Hand-wavey Technical Solutions

Oof, early Star Trek: Voyager, though…

“However will we get out of this singularity we’re trapped in?”

“WARP PARTICLES!”

It worked, too.

But what the hell was a “warp particle”, even back then? Nobody had ever mentioned them before: a warp bubble has always been a field, so it could be waves or particles or the particles could each be fields…

Look, quantum physics is a mess and way over my head, but the point is no-one on Star Trek ever mentioned warp particles as being a thing until they were suddenly useful for getting out of a sticky event horizon.

I mean why not go the whole hog and just invent ‘escapons’ or something?

I liked Voyager but it always seemed the Trek series most founded on what’s referred to as ‘technobabble’. Where the other shows used hand-wavey technical solutions to some extent Voyager leaned on them hard. There were very few situations that couldn’t be resolved with a string of terminology that sometimes sounded convincing, but all too often seemed like something the writers concocted on the fly because they needed something to do that exact job at that moment. Reversing the polarity is of course the classic, and I’m pretty sure there isn’t a Trek series where someone didn’t solve something by modifying the navigational deflector dish.

But “warp particles” were a particularly awkward example that’s always stuck in my mind, and it just happened to be the episode we watched tonight. Only the second story in the series, so the show was still some way from really finding its feet – but the trend was one that continued all the way through. Voyager suffered from regular “Deus ex technica” solutions, as well as time-travel-based ‘reset buttons’ that concluded whole episodes and storylines with “And then they went back and fixed the timeline so none of it ever happened”. And again sometimes that works too: the two-part story ‘Year of Hell’ was actually pretty good despite wrapping up with a reset. And it worked in other shows: Next Gen did it a few times too – the episode ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’ was always one of my favourites.

I like Voyager. It’s fun, and when it gets going and the characters – and the actors – really start to gel with each other, it really takes off.

But before that… Well, there are warp particles. 😬

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