(covers information from several alternate timelines)
|A Tholian in 2155|
|A Tholian in 2268|
History and politicsEdit
The head governmental unit of the Tholians was the Tholian Assembly. During the mid-22nd century, the Vulcan High Command had only limited contact with the Assembly. It was, however, unknown at the time that they may have been involved as a faction in the Temporal Cold War. (ENT: "Future Tense")
First contact with EarthEdit
In 2152, the Tholians made an unusual move; they traveled far beyond their territory and actively sought to possess a 31st century time-travel pod discovered by the Earth starship Enterprise NX-01, under the command of Jonathan Archer. Four Tholian starships intercepted and disabled the Vulcan cruiser Tal'Kir, while it waited to rendezvous with Enterprise. They, in turn, attacked and defeated a Suliban fleet that was in pursuit of the arriving Earth ship. They then successfully removed the pod from Enterprise's possession, only to have the pod return to its proper timeline moments later. (ENT: "Future Tense")
The Defiant incidentEdit
In the mirror universe, in 2155, the Tholians detonated a tri-cobalt warhead inside the gravity well of a dead star. The explosion created an interphasic rift which acted as a doorway to a parallel universe. Because of its instability, the Tholians reasoned that it was too dangerous to send one of their own ships through, so they transmitted a distress call into the opening, hoping to lure a ship from the other side. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly")
In 2268, the Federation starship USS Defiant entered this region of space, annexed by the Tholians, in response to the distress call. Three weeks later, the starship USS Enterprise discovered the Defiant trapped in a spatial interphase, only to observe the starship, and consequently landing party leader James T. Kirk, cross over into the mirror universe.
Shortly thereafter, a Tholian starship intercepted the Enterprise, demanding that it leave Tholian territory. At the request of First Officer Spock to be allowed to rescue Kirk from the Defiant, Tholian Commander Loskene allowed the Enterprise and its crew a small timeframe before they were required to withdraw. Because the Enterprise crew was unable to rescue Kirk in the time provided, though, the Tholians opened fire, damaging the Enterprise. A second Tholian starship soon arrived and the Tholians then attempted to trap the Enterprise in their web. The Enterprise, however, was able to recover Kirk and escape successfully, without actually falling victim to the web. (TOS: "The Tholian Web")
Unknown at the time, the Defiant had traveled back in time to the mirror universe, where, when fully clear of the interphase, it was towed by the Tholians of that universe to a small moon drydock in the Vintaak system, deep in Tholian space. There, they employed several humanoids to gut the ship. Commander Jonathan Archer of Starfleet learned of the vessel's presence in his universe. He commandeered the ISS Enterprise and flew it deep into Tholian space, while cloaked, to steal the Defiant. After Archer sent a boarding party to the Defiant, the Tholians spun a tractor web around the Enterprise and destroyed it. The boarding party managed to activate the Defiant's systems, but not before the Tholians spun a tractor web over the entrance of the drydock. The Defiant then destroyed three Tholian ships and the moon's drydock, before escaping the system. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly", "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II")
The Tholians' contact with Starfleet over the next century was sporadic. In 2353, the Tholians destroyed a Federation starbase. The only survivor of this attack was Kyle Riker, the father of Starfleet Commander William T. Riker. (TNG: "The Icarus Factor")
Tholian attacks remained frequent enough for Starfleet to develop Tholian-based battle simulations. In 2355, during one such simulation, William T. Riker used a notable strategy to calculate a sensory blind spot on a Tholian vessel. (TNG: "Peak Performance")
The Tholians remained a threat to Starfleet well into the 2360s, when it was anticipated by Klingon Special Emissary K'Ehleyr that, if a Klingon Civil War were to break out in 2367, the Tholians might eventually be involved. This fear, however, did not come to pass, when the civil war broke out months later. (TNG: "Reunion")
