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Throughout the various Star Trek shows, there are a number of times when the Enterprise or another Federation vessel encounters a more advanced civilization. For instance, in The Corbomite Maneuver, Balok's ship seems to be more advanced than the Enterprise. Kirk and Balok arrange for a crewmember from the Enterprise to stay with Balok for a while.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, in The Nth Degree, they meet the Cytherians, who are clearly advanced far beyond the Federation and there is talk of an exchange of technologies.

We know that the Federation has an understanding of the Romulan cloaking device and in the last episode of Star Trek: Voyager we know Captain Janeway goes back in time for a bootstrap operation to adapt future technology so the Voyager can make it home.

In both cases, though, the technology is either not used again or only used again with the supervision of the species who invented it.

Other than the above examples, in the original Trek timeline, is there any example of Starfleet having access to advanced alien technology that was later regularly used by Starfleet? Or any examples of advanced alien technology that were even used at all by Starfleet?


Addendum: When I wrote this, I thought by specifying "the Federation," that would rule out what Voyager used, since we never really had a chance to see what new technology from the Voyager was actually adapted by the Federation after the ship and crew returned from their odyssey. I find it interesting so many examples come from that series, which kind of supports what I was thinking: The trope "Status Quo Is God" (Warning: TV Tropes link!) does come into play with Trek, at least in terms of existing technology. ST:VOY is an exception due to the nature of the series.

I'm still perusing answers and considered that I should rephrase this to specify that if it was just Voyager or only one ship or Captain, that it didn't count, since the intent was to find what tech the Federation used, but, after several answers included Voyager, I don't think it's fair to make that change now.

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    Perhaps they apply the prime directive to themselves? – EngrStudent Nov 29 '15 at 4:13
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    sigh Oh the amount of advanced technology star fleet has annihilated because it was booby-trapped, too dangerous, or because those damn Romulans got involved...they do interface with Borg technology on several occasions, but Starfleet never atually adds the Borg's technological distinctiveness to their own – VapedCrusader Nov 29 '15 at 4:17
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    We don't really know where any of the new technology that comes along comes from. Also, I could give someone from the early 1900s an iPhone and explain how it works but it would still take them decades (or maybe even a century) before they'd be able to manufacture one of their own. – mu is too short Nov 29 '15 at 4:37
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    You mention cloaking technology. The Federation is explicitly prohibited from developing that technology by the Treaty of Algeron. memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Treaty_of_Algeron – steenbergh Nov 29 '15 at 10:11
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    @muistooshort People in the early 1900s didn't have replication technology. – a CVn Nov 29 '15 at 12:37
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The quantum slipstream drive.

In Voyager "Hope and Fear", the crew believes that Starfleet has sent them a rescue vessel, the USS Dauntless, which contains a quantum slipstream drive. In reality, the ship was wholly from the Delta Quadrant and either built or acquired by a man named Arturis, who intended it as a trap for the Voyager crew. As such, the ship contained only "alien" technology.

They used the ship to travel 300 light years in an hour before the slipstream collapsed. They concluded the device would not be safe enough to use again.

However, the following year (2375), they were able to construct their own slipstream device, inspired by Arturis' drive. This was in "Timeless".

They used it to shave a decade off of their travel time.

In "Think Tank", Kurros even requests that Janeway give him the schematics for the slipstream device, as part of the payment for the Think Tank's assistance.

  • Strictly speaking, there's no evidence that I can recall to suggest that Arturis actually built his ship. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 29 '15 at 17:24
  • @LightnessRacesInOrbit : True, but it was not Federation technology. I've clarified. – Praxis Nov 29 '15 at 17:26
  • :)​​​​​​​​​​​​​ – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 29 '15 at 17:28
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit How do you manage to get around the character restriction on comments?? – Rand al'Thor Nov 29 '15 at 18:05
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    @randal'thor: Lightness padded his/her comment with thirteen copies of Unicode character U+200B ZERO WIDTH SPACE. (But I hope your next question won't be "how did (s)he insert Unicode character U+200B?", because I don't know the answer to that one. Google suggests that this can depend on your browser, OS, keyboard, and other settings. Though if nothing else, you should be able to manage it by copying-and-pasting from his/her comment.) – ruakh Nov 30 '15 at 1:44
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Chronologically, holodecks first appear in ENT 1x05, Unexpected (2151), as an alien technology:

Lake

They parted on friendly terms, and gave Klingons the technology at the end of the episode. Although I don't recall it being explicitly stated, it's not a far stretch to say the Federation got at least some of the information from the Xyrillians.

