The Tholian Assembly is an isolationist and secretive power located in the rimward. They share a border with the Cardassian Union and the United Federation of Planets, and rival both the latter and the Klingon Empire in size. Despite this, their xenophobic policies have left them largely uninvolved in galactic affairs. After a rise in Federation-Tholian conflicts in the mid-24th century, a relatively comfortable detente has emerged. The Assembly’s extensive technological surveillance systems and networks are nevertheless considered a significant potential security risk to the Federation.
The Federation knows very little of the Tholians, gleaning most of its knowledge from fraught encounters or outright conflicts. Even the location of the homeworld is unconfirmed.
Limited commerce has provided minor insights, though they seem to have traded most often with the Ferengi - likely the only people with the commitment to negotiate such trade agreements. Tholian silk is, as such, a highly valued and rare commodity. These interactions have taught Starfleet of the Tholians’ commitment to punctuality, an expectation to which they hold all others, and the existence of a rigid caste system within their society.
The Assembly has often expanded its borders, annexing territory to better isolate itself and protect valued regions. This is a formal policy of theirs that they refer to as the ‘Territorial Annex,’ and ships believing themselves traversing unclaimed space have been aggressively confronted by Tholians, even attacked if they will not immediately leave in recognition of the Assembly’s claim. The fate of non-Tholians whose systems are conquered is unknown.
The Tholian people are non-humanoid, with an exoskeleton that can appear crystalline. They have six legs and two arms and average around six feet in height. With glowing eyes and a bright light at what is believed their mouth, some Starfleet officers have described them as the most alien power in the Alpha Quadrant.
They appear most comfortable in a methane-based atmosphere of high temperatures, and their exoskeletons have been known to crack below 380 Kelvin. Their language consists of clicks and screeches, but they also emit a form of radiation transmitted and modulated by their exoskeleton that they use to communicate. Its range is unknown and is theorised to be a form of telepathy.
Determined to protect their borders, the Tholian Assembly maintains a powerful navy. Annexed systems are jealously patrolled and aggressively defended against all intruders. The Tholian commitment to secrecy goes so deep that often they will destroy their own vessels rather than allow their people, intelligence, or technology to fall into enemy hands.
Their starships are primarily of a small tetrahedron-shaped design that is manouevrable and well-armed, and often deployed en-masse to overwhelm enemy forces. All are believed to be equipped with the weapon referred to as the ‘Tholian web,’ an energy net technology deployed by multiple ships that can trap an entire starship. Capable of cutting through ship hulls, they are impenetrable from the inside when complete, and vessels are only known to have escaped by destroying a Tholian ship constructing the web.
Starfleet have had multiple historic skirmishes with the Tholians, most member species encountering them before the formation of the Federation. Tensions were particularly high in the mid-24th century, when an annexation led to multiple serious conflicts. At this time, Starfleet dedicated much of its training and tactical development to countering Tholian aggression, a practice that has become less popular as tensions abated.
Most Tholian-Federation conflict since then has involved their expanding surveillance network. The Assembly seeks to protect itself by deploying observation posts to observe regions and monitor communications and has shown little regard for objections to these intrusions.
- Xenophobic and isolationist, the Tholians have never been known to welcome outsiders into their territory, no matter how good the reason. Worse, their borders sometimes expand without warning.
- Enemies, especially intruders, receive at best one warning before hostilities erupt. The Tholians swarm their opponents with multiple ships, trapping them if necessary in their web to be destroyed or captured.
- Communication between the Federation races and Tholian people is difficult and limited. Many nuances of their language are missed. Diplomacy is a fraught and difficult undertaking, though some Tholian envoys do act beyond their borders.
- Most Starfleet encounters with the Tholians are with their surveillance systems. Satellites and probes monitor Federation territory and communications, which Command is eager to stamp out.