Ron Moore: Star Trek Writers Hated The Replicator

One of the major bits of technology introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation – and seen throughout the 24th century Trek shows – was replicators. These handy devices could make almost anything and they were so ubiquitous, they were even seen in crew quarters. While an interesting bit of sci-fi tech, Star Trek: TNG and DS9 writer/producer Ron Moore feels they were bad for the show. In a new interview with Bleeding Cool Moore stated:

Replicators are the worst thing ever. Destroys storytelling all the time. They mean there’s no value to anything. Nothing has value in the universe if you can just replicate everything, so all that goes away. Nothing is unique; if you break something, you can just make another one. If something breaks on the ship, it’s “Oh, no big deal, Geordi [LaForge] can just go down to engineering and make another doozywhatsit.” Or they go to a planet and that planet needed something: “Oh, hey, let’s make them what they need!” [The writers room] just hated it and tried to forget about it as much as possible.

While replicators weren’t standard in Starfleet until the 24rd century, they even showed up on the 22nd century show Star Trek: Enterprise when the NX-01 visited a mysterious alien repair facility. When confronted with a replicator the character of Trip Tucker echoed Moore’s point saying “if we had one of of these in engineering, we could make all the spare parts we needed.”

One of the reasons Discovery is in 23rd century?

This issue regarding how some writers and producers felt the technology of 24th century Star Trek was so advanced it hampered storytelling is nothing new. While most often seen making food, replicators also made clothes and parts and other objects, negating situations where story points could be written around limitations of what a crew could reasonably have brought along to the final frontier. Could this be one of the reasons why when it came time to make a new Star Trek series the decision was made to go back instead of forward? With Star Trek: Discovery set in the 23rd century – 10 years prior to the original Star Trek – the writers will not have to deal with replicators being around. So they can create a MacGuffin whenever they want.

In the 23rd century you need to pack everything you need when you go out to explore

See BleedingCool for more from Ronald D. Moore including discussion on his new Phillip K. Dick anthology series for Amazon.


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TOS was WAGON TRAIN TO THE STARS not because space was easy and boring but because it was exciting and hard.

I disagree. By the 24th century one should expect for the frontier to be a little easier to manage. It’s the 21st century and the Wild West is a memory. Wagon trains and you have reference are relegated to symbolic events like fairs and trail rides. Hollywood need an new infusion of imagination.

The Wild West was a memory in the 1960’s as well…unless you were a 70+ year-old Trekkie.

Wait, how is either a fair or a trail ride “symbolic?” Like, those are both actual things.

I’m in agreement. And Moore should realize this.

This is why Star Trek can’t have nice things…
it makes the show runners have to actually use their creative brains

But they DID have matter fabricators already. Where do you think they got those German uniforms in “Patterns of Force”?

The entire problem with replicators in TNG+ stories stemmed from the creative incompetence of story writers. It’s very much like cell phones nowadays: they’ve been around for 30 years, yet story writers can’t seem to learn how to use them properly.

I assume skilled and resourceful quartermasters were essential on exploration vessels that required undercover work.

I always assumed that replicated food and other items were close approximations of the real thing to ease my mind a bit. You could order a fake one at any time, but you could always tell the difference. The tranporters always bothered me for a similar reason. If you got killed on an away mission (or on the ship), why couldn’t they just replicate the latest digital copy of a person from the time they last beamed out?

As a copy, each transporter created replica would be less like you, they would be copies of a copy.
Michael Keatons comedy about cloning, Multiplicity explained this pretty well.

That’s if there’s errors.

Not really considering every transport destructed the original and rebuilt from scratch the new version at the new location. But yes the transporter in star trek is ridiculous (and even worse now in Kelvin Trek where you can basically transport anywhere in the universe). However, given transporters, and our present day 3D printers, replicators are a no brainer. Even if you eliminate (ridiculous) transporter tech then food replication could be a based on a synthesis tech where most every food/drink could be synthesized from certain base flavors and substances (like most process foods are anyway).

Explained by showing that during transport you are aware of moving through the matter stream. Replicators/transporters CAN’T duplicate living things because the complexity makes their pattern unstable. Except for Scotty rigging the pattern buffer to loop indefinitely (and the other guy degraded too much to rematerialize) the pattern can only be kept for extremely short durations.

Yea, but that’s still shaky. I always just decided in my own mind, not from any description or canon, that you simply couldn’t rip a copy after dying because your spirit had gone with the original.

The creators made a joke about why they created transporters, because they couldn’t figure out how to land the dang thing :)

Thomas Riker might disagree.

Replies seem to flow oddly. My comment was in response to Azederach, “Replicators/transporters CAN’T duplicate living things…”

In-universe, from what I remember, the transporter is ultra high resolution — it has to read the original, break it down, and reassemble it in realtime… with astounding levels of accuracy.

So even in the future, the amount of data required to be shuffled around with no errors to transport living matter is… through the roof. There wouldn’t feasibly be enough space to hold a pattern indefinitely and still use the transporter for multiple beaming cycles.

But standard replicators are, in comparison, very low resolution. They don’t need nearly as memory and precision, so they can get away with fudging the details a bit (which might account for replicated food/beverages being less enjoyable than their non-replicated counterparts).

Additionally, standard replicators would probably need a source of matter to create the objects. Building blocks to create the new object, as opposed to just magically pulling it from the aether.

But big ass transporters have a source of matter too — you. So you could beam one guy down, but not beam him down a second copy, someplace else. You’ve spent the matter.

Of course, none of this seems to be taken into account for ‘transporter accident’ stories like Tuuvix (where’d the extra matter go?), or spitting out a good/evil Kirk. But I don’t think they cared too much about the mechanics of it. The writers just seemed to tell their story and move on without knocking themselves out over the realism.

I’m not sure I can blame the *universe* for the frustrations the writers felt. You can come up with explanations for why something can’t be replicated (safely). Or you can just accept that in this world, the story you’re trying to tell doesn’t work. There’s no shame in that.

It’s the inverse of the problem you’d encounter setting a story with a heavy technological hook in, say, the 1600s. :)

Well, in TOS, they didn’t spend much time with the technobabble to explain everything, their tech worked, most of the time, and that was accepted as fact. It was also usually secondary to the actual story, something Trek has gotten away from over time.

