It would seem like a simple enough idea: If you're cruising along at warp speed through an unknown quadrant of space, it might not be such a bad idea to buckle up. So why didn't Starfleet equip their ships with seat belts? Did they simply not need them, or is the actual explanation much more sinister?
In response to this post on the most stunningly-obvious design flaws aboard the USS Enterprise, a debate began over the role of seat belts on Star Trek. Why didn't we see them? Was the explanation perhaps that a superior technology had taken their place, or was there something else going on?
Several commenters stood behind the idea of some sort of "inertia dampening" system, suggesting that such a system would have been necessary for the crew to have even gotten off the ground in the first place:
Scalzi had the main character of "Redshirts" wondering about both the "No Seatbelts" and "Bridge Consoles That Constantly Blow Up" issues. On the seatbelt issue, it wasn't a question of "why are there no seatbelts" as it was, "Why aren't there any inertial dampening systems on the bridge of the most technologically advanced starship - the flagship of the entire fleet?".
Well, considering that nobody gets splattered into the aft bulkhead once the ship gets up to an appreciable percentage of the speed of light (and then some once Warp Speed kicks in), there's clearly some sort of inertial dampening. It just clearly doesn't work all that well once combat maneuvers kick in, which does beg the question of why they can't either A) improve the systems so that no one gets blasted out of their seat every time someone lands a disruptor or torpedo hit or B) supplement the inertial dampeners with some physical restraints to accomplish the same job.
Other commenters, however, pointed out that such a system, even if it were in place, would hardly be good enough to negate the presence of a secondary fail-safe:
I have the Star Trek blueprints book (I think that's what it's called) which is sort of a writers' bible for the series. They say that there are inertial dampeners but they take a second or two to kick in.
Lots of other cool stuff in there like the pipes labeled GNDN, which was a joke from the props department standing for "Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing".
That's my thought. If they have inertial dampening, which they must, why would it throw them around? Even if they have artificial gravity, it should be able to be targeted.
But, there's one point that's most strongly against the idea that in Star Trek's future the seatbelt has been made obsolete by the inertia dampener, one point that hints at some darker machinations at work behind the scenes. And that's the fact that, while the vast majority of starships large spacecraft were seatbelt-less, not all of them were:
One of the better things that they did in the Abrams Star Trek films was give the Enterprise seat belts. Although I'm not sure how Nero's intervention changed the course of history so that the ship would have seat belts installed, but still.
I've always liked the explanation that Nero's arrival and casual defeat of the Kelvin shocked Starfleet into a military footing, part of which involved building an all new Enterprise in a secret location with state of the art features (seat belts!) instead of the generic Constitution class ship we had in TOS.
Even more alarmingly, though, was this deleted scene from Star Trek Nemesis that commenter flabberboozled dug up. Captain Picard's response when learning that his brand new captain's chair had finally been equipped with a seat belt? "About time."
What do you think? Was the absence of seat belts down to the superior tech of inertia dampening, or do you think Starfleet was merely slow to get behind the issue of workplace safety? Give us your take in the comments.
Top image via commenter theringadingkid