Trade and diplomacyEdit
The Tholians conducted business with Bajoran trader Razka Karn in the early 2370s. They pursued him because of unscrupulous "business" practices, so he took refuge in the Badlands. (DS9: "Indiscretion")
Several weeks later, Odo accused Nog of stealing from the Tholian ambassador and arrested him and Jake Sisko for the deed. However, this was actually part of a plan Jake Sisko had formulated, in an attempt to repair his friendship with Nog. Nog maintained his innocence, claiming not even to know what a Tholian looked like. (DS9: "Life Support")
The Tholians also had an ambassador stationed at DS9. At one point, this Tholian owed the station commander, Captain Benjamin Sisko, a favor. The Tholian ambassador obtained silk and gave it to Ben Sisko to return the favor. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")
The following year, a Tholian observer was killed in the bombing of the Antwerp Conference on Earth by a Dominion infiltrator. (DS9: "Homefront") Despite this, the Tholians signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion in the following year, prior to the outbreak of the Dominion War, remaining neutral throughout the conflict. (DS9: "Call to Arms")
In 2379, Romulan Senator Tal'aura had an appointment with the Tholian ambassador to Romulus, conveniently causing her to leave the Senate chambers only moments before the assassination of the entire Senate. (Star Trek Nemesis)
A living Tholian was approximately the same height as a Human. It was principally a reddish color, in varying shades, and there was the suggestion of fluid or field motion within the body. Tholians had a hard carapace that was chiefly mineral. There were six thin legs that made it possible for the being to move in any direction quickly; the legs were articulated with joints roughly corresponding to the knee and ankle of humanoid species. Each leg ended in a multi-toed foot. The legs were attached at the base of the torso and were radially symmetric. There were two arms; each had joints analogous to the humanoid elbow and wrist, and each arm ended in a multi-fingered hand. There was a slightly visible neck that was covered by a semitransparent dome membrane that shielded the head. Tholians had two glowing spots near the top of their torso. They turned these to face individuals with whom they interacted, which suggested they were some sort of information-gathering organ(s). Tholians communicated primarily through a series of clicks and chirps. Tholians were hermaphroditic, with each individual possessing both male and female sexual organs. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly")
Tholian biology required high temperatures around 480 Kelvin (207 °C, 404 °F). They could tolerate lower temperatures for a brief period of time; if they were exposed to temperatures around 380 Kelvin or less, their carapace would crack. This was painful or distressing; a Tholian subjected to such a temperature regime could be coerced to cooperate. In temperatures even lower, a Tholian would freeze solid and shatter. (ENT: "Future Tense", "In a Mirror, Darkly")
Tholians had something analogous to biochemical processes. Phlox from the mirror universe was able to devise a sedative; however, this compound eventually lost effectiveness. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly")
Tholians were naturally able to emit various forms of radiation, which they could modulate. They could communicate over short distances in this fashion. A Tholian imprisoned aboard the ISS Enterprise in 2155 was able to summon help via this method, forcing Phlox to kill it in order to silence it. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly")
In 2372, Kasidy Yates claimed she was meeting with a Tholian freighter to deliver medical supplies to treat a viral infection on one of their colonies; she was in fact smuggling the supplies to the Maquis. (DS9: "For the Cause")
Society and cultureEdit
During several confrontations with the Federation, Tholian behavior could best be described as aggressive, and territorial. Tholians were also renowned for their punctuality.
