An admiral delivers our orders: Romulans have raided across the neutral zone to attack a station, ARK-7. Our job is to defuse the situation. A planet, then a ship, and now a station? At least we are getting a variety of locations! I find our destination in the copy protection map and emerge from warp to be greeted by a de-cloaking Romulan ship. The captain claims that the Federation is engaging in treachery and that they know of our plans. What plans? Before I can ask, they attack and the episode begins!
|So many blinking lights...|
When it comes to combat, the mouse is the main tool. It’s used for aiming and steering; you have to steer towards the targeting reticule, no strafing. The left button fires phasers while the right fires photon torpedos. You can also use the numeric keypad to steer and use “spacebar” and “enter” instead of mouse buttons, but I did not experiment with this. Before combat begins, you also need to enable weapons (“W” or under Chekhov’s menu) and shields (“S” or under Sulu’s menu) or else it will go very quickly.
As we zoom around and try to hit things, we can also pay attention to a number of readouts:
- The damage report screens (“system monitor” in the manual) show you what damage the Enterprise has experienced and the strength of her shields. When in combat you can press “A” to toggle “Target Analysis” mode which shows damage on your adversary. I check this every few seconds to catch when I need Scotty to repair something.
- The phaser and torpedo charge graphs show how soon we can shoot again: when the bars are full, fire! This hasn’t been an issue so far, but I believe that damage can cause it to fill more slowly.
- The energy level meter has stayed full for me so far but the manual says that the shields and weapons draw from it. We can toggle “Emergency Power” with “E” (or under Scotty’s menu) for a temporary boost.
- The speed meter is self-explanatory. We can travel from slowest (“1”) to fastest (“0”) or press tilde for reverse (“`”).
- The main viewscreen is where the action is and will gradually degrade to static with damage. We can increase or decrease magnification with “<” and “>”, but I haven’t experimented with it. You can go full screen with “V”.
- The scanner tells you your position relative to the enemy, sort of. I just try to turn toward the red dot.
In addition to being an unnecessary distraction from the adventure, the combat sections are also very unlike Star Trek. The Enterprise is a capital ship, roughly similar to battleship or destroyer. It moves slow but has incredible firepower. These combat sections are dogfighting, more akin to Wing Commander than Star Trek. There have been epic space battles in Star Trek but rarely like what is depicted here.
|So many icons! Time for a pop quiz?|
- Sulu can orbit (“O”) the ship around a nearby planet.
- Chekhov can warp to another location (“N”).
- Spock can be asked for advice (“T”) or can interrogate the library computer (“C”).
- Uhura can communicate with nearby ships or planets (“U”).
- Kirk (“K”) can be used to access the Captain’s Log (summarizing your score), the transporter to beam to a planet or ship, and the save/restore functions.
Even knowing all of the things we can do, I still find the interface confusing. Here’s a test to see if it is just me: for a few bonus CAPs, I have scrambled all of the interface icons into the image above. How many of them can you name from what I’ve told you so far? Real players also have to remember which icons are accessed through which member of the bridge crew. I will reveal the answers next week! This isn’t a terrible interface, but it isn’t well-designed either. Why couldn’t all the bridge functions just be available in one icon bar?
|Birds… in… space!|
Right! I had just been attacked by a Romulan ship. Unlike previous encounters, our enemy can cloak this time to disappear from both the scanner and view screen. Since he has to decloak to fire, I do not have too much difficulty. I just fly around when he disappears and lower speed to pivot as soon as he pops up again. When the enemy is defeated, the crew initiate self-destruct instead of allowing themselves to be captured.
As soon as the dust settles, I research ARK-7 in the library computer. It’s a scientific station with a mission to study the origins of life, led by a very familiar person in Star Trek lore: Dr. Carol Marcus! I’ll talk more about this in the trivia but “wow”. She was a character first introduced in Star Trek II as a former love-interest of Kirk’s and she secretly bore his child. I did not expect this game to “go there”, especially since it takes place prior to the movies. It appears that they accidentally created a plague deadly to Romulans but not other life-forms. I have Uhura open a channel and the Romulan captain, Ardea Preax, answers. He accuses the Federation of making a “genocide factory” and that more Romulans will be crossing the neutral zone soon to destroy the bioweapon. We’d better figure out what is going on quickly!
|We approach the station.|
|Great view! Hope they don’t kill us.|
|What a big gun you have!|
- A “Basic Compound Distillator”. It will separate something into its component parts although McCoy stops us from experimenting with any of our current items.
- A “Hawking Neutrino Accelerator”. Other than looking like a raygun, it doesn’t seem to be pertinent.
- A refrigerator holding samples of the plague virus in little petri dishes. That seems safe.
