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Star Trek

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Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.
—Gene Roddenberry: The Star Trek Philosophy[1]

Star Trek is a multimedia science fiction franchise, best known for a television series from the late 1960s, a series of related movies, and various spin-off TV series during the 1980s to 2000s. It is the brainchild of Gene Roddenberry.

Its enormous impact on popular culture has given those who have heard of it, but never seen it themselves, the impression that it's merely another mindless, escapist fantasy (and its weaker moments are guilty as charged), but there's much more to it than that.

Star Trek and rationalism[edit]

"Do you realize the number of discoveries lost because of superstition... of ignorance... of a layman's inability to comprehend?"
Star Trek: TOS episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" Note: this was in 1966.
TOS, Season 3 episode 15, verse 29

Star Trek was perhaps the first major work of popular culture in the 20th century to espouse a blatantly pro-rationalism viewpoint. This is due in no small part to Roddenberry's outspoken atheism,[2] though credit must also be given to studios that have the balls to fund something that could be perceived as anti-Christian. Roddenberry rejected attempts by the studio to add a Christian chaplain to the bridge, saying that in the future, everyone was an atheist and better for it.[3][4] Perhaps the ending to "Bread and Circuses"[5] placated Christians.

Examples abound. In one episode (which was originally intended for the failed 1970s Phase II series which never materialized), Captain Picard personally tears down a con artist posing as a manifestation of the Devil; in another, Kirk and crew find out Apollo and the Greek gods were in reality very powerful aliens. Even in the original series, Spock, the legendary first officer, was constantly searching for scientific explanations for everything the crew discovered, because it was science that had brought them into space in the first place.[6] Another episode showed Picard being mistaken for a god, which caused the re-development of a religion among people who had previously abandoned it. This was treated as a terrible backward slide by Picard and crew,[note 1] who worked to prove he was mortal (however, this specific attitude was not seen again).

However, there were times when Star Trek's rationalism stripped its gears. For example, in the animated episode "The Magicks of Megas-tu"—which had started out life as Larry Brody's third season episode where Kirk meets "God" (so yes in some ways Star Trek V actually was Brody's little brain child, not Shatner's)—Kirk and company meet Lucian...the being on which the stories of the Devil are based in a part of reality where magic (excuse me, "magick"...sigh) actually works. In the Voyager episode "Mortal Coil", an alien named Neelix is told through a vision quest that there is no afterlife – and has to be convinced by one of his shipmates that this life is still worth living. This despite Voyager having another episode ("Barge of the Dead") which heavily implies the Klingon afterlife does exist. And, of course, there was the cringeworthy ending to "Bread and Circuses" already referenced, and the fact that anything resembling Native American mysticism (vision quests, spirits, etc) typically did exactly what it said on the tin (also the same went for Vulcan mysticism in Star Trek III). In addition, the whole bit with Spock's portrayal of logic was often wooden and overblown, as pointed out by Julia Galef.[7]

Another common issue is the slow degradation of the Prime Directive from a directive of non-interference in the development of pre-warp cultures in the original series to a quasi-religious edict used to justify standing idly by while an entire species is annihilated. In "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky", Spock declares that is it "logical" that informing the people of Yonada that their home is actually inside a hollow asteroid is better than exterminating them, while in the Next Generation episode "Pen Pals" Riker invokes a very dubious idea of a "cosmic plan" that it is "hubris" to interfere with to justify refusing to save the pre-warp civilization of Drema IV. This only got worse as time went on with the most common euphemism for this prohibition of interfering in pre-ordained fate being that it was the "natural development" of that species, even if this involved their total extinction. The zenith of this was probably the Enterprise episode "Dear Doctor", where Archer's Enterprise withholds a cure to a disease which will kill one species on a planet, with a bizarre justification involving that species being an evolutionary dead end holding down the other sentient species on the planet, and that curing the disease would be "playing God," as if choosing to not cure it is any different. Apparently the network UPN insisted on this ending over an original one where the ship's doctor cured the disease behind the Captain's back.

