• Entertainment /

13 science fiction authors on how Star Trek influenced their lives

By Andrew Liptak

Share this story

science fiction writers star trek

Star Trek has had an enormous influence on the world of science fiction ever since it aired on NBC in 1966. Gene Roddenberry’s drama aboard a spaceship introduced millions of viewers to science fiction across the world, and inspired some viewers to become science fiction authors in their own right.

We asked a handful of authors how they came to discover Star Trek , and how the show inspired them. Here is what they told us:

Allen M. Steele, author of Coyote and Arkwright :

I was eight years old when Star Trek came on the air, so I was in on it from the beginning... but in a strange sort of way. The NBC affiliate in my hometown, Nashville TN, didn't show the first season; it was pre-empted in that Friday 9PM time slot by a locally produced country music program. No one knows the the reason why — NBC had been showing preview trailers for Star Trek all summer long, so kids like me were looking forward to it — although it's been rumored that WSM-TV didn't want to air a show that featured a black woman in a starring role.

science fiction writers star trek

I caught up with Star Trek the following Christmas when my sister Genevieve gave me the first Star Trek novel written by James Blish. However, because I had nothing to go on except for the James Bama cover illustration, the trailer, and a small handful of cast photos in TV Guide , my mental images of the Enterprise and its crew were almost entirely from my own imagination. For me, Star Trek began as a literary experience, not as something I saw on TV.

Therefore, on my mental screen, Kirk was much older; Spock was bald and very, very green; McCoy looked like my pediatrician (who had a strong resemblance to Leo G. Carroll); and the interior of the Enterprise looked much like the Jupiter II from Lost in Space . It wasn't until the following year that WSM finally dumped the Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton Show and began showing ST in the middle of its second season, and that's when I got to see what all these people and places really looked like.

Stanley Love, retired Astronaut, STS-122

I grew up watching Star Trek reruns. When I was twelve years old, my favorite sweater was a blue one with Mr. Spock's science-section badge sewn on it. At that age, I couldn't have articulated why I liked the show so much. Now I can. Where else could you watch a diverse crew working together in harmony? Where else could you watch people using science and technology to defeat villains and overcome terrible obstacles? Where else could you watch hot girls in skimpy outfits? Okay, maybe there were other opportunities for that last one, but Star Trek did sort of offer one-stop shopping in that regard.

Star Trek was one of the things that guided me into a career in space exploration: a doctorate in Astronomy, research in planetary science, work in aerospace engineering, and eventually a billet on a Space Shuttle mission. Even after years of working in space exploration and following science fiction, Star Trek still stands out as an example for both. Listen. We must all go to the future, or perish along the way. There are no other options. Star Trek , unlike much contemporary science fiction, shows us a future worth dreaming about — and a future worth working hard to make real.

Peter Tieryas, VFX artist and author of United States of Japan:

What I loved about Star Trek was that its focus wasn't so much on science fiction as it was about humanity and deeper social issues. The best episodes bring a whole new perspective on modern problems and form an ideal which we can aspire to, whether it's the historical and moral quandaries of The Next Generation , to how religion and war push the boundaries of the Federation in Deep Space 9 .

Whenever I write, I think about the way my favorite episodes influenced me

That's in a sense what makes so many episodes timeless with messages that still resonate all the way back to TOS. Whenever I write, I think about the way my favorite episodes influenced me and try to re-create that thematic link in my stories so that it's more than just some cool sci-fi idea (or in my case, mechas fighting). One episode that has always stuck out for me was "Tapestry" from TNG . Q gives Picard a chance to change one of the big regrets in his life and he does, only to find that his earlier recklessness and boldness was what gave his life later meaning. This is one of those episodes I think a lot about whenever I'm faced with an important decision.

Mistakes are okay (even if it means losing your heart and getting it replaced with an artificial one like Picard), and accepting the parts of ourselves that we might not like as much later actually forms the "tapestry" of our lives.

