This map is based on my first interpretations of Star Trek's corner of the Galaxy drawn back in 1974. It is very much a window into what has driven the "Cloak Universe" as I have imagined it since that time. Original Ink Drawing
This take on the Star Trek Universe was done as a labor of love and as an exercise in world building; or in this case, galaxy building. In presenting it again in a modern milieu, the intent is only to show where my imagination went back then and why the Cloak storyline has the background structure that it has. The Star Trek franchise has obviously moved on in quite a few different directions since this version was designed, and my intention is not to be critical, just to show one way it could have gone. A speculation from 33 odd years ago, when the Star Trek Universe was still young.
Others have drawn newer maps since, including some working on the later televisions shows, but most are still speculation and extrapolation based on less than set in stone facts. Well, here is my earlier version, if nothing else, I hope some will find it interesting from a historical perspective, not unlike Franz Joseph's more detailed but still not considered canon extrapolations done in 1975 in his “Star Fleet Technical Manual”.
The most important goal here for me is the telling of new stories set in the Star Trek Universe that have a proper feel of the original. It is often a big picture thing, and I think it best not to quibble about the little things as stories unfold, if the core and the intent are true, which I hope you will find to be true, then please, I encourage you to sit back and enjoy the show.
A very hard truth of the post-modern age is, our most beloved franchises, by the nature of their success' and the need to put out more "product", often go through many later incarnations that deviate from the original. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. There is a new live action Star Trek movie, re-casting all of the original characters, before the cameras right now. It will not be original Trek, but a re-imaging, a very popular approach right now. I will give it the benefit of the doubt for now, and hope people viewing my efforts will extend the same to me.
In Star Trek: Cloak, there is one assumption that many post-TOS fans might complain about, the vast distance between the Romulan Star Empire and the Klingon Empire. It would be relatively easy to re-write the basic Cloak storyline to accommodate that later addition to Star Trek canon, that the two Empires are side by side, but frankly, I am not comfortable with that.
The reasons are simple. The Romulan Star Empire, as first seen in “Balance of Terror” seems pretty darn far from central Federation Space, somewhere out on the rim. And that is how I have always portrayed it. I also have always seen the Klingon Empire as more central, larger and more in the Federation’s “face” as it were. And if the Romulan Star Empire and the Klingon Empire were right next to each other, why would everyone be so surprised to learn the Romulans were using Klingon ships, as we saw in “The Enterprise Incident”? So I stand with the assumption I made 33 years ago, the two empires are no where near close to each other.
Perhaps by the 24th Century the two empires have expanded and border each other, though that seems more than a bit contrived. I am not out to rationalize anything, create quasi-canon, or put the work of other chroniclers of the universe of Star Trek down in any way. I am just trying to tell a fun story. In the Cloak Universe, which is meant to be “real” Star Trek, those two empires are quite a bit apart. I doubt any but a few hard core fans will be troubled by this and it does help certain story elements.
An important part of the way I have always seen Star Trek is with a very strong foundation in hard modern science fiction. I give James Blish's adaptations of the original episodes a lot of credit for this. Most post-VCR fans don’t appreciate how important Blish’s adaptations were. Starting in 1968, these adaptations were the only access we had to the original series until re-runs started in the 70’s, and believe me, those re-runs were only happening in select markets, not everyone had access to them via independent UHF stations and the like, and cable was very much in its infancy. James Blish’ adaptations were a key bridge between the original broadcasts and the world of the VCR in the mid-1970's. Those collections, and his novel "Spock Must Die" (the only professional Star Trek novel published until 1976) each went through dozens of printings. They sold extremely well and kept Star Trek alive, I think, at a very important time in its history. Certainly an important time for me.
And Blish was a solid “Cambellian” science fiction writer, and his adaptations, many of which were written before he ever saw an episode, have a wonderful atomic age science fiction feel to them, a feel that I extended even in the late 1960’s into how I envisioned classic Star Trek.
Now one should not get obsessive about anything beyond telling a compelling story. Still, I would like to elaborate on a bit of the “science” that I think is important to Star Trek.
An example: How fast is warp drive? Compared to the speed of light, a high warp factor is darn fast. Yet compared to the gulf of interstellar space, warp drive does not make the galaxy a shopping mall to be visited in an afternoon. Some episodes of the original series handled the vast intergalactic distances rather well, others ignored the basics. Gene Roddenberry’s take on how Warp Factors worked is very different from the canon that Rich Berman developed for the later series. Personally, my only concern here is that Star Trek stories, in whatever medium, have a good realistic feel to them, both as classic Star Trek and as Science Fiction. And as long as the distances and time involved in interstellar travel is treated with respect and a little bit of logic, then I am happy.
Another good example: Subspace communication. In the two episodes that are the foundation for the Cloak storyline (“Balance of Terror” and “The Enterprise Incident”), subspace communications is most definitely not instantaneous, and that makes me very happy as well. Again, a good example of just how huge interstellar space is.
Star Trek is akin to C. S. Forester's Captain Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O'Brian's “Master and Commander” Jack Aubrey series, set in the future as we explore our local galactic "seas". It is 18th Century naval exploration transplanted to interstellar space. Often far from home and the usual chain of command, out in a vast unexplored universe. Where immediate command decisions and the gritty fiction that can be woven around those decisions, can and should take place. Instantaneous communication with a command base only means our characters don’t have to think for themselves and that often takes away the hard decisions we normally expect from true heroes. They often end up simply passing the responsibilities of command onto a senior officer sitting behind some desk somewhere. This is not a desirable foundation for good character based storytelling, even though studio heads sitting behind similar desks might disagree. At its core, Star Trek is about exploring the final frontier and the hard decisions that need to be made on that frontier, not about how internally the Federation and Star Fleet Command administer Known Space via a video link.
I can also, as an indulgence, draw a lot of parallels between the film version of “Master and Commander” and the episode “Balance of Terror”, from the battle of wits between two ship captains to the humanism of the ship’s doctor. Both were complex and well executed entertainments, set far from any command center. Future installments in the Star Trek universe would do well to see the parallels between historical 18th century naval exploits, both fact and fiction, to that of a 23rd century starship exploring an uncharted galaxy.
One last point on what I see as important canon in the Cloak Universe: The Romulan Neutral Zone. The assumption I have made is that the original Romulan Neutral Zone was established approximately 100 years before the time of Kirk and Spock, at the end of the First Romulan War. And that it is actually interstellar-wise pretty small. Back then, considering the much slower speeds of interstellar travel, a zone as we saw in the graphic in “Balance of Terror” might have been effective at blocking off a single solar system. But between the cloaking device we see in that episode, and the now state-of-the-art Klingon D-7 Battle Cruisers the Romulans started to use in “The Enterprise Incident”, the neutral zone seems at this point to be totally obsolete. Doesn’t mean something new and larger won't replace it at some point, but that requires some story telling...
All for now, more definitely to come,
doug at animatedtrek.com
December 29, 2007