The Star Trek Line That Was The Writers’ Cry For Help

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Star Trek is a franchise filled with great lines that fans love to quote, including everything from “beam me up” to “make it so.” Typically, these lines are crafted with great love from writers who have appreciated this influential franchise for their entire lives. However, one of Q’s lines in the Deep Space Nine episode “Q-Less” about was effectively a cry for help regarding something the writers hated most: technobabble.

Q Was Voicing The Writer’s Opinion

Part of why the Star Trek writers and producers brought Q to Deep Space Nine so early on was to highlight the differences between the crew of this space station and the crew of Picard’s Enterprise. Q himself calls out one such difference when Sisko punches him, resulting in the omnipotent being saying “You hit me…Picard never hit me.”

But the line the writers had the most fun with was when Q criticized the performance of Sisko’s staff, saying, “Picard and his lackeys would have solved all this technobabble hours ago…No wonder you’re not commanding a starship.

A Long-Running Trend Through The Franchise

Looking back on this episode, future Star Trek: Deep Space Nine showrunner Ira Steven Behr claimed, “It was a line we wrote with great glee, because at that point we hated the godd*mned technobabble.” Why did they hate technobabble so much? In order to understand that, you need to know a bit more about this term and its infamous use throughout the franchise.

Data Was A Frequent Victim

In short, Star Trek as a franchise often had scientific and pseudo-scientific terms in The Original Series, but things reached a new level in The Next Generation. The actors and the writers of that show eventually started using “technobabble” as a catch-all term for the complex scientific and technological topics the characters would discuss.

Interestingly, Data actor Brent Spiner had his term for such dialogue: “Piller-filler,” named for showrunner Michael Piller and the frequent technical speeches he gave to everyone’s favorite android.

Technobabble Was A Necessary Evil

Why did the Star Trek writers hate technobabble? Mostly, they acknowledged that it was something of an annoyingly necessary evil: after all, these 24th-century characters wouldn’t be very believable as futuristic space explorers if they only spoke like the 20th-century audiences watching at home. Most of the writers didn’t know how to create convincing technobabble themselves, and they’d simply write “TECH” in the script so that science advisor André Bormanis would come up with something believable.

Riker Once Amusingly Used Technobabble In-Universe

In various episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the writers began poking fun at the show’s frequent use of technobabble. In the episode “Rascals,” a major plot point involves Commander Riker confusing Ferengi, who had taken over the ship, by inventing a bunch of convincingly scientific-sounding talk that didn’t actually mean anything, something the science advisor often had to do.

The series finale even had a scene where Data mentioned a “multi-phasic temporal convergence in the space-time continuum,” prompting Dr. Crusher to tersely reply, “In English, Data.”

Q-Less Called It Out By Name

What makes the line in “Q-Less” so notable is that Q himself is calling the techno-babble out by name, describing the problems Sisko and crew were facing as mere “technobabble” to be “solved.”

Appropriately enough, Q is basically breaking the fourth wall here and reminding us that to the writers, the most persistent problem was creating techno-babble that would convince the audience their characters had finally figured out how to solve a problem. As for the staff, they took “glee” in this line because it communicated that the Star Trek writers often found the babble just as annoying (if not more) than skeptical audiences.

Technobabble Never Went Away

Techno-babble never went away, and any given episode of Discovery or Strange New Worlds will have patches of strange tech jargon. At this point, it’s just part of the franchise, and if Star Wars is guilty of never explaining its technology enough, Star Trek is guilty of explaining it way too much.

Let’s be real, though: these technobabble explanations are way more entertaining than someone looking right into the camera and uttering lines like “somehow, Tasha Yar returned.”