Madeline Ashby author of vN , iD, and Company Town :

Growing up, Star Trek was a silly show that my dad liked, and occasionally we would watch it together. I remember sitting on the threadbare couch in the duplex my parents rented, the one with the green shag carpet that looked like Scotty had beamed it right from an M-class planet and onto our floors, and watching syndicated episodes with Dad. Dad recorded them on a Betamax, pausing during commercials and editing in-deck to create almost-seamless commercial-free episodes. Dad was convinced that "City on the Edge of Forever" was the best episode ever made. He kept it on a 4-hour Betamax tape with "The Cage." (For my money, "The Menagerie" is more interesting; Trek has always been best when it's about policy, and the implications of policy.)

science fiction writers star trek

Later the show was there for me during university, during lazy noons between classes, on late mornings with a lover who everyone agreed was more of a Spock than a Kirk. By then my friends and I were already doing nostalgic marathons of TNG : after 9/11 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, we fantasized about our leaders being Picards. It's why we voted in Obama — Obama, our first nerd president, is a Picard. I married the Spock.

Now I'm married again, to a man who is more Kirk than Spock. He's in the other room, home sick from work and watching TOS reruns as we speak. Perhaps I'm biased by current experience, but I've come to see Kirk in a new light. Kirk is just a guy who craves the validation of command, and loves his crew more than he loves the Federation. His primary goal is making sure everyone gets home okay. Like we the audience, he's happiest when the bridge crew is together, functioning well, playing their parts, doing their bit. He's as comforted and soothed by the episodic nature of his life as we are by the formula of each episode. Much has been written about the revolutionary nature of Trek , about its hopeful depiction of an inclusive future, of its predictive accuracy when showcasing the communicator and tricorder. Now, as automation ramps up and more people are out of work (or alienated from what labour they do have), I think what Trek does best is show us a future without money wherein people can and do love their jobs, challenge themselves, and think through the ramifications of their decisions. That attitude in itself is world-changing.

Geetanjali Dighe, author of Living with Trees and The Last Dying Man :

I was 10, it was the 80's. Television was new, probably a few years old in my small home town of Nagpur, in India. The Indian Government's public broadcasting arm, DoorDarshan (literally "Far Visions," shortened to DD), showed programs for a few hours a day.

On Sundays we'd wait for a foreign show called "Star Trek." About ten to twelve children of all ages would gather around the TV, sit cross-legged on the floor, and watch as a magical voiceover began. The music of opening credits mesmerized us. This show was unlike anything we had ever seen. The people in the show went places we had never imagined. None of us understood all of the English words, and subtitles wasn't a thing then. But oh there was a spaceship and there were stars!

I didn't know then that the show was a re-run. For me it was real; it was what some people did. People could go on voyages in the star-filled sky. It was a fact. I thought, this is what they did in America. In America you could go to the stars. By America I, like many others, meant all of the English speaking world. England was 'America' when I was 10.

Years later, I read hard science fiction. Years later I wore trousers because I wanted to, even if I was the first girl to do so in my colony. Years later I went on a voyage to another country, as a single woman lugging a single bag. Year later I applied for Clarion West Writers Workshop and got in on the Octavia Butler Scholarship.

I am no longer ten, and the world is not how I imagined it to be; we still have miles to go.

But it has been a blessed voyage and I still believe in the dream of Star Trek.

Eugene Myers, author of Fair Coin and Silence of Six:

Star Trek accounts for my first professional rejections; when I was in junior high, I wrote spec scripts for Star Trek: DS9 and Star Trek: Voyager (on a typewriter!) and submitted them to Paramount, which was still considering unsolicited manuscripts at the time. They didn't take them, so I guess that also makes the stories my first real attempts at fan fiction... I also submitted a story to one of the early Strange New Worlds fanfic anthologies, well before I tried writing and publishing my own original fiction. Later, Star Trek clearly influenced and perhaps inspired my first novel, Fair Coin , particularly the alternate universe episodes "Mirror, Mirror" ( TOS ) and "Parallels" ( TNG ).

