Tech Trek

By Fred Shedian
Posted at August 23, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT

When "The Cage" was written in the 1960s, the technology mentioned was very simple. Moving with the Star Trek timeline, phasers were not yet standard equipment. Instead, hand held laser pistols were common. Warp drive's development was described as the "break of the time bearer." Throughout the Original Series, first six movies, and early seasons of Next Generation, Star Trek technology was considered a front for the universe in which the story was told. Did writers ever expect critical, detail oriented fans, to utilize the technobabble as fact and the basis for some of our modern day miracles?

It is true that in present day society the line between science-ficition and science-fact is changing very day. Although we are still looking for the cure to the common cold, early versions of tricorders now exist. Indeed, even a PADD can now be found on the market. And of course, how can we forget our communicators....I mean cell phones? In one episode, Mr. Scott was quoted saying an ion drive was beyond the Federation's technological expertise. Yet, not to long ago, a probe was launched utilizing this same technology. Eat your heart out Scotty...

In the early 1990s, we as fans began to look at Star Trek with a more critical eye. We started to absorb everything, and I mean everything, presented each week. Theories about warp propulsion, torpedo magazine construction, shield modulations, and more were presented almost very episode. At the same time, we as fans started to assimilate this data and use it as yet another tool in the plot to keep the writers true to the Star Trek universe. Yet, some took this further and it became a front for the development of some common place items we see today. Shall I mention the pager?

When Gene Roddenberry started Star Trek, he worked hand in hand with NASA. He wanted to present ideas that were not only plausible, but possible. At the time we first met Captain James T. Kirk, who could have imagined that in twenty years an information superhighway would exist, computers thousands of times faster than those who brought us to the moon would be common place in people's homes, folks would have paging devices and mobile communication for the same price as a house phone, and medicine would find the cure to some of the world's worst diseases. Some people did realize what the future would bring. Even more, many these ideas were presented on our Wagon Train to the stars...and are now becoming science-fact.

Even now, the technology presented as common place in the 23rd Century can now be considered common place or antiquated in the 20th. The disks seen each week on the Captain's Chair, today's 3x5 diskette, are now becoming obsolete. Yet, at the same time, there are many frontiers the show was on track with. Genetic engineering is now a hot topic in our society, an idea that would have seemed completely ludicrous to people even ten years ago. Yet, our beloved franchise predicated it would occur in the 1990s. Thankfully, beyond this predication, the show has been wrong in regard to items mentioned in the 1990s. Although we do not have warp capability yet, the creation of antimatter has brought us one step closer to reaching this plausible possibility.

I say the above to point out that as Star Trek continues to evolve, we too must evolve and realize that what we see each week is not "way out there." Who knows what will be common place in another twenty years? Will warp drive exist? Will we find out how to create a photon torpedo? Will we suffer the fate predicated by the show and plunge our world into a nuclear holocaust?

It is to be left up the imagination. Whatever our goal, we must be determined enough to work towards it. However, until fantasy becomes reality, it can't hurt to take a sneak peak at what may come in the future...even if it is from a Scottsman, a blind man, or a Klingon.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.