Here’s a little story idea that I think has a lot of potential. You could spin this concept off in a lot of different narrative directions, but outlined below is the one that I personally think has the most merit.
Do you remember those Goa’uld Ha’tak ships from Stargate SG-1? The ones that looked like a cross between a pyramid and a curled up dead spider? Of course you do. And you’ll also remember that some of them quite cleverly carried stargates. The onboard stargates – stored in unguarded, unmonitored cargo bays – could establish a wormhole connection to any planet in the gate network, providing instant access to virtually any bronze age society in the galaxy, and providing a convenient entry point for teams of Tau’ri saboteurs.
Of course, there was a proviso. The ship-board stargate could only be activated when in proximity to a planet with its own gate. The ancient gate builders didn’t allow for mobile stargates when they created their dial-a-wormhole network, and the ship needed to make use of a planet’s specific area code.
But imagine if you could create a wormhole connection to a ship travelling through deep space. Wouldn’t that be useful? Indeed it sounds almost too useful, too powerful and convenient a technology, so we’re going to have to work in a proviso of our own just so that there’s something to go wrong.
Now, before you go saying that this technology would negate the need for space ships, hear me out.
So here’s the idea. It’s the future (there are no bronze age space traveller clichés in this story) and mankind has developed wormhole technology. It’s pretty sweet, but it does have limitations.
Establishing a wormhole connection is pretty tricky; it requires precision targeting, lots of power, and presumably some nerdy genius spouting technobable while tapping at a keyboard (have you noticed that you never see a computer mouse in the movies? Why is that?). Devices are used at either end of the wormhole, we can call them ‘stargates’ if you like. These ‘gates’ give the wormhole something to lock onto, and once the connection is made they’re instrumental in keeping the wormhole open.
Unlike SG-1’s stargates, these wormholes can be kept open indefinitely, and once active they require very little power to maintain (plot point). Perhaps they draw on zero-point energy or something. I dunno.
For multitudinous and incomprehensible reasons, it’s much easier to establish a connection between two ‘gates’ that are fairly close together, but after the connection is made they can be moved farther apart without destabilizing the wormhole.
So humanity builds a ship with a ‘stargate’ onboard, partners it with a gate on an orbiting space station (or perhaps an underground bunker, or some equally interesting location), and launches it into deep space. The wormhole remains open, and the ship stays connected to its home base even when it’s light-years away.
The ship’s mission is one of colonization. Once it reaches its destination – a nice planet somewhere – supplies and willing colonists can be sent through the wormhole en masse. The ship is essentially a mobile freight and passenger terminal. It will take about a hundred years to get anywhere because sub-light propulsion sucks, but when it does we’ll have a magic doorway to a new world. This has never been done before, and people think it’s pretty cool.
As people can step back and forth between the ship and its mission HQ any time they like, there’s no need for a permanent crew of adventurous pioneers. And as the ship is currently drifting through an unending void of absolute nothingness, it can be operated and maintained by a skeleton crew.
But the ship isn’t in sleep mode. Oh no. Awesome-Interstellar-Wormhole-Ships Incorporated have found another use for it during the long voyage: It’s a popular tourist resort with stunning views of sod all, and just a stone’s throw from Cheyenne Mountain, or the International Space Station, or the top of a space-elevator, or wherever the hell the mouth of the wormhole is.
It’s a cruise ship on a hundred year voyage, the ultimate get-away-from-it-all vacation spot.
Like it? Now for the plot…
So we’ve got a colony ship turned cruise ship drifting through deep space with a bunch of rich and probably quite highly strung passengers on board. Some of them are nice, relatable, and quirky. Some of them are absolute dicks (surely the richest among them). Let’s be honest, it’s the underpaid service staff that we’re going to find most relatable here.
Oh, and you can feel free to drop in sub-plots about adulterous behaviour, shadey business deals, couples with trust issues, even an Agatha Christie style murder mystery. Whatever floats your boat.
What goes wrong on this voyage of the damned? Why, the wormhole connection cuts out, of course!
Sabotage, perhaps? Or just an accident? I’ll leave it for you to decide.
So, the convenient doorway to Earth disappears, and everybody is stranded in deep space. Do they work together to find a solution? Of course not, they panic instead. They know just as well as we do that the boffins back on Earth can’t just re-establish a wormhole connection willy nilly. I mean, it’s not like dialling a telephone, there’s complex theoretical physics involved.
No, seriously, it can’t be done. The ship is too far from Earth.
I mean it, that wormhole is gone. It’s pushing up the daisies. It’s an ex-stargate.
Fortunately, those boffins in the crisis management department are given a ridiculously short time frame to work out a solution, and this spurs them on to develop a rescue plan. The wormhole connection to the ship really is impossible to re-establish, but luckily enough there just happens to be another ship carrying another wormhole.
Wormhole #2 is aboard an old unmanned probe. The tiny probe was the proof of concept for the wormhole-on-a-ship technology, and it had pretty much been forgotten about. But all these years later, the probe’s two-way connection to Earth is still intact thanks to the miracle of low-cost zero-point energy (see, I told you it was a plot point).
Where is this trusty old steed? Why, it just happens to be in the area, of course! All it has to do is slow down, make a slight course correction, and wait for the stranded vacationers to catch up.
And so somebody pulls a dusty tarp off some old equipment, and the rescue mission begins…