or not you consider it bad writing, it wasn't an outright plot hole. There would have been a plot hole, and the writers noticed and explicitly plugged it.


Regarding the reasons for the Sikarian's concerns that their technology might be abused, this is the relevant part of the script:

GATH: We cannot share our technology. Once it's out of our control, it might fall into the hands of those who would abuse it, and our canon of laws strictly forbids that.

This echoes the Prime Directive as applied to Starfleet technology. This is not a coincidence. Out of universe, one of the main points of the episode is to put Janeway on the other side of the same dilemma they face whenever someone asks for Federation technology, often for a very good reason.

And, just like the Prime Directive, it isn't just about individual bits of equipment. The law doesn't say, "it is forbidden to give alien species any trajector units", it says "it is forbidden to give alien species any of our technological knowledge", which naturally includes giving them examples of technology that they might then reverse engineer.

So, even if we assume that reverse engineering a trajector unit wouldn't give the Federation any technological knowledge they didn't already have (which is not in evidence) and that they wouldn't be able to abuse the trajector unit itself (which doesn't really seem to be something Garth is too worried about) that doesn't change the fact that to do so would be against the law, and the Sikarians consider it essential to their culture to follow the law to the letter:

GATH: Please, don't make it more difficult for me. I don't enjoy denying you this, but our canon of laws has determined our entire system of values. To break one of it's precepts would undermine everything we believe in. I'm sorry, but there can be no exceptions to the law.

He isn't inventing "some espionage excuse", because espionage has nothing to do with it. It is suggested later on that he is being more strict about the law than necessary because he wants Voyager to stay, for his own selfish reasons. But even from that perspective, he has no reason to explain the reasons for the 40,000 light year range limit; if anything, that would undermine his position.

... for that matter, one could argue that telling Janeway the fact that the trajector uses the tetrahedral quartz mantle would itself be against the law. That's giving away technological information.

In any case, at the end of the episode Gath turns out to be a malicious little so-and-so only interested in his own gratification. Even if your plan were technologically feasible, Gath would never have gone along with it.

JANEWAY: Yes, but for how long? I've seen how quickly you get tired of your pleasures. All that interests you is what's new and unexplored. After a day or two it becomes commonplace.

GATH: Yes?

JANEWAY: We prefer permanence. The reward of relationships that endure and grow deeper with the passing of time.

GATH: You would loose those notions if you stayed with us.

JANEWAY: You may be right. And that's why we have to leave.

GATH: We have offered you nothing but hospitality. Is this how you repay us? With an attack on our beliefs?

JANEWAY: I'm sorry. I was just trying to illustrate the differences between us.

GATH: I don't enjoy being judged like this. It's very upsetting. Not at all pleasurable.

JANEWAY: That's all you really care about, isn't it? Your pleasure. All your hospitality, your graciousness, it was never about giving us pleasure. It's all been to gratify yourselves. We're nothing more than the latest novelty.

GATH: You're hostile and vicious. You would infect the joyousness of our lives. You must leave immediately.

JANEWAY: You never had any intention of helping us, did you?

GATH: Of course I did. I did everything in my power to persuade you to stay here.

JANEWAY: Janeway to Voyager. One to beam up.


Your new suggestion that they could have dismantled and rebuilt Voyager is interesting, but I think impractical considering the amount of labour involved in constructing a Voyager-size starship. I'm not sure whether the show ever quantifies this, but it is I think implied to be enormous; for a start you need a ginormous orbital shipyard, and that's just for a start.

It may not even be possible to dismantle Voyager without breaking some of the essential components - I'm thinking in particular of the warp core and antimatter containment, though they might not be the only problem. They can't be sent through the trajector while powered up for the same reason Voyager can't, and they can't be turned off or you lose containment and goodbye planet. :-)

(It would also be an issue that Janeway wasn't allowed to expose Voyager's technology to the Sikarians any more than the Sikarians were allowed to expose their technology to the Voyager crew.)

