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USS Shepard communications officer Trillya transmits a distress call in 2286

Distress signal from USS Honshu

A distress signal is detected

A distress call, distress signal, or disaster call was any signal that requested assistance. It was typically sent by an individual or group that encountered a problem they could not handle on their own. The purpose of the signal was to summon those who could help, such as an assistance party.

A widely known distress signal was "SOS", which dates back to the early 20th century, when broadcast signaling was still a new science. An international convention met to debate and select a "universal" distress call, and "SOS" was selected by most. It did not truly become universal until after the year 1912, when the RMS Titanic, an ancient Earth water-going vessel, sank after striking an iceberg. Her radio operators were forced to send several types of distress signal to ensure the meaning would not be lost.

Around 2083, Captain Mitchell of the Terra Nova colony attempted to send a distress call back to Earth after the planet was hit by a large asteroid, creating a radioactive cloud that started killing the colonists. Due to a tense relationship with Earth, the colonists mistakenly believed that it was a retaliatory attack by Earth. By the time that the semi-hostile distress call was sent, nearly half of the adults were dead, including Dr. Tracey, and everyone else was getting sick aside from the younger children. Mitchell begged for Earth to have the Vulcans send a ship for the younger children, but the message never reached Earth as the debris in the atmosphere was too dense. (ENT: "Terra Nova")

In 2151, while investigating the fate of the long-lost Terra Nova colony, Ensign Hoshi Sato of the Enterprise NX-01 found Mitchell's distress call in the data buffer of the communications tower. After encountering the surviving Novans, the Enterprise helped to relocate them to a new home on one of the southern continents that was unaffected by the radioactive cloud. (ENT: "Terra Nova")

In 2152, the Enterprise NX-01 answered a distress call of an alien vessel according to the captain's starlog. (ENT: "The Catwalk")

In early 2154, the Enterprise NX-01 answered a distress call from an Illyrian starship that had been heavily damaged by spatial anomalies. With the Enterprise having suffered severe damage itself in the Battle of Azati Prime, Captain Jonathan Archer later chose to raid the Illyrian vessel for its primary warp coil. (ENT: "Damage")

In the 23rd and 24th century, starships, starbases, and colonies could emit distress signals which were carried in space or through subspace to anything which could receive it. This could include other ships, bases, and colonies.

In 2254, the USS Enterprise detected an old-style distress signal, a radio wave. (TOS: "The Cage")

In 2257, the USS Discovery received a priority one distress signal just outside the Sol system from the USS Enterprise. (DIS: "Will You Take My Hand?")

In 2259, the USS Cayuga transmitted a distress call before being destroyed by the Gorn at Parnassus Beta. (SNW: "Hegemony")

In 2263, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura picked up distress calls on every frequency coming from Starbase Yorktown during Krall's attack on it. Later, when Uhura, James T. Kirk and Montgomery Scott viewed Balthazar Edison's logs, he mentioned that all of the USS Franklin's distress calls went unanswered. (Star Trek Beyond)

In 2266, the Enterprise detected an Earth-style SOS while hundreds of light years from Earth. The source was revealed to be a ground station on Miri, an exact copy of Earth. (TOS: "Miri")

In the final draft script of "Miri" but not in the final version of that episode, James T. Kirk and Spock speculated the distress call might be a lure intended to trap them.

Because of tense intergalactic relations, distress signals between races may or may not have received a response. In several cases, a Federation ship crossed into, for example, the Neutral Zone, to answer a distress signal. However, extreme care was taken in these situations, as some enemies would sometimes emit false distress signals to lure starships in and attack them. (TNG: "Suddenly Human")

When passing near Mab-Bu VI in 2368, the USS Enterprise-D received a faint distress signal that Data was later able to identify as a Starfleet subspace distress signal standard to Daedalus-class starships. The signal was sent by the crew of the USS Essex, which was lost in the sector over two hundred years earlier. (TNG: "Power Play")

The Federation planetary distress signal was an emergency transmission that was to be used only when a Federation world was under imminent threat. Prior to transmission of a planetary distress signal, the head of council for the Federation planet needed to declare a planet-wide state of emergency.

The planetary distress signal was first known to have been transmitted in 2286, when a massive alien probe of unknown origin arrived in the Sol system, and began transmitting a signal that had a disruptive effect on power systems, and began ionizing the planet's atmosphere. All Earth orbiting space stations and starships were quickly rendered powerless, along with the planet's power generating systems. Within two hours, the president of the Federation Council declared a state of emergency. Massive weather systems caused by the drop in air pressure caused widespread damage across the planet.