I realized that the best science fiction can be entertaining as well as profound

In my freshman year of college I joined a discussion group about the "moral and philosophical issues in Star Trek ," which later expanded to reflect all science fiction. That was probably the first time I looked at the shows critically and recognized how often they commented on human nature and problems in society, as the Twilight Zone had — and realized that the best science fiction can be entertaining as well as profound. Even with all the SF literature I read growing up, Twilight Zone and Star Trek most shaped my interests in SF and the kinds of stories I want to tell.

Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of The Cold Between :

I was raised with The Original Series , and went to my first Star Trek convention when I was 11 (my dad bought me a tribble). It’s probably hard to overstate how much Star Trek has influenced my view of science fiction, and what I tend to create myself. Star Trek , even in its darkest moments, tells a story of hope, and even peace — that we may yet manage to let go of the constraints and prejudices that hold us back, and not only survive in the future, but thrive.

science fiction writers star trek

For me, the message of Star Trek has always been that each of us makes the choice — to do good, or not; to move forward, or not; to help, or not — and that our individual choice matters. We are all connected, and you don’t have to be The Chosen One to work toward a positive future. I think that’s definitely a theme in the kinds of stories I like to tell: that you don’t have to have super powers to make a difference. You just have to have courage at the right time.

Nerine Dorman, author of Khepera Rising and Khepera Redeemed :

Star Trek was my introduction to SF as a genre, and it was on telly in South Africa during the 1980s at a time when South African broadcasting was... well, not that exciting. I do recall watching it with my parents, and the series most certainly inspired us kids to be fearless explorers when we played our make-believe games. Because I was a girl, I could never be the captain, of course, but we still had loads of fun. Years later, TNG aired, and Patrick Stewart will always make my heart beat a little faster. I was able to see First Contact on the big screen, and the Borg scared me witless; on a subconscious level there was a message there too, that has taken me years to digest.

This is the future we'd like to see, where humanity is able to grow into its role as noble protectors of the galaxy

I think what I love best about Star Trek is the idealism about our future in space that is encapsulated in the setting. This is the future we'd like to see, where humanity is able to grow into its role as noble protectors of the galaxy. Star Trek is aspirational. It reminds me to look up at the stars from time to time, and dream of something more, something bigger than what we currently are — mired in petty squabbles about outdated Bronze Age godlings that cause us to tear ourselves to pieces. As a storyteller I understand that I might not be able to make those destiny-changing decisions for my species, but I can weave the tales that might inspire future decision-makers to reach for the stars instead of grubbing in mud and blood.

Susan Jane Bigelow, author of Broken and Sky Ranger :

Star Trek was one of my foundational science fiction experiences. I watched Star Trek reruns and new episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation every week with my sister in the basement of our house. I went to conventions, bought pins, wrote weird fanfic, and dreamed and dreamed and dreamed.

If I had to pick a few things, I would say that Star Trek captured the essence of a grand venture into a dangerous, limitless unknown more than any other science fiction I've ever encountered. A lot of my love of science fiction and humanity's own real-life space programs sprang from that sense of wonder Star Trek kindled in me. I also have a real love of stories set on spaceships, especially ones that are all about interaction and drama between members of the crew.

But mostly I think Star Trek gave me a love of storytelling. One of the first things I ever wrote and shared was a Trek parody called "Star Trek Sells Out," which I wrote on our Apple IIgs. The only thing I remember from it is Captain Picard saying "fire at will!" and everyone shooting at Will Riker. My jokes have improved, but that's really where it all started.

David Brin, author of Existence and Startide Rising :

Five decades ago, I was at the perfect age. Almost sixteen, pumped with eagerness for science and fiction and outer space and dreams of escaping the dreary prisons of home and high school. And suddenly on the dreary wasteland of TV, in vivid color, appeared something completely unlike anything we ever saw before. Star Trek.

