In the series 7 episode of Star Trek: Voyager, "Nightingale", Ensign Kim repairs and takes control of a Kraylor ship.

I'm curious at the ease at which Kim fixes the warp matrix using the control panel. Does the UT also translate the control panels and displays? The Memory Alpha article on the UT suggests that it does, but doesn't out and out say it.

Is there a canonical statement of the UT's ability to also handle visual languages, not just aural?

  • 1
    Sato gets drafted in on a regular basis to help decipher panels.
    – Valorum
    Aug 28, 2014 at 1:26
  • 3
    I seem to recall a sequence in voyager where tom Paris is being shown how to operate some kind of alien shuttle. He needs assistance with the written language
    – Valorum
    Aug 28, 2014 at 1:27
  • I'm remembering something similar to Richard, someone is unable to read the Klingon on the console of a Bird of Prey. I think Kira in DS9...
    – Izkata
    Aug 28, 2014 at 3:05
  • @Izkata the only episode I found/remember with that description was Return to Grace but the problem wasn't reading Klingon. It was transporting the Klingons off the Bird of Prey before they got shot.
    – calccrypto
    Aug 28, 2014 at 3:19
  • 1
    @Richard the UT was basically in beta (more like alpha) during Enterprise. Not representative of other era
    – user16696
    Feb 26, 2015 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


There is at least one episode where written language was not translated by the Universal Translators in the comm badges.

In the TNG episode Contagion:

On the surface of Iconia, the away team cannot establish contact with the Enterprise. Picard and Data attempt to make sense of a large console in the Iconian control room. Data determines that the Iconian language shares enough common roots with other languages to enable him to develop a working understanding of the controls. This understanding proves to be somewhat less than working, as Data's attempts to engage "manual override" result in the appearance of a gateway. A series of landscapes and architectures cycles through the gateway.

Clearly the language was translatable, but was not translated. The only difference is that this particular language was never spoken during the episode, and Universal Translators usually use speech to translate.

Although I too cannot pinpoint which episode Richard is referring to in the comments, I suspect that alien speech was heard during the episode, and yet the translation did not extend to the written language.

Then again, most of the time, people automatically know what alien tech does seconds after seeing it for the first time...

This can be probably chalked up to inconsistency and lack of foresight (using consoles as more than just set pieces)

"Let's see what sense we can make of this." (Memory Alpha/Picard)


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