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Turbolift interior, Enterprise-D

Turbolift is a term often used in science fiction to denote an advanced elevator car. While the term originated with Star Trek, it has become generic to the point where it has been adopted by other SF franchises.

Turbolifts in Star Trek

Turbolifts in Star Trek function much like elevators today, albeit with greater flexibility. Whereas a modern-day elevator is limited to travelling along one axis, turbolifts can traverse their network horizontally and vertically[1], delivering their passenger close to their destination no matter their starting point[2]. In order to facilitate this, turbolifts are not anchored with a lift cable, and instead travel under their own power. Acceleration and deceleration effects are compensated for by an inertial dampening system.

Early turbolift cars were operated via an analogue interface in the form of a wall-mounted handle[3]; this design was phased out in favour of voice commands, although later turbolift designs retained an LCARS panel for manual overrides[4]. In case of catastrophic failure, an automatic braking system engages and clamps secure the turbolift car; the cars are also equipped with an emergency evacuation hatch in the ceiling[5].

Turbolifts in Star Wars

The use of the term "turbolift" is rarer in Star Wars fiction. High-speed elevator cars are frequently seen, and considering the size of the vessels and installations of the SW universe, must use a similar combination of repulsorlift engines and inertial compensation to allow timely travel.

The safety measures of these turbolifts run along the same lines as those in Star Trek; powered-down elevator cars are secured via clamps and can be evacuated through ceiling hatches[6].


  1. Turbolift network map seen in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  2. TNG: Remember Me
  3. TOS: Where No Man Has Gone Before
  4. TNG: various episodes
  5. TNG: Disaster
  6. Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Outcast