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Jeri Ryan: Star Trek Technobabble Helps With New Role August 20, 2010

by Staff , Filed under: Celebrity,Science/Technology,VOY , trackback

One of the elements that distinguishes Star Trek from other sci-fi on the big and small screen, is an emphasis on the science in science fiction. This penchant for "technobabble" has been criticized by some, but now Star Trek Voyager actress Jeri Ryan says that it actually helped her in her new role.


Ryan cites technobabble

Jeri Ryan, who played the technologically advanced Seven of Nine on Star Trek Voyager for four seasons, is now shooting her new role as Dr. Kate Murphy for the ABC medical procedural drama Body of Proof. And the actress tells the LA Times (via DigitalSpy) that Voyager prepared her for the medical jargon she uses on the new show:

I haven’t had so much of that [medical dialogue] but it’s not that difficult. I did four years on Star Trek. I did technobabble for years, so if I can do technobabble I’m not that concerned about the medical stuff!

Body of Proof debuts in the fall on ABC. More on the show at

Jeri Ryan and the cast of "Body of Proof"


Too much babble?

So the technobabble helped prepare Ryan for medical tech talk, but was so much needed on Star Trek? Last year Star Trek TNG & DS9 writer Ron Moore talked about how
"frustrating" and "annoying" the "endless pages tech" were in Star Trek. Moore was especially frustrated with tech solutions to episodes. Trek’s technobabble even inspired
Cinnemassacre to put together a list of their Top 10 Trek Technobabbles

So what do you think? Do you like Trek’s technobabble (or ‘treknobabble’)? Or do you agree with Ron Moore that there was too much tech in Trek? Sound off in the comments below.

What about the next Star Trek movie? Should the Trek sequel up the technobabble, or should it have even less than the 2009 Star Trek. Do you think that it is one of the things that makes Trek hard to relate to, or is it an essential part of the heart of Trek that distinguishes it from other genre fare? Let us know in the latest TrekMovie poll.

More Trek technobabble in Star Trek sequel?

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1. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - August 20, 2010

I loved Jeri Ryan in Voyager. I think that some Techno is good as this is Science Fiction. But there is such a thing as to much. On the Tos there was Scotty giving some techno but never over the top that we or the casual fan could not understand. On Tng it became a staple of sorts along with Voyager. Don’t remember that there was to much on Ds9 and Enterprise did have more but not nearly as much as Tng. For Trek 09 they had some but I think it was the right amount and in the next Movie keep it about the same.

2. Commodore shaggy - August 20, 2010

Keep it the same!

3. Phil - August 20, 2010

“an emphasis on the science in science fiction”??? Deus ex machina, boys and girls…most of the science in Trek is made up, and the solutions to these conversations were even worse…”well, lets invert the posi-chips in the magnetotron to create a warp wiper…that ought to fix the problem. What’s the special in ten-forward tonight?”…..yeah, right….

4. Phil - August 20, 2010

Now that I think about it, how often were these technology disasters fixed by firing phasers or lobbing a torpedo into it….hmmmm…??

5. Victor Hugo - August 20, 2010

Even with its shortcomings, I applaud the attempt to add a futuristic talk.

I even think there should be more slangs like “Frak” from Galactica, or “Grok” from “Stranger in a strange land”.

6. TMMW (formerly TrekMadeMeWonder) - August 20, 2010

Technobable (to me) was a poor excuse for ever really showing some functioning hardware, or for explaining REAL science.

Sorry, but the “Science” was never fully adopted to be a real part of Trek’s “Fiction”.

7. TMMW (formerly TrekMadeMeWonder) - August 20, 2010

Jeri still looks GREAT! And that’s no babble.

8. Red Dead Ryan - August 20, 2010

Technobabble can be good in small doses, but when it becomes the center of dialog and story, it is just too much. It happened frequently on “The Next Generation” and too many times on “Voyager”.
For example, the Borg. On TNG, technobabble was used to figure out how to defeat the Borg, whereas on “Voyager” it was used to describe the Borg.

“Deep Space Nine” and “Enterprise” both used smaller amounts of technobble. “The Original Series” had the least.

