In Star Trek video game (2013), which displays events of the new timeline, Spock told Kirk before mind-melding with a Gorn that it was necessary because Uhura was unable to decipher the Gorn's language. Why was Uhura really trying it when the Universal Translator could do it quickly & successfully?

In the original timeline, the Universal Translator worked on even a non-biological life form which was unable to produce word like sounds. Gorn were intelligent biological creatures who produced word like sounds (as I have seen them talking in the game).

What's the mystery behind this? I asked a similar question, Why couldn't the universal translator be used to communicate with the Klingons? which was answered to say powerful things other than question on universal translator. After seeing the game (AFAIK, its canon), I am suspecting something different.

The data banks of the USS Defiant revealed in the mirror universe that Hoshi Sato invented the universal translator in the prime universe (Star Trek: Enterprise) which happened before the new timeline diverged from the original timeline. So the new timeline should contain the Universal Translator.

Have Star Trek new timeline writers forgotten about the Universal Translator? Or, is there an in-universe canonical answer to the question in the title?


2 Answers 2


The Universal Translator is a plot device. Meaning it works when writers want it to and fails when they don't want it to. They are unfortunately inconsistent in their depictions of such events.

As a point of reference, video games, particularly ones which feature the Star Trek Universe, are almost never considered canon. Differences in video game timelines may run counter to established norms for the televised shows, often showing more elaborate technology trees or overlooking established canon for gameplay.

As far as the Universal Translator goes, Roddenberry, in his draft of Star Trek described it as:

We establish a "telecommunicator" device early in the series, little more complicated than a small transistor radio carried in a pocket. A simple "two-way scrambler", it appears to be converting all spoken language into English. (Roddenberry 11)

Memory Alpha enhances that answer with:

The universal translator is one of many Star Trek technologies that exist primarily as conventions to aid storytelling. The UT enables the vast majority of dialog between characters to be written (and delivered) in English, to the convenience of viewers and writers alike. Writers do not have to devise a new language for each new alien of the week that speaks on-screen, and viewers do not have to watch for subtitles.

  • What this means is Star Trek is notoriously inconsistent with the use of the Universal Translator even within its own universe, supporting it on one episode and making it useless in the next.

  • I think when you see it failing, it is generally to enhance or demonstrate a particular characters capabilities as was so often done with Lt. Uhura or Lt. Sato (Enterprise).

  • Its failure was most apparent when translating the metaphoric language of the Tamarians.


If the game is based on the original TOS timeline, the universal translator form Arena was supplied by the Metrons, and was not a Starfleet-issued device. That's why Kirk keeps yammering into it - he seems to think it's a recording device; instead he's just broadcasting his thoughts, desires and plans to the Gorn captain.

At the time of their first meeting, the Federation had no record of the Gorn language, so an automatic translator would have nothing to work off. Presumably it'd need a growing sample of the language to intuit meaning of words.

  • The game is based on rebooted timeline..
    – user931
    Jun 21, 2018 at 17:02

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.