But Star Trek was something else, something new. It lifted, surprised, challenged and offered hope. Amid the ructions of that awful decade – from Vietnam to civil rights to riots and assassinations – here was the notion that hope was conceivable. That (shoo-be-do) things were going to be all right.

In any event, the ship -- Star Trek’s Enterprise -- stands for something, every time we look at it. This traveling city is civilization. The Federation’s culture and laws, industry and consensus values -- like the Prime Directive -- are all carried in this condensed vessel, along with the dramatic diversity of its crew. Every single time there is an adventure, the civilization of the United Federation of Planets is put to the test, through its proxy, the hero-ship.

At times, this lets the show poke at mistakes, ways that some error or flaw or even crime is being done, in civilization’s name! And generally, it is shown best healed by light. Only, when the Enterprise (or Voyager or DS9 ) passes each test, often with flying colors, so too, by implication, does civilization itself.

A civilization that might – perhaps -- even be worthy of our grandchildren.

(Excerpted from To Boldly Go... Star Trek at Fifty )

F. Brett Cox, Professor of English, editor of Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic:

The original Star Trek first aired when I was in grade school. It was, for all intents and purposes, my first exposure to science fiction. It’s hard to overstate the show’s impact. Here was far-future space exploration presented, not as a series of brute encounters with monsters, but as a (more or less) plausible and coherent scenario.

Here was the remarkable notion that what was new and different could be understood

Here was the remarkable notion that what was new and different could be understood. Here was the basic apparatus of science fiction — first contact, time travel, interstellar travel, computer tech — presented as a given. Here was a multiethnic workplace, also presented as a given. (I would be surprised if the current generation were not sick and tired of hearing people my age go on about this aspect of the show, but it was true, and it mattered even more than you can imagine.) Here were, as needed, exciting race-against-time crises. Here was Spock. Spock! Mad love to Spock.

Did it influence my own work? Maybe not so much — although I think the first science fiction story I ever tried to write contained a reference to warp drive. Did it influence me? You bet. To this day, I cannot regard Star Trek in any of its incarnations with anything other than affection and gratitude.

Becky Chambers, author of A Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet

Some of my earliest memories are of Star Trek . I have fuzzy recollections of sitting on the couch between my parents as Jerry Goldsmith's majestic fanfare blasted out of our clunky '80s TV, eating rocky road out of the tub, too little to understand that what I was watching wasn't real. The Reading Rainbow episode "The Bionic Bunny Show" -- in which LeVar Burton goes behind-the-scenes on the TNG set -- blew my mind wide open. That was how I grasped that TV was something people made , that you could build spaceships and phasers and alien masks. That was the first domino that started me down the path toward writing sci-fi. And as I grew up, Star Trek was ever-present. I was two when "Encounter at Farpoint" aired. I was sixteen when "Endgame" aired. That's new Star Trek episodes every year, regular as clockwork, from the start of childhood to adolescence. I watched them religiously. If that's not formative, I don't know what is.

science fiction writers star trek

Star Trek has continued to shape my life since then -- I met my wife in 2004 in a Trek -themed play-by-post RPG -- and it is hands-down the biggest creative influence on my writing. I cherish Star Trek 's hopeful vision of the future, and that's a quality I aim for in my own work (albeit on a much smaller scale and different stage). I very consciously thought about Star Trek when working on my first novel -- the things I loved, the things I didn't, the ideas I wanted to riff on and take elsewhere. My imagining of the future is more scuffed and humble than Roddenberry's post-scarcity utopia, but it is born out of that idea, no question. I wouldn't be writing optimistic space opera if I hadn't been brought up with my head full of said same.

William Ledbetter, author of In A Wide Sky, Hidden , and The Long Fall Up :

I'm really old, so I remember seeing first runs of Star Trek (along with other '60s science fiction programs like Lost in Space , Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea , Johnny Quest, etc.) on network TV when I was a kid. Between programs like Star Trek and watching the actual moon landings on TV, I grew up with the idea of space travel permanently embedded in my head.

