Star Trek (TAS): The Terratin Incident – SF Debris

Opinionated TAS Episode Guide returns with the most classic science fiction concept: shrinking! With Time Travel and Ray Guns, it’s the trinity of old school staples!

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  1. Snorgatch Pandalume

    This is one of those episodes of TAS that really could have benefited from being an hour long instead of only half an hour. We could have had some scenes in the Terratin city with the bridge crew that would have fleshed them out a lot more, instead of them just being tiny people with big egos. And wouldn’t have transporting the Terratins aboard have restored them and their city to normal size? Was that why Kirk uses the phaser on their city during transport? I was never quite clear on that. For a minute it looked like he was going to destroy them when he locked phasers on their city, then the city starts transporting while at the same time the Enterprise shoots phasers at it. Are the reasons for this ever explained? Did the phasers somehow prevent the city from growing during transport, which would have destroyed the Enterprise? Why would that even have been an issue? Presumably the city is made of native materials, so there’s no reason it would grow, just as the dilithium crystals they beamed up from the planet remained small. And since the Terratins have been living there for generations, their bodies would also be made of native molecules, so they wouldn’t grow either.

  2. How does breathing work? Their bodies have the same number of cells to keep alive. Those cells require the same amount of oxygen. And that oxygen is the same size as it was before. Yet their lung volume and the ability for their blood stream to transport oxygen is severely diminished.

    • thespecialneedsgroup

      With a smaller surface area to dissipate heat, your body’s also going to cook itself alive.

      • Snorgatch Pandalume

        Actually, it would be the other way around. Surface to volume ratio increases as you get smaller, so their bodies would lose heat much faster than normal, resulting in hypothermia.

    • Not to mention the molecules themselves would probably be too big to interact with the molecules in your body. Shrinking is one of those sci fi things like time travel that glosses over a lot of issues by necessity. I mean even if you could go back in time because of how in motion the universe is you’d be billions of kilometers away from earth even going back a few years. Best to think too hard about these things most of them are more impractical then you think.

      • Sorry billions is probably too much more like millions, especially when being nitpicky about science, though the result would be the same even with a couple hundred thousand, which is appearing in open space.

      • No, that actually works out just fine. I recall reading something related to string theory that stated gravity is spread out over the 10 dimensions. Time travel within a large gravity well like a planet would keep the time traveling object within the gravity well. Thus it’s position would remain relative to moving objects.

    • And light will look funny to them. Their visual pigments will respond to shorter wavelengths than before, so everything will look red-shifted. They might lose some of the deeper reds and gain some near-ultraviolet.

      Nobody will know anymore who the redshirts are. Which might be why nobody dies in this episode.

  3. hmm, their minimum size would be 1/16 of an inch? Part of me feels that at that size their bodies would be so dense they would either rip through the floor or undergo gravitational collapse and become tiny black holes, and the other part thinks that isn’t quite small enough. After all, atoms are 99.99999999999999999999999% empty space, you know the whole “fly on the pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium” comparison. If that extra volume was totally removed they would be outright microscopic, not the size of ants.

  4. thespecialneedsgroup

    1/16 of an inch cubed would be slightly larger than 1 cubic centimeter. On Earth, 70 kilogram human body taking up that much volume would be somewhere on in the neighborhood of 3,100 times denser than osmium, but still several hundred million times less dense than a neutron star. They’d have quite a ways to shrink before they’re in danger of becoming a black hole.

  5. Maybe we should come up with an MST3K scale for episodes like this. How many repetitions of the mantra are required?

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