The Tholians were an extremely xenophobic, non-humanoid civilization native to the planet Tholia in the Alpha Quadrant. The Tholian interstellar state was the Tholian Assembly, which neighbored the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets. (TOS episode: "The Tholian Web")
There are few accounts of Federation observers actually coming face-to-face with a Tholian, with the vast majority of encounters taking place across a viewscreen, in the heat of combat, or carefully controlled diplomacy. From these encounters, it can be determined that the Tholians are a crystalline species with an outer carapace through which a fluid can be seen circulating murkily. Other distinguishing features are the faceted mantis-like heads where two triangular eyes can be seen. Analysis of Tholian remains has left Starfleet to conclude that the species are a silicon-based form of life. (Decipher RPG module: Aliens)
Biologically, the Tholians were almost living mineral formations with their cells being mostly crystalline although they were believed to contain a fluid medium which carried out metabolic processes. Their skins were mostly faceted with each Tholian seemingly bearing a unique color scheme with an infinite variety of tones being present amongst them. (TLE novel: The Sundered) There were some noted similarities between the crystalline physiology of the Tholians and the crystal-lattice structure in a Shedai body. (VAN novel: Reap the Whirlwind) Laser weapons did not render the species temporarily unconscious but instead Tholians typically recovered quickly from any such stun effect employed against them. (TOS novel: The Star to Every Wandering)
One appearance of the species had noted the race being quadrupedal in shape with two mantis-like arms. (ENT episode: "In a Mirror, Darkly") Some witness accounts, however, had noted some Tholians possessing eight limbs which were radially placed around the trapezohedral body. However, whether these artificial manipulator arms or simply hallucinations brought upon by stress through entry into chaotic space is unknown. (Decipher RPG module: Aliens) Generally, the Tholians were a race known for not wasting time on excessive amounts of movement. This was because their physiology did not allow for easy mobility on the confines of their homeworld after millennia of evolution. As such, this combined with the life support of their ships had conditioned their race to conserve their energy for only the most appropriate of occasions. (SCE eBooks: Interphase, Part One, Interphase, Part Two)
- The appearance of the Tholians is much more different in the TNG comic: "War and Madness" where they appear to be crystalline beings but with a humanoid shaped body, as opposed to their canonical appearance in ENT where they are shown to be a quadrupedal race. It is possible that limb configuration varies based on caste lineage or other factors in the species, or that they simply used a quadrupedal exo-frame at the time. Technological advances made later to accommodate their forms more adequately in the 25th Century.
Tholians' biology meant that they breathe through a form of anaerobic respiration with a methane-chlorine mixture being used. (Decipher RPG module: Aliens) Their atmosphere also provides them with their physical nourishment. (VAN novel: Precipice) In addition to this, the average body temperature of the race was 257 °C. While their cells' functions resemble those of humanoid cells, Tholian cells contain an electrical charge in each cell nucleus. (TOS reference: Star Fleet Medical Reference) The Tholians also possessed some form of electromagnetic organelle within their bodies. (DS9 novel: Time's Enemy)
The unique nature of their evolution has meant that Tholians require a harsh hot environment in order to function and live. This temperature was essential for their survival as colder temperatures were capable of compromising their crystal carapace leading it to fracture and eventually bring about the Tholian's death. (ENT episode: "In a Mirror, Darkly") These volatile conditions made boarding Tholian ships a near impossibility by enemy marines, the majority of nearby races being humanoids accustomed to far cooler environments. (TOS video game: Klingon Academy)
Tholians communicated through a series of chirps and screeches that could be translated by other races. They can also use their crystal bodies as living communicators which could resonate a harmonic signal for others of their kind to detect. This made them quite dangerous captives as they could easily call assistance if the enemy ship was journeying through Tholian space. (ENT episode: "In a Mirror, Darkly")
Tholian consciousness had very long life spans. The Tholian Loskene encountered the original USS Enterprise in 2267 and a century later the USS Enterprise-D in 2367. He had believed that the crew of the Enterprise-D was the same crew of the ship under the command of a "lying Vulcan named Spock." (TNG novel: Vendetta) However, their physical life span was generally six to eight months from birth to maturation and natural death, passing their knowledge and consciousness from one generation to the next through a form of crystal memory upload. This allowed newly-matured Tholians to continue the works of their predecessors with minimal level of learning required. This was believed to be the source of the famed Tholian punctuality. (TLE novel: The Sundered)
The Tholians possessed a form of networked intelligence in addition to their sentience as individuals which almost made it appear as if they had a hive intellect. Whilst they did share their memories between generations or familial structures, the process did not create a "hive mind". In addition, the Tholian in question was capable of choosing whom they wished to share their memories. Furthermore, there was a kind of shared memory archive for their species known as the Lattice though it contained more general species specific knowledge and history which operated on an almost instinctual level. The various castes spent a significant time of their short lives immersed in the Lattice though its brainwave frequencies were believed to be incompatible with a Vulcan mind meld. (TLE novel: The Sundered) Despite the incompatability, they were noted for being touch telepaths. (VAN novel: Reap the Whirlwind)
It's been noted that in every confirmed Tholian sighting that the mysterious species were encased in an outer carapace similar to those seen on Terran insects but with the exception of it being made completely of crystal which was similar to quartz. However, whether this crystal carapace was a natural product of Tholian biology or a sophisticated exoskeletal suit is unknown. What has been seen, however, is that the carapace explosively disintegrates when a killing blow was dealt on a Tholian such as those experienced by low-temperature plasma. This made it difficult for the Federation to study these carapaces as they were typically destroyed or badly damaged upon the Tholian's death.