Of course I wanted to be an astronaut, but as I grew older, I realized that was going to be very hard to do, especially when the military told me I could never be a fighter pilot (that was about the only route open to being an astronaut then) since I didn't have perfect vision. So I downgraded my ambition slightly, but have still worked in the aerospace industry for the past 35 years. I've helped design rocket programs, aircraft engines, missiles, and even the radiator system for the International Space Station.

I doubt that would have happened had I not been introduced to space and the "final frontier" so early in my life. On top of Star Trek helping to launch my day job career, it helped feed my desire to write science fiction, with a focus on space travel, as well.

Apple fans are starting to return their Vision Pros

The text file that runs the internet, wyze cameras let some owners see into a stranger’s home — again, the shine comes off the vision pro, apple will reportedly face a $539 million fine over spotify’s antitrust complaint.

Sponsor logo

More from Entertainment

Splatoon 3

You should play Splatoon with your family

Stock image illustration featuring the Nintendo logo stamped in black on a background of tan, blue, and black color blocking.

The Nintendo Switch 2 will now reportedly arrive in 2025 instead of 2024

Apple AirPods Pro

The best Presidents Day deals you can already get

An image announcing Vudu’s rebranding to Fandango at Home.

Vudu’s name is changing to ‘Fandango at Home’

The Best Sci Fi Books

Find a great science fiction book, 25 best star trek books.

science fiction writers star trek

As one of the most popular franchises in movie and TV history, Star Trek is not lacking for extensive and thoughtful source material.

As of November 2019, approximately 850 novels, short story anthologies, novelizations, and omnibus editions have been published.

Star Trek books are often ignored (sometimes rightly so) by review sites like Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly , so you’ll have to decide for yourself if a certain book sounds like your cup of Earl Grey tea (hot).

Available Light

Section 31, the covert organization which has operated without accountability in the shadows for more than two centuries, has been exposed. Throughout the Federation, the rogue group’s agents and leaders are being taken into custody as the sheer scope of its misdeeds comes to light. Now Starfleet Command must decide the consequences for numerous officers caught up in the scandal—including Admirals William Ross, Edward Jellico, Alynna Nechayev, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard who, along with many others, are implicated in the forced removal of a Federation president.

Meanwhile, deep in the distant, unexplored region of space known as the Odyssean Pass, Picard and the crew of the starship Enterprise must put aside personal feelings and political concerns as they investigate a massive mysterious spacecraft. Adrift for centuries in the void, the ship is vital to the survival of an endangered civilization which has spent generations searching for a world to sustain what remains of its people. Complicating matters is a band of marauders who have their own designs on the ancient ship, with only the Enterprise standing in their way….

New Frontier

The ancient Thallonian Empire has collapsed, throwing an entire sector of the galaxy into chaos and unrest. Billions of sentient beings are faced with starvation, warfare, and worse. Faced with a tragedy of interstellar proportions, Starfleet assembles a new, handpicked crew to help where it can and report what it finds.

Captain Mackenzie Calhoun, recommended by Jean-Luc Picard himself, takes command of the USS Excalibur , which is manned by Starfleet’s best and brightest (including some familiar faces from the Next Generation series).

The Romulan Way

They are a race of warriors, a noble people to whom honor is all. They are cousin to the Vulcan, ally to the Klingon, and Starfleet’s most feared and cunning adversary. They are the Romulans—and for eight years, Federation Agent Terise LoBrutto has hidden in their midst.

Now the presence of a captured Starfleet officer forces her to make a fateful choice—between exposure, escape, maintaining her cover, or saving the life of Dr. Leonard McCoy.


Spock’s mother, Amanda Grayson, is dying. Spock returns to the planet Vulcan where he and Sarek enjoy a rare moment of rapprochement. But just as his wife’s illness grows worse, duty calls Sarek away, once again sowing the seeds of conflict between father and son. Yet soon Sarek and Spock must put aside their differences and work together to foil a far-reaching plot to destroy the Federation, a plot that Sarek has seen in the making for nearly his entire career.

