Signal Loss

Mapping "video errors" in Star Trek

Collected examples from each of the Star Trek series where audiovisual signal loss is conveyed.

For example:

Also, general technology/screens, especially when detailing paleofuturism.

Contributions welcome via issues tracker or @'ing me!

At the time, this is more for "showing" and not for "telling." But eventually, with enough "research," I hope to be able to come to some conclusions and overviews beyond what is already obvious (e.g. Original Star Trek is going to use film-esque errors, because film was the familiar medium at the time).


Scroll below to see examples from each series.

Use the arrows on either side to navigate through errors.

The Original Series (1966–1969)

Set in ≈ 2254-2293

Pilot The Cage, 1:40

"It's a radio wave, sir!" A blurry, partially transparent cloud moves across the screen.

Pilot The Cage, 6:50

Incoming transmission from Spock. Fades in and fades out.

Pilot The Cage, 7:00

Spock sends a fax. Not a video error, but fax paper appears pretty mangled from the machine.

s1e10 The Corbomite Maneuver, 24:30

The crew encounters a radiated cube, which later turns into a golden orb. This alien appears with an "underwater" motion effect.

s1e11 The Menagerie, Part 1, 10:30

Spock uses floppy disks to fake Kirk's voice when sending transmissions. Malicious user error.

s1e11 The Menagerie, Part 1, 18:10

Searching for signals. Color bar moves back and forth across screen.

s1e13 The Conscience of the King, 6:40

Research computer fades between photographs on command. Bonus: those data disks!

s1e13 The Conscience of the King, 16:03

Looks like bad video but is actually just an old speaker. Transmitted voice sounds crackly.

s1e13 The Conscience of the King, 23:30

User error: Riley gets poisoned from his dinner. No eating in the engineering room!

s1e14 Balance of Terror, 14:55

Spock has trouble locking onto video signal of damaged ship. Waves into view with "underwater" effect.

s1e16 The Galileo Seven, 2:20

"Sir, this indicator's gone crazy!" Indicator looks relatively normal.

s1e18 Arena, 21:20

Enterprise is held in place by a solar system, communicating with these flashing lights.

s1e19 Tomorrow Is Yesterday

Much of this episode is spent in 1968, with many scenes of the crew interacting with film.

s3e11 Wink of an Eye, 2:13

A man disappears! He looks like film.

s3e11 Wink of an Eye, 4:50

Kirk asks to "freeze" the distress video and it audiblly slows down like film would but the picture stays. Spock calls it a "taped" message.

s3e11 Wink of an Eye, 36:00

Spock watches the distress call and rewinds it. He then puts it into fast-forward mode and it appears to roll like film as he speeds it up.

s3e16 The Mark of Gideon, 7:15

Ambassador Hodin ends his call with the Enterprise, and his image slowly fades out into the default "window into space" view.

The Next Generation (1987–94)

Set in ≈ 2364-2370

s2e15 Time Squared, 18:30

La Forge shows the last visual records of the other Enterprise, a "phase inverter" was used. Double-vision effect and colorspace manipulation.

s2e15 Pen Pals, 13:00

Data tries to identify a glitchy audio signal.

s3e6 Booby Trap, 12:20, 24:10, 26:34

An old message from an alien ship comes in via a memory coil and the crew tries to play it back in several ways.

s3e7 The Enemy, 7:55

La Forge's vision during a radiation storm. There's a lot going on here, including the Moire effect.

s3e15 Yesterday's Enterprise

The time-traveling Enterprise goes back through the temporal rift by fading into a space-cloud and out into nothing.

s3e25 Transfigurations, 22:00

Library Computer Access and Retrieval System (no errors).

s3e26 The Best of Both Worlds, I, 24:00

Computer screen featuring signal hitting Borg ship (no errors).

s4e13 Devil's Due, 2:48

Incoming distress call with analog video static and color lock/blurring issues.

Deep Space Nine (1993–1999)

Set in ≈ 2369-2375

s1e8 The Passenger, 20:10

Dax puts a small chip into the computer and it reveals a "humanoid brain" represented rotating with 3D CGI with 2D green rays hitting it.

s1e8 The Passenger, 29:45

Microscopic computer vision (3D CGI).

s1e11 Vortex, 20:00

Alien signs off and this is the screen. Appears again at 42:36.

s1e11 Vortex, 20:20

Odo looks at DNA on a rock. 3D CGI.

s1e11 Vortex, 22:20

Ship diagram technology outside of the prisoner quarters.

s1e14 Progress, 26:00

Jake and Nog intentionally modify the inside of what looks like an old iMac. Video flickers in and out. Appears to have a sepia+metallic/chrome filter added to it. Looks like magnetic interference (see: Paik) mixed with blocky/low-res/high-compression streaming and dirty-magnetic-tape bands.

s1e17 Dramatis Personae, 24:40

A Klingon captain sends a fuzzy message. A mix of television signal static/"snow" and loss of color lock.

s2e9 Second Sight, 41:15

Signal is grainy and jumpy, getting increasingly worse until the image is overtaken by "snow"/complete signal loss.

Voyager (1995–2001)

Set in ≈ 2371-2378

s5e5 Once Upon a Time, 4:30

Ion storm causes interferance, which looks like visual analog television snow/bad signal.

s5e25 Equinox: Part 1, 3:00

Crew plays video back of another ship in trouble, looks like grainy VHS.

s6e8 One Small Step, 0:35

This is set in 2032. Grainy/analog lo-res video starts to have DV-esque tan bars moving across the screen (dirt/decay on tape).

s6e8 One Small Step, 13:10

Playing back video from 2032. Flickers black and white and then slowly fades out to pixelated digital "snow."

s6e8 One Small Step, 38:00

Playing back "final transmission" video from 2032. Flickers black and white and then slowly fades out to pixelated digital "snow."

Enterprise (2001–2005)

Set in ≈ 2151-2155

s1e5 Terra Nova

Immediately after opening credits: Crew explores the "archives."

s1e5 Breaking the Ice, 3:40

Vulcan computer with vertical text read left-to-right.

s1e11 Silent Enemy, 5:40

Communication is clear. Screen is 4:3 (even though the show is 16:9!)

s1e11 Silent Enemy, 5:45

Communication is cut, revealing system screen. Screen is 4:3 (even though the show is 16:9!)

s1e11 Silent Enemy, 34:20

Archer speaks into a camera, fish-eye blurry lens. ends with him blowing out the camera and an analog snow-ish in-color glitch.

s2e1 Shockwave, Part II, 15:50

Archer and a guy from the future modify devices from the Enterprise to make contact with the past.

s2e1 Shockwave, Part II, 19:30

Archer calls from the future where there is "no technology." Jumps in and out, slow bands moving across Archer's face when present. General signal disruption.