Tholians rarely advanced very far from their home system, and were known to kill outsiders caught trespassing in their territory. They were also known to frequently annex surrounding systems outside of the Assembly, to further isolate their territory. (ENT: "Future Tense", "In a Mirror, Darkly"; TOS: "The Tholian Web"; DS9: "For the Cause"; TNG: "Captain's Holiday")
The Tholians were one of the earliest elements of "The Tholian Web" that was devised for the episode, which was written by Judy Burns and Chet Richards. Referring obliquely to the species, Burns later said, "We [...] had villains out there who were lurking." (Star Trek Monthly issue 43, p. 38) In fact, the Tholians were created due to Burns fearing that "The Tholian Web" was otherwise merely an average ghost story and was proving to be unworkable. Richards elaborated, "She wanted something to cause greater jeopardy so that everyone in the story gets real anxious as to whether they are going to be able to recover Spock. That is when we brought in the Tholians. The name came from an expedition that an acquaintance of mine had actually been on – a geologist named Jack Green, who had gone to the Aegean islands and, after some digging, had discovered a collapsed Tholos tomb, complete with its contents. So Tholos became Tholian." (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Three)
In "The Tholian Web", the appearance of a Tholian was briefly established, with only a few shots of one on the Enterprise viewscreen. Those shots used visual effects and a puppet designed by Mike Minor. (Star Trek Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., p. 508) He recollected, "I built a plexiglass entity on a camera stand, lit internally against a field of tin foil [....] [The Tholian] was supposed to be a crystalline structure, silicon based, whatever that means, but he's not carbon based. I think there was a script mention about that, but I'm not sure. But I took that to mean that he was prismatic, with a rigid exoskeleton body scan." Special effects changed the way in which the bust of the creature was colored, enhancing the alien's strangeness. "In a sense by pulling a black and white matte, positive and negative (a positive image of the creature and a negative image of the background), you could do separations and therefore throw [...] less color into the figure," continued Minor, "or let color seep into it as frames went on and let it dissolve into colors in the optical printer so that the character went through various sheens of color and harmonies which didn't really exist." (Enterprise Incidents, issue #14, p. 45) The Tholian was voiced by Barbara Babcock. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, p. 97) The Tholian head was the last shot filmed for the episode on the sixth and final day of shooting, Monday 12 August 1968. Two versions were filmed, one with a simple dark background and one with the tin foil. Eventually, the latter was used for the episode. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Three)
Not much information about the Tholians was presented in "The Tholian Web". Those who viewed that episode without the insight of later installments couldn't even be sure about the true physical appearance of Tholians. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 294) The footage of one therein apparently showed the faceted head of a Tholian but it was not made clear if that was indeed a head or simply a helmet. (Star Trek Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., p. 508) It could also have been a mask or even an artificial projection, such as that of Balok in "The Corbomite Maneuver". (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 294) Moreover, it was unclear whether the Tholian's body below the viewscreen was humanoid or something more unusual. (Star Trek Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., p. 508)
Following the single view of a Tholian on Star Trek: The Original Series, the species proved extremely popular with fans. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 14) One such individual was Mike Sussman. "What was so cool was that we knew so little about the Tholians," he remarked. "To me they were like the Bobba Fett of the Star Trek universe. The Tholians were so mysterious." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 15) Another fan of the species was Manny Coto, who imagined the Tholians as being crab-like. "Tholians were always a fascinating race to me," he commented, "'cause they were one of the more inhuman, you know, non-humanoid races." ("Before Her Time: Decommissioning Enterprise, Part Two: Memorable Voyages", ENT Season 4 Blu-ray special features)
