In Voyager, Tom Paris is said to be the best pilot on board. Yet, as it is with all Star Trek pilots, when the situation calls for exceptional piloting skills, such as needling through a tight spot or performing any other kind of complicated maneuver, all you see is Paris pushing some buttons.

From the general tone of the show (as well as some lines by some characters), you gather that Federation starships are highly responsive and very maneuverable. To take advantage of their maneuverability, a good pilot should have something like a yoke, and maybe some pedals as well, or maybe a joystick: some classic steering and propulsion controls that would allow them to utilize their supposedly superior skills, since skillful piloting requires minute adjustments coupled with superlative intuition (the latter allows truly experienced and gifted pilots to fly the damn thing without even glancing at the instrument panel).

Just pushing buttons does not come off as very convincing.

Why couldn't the producers (or the writers, for that matter) think of that?

enter image description here

  • 3
    "a good pilot should have something like a yoke" - The world's best pilots on MS Flight Simulator are keyboard users. No yoke required
    – Valorum
    Aug 19, 2022 at 6:36
  • 4
    static.wikia.nocookie.net/memoryalpha/images/5/54/… Tom Paris agrees with you
    – Valorum
    Aug 19, 2022 at 6:39
  • 1
    Literally a dozen examples of where a ship or shuttle is piloted with a control stick; memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Manual_steering_column
    – Valorum
    Aug 19, 2022 at 6:51
  • 6
    They didn't want to be thought of as yokels. Aug 19, 2022 at 11:07
  • 1
    @Valorum [citation needed] Flight Simulator with keyboard only is nigh impossible (at least for me). Give me a single stick with a throttle slider and twist for rudder or better yet a complete HOTAS solution and I can turn and burn about 1000 times better. Aug 19, 2022 at 12:25

1 Answer 1


You're starting from an opinion that a yoke is better/more believable than the controls most commonly seen; it's a fair opinion, but it is an opinion rather than a fact.

As picked up in comments, there are examples of a control yoke being used in Star Trek, but the touchscreen interface is more common.

While Trek is presented as being the future of our world, the physics as seen on screen don't generally match our understanding. Manoeuvring thrusters exist and are seen, but these would produce Newtonian-style flight, whereas what is usually seen is 'atmospheric flight in space', as though starships are flying through some kind of medium that can be used with control surfaces to achieve changes in direction. As far as I'm aware, this is one of the many aspects that are never explained in-universe, so it's difficult to be certain what craft in the Star Trek universe 'should' be capable of, however it should be more degrees of freedom than a conventional aircraft can manage; a full keyboard of controls will allow more options than two hand controllers and pedals - so an appropriately skilled pilot should be able to achieve more with a touchscreen than with traditional controls.

Many modern aircraft are fly-by-wire, so a control yoke is essentially 'pressing buttons' via a different means - it's more familiar to pilots, and haptic feedback is still provided, but the direct mechanical linkage is far less common than it used to be without losing the ability to perform skilled manoeuvres.

Ultimately it's an out of universe decision to look more futuristic - but I don't think it's necessarily wrong either.

  • "a full keyboard of controls will allow more options than two hand controllers and pedals" This seems to be key to your argument, but there is no real proof of the statement. I'm finding it hard to see how Star Trek craft could have more than 6 DOF, at least in 3d space. Aug 21, 2022 at 16:36
  • Proof that it's possible shouldn't be needed - there are only so many degrees of freedom you can build into a controller before you're adding buttons and are back to the original argument. I don't think there's enough discussion of flight controls within ST to prove that it's the actual in-universe reason - though more than happy to be corrected on that. Actual degrees of freedom may be limited, but firing an aft, portside thruster will give a different movement to pairing it with a forward, starboard side thruster, although both will produce yawing.
    – Michael
    Aug 21, 2022 at 16:38
  • @OrganicMarble - More than 6 degrees of freedom could be needed if the shuttle does not always thrust forward along its nose-to-tail axis like a rocket (even at sublight it may be using warp fields or other exotic tech to move), in which case you might want both to be able to accelerate forward or backwards along 3 axes relative to some fixed external coordinates, and separate controls to rotate the ship's orientation along 3 axes.
    – Hypnosifl
    Aug 21, 2022 at 17:16
  • @Hypnosifl 3+3 = 6 Aug 21, 2022 at 17:26
  • @OrganicMarble - OK, I was confusing degrees of freedom and the type of directional controls which you mentioned in your comment--i.e. accelerating forward or backward in a car is just controlling motion along one degree of freedom but requires two pedals. But thinking in those terms, two joystick style hand controllers and two pedals would seem to only allow for control along 5 degrees of freedom, were you thinking of four pedals?
    – Hypnosifl
    Aug 21, 2022 at 17:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.