  • Johnson - This is actually only a limitation against sending an enormouse Federation starship with plasma coils through a trajector, obviously not true for a 70kg person. The entire reason Tuvok had to coverty buy the technology was because the Sikurians were afraid it would get into the wrong hands. I have to assume Gath was not a complete idiot. If the trajector can't be used off their planet they wouldn't need to keep it a secret. Right? – Vogon Poet Sep 17 at 21:27
  • 1
    Seems to me that someone could install a trajector onto a warship or weapon of mass destruction, sneak it into orbit around Sikaris, and send it instantly to the target. Or perhaps they were worried that someone would one day find another planet with the right composition, or figure out some way around the limitation, or misuse the underlying technology. – Harry Johnston Sep 17 at 21:30
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    The limitation is clearly that the trajector only works in proximity with a specific planet, it has nothing to do with the size or mass of the object being transported. As it has a range of 40k light years and Voyager is 70k light years from Earth there's no way they can "get a free trip home" with this technology. – user22478 Sep 17 at 21:31
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    ... if carrying a personal trajector let you travel anywhere in the galaxy, the Sikarians would have made use of that ability, and they didn't. – Harry Johnston Sep 17 at 21:32
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    They used the trajector extensively within its range. If extending the range were as simple as you suggest, why wouldn't they have done so? I would say that your assumption that a portable trajector can be built are conjecture, and unsupported by the dialogue! – Harry Johnston Sep 17 at 21:45
-2

There was an obvious limit to moving Federation technology through the trajector as noted, but moving the crew and another small trajector unit should be fine. This appears to be a plot flaw or just poor judgement on the part of leadership. The Sikaris were very concerned about someone duplicating their trajector and it falling into the wrong hands - they made a law to prevent just that. Thus, unless they simply didn't even understand it themselves the problem seems to be a misguided attempt to bring the whole ship home. Likely they simply didn't think about two-hopping, because Janeway never asked:

KIM: Apparently it's never been used to move anything as large as Voyager, but as I understand the principle of space folding, the size of the object isn't relevant.

JANEWAY: What do you think? Would it be possible to modify your technology so we could use it?

EUDORA: I tried to tell him.

JANEWAY: What is it?

GATH: We cannot share our technology. Once it's out of our control, it might fall into the hands of those who would abuse it, and our canon of laws strictly forbids that.

KIM: But we wouldn't abuse it. Don't you see what it would mean to us?

There seems to be no restrictions on using the Sikarian technology as it was designed, however Harry Kim wanted to modify it. That modification is what restricted the use of the Voyager's trajector.

The Sikaris knew how to duplicate the technology: as they provided a module to Voyager. The idea that it would not work from another location was never suggested: that was in fact what Sikarian law was designed to prevent. Would they need to keep the technology secret if it was impossible to duplicate?

Is it possible they were afraid someone would build a trajector to use against them sending troops or bombs from orbit? Only remotely, because such a device would be little more effective than a transporter.

If this technology only worked on Sikaris, then the only force who could possible abuse it had to be physically located at Sikaris. From that point, they would have to conquer the Sikarians and relocate their base of operations there.

The question has been raised as to why a race with this technology can't travel the entire galaxy in hops. From this one episode is it known that they didn't? Generally, the peaceful and generous nature of the Sikarian poeple does't suggest they would do this. However, it remains another potential plot flaw.

I find it likely that this was an oversight while trying to make a convincing plot where Tuvok was a covert operative against an established law and there was a conspiracy in the engine room.

  • 1
    As discussed in the first major edit to my answer, I believe you've misunderstood the law in question: it isn't specifically about trajectors, it applies to any technology, the same as the Prime Directive. I've also just added a section about why the size of the object being trajected isn't relevant. – Harry Johnston Sep 18 at 17:42
  • The question never suggests size matter. Torres specifically said it was the technology that was not compatible. People have no technology (except the Doctor) However, Harry Kim believed "the size should not be relevant based upon his understanding of time folding science." That doesn't make it true, and obviously there were flaws in their understanding of time-folding technology. Antineutrinos. – Vogon Poet Sep 18 at 18:48
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    Just to clarify, I added the section about the size of the trajected object not being relevant because of this comment: "This is actually only a limitation against sending an enormouse Federation starship with plasma coils through a trajector, obviously not true for a 70kg person." I believe the author's intent was that trajector technology only works on Sikaris, regardless of how large or small the object being trajected is. – Harry Johnston Sep 18 at 22:35
  • "The idea that it would not work from another location was never suggested" Erm, that's pretty clearly spelled out in the episode, and leads to the "rush" at the end. The trajectory unit is designed to work in conjunction with the quartz mantle - like how a mobile phone needs proximity to a phone mast. While it might be possible to rework it to not need the mantle, that's the "field size requirement" issue that Starfleet had run into previously while studying the technology on their own - the required field is 10,000,000,000 times larger than any that Starfleet has ever managed. – Chronocidal Oct 2 at 14:29

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