Whoa. In "Hollow Pursuits" we have this dialog (emphasis mine):

[Troi's office]

BARCLAY: I just didn't know what to say.

TROI: What do you wish you had said?

BARCLAY: I should have told him to mind his own damned business. I knew about the flux capacitor. I didn't need to hear about it from some seventeen year old kid.

TROI: You're letting it get you much too upset.

BARCLAY: You think so?

Did he just say "flux capacitor"? There is no such thing except invented for Back to the Future. So I called up the transcript (http://www.chakoteya.net/NextGen/169.htm). The previous dialog is this:

BARCLAY: I, I, I realise that

LAFORGE: But we shouldn't ignore the possibilities, Wes.

WESLEY: You ought to check the flow capacitor. A breakdown of that could have caused a chain collapse of the antigrav fields.

BARCLAY: I, I was going to.

LAFORGE: Good. Okay, then let's go over the realignment procedure. Gentlemen.

So what's behind this? It appears either someone misspoke or Barclay was confused. Was the script written this way? Is it an Easter egg? By whom -- the writers or Dwight Schultz?

  • 1
    According to the Star Trek wiki, it was not in the original script. So either Dwight Schultz said it by accident or deliberately. Probably the latter, otherwise it would have been corrected. Jun 9, 2015 at 15:29
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    @Wikis - Given the huge number of times Data accidentally used contractions, I think you're giving the crew far more credit than they're due. Wrap it, can it, we'll fix it in post.
    – Valorum
    Jun 9, 2015 at 19:03
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    @Richard surely covered elsewhere, but being in the process of rewatching from the beginning, it seems pretty clear that originally Data just "spoke more formally" and "had difficulty with contractions" and then it turned into "can't used contractions" Jun 9, 2015 at 19:32
  • Bonus quote for fun only: HOLO-TROI: I am the goddess of Empathy. Cast off your inhibitions and embrace love, truth, joy. ... Discard your facades and reveal your true being to me. Jun 9, 2015 at 19:54
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    I have no evidence for this, but I'd like to think Barclay misspoke because he had recently watched Back to the Future. Jun 9, 2015 at 21:58

5 Answers 5


In-universe, this seems to have been a slight error on the part of a disgruntled and angry Reg Barclay.

Note that according to the (considered canonical) Star Trek Encyclopedia, there is such a thing as a flux capacitor in the Trek-verse. It was mentioned in an episode of Voyager as an in-joke relating to the BTTF movies:

Flux Capacitance: A measurable physical property of energy flow. ("Prototype" (VGR)). This is a tip-of-the-hat reference to the flux capacitor, the key component in the time-traveling DeLorean automobile from Universal's Back to the Future movies.

It's likely that Reg meant one and said the other.

Out of universe, the line is pretty clear in the original show script

HOLO-TROI: What do you wish you had said?

BARCLAY: I should have told him to mind his own damned business... I knew about the flow capacitor... I didn't need to hear about it from a seventeen year old kid.

If I had to guess, I'd imagine it was simply a verbal slip-up by the actor that went unnoticed by the film crew.

  • Can we determine if it was a slip-up or an intentional substitution? Jun 9, 2015 at 18:51
  • @ThePopMachine - My guess is slip, but I'm still looking for a canon confirmation.
    – Valorum
    Jun 9, 2015 at 19:01

This is likely to be an Easter Egg, I don't know specifically about the flux capacitor, but the Star Trek TNG technical manual mentions the engineering panel at the back of the bridge has a meter showing "infinite improbability generation" in homage to the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, so other references to other titles are likely.

From p77

Extremely close examination of the impulse drive system schematic panel in Main Engineering might reveal that one of the components is labeled "Infinite Improbability Generation," a tip of the hat to Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


I was reading the Star Trek Encylopedia and came across a few other references which indicate that some Star Trek machinery is capable of 'fluxing'. In addition to the Flux Capacitance which @Richard points out above, we have a few other references:

  • Flux Generator:

    Science and engineering instrument. A flux generator was located in the science lab on station Deep Space 9 ("Second Sight" [DS9])

  • Flux Spectrometer:

    Sensor device used aboard Federation Starships ("Cause and Effect" [TNG])

It's also interesting to note that the episode 'Cause and Effect' deals with time travel, in that they are stuck in a temporal loop! I don't have solid evidence for it, but it sounds to me like another reference to the Enterprise-D's Flux Capacitator and a tip-of-the-hat to Back to the Future!


It's definitely a misspoken line, but it sounds like a joke to me. Marty McFly would have been 17 year old kid as a senior in High School.

  • Daft question by me but how is that joke relevant here? I can't work it out.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Sep 11, 2018 at 13:51
  • @TheLethalCarrot - "I knew about the flux capacitor. I didn't need to hear it from some 17-year old kid"
    – RDFozz
    Sep 11, 2018 at 17:26

I’m not completely sure, but in General Relativity a theory of time travel is massively declined because as far as anyone knows time is a straight one way line. If time travel were to exist time would always be in “Flux and Flow” both technically allow time travel meaning that an in-universe explanation could simply mean that a flux capacitor is a flow capacitor and vice-versa. This is related to the speed of the enterprise and how it travels, the system is technically the same as a flux/flow capacitor.

  • It's preferable to base answers on canon evidence rather than real world science, as real world science doesn't always apply in a fictional universe. Also, there's no question that time travel exists within the Star Trek universe. There are numerous examples of it, with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek: First Contact being two of the more obvious ones. May 22, 2023 at 3:16

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