Yes! It wasn’t the replicator that was the problem, it was all the wasted exposition talking about it. In “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”, when the transporter chief offered the Airman something to eat, he didn’t feel the need to explain the replicator to him, he just ordered his chicken soup. Then TNG had to waste two and a half minutes on air-time for Data to explain how to replicate a guitar. Roddenberry always told the TOS writers to avoid getting wrapped up in “the wonder of it all”, but somehow that got forgotten in the later series.

TOS didn’t HAVE replicators; the airman’s chicken soup came out of a FOOD SYNTHESIZER.

But you’re right about the technobabble; just assume the tech works, and don’t explain it in excruciating detail.

I never understood why there was a Food Synthesizer in the Transporter Room.

The transporter technician was likely on duty for an extended period, and so provisions needed to be available in the transporter room. There was probably an adjacent restroom, too.

I could kind of see the application of a food synthesizer if someone was rescued by the transporter and needs nourishment even before they get to sickbay.

Remember when Voyager was going to do away with replicators and holodecks and then just used them anyway?

Haha, they made such a big deal out of it! The rationing and the limitations and all of that, Then just… used them anyways and forgot all about their problems.

I see a way for compromise> Explanations aren’t the way to go; correct. But I hate to see the implied omnipotence of the technology, otherwise lets just issue standard Harry Potter Magic Wands (HPMWs) and be done with it. There could have been a moment where Data went to make chicken soup and saw that some more “Basic Nutrition Packets (BNPs)” were needed as the nutritional “raw material” for the replicator to work with, transforming it into an advanced Food Processor that works with texturizing, coloring and flavoring the BNPs into the requested item: chicken soup. Data could also call for the tech to bring extra color and flavor packets too. Meanwhile Data holds an interesting, story-related conversation with his guest while waiting for the replicator to be prepped for operation. This also implies a supply system is needed, and scheduled rendezvous with supply ships. Long voyages should actually consist of fleets (Columbus and Magellan even knew this much) where the Explorer ship has accompanying Tenders, supply ships, and perhaps a few escort/recon ships coming along, for those “Five Year Missions”.

Well stated.

@Phil. Indeed. Speaking of overexplaining stuff, it also bugged me when later series started pinning down relatively exact calendar dates for everything (TOS did this a little bit – “the year 1996” – but not too often).

Most insightful post here. Trek’s soul was lost when the TNG technobanble became more important than the story. It just works. Does a cop in a TV crime show feel compelled to explain the physics of a gun five minutes before he shoots it? Same principle applies. Every time I heard someone in TNG ask for a “level 1 diagnostic” or do something with the “plasma inverters” I wanted to throw Wesley Crusher through the screen. Then again, I wanted to do that every time he appeared on screen, so there’s that…

Or Picard, Mrs O’Brien, Let To, and Guinan?

Except they did, when Picard was beamed, energy only into a nebula in “Lonely Among Us” of TNG. As he was the last one to use the transporter, his pattern was still in the buffer. In show time it was about an hour and a half later in which they were able to use the data in the last transport of the captain (granted along with the energy of Picard having moved to the buffer on its own) to recombine Picard.

So this, combined this with Scotty’s 85 year transporter suspension and with Riker’s doubling, and yes you could easily “replicate” crew members as long as you had the storage space for the data to be contained and updated with every transport.

Yeah, I probably think too much, lol.

If transporters operate based on theory’s of quantum entanglement, they wouldn’t just be spitting out copies, it would represent an interaction with whatever atoms it was transporting. So if the person being transported were dead, it’s entangled duplicate would also be dead.

Yup, they ‘proved’ that with the duplicate Riker, and in other stories where they did just that, further making transporters ridiculous. The Iconian portals made sense and involved no ridiculous disintegration, remember pattern in buffer, recreate using pattern in buffer somehow where there is no transporter tech to do so (unless you are transporting from one transporter to another). But it sure made for a convenient way to get around.

Well, everybody knows the transporter was invented because they couldn’t afford to land the Enterprise or even a shuttlescraft every week.

I’d have to agree with Mr. Moore. Further, as represented, replicators are also very bad science. They sit there, seemingly churning out tons of stuff, week in and week out, with no explanation to the vast resources that would need to be dedicated for a replicator to work, namely energy production and raw materials. The output of a replicator can never exceed the availability of raw materials available, and in a closed system like a starship, expending valuable fuel, also not a finite resource, will limit how far you can travel, even at faster then light speeds if you had no logistics controls on ship.

That’s why it’s great. On Voyager there was periods of rationing when energy was scarce for replicators.

@ Devin: Yeah, they rationed food because of energy scarcity, but the holodeck magically had its own power source and could still be used.

Do you mind explain to me why FUTURE!Projector isnt much more energy efficient FUTURE!3D-printer?

@ Lawrence: Only the holodeck was more than a projector (remember you could touch things). They didn’t want to lose the trope of doing holodeck episodes despite that alleged power shortage. The food rationing made sense given the show’s premise. Wasting energy on the holodeck did not.

its got forcefields thats it. And as for how much energy does force field lightshow vs uber molecular level-instant-3dprinter takes? well, who knows,thats my point really.

@Diginon Ha. Yeah. Well, add the holodeck to the list of things that often stymied storytelling potential (even though it was intended to do the opposite).

They rationed the replicators because of raw material shortages rather than energy. I’m pretty sure the warp core provides all the power they need. Also Holodecks use very little raw materials and when the simulation is over some is converted back. Last there are over 150 crew member using replicators several times a day every day. Holodeck usage isn’t that much.

Which is why Voyager was so hard to stomach in its execution. Where did Neelix get the resources to cook all his meals, and what were the replicaters being fuelled with all those years?

They visited planets from time to time so there’s your food source. The replicators only needed energy which they supposedly got from the Bussard collectors.

From what I understood the replicators used the waste systems and reorganized the molecules in to what was needed. Complex molecules where not possible hence nothing “living” and is probably why things would also taste a little different. Since steak is from a living animal making it non living would leave it just a little different. Plants where easier as they only had RNA but still not perfect. I think all of this info was in one of the technical readout books for TNG.

In addition to visiting planets for resources one of the cargo bays was turned into a hydroponics garden by Kes in near the beginning of the show.