Technobabble makes Trek unique in my opinion, but too much of it can drown out everything else, including the viewer. Technobabble should be considered as a sort of food seasoning; its there to add some spice with just a touch but can ruin the meal if too much is applied.

I thought there was the right amount in the last film. I say keep it the same.

9. Captain Conrad - August 20, 2010

Um Trek talk isn’t that hard to understand and makes sense within the realm of plausibility. The only time it really gets fictional is when they make up new minerals that either don’t exist or haven’t been discovered yet.

10. CaptainDonovin - August 20, 2010

As sick as I am of medical dramas I never tire from seeing her on some show.

11. C.S. Lewis - August 20, 2010

Recall, in the Star Trek Writer’s Guide, Roddenberry lectures potential writers,

(Freely quoted, perhaps someone here can find the exact quotes) “Should Captain Kirk hold forth on the physics of the phaser bank before he shoots an enemy? Should Doctor McCoy explain how his scanner functions? Does Joe Friday lecture on the mechanics of his .38 Special? Does Marcus Welby discourse on the affect of antibiotics before administering them? No of course not – and neither do our characters!”

There is another sentence, roughly, “Even though our characters use crisp, precise military language on duty, among themselves they speak using Standard English” and the example he gave was something like, “The object is 1.3 kilometers in diameter!” while the same character might say to his battle buddy, “It’s almost half-a-mile long!”

Sadly, this sage advice was lost in the nerd-centric 1980s… Curiously, that is the same time our putative scientists began to infantilize their language, using inappropriate anthropomorphic analogies (sometimes seemingly as though they did impute intelligence to inanimate objects), and generally annoying everyone else with their rehearsal of jargon and trivia.

NuTrek was happily free of the worst of technobabble. It wouldn’t hurt to reduce it in the next go around and stand the chance of attracting, certainly not alienating, the new found audience of normal people looking for enjoyable entertainment on a Saturday night.

C.S. Lewis

12. S. John Ross - August 20, 2010

I think it’s important to make a distinction between those days on which Star Trek flirts with science and those days on which Star Trek indulges in technobabble. They are very, very seldom the same day.

Similarly (though tangentially) it’s important to make a distinction between those days on which Star Trek flirts with writing and those days on which Star Trek indulges in technobabble. They’re _never_ the same day.

13. Torcflaed - August 20, 2010

I feel it should be just enough to cover whatever the storyline needs and no more, like special effects it should be there to support the story not become the story.
having said that, it is supposed to be in the future and I would expect a lot of terminology to be common in the future that we just do not use now, as an example imagine a 16th century sailer from a wind powered ship in a modern nucliar air craft carrior.
we use technobabble in our every day in that context, I’m sitting in an ‘air conditioned’ room on my ‘computer’ ‘accessing’ the ‘internet’ through my ‘modem’ and ‘internet provider’
all I ask is don’t try to dazzle us with technobabble just to shore up weak points in a story line.

14. Phil - August 20, 2010

Well, my son is in the Navy now, and I’m learning as fast as he is that the “day in, day out” stuff is repetition, which in Hollywood means, boring. Good submarine/surface ship dramas (and there are a few out there) revolve around either a personal story, or a shared experience. You didn’t see sailors in “The Hunt for Red October” constanting stopping to ponder the technology – the sub worked, so don’t waste valuable screen time explaining it. Keep the technobabble to a minimum, and tell a great (origional) story, guys!!

15. Vultan - August 20, 2010

Geez, that guy at Cinemassacre must be seriously dense. The examples he cited weren’t that hard to follow.

Just stick with Star Wars, pal.

16. Torcflaed - August 20, 2010

exactly Phil
the only time we really start discussing tech in RL is when we are trying to change it or to fix it or teaching someone about it.
the rest of the time we tend to take it for granted and just use it with only the simplest explanations.
I tell someone to take the car and go grocery shopping, I don’t try to explain internal combustion engines to do it.
the only time I tend to discuss such things is when I have to take it to the shop.
then again there are always those who will brag about what they have, we don’t need to know about engines to drive a car but talk to a muscle car owner and your likely to get lots of technobabble ;)

17. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - August 20, 2010

Technobabble is meant to help a story and not become a story. In Trek 09 there was not a lot of Techno but enought to help tell the story. It was a great story with great action and great drama and the techno was kept mostly in the back. Like when Spock showed Scotty his Formula for Trans warp beaming and Scotty commented on how it was the universe that was moving. That is a great example of good Techno helping the story and helping mostly non trek fans understand how Kirk and Scotty were able to beam abord the Enterprise while she is at warp.

