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Kobayashi Maru scenario bridge

The Kobayashi Maru simulator in 2285

The Kobayashi Maru scenario is a test given to command track line officer Starfleet cadets. This test is generally not given to science officers. It is a test of character to see what a potential captain would do in a no-win 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.

Cadets are forbidden to ever tell others how they win, if they win. 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.

Basis for the test[]

The Kobayashi Maru scenario is based on an actual event in Starfleet history, in which a freighter called the Kobayashi Maru was lost along the Klingon border in the 22nd century.


23rd century[]

One cadet took the test twice in 2234, the first and only one to do so until 2254. Circa 2239, a cadet lasted 11.5 minutes in the simulation.

James T. Kirk became the first cadet to beat the scenario in 2254 by re-programming the computer.

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).

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 they 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

In the 2280s decade, cadet David Forester, inspired by Kirk's example, took the test and passed it, reutilizing Kirk's method of reprogramming the machine.

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.

Saavik Kobayashi Maru

Saavik in command during the scenario

Saavik and Kirk

Admiral Kirk discusses Saavik's performance with her

In 2285, Kirk, then an admiral serving as an instructor at the Academy, supervised Lieutenant Saavik's performance in the Kobayashi Maru scenario. Former Enterprise crew members Spock, Sulu, Uhura and McCoy participated as "actors" in the simulation. Saavik's performance was predictably dismal; as Kirk observed to Spock, "She destroyed the simulator room and you with it." Spock had never taken the Kobayashi Maru test, but before he died of radiation poisoning, he described his sacrifice to save the Enterprise as his solution to the scenario.

While breaking Leonard McCoy out of a Federation prison and plotting to steal the Enterprise from the Spacedock in Earth orbit, Admiral Kirk contacted Commander Chekov with the coded message "The Kobayashi Maru has set sail for the promised land."

The term "Kobayashi Maru" may be a slang term for any hopeless situation in the 23rd century, at least in Starfleet culture. Leonard McCoy considered his and James T. Kirk's imprisonment on Rura Penthe to be a "Kobayashi Maru" and told Kirk as much, on their first night at the penal mine.

24th century[]

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.

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.

Cardassians have also been the aggressor in some tests.

The bridge of the USS Venture was recreated for Kobayashi Maru scenario tests.

Cadets that have beaten the simulation in the 24th century include Quintin Stone and Nog.

Typhuss James Halliwell, upon taking the test in 2350, 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. Typhuss James Halliwell recorded one of the highest scores for the test in the Academy's history. (Star Trek: Intrepid)

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.

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.

By the 2370s, cadets taking the test were asked to advance beyond Kirk's "original thinking" in their efforts to save the ship.

Sinjin Kirk recorded one of the highest scores for the test in the Academy's history.

Other command tests[]

A similar simulation was later used in the 24th century. It involved a damaged Ferengi ship as well as Romulan D'deridex-class warbirds, instead of a civilian freighter and Klingon battle cruisers, and was performed on the holodeck. However according to Tuvok this version did have a correct solution, that being to retreat. (VOY episode: "Learning Curve")

By the 2380s, the scenario could include various officers from differents ships and time periods to assist the inviduals in taking the scenario. In 2383, Dal R'El took the scenario several times aboard the USS Protostar until he learned the scenario's lesson. (PRD episode: "Kobayashi")

25th century[]

In 2401, Admiral Jean-Luc Picard informed Commander Raffaela Musiker that he was considering an update to the Kobayashi Maru scenario. (PIC episode: "The Star Gazer")


Seven of Nine tries her hand at diplomacy

In the year 2401, Seven of Nine tried her hand at diplomacy in a special holoprogram version of the Kobayashi Maru scenario. After her failure, Admiral Jean-Luc Picard tried to convince her to work towards a return to Starfleet and peaceful missions rather than resuming violent adventuring with the Fenris Rangers. A short time afterwards, Picard encountered Seven in the company of the Fenris Rangers while the USS Stargazer was investigating the fate of the Jenjoran civilization of the planet Jenjor VI. After Picard was taken hostage by Reska, a half-Reman outcast from the world's former Romulan occupiers, Seven was able to negotiate an understanding, and Reska freed Picard and agreed to barter peace with the Jenjorans. Although Picard congratulated Seven on solving the real-life application of the scenario, she still declined to immediately return to Starfleet. (PIC - Stargazer comics: "Issue 1", "Issue 3")

32nd century[]

In 3190, Captain Michael Burnham and Federation President Laira Rillak discussed the Kobayashi Maru scenario in the aftermath of catastrophe of Deep Space Repair Beta Six and the death of three of its crew. Burnham was surprised that Rillak was aware of the scenario, not being Starfleet, but Rillak explained that she had learned of it from her experience in flying cargo around the sector for her father. Rillak felt that the lesson of the scenario was acceptance, and leadership being about balance, knowing what weight was one's to carry and what wasn't, something which Burnham didn't see yet. (DSC episode: "Kobayashi Maru")

Alternate reality[]

Kobayashi Maru scenario, 2258

James T. Kirk during the Kobayashi Maru test

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.

In 2259, one of the video feeds on Admiral Alexander Marcus was of the Kobayashi Maru test monitoring room.