Enegy? Are you talking about energy with a ship that have half-dozen fusion reactors and a antimatter reactor?????
Yes, repliactor need energy and bulk material, but you know what can take up energy adn also need bunch of available material? Having large enough space on the ship(adding the bulk and the weight of the ship)to stockpiling huge articles of spare parts(not to menton the weight of the stockpile) many of which might not even gets used anyway, many of which will be discarded after it too broke down.
Unlike replicator where you can dump it back to material reserves, or if you dont have a stockpile of junction access hatch screws #35581-#36601 just make them on the spot…

Even ISS gets 3D printers now, adn it doesnt even have a single fusion reactor? You would think 2360s spaceships size of a Nimitz Supercarrier would have something like that too. or is ISS bad science?

Unless I remember incorrectly, the replicators turn energy into matter. They don’t need raw material. Of course, your energy needs to come from somewhere so you do need raw materials (e.g. hydrogen for fusion). So you can’t use a replicator to create fuel (or you can but it wouldn’t make sense). But as long as you’ve got an energy source you can basically use a replicator to create almost anything. They did make up stuff like gold-pressed latinum that (for whatever reason) couldn’t be replicated.

Memory Alpha says its repliactor use material bulks :P. But I have to say I dont think it was adrssed in canon(but then its been a long while since i watch trek)

Sorry, but that flies in the face of physics. Energy is created through the interaction of physical or chemical means. That process also loses energy, otherwise perpetual motion would not be impossible. So, if my pound of fuel is converted to energy, then reconverted back into something solid, I can only have less then what I started with, that pound of fuel. Never more, so it will never be able to create anything.

Sure it can. It can make something smaller.

@ Phil: That’s why I said it doesn’t make sense to use the replicator to create fuel. You could do it but you would get less out than you put in. But if you’ve got an energy source you can use the replicator to create other stuff (if you have its “pattern” stored).

from memory alpha: A replicator was a device that used transporter technology to dematerialize quantities of matter and then rematerialize that matter in another form.(TNG: “Lonely Among Us”) It was also capable of inverting its function, thus disposing of leftovers and dishes. (DS9: “Hard Time”, “The Ascent”; VOY: “Memorial”) Items thus disposed of served to fuel the replicator, and would later be reconstituted as other objects. (VOY: “Year of Hell”)

It takes A LOT of energy to make matter. At least that’s what that guy Al Einstein said.

That ridiculous Picard lines in First Contact about the economics of the future are different and wealth is not the driving force and we work to better ourselves is a consequence of the replicator. Nothing is worth anything if it can be obtained at any time and that goes for life as they cut it really close with some episodes dealing with the transporter. The Next Gen universe (all shows) really pushed the technology bs a little to far.

I agree. That line was terrible. No one gets paid. Nothing costs anything. Everyone just works for fun. What a communist utopia the future is.

Agreed. No value, no resource scarcity, no incentive to innovate. It might work for a small commune, but not for billions of people as a whole.

I disagree with you: it’s not that everything has no value, it is that easily replicable commodities have little value in Star Trek. There are still things of value, for example unreplicable material like latinum, quantum-based technologies, and many other bizarre materials, historical artifacts, original pieces of art, etc.

As for no incentive to innovate, sure there wouldn’t be an incentive to reduce the cost of manufacturing for a product (cause it’s already basically zero), but there would still be incentive for general innovation. Think of the creative characters like Soong or Zimmerman, who sit around inventing new products all day. Even Bashir’s dad (who seemed like a general failure), tried new things and had interests and produced (or at least attempted to).

Think of struggling actors or artists today – there is only a slim chance that they will hit it big and become rich and famous. Yet do they stop producing their art because they don’t have a huge financial incentive? Some do, but many don’t. Imagine a whole planet or Federation of people freed from the burdens of day-to-day work just to earn a paycheck. How many more people would work to create something of personal interest, that could also be of public value? Sure there would be a lot of people who might not work to produce anything at all, but ultimately how different is that from today where people spend their entire working life churning out commodity products in some sweatshop or Detroit assembly line? If a robot can do fulfill their job, let them do something else. I know i can think of several different industries that I would like to contribute to, if I wasn’t spending so much of my time earning a paycheck working in my current one.

And what would it really matter if some people are lazy or directionless in a future where all the needs of all the people are provided via automation, efficiency, and vast unlimited resources? Others will pick up the baton. Actually as I think about it, a future where some people can opt out of “participating” might be a very good thing as there would be less red tape and less interference for the actual inventors and innovators to achieve.

There were also plenty of instances where they were shown to have money. Not the least of which is dealing with other races that use money.

It was lame.

Scotty: I just bought a boat. What about credits in Tribbles ep. By the way, when Kirk says they are still using real money, I think that is because in his time they use credits instead of cash which makes sense and is very likely in the future.

Kirk’s line especially makes sense now. If you were suddenly transported to the 80’s, you might lament the fact you have plenty of money…available via your phone or debit card. But cash? Uh oh…

With all due respect, your in fantasy land. It’s been human nature for literally ever to only push yourself like it takes invent new things, discover cures or even break sporting/physical records, etc. with few exceptions without financial or power gain. Regarding Soon and Zimmerman, they are fake characters you are basing your thoughts on. Regarding a planet of people free from the burden of day to day work for a check, move in to the real world. They would sleep all day like so many people today when they don’t work. The rest of your comments sound like something out of a 60’s hippie commune singing the song Imagine. Trying actually listening to that song and not only realizing how unrealistic it is but how boring of a world it would be.

I assume you are responding to me.
I don’t think it is much of a fantasy land. In a hypothetical future where replicators are possible (the whole premise of this discussion), I think it would be very reasonable that many (but certainly not all) people would be self-motivated to find and pursue their personal interests, and thus contribute to society. Maybe these “lazy” people would only work 4 hours a day at their hobby or whatever, but with the vast majority of needs provided for by technology, those few hours would still propel us further – and that doesn’t include those people who aren’t “lazy”.

The examples I used of fictional people were just that, examples that I could expect to be understood by other readers, examples of people who pursue personal interests. A real-life example is Bill Gates. He essentially lives in a post-scarcity environment, yet he has committed his post-working life to philanthropy. He doesn’t just sit around enjoying the spoils of his success.

I don’t think it is a fantasy to think that if people had all their basic needs provided for that they would seek out activities that both improve themselves and contribute to society. What I think is fantasy, and cynical fantasy at that, is to say that without a financial motivation practically all people would be lazy, unproductive parasites.

