The Tamarian language makes no sense

Never mind the universal translator. If we’re going to talk about things in Star Trek which make no sense, the top of the list is the transporter. Being reduced to component atoms an encoded in a “pattern buffer” run by a computer system which always seemed to be experiencing one kind of glitch, infection, or override, and then reproduced thousands of kilometers away is pretty much the most horrific thing anyone could ever imagine doing to a person, and yet the main characters undergo this process multiple times in the typical episode. Totally ridiculous.


McCoy and Barkley weren’t too thrilled with it. :smiley:

I’m curious: imagine the universal translator is up and running when an enemy warship points its guns at the Enterprise; the alien commander announces that he’ll open fire unless our heroes teleport over a bunch of women along with the priceless artifacts being ferried around. “Yes, sir,” says Picard, as Data instead puts a bomb in the container on the transporter pad; “I’ll send the Trojan Horse this very minute. I’m ever so glad we can settle this peacefully; trusting us is your Achilles’ heel.”

What does the alien hear?

Not sure Barkley is, but if I were a doctor I would be anti-thrilled, too. How likely is it that a computer is going to be able to reassemble trillions of cells from basic molecules or atoms in the span of a few seconds without introducing so many replicative errors as to make the organism chronically diseased and metabolically non-functional within even just a few transports? I know it was a conceit of the screenwriters to deal with the problem of not having a budget to show a shuttle, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous.


It was Pulaski who hated the teleporter, not Barkley.

The purpose of the episode was a grand science fiction concept dealing with the difficulties of communication with aliens (told, cleverly, as a metaphor). Trying to figure out the basis of the language or how it works or even if it could possibly exists is missing the point completely: the language’s existence is a given and there’s no need to justify it to anyone. The story is about trying to understand an alien language without a Rosetta Stone.

From Wiki.

I had forgotten about Pulaski.

The “Damark” episode? I thought they were always running around in long underwear. :smiley:

Evidently, really, really likely. I’m pretty sure if you sat down and counted up all the times a transporter was used in any incarnation of Star Trek, you’d find that it works fine more than 99% of the time. I mean, someone beams somewhere at least once in virtually every episode of every series (Enterprise excluded), and I don’t think there’s more than a dozen or so episodes that feature a transporter malfunction. And a surprising number of them are completely reversible!

How realistic is that? Not very. But that’s the reality presented by the show.

Heh reminds me of Farscape(John is the only human from Earth on the show, he has translator microbes in his brain and everyone else does too, he uses pop culture references a lot.)

John:Looks like where Yoda lives.
Aeryn:Who is Yoda?
John:Er a great warrior.

Basically everyone he meets wants to know who the hell he is talking about.

Forget interstellar relations, it is implausible for interplanet relations!

Who the hell would not turn to a companion and ask “who is X?” “what does that mean?”

Are there no countries on Tamaria?

You know, with the internet, there are rapidly becoming no countries on Earth, cultural-reference wise. There are very, very few places where people do not recognize Mickey Mouse.

Give it a few centuries and we’ll have our own common references that truly everyone will know.

This is one of those situations where I don’t dwell too deeply - the episode in question was so well acted by Stewart and Paul Winfield and well written that I can let the details slide. (plus, we get to hear Stewart summarize the epic of Gilgamesh)

I don’t blame you for thinking about how the language would work, I just choose not to do so.


Exactly. If the translator can work out the mapping between any unknown code and English (impossible, of course, not just for physical, but for logical reasons), then whether the original code used words for words, or metaphors for words, is effectively invisible to it.

And in Book of the New Sun, that’s what happens with the Ascians’ aphorisms. One of them tells a whole story in little quotations, and someone else translates them into…whatever language people of the Commonwealth will speak in billions of years. The basic point is that people find ways to communicate even in the most restrictive of circumstances. We just take those restrictions and turn them into a new language.

Wikipedia has some great examples of this:

He found similar legends, from similar cultures. If you recall, he tries to infer all this by working first with Deanna, and then they bring on Dr. Crusher.

Why Dr. Crusher? Because she’s the Dr. and she’s smart, and …

Well, two reasons. The audience needs some exposition, and their dialog provides it. And because, those actors need screen time, to fulfill their contracts. Remember – Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby left ST:NG because they weren’t getting screen time and intelligent fulfilling plot parts. Often on a TV show, you say – “Why is that person here, and doing this task, so out of place” And this is the answer to that particular “Why?”

My favorite universal translator WTF? moment is Quark on Risa when terrorists shut down the weather control. Quark remarks that its just like on Feringinar – where they have dozens of words for types of rain – and none for “crisp.” So, what word did Quark just say? If he’s fluent in Federation basic, and not using his ear-mounted translator, how did he learn the word “crisp” And aren’t some of the bugs he serves the Nagus supposed to be “crunchy” Porbably just a metaphor Quark’s using – they have a word for “crisp”, they just don’t use it often on homeworld.

I wonder a lot of things about the universal translator. Is it always on? If so, does O’Brien speak not just with a brogue, but instead in Gaelic words? And it translates for everybody? Then does Keiko speak Korean/Japanese? What does Molly speak. Does the universal translate convert infant baby-talk? Do 6 month old babies on the Enterprise/DS9 go “Ba-Ba-Da-Da- food-food-poop-poop Ahem Attention, big people. I have excreted solid waste into the cloth containment chamber. Also, isn’t it time for supper? And I want the peas and apples – none of that squash junk.”

That would be awesome!

I don’t think Quark is relying on the translator when he’s living among Enhlish-speaking people. I think he’s using the actual English word “crisp.”

It seems pretty clear to me that most Earth people encountered on Federation spacecraft and facilities are speaking in English.

I’m reminded of the joke about all the comedians hanging out together. They all know all the standard jokes so the just refer to them by number.

One point I’ve seen made is you sometimes see Worf speaking an untranslated Klingon word. How does the universal translator know to leave that word untranslated?

It’s part of the same algorithm that predictions when a character approaches a door but will stop to turn and make a parting statement to allow a dramatic pause before opening the door.