I'm looking for a moment when I remember Scotty uttering the words - I think - "Ion Drive" while looking at a screen (or Kirk) in astonishment, or something in that vein.

I found these clips of dialogue on the bridge (near the end of this short video mostly about Dr. Marc D. Rayman, Chief Propulsion Engineer, NASA JPL, starting at about 01:55) from the episode Spock's Brain, but they don't seem to be sufficiently astonished, and they say "Ion Propulsion" rather than Ion Drive.

There is a distinction between the two terms in Memory Alpha that I don't understand.

But what I really need is a clip, or a GIF or some evidence of this moment.

Does it exist, or have I embellished upon it over the decades?

3 Answers 3


The only other time Scotty uses the word "Ion" in any Trek episode (other than to refer to warp trails or ionic storms) is later in the same episode. It would appear that in addition to using ion drives as propulsion, this species have also harnessed the power of the ion to power their civilisation. And yes, I'm aware that that's dumb.

SCOTT: Captain, that power we picked up above, we're getting closer.

KIRK: A lot of it?

SCOTT: Enough to push this planet out of orbit.

KIRK: What source?

SCOTT: Either a nuclear pile a hundred miles across or...

KIRK: Or what?

SCOTT: Ion power.

  • 1
    Bingo! That's it exactly, great! "Ion power." This helps me try to locate some kind of visual representation, though it may not exist. If you could add a few more lines around that, or if the dialogue can be found on line somewhere, that would also be helpful to me. I have nothing here.
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 16:43
  • Well, they didn't say which ion. Maybe they are using triply charged excimeric Unobtanium ions. Valley of stability and all.
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 17:03
  • 2
    @uhoh - It's just treknobabble. Trying to make sense of nonsense is fun, but eventually you just have to refer to Bellisario's maxim; "Don't examine this too closely." - The story you're watching is being told by a small production team that has to work quickly, with limited budget and tight deadlines.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 17:06
  • 1
    Half of me agrees, but there's still part of me sitting on the floor in front of the TV watching reruns after school in the 70's saying "Shhh! This is not silly!"
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 17:11
  • Makes me think of non-thermalized fusion reactors, which definitely are a step up.
    – ikrase
    Commented May 2, 2021 at 5:11

Ion Propulsion:

Menagerie, Part 1:

COMPUTER: Library computer.
SPOCK: Lock on to sensors. Measure object now following the Enterprise.
COMPUTER: Computed. Object is a Class F shuttlecraft. Duranium metal shell, ion engine power
SPOCK: Stop. How long before shuttlecraft's fuel supply forces return to starbase?
COMPUTER: Computed. Shuttlecraft is already past point of safe return.

Spock's Brain:

KIRK: What do you read, Mister Spock? SPOCK: Configuration unidentified. Ion propulsion, high velocity, though of a unique technology.
KIRK: Any contact, Lieutenant?
UHURA: Hailing on all frequencies, sir. All languages have been attempted. No response. Now using standard interstellar symbols.
KIRK: Keep trying.
UHURA: Aye, sir.
KIRK: Magnification ten, Mister Chekov.
CHEKOV: Aye, sir. Thirty eight thousand and closing.
KIRK: Well, Scotty?
SCOTT: It beats me, but isn't she a beauty?
KIRK: Interesting design.
SCOTT: I've never seen anything like her. And ion propulsion at that. They could teach us a thing or two.

  • Thanks! I didn't see any mention of Menagerie, Part 1 when I searched Memory Alpha.
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 9:03
  • 2
    When searching for text, use google search terms site:Chakoteya.net ... chakoteya.net has full transcripts for trek series... and more.
    – aramis
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 10:50
  • Thank you for that also. I think I'll go read a few!
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 13:09

I suspect the Star Trek writers saw some of the very earliest mentions of ion propulsion in the technical news of the day. The first real working ion drive was 1959 at NASA Glenn with the first orbital test in 1970. Maybe they saw the early research and just put it into Star Trek because it sounded technical and cool. Menagerie and Spock's Brain were 1966 and 1968 so it was a bit after the NASA Glenn experiments


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