There are a number of abilities that the carapace provides its user, such as a natural armor that absorbs impacts made upon it from either kinetic or energy attack as well as provides an accelerated response rate for the Tholian. In addition to this, the carapace is equipped with a pressor beam that projects an entangling beam that disables an enemy. Furthermore, the carapace projects an image of itself that's slightly offset from reality which affects the Tholian's perception by other races, providing it a defensive advantage. Another noted trait from the carapace was its ability to filter out all forms of poisons from the air and water sources around it with speculation being made that it might serve as a rebreather in order to provide a steady flow of chlorine-methane compound to the Tholian. Finally, the crystal carapace provides its user the capacity to remotely access any system on its ship which cannot be blocked by known technology. (Decipher RPG module: Aliens)
- See main article: Tholian history.
According to the Tholians, they were not the only intelligent species on their world though they were the dominant one with their starfaring capabilities, they were less advanced than those of the Federation, allowed them to become a major interstellar power for several sectors in every direction. (TLE novel: The Sundered)
The Tholians were engineered by the Shedai from a lesser species. The Shedai found their physical telepathy to be a unique and useful characteristic so changed them to function as part of their communication Conduits. They were then enslaved by the Shedai for a countless period of time until that species voluntarily went into hibernation. Tholians remain fearful of the Shedai as well as superstitious regarding their space and technology within the Taurus Reach. (VAN)
The Tholians were extremely xenophobic. Their borders were not fixed as they adjusted them every eight cycles to account for the movement of star systems and astronomical objects within their rule. In early relations with Starfleet and the Federation, this was not understood by the nearby humanoids, who became victims of Tholian aggression over this territory. This led to a prolonged period of conflict, which the Federation dubbed the Tholian expansionist programs, with many truces broken on the basis of misunderstood territory. (ENT episode: "Future Tense"; EV comics: "The Fallen", "Nor Iron Bars a Cage" et al.)
Whilst there were stories of Tholian explorations of the galaxy which dated back to their earliest recorded history, most of the species tended to harbor an intrinsic distrust of aliens, with whom they found it distasteful to interact. This meant that the territories annexed in neighboring systems were often forced to become servile provinces of the Tholian Assembly with any bipedal species such as Humanoids being forced into the lower echelons. However, even these individuals were subservient to the lower ranking member of Tholian society. (VAN novel: Summon the Thunder)
Members of the species were believed to possess a hive culture with a hive mind present amongst them. It was also known that the Tholians modified members of their race at birth in order to perform a specific purpose when they reached adulthood. This brought about a number of specialized outer body configurations with warrior, ruler, and builder classes identified within their culture with a possibility of many more being present. (ST reference: The Worlds of the Federation)
Individual Tholians were apparently bred for specific societal functions similar to Terran ants or caste societies on Earth. (TOS short story: "Fracture") Due to their caste system, mutiny was almost a foreign concept on their starships. This was because their society had designated castes with roles where every Tholian knew of their genetic and social destiny from the first moment of their solidification. (VAN novel: Reap the Whirlwind) This created a rigid caste system where most of them were generationally mandated though there were a rare few cases of inter-caste unions that allowed for some crossovers in the offspring. (TLE novel: The Sundered)
The most prominent of the castes was that of the warriors with the politicals being another important position as they ran the machinery of the government as well as the Assembly's subject territories. (TLE novel: The Sundered) The leadership caste was responsible for guiding other members of their species by making command decisions. (VAN novel: Reap the Whirlwind) In addition, there was the diplomatic caste which sought to keep the other castes as well as neighboring species mollified in order to prevent the Tholian Assembly from plunging into war. There was also a caste that encompassed the scientists, engineers, and mathematicians though it was considered one of the lower castes which partially explained the slow development of Tholian technology. A medical caste was also present which was capable of examining the bodies of other races. (TLE novel: The Sundered) One position within the caste based system held the title of a Mage. (TOS short story: "Fracture")
Tholian mating practices were organized in triads with one of the three members serving as a breeder that bore the group's offspring. This served as the ultimate goal of their mating as it was the manifestation of a complete full life. The loss of a breeder led to a substitute being added but the continued survival of a wounded sterile breeding partner meant that they could not be replaced. A sterile breeder led to a life without purpose or desire in the triad. (TOS novel: Recovery)
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