Was the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) A - D a 'closed environmental system'?

I was watching one of TOS’ reruns yesterday, and heard the ubiquitous destination of “Starbase [99].” This got me to thinking about the environmental/material reconstitution systems on board the Enterprise(s).

At least by 1701-D, there were food replicators, and waste recycling systems on board, with Bussard ramscoops to collect particulate matter. I don’t think the ramscoops were installed on Enterprise “A”, but I’m almost certain food replicators and waste recycling systems were onboard. If they could dematerialize humans for transportation, they could dematerialize last week’s leftovers into new meals.

Notwithstanding consumable weapons (photon torpedoes specifically, but I reckon could be replicated in a pinch), and notwithstanding crew replacement (Redshirts are apparently non-replaceable consumables), couldn’t the NCC-1701 realistically be ‘out there’ indefinitely, without the need to visit a Starbase?

For consideration:

  • Water and breathable atmospheres can be recycled, or ‘topped off’ at any M-Class planet, or harvested from nebulae.
  • Raw materials (iron, nickel, gold, etc.) can also be found in asteroids.
  • At least on the “D,” you have holodecks for recreation. No need to swing by Risa or Wrigley’s pleasure planet every three weeks. . .
  • Last night’s sewage? Beep boop beep + replicator = Tomorrow night’s surf ‘n’ turf in the Officer’s Lounge.
  • Voyager didn’t have access to Starbases, and IIRC, they turned out alright. . . I haven’t watched the full series yet, so I could be mistaken. No spoilers here!

So, besides generating plot points for story arcs, what was the point of the Enterprise seemingly needing to swing by Starbases?

I could see replenishment of Romulan Ale being a possibility.

The original Enterprise is stated to have an actual galley, with cooks and everything - with the slots in the wall only delivering food, not creating it.

From Charlie X

CHEF [OC]: Captain Kirk from ship’s Galley.
KIRK: Kirk here.
CHEF [OC]: Sir, I put meat loaf in the ovens. There’s turkeys in there now. Real turkeys.

If they can “top off,” it isn’t really “closed” any more, is it? :stuck_out_tongue:

Plus there’s the scene from ST:VI where a phaser is aimed at a pot of mashed potatoes in Enterprise-A’s kitchen/galley to demonstrate weapons fire detection.

Trivia: Memory Alpha says the galley was a redress of Counselor Troi’s office from the Enterprise-D.

Starbases would be for Shore Leave, Exchanging Crew Members, maybe refreshing dilithium crystals which they made it clear they couldn’t replicate.

But the need to stop off an an inhabited planet to re-supply was a recurring plot point, that also conveniently got the crew involved in local problems. Even in the TNG era, it was a plot point on a few episodes of the various series that there were certain materials that couldn’t be replicated.

TOS-era Star Trek in a lot of ways was modeled on contemporary U.S. Navy operations, which meant “port calls” and re-supply. As others have pointed out, the NCC-1701 clearly had ships stores, not replicators. Officially, though, it’s my understanding that the Enterprise was rated for up to five years of extended operations without outside re-supply - hence the “five year mission”. I don’t think any of the Starbase visits in TOS was for re-supply - they always had another reason (picking up or dropping off high value cargo or personnel, inspections, courts martial, and so on).

Didn’t see that episode. . . yet. Valid point.

I remember this scene. Kim Kattral fired that phaser. How could I have forgotten about the galleys? :man_facepalming:

I thought I recalled a couple of episodes in both TOS and TNG where they found sources of dilithium, and Scotty was tasked with making them suitable for Engineering use.

Touche, mi amigo . . . touche.

And yet, I can’t recall any episodes in TOS, TNG, or DS9 where they RDZ for ‘replenishment underway.’

I will just have to go back and bingewatch all of these.

They weren’t consistent on this, and it might have changed over time (or been changed to fit different scripts and storylines). Charlie X was a first-season episode (#7 overall); by the time of The Trouble With Tribbles, in season 2, they had some sort of food processing machinery. When Kirk goes to the mess hall, and finds his meal full of tribbles, Scotty says, “They’re into the machinery, all right, and they’re probably in all the other food processors too.”

But, “food processor” doesn’t necessarily mean “replicator,” and the Memory Alpha wiki suggests that replicators for things like food weren’t commonplace on starships until the TNG era.

Does a system upgrade/reboot count as “replenishment?”

Because they did that plot on ST:TNG. “Binary,” I think.

Well, again, the TOS era Enterprise was on a five year mission. They weren’t supposed to require replenishment during the mission.

