Hello and welcome to another episode of Truth OR Myth, a Star Trek web series that normally looks at the Truth, or canon, information to dispel the myths that have surfaced on a given topic. Today’s episode continues our journey through Beta Canon, this time taking a look at the No Win Scenario, and why the Kobayashi Maru became one of the most famous starships in Starfleet history.
A freighter by any other name is still a freighter, yet the Kobayashi Maru would become one of the best-known freighters in all of the federation thanks to a series of events that would see it included in one of Starfleet’s most intensive tests, the no-win scenario. But what is the history behind this infamous test? What were some of the more clever reactions and solutions to it? Well today, we find out…
Of course, there isn’t actually that much information available of the history of the test, or individual officers solutions in Alpha Canon, so what I’ve done is thoroughly researched the test through Beta Canon, combined it with Alpha Canon and filled in some of the gaps with my imagination, all to give you good “Tri-naries” a little bit more historical info to chew on.
As a result though, this video should pretty much be taken with a grain of stardust, and only considered a little bit of Star Trek Fun! And so, with all that out of the way, lets begin.
Starfleet Academy was well known for its rigorous testing of its officers before sending them out into space. But no other test would become so well know, so well feared by the cadets then that of the Kobayashi Maru Scenario.
Testing knowledge and response times to various events were all well and good, and Starfleet did in fact have these types of tests in spades, but quite early on in Starfleet existence, it had realized that in space winning isn’t always an option. And how a crew member faced death, the prospect of losing the battle and their life was even more important than watching a person excel in their studies and so Starfleet Academy designed a test that would specifically reveal exactly how a crew member faced these no-win scenarios. The test itself was partly based on a real-life event, though the simulation would be continually upgraded and changed to reflect whatever state galactic politics was in at the time the cadet took the test.
In 2155, the ECS Kobayashi Maru, sent with parts and supplies for a special team setting up Starfleet first listening post designed to keep an eye on the Romulan Star Empire, was hit by a gravitic mine while Traversing the Gamma Hydra Sector. At the time Gamma Hydra was not considered a disputed area, although it was close to what Starfleet Believe was Romulan held space. The NX-02 Columbia, which was overseeing the Listen Posts construction received the distress call of the Kobayashi Maru and immediately went to investigate, Once there, however, it was discovered that the Kobayashi Maru had drifted into what was clearly believed to be Romulan Space.
So Captain Hernandez of the Columbia was left with a choice, either Enter Romulan Space and risk losing her starship to the Romulan Star Empire, and perhaps start a war between the Earth and Romulus, or leave the starship to its fate. Captain Hernandez didn’t faultier or even pause in her decision, ordering Columbia into Romulan Space. Luckily, there is where the similarities between the test and reality end, as there were no Romulan Starships in wait for the Columbia, and the NX-02 was able to tow the Kobayashi Maru to safety.
Using this mission as a starting point to create their test, Starfleet Academy would create a scenario like no other, for no matter what the Cadet in command of the ship was able to do, they would always ultimately lose the battle, as the Computer would send more and more waves of enemies, and the starship itself would be more and more damaged with each passing moment. Although this test was a no-win scenario, it provided clear and definitive psychological data about the cadet commanding the starship. Should say cadet chooses to rescue the Kobayashi Maru, the academy was able to determine the go-getter achiever style of command this cadet would follow in the future.
Should the cadet choose to uphold Starfleet Regulations and leave the Kobayashi Maru to be destroyed or lost, the Academy Board immediately knew this would be a by the book style commanding officer, and could plan that officers career path accordingly, its a common misconception by those who know about the No Win test that those officers that refuse to assist the damaged starship are weak or cowardly, on the contrary. In fact, sometimes doing nothing is the hardest choice a Starfleet Officer has to make in pursuit of their duty towards Starfleet and the Federation.
Although it was a very important test to Starfleet, to help place officers in the correct position within the organization, there truly was no right answer to the puzzle. And many great captains in the history of Starfleet did in fact choose to do nothing, sacrificing the few, to save their starship and the Federation from possible war, oddly enough, even though it was a no win scenario, there was one cadet who actually beat it to win the test, that cadet was James T Kirk.
Kirk would reprogram the simulation before the 3rd time he took the test, making it so that the attacking Klingons would believe he was a famous starship Captain and offer to assist with the rescue of the Kobayashi Maru. Starfleet Academy was shocked by this outcome and convened a general inquiry with Starfleet Command into the whole situation. Believing Kirk had outright cheated to win the test, Kirk was called to account for his actions. When asked by Starfleet Command why he did it, he simply answered, I don’t believe in a no a win scenario and continued on to explain how the test itself cheated, that no Starfleet Starship could get that much damage, that quickly, and that no sector of space would have that many Klingon starships ready to destroy a single Federation Ship.