There were several other quirks in Roddenberry's vision of the future late in his life, with his demands for the TNG crew's "rational" behaviour: Michael Piller, in Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, stated of the TNG episode "Bonding": "Gene said, after he read our description of this, that this show wouldn’t work for him, because children of the 24th century have learned that death is a part of life and, as such, children would not mourn the loss of a parent." Next Generation co-producer Herb Wright also described Roddenberry as having a "sex fetish," relating a story in Cinefantastique that Roddenberry initially wanted the Ferengi to wear enormous codpieces and that he "spent 25 minutes explaining to me all the sexual positions the Ferengi could go through." In William Shatner's documentary about the first years of Next Generation, "Chaos on the Bridge", writer Ira Steven Behr recounts a similar story of approaching Roddenberry regarding the pleasure planet Risa, and Roddenberry saying it should be full of women making out and fondling each other.

Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger–0014 through Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger–004 points out many of the irregularities in Star Trek's Federation with a Q like entity being the reason they even have all that technology in the first place.

Star Trek and society[edit]

In the future, everyone wears rayon.
When Patrick Stewart, a bald man, was cast as the captain in Star Trek: The Next Generation, a reporter said to Roddenberry, "Surely they will have cured baldness by the twenty-fourth century!" Roddenberry replied, "By the twenty-fourth century, no one will care."[8]

Star Trek was as progressive socially as it was philosophically. At a time when race and interracial marriage were very contentious issues in the US, Star Trek became one of[note 2] the first television series ever to depict an interracial kiss on television.[note 3] Uhura was considered a role model for the black community as well as women across America, with praise from Martin Luther King himself; the character also inspired Whoopi Goldberg to become an entertainer and Mae Jemison to become an astronaut. A subsequent episode dealt with the thorny issue of overpopulation, going so far as to have Kirk suggest they "Give them devices to prevent conception" (a hot-button topic at the time). Not long after that came "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", an episode with a species that is half-black and half-white, one on each side of their faces. They fight each other to the point of extinction over the question of whether it's better to be black on the left and white on the right, or vice versa.[note 4] Later series maintained this devotion to equality by putting first a black man, and then a woman, in the captain's chair[note 5] (and even, in one scene, a female black captain of another starship in Star Trek IV) before finally having a black female captain in Discovery.

Roddenberry had hoped to keep Star Trek free of racism and sexism. The original pilot, "The Cage," had a female first officer played by Roddenberry's future wife, Majel Barrett. Roddenberry had intended to have Barrett continue the role in the series, but NBC spiked the idea of a female Number One, as she was called – Roddenberry then tried to have her cast as chief medical officer, but NBC balked at that too.[9] Finally, she was cast as a nurse, but Roddenberry was able to sneak in one little detail. Nurse Chapel was actually Dr. Chapel, a biological research scientist who had signed on as a nurse so she could go into space to find her missing fiancé (Roddenberry got his revenge in Star Trek: The Motion Picture – when somebody called her "Nurse Chapel," she got to snap back that she was Doctor Chapel).

The original Star Trek series featured women working in integrated units with men. The series debuted in 1966, a full 12 years before the Women's Army Corps in the USA was disbanded and women were allowed to serve in the military alongside men. However, most women in the original series appeared in subservient roles, were often portrayed as flakey and overemotional, and frequently served no other purpose in the plot than romantic or sexual interest. While the pilot featured female Starfleet officers in the same uniforms as their male counterparts, their uniform in the rest of the series was essentially a minidress. And Uhura's job, when you get down to it, was...answering the phone. She was a secretary in all but name.

Roddenberry would address the sexism at NBC in the series' final episode, "Turnabout Intruder." In that episode, Kirk meets Dr. Janice Lester, yet another woman from his past. She complains that she was rejected as a starship captain because she was a woman, then uses some alien device to trade bodies with Kirk. Unfortunately, Paramount and NBC had relieved Roddenberry of full control of the series by then, so when he turned in the script for the episode, it was rewritten to show Dr. Lester as an unstable, hysterical, whiny bitch.[note 6]

Roddenberry was hardly a saint in this regard, though, given under his watch were also created one of the most racist episodes of Star Trek ever madeWikipedia and one of the most sexist.Wikipedia The series also has perennial problems with depicting alien cultures as monolithic, with entire planets often having only a single language, religion, etc.[note 7] There is also a more than a little unfortunate tendency for the greedy, untrustworthy and money-obsessed Ferengi to be played by Jewish actors.

