Kobayashi Maru

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The Kobayashi Maru is a Federation freighter (fictional, even in the Star Trek universe) that formed part of a training scenario at Starfleet Academy. It is a no-win-scenario;

The Scenario

The Kobayashi Maru has struck a mine and drifted into the Klingon neutral zone. It carries 300 passengers and their life support is failing. The cadet taking the test must decide whether to obey Starfleet's standing orders - stay outside the neutral zone - and let the survivors die, or to dis-obey1 and try to rescue them. In addition to this conundrum, if they enter the neutral zone, they cannot save the ship and are confronted with three Klingon cruisers and are destroyed. It is impossible to win.

The only cadet who ever beat the no-win-scenario was James Kirk. He reprogrammed the simulator so it was possible to win.

"I don't believe in the no-win-scenario." -Kirk.

Kirk had three options in reprogramming the simulator2;

  • He could make the Klingon captains dumber.
  • He could make the Klingon ships weaker.
  • He could program the Klingons to fear and personally respect him.

He went for the last option. It earned him a merit for original thinking.

Spock: "You took the test three times yourself. Your final solution was, shall we say, unique."

Kirk: "It had the virtue of never having been tried."

The Metaphor

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the Kobayashi Maru scenario opens the film, making the audience believe that the crew has just been killed, but they are pretending.

Later in the film it is shown to be a metaphor for death and defeat. Kirk is facing defeat for the first time, having never faced death. However, it is this that allows him to emerge triumphant and defeat Khan.

In the next film, The Searh for Spock, Kirk is again faced with this problem. His son is killed by a Klingon and he almost loses the ability the fight back. However, he manages to pull himself together enough to hatch a desperate plan to defeat the Klingons.

This theme is again revisited in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, when he admits to McCoy that his son had to die before he realised how predjudiced he was against Klingons.

Data on Kobayashi Maru

CLASSIFICATION:Class III Neutronic Fuel Carrier
REGISTRY:Amber, Tau Ceti IV
MASTER:Kojiro Vance
LENGTH:237 m.
BEAM:111 m.
1Hence breaking the Organian treaty and essentially declaring war on the Klingons.2Source: Starfleet Academy game, starring William Shatner.

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