The crew of the USS Enterprise journeys to the heart of the Klingon Empire where Captain Kirk’s last surviving relative has become a pawn in a battle to divide and conquer the Federation. With Sarek’s help, the crew of the starship Enterprise learns that all is not as it seems. But before they can prevent the Federation’s destruction, they must see the face of their hidden enemy, an enemy more insidious and more dangerous than any they have faced before.


The USS Enterprise is on a peaceful mission at Starbase 12 when a bizarre cosmic phenomenon causes a Klingon ship to suddenly vanish—with Spock aboard for the ride. Spock’s last message from the Klingon ship is cryptic and frightening. The Klingons are traveling into the past, searching for the one man who holds the key to the future. If they can kill that man, the course of history will be changed—and the Federation will be destroyed!

The Last Best Hope

“Fifteen years ago…you led us out of the darkness. You commanded the greatest rescue armada in history. Then…the unimaginable. What did that cost you? Your faith. Your faith in us. Your faith in yourself. Tell us, why did you leave Starfleet, Admiral?”

Every end has a beginning…and this novel details the events leading into the Star Trek TV series, introducing brand-new characters featured in the life of Jean-Luc Picard—widely considered to be one of the most popular and recognizable characters in all of science fiction.

Prime Directive

Starfleet’s most sacred commandment has been violated. Its most honored captain is in disgrace, its most celebrated starship in pieces, and the crew of that ship scattered among the thousand worlds of the Federation.

Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the former crew of the Starship Enterprise to Talin, the planet where their careers ended. A world once teeming with life now lies ruined, its cities turned to ashes, its surface devastated by a radioactive firestorm, because of their actions. There, they must find out how—and why—this tragedy occurred and discover what has become of their captain.


Trelane is revealed to be a member of the Q Continuum. He taps into the power of the continuum and uses this ability to tamper with time and reality, resulting in the intersection of three different parallel universes, which are also referred to as time “tracks.”

Track A is a universe in which Beverly Crusher’s husband Jack never died, and now serves as captain of the Enterprise with Jean-Luc Picard as his first officer; in this universe, Jack’s son Wesley died as a boy and Jack and Beverly divorced.

Track B is the traditional universe depicted on Star Trek: The Next Generation .

Track C is akin to the more militaristic alternate universe shown in the Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” in which the Federation is at war with the Klingons.

Q, who had been charged with the task of “mentoring” Trelane (a task each “adult” Q must accept at least once for an “adolescent” Q), enlists the help of Picard and the crew of the Enterprise -D in the three different timelines in order to teach Trelane discipline, and eventually, to stop him from destroying the fabric of the universe by collapsing the alternate universes together.

The Antares Maelstrom

The final frontier erupts into chaos as vast quantities of a rare energy source are discovered beneath the surface of Baldur-3, a remote planet beyond the outer fringes of Federation space. Now, an old-fashioned “gold rush” is underway as a flood of would-be prospectors, from countless worlds and species, races toward the planet to stake their claim.

The galactic stampede threatens the stability of neighboring planets and space stations, as widespread strife and sabotage and all-around pandemonium result in a desperate need for Starfleet assistance. Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are dispatched to deal with the escalating crisis… which lies on the other side of a famously perilous region of space known as the Antares Maelstrom.

Gods of Night

Half a decade after the Dominion War and more than a year after the rise and fall of Praetor Shinzon, the galaxy’s greatest scourge returns to wreak havoc upon the Federation—and this time its goal is nothing less than total annihilation.

Elsewhere, deep in the Gamma Quadrant, an ancient mystery is solved. One of Earth’s first generation of starships, lost for centuries, has been found dead and empty on a desolate planet. But its discovery so far from home has raised disturbing questions, and the answers harken back to a struggle for survival that once tested a captain and her crew to the limits of their humanity.