Voyager's Chakotay has also been criticised as a depiction of a Native American, with his fictional tribe a nonsensical grab-bag of traditions from the entire length and breadth of the Americas: turns out the "native adviser" brought on for the production was Jamake Highwater,Wikipedia a notorious plastic shaman. One episode that stands out in particular is "Tattoo," where it is suggested that Native Americans had no language, religion or culture until white aliens came down and gave it to them because they were noble and one with nature and so on (sound familiar?).

That said, Voyager also gave us the superb episode Living Witness, a surprisingly nuanced story about historical revisionism.


Nonetheless, the show had some noted flaws, especially as concerns LGBT issues. Roddenberry had been slightly homophobic in his youth, and although he grew past that childhood prejudice, he rarely led by example in depicting LGBT people in a positive light. It is understandable that it would have been next to impossible to discuss LGBT issues in the 1960s, but the lack of LGBT characters in modern Trek is something of a mystery. Gene Roddenberry had said he intended to introduce an openly gay character on The Next Generation but did not do so at the time of his death, leaving Trek to be beaten out by Babylon 5, which introduced gay marriage as something established and apparently unremarkable in humanity of the future, along with main character Susan Ivanova admitting after her death she had loved Talia Winters (it was also implied they were sleeping together).

A proposed script for a second season Next Generation episode, known as "Blood and Fire," would have included a gay couple on the Enterprise and would have been about AIDS.[10][11] Unfortunately, the episode was never filmed. However, thanks to far more open-minded fans, the episode was later released in two parts in the style of the original series for the independent fan film series Star Trek: Phase II.[12][13]

One episode of The Next Generation did depict a genderless species which dealt with the treatment of those of different genders and sexualities by the mainstream, but this was a pretty covert treatment of these issues, especially since all of the genderless aliens were played by women. The official line is that this was done because it is allegedly easier to make women appear androgynous. However, it looks almost as if Commander Riker is teaching a member of a species of lesbians how to be straight, not at all what the message was meant to be.[14]

Furthermore, there were only two outright instances of same-sex kissing in Deep Space Nine and in both cases there was a flimsy excuse for the kiss rather than a fair depiction of a real gay couple (and both cases were women, not men, suggesting the scenes were driven purely by ratings). Speculation as to why there wasn't an openly gay character during that time ranges from objections from executive producer Rick Berman to the studio suits at Paramount.

One positive thing to note about one of the instances of same-sex kissing was that the relationship between Jadzia Dax and her ex was not considered unusual because of their genders; though it could have been considered allegorical, the relationship was taboo because they had been married in a previous life, and it was not considered proper for lovers to reunite in different bodies. That they were both women wasn't even remarked upon.

However, sexuality has been treated far better in Star Trek spin-off media with its many novels, comics and video games. They bluntly show that sexual orientation is irrelevant in many societies within the Star Trek universe, most especially humanity. They've even gone further by revealing that characters introduced in the movies and TV shows are not heterosexual. The unfortunate Lieutenant Hawk of Star Trek: First Contact is a notable example being outed as gay and in a relationship with a man in the novel Section 31: Rogue. Sadly, these stories are not considered part of the Star Trek canon. Paramount has said that only what is established in the motion pictures and television episodes is material they acknowledge as legitimate to Star Trek lore.

There may be hope for LGBT issues in Star Trek yet: the same series that gave us George Takei also gave us Zachary Quinto, who came out in 2011 and, like Takei, has been a strong advocate of gay rights.[15]

Their efforts have apparently paid off as the most recent film in the franchise, Star Trek Beyond has officially confirmed that the alternative universe first introduced in the 2009 film Star Trek does have a major character who is gay and in a same-sex marriage: Hikaru Sulu. This development came about specifically as a reference and homage to Takei and his gay advocacy work.

