Treknobabble

From Academic Kids

Treknobabble is a portmanteau of "Star Trek" and "technobabble" (itself a portmanteau of "technology" and "babble"). It is used humorously by fans of the various Star Trek television series, and disparagingly by its critics, to describe the infamous amount of pseudoscientific gibberish inserted seemingly at random into many episodes of these television series. The term has escaped Star Trek fandom (and anti-fandom) and has become more commonly used in contexts where useless and incorrect "technical" explanations are given, typically in situations involving various pseudosciences or in science fiction writing.

Some fans of the show feel that treknobabble devices and phenomena are increasingly used as deus ex machina in Star Trek, to the detriment of plot, drama and characterization. For example, an emotionally difficult problem such as whether or not to sacrifice the captain to save the ship is bypassed by a "focused tachyon field" which allows both to escape. Reportedly, writers on The Next Generation and later series would add the tag "<tech>" to portions of the script where they needed some jargon inserted, which would then be assembled by a different set of staff. This somewhat undermines the traditional role of science as the inspiration for plot in science fiction, although the show was always intended to be primarily drama instead of straightforward science fiction.

Another increasingly common use of this term has it applied to any in-depth discussion about Star Trek-related matters among fans.

Contents

Examples of treknobabble

There are two possible sources for treknobabble: use of the actual item in the show itself as well as use of the term outside of its place of origin. Both are provided below.

Examples from episodes

"We've learned that if we uncouple the Transporter's Heisenberg Compensators and allow them to rescramble randomly, we can beam a Holodeck object... or a person... off the grid." - Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Ship in a Bottle," in which captain Picard simulates technobabble to fool a naive holodeck character.

Examples from books

"If we interplex the comm systems in both suits, we might be able to create a phased carrier wave. Voyager would read the signature and know it's from us." -- Star Trek: Voyager, "Day of Honor" by Michael Jan Friedman and Jeri Taylor.

Examples from other sources

This web site (http://totl.net/Dome/chapter6.php3) contains the following sentence when describing a presentation made by a telephone company, very clearly establishing use of the term in a situation which does not even peripherally involve Star Trek.

"Treknobabble about the future of communication spews from concealed speakers [...]"

This MUCK introduction page (http://fdcmuck.gushi.org/Backstage/Ariel/object.html), in giving an example of providing an object description says:

"@desc sample thing=Upon looking at the Sample Thing you see that it is quite an intricate device. It consists of a subspace jargon emitter attached to a small phased matter rerouter, and you can count at least five Treknobabble modulation units around its perimeter."

Of particular interest in this example is the use of the term "treknobabble" in the middle of a block of text containing examples of what could plausibly be "treknobabble" from the television series itself, if, perhaps, a little over-the-top.

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