Six hours into the crisis, the Federation president transmitted a planetary distress signal. The following is a transcript of the message:

"This is the President of the United Federation of Planets. Do not approach Earth. The transmissions of an orbiting probe are causing critical damage to this planet. It has almost totally ionized our atmosphere. All power sources have failed. All Earth-orbiting starships are powerless. The probe is vaporizing our oceans. We cannot survive unless a way can be found to respond to the probe. Further communications may not be possible. Save your energy. Save yourselves. Avoid the planet Earth at all costs. Farewell…"

The crisis was relieved by the crew of the HMS Bounty who were returning from Vulcan. Spock analyzed the transmissions of the probe and determined the transmissions were directed to an extinct species of humpback whales. The officers managed to retrieve a pair of the whales and delivered them to Earth. The probe shut down its transmissions and left the system. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

Another example of a planetary distress call is that which was transmitted by the Scalosians to attract starships to their planet so they could use the crew of the ship to repopulate their planet. The following is a transcript of the message:

"To any and all space travelers passing within range of the planet Scalos, I send you an urgent appeal for help. My comrades and I are the last surviving members of what was once a thriving civilization. Those of us who are left have taken shelter in this area. We have no explanation for what has been happening to us. Our number is now five, we were once a nation of 900,000, this city alone holding a total population of 113,477 citizens. Our planet Scalos, on which existed several culturally enlightened indigenous populations, has attempted to survive this mysterious and malignant affliction but to no avail. Should any passing spaceship receive this plea for aid, we entreat it to hastily change course and approach us without delay. We know now that what we have undergone cannot occur, while our own I fear is so tenu…"" (TOS: "Wink of an Eye")

In 2368, the USS Enterprise-D received a priority one distress call from the Federation colony on Dulisian IV, which requested an evacuation because of a massive failure of the environmental support systems. The crew later learned that this distress call was a faked one from the Romulans to move the Enterprise-D away from the Vulcan ships. (TNG: "Unification II")

In 2369, the Enterprise-D received a distress call from Professor Galen's shuttle when he was attacked by Yridians. Galen only managed to say that he was being boarded before the transmission was blocked, but it allowed the Enterprise to track his location. (TNG: "The Chase")

Later that year, the Enterprise-D received another distress call via their long range sensors from a Romulan warbird. Worf informed Commander Riker about this call while he was treated in sickbay. (TNG: "Timescape")

The same year, Major Kira Nerys and Doctor Julian Bashir received a priority one broad band distress signal from Ty Kajada aboard the Kobliad transport Reyab. (DS9: "The Passenger")

In 2371, after the Vetar was hit and severely damaged by a plasma storm while chasing the Val Jean through the Badlands, Gul Evek had his ship send out a distress call on all Cardassian channels. (DIS: "Caretaker")

Later that same year, Gathorel Labin transmitted a distress call, which was picked up by the USS Voyager. Upon arrival, it was found that Labin only transmitted the distress call because he sensed the crew of Voyager was in distress. (VOY: "Prime Factors")

In 2372, Captain Kasidy Yates sent a priority one distress call to Deep Space 9 when the SS Xhosa was attacked by a Klingon Bird-of-Prey. The message was interrupted and Captain Sisko manned the USS Defiant to rescue the Xhosa. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")

In 2373, Enabran Tain -- who was believed to have been killed in the Battle of the Omarion Nebula two years earlier -- sent a coded distress call to Elim Garak by reconfiguring the redundant life support system in the camp barracks at Internment Camp 371 into a subspace transmitter. Most of the message was identification codes while the rest was the word "alive" repeated over and over again, but Garak and Worf were able to triangulate the source of the signal, although they themselves were captured in the process. This led to the rescue of Doctor Julian Bashir, Klingon General Martok and a Romulan prisoner who were all being held captive by the Dominion, as well as the exposure of a Changeling infiltrator aboard Deep Space 9. (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow", "By Inferno's Light")

When Garak and Worf discovered a Dominion fleet during their rescue mission, Worf sent a priority one distress call to Deep Space 9 warning them of the invasion fleet before being captured by the Dominion and taken to Internment Camp 371. (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow")

In 2374, the Defiant picked up a distress call from the USS Valiant's escape pod inside of Dominion-held space. Despite the ship having been missing for over eight months, Sisko decided to respond to it and rescued his son Jake along with Nog and Dorian Collins. (DS9: "Valiant")

In 2375, after being attacked by unknown aliens, The Doctor sent a distress call to the USS Voyager for help. (VOY: "Latent Image")

