Transwarp – A failure?
The TNG Technical Manual claims that the transwarp drive was a failure, but why would that be the case? Just because the Federation transwarp is not as fast as the Borg one?
The now non-canon Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise had an article about the USS Enterprise-A being equipped with transwarp and according to the author, it was an idea he and Mike Okuda did have. The Enterprise’s maximum velocity is given as warp 12 (1728c), that of the new Enterprise-A not revealed, but the text mentiones next to subspace communication capabilities:
“This radio capability is crucial, for at relative transwarp speeds (greater than 3000 times the speed of light) Enterprise easily outruns conventional subspace signals.” (page 114, lines 25–28).
3000 c however is warp 9.8959 on the TNG scale and warp 14.4225 on the TOS scale, just 200 c faster than the Enterprise in TOS: “That Which Survives” where it travelles with warp 14.1.
The table on the right depicts the original Cochrane scale warp factor transformed into the TNG scale factor. Note that for TNG warp factor > 9.0 figures are based on non-canon warp speed formula. The formula matches the given datapoints in Star Trek Encyclopedia but is not monotonically increasing between wf 9.5 and 9.6.
Further support for the theory that transwarp is not the most excessive speed, gives the Star Trek III – Sourcebook Update published in 1984 by FASA which updates the FASA universe’s specifications and also gives technical data of the new ship “Excelsior class battleship”. In the 1980s the books where considered not only sources for roleplaying gamers, but some sort of technical manuals. The maximum save cruising speed of the Excelsior is given as warp 12, its emergency speed as warp 14. For comparison: the same file gives warp 10 as emergency speed for the Enterprise class (upgraded Constitution class). Another sourcebook, The Next Generation Officer’s Manual (1987), also gives an upper limit of warp 14 for all transwarp-capable vessels, save for the Galaxy class, which uses “multi warp” or “ultra warp” and a new warp scale.
To sum up: it is my believe that the Excelsior-transwarp did mean nothing else than travelling with faster speeds than known before, which in fact fits quite fine with the material published in the 1980s and the The Next Generation’s new warp scala.