In the TNG era, with replicators explicitly being a thing, and the show out-of-universe and Starfleet in-universe moving away at from a USN analogue, and the Federation being portrayed as a post-scarcity utopia, re-supply just really wasn’t a plot concern for the TNG era Enterprise. They still had a couple of episodes where they were transporting non-replicatable items (medicine for a planetary plague in one episode, IIRC), but the TNG era Star Trek really didn’t care much about logistics.

And, BTW, DS9 was a Starbase. Their “runabouts” were short-range craft, basically glorified shuttlecraft that were docked at DS9. Even when they added the Defiant, it was an “Escort” class vessel that wasn’t rated for extended long-range operation, and also docked at DS9 between missions. And Quark definitely received shipments of supplies - quite a few episodes had as a B-plot shenanigans with his shipments.

And there was one visit to a starbase for extensive maintenance (a “baryon sweep”) that required equipment that the ship couldn’t provide for itself.

“11001001” upon wiki check.

The episode with the Thanksgiving turkeys was “Charlie X.” Kirk had ordered the galley chief to make “synthetic meatloaf” taste like turkey, but Charlie Evans used his superpowers to produce the real thing.

In “Arena,” McCoy is looking forward to having a “nice, non-reconstituted meal for a change” down on Cestus III.

In “Mark of Gideon,” Kirk tells Odonna they have enough food on board to feed 430 people for five years.

In The Making of Star Trek (published 1968), it’s stated that the outer edges of the saucer section are dedicated to “bulk storage” of things like food and water. It also says that food is prepared by machines in a central processing area, and delivered to the orderer by a small turbolift.

Machinery for waste and water reconversion is located in the secondary (“Engineering”) hull. The ship’s laundry, located on Deck 8 of the saucer, cleans garments by “reconverting” them, presumably with chemicals instead of water.

That was a cleaning procedure. Not replenishment.

But it was a process that the Enterprise couldn’t do itself, making the ship not capable of remaining on mission indefinitely, which is one of the OP’s questions

Even if they have supplies for the full five years those are more likely to be MREs than anything you want to eat.
I am morally certain that the boring stuff was being taken care of below decks while Kirk and company were hobnobbing with the Ambassadors.
(Any replenishment only rendezvous would be boring as heck and they would not bother sharing the mission recordings with us.)c

You have to assume that for at least 90% of the ship, if the bridge crew isn’t actively trying to kill them all, every day is the same old slog. There are episodes where the ship is “charting gaseous anomalies” or some felgercarb like that and a log entry will mention how boring it is. For most of the crew doing that is no different than running an ambassador somewhere or dealing with some planet’s crisis of the week. How would any of those sub-missions change what the guy in charge of cleaning the algae out of the water converter does every shift?

My head-wank is that replenishment takes place every time they get new personnel that aren’t seen arriving by shuttlecraft.

The five year mission of the original Enterprise NCC-1701 (no bloody A, B, C, or D) was to explore “where no man had gone before,” implying they would not spend a lot of time near places to restock, so I’d expect them to have enough supplies for the mission duration.

That said, they seemed to spend a lot of time in known space, and even returned to Earth more than once. Maybe those were set during resupply runs. That seems inefficient, though: it would make more sense to send another ship out to them where they are, than make them return home.

I guess we could conclude that the mission in the opening was not canonical, and thus not their actual mission. Or that there were a lot of “new worlds” within known space.

I always had the impression that by the ST:TNG era with transporter/replicator technology, they were effectively a closed system; they could essentially transmute substances- as long as there were adequate amounts of the basic building blocks (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen), and whatever trace elements are necessary, they could basically recycle poop, garbage, bodies, packaging, etc… indefinitely as long as there was enough energy to do so.

That said, I also always got the impression that the antimatter or whatever the power plant worked on was a finite resource that needed resupply, and that replicated food may not have always been as awesome as it sounds, so they probably did pick up actual food items when resupplying the engines. I mean, I imagine having perfect replicator mashed potatoes is great, but eventually you want the real thing, if only for the variability.

On the original series, I don’t know. I do recall there being something like a replicator on “Enterprise”, so maybe they had a mixture of fresh, preserved/canned and replicated food, with the crew’s preference running in that order.

In “Catspaw,” Kirk says they can manufacture a ton of gemstones on board the Enterprise.

In “A Private Little War,” Kirk asks Scotty how long it would take to “replicate” a hundred flintlock muskets.

They apparently had replicator technology, which would logically follow from the existence of the transporter. They just didn’t use it for mundane things like waste conversion and food preparation, possibly because of the vast amounts of energy it required.

Members of the crew could cook their own dishes if they wanted, an activity that came under the heading of “recreation.” Where they would get the ingredients they needed was never explained.