Rather than be glad that the Star Trek canon finally has an indisputably gay character, Takei got angry. His reason: the film's writers departed from Roddenberry's original blueprints for the character. Takei argued filmmakers should've instead added a new, original character who was gay.[16]. There have also been claims that since Sulu was shown having heterosexual relationships in the original timeline showing him as gay in the new timeline implies that sexuality can be changed and is not something one is born with. Of course there is a far easier solution that Sulu was not gay but bisexual, and just happened to marry a man in the new timeline instead of a women.

Simon Pegg, one of the film's co-writers and stars, responded to Takei in a concise, level-headed response established all of that and added that adding a new character instead of making a pre-existing character in the alternative universe that's been focused on since the 2009 film Star Trek would've amounted to tokenism.[17]

Still, the fact that it's been firmly established as canon that there's an openly gay character, and that humanity doesn't bat an eye when it comes to sexual orientation in the Star Trek universe, is a long-needed step in the right direction for a franchise that has treated same-sex relationships so poorly on screen. Finally, the latest incarnation, Star Trek: Discovery, features a gay couple, a lesbian, and a nonbinary new member of the crew (along with the last one's transgender deceased partner, who's present in flasbacks/visions). These characters are also played by LGBT actors of the same orientation or gender, notably.[18][19][20] So belatedly progress has been made on LGBT representation (all of the above are portrayed as fully accepted and mostly unremarkable as well). Additionally the mirror universe Philippa Georgiou is pansexual.

Dark undertones[edit]

In the Federation, Nazis finally got their own planet.

Much has been made of how Star Trek depicted a "better" humanity but when you really look at the original series there was this dark undertone that not all was well in the Federation especially in Kirk's era. It seemed every time Kirk met someone important in the Federation, they either were already stark raving bonkers or finally snapped in Kirk's presence.

  • Doctor Adams who had "done more to revolutionise, to humanise prisons and the treatment of prisoners than all the rest of humanity had done in forty centuries" was secretly torturing his patients.[21]
  • Commodore Matt Decker becomes so obsessed with destroying a planet-destroying robot that he flies a shuttle into the mouth of the thing.[22] Interestingly, Kirk seems to be going down this very same path in "Obsession", but how he handles it is very different from Decker.
  • John Gill the historian, whose "treatment of Earth history as causes and motivations rather than dates and events" Spock found impressive, thought the best way to unite a fragmented planet was to recreate Nazi Germany. I mean what could possibly go wrong with using a doctrine of race superiority and genocide with political backstabbing to unite a people? They try to wipe out their neighboring planet after some opportunistic guy drugs you for one, Gill old bean.[23]
  • Doctor Richard Daystrom whose duotronic breakthrough won him the Nobel and Zee-Magnes prizes, had his engrams put into his computer, which quickly loses it and starts killing people, followed by Daystrom himself losing it and stating, "We're invincible. Look what we've done. Your mighty starships, four toys to be crushed as we choose," followed by Spock giving the obviously crazy man the Vulcan neck pinch.[24]
  • Captain Garth of Izar whose exploits were required reading, who has totally lost it and compares himself to Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Lee Kuan, Krotus (last two are would-be conquerors)[25]
  • Dr. Janice Lester, mentioned above, who was presumably a competent Starfleet officer with a legitimate complaint about discrimination in the Starfleet officer corps, goes off the deep end and resorts to a rather creepy kidnapping scheme to get what she always wanted.

These dark undertones spilled over into later spin-offs as well. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was overall a more cynical, though ultimately still optimistic, look at the Federation that examined the darker side of many of the underpinnings of Roddenberry's utopia, such as the seemingly absolute authority and militaristic nature of Starfleet, how the Federation's interactions with other cultures work out in the long run (particularly Bajoran resentment of the Federation using the Prime Directive as an excuse to not interfere with the brutal Cardassian occupation of their homeworld), why technologies like genetic engineering that seemingly should exist are not used,[note 8] the contrast between idealism and pragmatism (seen from the very first episode through the contrasting attitudes of Picard and Sisko), and what people are willing to do to safeguard their utopia from outside influence in the form of the ruthless CIA-like Section 31.

The Many, the Arrogant, the Dumb[edit]

Don't worry, nothing can go wrong.