It wasn't until over 200 years later (TNG, 2364) that they became a regular installation on Federation starships. Such a large gap could indicate difficulty in safely adapting alien technology for general use, which is why it typically only appears for one-off occurrences.

  • On the other hand, in Voyager, the crew does give the Hirogens holodeck technology, and the Hirogens are able to make good use of it in just a few years. I don't recall the exact episodes involved, but I think the latter half is the Hunters/Prey pair of season 4. Janeway explicitly stated something along the lines of "we gave them the technology so they could hunt holographic prey, not get themselves killed". – a CVn Nov 29 '15 at 12:40
  • I think I remeber holodecks on the first TNG episodes being a technology not yet well understood and installed by some special race, so it might not be a federation invention there too. Also sometimes there is babbling about both needing very different power sources. – PlasmaHH Nov 29 '15 at 18:01
  • @MichaelKjörling The Hirogens encountered by Voyager were much more technologically advanced than humanity in ENT. They were basically Star Trek equivalent of the Yautja—hyper-advanced technologically but extremely primitive socially/culturally by human standards. – Lèse majesté Nov 30 '15 at 1:32
  • I thought that ENT episode suggested the Klingons acquired cloaking technology instead. I'll rewatch later to confirm. – user12183 Nov 30 '15 at 12:45
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    Harry Kim comments on Voyager that the holodeck's power system is somehow incompatible with the rest of the ship's systems (which is their excuse for leaving the holodecks running when they're low on fuel). That could mean that Starfleet had to develop an entirely new power system to support the technology. It seems consistent at least. – ApproachingDarknessFish Jan 20 '18 at 0:44
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Pre-Federation, we know that the Andorians gave the humans technology. Both during the Xindi incident, where Commander Shran gives Commander Tucker some engineering technology, and sometime before the decommissioning of NX-01 they give them the technology to go warp 7.

Also, Chief O'Brien adapts a lot of Cardassian technology to work to Federation standards during his tenure at Deep Space 9. Self-sealing stembolts, for example, whatever they are.

  • Warp 7 would be a good example (but do we know for sure that tech came from the Andorians?), but self-sealing stembolts would not be an example of advanced technology, would it? – Tango Nov 29 '15 at 5:31
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    Threaded machine parts (nuts and bolts) don't seem like high tech either. IRL they require a pretty high level of metallurgy (strength and reliability) and factory machining (consistency) as well as a central agency for standardization of sizes and quality. – Joe L. Nov 29 '15 at 13:35
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    @Tango They did get some antimatter injectors from the Andorians in Proving Ground - is that "advanced" enough? True, it fit almost without issue (suggesting the design was mostly compatible with the Vulcan-influenced systems of the Enterprise), but incremental technology assimilation is far more credible than suddenly installing a slipstream drive, for example. – Luaan Nov 30 '15 at 9:18
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    @Luaan: If it does the same job as what they already have tech to handle, it's not advanced. – Tango Nov 30 '15 at 20:32
  • @Tango Well, you could apply the same reasoning to vacuum tube computers. Or even the olden mechanical computers, really - we always had the "tech" to do automatic calculation. The only thing that changed was price and scale - and yet a 19th century engineer would have no idea what to do with a modern CPU, much less how to make it. To them, it would be just a weird slab of silicon. The fact that it does the exact same job isn't really relevant in real-world engineering - it just means you have another tool in your toolset. – Luaan Nov 30 '15 at 20:40
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Voyager received a large amount of alien technology, over time.

For starters, they have nanoprobe torpedoes that are a combined effort with the Borg.

