- For other uses, see Kobayashi.
The Kobayashi Maru scenario is a test given to command track Starfleet cadets. This test is generally not given to science officers. It is a test of character to see what a potential commander would do in a life or death scenario.
History and specifics
In the original scenario, the cadet captains a patrol in a simulated starship, based on a dramatized experience of the USS Horizon in the 22nd century. The ship receives a distress call from a neutronic fuel carrier, the SS Kobayashi Maru (commanded by Kojiro Vance), from inside a neutral zone. If the cadet attempts to aid the Maru, three Klingon cruisers attack. The computer ensures that it is impossible for the cadet to save both the Maru passengers and their own ship. (TOS movie, novelization & comic adaptation: The Wrath of Khan; TOS novel: The Kobayashi Maru; TOS - Enterprise Logs short story: "Just Another Little Training Cruise"; WizKids module: Attack Wing)
Cadets are forbidden to ever tell others of the scenario. In fact, the entire Kobayashi Maru program is meant to be unknown to those who have never taken it, so that they cannot pre-plan tactics. Leonard McCoy and Spock were two officers who had never taken the test. (TOS novel: The Kobayashi Maru)
Basis for the test
The Kobayashi Maru scenario is based on an actual event in Starfleet history, in which a freighter called the ECS Kobayashi Maru was lost along the Klingon Empire's border in the 22nd century. (ENT novel: Kobayashi Maru)
On his first attempt "commanding" the USS Potemkin, he lasted five minutes, but "died" after four minutes and 37.03 seconds. The results were the same in his second attempt, but his reaction time in both was well above average. After these defeats, Kirk took to studying statements by Korrd meant for both winners and losers (in battle). (TOS novel: The Kobayashi Maru)
Before his third attempt, Kirk reprogrammed the scenario (with the aid of a fellow Starfleet cadet), eliminating the parts of the program that made it impossible to win, thus creating a level playing field where success was not guaranteed, but at least possible. He then told the simulation's Klingon, Kozor, that he was "Captain Kirk". When Kozor heard this, the attacking fleet instantly assisted Kirk in locating Kobayashi Maru. Kirk then tricked the Klingon ships into warping away, giving him time to evacuate the Maru. The whole thing took eighteen minutes and twenty-seven seconds. Admirals Jublik and Zheng gave Kirk a commendation for original thinking, as well as ninety-nine demerits, just short of the expulsion-limit. (TOS novel: The Kobayashi Maru, TOS comic: "Star-Crossed", TOS - Unlimited comic: "Action of the Tiger"; TOS - Strange New Worlds VII short story: "A Test of Character")
Cadet Montgomery Scott took the test, and his simulated USS Saratoga utilized a trick of deflector shields an weaknesses in shield frequencies to eliminate numerous Klingon warships, achieving a long running stalemate by targeting the crux of linked shield bubbles, first with photon torpedoes and then by beaming antimatter canisters to the linked shields. His tactic was questioned by the supervising admirals since it would not work in reality. Computer simulations had long theorized that precision fire to linked shield bubbles would cause destructive feedback, but in practice the tactic never worked due to flaws in the simulation programming. Scott's performance was questioned since it was Scott himself, as a youth, who had performed the engineering experiment that proved the simulation wrong. The issue of his grade was rendered moot when he quietly accepted a transfer to Starfleet Academy Engineering School, offered anonymously by one of the admirals who learned of Scotty's trick. (TOS novel: The Kobayashi Maru)
Cadet Hikaru Sulu's test ran short and resulted in the complete loss of the Kobayashi Maru. When his simulated USS Exeter received the distress call, he chose to follow the letter of the law and declined to violate the Klingon Neutral Zone. There was a brief discussion among the cadet crew questioning his decision, but the cadet acting as his XO, Maria Theresa Perez-Salazar, quieted all dissent with a stern admonition for the crew to follow Sulu's orders, followed by an impassioned dialogue with Sulu regarding the weight of his decision. Despite the lack of tactical exercise, the demonstration of chain of command was deserving of high marks and was educational for all concerned, especially Sulu, who was feeling conflicted over his decision to focus on his schooling and subsequently missing spending time with his dying great-grandfather. (TOS novel: The Kobayashi Maru)
Cadet Pavel Chekov found himself outmatched early in the simulation by multiple attackers. Despite his ability to pitch a longer firefight, Chekov instead chose to rush to the end of the simulation by adopting a "scorched earth" policy and luring a large number of attackers into range and self-destructing the simulation USS Yorktown. He was successful in destroying a disproportionate number of enemies, despite the loss of the Kobayashi Maru and his entire crew. It was known that Chekov had an admiration for the reputation of James Kirk, and the instructors ordered a follow-up simulation involving ferreting out an enemy mole while trapped in an outpost station. Chekov also used a suicide attack, causing all parties to be simulated casualties. His instructors were highly critical of this approach in both tests. In particular, they pointed out Kirk's solution to the outpost exercise was to force everyone to disarm and eventually reveal that there was no enemy mole, causing Chekov a good deal of humiliation. (TOS novel: The Kobayashi Maru)
In the year 2270, Cadet Piper managed to flummox the test by using a computer routine she had read about in a series of novels for young readers. When facing a number of Romulan vessels, her simulated USS Saratoga began taking damage and casualties from hull breaches. Piper, for lack of a better means of controlling the ship, used a hand communicator to feed firing solutions to the library computer via voice commands. She then used a little known emergency override to order the computer to begin rerouting control routines, effectively taking control of the ship. Unfortunately, the communicator fed the emergency overrides to the Academy computers, bypassing the simulator, causing a severe technical outage. While the unique approach was tactically sound for prolonging the life of her ship, it also mirrored techniques used by terrorists, putting her under suspicion of collaborating with a mutinous attempt to steal a prototype starship a short time later. (TOS - Fortunes of War novel: Dreadnought!)
