by Shervin Sabeghi
“It’s some sort of chromo-dynamic module powered by a tripolymer plasma”
Sound familiar? Technobabble (or Treknobabble, if you will) is the term used to describe all of the jargon used on Star Trek. The quote above was delivered by Lieutenant Torres in the episode “Prototype” and is just one of many examples of the kind of tech talk Star Trek provides. All the series contain it, but, when it comes to Voyager, resistance is truly futile because it’s packed full of it. In every episode we hear it to varying degrees of intensity. And, despite all the changes Voyager had throughout its run, if there was ever one constant, it was that technobabble would find its way into an episode. Whilst many can’t stand it and tune out whenever they hear it, not only do I not mind it — I highly enjoy it. It irks me when I see fans judge an episode on the amount of technobabble it has, as I’ve always felt that it added a sense of authenticity to the series and heightened my overall enjoyment of the show — on Voyager especially. But before you throw me out of the airlock for my overly positive opinion, let me explain myself.
Starships without a warp drive or deflector dish simply wouldn’t be the same show.For me, and for a lot of fans, the main attraction to Star Trek is how it gives us all the “optimistic view of the future.” And, as part of that view, there are scientists on these high-tech starships who come up with these technobabble solutions to solve problems. It’s this futuristic feeling that I’ve always loved about Star Trek. Next time you’re watching a Star Trek episode of any of the series, imagine what it would be like if they weren’t using technobabble terms. No warp drive. No intertial dampeners. No deflector dish. Weird, right? That’s because it simply is not Trek without the tech. We’ve heard it so much now that it’s become a natural part of Star Trek. It’s so ingrained into us how teching the tech can be used to solve any problem that we expect it in a Trek episode. Without it, something is missing.
Despite it being such a natural part of Trek, Voyager’s use of technobabble still had the detrimental effect of putting people off of the series. It’s a shame that many only associate Voyager with technobabble and how it was used to complement the show’s supposedly ridiculous storylines. Whilst I agree that technobabble shouldn’t replace what could be effective dialogue, I don’t think the level of technobabble used in Voyager was enough to take away from the series as a whole. But then there’s the “technobabble solution of the week,” which can be taken in two ways: from the perspective of a television show and from the perspective of a starship. Star Trek: Voyager the TV show couldn’t rely on some techy words to conclude a story because that shows little story depth and lazy writing. But it also means that for the show to maintain its authenticity and futuristic nature, it has to show that the problems of a starship will be fixed with some sort of technology. Granted, technobabble shouldn’t be taken as far as picking a Borg component out of the hat so Seven of Nine can modify it and save the day. That is where I can see peoples’ point of view that technobabble was used to cover up lazy writing, but even then, I still liked it.
Let’s face it (har har): Tech is everywhere in Trek!
Not only is technobabble a fun and imaginative aspect of Star Trek that most can just let slide, it actually does mostly make sense. Some, even if not enough, effort was put into making sure that what was said actually did make some scientific sense and, though it wasn’t always fully accurate, I can appreciate this. I have seen posts online where someone has taken the time to actually research the terms said in an episode and judge the validity of them. But in the end, does it really matter? The few times when using tech words correctly is important to the story in Voyager, it is evident that the time has been spent to make sure that there aren’t mistakes in the science which allows the story to run smoothly. So, surely if the technobabble doesn’t stop a story from running smoothly and coherently, there’s really no reason to dislike it, right? I think that people shouldn’t let the minor aspects of technobabble take away from their overall opinion of a show itself. The technobabble made me enjoy Star Trek even more — Voyager especially — and helped me realize the fun behind Star Trek, as well as to appreciate a certain amount of futuristic authenticity.
To cap off this all off, I offer some final thoughts: I know that most people don’t have a whole lot against technobabble and very few really dislike it, but I wanted the view of someone who actively likes it to be out there. If you’re one of the people who puts yourself in the group of disliking the technobabble of Voyager, try to look at it on a lighter level and set the technobabble aside to enjoy the story for what it is. You’re otherwise missing out on a genuinely enjoyable show.