You are right that some would be self motivated but I think very few based on thousands of years of human history and simply basic nature. I would rather have a system that potentially inspires more than fewer. I wish you were right but reality is what matters and not what I wish.

Not sure how you arrived at the conclusion that Star Trek’s future is “communist,” meaning there is no individual ownership because the state owns and controls everything. In which episode is that revealed?

I haven’t but there have been many on the internet that do for wrong reasons based on comments like Picard’s. Usually leftists trying to prove their Utopia theory.

Its true that they did own things. Lord only knows how without money. Did they just stake a claim to a Bay front apartment when they felt like it? Or build a cabin wherever they pleased? Or replicated a boat using a public replicator?

The Picard family vineyard had been in the family for generations. If Jean-Luc’s neighbor decided to help himself to the fruits of the vine, that would be okay, right?

Did you even watch Star Trek?

No obscene footballer wages though!

It was integral to the original as well, the only money grubbing assholes were Harry Mudd and Cyrano Jones. And they were there as comic relief.

While it was probably intended as a throw away line, it does demand accountability. What does working to better ones self means, when all the basic chores that one would preform to better themselves have been delegated to machines? Where is the value in a title if yesterday I want to be a artist, today a starship Captain, tomorrow a cabaret singer? The problem with this magic box that gives us all our desires is we end up in a universe that looks more like Wall-E, and not Star Trek

Exactly. No one works to better themselves except making yourself better at a specific skill, which I don’t think he meant. They work to either make money to pay for things or if they are wealthy enough, they work on things they enjoy weather it’s helping the poor or designing software or entertaining.

Uh, false, I think there’s more than enough ambition in the heart of humanity for us to achieve a Trek future more than a Wall-E without the need to trouble oneself with basic chores delegated to machines. Are you less capable now that you have a dishwasher to do your dishes instead of you? If anything, you now have more time to be who and what you want to be. “Bettering ourselves” and “the rest of humanity” has always meant that people strive to be greater than themselves in almost all cases. There are few people who are like “I want to be worse at this.” Once our basic needs are met, we will be able to strive for our greatest potential unbidden by the primal desires that consume our current society: food, shelter, opportunity. We will have all those things in abundance, and that’s when we’ll be able to live each as we want. There will be more than enough people who want to push themselves for humanity as a whole to make progress. You don’t need money; you just need will.

I enjoy Picard’s explanation of the “economics of the future” because it sets up Lily’s horrified reaction, “You mean you don’t get PAID?” Ha ha.

Much like the flippant exchange between Kirk and Gillian about not having money in the future. “Well we don’t.”

These are the jokes, people. Economics jokes! Star Trek leads the way.

Kirk’s reply could be a joke (and refer to money in the sense of how its used in the 80’s) but Picard was pretty serious.

The book Trekonomics suggests that it’s not really the replicator that provides the post-scarcity utopia in Star Trek. It’s the political and economical will to distribute goods and services to those in need. We could probably achieve something close to that today, if we moved beyond our own judgments about who deserves what.

There already baby steps toward that as in the past ten years or so, Universal Basic Income has rapidly become a mainstream idea.

“Could this be one of the reasons why when it came time to make a new Star Trek series the decision was made to go back instead of forward?”

Nope. As Entertainment Weekly has revealed, and that was covered by Trekmovie as well, we already know that Bryan Fuller was planning on an anthology shows that would explore a Post-VOY era.


Fuller sat with CBS executives to deliver his pitch. It wasn’t just for a ‘Trek’ series but for multiple serialized anthology shows that would begin with the ‘Discovery’ prequel, journey through the eras of Captain James T. Kirk and Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and then go beyond to a time in ‘Trek’ that’s never been seen before.

If no more Kelvin timeline why is Discovery so different than TOS? So it’s a deboot reboot?

@Devin Serpa,

I don’t think that CBS has the rights to produce a show based on the Kelvin timeline. That’s up to Paramount.

Because its not the 60’s anymore.

@Devin — They’re not going to go back to the art direction of the 1960s. They’re going to go with a look that resonates for today’s audiences as to what the future 300 years from now will look like, while attempting to stay true to canon.

That’s why the Klingons look like they came from the original Outer Limits series.

For sure, you had to have novel stories. The restrictions lead to great episodes like Darmok and promote creative writing.

Exactly, writer have to use their noodles instead of common minutia of haggling over a price of stembolts like some kind of Farenghi, uh haggler.

Um – didn’t they have food replicators on the TOS Enterprise? Or were there magic elves generating their food instantaneously?

Yep, they were called food synthesizer.

And, as Bones bemoaned, “I, for one, could use a good non-reconstituted meal…”

Thank you. TNG didn’t change anything, they just started aligning the tech with actual science terms.

Well, there was a mention of the galley and synthetic meatloaves instead of turkeys. That doesn’t necessarily mean replicators. It could have been cooks using reconstituted ingredients.

Some of the novels (noncanon, I know) referred to the food slots as little turbo-lifts, others as replicator-like food synthesizers.

And replicator isn’t an actual science term.

Yeah, as I recall they spit out colored cubes of synthesized goodness. Yum, space MRE’s.

They also put out food-looking things. Like chicken-salad sandwiches and coffee. And now I’m hungry! :D

Those were not replicators. They were limited to synthesizing a group of food items (usually colored cubes). Remember there was also an actual galley on board.

Replicators are a different (24th century) technology, that can make pretty much anything on demand, it’s not limited to a few food patterns.

@Matt Wright — and that right there is the main reason that a series set in the 25th century would have already been pointless. If TNG went from food synthesizers to devices that could produce anything on a whim, what wonders awaited the crew of a starship another 100 years into the future?

I agree Cadet. Its easy to say “well they’d have to write better stories” but we KNOW they’d end up falling back on the wondrous tech to solve all their problems.

Why even have ships at all?

In “Charlie X,” the ship’s cook (voiced by Roddenberry, himself) called Kirk to tell him that there were real turkeys in the ovens. So the TOS Enterprise had actual ovens!

And the kitchen also showed up in UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. So the big E had both food synthesizers spitting out rations, and ovens for the occasional non-reconstituted meal.

Well, to be honest, Undiscovered Country also showed them using real books to translate Klingon. Things thrown in to make it more relatable to audiences.

Officers mess had real food. The enlisted got to chow down on the colored cubes of goodness.

