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08 Sep 2016

50 Years of Political Messages in Star Trek

50 years ago today, on September 8, 1966, the very first episode of Star Trek, "The Man Trap", aired on NBC. Although this TV production was ambitious and accordingly expensive for its time, no one would have anticipated the long success story of the franchise. Star Trek is the yardstick for intelligent science fiction on television still today. Leading scientists and engineers tell us Star Trek has been an inspiration in their career. And looking beyond the merely scientific or technical aspects of the show, to this day Gene Roddenberry's creation is unrivaled within the genre as a vision of a bright and desirable future. We could say that Star Trek's positive prospect is so powerful that no television producer would dare to enter a competition with the clear market leader in the field of utopian science fiction.

These days, columnists like to muse about what Star Trek would be if Gene Roddenberry were still alive, which they interpret in a way to either praise or criticize recent developments. Would Roddenberry like the Abrams movies? A gay Sulu? Bryan Fuller's still unaired "inclusive" series Star Trek Discovery? I don't like to engage in such speculation, so I rather look back at the political messages I see in Star Trek, and ahead at what I expect from it in the future.

Read the full essay.

Bernd Schneider


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  • 18 Apr 2017

    The Prime Directive seems open to interpretation-at least if the lives of Starfleet crew are in danger. As Picard points out in "Contact," it's as much to protect them as it is to protect a less advanced species.

    In "Home Ground" a terrorist calls out Doctor Crusher on how arrogant the Federation might sound to others when she talks about humanity's "moral" superiority. On DS9, O'Brien wonders if humans have really changed after being forced to kill another prisoner in self defense while being held in a virtual prison. And Quark calls out Sisko on slavery and concentration camps, saying that perhaps the reason humans don't like the Ferengi is because they remind them too much of themselves...I've always been bothered by Picard's reaction to the 20th century survivors, after all he likes Dixon Hill stories and seems to have no problem with recreating Hill's fictional world on the Holodeck.

  • 10 Apr 2017

    You don't add anything new to the discussion, except dismissing evidence that points to the existence of something like money also within the Federation. The resource based economy is a possibility that I addressed too but without settling on it as an absolute truth.

  • 10 Apr 2017

    Actually this is entirely wrong. The only time money is used is when officers are buying extra things like boats and ships of their own from independent builders/contractors/vendors outside of the federation. Additionally ALL planets have a negotiating point for joining the federation as to whether or not credits will be needed to continue commerce with them. This means that these transactions are entirely outside of the federation.

    All of the basics are met entirely free withing the Federation and it's allied worlds who are in a similar resource based economy! (ie. housing, food, clothing, transportation, medical care, education, entertainment, news, computers, information, power are ALL provided for every man woman and child on earth!)

    All of the examples you talked about above are still supportive of the statement that Picard said "The acquisition of things is no longer the driving force in our lives, we work to improve humanity" which is still absolutely true in a Resource Based economic structure.

    In a Resource Based Economy all goods and services are available to all people without the need for means of exchange such as money, credits, barter or any other means. For this to be achieved all resources must be declared as the common heritage of all Earth’s inhabitants.

    Your examples are showing bartering with outside sources that do not provide services for free outside of the federation which is the whole point of those of us who have already examined these episodes and explained them time and time again.

  • 09 Apr 2017

    I'll review Renegades when all parts of the episode are out.

  • 09 Apr 2017

    Sounds possible.

  • 09 Apr 2017

    I would have loved to see more episodes, but I understand they are probably going to finish just the episodes whose production has begun.

  • 09 Apr 2017

    Sure. That's a possible positive interpretation. Yet, I don't like how he glosses over the lost game when the appropriate reaction should have been to realize that the game and the demand to win it was a mistake.

  • 08 Apr 2017

    I personally see "Holosuite" as being about Sisko getting over the "win at any cost" attitude and enjoy a game as just a game.

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