18. Lore - August 20, 2010

Use the babble when it helps move the story along. Babble for the sake of Babble is just……………..BABBLE!

19. Torcflaed - August 20, 2010

number three in the top ten should not have been included, Riker was trying to bulls**t the ferengi with fake technobabble so it was intended to sound like junk ;)

20. Jeff O'Connor - August 20, 2010

I think Trek 09 nailed the amount of technobabble I like to see — that is to say, far less than TNG and Voyager, but it’s still there out of necessity. Keeping things as they are for Trek 12 (hey, it’s 2012 for Trek 12… amazing) would be the best course of action.

21. CmdrR - August 20, 2010

Some technobabble is inevitable if you want your characters to sound like they’re living in 2263. However, since the writers may not have even the working knowledge of 2010 (or may REALLY stretch the implications of Quantum Mechanics, Mr. Orci) then you get plain old-fashioned bovine chocolate pies. Even 20 years later, a TNG character explaining the workings of a computer sound idiotic compared to learning from the AT&T wonk how to work your latest phone. In that regard, I find TOS easier to swallow in most instances. They had sci-fi concepts, but didn’t drive ’em into the ground like TNG, and especially Voyager, did.

Having said all that, I could watch Jeri Ryan with the sound off any day.

22. S. John Ross - August 20, 2010

#13: “we use technobabble in our every day …”

See The Princess Bride re “inconceivable.”

23. Ironhyde - August 20, 2010

#9, right. See, the technobabble always did make sense. It was within a realm of plauseability and it always used real words in combinations that enhanced and adjusted their meanings. Tachyons are real things, people!

My point is, without technobabble, we end up with “red matter”. A completely meaningless, undefinable but CENTRAL plot point. A line or two giving me something to ground that junk in real science would have been very much appreciated. If they stop caring about technobabble, they’ll end up frigging things around — as we saw with that blow-out last year over the new Enterprise design where Rick Sternbach (love you man!) demonstrated concern about the erroneous positioning of the warp nacelles.

Technobabble is what keeps Star Trek from being nonsense. It gives Star Trek merit. If you can’t understand what they’re saying, look it up for frig’s sake. Don’t complain. There’s a lot of interesting stuff to read about ALL the terminology and ideas in Trek. Enjoy it.

24. Balok - August 20, 2010

Well Mr. Orci sure technobabbled his way out of why Spock couldn’t go back and fix the timeline!

25. They call me Stasiu - August 20, 2010

If the babble clearly states how they relate to each other (funnel, keyhole, etc.) and the problem at hand, then I guess it’s okay :-P

26. SB - August 20, 2010

When TNG first began, I really enjoyed the technobabble. At least in the beginning, it all sounded as if Sternbach and Okuda had made a very real attempt to invent technology that sounded plausible (at least on a cursory first hearing) and that made a very real effort to nod in the direction of real scientific principles. (And some of them, like the Heisenberg Compensators, were just hilarious in-jokes for those of us who picked up on them.)


By the time TNG was reaching its fifth, sixth, seventh seasons, the jargon was being used increasingly as a crutch for lazy writing, to the point where, when VOYAGER got rolling, there were entire episodes that seemed to be about nothing *but* the technobabble. You could always tell when Rick and Mike were just inventing new, and increasingly sillier, names for nonexistent particles just so they didn’t have to reuse stuff that had already been run into the ground. (“Tetryon”? Gimme a break, folks.)