After deliberating, Starfleet Command would return with a commendation for cadet Kirk, for original thinking, and would keep a close eye on the cadet’s career, expecting greatness from this officer, and of course, they were not disappointed, as James T Kirk would become one of the youngest, most famous captains in Starfleet history, in fact, although completely coincidental, the command crew of Kirk’s U.S.S. Enterprise 1701, would have many of its officers who had interesting, though controversial responses to the test.
Montgomery Scott, future Chief Engineer of the Enterprise, would trick the simulation into overestimating the effectiveness of a theoretical attack against the Klingon ships’ overlapping shield points. Faced with the knowledge that such attacks, although quite valid in theory, would not work in reality, and that Scott himself who had disproved the theory knew this, the Academy board reassigned Scott from the command school training program back to the Engineering program, the program he originally wanted to a part of.
Pavel Chekov’s solution to the scenario was to self destruct his starship, taking the Klingons, the Kobayashi Maru and his ship out in one fell swoop. This would be humiliating for the Starfleet officer, as he had felt that his command to abandon ship, and subsequent release of escape pods would at least ensure his crew’s survival, however, his instructor pointed out to the young cadet that his logic was in error due to the explosions of all the other starships that he had caused, and so in essence, Chekov had killed his own crew. This would drive Chekov to do better in the future, however, and his instructor so noted this in the cadet’s file.
Hikaru Sulu, realizing the consequences of entry into the Neutral Zone by any Starfleet Vessel, versus the slim chance of actually being able to rescue the crew of the freighter, elected not to violate the zone and protect the Federation from a costly war with the Klingons and even though never actually taking the Kobayashi Maru test himself, Captain Spock, Kirk’s original first officer, would reference the test while dying in the Dilithium Chamber aboard the Refit Enterprise during the Khan Incident of 2285. Comparing his sacrifice of himself to save the ship and crew as his solution to the No Win Scenario.
James T Kirk’s own nephew Peter Kirk, would also beat the no-win scenario but in a completely different way, using his knowledge of Romulan customs, unanticipated by the test’s designers, Peter Kirk would challenge the lead Romulan captain to ritual combat – since all other hostilities must cease during a duel, the Romulan ships can only watch as Peter’s ship rescues the Kobayashi Maru crew and escapes unharmed.
In the 24th Century the test is still in use, becoming a staple of an academy cadets career.
William T Riker, eventual First officer of the Enterprise D and captain of the U.S.S. Titan, would beat the No Win Scenario as well. Though Riker’s solution to the puzzle would be classified and he was under strict orders to never divulge his solution.
Cadet Mackenzie Calhoun, eventual captain of the U.S.S. Excalibur would win the No Win Scenario by destroying the Kobayashi Maru itself, disabling the attacking ships in the process, and allowing his ship and crew to escape the battle unharmed. At first, this solution bothered his instructors, as he had willingly killed those whom he had been attempting to rescue. Later, he defended his actions by claiming in his estimation, that the scenario was clearly a trap and that the Kobayashi Maru’s crew were most likely already dead. And if they were alive, this quick death was preferable to the treatment they would receive as prisoners.
Enhanced by Holographic Technology, the Kobayashi Maru No Win Scenario test would continue through out Starfleet’s history. Almost every cadet in the fleet, would experience some form of this test, though from time to time, it would be changed from commanding a Starship type mission to other unexpected scenarios. One other variation on this test was creating a situation where a cadet had to make a choice between saving one individual or saving another. In this test, two Starfleet Officers or civilians would be hurt in an explosion or a catastrophe, and the cadet being tested would enter the area and forced to choose which person to save, again of course, there was no right answer to this puzzle, and the test was designed so the cadet could only save 1 person while letting the other person die. Though a completely different scenario it again was completely unwinnable and gave valuable psychological data to the academy testing board about the cadet being tested.
Though some softer elements have continually questioned the No Win Scenario test through out the ages, Starfleet Command had remained firm on the advantages of having such a test. Not only was it very revealing for them about the cadet taking it, but also revealing to the cadet themselves while simultaneously preparing them for an eventuality that was quite possible out in Space… And so these types of tests endure and continue to strike both fear and confidence into the cadets that take them, earning this test its very real reputation in Starfleet history…
Thank you for watching today’s episode of Truth or Myth, what do you think of the Beta Canon on the Kobayashi Maru test? Did you like me exploring this sort of topic through Beta Canon? Well leave your comments in the section below and don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to the channel, hitting that little bell icon so you wont miss a single video we release.
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