When activated, the Device produced radiation unlike any previously known. This radiation, called the Genesis Wave, was believed to be in phase with the basic structure of living things. When the proper radiation level was reached, the Wave began to alter the surrounding matter. Doctor Carol Marcus and her son, Doctor David Marcus, the creators of the Genesis Wave, were not totally certain of its nature. It could travel for virtually limitless distances over and through matter, even extremely thinly-dispersed gases, though it did not travel well through vacuum. The Device built the Wave to a critical level in about four minutes, at which point it began to affect the matter near it. This instantaneous reaction was referred to as detonation. Once the Device was activated, the Wave continued to build to detonation, and the Genesis Effect could not be halted in any manner, even by the destruction of the Device itself.
In theory, the Effect would do two things: it would form organic molecules and create primitive life forms up to and including vegetation, but not including animal life, and it would prepare the target world's surface to support carbon-based life. It would, in effect, create a Class M planet, with its surface terraformed and reshaped, its elements restructured to produce a life-supporting environment. If activated in the presence of existing life forms, these forms would be destroyed and their atoms restructured to fit the new life-matrix produced by the Effect. These effects were supposed to range over the entire surface of a target world in a few minutes.
The only controlled test took place using a test Device thousands of times less powerful than the final prototype was to be. It was activated in a hollowed-out asteroid on the fringes of the Mutara Nebula. The results included the formation of an oxygen atmosphere, fresh water, and microscopic plant life in a few minutes. A full ecological spectrum of plant life formed later, with a substantially accelerated growth rate. The Effect produced climatic and geological conditions that would support the new ecology indefinitely. A full-scale test was to take place on an absolutely lifeless world on which pre-life organic-type molecules did not exist.
The only full-scale prototype was activated by Khan Noonian Singh in a dying attempt to destroy the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701. Rather than being launched to a planetary surface, the device was set off within the confines of the U.S.S. Reliant NCC-1864, while deep in the Mutara Nebula itself; the Reliant, attached to the Genesis Project, was searching for such a world when the ship was boarded and taken over by Khan. The results of the detonation, occurring under conditions not corresponding to the Device's design parameters, were more spectacular and wide-ranging than the Doctors Marcus had expected. The Effect traveled at light-speed through the thinly dispersed gas that made up the nebula itself, creating a life-bearing world from an area far greater than the Device was designed to affect. That the Effect produced desired results despite the unfavorable conditions of the detonation came as a surprise even to the Doctors Marcus. What effect the full-scale Device might have produced under design conditions is unknown.
The stability of the Genesis Effect, and of the life-bearing worlds created by it, was only temporary. This instability demonstrated itself on the Genesis Planet soon after its creation. Rapid, uncontrolled growth of plant life and erratic climate changes occurred, eventually leading to earth tremors, volcanic activity, and finally the complete destruction of the planet. Upon examination of the instability, Dr. David Marcus concluded that the use of protomatter in the device, the only way to balance the complex Genesis Effect equation, was at fault. The smaller test area, the Genesis cave on Regula, did not exhibit instability. Apparently, the instability was much slower to develop when the Effect was used on a smaller mass, taking years rather than days to build up. The death of Genesis co-developer Dr. David Marcus, and the failure of the prototype to produce stable results, made it highly unlikely that this line of research would be pursued further by the Federation in the future.
- Salin, Robert (Producer). Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Directed by Nicholas Meyer. Story by Harve Bennett and Jack B. Sowards. Screenplay by Nicholas Meyer (Uncredited). Paramount Pictures Corporation, 4 June 1982.
- Bennett, Harve (Producer). Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Directed by Leonard Nimoy. Written by Harve Bennett. Paramount Pictures Corporation, 1 June 1984.
- McLimore, Guy W. Jr., and Poehlein, Greg K. "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Sourcebook Update." Star Trek: The Role Playing Game, Supplement 2214. FASA Corporation. 1984.