Star Trek Politics


Time to renew my creds as Chief Geek of this blog.  I have come across one of the best essays I have ever read about Star TrekThe Politics of Star Trek by Timothy Sandefur, which appears in the Claremont Review of Books:


Star Trek VI opens with a shocking betrayal: without informing his captain, Spock has volunteered the crew for a peace mission to the Klingons. Kirk rightly calls this “arrogant presumption,” yet the Vulcan is never expected to apologize. On the contrary, the film summarily silences Kirk’s objections. At a banquet aboard the Enterprise, he is asked whether he would be willing to surrender his career in exchange for an end to hostilities, and Spock swiftly intervenes. “I believe the captain feels that Starfleet’s mission has always been one of peace,” he says. Kirk tries to disagree, but is again interrupted. Later, he decides that “Spock was right.” His original skepticism toward the peace mission was only prejudice: “I was used to hating Klingons.”


This represented an almost complete inversion of Star Trek’s original liberalism, and indeed of any rational scale of moral principles at all. At no point in the show’s history had Kirk or his colleagues treated the Klingons unjustly, whereas audiences for decades have watched the Klingons torment and subjugate the galaxy’s peaceful races. In “Errand of Mercy,” they attempt genocide to enslave the Organians. In “The Trouble with Tribbles,” they try to poison a planet’s entire food supply. The dungeon in which Kirk is imprisoned in this film is on a par with Stalin’s jails. Yet never does the Klingon leader, Gorkon, or any of his people, acknowledge—let alone apologize for—such injustices. Quite the contrary; his daughter tells a galactic conference, “We are a proud race. We are here because we want to go on being proud.” Within the context of the original Star Trek, such pride is morally insane.


Go here to read the rest.  The ending paragraph is on target:

Over nearly 50 years, Star Trek tracked the devolution of liberalism from the philosophy of the New Frontier into a preference for non-judgmental diversity and reactionary hostility to innovation, and finally into an almost nihilistic collection of divergent urges. At its best, Star Trek talked about big ideas, in a big way. Its decline reflects a culture-wide change in how Americans have thought about the biggest idea of all: mankind’s place in the universe.

If anything like the Federation were ever to exist, no matter how noble in original intention, I think I would eventually end up agreeing with this speech by Commander Eddington:



More to explorer


  1. I really enjoyed the linked article. I grew up enjoying Star Trek TOS. I couldn’t help but wonder why the author didn’t mention the Episode “Omega Glory” which dealt with lost ideas and traditions that adhere to them even though no one understands them.

  2. To Paul: Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I think I should have wrote my question more clearly. I was referring to the original author of the linked article from

  3. The author’s evidence against TNG is not very strong. In “Redemption”, Picard does cite the Prime Directive in not interfering in the Klingon Civil War (which was the official Federation position BTW), but in “Redemption II”, Picard proposes, organizes, and leads a blockade against the Romulans to prevent them from helping the Duras sisters. As to the Baku, what exactly is wrong with their way of life? So they renounce technology and don’t explore the universe. How exactly would that (hypothetically) bother Kirk? They want to live simply and be left alone. Comparing them to the slaves from “The Apple” isn’t accurate because they’re free and chose their way of life.

    The view the author gives about Star Trek VI is interesting and one that I honestly never considered even though it makes a lot of sense. I also can’t see TV series Kirk letting the Klingons off the hook morally so easily, especially after experiencing how they treat prisoners first-hand.

  4. I was generally annoyed by TNG. There was a bunch of pontificating, endless talk and countless “diagnostics”. I see parallels between TNG and the Catholic Church since the 1960s. They are both soft in the face of evil.

    One thing I have learned in my nearly 52 years. Evil exists in the world. There have been evil kings and queens, evil dictators and evil ideologies (Communism, National Socialism and Islam). No amount of nice changes that. The Church fully understood this until the Second Vatican Council.

  5. A bad strain of utopianism entered the Church with Vatican II, that, and a strong desire to solve the problems of the world through secular authorities, especially the United Nations. After the experience of the Church with Caesar over the past 21 centuries one would think that the Church was immune from such delusions, but such has not been the case, at least since 1965.

  6. Foxfier–

    I think you misunderstand me — I was talking about the Baku from “Insurrection”, not the episode “The Way to Eden”. I agree with you about that episode. I also agree with the general thesis of the article: namely that “Star Trek” closely tracks with liberalism throughout the late 20th century. I was not impressed by the examples the author used. Instead, he could have mentioned the remarkable fact that a counselor is a bridge officer on board the Enterprise-D, yet there are zero chaplains (or any presence of religion). There’s a lot of talk about feelings and such. Also, It’s a bizarre move to have families and children aboard, considering all the dangers that come with exploration and the fact that you might have to go eyeball to eyeball with the Romulans or the Cardassians. Bringing up these two thematic points would have made his case a lot better, showing the triumph of the therapeutic and a more utopian idea of the galaxy.

  7. Aaron-
    I’m really confused, now– I can’t see mention of anybody objecting to the Ba’ku wanting to not use technology, it’s just a standard higher-ranking-guys-want-to-take-the-planet theme, so I found the only Kirk that was close…..
    I tend to blur stories if they didn’t REALLY impress me, so I go look it up….
    Given some of the stuff we do see, I like the fan theory that religion is officially suppressed.

  8. Good night ! I too grew up watching and enjoying the original series — seen the episodes many times each. I never attended a convention though. I had no idea there was such serious discussion about this stuff. From the sounds of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is at least one PhD dissertation on “The Politics of Star Trek,” and perhaps some other topics as well. Way back I attended the Univ. of Dallas (the Catholic school, not the UT system UT-Dallas — they are often confused, even here locally in DFW). My politics professor for the one required Politics 101 class I took was Prof. Marini associated with Claremont. We just read stuff like The Federalist (papers) and Plato. We missed out on Star Trek a’ la Claremont. Kind of a bummer, now that I know their Review takes this stuff seriously. He was holding out on us ! ; )

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