If daily life is not concerned with familiar economic activities and the whole of life is not informed with religious purposes, then what is life all about in Star Trek? Well, the story is about a military establishment, Star Fleet, and one ship in particular in the fleet, the Enterprise. One might not expect this to provide much of a picture of ordinary civilian life; and it doesn’t. One never sees much on Earth apart from the Star Fleet Academy and Picard’s family farm in France — unless of course we include Earth’s past, where the Enterprise spends much more time than on the contemporaneous Earth. Since economic life as we know it is presumed not to exist in the future, it would certainly pose a challenge to try and represent how life is conducted and how, for instance, artifacts like the Enterprise get ordered, financed, and constructed. And if it is to be represented that things like “finance” don’t exist, one wonders if any of the Trek writers or producers know little details about Earth history like when Lenin wanted to get along without money and accounting and discovered that Russia’s economy was collapsing on him. Marx’s prescription for an economy without the cash nexus was quickly abandoned and never revived. Nevertheless, Marx’s dream and Lenin’s disastrous experiment is presented as the noble and glorious future in Star Trek: First Contact, where Jean Luc Picard actually says, “Money doesn’t exist in the Twenty-Fourth Century.”
So what one is left with in Star Trek is military life. —Kelly L. Ross —The Fascist Ideology of Star Trek: Militarism, Collectivism, & Atheism (Friesian)
Great suggestion, Will.
Much of this article points out the problems that come from a show that encompassed several different series, with a profusion of writers, directors, designers, and producers. Star Trek began in the 60s, during a time when TV shows were seen once or twice on their first runs, then syndicated in reruns, in an age when people couldn’t freeze-frame to note that the background matte painting for the lithium cracking station from “Where No Man…” is the same painting used, with a few modifications, for a penal colony on another planet in “Dagger of the Mind.” So many of the problems with inconsistencies in the depiction of such concepts as finance, religion, and military service are due to the fact that the various episodes were written by people who emphasized different things at different times. It’s a bit silly to criticize Star Trek for not following the protocol of naval ships, but it’s also sloppy and careless of the producers of a show with such an intense following to let obvious continuity errors slip into the show. What was with the signs in the elevator shaft in Star Trek V that showed something like 75 decks? Where, in the Enterprise, is there room for an unbroken vertical shaft with that many levels? (Okay, maybe that number “75” wasn’t supposed to represent the floor number. Still…)
If the producers of Star Trek can’t even agree with each other about such things as how many decks the Enterprise has, it’s no surprise that their depictions of such complex things as money and religion are also muddled.
While Star Trek often had its heroes deposing an alien computer posing as a god, I think the treatment of religion in the Star Trek world is more complex than Ross suggests.
The article also doesn’t acknowledge that the original series contained several specific references to religion. In “Bread and Circuses,” the original series Enterprise officers dismiss religious references to “the sun,” only to be told by Uhura, who monitored their planetary communications, that the people were really talking about “the Son of God.” Kirk’s final line before a “happy music” fade-out, something like, “And the word is spreading only now,” suggests acceptance.
In an early episode, Kirk performs a marriage ceremony in a room identified as a chapel, where we later see a crew member grieving (kneeling, if memory serves).
In “Dagger of the Mind,” a woman named “Helen Noel” refers to an encounter with Kirk during a “Christmas party.”
It’s true that The Next Generation went out of its way to challenge traditional religious notions, as when Picard is prepared to die in order to prove to the natives in “Who Watches the Watchers” that he is not divine. And the “Q” entity is a farcical rendition of an omnipotent being who finds himself eternally confounded by the humanistic logic and integrity of the mere mortals with whose lives he eternally meddles.
It’s also true that Klingon and Bajoran religious practice is a mishmash.
I’d have to Google to find the specific reference, but the original series show “The Empath” features a scene — possibly viewed via record logs — of a brief conversation between two researchers, one of whom quotes a Psalm (and identifies it as a Psalm), shortly before both men are zapped and disappear from the research facility.
Rather than pull up more examples from my memory, I just Googled and found a page that has collected references to “Religion in Star Trek.”