| | What is this Transwarp Drive thingy anyhow?
Or: What has Warp 10 got to do with anything?
Transwarp bugs me. It is faster than any speed anybody in Trek has travelled under their own power. Often inferred to, as being faster than 'Warp 10'. But what is it?
Starfleet tried it, the Borg have it, the Caretaker (among others) didn't need it and, presumably, the Galaxy is the playground at the end of the street for Q.
To add to that, in at least one episode each of both TNG and Voyager it was claimed that Warp 10 was infinitely fast- Effectively meaning, like Douglas Adams' Infinite Improbability and even faster Bistro Drives, your ship would instaneously pass through every point in the Galaxy. So why go faster than infinity?
Of course, they then damned their own statements by proceeding to travel faster than Warp 10. Whilst Voyager herself could maintain speeds within a few decimals of that magical figure anyhow. Given that it was going to take 70 years to travel the 70,000 light years at her maximum warp of 9.975 we get 365c (actually Warp 5 on the TNG scale). Whatever figure one uses, from 70 years A to B, to instant visitation to every point in the Galaxy, is still a major jump, even on the wildly erratic logarithmic warp scale.
Starfleet's involvement with Transwarp first came to light in 'The Search for Spock', where Excelsior, Starfleet's newest and most powerful ship, was instructed to aprehend Enterprise. The fact they would have achieved visitation to every point of the Galaxy, by virtue of blowing up when the drive was engaged, is probably irrelevant at this point. They knew it existed and was probably faster than Warp 10!
Since, of course, we have had TNG and worse Voyager to introduce us to the theories and practical details of Transwarp.
TNG introduced us to Borg Transwarp Conduits, almost fixed corridors down which a ship could fly at many times normal warp speed. In the episode Descent Enterprise entered a Borg conduit and travelled some 65 light years in less than ten seconds. At that speed they could set off at breakfast, fly to the Caretakers abode, rescue Voyager and still get home in time for a late tea the same day. The important thing here is that they achieved this without special modifications in anyway what so ever to the ship.
Voyager on the otherhand offered us a lot of alternatives:-
The first being the all ready hinted "Threshold" episode, where it was blatently stated that at Warp 10, the ship would be present etc. Again the fact that whoever took the jolly would turn into a slug at the end of it we will discard, at least for the time being. To be honest it reminds me of the claims for what would happen to the human body if one travelled faster than a horse, or flew at the speed of sound.
The second Voyager version of transwarp was that seen in the episode "Distant Origin". This episode features the Voth, a species descended from Earth's dinosaurs. The Voth travel in ships which are equipped with transwarp drive, but they are very different from any earlier type. The Voth ships do not appear to travel in a conduit, but rather look like a ship travelling at normal warp - a black sky with passing streaks, although the streaks are much larger and brighter than those we see at normal warp. The velocity is nothing like infinite; the timeline is generally uncertain but the ships take at least minutes if not hours or days to get from place to place, so Voth-type transwarp is emphatically not what Voyager developed in Threshold.
Third comes the return of the Borg Transwarp Conduit. But it is very different to the one Enterprise met. Enterprises transwarp involves a cloudy bluish tunnel with a glowing light at the far end (actually a re-use of the effects from an anomaly seen in TNG's "Time Squared"), while the Voyager type involves a greenish tunnel with a much more clearly defined boundary. In addition it proves rather slower than the TNG version. The Borg quite clearly stating in Scorpion that it would take too long for Voyager to cross there space in return for the technology to defeat Species 8472. If they had access to TNG's tunnel they could have covered the 10,000 light years in something less than 30 minutes, even for the most impatient of people, hardly too long.
This brings in the concept of creating ones conduit as one goes and is reinforced by Dark Frontier where we are informed that to enter a Borg Transwarp conduit one must have a Transwarp Coil. This presumably is a slower process than just rattling down any old hole. But once the tunnel forms, anybody can use it, provided they can get in.
Does any of this make sense in the Warp Universe?
Well, not really.
Only the Threshold version alledgedly breaks the 'Warp 10' barrier. Though Tom obviously travelled a distance, it was rather less than infinite as Voyager managed to follow him and it took time.
Transwarp, appears to offer just a faster way of travelling between two points. It must ultimately be possible to equal the speeds using conventional Warp technologies
We should perhaps ask what is faster than infinity? Or is this oft quoted Warp 10 Barrier something that should be reconsidered?
The only conclusion I would tentatively make, is that the so-called Transwarp drive is merely a more efficient way of travelling at warp speed.