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In TNG Season 4 Episode 25, "In Theory", the Enterprise uses one of its shuttlecraft to guide it out of a region with, uh, magic pieces of space which do bad things.

Let's ignore the fact that they can just pilot everything using their computers, because that's a universal plot hole in Star Trek.

Anyway, at some point, one of the shuttle's nacelles gets damaged, making it difficult for the pilot to control it. Why don't they just send a second shuttle and have the first one fall back (possibly even tractoring it if it has trouble landing in the shuttle bay)?

Also, once the shuttle is destroyed, why don't they use another one? It's much more dangerous to have the Enterprise hit one of those things than another shuttle, after all.

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    Re: "magic pieces of space which do bad things"; I believe the term of art is "negative space wedgie." :D
    – DavidW
    Nov 18, 2021 at 20:18
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    in Season 3 TNG "Booby Trap", it was clearly shown that a human could pilot the ship out of a booby trapped asteroid field successfully wheras the computer failed repeatedly to navigate out of the booby trap in millions of simulations. So it's not really a plot hole.
    – NKCampbell
    Nov 18, 2021 at 20:32
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    @NKCampbell: Artificial stupidity.
    – einpoklum
    Nov 18, 2021 at 20:54

1 Answer 1

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The key is that the anomalies themselves are moving, and neither Enterprise nor the shuttle has any way of mapping them.

DATA: As the Enterprise moves through this nebula, it is colliding with these deformations.

LAFORGE: So every time we hit one, part of the ship momentarily phases out of normal space.

DATA: Or when one of them hits us. My readings suggest that the deformations themselves are in motion.

PICARD: Mister Data, could you reconfigure the sensors to detect these anomalies?

DATA: Yes, sir, but only at extremely close range.

(All quotes are from the transcript at chakoteya.net.)

Returning the shuttle to the ship wouldn't have reduced the danger it was in: it would have been just as easy for the shuttle to stumble upon an anomaly on the way back. Plus, the Enterprise would be a sitting duck until they could get another shuttle out. At least while moving they have some ability to dodge and at least mitigate the damage:

MCKNIGHT: Yes, sir, I've got it. Course corrected.

WORF: Deformation impact on deck fifteen, science section.... Minimal damage.

And they were fairly close to the edge of the field* when the shuttle is lost:

DATA: Commander, we are nearing the perimeter. One million kilometres away.

RIKER: All right, let's make a run for it.

That's compared to about thirty million kilometers when they started their run.

Given the short distance to cover and the relative danger of standing still vs. pressing on, it seems like Riker (always a man to press the odds) prefers to take their chances while moving rather than waiting for another shuttle to launch and take up position.

*Quite how you determine the perimeter of a field of anomalies you can't see on sensors, I don't know. Probably Data could tell you.

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  • 1." Returning the shuttle to the ship wouldn't have reduced the danger it was in" <- But a different shuttle would have been able to navigate properly. 2. "It would have been just as easy for the shuttle to stumble upon an anomaly on the way back." <- No, because another shuttle would have better control. Plus, even if that's true - better the shuttle than the ship. 3. "And they were fairly close" <- That could be a decent excuse I suppose.
    – einpoklum
    Nov 19, 2021 at 8:22
  • "My readings suggest that the deformations themselves are in motion." It's interesting how they speak of there being an objective "stationary" reference frame. Nov 19, 2021 at 8:25
  • @einpoklum When I say "the danger it was in", I mean the damaged shuttle, and likewise I was referring to the damaged shuttle running into an anomaly while returning to Enterprise. That's my reasoning for why they didn't recall the existing shuttle, separate from why they didn't launch another one.
    – Cadence
    Nov 19, 2021 at 16:57
  • But while returning to the Enterprise, the shuttle knows where all of the nearby naughty bits are, so it's in much less danger.
    – einpoklum
    Nov 19, 2021 at 18:42
  • @einpoklum But they don't! Because the anomalies are moving across their path, they could be hit by an unexpected one at any time. It's not like a minefield where they can map them out with confidence.
    – Cadence
    Nov 19, 2021 at 18:51

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