Replicators, holodecks, and the magical transporter that cures disease and makes you young again! Yuck! Show me the human spirit triumphing over its own limitations. These guys are trying ‘to boldly go,’ not to go only when we can bring overstuffed couches and buffet lunches.

@CmdrR Ha. Yeah, eventually it was all told and not shown – early TNG was full of talk on how they’d advanced beyond, well, everything

And maybe it’s bad science, maybe not. Right now I can get a lot of things 3D printed – thats sort of like a really slow replicator, right? What will we be able to do 200 years from now if we extrapolate that as a starting point? In broader terms, if I want a thing that my 21st century life requires, most likely I can get it online, or some other way, assuming I had the money for it – sure, not as instantaneous as a replicator, but still – it just changes the timing things take to arrive, not whether they arrive or not. I can’t recall an episode where they used the replicator to create something that didn’t actually exist before. The difference is the fact that money is needed to get things today. Its not inconceivable that some form of economy that we haven’t thought of is developed upon contact with other civilizations that outmodes our cherished capital-based systems. I think the issue for the writers isn’t the replicator, it’s the lack of money needed to get something – and THAT isn’t even always a problem in Star Trek, because clearly Dr Crusher had an account with some form of currency in it to charge that fancy fabric to that she got at Farpoint station, to say nothing of the goings on aboard DS9, with all its gold-pressed latinum (or barter-driven) purchasing.

What it interferes with is the writer’s ability to use something getting broken as a source of drama. And what fun is another episode of “Discovery Looks For Spare Parts”? And there are ways around this – for example, the caveat that it takes energy to replicate something, so now the limitation isn’t making the thing, it’s having the energy to make it, and so there’s your resource limitation you can throw in there to get around the fact you couldn’t figure out another way to make the issue dramatic. And size – where do you put a replicator big enough to replicate a warp nacelle? (They don’t seem to see a problem with the nearly unlimited energy it would take to drive a theoretical FTL drive, but I digress).

“There’s no value to anything.” Well, um, aren’t we supposed to be evolving away from materialism? The “gotta have the fanciest car to show my importance/self worth” type of thinking? Even in TOS, that sort of materialism was supposed to be passe. And I disagree about ANYTHING not having value – things of art, of religious significance, etc all have value beyond what they cost in currency terms, and the originals will always be unique, just like there is one Mona Lisa even if you can get someone to paint one that looks just like it or can print a thousand art prints of it. Things lack value if people fail to place a value in them; conversely, if someone thinks something is valuable, no matter how common it is, it therefore has value. The value may be because of HOW it was acquired, or who gave the thing to someone. Even if its not unique, it has value to the person who has it because of those things.

“If something breaks, Geordi can make a new one.” Well, not everything. Blow off the warp nacelle, Geordi isn’t replicating a new one. Anything smaller? Well, in the modern US Navy, for example, if a part is broken, it’s either airlifted to the ship, or delivered via supply ship, or machined on board, if we’re talking something smaller (which is the same size they typically replicated things of on Star Trek). They don’t have to whip out a credit card to pay for it, either. It may not be as instant a fix as a replicator (or maybe it is, if they have a part in storage already). But it’s not a dissimilar comparison.

So, I don’t see how the replicator is that big a deal. This is so much writer whining.

It’s interesting that it’s noted that on DS9 it was bad for writing/drama, when they have a whole episode dedicated to Jake going through trades and barters to get his father a baseball card that could easily have been replicated if nothing had value…

Ah but the card still had no value outside of Jake and Ben. No human one cared to trade the value besides the alien that bought it.

Actually that’s not true, or they’d have had the card already because nobody else would value it!

The card had value precisely because it wasn’t replicated. Presumably, there was some kind of certificate of non-replication to go with the card.

Luxuries have value in Star Trek, necessities don’t. Everyone’s necessities are covered, but if they want more, then they have to put in the effort to acquire it.


An excellent post.

Exactly. My first thought when reading the article was that complaining because you can’t use resource scarcity as a plot device is just lazy writing. The writers still did a good job with that perceived limitation and I think the show was better because of it.


Respectfully, no. 3-D printing is nothing like a TNG replicator. A 3-D printer molds a paper-like substance into objects of different shapes and sizes. But all of the “printed” objects are still made out of one compound. There’s no miracle of chemistry or creation, if you will, being performed.

Sums up the issue with going further into the future.

Oh poor writers. The point of “no value” in useless junk is there’s no need for consumerism or capitalism. Like it or not that’s where our future is converging.

Disagree. Capitalism will drive our future. Leftist ideologies will ultimately reduce us to cavemen.

Replicators, to me, would be the evolution of today’s 3-D printers. Besides, I always liked the optimistic idea that tomorrow we would invent something that could do the opposite of what we’ve done with the atom bomb/nuclear weapons. With regards to comments here, it bothers me that we live in an Era where people find it inconceivable that an all humans could experience the same satisfaction that some people get from volunteering to help others, restoring vehicles or other hobbies, or making others simply smile or feel better. I’m exhausted working for just enough money to get by. I’d welcome the chance to do something I enjoy for others for the rest of my life if there were others who enjoyed cooking or creating things I’d need or enjoy. Sign me up, then beam me up.

You’re kinda illustrating the problem. Lets say I like growing and cooking my food, and I get really good at it. Now, if you show up every day, complement me on the aroma of dinner, then ask me to hand it over, if you chose to ‘better yourself’ by singing songs, it’s highly unlikely I need a new song every day. Ah, but the replicator takes care of all those chores, right? Or does it just push a class of people out of sight, those who build the replicators, mine the matter they use, or generate the energy they need are not crashing the utopia party?

I don’t see a problem. Let’s say you like growing and cooking food, get good at it, feed me, and I sing to you. What do you care that I’m “paying” you with a song? You’re getting everything you want out of life already. You get food, water, shelter, all your basic needs are attended to. You’re not cooking food to pay your bills. You’re cooking because you enjoy it. You’re cooking because you want to see the look on my face when I enjoy how much work you put into it and how good it tastes. You get out of it exactly what you put into it. You did it for your reasons and I live my life for my reasons. At the end of the day we’re all fed and happy. What’s the problem? Also for argument’s sake let’s say the people who build the replicators are just like you chefs — they do it because they enjoy it. And who are these miners, because if they’re machines, then I don’t see an issue.