This is the kind of thing that drove me crazy, and I think it’s the same thing Ron Moore has been complaining about for years. When the technobabble was being used to enhance an already solid drama, it was fine. When the drama was one of those awful “tech mysteries” where the solution to the problem was neither character- nor plot-based, but resolved with a page and a half of absolutely meaningless nonsense, that’s when I had to tune out. That’s one of many reasons why, today, I can’t revisit any episode of VOYAGER without turning the thing off in disgust; whereas DS9, which made a real effort to avoid the bolonium as much as possible in Berman-era STAR TREK, is still my favorite series.

Remember Gene’s dictum, kiddies. It ain’t about the toys; it’s about the people.

27. Reign1701A - August 20, 2010

I didn’t mind the technobabble too much. These characters are the best of the best, i.e., they’re smart…like really smart. Scientists, lawyers, doctors, etc, all use jargon that sounds like babble to us. So it always seemed realistic to me that characters like Data (genius android) or Geordi (chief engineer of the most advanced ship in the fleet) would say things that would at least initially go over my head. Besides, usually there was somebody like Picard or Riker to say “in English, Data”.

28. Phil - August 20, 2010

Hey, whats the difference between fake technobabble, and real technobabble, when it’s all fake? Just because a name of something turned up in Popular Mechanics, it’s good to go?? In the Trek universe, it’s 10% science and 90% fiction…

29. John in Canada, eh? - August 20, 2010

The examples listed in the video clip weren’t that onerous – most of them make sense if you follow it. And for the first Scotty clip – jeez, even my colleagues at work understand the concept of matter-anti-matter reactions. Nothing overtly confusing there.

I would agree, though, that Voyager simply O’D on the technobabble: far too many episodes had decent set-ups but were just ruined by reverse-flowing the something into the something else, and boom, everything’s okay. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised by “Enterprise” – for the most part, technobabble was minimal.

30. Dyson Sphere - August 20, 2010

no more medical shows – it’s like when westerns were all the rage and nothing else was on. Enough, computer end program.

31. Terran_Guy - August 20, 2010

The video is an extremely poor representation of the “treknobabble” of Star Trek , much of the babble in the video isn’t that challenging, one of them was meant to be confusing (Riker instructing the Ferengi to be confused), one was just repeated numbers and words, and the announcer sound like an idiot. Plus there were a lot worse uses of Technobabble, see Star Trek: Voyager.

32. Vultan - August 20, 2010


Don’t you mean vampire shows?

33. Stephen Whelan - August 20, 2010

#17 agree with you completely…star trek 09 had the perfect amount…i think that start trek in later years became relient on technobabble way too much and people got annoyed by it so just stopped watching…and newbies couldnt be arsed to try understand..hence why trek lost its many fans and nearly died…but JJ and the crew knew they had to tone it down for a new audience or people who just not be bothered…i think use similar amounts from now on…dont over do it or you will alienate people especially the new fan base

Technobabble is part of what makes star trek…well star trek…but i think sometimes its just too much of a get out of jail free card…make up something to save the day…it gets annoying…keep it to a minimum

and if they ever do make more trek tv(prey to all the gods that they do) lets hope they dont over do it again or history will repeat itself

34. tony - August 20, 2010

saw ryan in vegas she was great!!!!! wow she is easy on the eyes!!!!!!!

35. Red Dead Ryan - August 20, 2010

#30, 32

Crime procedural dramas, medical procedural dramas, cop shows, vampire shows…..enough already!

Can’t anyone in Hollywood try to think outside of the box for once?

To quote Captain Neill

“God, I hate the mainstream”

36. Vultan - August 20, 2010


Oh, don’t forget reality shows!

Despite the disgusting slime pit that television has become in the past ten years, something recently happened that renewed my faith—the (now defunct) Fox Reality channel was replaced by NatGeo-Wild on my DirecTV dial. Oh yes, there is a God! (And don’t you think it’s ironic that a nature-documentary channel replaced a channel that focused on “reality” programming?) :D

37. Red Dead Ryan - August 20, 2010


Still, I hope someone cancels the “HLN” show “Showbiz Tonight”. God, that A.J Hammer guy is such a moron! And Brooke Anderson is a bimbo!
Their coverage of ‘stars’ such as the diva-bitch steward Steven Slater and the ugly-ass orange-colored idiot Snooki is proof of today’s audiences being dumber than ever before. The way they are giving publicity to those morons makes me sick! And its not like “Entertainment Tonight” is any better. They covered the Joran Van Der Sloot story. I mean, what has that got to do with ‘entertainment’? There is nothing entertaining about a psychopath who commits murderous acts of violence against women! And these so called “news networks” like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX have dumbed down their news broadcasts with incessent political partisan commentaries as well as covering celebrity scandals. Also, murderers are now made into celebrities by these same “news” channels. What, are people so dumb that news channels have to find ways to keep the audience entertained? Its all about reality shows and infotainment these days.