- An unnamed device with a compartment and a nozzle attachment. It’s for “rapid reproduction of virus cultures in the presence of an anti-agent”. I can put some of the virus in the compartment but do not have anything that fits the nozzle yet.
- A ladder down to deeper areas of the station. Unfortunately, Romulans are guarding the ladder from below and shoot anyone who gets close.
|Anyone else think that resembles the lab from “The Fly”?|
- A “synthesis chamber”. This machine takes two gas canisters (right now, Oxygen and Hydrogen) and mixes them with a third solid that can be placed in a little door to the left. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work right now.
- An “ARDAK 1000” molecular replicator. Unfortunately, Dr. McCoy says it will take hours to get it working-- hours that we do not have.
- A storage closet that contains an anti-gravity unit for moving heavy things around. We pocket that, although I’m not sure how Kirk has pockets big enough.
|Scotty would love this!|
- A “Cochrane-500 Fusion Drive”, over a century old and still functioning normally. I suppose you do not need much in the way of engines on a stationary object.
- A wrench on the floor which we pick up immediately.
- A storage closet containing a canister of Nitrogen. I use the anti-gravity device on the canister of Nitrogen to carry it.
Unfortunately, in all of this exploring, Spock is getting sick. Every few minutes, he stops to cough. Will it kill him? Or just an annoyance? I have no idea. I contact Uhura on the communicator but she tells me that we have to stay on the station until the situation is resolved, no matter what.
From here, I can start to solve some of the puzzles. I use the wrench on the gas feed in the science lab to start the gas. Doing some simple experimentation, I find that I can create a bottle of water when I mix Hydrogen and Oxygen but only get “wet grey goo” when I add the virus sample. I also swap the Nitrogen with the others to try different combinations. No matter what I mix the virus sample with, all I get is goo, but Nitrogen and Oxygen combined creates a container of Nitrous Oxide, better known as “laughing gas”. All this experimentation too too long however and Spock dies of the disease-- there was a time limit after all. I restore and do the whole section again more quickly.
|Hearing William Shatner sing this would be fantastic...|
If you re-examine the computer after getting out all of Dr. Marcus’s logs, you can browse the data files. We find entries on laughing gas, a gas called “Tantalum bi-lithium thalo-dihydroxide” (abbreviated TLTDH), and ammonia (NH3). TLTDH can be cooked up from electrical insulation and works like laughing gas on Romulans and Vulcans. I’m pretty sure that I already mixed Nitrogen and Hydrogen, but the TLTDH gas seems promising. I search the station and find an access panel that I missed that contains electrical insulation bits. I cook them up in the distiller to create some “polybendylcarbonate” which I then mix with Oxygen and Nitrogen to create the gas! Unfortunately, using it on Spock only causes him to crack bad jokes too, it doesn’t cure him of the disease.
I completely forgot about the anti-agent device! This was the machine in the main lab that had the nozzle on one side and a slot where we could put the virus cultures on the other. I try that with the water, the laughing gas, and the TLTDH but none of them show a positive response in the virus sample. What am I missing?
|This station is not handicapped-accessible.|
|Always with the handcuffs...|
On my next go-around, I find that I can mix Nitrogen and Hydrogen to make Ammonia after all! I have no idea why it didn’t work before. Did I make a mistake? Does it only work after I read about it in the library computer? I don’t know. I use that on the anti-agent machine in the other room and that was the trick! Ammonia affects the virus so it creates for us a small sample cure and hints that we need to create more of it. I go to the science lab and try mixing it with all sorts of gas combinations. Most of them only product grey goo, but Nitrogen and Hydrogen work to give me a syringe of cure. We are almost done!
|And you have pointy ears.|
|What did I miss this time?|
- The Bird-of-Prey design for the Romulan ships are similar to those used on “The Balance of Terror” and “The Deadly Years”. The Romulans switched to Klingon designs for later seasons of TOS, but these are the original versions. These captains may not have been lucky enough to get the new battleships yet. The Romulan practice of self-destructing instead of surrendering also came from the former.
- Lt. Ferris might be related or a reference to Galactic High Commissioner Ferris (“The Galileo Seven”). That adventure also had the Enterprise rushing to cure a plague.
- The Cochran-500 Fusion Drive was named for Zefram Cochran, the inventor of the warp drive. Kirk ran into him in “Metamorphosis”, but modern Trek viewers will know him better from his role in the film, First Contact.
- After flirting with it last episode, this one goes deep into movie-territory by introducing Carol Marcus and hinting at her work on the “Genesis” device. This episode only winks at her relationship with Kirk, unless I missed some dialog. David, their son, would be seven at this point but wasn’t mentioned.
- “Jolan-Tru”, the Romulan salutation used by the captain, was first introduced in the TNG episode Unification. That episode is famous for bringing now-Ambassador Spock into the TNG era.
|Up next: A comedy?|
Total time: 7 hr 35 min