Forget lightsabers or droids from Star Wars movies – well for a moment because yes, they too are cool – think phasers, tricorders, zat guns and Skrills. Lost? Don’t know these contraptions? Well, then you can’t be that big a sci-fi fan. Even if you’re not a hardcore sci-fi lover, you’ll have to admire these nifty, cool, even jaw dropping tech gadgets of science fiction TV shows like Star Trek, StarGate, Doctor Who and Earth: Final Conflict. When I was writing professionally for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, I spent hours brainstorming how these gadgets might serve best in my scripts.
Star Trek – All Shows Including Next Generation, Deep Space Nine & Voyager
Phasers are basically ray guns. Who doesn’t like ray guns? The big difference in what Gene Roddenberry did when he created phasers was dreaming up a ray gun or laser gun or energy gun – take your sci-fi pick – which would incapacitate adversaries, not necessarily kill them. Phaser actually is an acronym for Phased Energy Rectification – a fancy, fictitious term for energy focusing that can disintegrate, kill, stun or even light up a campfire for cold away missions on frigid alien worlds. Today law enforcement people can use TASERs – which are non-lethal guns to stop the bad guys.
Think portable MRI unit, Radar, Sonar and GPS unit all in one nifty little portable package. Tri stands for three main sensors – Biological – Meteorological – Geological. When Captain Kirk and Spock explore strange new worlds, they can see what lifeforms they’re tracking, what terrain they’re running away from them on, and even if a severe ion storm is headed their way to make things even more perilous. Inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s vision, real life versions of tricorders have been developed. It’s just one reason why Star Trek remains so special to so many scientific and industrial disciplines.
Think an Apple iPhone or Amazon Kindle on steroids. These were big fat stylus driven things in Captain Kirk’s time, and evolved into sleek, touch surface models in Captain Picard’s era of Star Trek: The Next Generation. PADD stands for Personal Access Display Device. PADD’s can display text, maps, audio, video and still images. Also think Tablet PC. Supposedly Apple is soon bringing out a Tablet PC which may just be the closest real life device to a PADD.
Romulan Cloaking Device
A true signature visual of Star Trek and perhaps all of science fiction entertainment, the highly predatory Romulan alien race equip their vessels with a device which cloaks it from all sensors and visual detection. Romulans and Klingons forged a temporary alliance, which enabled Klingon vessels to cloak too, however it’s the Romulan ship style from the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation which is most exciting to see disappear. Once activated, a Romulan ship wavers in and out in a blur, as if it’s a smoldering desert mirage. The gadget’s big drawback is that once a ship is cloaked, it can’t fire offensively – something played around with to the horror of Capt. Kirk’s (William Shatner) Enterprise crew in the feature film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
StarGate: SG1 & StarGate: Atlantis
It’s the circular linchpin transport device for the whole StarGate universe. In most sci-fi stories, like Star Wars, Star Trek or even Doctor Who, the characters need space warping or hyperspace hopping starships like the Enterprise or Millennium Falcon or TARDIS. For Colonel O’Neil (Richard Dean Anderson) and his companions, they merely step through an artificially created wormhole. Wormholes are spatial phenomenons that are like shortcut tunnels which connect other galaxies or even universes. A coordinate destination is dialed up on a huge control console, the StarGate spins around like a spacey roulette wheel and then wham! An explosive energy force resembling a watery, gooey liquid bursts forth from the ‘Gate’, and within seconds a team of explorers find themselves romping around a world thousands of light years from their origin point.
Zat’Nik’Tel or Zat Guns
Zat guns are cobra snake shaped ray guns used by villains called Goa’uld, or their slaves the Jaffa. Zats shoot out more arc lighting type discharges, than a ray. With a zat – there’s a quirky, offensive order to your energy shots. First shot stuns your opponent, second kills them, and the third neatly disintegrates the body. Though a lethally logical order, StarGate producers eventually rewrote the weapon’s capability to being more in line with a standard ray gun.
Goa’uld Hand Energy Device
These are stylishly fashinoable, as well as deadly. Worn around the hand like a metallic glove, of a villainous Goa’uld usually, the weapon’s nozzle is a huge gleaming gem. The parasitic Goa’uld merely think, focus the Hand Device and several things can happen. Repulsing force beams burst forth and hurl people across the room, pain beams sizzle out and fry a victim’s brain, or a personal force shield envelopes them, so they can deflect weapon fire – including Zat guns.
British Time Lord Doctor Who of the BBC, may be a lot of things, but he’s also perhaps the greatest locksmith in the galaxy. His lock picking prowess comes courtesy of a cheerfully, cheeky gadget called a sonic screwdriver. This handy device can open up virtually any lock, mechanical or electronic, repair devices and even act as a weapon. Doctor Who travels in his time spanning TARDIS all about the galaxy and in all eras of time and space, but he never leaves his home world of Gallifrey without his trusty sonic screwdriver.
Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict
Skrills – Biological, Sentient Energy Weapons
These are incredibly powerful living creatures which bond to a human host’s forearm. They’re used as weapons. In return for the host’s nutrients and protection, Skrill enable a human to focus energy bolts, which stun or are lethal. Though the symbiotic relationship has beneficial qualities for both lifeforms, repeated use of Skrills to shoot energy blasts weakens the host. The lead aliens of the show, the Taelons, brought the creatures to Earth. Human scientists further genetically manipulated them to be compatible with humans.