Geological Star Trek Review – “Encounter at Farpoint”

“Encounter at Farpoint” is the pilot episode and series premiere of the American science-fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), which premiered on September 28, 1987. In Star Trek: The Original Series, almost 43 minerals are mentioned and also in TNG minerals play a role. Various adventures of the new USS Enterprise-D happen as the spaceship is checking on mining colonies or retrieving minerals and ore.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard kept a small transparent crystal on the desk in his ready room aboard the Enterprise. He often played with the crystal when he had to make an important decision, like seen in the episode “Conspiracy”, “Where Silence Has Lease”, “Suddenly Human”, “A Matter of Time”, “The Masterpiece Society” and more. His first officer, William T. Riker, also did so on occasion (“Gambit, Part I”).

Jean-Luc Picard’s favourite crystal.

In the year 2364, the newest flagship of the United Federation of Planets, Starfleet’s USS Enterprise, travels to the planet Deneb IV for its maiden voyage. Deneb IV (or Alpha Cygni IV) is a Class M planet according to the classification system adopted in the Star Trek universe. The classification system is based on size (gas giants or small, rocky worlds), composition (rock-metal core or gas), geological activity (inactive- active), atmosphere (from oxygen-rich to toxic) and comprises fourteen planet types. For example, planets suitable for humanoid lifeforms, small, rocky worlds with some geological activity and an oxygen-rich atmosphere, are classified as M after Minshara, the native name of Vulcan, homeworld of Commander Spock. Deneb IV is also tectonically active as the mention of geothermal energy suggests.

The natives of Deneb IV, the Bandi people, offer a highly advanced base on the planet’s surface- Farpoint Station – to be used by Starfleet. As the crew of the Enterprise visits the station, they soon discover that the entire building is actually an alien lifeform, able to convert the geothermal energy in matter and structures of the station.

The transformation of energy into solid matter plays a role in the replicator units and holodecks of the Enterprise, but most important is the property of Radan to control energy. In the Star Trek universe this mineral is not only a rare and valued gemstone, but it is used in its purest and crystalline form – dilithium -in matter-antimatter reactors powering spaceships as its (supposedly) cubic crystal structure can somehow control the flow of antimatter. This science-fiction property of the crystalline dilithium may be not so far-fetched. Some real crystals, such as calcite, can filter or distort certain wavelengths of light, a form of energy.

References:

  • De FOURESTIER, J. (2005): The Mineralogy of Star Trek. Axis, Vol.1(3): 1-24
  • De FOURESTIER, J. (2016): The mineralogy of Star Trek: the next series. Axis, Vol.12(1): 1-24
  • NOOR, M.A.F. (2018): Live Long and Evolve – What Star Trek Can Teach Us about Evolution. Princeton University Press: 208
  • STEVENSON, D.S. (2018): Granite Skyscrapers – How Rocks Shaped Earth And Other Worlds. Springer: 386

Autor: David Bressan

Bressan-Geoconsult bietet geologische Dienste im Alpenraum an, mit Schwerpunkt auf geologische Kartierung, Betreuung von Bohrungen, Quartärgeologie, Hydrogeologie und Baugeologie. Kontakt: david@bressan-geoconsult.eu

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