Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Yonada: A Look Inside The Creators' Design

Yonada Cutaway by Rachel Kronick

Today, we continue our mini-series on the generation ship Yonada, the main character and core mystery of  the original Star Trek series episode "For The Word Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky." Thanks to the Inkscape skills of my friend Rachel Kronick, FATE SF is pleased to share a Star Trek first:

We have here first diagram of the internal structure of the ancient Fabrini world-ship Yonada.

I have watched the episode numerous times (most recently, twice, last Sunday), and for years have pondered the true structure of Yonada. Shortly into the episode, the Enterprise crew discuss the fact that the Yonadans don't realize that they are living on the inside of a hollow ball.

Early in the episode we also meet an old man. He enters the Enterprise crew's guest quarters shortly after they have descended into Yonada's interior. The old man claims that when he was young, he climbed the mountains on the inside of the asteroid, "touched the sky." But if he were climbing mountains on the inside wall of a hollow ball (i.e., if Yonada really were just a hollow ball), that would clearly be impossible.

He'd be reaching upwards and grasping air. He wouldn't be touching sky at all.

So instead of this simple hollow ball theory, I have come-up with an internal structure that is consistent with what we see in the episode: a more or less solid sphere that is inside a spherical shell.  

People live underground, just as they did in the latter days of life on Fabrina, before their sun went nova. The little orange nubs in the diagram are the orange cylindrical accessways from which  the Yonadans emerge to ambush the Enterprise crew.

Accessways, Closed

Accessways, Open

There are indeed mountains capable of reaching and touching the sky in our diagram. These mountains are columnar structural supports which connect the "planetary surface" of the inner sphere (where the ambush occurred) with the inner surface of the surrounding (i.e., outer) shell - the "sky" being on the inside surface of this outer shell, and therefore "touchable" from the mountains.

So, can really someone climb the mountains that are shown in our diagram, and "touch the sky"?  Yes, in theory. Particularly if the mountains are either slightly less steep/hourglass-shaped than they are depicted in this rendering - and/or if the mountains are sufficiently worked that they have rather secure handholds, or a spiral staircase to facilitate climbing.

The columnar mountains are also a possible point of origin for the missiles that attack the Enterprise at the very beginning of the episode. If some of the mountains are hollow, they may serve a dual purpose as missile silos/launch tubes AND structural supports. One or more hollow columns could also serve as tubes to channel reaction mass from the ship's nuclear reactor to the exterior thrusters. We know that these thrusters exist because one of them is under-performing when the Enterprise arrives on the scene. That's what takes Yonada off-course.

In this scenario, the Yonadans spend most of their lives living underground; that is, they live below the surface of the ship's inner shell.  There is plenty of room down there for living space, hydroponics, a gravity generator, the reactors, and everything else you need to have a functioning generation ship. I think this model works.

So here's the question of the day: Why did the old man climb the mountains in his youth? The surface of the world looks very desolate. This seems a strange thing to do, considering how comfortable the world is below the ship's inner shell. Who would want to be on the surface at all? Does Yonada have some version of the Vulcan rite of passage known as the Kahs-wan Ordeal? Punishment-by-temporary-exile for asking too many questions? Anchorites? Wandervogel? Something else?

There is a story here.


  1. I always thought Yonada was built this way, because of the descriptions and the surface and the underground arrangement. If it was Doctor Who, he would have jumped around screaming for joy, like he did in "The Doctor Dances" -- the first Captain Jack Harkness episode.

  2. Have you seen the DW episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" yer? :)

  3. You know, I watched this episode on my father's knee when it aired for the first time and, until now, I wondered how someone could live INSIDE an asteroid and climb something to touch the sky. This explains it! Thanks!!