Science fiction is loaded with technobabble, that odd non-science that is supposed to sound like science. Technobabble isn’t just technology, or at least people don’t always use it exclusively for tech. It encompasses a lot of made-up science, to add a sense of believably (though not exactly realism because the “science” barely holds air) to the world. And for a franchise that has inspired so much actual science, Star Trek certain does a lot of technobabbling.
As we get closer to the end of the guide it’s time to start going over all the fake and questionable science as well as the general terminology of Star Trek: The Next Generation as of the start of season one, and how it connects to 24th century life. Since this is still going to need multiple articles and most of this stuff may not be all that interesting unless you’re really into Trek Tech, in which case you already probably know more about this than I do, I’m going to list everything but I’m going to go through most of it quickly, maybe a sentence or two so the really interesting pseudo-science can be explored. Let’s see how much confusion we can undo, if any of it.
The first paragraph tells us what alien means, that they’re “not human. Different. Not of our tribe. An alien being is any life form not native to Earth.” Why do I hear John Cleese reading that? The next paragraph also defines humanoids for the writers. “(A) life form similar to humans.” I’m so glad we have a guide to tell us these or we never would have figured it out. So I guess in the Star Trek Universe, even aliens who look like humans aren’t actually humans. Meanwhile Power Rangers In Space tells us humans are not exclusive to Earth despite the franchise showing humans, aliens, and non-humans. I think Power Rangers explains away the human-like non-Earthlings better.
The next section is only one paragraph, reaffirming that captains no longer beam down first, leaving it to their first officer because the captain is too valuable. After that it mentions that the communicators changed from those flip phone walkie-talkie things (and let’s be honest, if you owned a flip phone that was why…it’s one of the reasons I wish I still had one but I make good use of the smart phone I was given) to a tap-and-speak activated pin. I’m not sure which is easier to lose given how shiny it was and thus easy to see needed to be removed. Nowadays we get one that goes in the ear and can only be heard by the wearer, as if the bluetooth earpiece was replaced with a smaller all-in-one communication device. Either way, good luck playing Candy Crush on it.
We learn in the next section that the consoles are now controlled via a display, what we in 2018 would call “touchscreens”. Touchscreen keyboards are a pain for me to use, especially on the aforementioned smart phone. A tablet is slightly better but I like that tactile feeling of pushing a key down to know I pressed it. These days it’s all interactive holograms, even in prequel shows if you’re still gullible enough to think Star Trek: Discovery is a prequel to any previous Star Trek continuity. After that comes the deflector shields, which just tells you to see “shields”, so this part was utterly pointless. Also like Star Trek: Discovery. Sorry, the joke was there. I like the next part though, because we finally learn just what it is dilithium crystals do.
DILITHIUM CRYSTALS CONTROL THE MIX OF MATTER AND ANTI-MATTER
As in the past the powerful energies of the ship’s engines are channeled and metered through dilithium crystals which permit molecular level control. However, unlike the past, we now know how to recrystallize dilithium and are far less likely to experience problems with the ship’s crystals.
So we lost one bit of potential drama. I never thought the old shows (yes, I’m counting the cartoon…deal with it!) overused the problem of the crystals breaking down, but I guess they could replicate the crystals since they replicated everything else. The section after this talks about how great and awesome and wonderful 24th century Earth is now that we’ve embraced Roddenberry’s vision of equality (so long as the women are sexy) and no longer need money (unless he can bilk the theme song writer out of a share of the royalties by creating words they never used while also putting out a TV series, merchandising, and home video releases plus novels and comic books, video games….) and it’s just as self-promoting as you’d expect from season one.
We do not want to go into too much detail about the specific future of our own planet.
I think the Eugenics Wars mentioned in the original series and the quick history Q gave us about how far we fell until Cochran made an engine that goes really fast and gave us contact with space aliens gave us enough to be tossed aside as real history went past fake history. Or maybe I was paying that little attention in the 1990s. I was drawing in notebooks and working a dead-end job that fired me two decades later. However, I don’t think I would have missed a bunch of would-be supersoldiers acting less like Captain America than…
Right, you were saying?
We have, however, established that most (if not all) major problems facing the human species have been resolved and the Earth has since been transformed into a human paradise, with large protected wilderness areas, grand parks, beautiful cities, and a literate and compassionate population that has learned to appreciate life as a grand adventure.
I’m curious what “major problems” remain? After this the guide talks about how the Federation isn’t just humans but also include those alien humanoids we talked about earlier. The only significant thing is it noting that Klingons joined the Federation and that there even Klingon members of Starfleet. And yet throughout the franchise I only know of two and a half Klingons. Worf would be created after the guide, Torres from Voyager is half-Klingon, and the earliest Starfleet Klingon I know is the defector Konom from DC’s comics set after the third movie. If there are any more Klingons in Starfleet itself I’m not aware of it. And later in Deep Space Nine they actually went to war with almost everybody, including the Federation for a brief time. (They were being tricked by the Dominion to destabilize things before their invasion.) It’s more like the Klingon Empire and the Federation have an alliance than them officially joining.
We seem to be getting out of the technobabble and back into 24th Century life, but before we get back to the not-science there’s one more bit that eases us back into it; the replicators and how the 24th Century treats food. This is worth exploring so I think I’m going to end here to ensure we have at least something to discuss next week. Also, more quasi-scientific gobbledygook, because Star Trek.
[…] In our last installment we began looking at terminology for Star Trek as planned for season 1. We continue that today. While there is still more about life in the 24th century most of it is still about the gear and science used on The Next Generation. There’s a separate section for weapons, one for the computer, and a bunch of other terms. I just thought “technobabble” fit best since there’s a lot of it involved. […]