Another cadet who has beaten the simulation is Peter Kirk. He did this by challenging the other captain to a ritual duel to the death, such that all existing hostilities must be halted for the duration. Peter told his crew to rescue the Kobayashi Maru's crew and warp away while he was in combat. (TOS novel: Sarek)
The alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire led to the change, in the 24th century, of enemy in the Kobayashi Maru from Klingon to Romulans. (DS9 - Strange New Worlds VI short story: "Best Tools Available")
- There appear to have been some variants of the simulation using Romulans in the 23rd century as well, indicating that the test would be given differently then as well. Undoubtedly by this point, the Klingons were wholly removed as a possibility.
Cadets that have beaten the simulation in the 24th century include Quintin Stone and Nog. (TNG novel: A Rock and a Hard Place, DS9 - Strange New Worlds VI short story: "Best Tools Available"; DS9 - Strange New Worlds III short story: "The Bottom Line")
Mackenzie Calhoun, upon taking the test, destroyed the freighter, backing up his decision by suggesting that more than likely the crew was dead, and it was just a trap. He also reasoned that the crew would prefer this to capture and torture from their adversaries. (NF novel: Stone and Anvil)
When Cadet William T. Riker took the test, he impressed his instructor by ordering an EVA suit be brought to him, so he could fight the enemy by hand. (TNG - The Sky's the Limit short story: "'Til Death")
Other command tests
By the later 24th century, a number of variants of the test existed, with the same goal of teaching a potential commander to reacting to a loss situation or otherwise frustrating their attempts to win the day in the face of the no-win scenario. In the bridge officer certification, Deanna Troi had to solve a no-win scenario involving sending a crewman to their death as part of her initiation to be promoted to commander, since she had not received any command training before receiving her commission as counselor. (TNG episode: "Thine Own Self")
Tuvok administered a no-win scenario fighting Romulans to Maquis members being drilled in Starfleet protocols aboard USS Voyager in the year 2371. Rather than being strictly a test of command, the drill was intended to build an understanding of working within the system to the headstrong Maquis who were now provisional officers. (VOY episode: "Learning Curve")
In the Kelvin timeline, by 2258 Commander Spock was in charge of programming the scenario for cadets. In that year James T. Kirk of that reality took the test. Like in the original reality, he took the test twice and failed before taking the test a third time. On his third attempt, Kirk won the simulation by reprogramming the simulator and making it possible to destroy the attacking ships with one torpedo each. Disturbed by this, Spock investigated and brought his findings to academy leadership, which called a hearing into Kirk's actions. (TOS movie, novelization & comic adaptation: Star Trek)
- TOS movie, novelization & comic adaptation: The Wrath of Khan
- TOS novel: The Kobayashi Maru
- TOS - Enterprise Logs short story: "Just Another Little Training Cruise"
- WizKids module: Attack Wing
- TOS novel: The Kobayashi Maru
- ENT novel: Kobayashi Maru
- TOS comic: "Star-Crossed"
- TOS - Unlimited comic: "Action of the Tiger"
- TOS - Strange New Worlds VII short story: "A Test of Character"
- TOS video game: Starfleet Academy
- TOS novel: Sarek
- DS9 - Strange New Worlds VI short story: "Best Tools Available"
- DS9 - Strange New Worlds III short story: "The Bottom Line"
- NF novel: Stone and Anvil
- TNG - The Sky's the Limit short story: "'Til Death"
- TOS novel: Avenger
- TNG video game: Away Team
- TOS movie, novelization & comic adaptation: Star Trek