By the way, I live in Canada where our news networks actually report real news, like flooding in Pakistan, the war in Afghanistan etc.

OK, my rant is over!

38. Vultan - August 20, 2010


You may have been ranting, my northern friend, but everything you said is true. I’m down here in the lower 48, and the info-tainment news networks are pretty much as you describe them. Forget their obvious political leanings (MSNBC being left, FOX being right, with CNN somewhere in the middle); it’s the coverage of celebrity scandals you mentioned that really gets me steamed. Of course, the demands of a 24-hour news cycle demands the need for an occasional “lighter” segment, but they could definitely cut back on the fluff pieces and sensationalism.

A perfect example occurred a couple of weeks ago—I was trying to get some news on the war games going on in South Korea; instead I got a twenty-minute earful about Blago (that’s the networks’ nickname for the sleazy, celeb-obsessed ex-governor of Illinois) and his corruption trial in Chicago. The news from Korea and Afghanistan were lumped together in a little 5-minute news block near the end of the hour.

Well, there’s my two centavos. Oh, and is it hard to get Canadian citizenship? ;)

39. Red Dead Ryan - August 20, 2010


“Oh, and is it hard to get Canadian citizenship? ;)”

No. Not at all. Just board a run-down migrant boat from Sri Lanka or China and you’ll automatically be given refugee status if not a full citizenship!

40. Vultan - August 20, 2010


Hmm, so I guess us Yanks aren’t the only ones with immigration problems… interesting.

(And, yes, I’m aware of the stereotype of the American who is completely unaware of problems in other countries. I mean… there are… other countries outside the fence… right?) ;)

41. jotin - August 20, 2010

10-8 weren’t hard to understand at all. 5 was just a security code… yeah, not hard to understand. the theory behind 4 is actually becoming accepted as true and 3 wasn’t made to make sense, he was trying to confuse the farangi.

42. Jim Nightshade - August 21, 2010

Yah thos infotainment shows have their own brand of technobabble which is far worse than any trek babble…ohhh words they make up like Bennifer…or the Saucer Boy then they beat it into the ground with these made up words they use..YUK

Far as Trek is concerned,

What is a warp core breach? Why its a technobabble and an alcoholic Drink!! Thanks Quarks Bar this is a good use of technobabble haha..

43. Captain Kathryn - August 21, 2010

#29 – John,

I have to agree with you . I really enjoy Enterprise (reruns) . They are just starting out with the exploration and I like the folksy, Jonathan Archer and Trip. There is enough banter between Archer, Trip and T’Pol to really enjoy the program.
Also they actually had been using their prequel show to introduce the Andorians, Orion women and the possible mating of Vulcan and Human (Spock) along with other ‘future’ references to these subjects in the TOS and subsequent Trek shows. I particularly like the episode of how the Klingons lost their ridges. If anyone recalls, in the original Star Trek series, the klingons looked human. And on Next Generation, Wolf has difficulty explaining how the ridges evolved. HE is embarrased by the question.But Enterprise (being a pre-Kirk era) addresses how they looked human for generations from a virus which explains why they still looked human to Kirk and the gang. But it also answered that, they eventually would evolve back into their original looks (Worf).
But I also have really enjoyed Voyager. That is my favorite. It brings humanity to a new level. And in particular Seven of nine has really grown on me. I love her dry humor. Concerning her technobabble, oh well, it’s all entertaining.

44. Rick Sternbach - August 21, 2010

#26 – Even those of us who invented a lot of the sci/tech for Voyager didn’t always agree on its use in dialogue. I can’t tell you the number of times I provided tech notes that reminded the writers that we really didn’t want to put a huge mouthful of words in the actors’ mouths when a few will do.

