Star Trek: 10 Episode Spoilers Hidden In The French Translation

Turn off your universal translator, pour a glass of Château Picard, bilingual spoilers are ahead.

Star Trek France

The ancestral home – France – of one of Star Trek's most beloved captains makes no exception to the franchise’s phenomenal appeal. Les Trekkies are a dedicated and passionate bunch and, despite what Data might think, rather like to watch their favourite sci-fi show in an ‘obscure language’, or what is, in fact, properly called ‘en version française’ [dubbed and/or subtitled in French] or ‘en VF’ for short.

Of course, the work of a professional translator is a highly qualified and extremely complex one. Often, the intricacies of interlingual communication will require the translator to be at least as creative as the original script writers. Sometimes, however, the constraints and the pitfalls of translation out of what is now euphemistically called ‘Federation Standard’ have seemingly produced an unexpected side-effect: spoilers. This is most evident in the French translation of certain episode titles across the series.

So, alerte rouge, boucliers pleine puissance, préparez les torpilles and let’s explore ten times a French translation revealed important details about an episode before it even began.

10. Passager Clandestin (Vox Sola)

Star Trek France

In the cold-open of this first season episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, the Kreetassans are invited aboard Enterprise and, just like the guy who brings tuna on an aeroplane, we learn that eating with your mouths in public can cause a diplomatic incident. With Hoshi Sato at first unable to translate their grievances, the Kreetassans depart in a fit of rage. As their ship undocks, a mysterious creature is seen boarding Enterprise.

The original episode title Vox Sola translates as ‘lone voice’. This makes sense when we consider that the main plot centres around an alien creature cut off from its larger, singular whole and forced to survive alone. Moreover, the entangled crewmembers in the cargobay start sharing thoughts and memories – thinking as one voice. Hoshi’s struggle to find herself and her place as the prodigious communications officer equally fits nicely with the title.

In the English-speaking world, especially if your Latin is a little rusty, you would have little idea what the episode had in store from just the title. French speakers, however, would see ‘Passager clandestin’. This literally means ‘clandestine (/secret) passenger’ or, more simply, ‘Stowaway’. While we all know this by the end of the cold-open, a francophone would know something was going to sneak aboard before the Kreetassans could say ‘vous mangez comme vous accouplez’ [‘You eat like you mate’].

It seems even more strange to have provided a spoiler in the French as arguably no translation of the Latin ‘Vox sola’ was really required. It is, perhaps, apt therefore that to ‘lose one’s Latin’ in French [‘en perdre son latin’] means ‘to be baffled/confused’.

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Jack Kiely is a writer with a PhD in French and almost certainly an unhealthy obsession with Star Trek.