Some elements of Star Trek are so implausible, so mind-numbingly stupid, that one has to wonder how the average crew get through the day without walking into a wall. The poster child of this is the holodeck. Between TNG, DS9, and Voyager, the device has malfunctioned to the point that it might as well be made by ACME of the old Wile E. Coyote cartoons. The Voyager crew's handing of the holodeck in "Spirit Folk" is jaw-droppingly insane, showing that you would assume Starfleet has no conception of how to deal with malfunctioning tech that could kill you and that the crew is more or less composed of total idiots,[26] nor that they seem to care very much.

Other flak has come from engineers, who consider that, at least in the TNG days, Federation engineers basically study in the same place as those who designed the type of nuclear reactor that blew up in Chernobyl, with examples like just a computer virus being able to destroy a state-of-the-art ship of the same class as the Enterprise ("Contagion") as well as almost that very ship,[note 9] no way to throttle down the warp core's power output except letting it blow up ("Generations"), said ship having just a computer core that if damaged or lost would mean trouble ("The Naked Now"),[note 10] no usage of low-tech (but simpler, thus more reliable) technologies,[note 11] and so on.[27]

Holograms and Sentience Issues[edit]

Another often untouched issue is the problem of Holograms and their use. First officially introduced in TNG[note 12], Holograms (and subsequently, Holodeck programs), gradually are shown to become more and more complex in their complexity and realism, to such a point where they could be perceived as sentient in some, but not all, cases, even passing the Turing test in one instance. Examples of this include The Doctor (VOY: "Pilot"), Moriarty (TNG: "Elementary, Dear Data"), Minuet (TNG: "11001001"), Lt. McNary (TNG: "The Big Goodbye"), Vic Fontaine (DS9: "His Way") various other EMHs (VOY: "Messenger in a Bottle", DS9: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?"), and the entire town of Fair Haven (VOY: "Fair Haven"). These examples have all shown to have some degree of sentience, even to the point of doubting their own existence or seeing the main characters use the Holodeck to do things otherwise not possible.

The Doctor, despite even perceiving himself as "just another EMH" (Emergency Medical Hologram) in the beginning of the series, gradually grows and develops interests, such as opera and Shakespeare, even pursuing his own goals, to such a point where his matrix can't handle it and he risks non-existence. The other various EMHs sprinkled throughout the other series, such as the one in the DS9 episode "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?" where the EMH they download the core files from seems irritated at the possibility of him being outdated. The EMH Mrk.II in the VOY episode "Message in a Bottle" is shown to have some degree of autonomy, even desiring modifications to his own program. Lt. McNary at the end of the TNG episode "The Big Goodbye", learns of the world outside the Holodeck and begins to doubt whether he really is the person he thinks he is, whether if when the main characters leave, he will go on. Vic Fontaine from Deep Space 9 is programmed from the get-go with sentience, even giving him the ability to shut off his program at will.

The town of Fair Haven and all of its residents are shown to have their own unique personalities, goals, and interests, and even fall in love completely independent of the program; they even begin to see the modifications of their world by the main characters through the use of the Holodeck (fixing a broken wheel, turning a hologram into a cow, etc. etc). Captain Janeway even falls in love with one of the holograms, barkeep Michel Sullivan. Moriarty from the TNG episode "Elementary, Dear Data" is given sentience accidentally after one of the main characters mis-words a command to the computer, and he becomes aware of his surroundings, even showing he could control certain aspects of the Enterprise from the Holodeck itself.

In the instance of the successful passing of the Turing test, a hologram successfully manages to (inadvertently) convince a woman that he was a real person. During the TNG Episode "Ménage à Troi", Lwaxana Troi, mother of main character Deanna Troi, goes through what is, in essence, her species' version of menopause, which in turn leads her to almost marry several main characters against their will. In an effort to avoid this, Captain Picard hides out in the Holodeck version of a fictional mystery series taking place in the early 20th century called 'Dixon Hill' (in what would become a reoccurring theme with him and Lwaxana). Lwaxana eventually finds him and begins to chat with the holographic bartender, not realizing he was a hologram. Eventually after a short chat and some comments on how she couldn't 'read' him (with him being holographic and not having mental functions in the way a Betazoid could interpret without a technical manual), she decides to marry him instead of Picard. This is passed off as a humorous ending to a subplot of Lwaxana's marriage proposals, and the true magnitude of the revelation is never again mentioned.