Rick’s Rules:

a) It’s only babble if it doesn’t make any sense, and
2) If it sounds ridiculous, we didn’t write it.

45. Red Dead Ryan - August 21, 2010


Sounds to me like one of your bosses who shares your first name overruled you unfortunately. :-(

Anyway, I’ve always loved your work on Trek and I have enjoyed your Tech manuals, especially the DS9 version which out did the TNG book. I wished that you, Mike Okuda and Doug Drexler could have done an “Enterprise” manual based on the NX-01. But the show wasn’t popular enough to warrant one apparently.

And by the way, was “tetryon” (hope I spelled it right) meant to be used so many times, as either a legitimate jargon or did it become a running gag?

46. Captain Kathryn - August 21, 2010


Not sure who you are referring to concerning one of my ‘bosses’ overruling me. But I am just a fan who enjoys the series. However what a compliment that you would think that I have worked on the trek series just from reading my post. I actually have never watched DS9 either. “Enterprise” ended too soon, what was it , after 5 years, but I like the way it did end. The same with Voyager. I was 11 years old when TOS was on and a hard core TOS trekker for years. Once I started watching NG, Voyager and Enterprise, these programs grew on me as well as the characters. It is nice to see a lot of these episodes relate to the other shows as part of an ongoing saga. Oh, and thanx again for the compliment ;-)

47. Red Dead Ryan - August 21, 2010


I was referring to Rick Sternbach’s post which was originally #43 and mine was originally #44 until you came in and rudely bumped us down a notch! How dare you! :-)

48. moauvian waoul - August 21, 2010

Ryan, question? Flooding in paky… Pakis…stand, war in Afgans? Who fights wars in afgans? Must be another example of technobabble. I’ll just put on the “news” and see who’s the new American teen such and such. Oh, look, the Price is Right is on!!

49. Captain Kathryn - August 21, 2010

I don’t quite know how bumping you, was rudeness on my part or my fault that ‘bumped’ you guys. I just wrote my post. It got posted wherever the opening was. I guess whoever gets there first – huh?

50. moauvian waoul - August 21, 2010

Ryan, question. Flooding in paky… Pakis…stand, war in Afgans? Who fights wars in afgans? Must be another example of technobabble. I’ll just put on the “news” and see who’s the new American teen such and such. Oh, look, the Price is Right is on!!

51. Red Dead Ryan - August 21, 2010

Seems like this thread is malfunctioning. Perhaps due to an overabundance of tetryon particles :-)

52. Captain Kathryn - August 21, 2010


Sounds ‘logical’ to me ;-) Let’s call a truce?

53. SB - August 21, 2010


Hey, Rick! Thanks for chiming in on my comment, which was about the last thing I expected. And let me take this opportunity to briefly grovel and fawn over one of my favorite artists/designers/pop-futurists in the history of ever.

/end grovel

As I hope I made clear, I never held you or Mike responsible for the misuse of overuse of Trek tech jargon. If someone insisted on writing 17 pages of Janeway and Seven speculating on the tetryonic emission transparency of the left-handed GNDN conduit array, you were the line soldiers whose job it was to replace [TECH] wherever it appeared in the script with something that seemed reasonable, logical, and non-legally-actionable.

Besides, one of my biggest peeves on Trek really had nothing to do with you guys: it was the time-honored phrase, “strange [sensor reading/spacial anomaly/particle flux/ion-powered tricycle/etc] of some kind,” which I started to think had been written on an enormous cue card in the VOYAGER writer’s room beneath the legend, WHAT TO WRITE IF YOU’RE STUCK.

54. moauvian waoul - August 21, 2010

yup. My phone’s acting up. Damn those tetryon particles.

