Gimme That Star Trek Ep.10: Grading the Federation’s Utopia

Star Trek's is a utopian future, but how true is that epithet? Is the Federation as great as the show makes it out to be, or does it have a dark underbelly? Siskoid sits down with actor and fellow improviser Fred Melanson to discuss and debate the matter.

Listen to Episode 10 below!

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Credits: "Star Trek Theme" by Alexander Courage, with the Irredeemable Shagg on vocals. End theme: "Deep Space Nine Theme" by Dennis McCarthy.

Bonus clips from: Star Trek Deep Space Nine's "For the Cause" starring Ken Marshall; and Star Trek The Next Generation's "The Neutral Zone" starring Patrick Stewart.

And thanks for leaving a comment!

8 responses to “Gimme That Star Trek Ep.10: Grading the Federation’s Utopia

  1. Interesting discussion, and (I’m guessing) inadvertently timely as well, coming as it does just a few days after the US President pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords.

    It is this kind of abject terror and pig ignorance over thinking of one’s self as anything other than a citizen of a country–and nothing else–that is the biggest obstacle to achieving the world of Star Trek. Like how sexual identity will have to have been rethought once we interact with aliens, the idea that a dotted line across a map represents much of anything will undergo a rethink, too.. I watched Trek as a wee kid, and the idea that everyone FINALLY banded together sure seemed like a great idea to me.

    The one aspect to Trek’s future time that wasn’t touched upon was in FIRST CONTACT, where (to my memory) it’s stated that there was a World War III-type event which essentially reset the world, laying the groundwork for a new way of looking at things. I had always thought Trek was more optimistic, and the gleaming, beautiful, high-tech future it proposed was simply a natural evolution, not the result of a catastrophe. Oh well.

    Anyway, good discussion as usual.

        1. It was a worldwide thing – hence, their expulsion for earth on the Botany Bay. But you’re right in that it wasn’t as catastrophic as the events depicted in Encounter at Farpoint and Final Contact.

  2. Great discussion. I have to admit I sometimes think that Trek’s future in the TNG era is a bit less than desirable because it IS so automated, and everyone is so…bland. I preferred the mostly-peaceful, but still stimulating characters and situations of TOS. Made for more entertaining drama as a viewer anyway.

    A lot of this has to do with Gene Roddenberry’s changing philosophies during the interim between TOS and TMP. I recommend everyone watch the “Trouble on the Bridge” documentary, which focuses on the first few seasons of TNG. Many of the show creative staff discuss how difficult it was to write a show with very little conflict on Roddenberry’s then-new belief system. I’ve heard a lot of folks say Roddenberry wouldn’t care for DS9 and many of the Treks that followed, and they are probably right. At least later Roddenberry, anyhow.

    “Trouble on the Bridge” is still on Netflix, I believe.


    1. Looking forward to that all-beige interior of the Franklin home, modeled after the series version of Enterprise-D bridge. Now you can live like you’re in your orthodontist’s waiting room!

      Roddenberry tried to suck the drama out of this own premise. Remember that episode where a crewman died and his kid was told to “move on” by Picard (Season 1 or 2 – I forget)? I know The Great Bird was responsible for a lot of the lore that we love, but this was also the guy that pushed for Spock to be the lone gunman in a time travel movie.

      The reason DS9 worked, and arguably where Voyager dropped the ball, was by having the all internal struggles in forcing people to work together for a great good. That’s true Trek.

  3. I would say that first of all, Star Trek’s utopia is unfinished. It’s assumed to be there, but it hasn’t been worked out. The writers of a particular episode just want to do their story and figure out how to do it within the framework they’re given, and they don’t have the time or maybe the leverage to flesh it out for everyone else.

    Then with DS9, they seemed to want to distance themselves from TNG, as much as fill in the gaps, so they might as well point to the flaws instead of come up with solutions.

    But I think that the Maquis in particular show how extravagant the utopia can be. Not because they’re fleeing from it, but because they have multiple Earth-like planets to themselves. They feel so entitled to it that they’ll risk bringing about a galactic war, rather than build 100 towns on one planet with 20 of them per continent. Or maybe there’s a planet with a hundred Australias. How much space do these humans need?

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