Modern Star Trek Needs More Technobabble

Okay, fine. Because absolutely nobody asked for yet another Star Trek hot take from some random nobody on the internet, here we go. This is the stuff that I don’t like about modern Trek:

Warping within solar systems is risky at best (Kirk in TMP: “…we must now risk engaging Warp drive while still within the solar system…”). Ex Astris Scientia has a good rundown of when that’s been mentioned, when broken, and theories as to both situations. But while classic Trek shows were inconsistent, modern trek (Abramsverse, Kurtzman revival) appears to have entirely given up on this. Which I think is a shame both for canon/continuity reasons (even with the inconsistencies), and for suspense/plotting reasons.

If warp is limited or constrained within gravity wells (planetary or systemwide), there’s an extra element of travel time that has to be figured in. This could be used for suspense (are impulse speeds enough to get them there in time?), for final discussions on strategy, or just for giving space travel the more realistic feel that is one of the things that drew me into Trek as a kid. There was so much about Trek’s technobabble and the design of the Enterprise that made this feel like a real, considered, thought-out universe.

With modern Trek, much of it feels more like magic. (Yes, any sufficiently advanced tech etc., but still.) Ships just “poof” in and out of wherever they need to be, even to the point of entire fleets popping into existence with relatively inconsequential separation among ships. Impulse engines seem to be practically inconsequential; warp travel is almost at (possibly already at) the point of just being an oversized cargo transporter. The only thing defining how long it takes to get from point A to point B is how many pages of dialog have been written.

In the words of Douglas Adams: “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” And modern Trek seems to have forgotten that, or at least forgotten how to use that as a restriction that can be used to enhance the plots (like how 280 (or remember 140?) characters forces us to carefully consider how to structure our Tweets to make the most impact, break in the right places, etc.).

Okay, next complaint: The public transporter booths in (mostly S1, but I think a few times early in S2?). People just casually stroll in and out of them willy-nilly. Are there set destinations? I don’t remember seeing any signage, how do they know where they’re going? And more importantly, since the booths appear to be bidirectional (not just in outgoing or incoming, but regarding which side you walk in or out of): How in the world are they not constantly colliding with other users? Those things must have caused so many bumps and bruises. And what if you’re walking in right at the same time as someone is beaming in? What if two people walk in from opposite sides at the same time? Does the destination get a new Tuvix? I have so many questions about the implementation and safety of these things.

Next: I can cope with holographic technology being more widespread and advanced than we’ve seen before. At least they (very amusingly) handwaved that away in DIS with Pike declaring that all holographic tech be removed from the Enterprise after it caused problems. But I’m absolutely baffled by the level of telepresence that the holograms apparently have. We’ll see a hologram not just able to see the environment they’re being projected into (even though the person on our end doesn’t see the other corresponding environment), but even able to do things like “sit” on a desk. I can’t point to exactly where in DIS this happens off the top of my head, but it happens more than once, and it jumps out at me every time, because they would have to be in near-identical environments on both ends.

I guess the person on the other side might be using a holosuite that is duplicating the environment of the person we’re seeing, but 1) that seems contextually unlikely for most, if not all, of these conversations, and 2) holographic technology (usually) doesn’t seem to be as advanced in DIS S1/S2 as we see in the TNG holodeck (and it was presented as new and amazing at the time, so that’s a good nod to continuity; holograms might be common, but not at that level of realism) so it seems unlikely that a TNG/DS9-style holosuite would be in use for these conversations. So we go back to it making no sense that the holographic conversations can have that level of cross-environmental interactivity.

Next: I would love to know if the DIS S3/S4 designers put any thought into the detached nacelles of the DISCO redesign (and the many other ships designed in that way) beyond “it looks cool”. I mean, yes, it does, but…why/how does it work that way? Part of why the original Enterprise felt so real is that Jeffries drew upon his aeronautic background and put a lot of thought into how the vessel might work, and (as may be obvious from this thread) a lot of what fascinated me for years were the tech manuals and related geekery. Because (for those of us who were interested), it wasn’t just “a rocketship”; it was “matter/antimatter annihilation energy focused by the dilithium crystals into power that flows up the struts to the engines that generate the warp field” and on and on and on…. Sure, it was fantastical, sci-fi pseudotechnology, but it was thought-out, considered, understandable fantastical sci-fi pseudotechnology. Sure, much of that was developed over time and retconned when necessary, but the basic pieces were there, and it felt possible.

Basically, I want more than “looks cool”. There’s nothing wrong with “looks cool”, but I also want the technobabble, the geeking out over how the technology works, the “pieces that fit together in this way do this”, and even if we can’t do it now, someday we might be able to. So, what’s the benefit to the detached nacelles? Is it safer? If the warp core and primary power generation is still in the engineering hull/body of the ship, how does the power get to the nacelles? Why are they attached when not at warp? I want there to be reasons.

Last one (for now), also DIS S3/S4: How do the personal transporters know where to transport people to? They regularly just go tap-“poof” and show up where they want to be, but how is that decided? How are they setting destinations? Again: Make it feel real, please.

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