Illlogical. Illogical. All units relate, all units. Norman, coordinate…

55. Rick Sternbach - August 21, 2010

#53 – Heh. Not to worry, I was speaking in generalities. I think we did good; we taught the rest of the industry. And I’m very proud of the way Stargate borrowed everything Trek ever did and made it their own in a very loose, natural sounding way. I’m a big Rodney McKay fan (but a bigger Samantha Carter fan). :)

56. Rick Sternbach - August 21, 2010

#55 – But to be fair (talking to myself), Trek took everything Doc Smith ever did in SKYLARK and LENSMAN and made it their own. Double :)

57. Will_H - August 21, 2010

My problem with technobabble in the new movie is that it doesnt seem like the writers can get it right. I mean in TNG-ENT there was some sense of what they were talking about and things seem to fit together, but in ST09 it just seemed randomly thrown together, like manatees made it up. I mean talking about 70,000 km away from a Klingon boarder like that’s a long distance, “Starfleet Base”, and “eject the core!” and like 8 things that look nothing like a warp core pop out. Maybe if they bring on some advisers for technobabble that have done it before, but otherwise I say minimize it if they can’t do it right.

58. OldSkool - August 21, 2010

Like many I have spoken to, I do not view “ST09″ as canon, as it was wholly disrespectful to all of the actual Trek that came before it. For lesser writers to have the gall to ‘undo’ all the work of famed science fiction authors who came before them… I am sorry, you can be choose to be dazzled by all the pretty lights and pretty cast members, but I personally saw no depth or merit for their presumption.

59. Bob Mack - August 21, 2010

There’s nothing inherently wrong with techno babble but it can sometimes become a crutch for a lazy writer. TNG solved a pretty fair amount of dilemmas with techno babble that had little to do with actual science or established “Trek science” and to me, that’s just mediocre story telling.

Creating a static warp shell or reversing the polarity of the forward sensor array to save the Enterprise (or the galaxy) does not make for a great story whether the science is real, established in Trek lore or just made up for that particular moment.

ST2009 did some of the same. I loved the movie and the writing overall, but it’s weakest points as a film (in my opinion) were the moments that it let the techno babble elements drive the storyline.

The best of Trek has always come from the characters and their motivations. Let’s keep the techno babble in perspective.

60. Captain Otter - August 21, 2010

I’m with Ron Moore- don’t try to explain how it works, just give me a frackin’ story and I will assume that the high-tech space stuff works.

61. SB - August 22, 2010


And speaking of “to be fair,” I always felt that Gene, at the very least, owed Cyril Hume, Irving Block, Allen Adler and Fred McCleod Wilcox a dinner… ;)

62. Rick Sternbach - August 22, 2010

We all owe a salute to the fine folks who brought us “Forbidden Planet” (for those not familiar with the names).

63. Jack2211 - August 22, 2010

@60. Amen. Using made-up particles, beams and scans to solve problems starts to get one in Harry Potter territory.

We do use technical jargon in daily life, but it’s not often that I’m routing power from the air conditioner to reconfigure the Internet to emit a Dewey Decimal pulse. And it’s been awhile since a random Sirius radio emission has caused an inversion of the hybrid drive of my Prius and rewritten my DNA.

@Earlier. “It’s not about the toys, it’s about the people.” Yep.

64. Rick Sternbach - August 22, 2010

“It’s not about the toys, it’s about the people.” – By that logic, The West Wing didn’t have to do their political homework, or the medical tech in “Something the Lord Made” didn’t matter as long as the acting was good. I don’t buy it. Smart, sophisticated science fiction on television or in movies needs good characters *and* a well crafted scientific/technical challenge, or it isn’t science fiction. You might as well watch Real Jersey Housewives and pretend they’re aliens. Smartly done fantasy also has rules and is internally consistent. The more simplistic solutions in Star Trek don’t sit well even with me, though we tech types may have provided the writers with names of things.

65. Vultan - August 23, 2010


Totally agree with you about rules in fantasy, Rick. I recall seeing an interview with the late Chuck Jones explaining how he made a list of rules with each cartoon character he created and how the cartoons always benefited from them—of course, he explained it much more better than I can. I recommend anyone interested in fiction writing, cartooning, design—anything creative should look up Jones’ take on the creative process. The man was on the same genius level as Roddenberry.

66. MikeS - August 23, 2010

Personally I’m tired of hear Ron Moore whine about the technobabble. I would rather have some sort of explanation than have Starbuck just vanish in the end. (Talk about lazy.)