All of these examples would suggest that holograms (especially in the later series chronologically) are in some degrees sentient. These holograms have free will, a fear of non-existence, emotions, even personal goals that they set independently of any real input on the part of the supposed 'real people'. And the crews that interact with these holograms are shown to have massive power over them. In the Voyager episode "Fair Haven", Captain Janeway modifies the personality of one of the characters, Michel Sullivan, to fit her idea of an ideal mate, even to such a point where she deletes his wife from ever existing (to her credit, she later realizes she'd gone too far in her modification, at the end locking herself out from ever modifying him again, although no attempt to undo any of those earlier modifications is ever attempted).

But the issue of hologram sentience is often scrapped in favor of simple solutions, such as just flipping a switch or scrapping entire programs. Moriarty is initially shut down after Captain Picard promises to reactivate him after finding a way to get him off the holodeck. But as the episode "Ship in a Bottle" shows, he is aware of each passing moment for the years while shut down (a very unusual occurrence, even with other sentient holograms such as the Doctor). Naturally rather put off for being trapped in a computer-y purgatory for several years, he takes control of the Enterprise and demands they find a way to free him and his wife. The crew eventually trap him within a sort of virtual version of the universe with his wife to get around this, in essence giving him what he wanted, but still a rather sneaky way of getting around the issue. In the VOY episode "Spirit Folk" the residents of Fair Haven begin to realize that the world around them is not what it seems, thinking that these strange occurrences are the product of witchcraft. It is revealed during a diagnostic of Michel Sullivan that Holodecks use something called a 'perception filter' that prevents holograms from realizing they are holograms or perceiving on-the-spot changes to the world around them. These are malfunctioning in the Fair Haven program, which is making them aware of their surroundings. Michel Sullivan, now understanding what he is (a hologram) and where he is (Spaaaace), calms the residents down. The way these perception filters are described makes it seem like the fine folks at Starfleet Engineering are well aware that the holograms are aware of their surroundings and sentient, but they designed the perception filters to prevent holograms from being aware of this fact and making them docile enough so Starfleet officers will be able to play around with them as they please.

The issue of AI rights has been touched on in the course of the series, however. In the TNG Episode "The Measure Of A Man", Data (a sentient android serving in Starfleet), is considered by a researcher to be the property of Starfleet, and therefore cannot refuse an order to report to him to be disassembled and studied. Over the course of the episode, a trial is held and many issues are brought up, some philosophical in nature. The final ruling over the matter is:

"Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We've all been dancing around the basic issue: does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have! But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself."

There is very little that separates Data from a hologram, at least software wise. Data has a physical body to interact with the world at large without the limiting factor of having to install holo-emitters everywhere. The holograms have no such form (even the Doctor is only granted the true freedom after obtaining a bit of future technology that allows him to move without holo-emitters). It would simply appear that Data, since he is able to interact with the world in a way more 'normal' to sentient beings, or maybe because since holograms are common and taught from the beginning to be seen as tools, malleable and expendable, while Data is unique, steadfast in his convictions and practically irreplaceable (not to mention being able to escape any sort of judgement from Starfleet that might harm him much more easily than a hologram, who can be deactivated with a phrase, while someone must put their hand up Data's butt to turn him off).

In essence, Starfleet has drugged and enslaved an entire sentient population, creating, destroying and changing them at their will, using them to entertain themselves and even serve as temporary staff, ignoring them, and sometimes even actively guiding them away from the truth. In the cases where they are sentient and realize what they are, they are either shut down and condemned to a virtual purgatory, sworn to secrecy, die in some unfortunate unavoidable accident, or, in cases where the sentience benefits the crew, such in case of Vic Fontaine and the Doctor, used for their own gain.