Their power relays were also improved by the Borg, and after it was realized they worked better than before, were allowed to stay that way.

Their astrometrics was constructed with improved Borg sensors by Seven of Nine.

In addition, they have a quantum slipstream device which was based on technology by species 116, which in turn might be where the Borg transwarp conduit technology came from, as the engines make the Voyager compatible with transwarp conduits.

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    Is there ever evidence shown after the battle with species 8472 that nanoprobe torpedoes are kept in Voyager's arsenal, or used again? – a CVn Nov 29 '15 at 13:39
  • (No)​​​​​​​​​​​ – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 29 '15 at 17:26
  • Considering they never made peace with 8472, it's fairly reasonable to assume that they kept the torpedoes around, at least until after they gave the technology to 8472 when they met them for a second time. However, they never -needed- them again, there is no reason why they couldn't have used them again, regardless of no longer being allied with the Borg. – Theik Nov 29 '15 at 17:29
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Perhaps slightly less canon, but the Vanguard books series goes into this specific point pretty thoroughly. These books are set in the TOS era aboard a large space station, from which the 'Taurus Reach' is explored.

Technology from a long-dormant society is discovered and eventually leads to an advance in energy-to-matter conversion, i.e. replicator technology. Also, several medical breakthroughs are done. This closes the tech-gap between TOS and TNG and we see these 'alien technologies' in action every time Picard orders a 'Tea, earl gray, hot'.

5

Not completely sure this counts, but how about disruptor technology?

Disruptors are weapons used in several different varieties by many alien species including the Borg, Breen, Cardassians, Cravic, Dominion, Eminians, Federation, Ferengi, Gorn, Hirogen, Klingons, Lokirrim, Lysians, Pralor, Remans, Rigelians, Romulans, Son'a, and Vidiians. But they have also been used by Starfleet - the Type 2 phaser has a disruptor-b setting, and subatomic disruptors and temporal disruptor bombs are used in the 29th century - although it's not clear which alien species they took the technology from.

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    +1 But! Disruptor technology was created by 21st century humans! – Athena Widget Nov 29 '15 at 14:13
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    "...although it's not clear which alien species they took the technology from." I'm not sure I get this one --- why did the Federation have to acquire disruptors technology from "aliens"? There's no evidence in the episodes or films to suggest that they acquired disruptor technology from anyone. Phaser vs. disruptor appears to be a preference, not a difference in the engineering capabilities between the Federation and others. – Praxis Nov 29 '15 at 17:58
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    Phasers and disruptors are clearly different technologies, even if they're sometimes able to be incorporated into a single rifle. In fact, there are several different types of disruptor technologies, such as ones that leave anticoagulants in the blood, ones based on sonic waves and the infamous Vanon-T disruptor. And even if the Federation were able to create their own disruptors once they came across and reverse-engineered examples from other species, that still counts as receiving alien technology. – Lèse majesté Nov 30 '15 at 4:26
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Not strictly alien technology if alien means extraterrestrial: The mobile holographic projector the Doctor is equipped with in Voyager: Future's End is used continuously after this double episode.

  • I thought about this one, but ruled it out because it is, strictly speaking, a Federation technology (but from the future). +1 though. – Praxis Nov 29 '15 at 17:55
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Memory Alpha: The Bajoran wormhole states, "The Bajoran wormhole was an artificial construct built by the beings known to the Bajoran people as the Prophets,". Creating new wormholes may not have been something Starfleet adopted, but Starfleet did use this technology. Multiple Starfleet ships have gone through the wormhole. Starfleet used the wormhole to explore new territory, and the wormhole was also a method to initiate communication with the creators.

Spoiler alert: After Starfleet blocked access to the wormhole, and the enemy dealt with that problem, communication with the wormhole's creators helped deal with the threat of new reinforcements coming in.

So, although Starfleet didn't fully master the technology of creating wormholes, this is an "example of Starfleet having access to advanced alien technology that was later regularly used by Starfleet" and "of advanced alien technology that" was used, at all, by Starfleet. A whole series revolved around it.

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