From that terrifying flashpoint begins an apocalyptic odyssey that will reach across time and space to reveal the past, define the future, and show three captains—Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise , William Riker of the USS Titan , and Ezri Dax of the USS Aventine —that some destinies are inescapable.

The Vulcan Academy Murders

In this award-winner for cheesiest title, Kirk and McCoy accompany Spock to the Vulcan Academy Hospital seeking experimental treatment for a badly wounded Enterprise crew member. Spock’s mother is also a patient in the hospital, and Kirk soon becomes involved in the complex drama of Spock’s family.

Suddenly, patients are dying, and Kirk suspects the unthinkable—murder on Vulcan! But can he convince the Vulcans that something as illogical as murder is possible? Until the Killer is caught, everyone is in danger!

Yesterday's Son

Five thousand years ago, on the planet Sarpedion, Spock knew a beautiful, primitive woman. When the USS Enterprise is called upon to protect the Guardian of Forever, a mysterious time portal, Spock uses it to journey to the past, and to discover his own son.

Zero Sum Game

A spy for the Typhon Pact—a new political rival of the Federation—steals the plans for Starfleet’s newest technological advance: the slipstream drive. To stop the Typhon Pact from unlocking the drive’s secrets, Starfleet Intelligence recruits a pair of genetically enhanced agents: Dr. Julian Bashir, of station Deep Space 9 , and Sarina Douglas, a woman whose talents Bashir helped bring to fruition, and whom Bashir thinks of as his long-lost true love.

Bashir and Douglas are sent to infiltrate the mysterious species known as the Breen, find the hidden slipstream project, and destroy it. Meanwhile, light-years away, Captain Ezri Dax and her crew on the USS Aventine play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a Typhon Pact fleet that stands between them and the safe retrieval of Bashir and Douglas from hostile territory.

How Much for Just the Planet?

In crystalline form, dilithium is the most valuable mineral in the galaxy. It powers the Federation’s starships and the Klingon Empire’s battlecruisers. Now on a small, out-of-the-way planet named Direidi, the greatest fortune in dilithium crystals ever seen has been found.

Under the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty, the planet will go to the side best able to develop the planet and its resources. Each side will contest the prize with the prime of its fleet. For the Federation, Captain James T. Kirk and the starship Enterprise . For the Klingons, Captain Kaden vestai-Oparai and the Fire Blossom .

Only the Direidians are writing their own script for this contest—a script that propels the crew of the Enterprise into one of their strangest adventures yet.

Desperate Hours

Aboard the starship Shenzhou , Lieutenant Michael Burnham, a human woman raised and educated among Vulcans, is promoted to acting first officer. But if she wants to keep the job, she must prove to Captain Philippa Georgiou that she deserves to have it.

She gets her chance when the Shenzhou must protect a Federation colony that is under attack by an ancient alien vessel that has surfaced from the deepest fathoms of the planet’s dark, uncharted sea.

As the menace from this mysterious vessel grows stronger, Starfleet declares the colony expendable in the name of halting the threat. To save thousands of innocent lives, Burnham must infiltrate the alien ship. But to do so, she needs to face the truth of her troubled past, and seek the aid of a man she has tried to avoid her entire life.


While Kirk and his crew struggle to free scientist Zefram Cochrane from captors, ninety-nine years in the future Jean-Luc Picard must rescue a mysterious individual who holds the key to the Federation’s ultimate survival.

A Stitch in Time

For nearly a decade, Garak has longed for just one thing—to go home. Exiled on a space station, surrounded by aliens who loathe and distrust him, going back to Cardassia has been Garak’s one dream. Now, finally, he is home.

But home is a world whose landscape is filled with death and destruction. Desperation and dust are constant companions and luxury is a glass of clean water and a warm place to sleep.

The Final Reflection

Klingon Captain Krenn is a ruthless war strategist. But on a mission to Earth, Krenn learns a lesson in peace. Suddenly he must fight a secret battle of his own. His empire has a covert plan to shatter the Federation. Only Krenn can prevent a war—at the risk of his own life.

