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In the TNG episode "Contagion", the sister ship of the Enterprise-D, the USS Yamato, is destroyed. An investigation into the cause leads the Enterprise to a planet in the Neutral Zone whose existence proves that the mythical "Iconians" — technologically-advanced beings who were purportedly able to hop nearly instantaneously from planet to planet — were real.

On Iconia, Picard, Data, and Worf enter a control room in which an inter-planetary gateway appears. It seems to cycle between a number of pre-programmed destinations around the galaxy.

I watched the episode today and — being a Toronto resident at the moment — I was very surprised to see that one of the destinations is Toronto City Hall. In the screen capture below, Worf is standing beside the gateway. The two semi-circular towers and central pod of City Hall are clearly visible, as are the arches over the reflecting pool in Nathan Phillips Square (which City Hall is a part of).

The gateway showing the Toronto City Hall

Here is a photo of City Hall from almost the same angle:

Toronto City Hall

The "Toronto" destination doesn't seem to be random necessarily, since the scene in the episode shows the gateway cycling between what appears to be a fixed number of destinations.

My question is:

Why would the Iconians want to visit Toronto City Hall (or whatever the building is supposed to represent here)?

I am interested in both in-universe and out-of-universe aspects of this issue. Was this indeed Toronto in-universe, or was it supposed to represent somewhere else? Out-of-universe, how did an image of Toronto City Hall come to be on The Next Generation as an alien vacation spot?

Having done a bit of research, I should add that I am already aware of the following dubious comment in the Memory Alpha article on the episode:

A stock photograph of Toronto City Hall was viewed through the Iconian gateway as a potential destination for the Iconians. Due to the advanced age of the gateway, it is unlikely that this photograph was intended to represent the Earth city.

I can certainly accept that the building is not City Hall in-universe, but I find this unsupported comment dubious because of the way at which it arrives at its conclusion. There is no indication in the episode that the imagery in the gateway is from the time that the gateway was built. On the contrary, the images seem to be current, including the Enterprise-D bridge itself:

Worf carrying Data to the Enterprise-D

This comment aside, is there any information on the in-universe and out-of-universe reasons for why Toronto makes a cameo here?

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    Why not? Who wouldn't want to visit Toronto! – user46509 Jul 29 '15 at 18:26
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    Maybe they wanted to sample some poutine – Jason Baker Jul 29 '15 at 18:33
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    out of universe: Toronto city hall is somewhat "science-fiction-ish" with its modern design. – Max Jul 29 '15 at 18:33
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    @JasonBaker : Well, then they should have pointed it at Montreal, eh? – Praxis Jul 29 '15 at 18:34
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    @Praxis - Spotting a retail property boom 50,000 years in advance is pretty impressive. – Valorum Jul 29 '15 at 18:41
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I have several in-universe theories:

Theory 1: Starfleet Conspiracy

In the non-canon TNG comic 'An Inconvenient Truth', it appears that the members of the Starfleet Conspiracy had an Iconian Gateway. Now, we don't actually know where their base was:

it was located either on or in Earth or a near by body.

(Source)

If we assume that it was located on Earth, it could be that the base was somewhere near Toronto and the gateway on Iconia was pointing to that entrance. A bit of a dodgy theory I concede, as the question then is raised of why it didn't just point directly to the gateway.

Theory 2: Time Travel

This concept is mentioned briefly on Memory Alpha (emphasis mine):

One of the images in "Contagion" is clearly recognizable as the city hall buildings of Toronto, Ontario in Canada. One could presume then that the city hall buildings remained standing in Toronto through the centuries or the Gateways traveled through time as well.

So, the Iconians may have set up this gateway to this particular location, knowing that in the future it would be a large business center on the planet Earth.

Theory 3: Future Plans

We know that the Iconians were a race which visited other planets and were spread throughout the galaxy. It is possible that they had plans of visiting Earth, before the rest of the galaxy ganged up on them and bombarded them from space. They just had not gotten around to visiting Earth yet and the place they chose was pure coincidence that Toronto City Hall was right in front of it.

This is my favourite theory and, although not supported by much evidence, is probably the most reasonable I expect.

Theory 4: Someone was tampering with the gateway

We see that in the DS9 episode To The Death that the Dominion get a gateway and seemingly manipulate it so they have access to several major sites, including Starfleet headquarters, Paris, Dozaria, Paris, Bajor and Cardassia. Now, it seems unlikely to me that the Iconians would just happen to set this gateway to provide access to such strategically important areas during the Dominion War: it is most likely that the Dominion had manipulated it. Hence, I propose this theory that someone else had found the Iconian gateway setup and had been playing with it, perhaps accidentally (or even intentionally) setting one of the destinations as being Toronto City Hall and then walking through, perhaps to a completely different setting!

Theory 5: It's not Toronto!

On the Memory Alpha page for the actual episode (Contagion) the following is suggested:

A stock photograph of Toronto City Hall was viewed through the Iconian gateway as a possible destination for the Iconians. Due to the advanced age of the gateway, it seems unlikely that this photograph was intended to represent the Earth city.