True in some sens. But you never see the matter cost of creating something in replicators. Ships would have to carry an amazing amounts of elements of the periodic tables. Which means mining, processing and costs. In my view Replicators should be related to small objects. Industrial replicators are a real problem, because you would need as much cargo bay then passengers, in terms of space. Transporter don’t create anything…at the source you need matter to get matter. The signal always degrade with time or energy, etc…so it need to be done relatively fast.

The replicator turns energy into matter so you don’t need raw materials. But you need a lot of energy.

mmm…I was under the impression it needed the basic matter. If it’s not the case then you would need an insane amount of energy, multiply by the numbers of replicators. I have a problem with the Infinite energy syndrome in Star Trek…I think the real problem is there, not the technology per say, but what feeds it.

Just looked into my old technical manual and it seems you are right. It says that the replicator uses some basic raw material that it can turn into anything.

Ok, lets say it doesnt have repliactor.

Now the ship need storage to put all the spare parts and necessities for the trip. And whats worse, you need much large storage space, because you have to put all kinds of stockpiles inside even if it might not get used, instead of just put slush tanks that can become whatever you might need at the moment and recycle it to somethign else later.

I agree when it said that way. There is a lot of holes that goes into the replicators like energy vs matter, recycling to what ? I just think that it goes against nature itself. There is always a cost in some ways, that you talk about energy or matter. For me there is a part of the replicators that goes into the magical world and that’s when there is no cost of energy-matter-etc…I understand the writers problem with it, because it comes a time when it make no sens. Unless you believe that the Universe is an Hologram and that the 24 century would have control of some the frames of the universe. But maybe that’s why Star Trek or Star Wars are appealing…some mysteries not explained.

Why woudlnt there be cost? I mean thats why Voyager had to restrict its use…

The ship is going to need storage, regardless. If a voyage needs a million tons of provisions, it’s either going to have to be stored as finished goods, or as a raw material to be fashioned into those goods at a later time. Further, if you are making your stuff as you go, you’ll need additional supplies for your manufacturing, and additional energy supplies to make your stuff. A replicator isn’t going to pull this stuff out of thin air.

sure, you need to carry things either way, with but finished goods you need to carry alot more and more storage room needed since you need everything conceivable that can break down, whether or not it will be needed.

Replicator is much more flexible and adaptable; recycleble to other objects and reuse it once you dont need it so you dont need to stockpile as much and need as much storage, making whatever you need on the spot even unpredicted needs, making custom-designed components you cant find etc. and other very good reasons warships have their own shops and iss even have a 3d printer.

Replicator is something which I think will never happen like as shown in Star Trek. I mean where you get that sort of power and resources from, to make complex food and drink from apparently nothing. This is food that people eat! Creating a holodeck is one thing. Eating holographic food is another!

But they had replicators in TOS, too, they where just much more primitive, and they didn’t use the same name for them. They required a food program from a physical memory card, and the selection was limited, but they did make your selection for you on the spot.

While I understand *why* replicators would be bad for storytelling, this is *science fiction* we’re talking about, here. There is no way we could have transporter technology and not also be able to replicate things. It just wouldn’t make sense. So either you get rid of transporters (scientifically not a bad idea, but they are too much a part of the Trek identity), or you’ve got to keep replicators.

I think part of the challenge for writers is exploring all of the differences in how we approach problems in the kind of post-scarcity society that replicators allow.

You know what…you are right, it was in TOS for the food. The problem is that: the writers forgot to put limitation on the technology so that it’s feels real and comes at a sens of cost. I saw the Enterprise going days badly damage, and Voyager too…but they didn’t explain it properly. They didn’t show us the cost of replicators and settings the rules for the tech.

Certainly gives insight into Ron Moore’s approach to writing, and the emphasis of finite resources on Battlestar Galactica

I feel like Battlestar in many ways can be seen as Moore’s idea for what Voyager could have been.

Boycott 3d printer?

No really? one of the best plausible trek-tech, a thing we already have a predecessor for, is now a problem? Sorry man, that sad. Sad! BIGLY!

RDM is such a snob…

He’s right. I’ve also suspected that’s why the new show isn’t post-TNG. We already know a lot of where the future is going (with Time Travel starships, etc), so there’s not much ‘new’ ground to cover without conflicting with established continuity paths. The replicator is basically a magic box that can create anything. That does not help with compelling stories. Same with the Holodeck which is basically a replicator as well. Technology perhaps was pushed too far to where it basically becomes magic and unbelievable. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some great stories in TNG, DS9 and VOY. The writers managed to tell great stories despite these limitations. But by the end of TNG and certainly, during Voyager, the problems are much more prevalent. DS9 is different, tech was never really the focus and then came the Dominion War which created tons of interesting stories.

Personally, I would have set a show post-TNG but created a situation where replicators or something required tech to regress slightly.

There’s a half dozen ways they could get around the replicators being an issue. Maybe they don’t have energy enough to run them. Maybe the thing they need to replace is too big. Maybe the whatzilfrazit isn’t talking to the hootenanny and therefore the replicators don’t work. Maybe the writers are getting lazy and blaming the replicators instead of looking for another source of drama other than something being broken/missing. Clearly, ships are built, not replicated, right up to DS9’s time and beyond, as we’ve seen the shipyards where they’re built – proving that in the Trekiverse, replicators can’t be used to make every single thing you’d want to ever make – they’re not “magic boxes that can create anything”.

TNT episode Force of Nature provides the template for scripting the end of replicators. Look it up.

There’s no excuse for having Discovery be a prequel with a canon breaking look and feel that Jeffrey Hunter’s Pike never would have recognized. Create Star Trek: The Next Next Generation and poop in your own sandbox.

I understand Moore’s frustration, but if your story is dependent on fixing or replacing a doozywhatsit you might want to rethink your story. It’s supposed to be the HUMAN adventure, after all. The tech is just a conveyance to get us to the real story.

What ever, the replicator made awesome cheesecake, as seen in Star Trek Voyager when seven of nine goes down on a huge piece! As lieutenant Uhura said in one of the movies,” this isn’t reality, it’s fantasy! Now get in the closet!”

That is actually the most reasonable and thought out explanation I’ve ever read. I’ve thought of that before but not from the perspective of a writer.