67. Desstruxion - August 23, 2010

Yeah Starbuck vanishing into thin air was a crock but the technobabble in Trek could at times be over the top. However, If it’s beneficial to understanding a particular scene then I’m all for it.

68. S. John Ross - August 23, 2010

#64: “By that logic, The West Wing didn’t have to do their political homework …”

Not everyone would easily agree that political activity at the White House (or actual medical technique) falls as comfortably under the term “toys” as do zap guns, holodecks, and psychic superpowers.

“Smart, sophisticated science fiction on television or in movies needs good characters *and* a well crafted scientific/technical challenge, or it isn’t science fiction.”

Adding that requirement to the term — that the challenge be sci/tech in nature — would exclude some of the best work of writers like Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Bradbury and others from being called “science fiction” if adapted to the screen. In many of the foundational (not to say Foundational) works of science fiction, the science sets up the scenario for recognizable human drama in a setting where the human questions can be explored on a broader stage, freed of the limitations of strictly contemporary context. The challenge, in many of these stories, is not at all sci/tech in nature, but is one based on more enduring tensions (between morality and expediency, for example).

Which in no way is meant to disparage the importance of science to science fiction – it’s crucial, simple as that – but perspective is nice, too.

69. Rick Sternbach - August 23, 2010

#68 – Quite true about the works of the greats that you mention. One definitely does not need to delve into the nuts and bolts and tetryons of an SF concept to make it work for an audience, but when those nuts and bolts do come up, someone should do the homework and put them in language that is correct, even if another character has to “translate.” The Stargate folks learned very well how to do that, even joke about it, and made it work for them. I probably should have been more specific; I believe that space-based SF shows in particular should have well crafted sci/tech challenges. They sometimes need to do a -bit- more to wow the viewers and get them thinking than, say, a techno-thriller that has perhaps a few SF elements.

70. S. John Ross - August 23, 2010

#69: “but when those nuts and bolts do come up, someone should do the homework and put them in language that is correct”

Aye, I do agree with that. If you’re gonna go there, go there not only boldly, but with some clue about it as well :)

71. Jack - August 25, 2010

69. Agreed. The consistency (and the detail) was incredible and much appreciated — I owned the technical guide in high school and spent many late nights poring through it (not a lot of dates). Your stuff sounded plausible, like it really should work. That was really important to the series.

And before you guys, when the terms weren’t consistent (it took awhile in TOS and TMP for them to decide whether they had screens or shields or both, if I recall) it, well, to use a technical term, sucks.

But personally, when it comes to the writing, I like the don’t-explain-too-much-of-the-future-history-or-how-things-work-unless-necessary, pre-midichlorian, style of TOS (generally, hey screwed up to), if only because it let teenaged (okay, and thirty-something) me pretend all of this was based on real science and could be real some day. Even the made-up term dilithium used to bug me (I get that they needed something that was essential but difficult to replace to keep the stakes high). I didn’t get out much.

But when they had actual (or even actual-sounding) science/astronomy geek stuff, I loved it. I wanted Star Trek to teach me stuff. When Spock talked about physics, or real phenomena or whatever (another technical term), I was thrilled. Same with the medical stuff, through in some real body-part names, heck, but over the years a lot of it sounded increasingly implausible/ the-science-will-do-whatever-we-need-it-to — a lot of DNA resequencing plots. I guess that’s why I don’t watch House,

And a movie’s a lot different than an insanely long-running tv series that needs the mythology and details. I found even Trek 09 had a little much for my taste (did we need Spock to call up “the video” of Kirk and Scotty in engineering)?

So, my beef’s not with the technical terms — more with the writing. Once you get into technobabble, you’re basically filling screen time and not really saying anything. My favourite thing about TOS was even when there were plot holes and details that didn’t make much sense, at least everything happened quickly. Trek 09 captured that well.

“I probably should have been more specific; I believe that space-based SF shows in particular should have well crafted sci/tech challenges. ” Agreed 122%.

72. wissaboo - August 25, 2010


glad technobabble serves some purpose after all

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