In other Voyager episodes, we learn it is perfectly acceptable to effectively execute a hologram for the crimes of the person it is a hologram of, even though it is intelligent enough to protest that it is not that person ("Nothing Human"), completely OK to turn a recreational program of a cartoonishly cheerful holographic family into a miserable broken one (including adding a scenario that kills one of them) just to teach someone a Very Important Lesson ("Real Life"), literally enslave obsolete EMH Mark 1 holo-doctors in a dilithium mine ("Author, Author"), a Borg drone needs to tell Voyager's crew to stop treating the Doctor like a piece of equipment ("Latent Image"), Janeway was perfectly fine with giving Holodeck technology to a race of Predator knockoffs knowing they'd use it to murder sentient holograms endlessly ("Flesh and Blood", dealt with in the traditional Voyager manner of having a character with a genuine grievance turn into a ridiculous strawman partway through to make things simpler), and that you only get a slap on the wrist for reprogramming a hologram to do something it finds morally reprehensible, such as performing impromptu eugenics on your own child ("Lineage").

Such behavior shows that even in the 23rd century humanity isn't quite as advanced as the show would have us led to believe.

Star Trek and science[edit]

The Galaxy's most dependable 5G network.

Eclipsed only by the works of Jules Verne,[28] Star Trek is claimed to have inspired more inventions and scientific advances than any other work of science fiction, though the more sweeping versions of such claims frequently end up committing the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy by listing things Star Trek "predicted" only after someone came along and actually invented them. For bonus points, lists like this one often include things invented before they appeared in Star Trek, such as flatscreen TVs (invented in the 1950s and available commercially and common in military aircraft by the 80s), tablet PCs (the idea can be traced back to the Dynabook in 1976 and even earlier to a mechanical version patented by Ángela Ruiz RoblesWikipedia in 1949 that unfortunately went nowhere) somewhat before Next Generation's PADD, and the devices in the original series were more like clipboards with added lightbulbs) and head-mounted displays (used for the FLIR of military attack helicopters such as the AH-64 Apache since the 80s, and seen on Smartguns in Aliens in 1986, both a little before Deep Space Nine ever aired). The alleged inspiration of the cellphone is also an urban legend, with Marty Cooper stating that he made this statement after he got somewhat carried away during the filming of a documentary and, if anything, his real inspiration was the communicator watch worn by Dick Tracy.[29] The point is, be skeptical.

It is fair to say, though, that NASA loves Star Trek, to the point that the first space shuttle was named Enterprise—though this was largely due to a fan campaign directed towards then-President Gerald Ford: NASA were going to call it Constitution (which would have made a great Trek-friendly alternative name, given the Enterprise of the Original Series is a Constitution class heavy cruiser).

The Alcubierre model of faster-than-light movement did not exist when Star Trek the original series was conceived, but Alcubierre stated in an email to William ShatnerWikipedia that his model was directly inspired by the warp drive used in the show,[30] and he references it in his 1994 paper.[31] Before you get too excited, while this method of faster-than-light travel works in terms of abstract physics with an arbitrary energy state, forming the bubble has impossible energy requirements (of the order of perfect annihilation of Jupiter-sized masses of matter and antimatter)[32] and requires the output be pure negative energy, a configuration that is not known to be possible outside of a blackboard. Alcubierre's model also only describes the drive once it is in motion: it is not particularly clear how one would decide which direction it goes in, let alone stop it.

While teleportation-like stuff has also existed before in other works, either sci-fi or fantasy ones, Star Trek popularized it. It's even more curious when one notes it was purely created as a way to save on the budget by not having a ship landing each episode, since Roddenberry had a notorious dislike of using stock footage. It is really common for any quantum experiment involving some type of "teleportation" to be reported on as the first step to transporters, but it is extremely unlikely that the method shown on the show would be possible within the known laws of physics.[note 13] It is also questionable whether the person who stepped off the transporter would have the same consciousness as the person who stepped onto it, an issue the show has never really addressed (so maybe Bones was right on that one).

In contrast, The Next Generation inspired the QuickTime media player.

It should be noted, however, that Star Trek is not hard science fiction in any way. Just take a look at the Technobabble article, or look for lists of science gaffes there such as this one for The Next Generation.

