The Philosophy of Star Trek

Isaiah McCall

Star Trek: The Original Series created a generation of nerds. Proud nerds. Nerds like me who learned a lesson or two in physics, ethics, politics, astronomy, science, and philosophy; all in three seasons of action-packed television.

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, once said, “I’ve never had a bad experience with a Trekkie.”

I take that to heart.

While the original series was severely limited by its budget — and never reached the scale that The Next Generation would two decades later — it still created some of the smartest, most compelling television ever put to air.

God, I really do love that show. Here are 9 tidbits of wisdom that Star Trek instilled in me.

Jungian psychology expressed through Star Trek

“What makes one man an exceptional leader? We see indications that it’s his negative side which makes him strong, that his evil side, controlled and disciplined, is vital to his strength. Your negative side removed from you, the power of command begins to elude you.” — Spock, “The Enemy Within”

~Little did I know Spock was echoing ideas that Psychoanalyst Carl Jung preached only a few decades before. “The Shadow” is the capacity for evil that resides in the heart of every human being. Jung believed facing this evil — and reflecting deeply on it — was the only way for a person to enter into the deepest and highest reaches of the psyche.

As you can imagine it's not for everyone.

Whom Gods destroy

“To all mankind — may we never find space so vast, planets so cold, heart and mind so empty that we cannot fill them with love and warmth.” — Garth, “Dagger of the Mind”

~Space! The final frontier.

I really do think a lot of our problems have stemmed from species-wide stagnation. We have nowhere else to explore. Nothing left to conquer. Nothing, besides ourselves. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and we’re able to travel beyond the known universe.

Soulful predators

“We’re a most promising species, Mr. Spock, as predators go. Did you know that? I frequently have my doubts. I don’t. Not any more. And maybe in a thousand years or so, we’ll be able to prove it.” — James T. Kirk, “Arena”

~Sometimes I wonder if we’re the only species out there. I know, not very Star Trek of me. But wouldn’t it be interesting if we were it? If each other is all we got. Just a thought.

Also this is from the Gorn episode! (blushes)

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

“I object to intellect without discipline. I object to power without constructive purpose!” — Spock, “The Squire of Gothos.”

~Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy was best suited for the future (our present); much like Star Trek’s wisdom. In Nietzche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” there is a character who’s small, but has a big ear. He’s a genius. He studies more than anyone else, learns the most, and everyone believes he’s a great man. But he isn’t. His intelligence is solely for himself.

This character represents 21st-century intellectuals. Their willingness to debate to no end, to create impractical theories, and their unwillingness to develop constructive solutions. Nietzche thought this big-eared man specialized too much in one thing. He was a reversed cripple, according to him.

Thanks Nietzche. Thanks Spock.

Honest Abe
“You see, in our century, we’ve learned not to fear words.” — Uhura, “The Savage Curtain.”

~This is one of my favorite episodes in Star Trek. The crew finds Abraham Lincoln stranded in space — because of course they do. This is Star Trek! — and bring him on board the Star Ship Enterprise.

When Abe finds Lieutenant Uhura on the bridge, portrayed by African American actress Nichelle Nichols, he pauses for a second.

“What a charming Negris,” Lincoln remarks.

Lincoln did not mean to offend Uhura. He quickly comes to his senses realizing he may have committed a faux pas.

“Oh. Forgive me, my dear,” he says. “I know that in my time, some used that term as a description of property.”

Uhura isn’t offended. Why should she be? They're just words after all. Maybe Star Trek is too utopian in this regard; this might be a future that never comes to pass. But I love it anyway for its striking accuracy of the fear of words we’ve developed today.

Even college professors are telling their students that words are violence; when a university is a place where minds should be challenged. Higher learning may, and in some rights, should offend you. History and the hard sciences are not politically correct. At least they’re not supposed to be.

Lincoln’s final remarks make for a perfect scene —

“The foolishness of my century had me apologizing where no offense is given.”

The meaning of life

“Beep”Capt. Pike “The Menaggerie, Part 1”

All is known

“Your will to survive, your love of life, your passion to know … Everything that is truest and best in all species of beings has been revealed to you. Those are the qualities that make a civilization worthy to survive.” — Lai the Vian, “The Empath”

Dostoyevsky once said you cannot put intelligence before love. Even a smart show like Star Trek knew that.

Fourth wall break

“I always use a stunt double. Except in love scenes. I insist on doing those myself.” — William Shatner

Shatner must be protected at all costs. At 90-years-old he’s practically beaming.

“Live long and prosper” — Spock 🖖

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USA Today Reporter and Ultramarathoner. I write about Cryptocurrency, Fitness Hacks, and Greek Philosophy. Also a diehard Trekkie |

Jersey City, NJ

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