BOOO HOOO!! This is just whinning! Writers are supposed to be imaginative. It’s a shame the replicator made you use your imagination instead of relying on the crutches of cliches and commonplace plot devices. Writers could have put limitations on the application or capabilities of the replicators. I recall that there was a limit that the replicators could not produce certain complex substances. This points to a larger problem in Hollywood where stories and plot elements are recycled time after time in series after series, with whole movies and series simply rebooted or retooled! God forbid Hollywood actually coming up with new and original ideas! Imagination is a scarce resource that Hollywood appears to have run out of!!!

What Moore is saying about replicators is something that RL Stine has said about cell phones in the horror genre — they ruin stories. Cell phones have made horror stories and mystery stories a lot more difficult to write, because look how easy it is to call for help, look how easy it is to look something up. Anyone can use a cell phone to directly call for help wherever they are, or to help them solve a problem using the internet. Once something like having a cell phone is normalized, it makes all those stories that would be over in an instant if someone just used their phone, irrelevant. And that’s what a replicator does.

cellphones are also a writing crutch that hurts stories. CASINO ROYALE in 06 seems to postulate that Bond’s mission is to kill people to get their cell phone data (if you eliminate cell phones and computer hacks from the film, you don’t have a movie), and it undercuts credibility enormously because these are professionals who would be keeping important numbers in their heads, not on a gadget anybody can access. When I read all these people raving over CR being a smart Bond movie, it made me (still does) roll my eyes, as I think it is in its own way as stupid as the worst of the Roger Moore films, but cloaked in a veneer of reality that doesn’t convince at all upon close inspection.

You made me roll my eyes.

actually there’s a lot that is still unique. sounds like a writer who didn’t want to actually work while he was at work.

Says the guy who didn’t have to crank out 20 some episodes a season.

I always thought replicators led to the downfall of capitalism on earth and people started concentrating on things other than money and material gain. Didn’t Troi tell Samuel Clemons exactly that in Time’s Arrow?

Sadly the world would fall into anarchy without money.

Where is the motivation to do anything without reward?

Where is the ambition.

How would food be distributed correctly without money?

How would anything get done?

Oh please. Hardship and challenges don’t stop just because you’re in the future. There are simply new and modern challenges to be overcome.

The writers are simply lazy or lack imagination.

The replicator was a TNG tech that made sense. Become better writers. Learn how to create stories with these technologies. Stories where you rely on something being broken as a plot point is tired and always used. If you want to do that take them away from the ship. They were supposed to be exploring right?

I would suggest that replicators were in line with Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future.

I think this “blame the replicator” theory is bunk. By this logic, you could’t tell compelling stories about a 20th-century battleship, because it has a machine shop to manufacture new parts.

The River Temarc,

And that just goes to one of my biggest beefs about TWOK. After the initial battle with Khan the damaged E is parked outside a perfectly functioning Regula I Space Station AND they don’t use its resources to restore the E? They didn’t even plug into the station’s perfectly functioning sensors to get a tactical advantage over the approaching Khan. I mean, at the very least they should have cannibalized the heck out of Regula I so Khan couldn’t have used it to fix the damaged Reliant.

But NO, everyone from both damaged ships just seems to ignore a functioning research station with resources to experiment with cutting edge terraforming techniques as a potential repair and supplies resource.

If you think that’s bad. Try having a director like JJ Abraham’s who conveniently let’s transporters beam you across the galaxy, negating starships completely or creating the concept of immortality blood in Kahn.

Yup, two aspects of that film that made it even worse, IMO.

As I understand it, replicators (based on transporter technology) still require raw material to break down and then reorganize, they can’t generate objects out of thin air. It’s the same principle of today’s 3D printers. You need to supply the device material to create objects, and they can only generate objects out of material of the same molecular structure and quantity. If you wanted to generate a complicated electronic (duotronic) device, you would require equal amounts of the materials that make that make up that part. Storyline wise this would place restrictions on what you could generate in a given situation. If there wasn’t this restriction on the technology then you could generate an army of clones of yourself whenever you find yourself outnumbered in sticky situation.

They never explicitly explained this on-screen but it was on the tech-manual. They also had some pretty powerful quantum maniupaltion-thingy to make matter from other kidn of matter, but that is generally a inefficient method and used mostly for emergency

I’ve always hated magic box something-for-nothing tech. If they wanted an out on replication, they could have bought my pitch back at the end of 1990, when I suggested they find out replication is fucking up space-time. Would have gotten them back to a bit more of a frontier feel, which is to me a step in the right direction. Then again, they backpedalled from that warpdrive-bad-for-space-time thing they tried a couple years later.

I’m glad they had this limitation. Who would want to watch a episode where Geordi is feverishly trying to make a part to fix the engine. The replicators forced the writers to stretch their imaginations and come up with new conflicts that replicators couldn’t help with. If they really want to be made about a piece of tech, why not holo-emitters that can create holograms anywhere on the ship? With those you could have holographic crews and soldiers that you don’t have to be concerned about dying.

As I understand it, transporters and replicators are very power intensive. It may be the 24th century but there’s only so much through put to be had (you can only draw as much power as the size of the smallest bottle neck so to speak) while in the middle of empty space all by yourself, in addition to all the other normal power requirements (ie lights and recharging phaser power packs to name a few). It strikes me as incredibly naive to assume that there aren’t any practical limitations to the critical usage of transporters and by its very necessity, the non-critical usage of critical replicator resources. Just saying.

Or they could have written about how they created a post scarcity society. Instead of always playing the MacGuffin/fetch quest card.

I feel the over-use of macguffin trope ruins stories. Its lazy writers being angry because they can’t be lazy.

You try cranking out 20 some episodes a season and see how easy it is.

Well, Star Trek is about the characters confronted to alien cultures and futuristics problems, this is not a show about “stuff”, so the replicators didn’t hampered TNG. But it seems that new writers don’t understand the goal of a Star Trek Story

There had to be a cost for everything that wasn’t explained. On Voyager everyone had to have enough replicator ration points to make what they wanted. The points were used for gambling by Paris and we’re even used as a way to punish people who misbehaved.

