K is for... Kobayashi Maru

Kobayashi Maru:  A no-win situation caused by a set of rules that can only be won by changing the rules, in effect, cheating. This term comes from the name of a small ship in distress in a scenario shown in a Star Trek movie. According to the film, the scenario is featured in a training simulator for students attempting to become ship's captains. They receive a distress signal from the Kobayashi Maru and can either attempt to rescue it and be destroyed by enemy forces or leave it and let it be destroyed. James T. Kirk is the only person to have won the scenario--by reprogramming the simulator. In effect, cheating.

This may not be what you're expecting, given the topic.. I'm not going to talk about cheating your way out of unwinnable situations, although I do absolutely think that's a great topic.. one I'll maybe use on another day soon.. but rather than talk about the obvious, (cheating death/failure).. I'm going to talk about the idea of the Kobayashi Maru in the Star Trek movie series.

Let me preface this by saying I am NOT a Trekkie.  I like the movies, and I've watched some of the TV shows, although not religiously.. I like the concept of the show, just not enough to ever attend a conference or name a kid after a character or dress up like some space cowboy or... you get the picture.  But I recently watched the orignal Star Trek movies part 2 and 3 with my son and was struck by the continuity of the story.

If there is one thing I like about the show, it's that it knows and follows its roots.  The Kobayashi Maru concept shows up in the original Star Trek movies from back in the early 80's.. and was incorporated to play a major role in the new updated version of the movie as well.  I love it when stories are true to themselves, and when they actually plan ahead and introduce things early instead of just conveniently creating something that occurred 'off-screen' back around the first episode/book/movie and then bring it up later in the arc progression like it's well known.

(Harry Potter Spoiler Alert.)

I love the Harry Potter books. I really do, some of the best writing of our day without question imho.. but I really didn't like that the last book, the 'Deathly Hallows' was where we were first introduced the idea of the Deathly Hallows. I wish she would have referenced them somehow prior. A huge part of the final book dealt with the characters chasing after, thinking about, discussing the Deathly Hallows..something that big, and central to the story would have been better introduced earlier, imho.

Deathly Hallows Symbol
She has the cloak, she introduces the ring, she talks about the book, 'Tales of Beedle the Bard'.. but never mentions them for what they are, or introduces the symbol until the final book.

I do love that she introduces the ring in the 6th story, and that it plays a large and important part there.. that she introduces it as a horcrux, that it actually is the thing that leads to Dumbledore's death.. I just wish she'd have introduced the concept of the 3 brothers and the Deathly Hallows previously.

Now, I don't mean to be critical of the author, she has a ton, and I mean literally a ton of information and items that are introduced before they become relevant.. and I love that about her books.  In fact, it makes going back and rereading the books all the more fun because there are all these important items or concepts that are casually  mentioned and then not brought up until they're relevant. I think the foreshadowing is just tremendous in these stories, and as one who has attempted on a much small scale, something similar.. the amount of plotting and planning is outrageous. To do as many as Rowling did is simply astounding, imho.

This was just one thing that always stuck out to me in reading her books. She does this so well in all the other stories..and then in the finale, with one of the most central ideas.. the information is all contained in the final book.

I just think it could have been successfully introduced easily as a children's story, since that was essentially what it was.

However, complaining about this one thing over the entire Harry Potter series is like complaining that your desert spoon is slightly bent. It doesn't alter the end result, which was very pleasing.


  1. My solution to the Kobayahsi Maru would have just been to tell them they're on their own and run away.

  2. Hi, an interesting visit I have had with you! I like the original Star Trek series. I enjoy watching James Shatner in anything he does. He is so much fun! Best wishes to you, Ruby

  3. Trekkie fan here! I think you have certainly picked up on why Star Trek did so well and has had so many different versions, series and movies - Original Series, Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, Voyager....

    I think J.K. Rowland found an opening in the market at the time she published. Reading was not so popular with kids and she seemed to spark some interest which just developed and progressed as it went along. Don't get me wrong I loved Harry Potter too!

  4. I think that's way fans really liked the new Star Trek movie, there are so many references to the original series. Things like that, small kudos and easter eggs, endear me to reboots.

    JK's stuff and planning on the other hand...makes me feel like an ant. She so good at it. Though I agree I was kinda thrown for a loop by the Hallows.

  5. Huge Trek fan here.

    My wife and I will use "Kobayashi Maru" as our slang for anything we can't fight or win.

    We have also been to opening night of every Trek movie since we met in 1987.

    I am trying to read all the A to Z blogs, but coming back to the ones I really like.
    Looking forward to seeing what you do all month!

    The Other Side
    The Freedom of Nonbelief


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