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Are inertial dampeners a requirement for going to warp speed?

Inertial dampeners are used on Star Trek to prevent starship occupants from experiencing inertial effects of the ship. Clearly, for a ship to accelerate at a very high rate via impulse drive, the inertial dampeners are required to prevent harming any of the crew (and also to keep everyone's quarters from looking like the aftermath of an earthquake). However when travelling at warp, a subspace bubble is erected around the ship. Does this mean that the dampeners are a requirement before traveling at warp speed, or not?

  • 2
    Even at Warp speed, one doesn't become inertia-proof. You can see the effects after hitting by weapons. So, inertial dampers are required to protect crew members everytime from dangerous inertial forces.
    – user931
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 19:07
  • I do remember an episode of Voyager where the inertial dampeners are knocked offline. Someone asks if they can jump to warp and Tom or Harry comments the ship might survive the jump but the crew would just be a stain on the bulkhead.
    – Erik Noren
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 17:37
  • Ah. Just now read your comment. I did post exactly that as an answer. Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 18:48

2 Answers 2


If I'm not mistaken, we don't even hear about inertial dampeners in Star Trek until the advent of TNG. This doesn't mean that they haven't been retconned back in, for instance they are discussed in Enterprise despite that show occurring earlier in the Star Trek canon's timeline.

If Star Trek warp drives are true Alcubierre drives, then the ship itself does not actually move. Rather it plucks up a piece of "spacetime" and forces that forward in reference to regular spacetime, but stays motionless inside of it. Such a description is consistent with what we hear both in TOS and TNG, but the writers have never explicitly confirmed it (and they couldn't until recently, the Alcubierre drive was hypothesized in the 1980s and TOS predates it).

If warp drives are not, then it is a complete toss-up whether they are actually required. Considering Star Trek's propensity for technobabble, this could indeed happen at some point when a creatively bankrupt writer needs some melodrama.

My wild guess is that the writers will continue to make warp drives consistent (at least as well as they understand it) with the Alcubierre drive, and thus inertial negation is not required either before or during a jump to warp.

  • in 2009Trek, doesn't the Enterprise refuse to go to warp because Sulu forgot to turn on the interial dampeners ("the parking brake was on")?
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 18:37
  • No idea. I don't consider that movie to be Star Trek.
    – John O
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 18:40

Yes you need them. There is a Voyager episode, don't ask which, where the Voyager happens to approach the surface of a planet at alarming velocity, the inertia dampeners failing and Janeway asks: "Couldn't we go to a low warp speed" and Paris replies: "The ship would make it but we would only be smears on the back wall" (semantically translated, actual wording is probably different)

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