Bringing the Tholians back to Star Trek was a long-term aim of Ronald D. Moore. (AOL chat, 1997) As a casual tribute to TOS in the fourth season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "For the Cause", Moore included a line of dialog referencing Tholian punctuality. In fact, the writing staff of DS9 loved to mention the Tholians, but kept becoming unable to show them. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 341 & 260-261) Midway through the initial broadcast run of DS9 Season 5, Moore referred to the Tholians as having "real support" around the writing staff of DS9. He went on to say, "I'd like to see them again and maybe we'll do one next year." (AOL chat, 1997) One issue was that, even by the end of that season, Moore didn't feel he had a good enough story to warrant the financial expenditure needed to portray CGI Tholians. (AOL chat, 1997) On the other hand, the Tholians were one of several TOS races which Makeup Supervisor Michael Westmore imagined updating for DS9, at least as early as November 1998. (Star Trek Monthly issue 46, p. 83) Eventually, though, Moore cautioned fans not to expect to see Tholians in the series. (Star Trek Monthly issue 47, p. 11)
There were originally no grand plans to feature the Tholians on Star Trek: Enterprise. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 14) Though Mike Sussman believed many viewers wanted to see first contact with the Tholians, he felt it would be challenging and dangerous to establish too much about the species. "As soon as we start filling in the blanks, there's a risk they'll become a little less appealing," he reckoned, at the end of the show's first season. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 139, p. 50)
The reintroduction of the Tholians in the Season 2 episode "Future Tense" came about because Mike Sussman, by then a writer and producer on the series, planned for the Tholians of the 22nd century to be one group in pursuit of the USS Defiant, which Sussman imagined as having recently emerged from the 23rd century via spatial interphase. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 14) "The Tholians came along," he recalled, "as a logical part of the story involving the Defiant." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 15) In a story pitch submitted by Sussman, he suggested the Tholians had somehow deliberately weakened the fabric of space, in hope of trapping a ship from the future. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 14) "The Tholians would then try to reverse engineer the ship," he speculated, "and get all sorts of cool futuristic technology."  After substituting the Defiant with a 31st century time-travel pod, Sussman initially feared that the exclusion of the Defiant from the script might mean losing the Tholians from it as well, though he chose to keep them in the episode. "I realized I still needed an alien adversary who was going to fight Archer and the Suliban for the ship," he related. "I thought, 'Why not make it the Tholians?'" (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 15)
Mike Sussman thoroughly researched the Tholians in preparation for writing "Future Tense". "I was diving into all sorts of semi-professional publications over the years that speculated what the Tholians were really like," he remembered. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 16)
The depiction of the Tholians in "Future Tense" was popular with production personnel. Critiquing their appearance in that outing, Executive Producer Brannon Braga enthused, "The Tholians were wonderful." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 145, p. 28) Mike Sussman noted, "It was just cool to feature them again." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 16) He elaborated, "We didn't see them [Tholians], but it was really great when they [officers from Enterprise] were knocking on the door [of the time-travel pod]. I thought all the fans were gonna love it, 'cause in your mind's eye, behind this door you're going to see these guys. But again – once you finally show them, it's like, 'Ohhh – is that it? Is that all?'" (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 62)
Whether the Tholians were to reappear after "Future Tense" was at first unclear. At the end of the second season, Brannon Braga declared, "I'm hoping we'll see them again next season. If we choose to develop them, they'll be major players in every way." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 145, p. 28) However, Mike Sussman – having re-established the Tholians in "Future Tense" – had no immediate plans to return the species to Enterprise. "I would have been happy to use the Tholians again," he specified, "but they were difficult to do, particularly if you wanted to show them, as I'd set them up as something exotic. They could have been very boring-looking aliens that wore helmets, but I didn't want to do that. So I think in some ways I boxed myself into a corner." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 16)
The idea of returning the Tholians to Star Trek: Enterprise wasn't, in fact, foreseeable until Mike Sussman and Executive Producer Manny Coto were looking for a mirror universe story for the series' fourth season. Realizing his original story pitch for the Defiant plotline could be resurrected, Sussman once again considered the Tholians. He later commented, "I needed a character that the crew of the I.S.S. Enterprise capture early on in the show who would lead us to the hiding place where we would find the Defiant. I thought, 'OK, we'll make it a Tholian.'" (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 16)
