An Android’s Nightmare

Small talk is so important to American culture that it often appears in American science fiction, usually in the form of an alien species (or other non-human) refusing to use it or having difficulty understanding it.

In the American television show Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lieutenant Commander Data, an android, makes several attempts to master the skill, usually with disastrous (or at least comical) results. In one particular episode, he writes an algorithm for small talk, and then annoys many of the members of the Enterprise crew by attempting to engage them in conversations that are a little too non-relevant even for small talk.

Other species’ lack of small talk also caused discomfort among the humans in the various Star Trek incarnations. In Star Trek: Voyager, Tuvok, a Vulcan, refused to participate in small talk, and when asked to participate, stated that Vulcans do not make small talk.
Also on Voyager, the Doctor (a hologram), often commented that he was not programmed to make small talk, saying such things as Small talk only compromises my performance.

However, it wasn’t long before the Doctor changed his opinion about the social behavior, and soon he was even teaching Seven of Nine (a former human turned Borg then turned human again) how to use small talk, telling her that it was “a vital … skill (that) helps to establish a rapport.”