See also[edit]

  • Star Wars, because we can't love both franchises, apparently. On a serious note, it's less about exploration and science (as the galaxy has seemingly already been mapped out generations ago) and instead focuses on the political breakdown leading to war. Yeah, probably reading too much into it.
  • Donald Trump - Hideous, obsessed with precious metals, demands females take their clothes off... My God, it all checks out.
  • Rupert Murdoch - Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #34


  1. Although another issue is that they impacted that culture, causing changes in it that would not have happened naturally. This is a big DON'T in Starfleet.
  2. It was not actually the first show, as often claimed, but it is the most well known of the shows to have done it
  3. When this episode was being filmed, the network wasn't sure whether to go through with the kiss, so they decided to film the scene twice, one with the kiss and one without. The actors filmed the kiss perfectly, but deliberately screwed up every other take so that the network would have no choice but to air the original.
  4. Sure, it makes Avatar look subtle by comparison, but when there are real people being killed purely because of ignorance and hate (especially because of the colour of their skin), and many of the guilty are unintelligent to begin with, subtlety is a liability.
  5. Although, technically, Benjamin Sisko was only a Commander, and didn't become a Captain until Deep Space Nine's fourth season, but he was still firmly in charge of an entire space station.
  6. Which, admittedly, was a perfect match for Shatner's acting talents after they'd switched bodies.
  7. To be fair to Star Trek this is a problem seen in nearly all science fiction to the point it is a trope. It even has a name — "Planet of Hats"
  8. That said, the whole plot of Bashir being genetically engineered and having to hide his true nature was to cover up a mid-series reworking of the character because audiences were finding him to be a smarmy, annoying creep: this was rather better than doubling down and changing nothing as Voyager later did with Neelix.
  9. As almost everything is automated, under the control of just one master computer, and seemingly there're no manual overrides, nor backups and/or critical systems with their own computers. This is the Enterprise, not a rusty old space freighter nobody cares about.
  10. See the previous note.
  11. As in tools like wrenches, screwdrivers, etc.
  12. Holograms had been introduced in "The Practical Joker" episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series in 1974 but it is generally regarded as non-canon
  13. Mostly due to Heisenberg's uncertainly principle and the ludicrously huge amount of information needed to transmit and recreate a human from the subatomic level. The show added "Heisenberg compensators" as a nod to the former.


  2. "We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes." – The man himself
  3. Braga, Brannon (June 24, 2006). "Every religion has a mythology". International Atheist Conference. Reykjavik, Iceland. Retrieved May 11, 2009.
  4. "Gene Roddenberry .". 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
  5. "Bread and Circuses", Memory Alpha
  6. "This crew has been to many places in the galaxy. They've been witness to many strange events. They are trained to know that what seems to be impossible often is possible given the scientific analysis of the phenomenon." – Spock, "Turnabout Intruder" (1969)
  7. Julia Galef, The Straw Vulcan
  8. Patrick Stewart recounts the story, courtesy of YouTube.
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Number One (Star Trek).
  10. "Blood and Fire", Memory Alpha
  11. From Star Trek to Star Wolf: David Gerrold's Worlds of Star Trek
  12. Long-suppressed gay Star Trek episode comes out
  13. Official site for the episodes
  14. Jonathan Frakes is known to have wanted at least the alien he actually kissed to be played by a man.
  15. An article in The Huffington Post has the details.
  18. 'Star Trek Discovery' to Boldly Feature Gay Characters
  19. Cover Star Tig Notaro Is Blazing a Path Between Comedy and Tragedy
  20. Star Trek's new characters Gray and Adira are transgender, non-binary
  21. "Dagger of the Mind"
  22. "Doomsday Machine"
  23. "Patterns of Force"
  24. "Ultimate Computer"
  25. "Whom Gods Destroy"
  26. Sfdebis Spirit Folk review
  27. Engineering and Star Trek
  30. Shapiro, Alan. "The Physics of Warp Drive". Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  31. Alcubierre, Miguel (1994). "The warp drive: Hyper-fast travel within general relativity". Classical and Quantum Gravity 11 (5): L73. arXiv:gr-qc/0009013. Bibcode 1994CQGra..11L..73A. doiWikipedia:10.1088/0264-9381/11/5/001. 
  32. Other calculations by NASA suggest much less (around 700 kilograms). It's still like the difference between a pool of unicorn tears or just a small vial of them though.