Although the script for "In a Mirror, Darkly" referred to the Tholians merely as a crystalline species with multiple limbs, Mike Sussman was determined for them to be well depicted. "I felt if we were going to show them, we had to do them right," he reasoned. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 17)
The process of modernizing the appearance of a Tholian for "In a Mirror, Darkly" was supervised by Visual Effects Producer Dan Curry. (ENT Season 4 DVD audio commentary) Visual Effects Supervisor Ronald B. Moore was pleased to be provided with the opportunity of working on designing the Tholians for ENT, having not been given that chance when working on "Future Tense" (due to the fact that the Tholians themselves are never seen in that episode). (Visual Effects Magic, ENT Season 4 DVD special features)
The visual effects team watched "The Tholian Web" a couple of times to prepare for updating the Tholians in ENT. (Visual Effects Magic, ENT Season 4 DVD special features) The team's design process included early sketches, some of which were seen by Mike Sussman. (ENT Season 4 DVD audio commentary) He remarked, "There were a lot of different designs tossed around. They were all crystalline, but some of them didn't quite stand upright. They were cool designs, but I was looking at them with Manny (Coto) and our concern was that many of them didn't have the head that we saw in The Original Series episode. We wanted a creature where everything above the neck would be recognizable from before, but everything below the neck could be new." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 17)
Ronald B. Moore was at first stumped as to how to approach the task of designing the new Tholian. Even though he thought the Tholian in "The Tholian Web" (Commander Loskene) looks like it's wearing a helmet, Moore instead wanted to make the new Tholian have a crystalline structure. (Visual Effects Magic, ENT Season 4 DVD special features) The producers were particularly eager for the Tholians to not be revealed as a humanoid species in masks, but rather something much more exotic. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 14) Dan Curry explained, "We're looking at the Tholian that we saw before as if it might have been wearing a helmet so we can get into greater detail as to the physiognomy. We're looking at crystal structure and color schemes, contrast ratios so when I do my renderings they'll have a degree of verisimilitude. We're not going to make it a bipedal axiomally symmetrical quadroped." (CFQ, Vol. 37, No. 2, p. 69)
The filming of the modernized Tholian was accomplished using motion-control and required stand-in David Anderson to wear an intricate, black bodysuit, aka motion capture suit, that enabled him to be tracked. The Tholian, represented with CGI, was then made to duplicate his movements, which were subsequently slightly modified. (Visual Effects Magic, ENT Season 4 DVD special features) The expense of digital visual effects, however, meant the fully CG Tholian couldn't be featured too heavily. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 17)
Although the spider-like appearance of the Tholian's modernized exterior might suggest that the Tholians are personally capable of spinning webs like their ships are, Mike Sussman had not considered this until it was pointed out to him by a friend. (ENT Season 4 DVD audio commentary) Sussman was nonetheless thrilled by the opportunity to feature the Tholians and reveal somewhat more about them in "In a Mirror, Darkly", believing their reappearance therein might lead to more. "I hope we get to see the Tholians again in a future Star Trek production," he admitted, "but it was great to finally revisit them. What was so cool was that we kept them pretty mysterious. There's still a lot we don't know and I don't think we revealed too much, so I think there's still plenty of areas to explore in future series or movies." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 26, p. 17) Manny Coto felt likewise, remarking, "Yeah, it was fun to do a Tholian." ("Before Her Time: Decommissioning Enterprise, Part Two: Memorable Voyages", ENT Season 4 Blu-ray special features)
Regarding the future of the Tholians, comics writer Mike Johnson predicted, "At some point, maybe not soon, but inevitably, the Tholians are going to cause major trouble for the Federation. Maybe in the next TV series?" ("Top 50 Alien Species!", Star Trek: Ongoing issue #50, "Live, Part 1")
According to The Worlds of the Federation (p. 150), Tholia was the home planet of the Tholian species. It was the second planet in the Tholian system, a planet with a searing hot methane environment. Legends of the Ferengi gives the homeworld of the Tholians as Tholis.
An emblem representing the Tholian Assembly was created for the book Star Trek: Star Charts (p. 35) but has never been seen on camera. Furthermore, according to this book, Tholia, the homeworld of the Tholians, was a Class Y planet governed by the Tholian Assembly. The Tholians had established diplomatic relations with the Federation in 2271, two years after first contact with the starship USS Enterprise.
