Why Did Starfleet Abandon the Spore Drive?


Spore Drive

With the upcoming release of season three of Star Trek: Discovery, there are important questions circulating the spore drive. One of the biggest questions being: why did Starfleet abandon the spore drive? Warning: Spoilers from Star Trek: Discovery below.

The spore drive was essentially abandoned by Starfleet because it was harming an ecosystem of aliens that lived within the mycelial network. This alien life-form infected a crew member of the Discovery and informed Paul Stamets that their mode of transportation was hurting their species. 

Let’s take a look at the spore drive and what happened to make Starfleet abandon it.

What Is Spore Drive?

The spore drive is actually called a displacement-activated spore hub drive. It’s usually shortened to simplify everything. This device is a kind of propulsion system that was used in the mid-23rd century.

It was used by the Federation instead of warp drives, which were still installed on starships. However, these spore drives were capable of achieving impossible feats. In fact, there are many fans who believe the spore drive is utter nonsense that ruins the canon of Star Trek.

The idea is that there are mycelium spores that can be found throughout the entire galaxy. The theory is these spores are part of the foundation of the universe. The characters Paul Stamets and Straal believed that when it comes down to the quantum level of everything, there’s no real difference between physics and biology.

It’s also learned in Star Trek: Discovery that the spores create a network called the mycelial network. It was later discovered that the network is actually a subspace that connects not just our universe, but multiple universes. The starship Discovery was able to cross into this multiverse and travel to what the show calls the Mirror Universe. 

How the Spore Drive Works

These mycelial spores belong to a class of fungus. When used in the spore drive, it’s supposed to work as a faster means of transportation. Using these spores were supposed to allow starships to travel in an instant, almost like a blink of the eye. Warp speed was fast, but this method was definitely faster. It was also unreliable at first. Without the correct coordinates, you could miss your target location completely.

Spore drives were able to make leaps through the galaxy that were impossible using anything else. The spore drive allowed the starship, the USS Glenn, to make a 90 light-year jump in just 1.3 seconds. That is beyond impossible using a warp drive. 

The speed and distance of the spore drive are immeasurable. To the viewer, the starship using the spore drive will seem to disappear and then reappear somewhere else. 

Starfleet Gave Up Using the Spore Drive

In order for the spore drive to make it’s jumps, the use of a sentient being is needed. The jumps will use this living organism as a way to guide and navigate the starship that the spore drive is connected to.

At first, the Discovery is using an animal called a tardigrade. However, rather than the micro-animal with the same name that’s found on Earth, the one used for the spore drive is giant. They actually gave it a nickname, which was Ripper.

The drive requires the being to navigate by feel. The crew of the Discovery learns that the drive causes a large amount of stress on the animal. After that, Lt. Stamets changes his own DNA so that he’s able to interface with the spore drive instead. This resulted in him going into a coma.

It Hurt the Mycelial Network

Eventually, the crew of the Discovery finds a way to talk to the beings that occupy the mycelial network. Lt. Stamet is told that the orb element of the spore drive is poisoning the network. The infection that spreads is killing off the fungus that the spores come from. The tardigrades that reside within the network were affected by the use of the spore drive the most.

Stamet found this out when another crew member was infected by a parasite. They used a device that was installed into the crew member, which helped the parasite communicate with Stamet. They were told that the spore drive was destroying their ecosystem. 

It was for this reason that Stamet promised to do what he could to fix the problem. However, by the end of the season two finale, the use of the spore drive within the canon timeframe of Star Trek is over.

Stamet is the only person who was able to use the spore drive. Once the Discovery jumped into the future, taking the only drive with it, Starfleet abandoned the usage of the spore drive. They also forbid anyone who knew of it from speaking, bringing it up ever again.

What the Spore Drive Meant for the Star Trek Franchise

The problem with doing prequels of a popular franchise like Star Trek, is that our technology today is more advanced than it was when this show was introduced. We have better special effects and cleaner visuals. This will automatically cause the show to look more advanced than the ones that came before it.

This is no different from Star Trek: Discovery. This show is meant to come 10 years before Star Trek: The Original Series. It’s also been stated by producer Akiva Goldsman that the timeline of Star Trek: Discovery is, in fact, the original timeline. It isn’t what’s known as the kelvin timeline, which follows the storyline from the J.J. Abrams films. 

However, the spore drive is more advanced than anything we’ve seen in the franchise so far. Also, using an animal to do it seems a little unconventional for a Star Trek series as well. There have been a lot of fans who feel that the spore drive has ruined the canon of the franchise. The use of this spore drive is never mentioned in any other adaptation. 

Starfleet created the spore drive as a possible advantage over the Klingons during the war against them. However, after the ship made a jump 950 years into the future, Spock made it clear the spore drive shouldn’t be used again. The entire thing was deemed classified by the Federation and no one was allowed to speak of it again. 

For some fans, this fixed the canon issues. For others, it shouldn’t have existed in the first place. There are fans who felt the need for such a device was unnecessary for the new TV show. A war between the Klingons and the Federation was enough for them without the use of a super high-tech transportation method.

Could It Happen in Real Life?

While we search for new ways to explore the galaxy and the rest of the universe, there are some things that just aren’t likely to be possible. The use of a fungus propulsion device is one of the more outrageous ideas.

The reason for this is because of two big factors:

  • Animals can’t do what bacteria can. The show uses an animal to navigate through the subspace network. This is done by a horizontal gene transfer. The only known life form that can perform such a thing is bacteria, not animals. 
  • The mycelium spores are specific to Earth. While the spores used to make the spore drive work are, in fact, real, they exist only on Earth and couldn’t make up a subspace network that can be used to navigate great distances. In fact, it took billions of years of life on Earth in order to evolve into the advanced species they are today.  

Even though the spore drive isn’t possible, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy watching it come to life. Check out the video below of a spore drive jump that the starship, Discovery makes in season two, episode two:

Summary

It’s no easy task creating a unique storyline in a much-loved franchise. It’s even harder to find new ways to pull people in when creating a prequel. No matter the reason for its creation, there’s no denying that the spore drive was a unique piece of technology for the Star Trek franchise.

Hopefully, this article has helped to shed some light on why Starfleet abandoned the spore drive in the end.

Sources

Brad

Sci-fi lover and Tech Nerd.

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