Star Trek: TOS' Scotty Used An Undiscovered Country Trick To Save TNG's Enterprise
When Captain Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation, he used a trick from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country to help save the U.S.S. Enterprise-D from the Dyson Sphere. Scotty, the beloved Chief Engineer of Captain James T. Kirk's (William Shatner) Starship Enterprise in Star Trek: The Original Series, appeared in the TNG season 6 episode "Relics." Of course, the most famous moment in "Relics" was Scotty and Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) drinking Aldebaran whiskey together on the holodeck's perfect recreation of the original Enterprise's bridge. However, the method Scotty and Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) used to track the Enterprise-D 's disappearance into the Dyson Sphere was a sly callback to Star Trek VI's action-packed conclusion.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
In "Relics," Picard's crew found Scotty aboard the U.S.S. Jenolan, which crashed on the surface of a Dyson Sphere — a massive construct built to house a star. Scotty survived by placing himself in the ship's transporter's pattern buffer, which kept the engineer alive and well for 75 years. While Picard was delighted to have the Starfleet legend aboard his Enterprise, Scotty found himself a man out of time and he understandably had problems assimilating to the 24th-century, which led to conflicts with La Forge, the Enterprise-D's Chief Engineer. Later, the Dyson Sphere pulled the Enterprise-D within it while Scotty and Geordi were trying to repair the Jenolan. When the engineers realized the Enterprise-D had vanished, Scotty, ever the "miracle worker," deduced its course by using the identical method Kirk's crew used to locate and destroy the cloaked Klingon Bird-of-Prey in Star Trek VI: by tracking the Enterprise-D's impulse ion trail.
76 years earlier, Kirk was framed by the Klingons for assassinating their High Chancellor, Gorkon (David Warner), as part of their plot to prevent a peace treaty between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets. The Klingons had a new weapon at their disposal, a Bird-of-Prey that can fire photon torpedoes while cloaked, and this enemy vessel tried to prevent the Enterprise and the U.S.S. Excelsior from saving the galactic peace conference at Camp Khitomer. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) solved their dilemma when he deduced that the Bird-of-Prey, like any starship, still emits an ion trail while flying at impulse power. Uhura then reminded them that the Enterprise was carrying equipment to track gaseous anomalies, noting "that [Bird-of-Prey's] gotta have a tailpipe." After Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) "performed surgery" on a photon torpedo, the Enterprise's gambit worked and they destroyed the Klingon ship by programming the torpedo to track the Bird-of-Prey by following its impulse ion trail.
In "Relics," Scotty ingeniously tracked the Enterprise-D's ion trail, in the same manner, to learn that the Dyson Sphere had swallowed the Federation flagship. Scotty and Geordi then reasoned how to open the hatch that the Enterprise came through and they used the Jenolan's shields to literally hold the door open so Picard's vessel could escape the Sphere. But none of it would have been possible without Scotty implementing Spock and Uhura's brilliant plan from Star Trek VI. Scotty's success helped prove the lesson of "Relics": that just because Scotty was an old man doesn't mean he wasn't useful, and the TNG crew could learn a thing or two from their predecessors.
"Relics" does contain a bit of a plot hole, however: When Scotty was revived by the Enterprise-D's crew, he remarked that he figured "Jim Kirk himself would pull the Enterprise out of mothballs" to save him. Star Trek Generations, the 1994 TNG movie, ended with Kirk's death. As seen in the film's opening flashbacks, it was in 2293 that Kirk was believed to be killed when he was pulled into the Nexus during the test flight of the U.S.S. Enterprise-B — an event Scotty was present for. But since "Relics" was shot and aired two years before Star Trek Generations was even conceived, it makes Scotty's comment about Kirk on TNG confusing. Then again, Scotty was an old man who was in stasis for 75 years, so perhaps he was merely dreaming of his Captain rescuing him aboard his beloved Enterprise and the legendary Engineer later remembered that he witnessed what he believed to be Kirk's demise.