- The Tholians play a major role in the comic book series by DC Comics War and Madness, which covered issues 71 through 75 in their second TNG series.
- The Tholians make an appearance in the "Captain's Log: Sulu" comic from IDW Publishing, set sometime between 2288 and 2290.
- In IDW's alternate reality comic two-parter "The Tholian Webs, Part 1" and "The Tholian Webs, Part 2", a Tholian fleet referred to as "the Tholian armada" and supervised by Commander Loskene entrap the USS Enterprise in a Tholian web and try to tow the ship to the Tholian homeworld, to answer for supposedly committing crimes against the Tholian Assembly by inadvertently intruding on Tholian space. Once the Enterprise manages to escape, though, Loskene promises war between the Tholians and the Federation, upon their next encounter.
- A race called the Tholians are mentioned in the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Yoda: Dark Rendezvous.
- The Tholians appear in the alternate Star Fleet Universe as a significant race. In this universe, they are not native to this galaxy, originating in Messier 81, or Bode's Galaxy. The Tholian Holdfast in the Milky Way is a remnant of the once-mighty Tholian Will, an empire that once ruled their entire Home Galaxy. However, one of their subject races, the insectoid Seltorians, developed the technology to break Tholian webs, and used it to overthrow their masters. Some of the surviving Tholians fled to this galaxy, and upon arriving in Y79 (Y1 being the date of first contact between Earth and Vulcan, in that universe) claimed an area of Klingon territory-rimward of Federation space. (This area had originally been used as the staging post for a planned Klingon invasion of Romulan space – but the Tholian arrival thwarted these efforts.) The Tholians fiercely defended their enclave, repelling all Klingon attempts to retake it. Their "home planet" in this galaxy is a miniature Dyson sphere (wrapped around a relatively small artificial "star") that, in a remarkable feat of engineering, they managed to bring with them from M81. They are officially neutral, but Klingon hostility sometimes forces them into co-belligerence with the Federation.
- The Tholians join the Typhon Pact (β), an alliance of non-Federation powers, in the novel A Singular Destiny, set in 2381.
- In Star Trek Online, Tholians play an antagonistic power with designs on exploring alternate dimensions. Tholians captured a Terran Empire Odyssey-class starship and hold it in a subterranean cavern on Demon-class planet Nukara Prime. Starfleet and the Klingon Defense Force must work together to stop the Tholians' operations and destroy the captured ship before they can harvest its technology. Tholians also capture vessels from the Romulan Republic, holding them in the Azure Nebula until they can be rescued by players. In "Temporal Ambassador", a mission which was released to celebrate the game's third anniversary, the Tholians – either by design or chance – are able to capture the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-C). Whereas the conclusion of TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise" establishes that ship made a successful attempt to escape a battle with the Klingons, the game depicts the Enterprise-C as time traveling to 2409, even though the crew instead intended to journey to 2344. In an alternate timeline created by the Enterprise-C's arrival in 2409, the Tholians control much of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, including a collapsed Federation, as well as the Romulan and Klingon Empires. The Tholians are defeated by the player, Natasha Yar, Richard Castillo, and several alternate versions of Star Trek Online characters, and the victors are able to restore the timeline, aided by a captain of a 29th century ship. Tholian vessels also appear in the game, both as playable starships and enemy vessels. Individual Tholians  are primarily encountered on the planets Nukara and New Romulus, and are able to survive in colder (to them) environments using EV suits. A senior developer of the game said Cryptic considers the Tholians to be drawn to anomalies in space and time like moths are to flame and that they are not fully able to tell the difference between the mirror universe and the timeline of the prime universe. (citation needed • edit) Quotes in the game indicate that Tholians are able to transfer memories from past generations to future generations, but suggest that not all Tholians possess every past memory.
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