Why “Star Trek: Into Darkness” Isn’t Good Science Fiction, part 1


The hallmark of good science fiction isn’t necessarily good science.  If it were completely scientifically accurate, it wouldn’t be science fiction; it would be a NOVA special.  I would claim that the hallmark of good science fiction is self-consistency.  You break the laws of Physics? OK, but you still need to play fair with your readers or your watchers.  That is, if you hypothesize some grand new technology or scientific breakthrough, don’t ignore the implications when it’s inconvenient…

By this criterion, the second of the Star Trek reboot movies, Star Trek: Into Darkness, fails utterly.  Here are only a few of the problems; I’m not even going to discuss issues involving acting and the plot. Be aware that BIG spoilers follow.

The transwarp, part 1:  In an early scene, Sherlock Hol… I mean, Smau… I mean, Khan/John Harrison, “transwarps” from Earth to the main planet of the Klingon Empire.  The transwarp was Scotty’s invention from the first movie, a combination (somehow) of the transporter with the Warp Drive.  Well, stars are many light years, meaning at least trillions of miles apart.  Even if the Klingon empire is located in the next-nearest star system, it’s a distance of about 65 trillion miles.  He has to transwarp there with an accuracy of a few feet in order to avoid falling off the big cliff he appears on top of.  This is an accuracy of about 1 part in 50 quadrillion (a quadrillion is a thousand trillion.)  To put this into context, if we knew the Earth’s diameter to that accuracy, we would know it to the size of one atom…

The transwarp drive, part 2:  OK, let’s assume we have this phenomenal accuracy.  A large part of the plot is the Federation’s anxiety over going to war with the Klingons. If you have the transwarp and the Klingons don’t, why worry?  Just transwarp an antimatter bomb on them if they make too much trouble.  (If they have transwarp as well, then everyone is in trouble…)  More things suggest themselves: with transwarp, why have starships?  Transwarp is faster, really accurate, and portable.  Maybe it’s not cheap, but starships aren’t either.  (My book estimates antimatter production costs starting at billions of dollars…)

These are only a few of the problems with the movie – stay tuned for more!


One thought on “Why “Star Trek: Into Darkness” Isn’t Good Science Fiction, part 1

  1. Hi, I’m a radio producer interested in having you on my show to talk about your book and applying scientific rigor to science fiction. Shoot me an email at njarin [at] bonneville [dot] com if you’re interested in coming on The Jason Rantz Show on KIRO Radio in Seattle. Thanks!


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