So, perhaps it wasn't even Toronto, but was some other planet altogether!

This is supported by a TOS comic where we see Toronto City Hall, but it isn't Toronto City Hall!:

enter image description here

(Source)

Theory 6 (Kudos RobertF)

As explained in RobertF's answer (please upvote it!) it may have been that the Iconian Gateway was intelligent enough to detect the homeworlds of the crew and so portrayed it there. Remember that the Iconian gateway also showed the Enterprise-D bridge - it seems a bit peculiar that it would show that merely by chance!


I acknowledge that I have only addressed the in-universe side of the question and I'll keep searching for relevant information about the out-of-universe decision to choose this site.

  • Good collection of theories, and I like the comic book reference. I'm perfectly happy to believe that it's not intended to be Toronto, but just to make sure you are aware, the Memory Alpha quote in Theory 5 was already debunked in my original question. In any case, nice work! +1 :-) – Praxis Jul 30 '15 at 13:59
  • This is all pretty ridiculous. If you want to believe it is Toronto, then you also have to explain why so planets have the same buildings on them as evidence by the reused matte painting in establishing shots. (ex-astris-scientia.org/inconsistencies/reused_planets.htm) There is obviously no in-universe explanation. End of story. – ThePopMachine Jul 30 '15 at 20:22
  • @ThePopMachine : Personally, I don't need to believe that it is Toronto; I make that clear in the question itself and in the comment directly above. I just want to know what it is in-universe and, like many questions that we see where there may be no in-universe answer, I say that out-of-universe answers are okay too. But one shouldn't rule out a possibly non-canon but in-universe answer so quickly. There are numerous Star Trek novels and comics, and several feature the Iconians. It is conceivable that some of these describe the Iconians' destinations. – Praxis Jul 30 '15 at 23:04
  • @Praxis, I didn't mean to offend. I just mean that all of theories 1-4 look like extreme stretches to justify in-universe something which clearly only has an out-of-universe explanation (IMO). Just like in my point in the above comment: are we to believe that by some huge in-universe quirk (conspiracy, coincidence, etc.), there are planets all over the galaxy that to virtually the same layout of buildings and landscape? – ThePopMachine Jul 30 '15 at 23:17
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    @N_Soong : Just saw your comment about 100th answer -- very belated congrats! I really like both your answer and RobertF's and so I am having a hard time choosing which one to accept! You might want to add RobertF's idea as a possible theory (with due credit to him of course). Also, I pinged you a link a while ago with a comic book panel showing that the TOS crew might have been to this "Toronto-esque" planet before, which works with both your Theory 5 and RobertF's theory...not that your incredible answer needs anything else, I just want to make an open-shut case for acceptance! ;-) – Praxis Aug 22 '15 at 8:23
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Another explanation is the Iconian gateway was semi-intelligent (think a dumbed down version of the Guardian of Forever) and could sense which species was accessing the portal. The gateway would then offer a (random?) location on that species' homeworld as a potential destination.

I don't think the image of Toronto City Hall necessarily implies the gateway permitted time travel into the past. It's not too farfetched that Toronto City Hall would still be standing in the future - after all, the Golden Gate Bridge has certainly survived into the 24th century.

  • Hmm, but the individuals there had a home planet of Earth, Q'Onos and Omicron Theta - we don't see the latter two being shown (I should know about Omicron Theta - I lived there for a while ;P) – Often Right Jul 30 '15 at 4:33
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    @N_Soong : That's a good point! But, if it were semi-intelligent and able to somehow determine where the away team is from (or at least where they have been), then it might know that Worf was raised on Earth. Also, it might deduce that Data is a machine and decide that he has no planet at such. Just speculating. :-) – Praxis Jul 30 '15 at 13:58
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    And don't forget the gateway linked to the bridge of the Enterprise. Yea, I'm guessing the gate somehow detected the origins of most of the crew on the Enterprise, or the ship itself, was Earth. Perhaps the gate would have eventually cycled through Q'Onos and Omicron Theta, given time. – RobertF Jul 30 '15 at 14:45
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    Not that a video game is particularly strong canon, but per STO, Iconians' fundamental nature renders them incapable of time travel - they go mad. Thier gateways would not have any time travelling effects. – T.J.L. Jul 30 '15 at 15:18
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Attaching importance to the look of people and places and things, etc. is assuming that the frame story of Star Trek involves sending actual recordings of various adventures back in time to the 20th century.

Another possible type of frame story would involve sending knowledge of the events back in time to the 20th century. Then the creators of Star Trek would have made movies and tv shows with actors, sets, and props, etc., based on the information sent back in time to the 20th century. In that type of frame story the look of characters, ships, objects, places, astronomical bodies, etc. in the programs and movies could differ strongly from the actual appearances of the "real" characters, ships, objects, places, astronomical bodies, etc. they represent.

Until there is canon proof of one or the other type of frame story there is no strong reason to assume that the Iconian gateway showed a destination resembling the current Toronto City Hall.

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