5 Horrifying Implications of the 'Star Trek' Universe
Star Trek presents us with a glittering, hopeful future full of worldwide peace and cooperation, scientific achievement, and universal discovery. It's a utopian society wherein all races (black, white, human, or alien) and genders (male, female, or alien-with-boobs) are considered equal. However, there are some horrible implications behind all the awesome technology and progressive ideology that are never addressed, probably because they make everyone in Star Trek look like incompetent goofs, closeted racists, or burgeoning sociopaths.
Kirk Is Destined to Accidentally Start a Horrific War
In the 2009 reboot, cadet James T. Kirk gets thrown headlong into a desperate situation that sees him promoted to first officer and then to captain of the Enterprise within the space of 12 hours. And why not? His bold heroics and plucky determination save the ship, its crew, and indeed the entire planet Earth from getting blasted into scattered bloody chunks of smoldering space murder by a scowling trench coat alien with tribal tattoos and the face of Eric Bana.
So, at the end, Kirk attends a spirited awards ceremony that in no way resembles the ending of Star Wars, and Starfleet awards him with permanent command of the Enterprise.
"I thought we were switching to the green uniforms next week."
Think about how easy it is to unwittingly insult someone from another country if you don't know every little thing about their culture (innocent hand gestures that are friendly in one country will start a fistfight in another). Now imagine the potential for disaster when talking to someone from another species. See, that's why, in the Star Trek universe, it takes so much education and training to become captain of a starship -- in the original TV series, Kirk was the youngest captain in Starfleet history ... after a mere 14 years of training.
And at least eight years of stress eating.
The "You're a pretty good pilot, here's the keys to the ship!" plot point works fine in something like Star Wars, when Luke is pushed to the front of the Rebellion simply because they desperately need anyone with a pilot's license to help blow up a giant laser moon. But the Starship Enterprise is on a long-term diplomatic peacekeeping mission around the galaxy on behalf of the space United Nations. Its job is to contact new civilizations (as it says at the beginning of every episode) and spread the Federation's message of peace and togetherness. Humanity's entire relationship to these new races will be defined by this first impression. We've seen starship captains broker peace treaties and make decisions that affected the entire future of an alien civilization.
The rebooted Jim Kirk, meanwhile, is a drunken asshole who punched his way onto a Starfleet recruiting shuttle -- at the time of his whirlwind promotion, he'd only been in the academy for three years. Giving him the job is like sending Jason Statham to negotiate peace talks in the Green Zone. Putting that cowboy at the helm of Earth's humanitarian flagship is probably going to trigger more space wars than have ever been documented in the history of science fiction, even if the movie portrays the job as being mostly running down hallways and dangling off cliffs.
"Hmm. These tense peace negotiations could use a Kirking."
Starfleet Doesn't Outfit Its Vessels With Basic Safety Features
The Enterprise is the pinnacle of human technological achievement -- it scoots through space at the speed of scientific victory to bridge gaps between galaxies that were previously impossible to even dream about crossing. Bearing that in mind, how often do you see the bridge explode in a burst of sparkler dust after the Enterprise gets hit by an enemy photon torpedo?
Bridge duty is only slightly safer than toaster bathing.
The answer is every goddamned time. Every time anything bad happens to the outside of the ship, the interior pisses out electric fire like an overloaded wall socket. It even frequently kills people, to the point that we're not sure which is more dangerous -- being a nonrecurring character on an away team, or being a nonrecurring bridge officer within range of an explodable duty station.
"Sweet space Jesus!"
Considering how advanced starship technology is supposed to be, there's no reason this deadly festival of lights should ever happen. Contemporary vehicles have all kinds of barriers between the users and the actual machinery -- circuit breakers, computer chips, even pulley systems built into the design specifically to keep people from getting detonated by console explosions. Starfleet apparently doesn't care enough about the staff of its ships to take obvious precautions that were perfected almost three centuries prior.
You could say that this is all because they're getting hit with energy weapons, and they overload the ship's systems and cause circuits to explode (or something), but damn it, this is a universe in which those weapons are common -- you're getting hit with that shit every week. It's time to invest in a system that lets you take minor damage to the hull without delivering the blast directly into the face of the first officer.
"WHY DO WE HAVE THESE?"
The Holodeck Creates (and Then Destroys) Hundreds of Sentient Beings
Forget about the starship -- the holodeck is the one Star Trek invention everyone wishes they owned. It's a special room aboard the Enterprise that can create fully tangible holographic versions of any experience its user requests, providing a place where every member of the crew can cosplay in quiet seclusion, free from the sneering japes of judgmental shipmates.
"Computer, initiate Femme Fatale Blowjob Delta."
And of course, to complete the fantasy, the computer makes sophisticated artificial people for you to interact with. For example, in the episode "11001001," Riker has the holodeck conjure a woman for him, because it's Thursday, and Thursday is boner night. Riker goes through several different potential virtual companions that he dismisses for their subpar whorishness until finally deciding on "Minuet" as the holographic projection sexy enough to listen to him play jazz trombone for three hours. He has a drink with her and develops real feelings for the fake girl.
"For you see, my erection is real."
But hell, if you can't use the holodeck for that, what good is it?
These artificial people are sentient beings.
When Picard is playing 1920s detective dress-up during one of his holodeck jaunts, the computer-generated people he interacts with begin to realize that they aren't real. One of them asks Picard:
"When you're gone, will this world still exist? Will my wife and kids still be waiting for me at home?"
"Will the whole world still dress like shitty cosplayers?"
That's right! He had an entire memory of a real life, and a family, and a sense of self-preservation programmed into him. He was a real person, and he didn't want to die. And nobody cared. In another episode, a holodeck character concocted a plan to escape into the real world, rather than be trapped in that virtual hell where he can be switched off at the whim of whoever's playing with it that week. Now think about how Riker went rifling through a bunch of different girls before settling on the one he found hottest -- each woman presumably had a lifetime's worth of memories programmed into her, only to be destroyed after five miserable seconds of existence because Riker didn't think she was worthy of feeling his beard against her bare breasts. We're pretty sure that makes him a serial killer.
So, the holodeck is full of sentient beings that are created to satisfy a user's whim. And when the user is finished playing make-believe, those sentient beings are cast into oblivion without a second thought. The Federation is portrayed as a progressive utopia, but the holodeck seems like it could rank among the most horrifying moral lapses in the history of time.
Slavery is 100 percent cool as long as you kill them and immediately destroy the body.
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.
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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