Later that year, the Silver Blood copy of Voyager sent out a distress call on all bands in the hopes that the real Voyager would find them. While Voyager did indeed eventually pick up the distress call of its copy, the Silver Blood Voyager was destroyed by the time that the real Voyager found it, leaving behind nothing for Voyager to even determine what the ship was that had sent out the distress call. (VOY: "Course: Oblivion")

In 2381, Captain Carol Freeman of the USS Cerritos ordered a distress call broadcast on all channels after Douglas Station was attacked by Texas-class automated starships. The USS Van Citters answered the call, but was overwhelmed, forcing the Cerritos to lure the deranged vessels away. (LD: "The Stars At Night")

In 2383, the young crew of the USS Protostar were able to access a distress call that Captain Chakotay had made after arriving in 2436 before the ship was boarded by the Vau N'Akat, interrupting his message. Hologram Janeway later showed the message to Vice Admiral Janeway. (PRO: "Kobayashi", "Mindwalk")

Later that year, DaiMon Nandi faked a distress call as a part of a trap. The distress call was picked up by the Protostar, but Dal R'El quickly recognized the trick from his previous experiences with Nandi. (PRO: "First Con-tact")

In 2384, the Protostar responded to a distress call emanating from New Enda-Prize on Planet 0042692. The distress call was sent by Ensign David Garrovick of the USS Enterprise over a century earlier after the crash of the Galileo. To the Enderprizians, the distress call was known as "The Call of En Son." True to Garrovick's promise that one day Starfleet would come to rid the natives of the "curse" plaguing them, the Protostar crew developed an antidote to the sickness caused by the toxic runoff from warp plasma that leaked from the Galileo into the native dilithium crystals. When the Galileo's communications console was inadvertently activated, the Protostar crew was able to hear Garrovick's full distress call. (PRO: "All the World's a Stage")

Later that year, as the living construct threatened to destroy Starfleet, Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway had the USS Dauntless open a distress call to every ship in range so that Gwyndala could convince them to come to Starfleet's aid. The distress call worked with ships from multiple different races appearing to help. However, Starfleet's defense protocols caused the endangered ships to emit a distress call of their own, bringing more Starfleet vessels into the fight to fall victim to the living construct, something that would continue to repeat itself until there was no Starfleet left unless the living construct could be stopped. (PRO: "Supernova, Part 1")

A month later, Starfleet picked up a second distress call from Chakotay broadcast from 52 years in an alternate future through the wormhole that Hologram Janeway had opened up with the destruction of the Protostar. (PRO: "Supernova, Part 2") He sent it using a tricorder that Adreek-Hu had managed to hide when they were captured by the Vau N'Akat. (PRO: "Who Saves the Saviors")

In 2401, the captain of the USS Excelsior sent a distress call during the Borg takeover of Starfleet on Frontier Day using a mantinence channel after briefly regaining control of his ship. The distress call was picked up by the USS Titan-A. However, the Borg regained control of and destroyed the Excelsior. (PIC: "Võx")

Later, during the same events, President of the United Federation of Planets Anton Chekov sent a planetary distress call. In the distress call, Chekov warned all vessels against approaching Earth due to their young being assimilated by the Borg, leaving Earth on the verge of falling to the Borg. Chekov implored anyone hearing the message to save themselves until a solution could be found. Picking up the distress call, the command crew of the rebuilt Enterprise-D quickly determined that they were the only help that was coming to Earth. The following is a transcript of the message:

"This is President Anton Chekov of the United Federation of Planets broadcasting on all emergency channels. Do not approach Earth. A signal of unknown origin has turned our young against us. They have been assimilated by the Borg. Our fleet has been compromised and as we speak, our planetary defenses are falling. Sol Station is defending Earth as best it can. But we're almost out of time. We have not been able to find a way to stop this Borg signal and unassimilate our young. But I know if my father were here, he'd remind us all that hope is never lost. There are always possibilities. Until then, I implore you: save yourselves. Farewell." (PIC: "The Last Generation")

In 3191, Captain Michael Burnham sent a makeshift distress call to the USS Discovery from the ISS Enterprise by flashing the tractor beam in an oscillating pattern that matched part of the Ballad of Krul where Krul called his war brother for rescue using a repeating drumbeat. (DIS: "Mirrors")

Later that year, Moll sent out a repeating message on a courier channel that Burnham recognized as a coded SOS, meaning that Moll had been hoping for a courier to pick up her distress call and rescue Moll and L'ak. Instead, the USS Locherer picked up the distress signal and found Moll and L'ak's Terran warp pod. (DIS: "Erigah")

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