Transporters, replicators and holodecks should be dropped down a memory hole with no apologies. At the very least, replicators should work more like something a machinist might reconize: something to be relpcated must be built up, subsystem by subsystem, each time the product checked out by “machinists” with hand-held sensing tools to check for errors. The programing needs to be “defracted”, “refiltered”, or something, every hundred uses. Make it a complex, involved, technological process. Nix transporters to rely on shuttlecraft or “personal re-entry vehivles” (PRVs) to put people-on-planet. Holodecks are narcissistic dream machines…why go into space if you have a holodeck? I liked the old idea of making landfall on a Planet for R&R (Iknow this cuts in to cheap “bottle stories”).

Also; the PRVs could be externally powered, like “beam ships” riding on a beam of energy supplied by the starship itself. That way you can still re-use the phrase ; “beam me up Scotty!” and “three to beam up” etc… I alreadu discussed food replicators elsewhere, turning them into advanced food processors that work on “Basic Nutrition Packets”(BNPs) that transform their texture, flavor and color into something recognizable such as chicken soup.

Come on! What about the Culture novels of Ian M. Banks??? They could fabricate anything they wanted and Banks still told great stories!!! He did not let it stop him!

I guess this problems sussists because they didn’t ever bothered to make rules for it.

You need to replicate something, but you still need the raw materials to do it. Make an episode where this is a problem because the enterprise is missing key raw materials and the crew starves to death.
Save went for Voyager (something that I shouldn’t bring up since it’s literally “Missed opportunities: the show)


Re: Raw materials

It’s always been my understanding that the only raw “material” that the replicators and transporters draw upon is any matter available in that they can transform any into something else (see:transporters need no receiving stations on a planet never visited by the Federation before.) The real limiting factor for these technologies is they are extremely energy consuming, i.e. if not enough is available they fail to proceed which is why, for example, starships need escape pods. Of course, in a universe were a transporter is portable and has no known distance challenges…well, the replicators must likewise be equally out of this world, if you will pardon the pun.

But I’ve often wondered what kind of first contact would a starship have if the transporter decided something on the target planet was simple unorganized matter suitable for breaking down into subatomic particles for building transported beings’ matter and complex molecules but it actually was something sentient?

The entire point of the replicator, I believe, was to explain how Earth had eliminated hunger. Food production would be removed from agriculture. Man wouldn’t need to rely on a good harvest to stay fed. This is a lofty, admirable goal.

The real issue is not whether the replicator makes sense or not. It’s how you feel about man’s inherent desire for good. Gene always believe man was good at heart and could harness that goodness. Ron seems to approach the question differently. He seems to believe man is neither good nor evil, he simply makes choices that have consequences. I’m on Ron’s side in this debate. Good vs. evil is based on perspective and circumstance.

It’s very easy to see how WWII affected writers like Gene. That conflict was black and white to those who fought. The solution they devised would necessarily be black and white. As we move away from that war (75+ years) we begin to see that it’s far more complex. The dreams of the survivors begin to look simplistic to us. We know technology is not the answer our grandparents thought it was in the 1950s. If anything, it’s made life far more complicated.

Any Star Trek series has to think deeply about technology. Is it really the saviour we wish?

Ending hunger on Earth predated the replicator by 200 years. It took the will of humanity to make the commitment of making it a priority of distributing goods to the needy, not the replicator.

Way to miss the point.

How? I’m not even talking about a historical perspective within the Trek universe. I’m simply saying that the writers even through ENT, never considered the replicators to be the defining factor in ending hunger. Trip says they’ve eliminated hunger sometime in the period between 2063 and 2151, and they only had protein resequencers. At most, that was the “replicator” that facilitated the end of that hunger.

You don’t even have to subscribe to the inherent goodness of humanity to believe that political will would be the deciding factor in ending hunger. There would likely be a change in the way we look at how things are distributed. We would understand that distribution based on justice, that grants all dignity, would ultimately benefit oneself as well as others.

And no matter what technology we’d have, we’d still need political will to distribute that technology to those that need it. Otherwise, corporations would control who has access to replicators to create an artificial scarcity in order to improve their profit margins. Magic boxes won’t be sufficient to end hunger because the bigger problem will be changing that capitalist mindset.

I hope the Discovery on the New Star Trek show is that it isn’t politically correct because you could rename it Star Trek Femgay. Are people going to pay for this Crap? Stick to the Kelvin Universe it is more like TOS.

Oh, boo-hoo. A seasoned Ron Moore reveals his writer’s hatred for replicators. Boy, I sure do miss that young, smiling, mullet-headed kid who got his big TV break in the late 80s. Can’t wait for the (auto)biography, Ron.

Hey, Ron. You like the warp drive tech, right? Then let’s hear you gripe about TNG’s infamous Season 7 “Warp 5 Saves Lives” fiasco. I know that brain fart wasn’t yours, but surely you can dish about how Menosky and Shankar’s ridiculous Warp 5 “speed limit” idea was so badly executed that practically every episode after “Force of Nature” (including DS9 and VGR) ignored it? Talk about tech restricting your writing! How vociferous were you in THOSE break sessions, Ron?

Gabby Johnson is right!

(And so is Ron Moore)

As a few of us here opined prior to the news that DSC would be set in the 23rd Century, Trek technology was already out of hand by the 24th Century. Setting a new series even farther into the future would only exacerbate this problem (unless, as I suggested, the post-VOY setting were of a post-war type, wherein a galactic or interstellar war had set back technology to a less advanced state—rather like the fall of the Roman Empire set back civilization during the Dark Ages). When you can wave a magic wand and create just about anything, the stakes of the drama are substantially decreased all too often.

They’d have had 3-D printers on the NX-01 that could have produced any spare part they need.

So far many, many products that were imagined for the 23rd century are being produced a mere 40 years after the shows aired: cell phones, iPads, 3-D printers, and soon tricorders. It’s very likely we’ll see a food replicator (3-D printed) sooner than the 22nd century.

That’s just lazyness and it not fitting with what they wanted… If the setting is about a post-scarcity society, then that’s the starting point, get used to it. Don’t just go, “Oh, I only know how to write about a society with scarcity.” It changes the parameters to write in. It’s a part of the universe that was set before he joined it. Just lucky he wasn’t a massive fan of slower FTL and ships without artificial gravity, because oh dear, they were already added, too.

This is just an ad. You use a story that trys to deminish the story telling in tng and then use it to try and sale Discovery. Star Trek is famous for inspiring technology. The replicator is just another example with 3d printing. Discovery will not inspire anything All this tells me is that CBS knows there screwed.

Wow, you read way to much into this article. Good lord.