In the Star Trek (2009) movie, Captain Christopher Pike is injured during his capture, and is clearly seen using a wheelchair at the medal ceremony for Kirk.

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The question is: is there any in-universe explanation why a traditional wheel chair would still be in use in the year 2250? We already know they have anti-grav / levitation technology; not least because in the second scene of the film, a policeman/bot is portrayed riding an anti-grav motorbike. Is this just an anachronism/oversight by the film's producers? Maybe they thought he'd cast a less sympathetic figure if he was hovering there instead?

  • Are we sure it’s not an anti-grav wheelchair made in a classic style? Like a wooden computer or a USB typewriter keyboard?
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 2:12
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    Well it seems the wheels at least rotate; and there's even a guy behind it acting as 'pusher'! Prior to this picure we see him take his hands off the handles. In-universe would they have him there just for show?
    – Black
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 2:30
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    who knows, may be they still use wheelchair in year 2250 ;)
    – J M
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 4:17
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    I think it might have been done as a kind of nod to the original Pike, who ended up almost a vegetable in a 'dalek chair', incapable of speaking. memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Christopher_Pike Also... have we ever seen anyone riding an anti-grav? Shuffling along with cargo, yes.. but riding?
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 6:38
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    @DarthLocke: That seems rather far-fetched, to be honest. It's much more likely for Pike's disability to simply increase the likelihood that Starfleet would promote Kirk to Captain ahead of schedule (as he is young, and still deemed somewhat naive), because someone needs to replace Pike for active duty.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 8:45

1 Answer 1


We already know they have anti-grav / levitation technology; not least because in the second scene of the film, a policeman/bot is portrayed riding an anti-grav motorbike. Is this just an anachronism/oversight by the film's producers?

Are you forgetting the tremendous amount of power that is required to constantly levitate? If you're into the physics, you would need an engine that supplies a dV of 9.81 m/s every second that the wheelchair is levitating. That is a lot of energy.
There is a reasonable argument to be made for anti-grav transportation (on Earth, not for space travel). Levitation means that you do not encounter any friction from the ground (only the air), and therefore incur less speed losses due to friction, thus making for a more economical journey. Additionally: less wear and tear on the vehicle (e.g. the tires and axles), and also less danger from environmental hazards such as wet roads.
But none of those advantages really apply to a wheelchair. It's much too slow, and it hardly travels in a way that the economy of traveling around is an important factor to consider.

Also, an anti-grav motorbike won't be used every second that you're awake, compared to a wheelchair.

A wheelchair is reliable without needed to be refueled.

Also, your anti-grav motorbike argument falls apart even by today's standards: We have electric wheelchairs today, yet not all wheelchairs are electric. The most advanced technology isn't always the most commonly used technology, and it rarely is the only technology that is still used (you're arguing that because anti-grav exists, only anti-grav should still be used, which is a big assumption).

To summarize:

  • Wheelchairs do not need to be recharged/refueled.
  • We have not seen anti-grav technology being used indoors and in close quarters.
  • (Questions) Do anti-grav engines make noise? Can small versions for wheelchairs even be built? Both would be valid reasons to not put such an engine on a wheelchair.
  • Even today, electric wheelchairs exist, yet some (I think most) people still opt to have a manual wheelchair. Electric wheelchairs are usually only used by those who are unable to manually operate a wheelchair (if they can afford an electric one, of course)
  • Captain Christopher Pike strikes me as an oldschool kind of guy. Though I guess that's not really an answer, since he wouldn't be able to ride a classic wheelchair if no classic wheelchairs should exist anymore (which is the premise of your question).
  • There is a thematic argument to be made. Pike's wheelchair shows him as grounded, which thematically connects to why he isn't captain of the Enterprise anymore (grounded in a different sense).
  • Well, even though I refute these arguments on the basis that: a) we know The Federation have ridiculously powerful portable power cells, b) Unlike today, economics are not a factor in 2250 earth, so analogies such as the electric wheelchair fall apart. Having said that, I think I'm going to accept this answer because Hey, you gave it a shot to rationalise this anachronism in a believable way - you even used physics :)
    – Black
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 9:40
  • @Black: On a more thematical note, maybe the physical wheelchair stresses the fact that Pike is grounded, which thematically connects to how he is no longer the captain of the Enterprise.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 10:28
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    @Black "Unlike today, economics are not a factor in 2250 earth" Just because they have resolved economic difficulties in 2250 does not inherently mean that their economy is infinitely strong (to the point of providing every resource to everyone at all times). If the material needed to create anti-grav reactors is a limited resource, then it would only be used in devices where anti-grav is considered to be worth it. E.g. why wouldn't they make all glassware anti-grav, to prevent glasses from breaking when they fall? Production costs.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 10:31
  • I'm sure there are limits, but that's Reductio ad absurdum. We're talking about the economic priority of giving an injured Starfleet captain enhanced mobility, not preventing all glassware on earth from breaking
    – Black
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 10:43
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    @Black: The argument of production costs remains. What's the point of buying a hoverchair if you have perfectly usable cheaper wheelchair? (whether owned by Starfleet, the hospital, or Pike buying his own wheelchair in the wheelchair store; doesn't matter) Pike doesn't look like the type of man who'd explicitly look for a hoverchair, and that's assuming that hoverchairs are commonly available (which has never been proven). There is no proof to indicate that hoverchairs are considered economically viable, nor that anti-grav has become an everyday item (note: motorbikes > wheelchairs!)
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 10:47

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