#2. Everyone in the Future Is Dangerously Naive
Working on the Enterprise is one of the best jobs ever imagined in any work of fiction, ever. Your ship is the most technologically advanced piece of equipment humanity has ever developed, you have limitless resources and funding, and your mission is "screw around in space until you find something awesome, then try to make friends with it." It's like spending five years on StumbleUpon, only instead of just pulling things from the Internet, you're drawing from the entirety of things that exist in the universe.
"As long as you stay in this general area, you're doing your job."
However, because they're exploring the perilous reaches of the unknown, they have to be prepared for anything. Luckily, they have the most competent and highly trained emergency specialists in the history of remote exploration.
Star Trek is a utopian vision -- it portrays a future in which mankind has advanced and left behind its primitive, savage ways. But somehow this has resulted in a race in which cynicism, and even basic caution, is in short supply.
A race naive enough to believe that a beard hides obesity.
For instance, nobody in the 23rd century seems prepared for any type of chaotic aggression. It's like the Enterprise is crewed by the G-rated future culture Sylvester Stallone wakes up to in Demolition Man -- they're so stunned to learn that anyone could actually be mean that half of the ship has already been taken over by the time any of them have heroically powered through enough of their disbelief to react. Heck, the problems at the center of most episodes of The Next Generation could've been solved in minutes if the crew had the slightest instinct to take basic precautions.
The episode "Symbiosis" features a particular alien race that has the ability to electrocute people through physical contact. Riker makes sure his security team is aware of this fact before stumbling headfirst into an electro-boob-clutch himself.
Pictured: Riker, not following one damn word of his own instructions.
No insulated vests, no "Don't let any of those daffy zap creatures get anywhere near you" level of alertness -- he just lumbers right into the alien and gets put out of commission.
In "The Neutral Zone," Lieutenant Data beams three frozen people from the late 21st century back aboard the Enterprise (without telling Picard, for some reason). When the three of them wake up, one of the guycicles starts hassling Picard over the intercom until the captain confronts him and tells him to stop. When the unfrozen douchebag asks why the intercom doesn't have any special security to keep jackasses like him from using it, Picard says, "Because most people have better judgment." Picard has clearly never been in a Walmart where the pager phone was carelessly left off the hook waiting for anyone walking by to practice their "Darth Vader shitting his pants" routine to the delight of everyone in the store.
"Welcome to the future. Think of it as one giant honor bar."
Oh, and what about diseases? The Enterprise is constantly beaming people aboard and sending crew members running up to shake the new arrivals' hands (or, in Riker's case, engaging their pelvic thrusters for crotch-docking) without so much as administering a quick blood test to make sure they aren't carrying an airborne strain of Space AIDS. Occasionally they reference bio-filters in the transporter technology, but that information gets a lot less comforting after you watch episodes like "Unnatural Selection," which specifically shows people bringing diseases on board through the transporter.
We'll accept that most people in the Federation are decent enough to not break the rules whenever they feel like it, and that civilized life on Earth has advanced to a point where criminal activity is more or less unheard of. But the whole point of the Enterprise's mission is to discover bizarre new life forms, and some of them are bound to be mind-ripping star beasts who simply do not subscribe to the honor system. And shoving your hands in your pockets and whistling your way through the galaxy isn't going to keep you safe from the billions of rapacious multidimensional contagions waiting to turn the Enterprise into the Event Horizon. The most competent and cautious person on the bridge is probably Lieutenant Worf, and, unsurprisingly, there's a montage of people telling him to shut the hell up.
And a montage of him getting beat down.
#1. The Earth Has Been Completely Destroyed by War Several Times Over
As we mentioned, the characters in the various television shows and movies are happy to brag about how war, disease, and hunger have all been eradicated by the 23rd century, thanks to cultural and technological innovations such as replicators that can eliminate any shortage and giant spaceships with laser cannons that discourage people from starting international incidents. What could possibly be the downside to that?
Aside from "Synthehol."
Well, in order to get to that utopia, everything you have ever loved was torn apart by world war, engulfed in atomic fire, or executed in a mass genocide.
Roughly 90 percent of the time anyone in Star Trek mentions how wonderful the Federation is, they make some offhand reference to one of three major incidents in Star Trek canonical history: the Eugenics Wars, the Third World War, and the Post-Atomic Horror.
During this stunning trifecta of apocalyptic shame, every major city on Earth was destroyed, millions were killed in a nuclear war, and millions more, infected by radiation, were executed to prevent their damaged genes being passed on to future generations. We even get to see this period a couple times -- Q, a recurring character on The Next Generation with godlike powers, recreates a trial from the Post-Atomic Horror on the bridge of the Enterprise, and it's goddamn horrifying.
It also totally looks like Thunderdome.
Star Trek implies that the human race needed to go through this dark era of near extinction in order to achieve the utopia that is the Federation. In an episode of Enterprise, one character (we'd specify which one, but let's face it, nobody watched that show) says that after the Horror ended, it took only two generations to completely end poverty, disease, and war. Therefore, the only thing holding us back from a divine future is everything about contemporary society and culture. Our current way of life has to completely dissolve if we ever hope to zip around the galaxy in awesome spaceships with holographic sex chambers.
It actually manages to get worse the closer you look at it -- as the Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha points out, different Star Trek series have shown certain parts of the world living peacefully during the Horror. Which parts? Well, America, obviously, and possibly Western Europe. So where was the devastation? Where did this wanton murderous destruction spring from? Are there any hints, like maybe in that episode where Q shows us the godawful trial from that catastrophic period of Earth's history?
Is that Peter Dinklage with a Fu Manchu?
Yep. Let that picture soak in for a minute. Based on what we see in flashbacks, it seems like most of the worst stuff from the Post-Atomic Horror happened in Asia. And Khan, the prime dictator from the Eugenics Wars and one of the most notorious villains in any of the Star Trek series, was a Sikh from northern India (despite being played by a Ricardo Montalban making no attempt to hide his Mexican accent).
"I'm as Sikh as pico de gallo."
Yeah, we think we get the message, guys.
J.F. Sargent is a Workshop moderator for Cracked that you can find on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Kier is also a Workshop moderator on Cracked, and you can also find him on Twitter. Sarge and Kier would both like to thank Lillian Marx for her help in writing this article.
For more fictional worlds that make us need new under, check out 6 Horrifying Implications of Awesome Fantasy Movie Universes and 6 Horrifying Implications of the Harry Potter Universe.
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