Spock Must Die!

When a freak transporter malfunction during a Klingon attack creates an imposter Spock, Captain Kirk must discover how to save his friend from the machinations of his exact replica.

The Enterprise War

Hearing of the outbreak of hostilities between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, Captain Christopher Pike attempts to bring the USS Enterprise home to join in the fight. But in the hellish nebula known as the Pergamum, the stalwart commander instead finds an epic battle of his own, pitting ancient enemies against one another—with not just the Enterprise, but her crew as the spoils of war.

Lost and out of contact with Earth for an entire year, Pike and his trusted first officer, Number One, struggle to find and reunite the ship’s crew—all while Science Officer Spock confronts a mystery that puts even his exceptional skills to the test, with more than their own survival possibly riding on the outcome.


Returning from its historic first voyage to the edge of the galaxy, the damaged USS Enterprise journeys through the Taurus Reach, a vast and little-known region of space in which a new starbase has been unexpectedly established. Puzzled by the Federation’s interest in an area so far from its borders and so near the xenophobic Tholian Assembly, Captain James T. Kirk orders the Enterprise to put in for repairs at the new space station: Starbase 47, also known as Vanguard .

As Kirk ponders the mystery of the enormous base, he begins to suspect that there is much more to Vanguard than meets the eye. It’s a suspicion shared by the Tholians, the Orions, and the Klingon Empire, each of whom believes that there are less than benign motives behind the Federation’s sudden and unexplained desire to explore and colonize the Taurus Reach.

But when a calamity deep within the Reach threatens to compromise Starfleet’s continued presence in the region, Kirk, Spock, and several key specialists from the Enterprise must assist Vanguard’s crew in investigating the cause of the disaster and containing the damage. In the process, they learn the true purpose behind the creation of Vanguard , and what the outcome of its mission may mean for life throughout that part of the galaxy.

The Entropy Effect

The Enterprise is summoned to transport a dangerous criminal from Starbase prison to a rehabilitation center: brilliant physicist, Dr. Georges Mordreaux, accused of promising to send people back in time and then killing them instead.

But when Mordreaux escapes, bursts onto the bridge and kills Captain Kirk, Spock must journey back in time to avert disaster before it occurs.

Now there’s more at stake than just Kirk’s life. Mordreaux’s experiments have thrown the entire universe into a deadly time warp. Spock is fighting time, and the entire universe is closing in on itself.

Spock's World

On the planet Vulcan, a crisis of unprecedented proportion has caused the convocation of the planet’s ruling council, who summoned the USS Enterprise from halfway across the galaxy, to bring Vulcan’s most famous son home in its hour of need.

As Commander Spock, his father Sarek, and Captain James T. Kirk struggle to preserve Vulcan’s future, the planet’s innermost secrets are laid before the reader, from its beginnings millions of years ago to its savage prehistory, from merciless tribal warfare to medieval court intrigue, from the exploration of space to the development of o’thia—the ruling ethic of logic.

Spock, torn between his duty to Starfleet and the unbreakable ties that bind him to Vulcan, must find a way to reconcile both his own inner conflict and the external dilemma his planet faces, lest the Federation itself be ripped asunder.

Uhura's Song

Years ago, Lt. Uhura befriended a diplomat from Eeiauo, the land of graceful, cat-like beings. The two women exchanged songs and promised never to reveal their secret.

Now the USS Enterprise is orbiting Eeiauo in a desperate race to save the inhabitants before a deadly plague destroys them. Uhura’s secret songs may hold the key to a cure, but the clues are veiled in layers of mystery. The plague is killing humans, threatening other planets, and Kirk must crack the code before the Starship Enterprise succumbs.


Years before they became crewmates on the USS Enterprise , Commander William Riker and ship’s counselor Deanna Troi had a tempestuous love affair on her home planet of Betazed.

Now, as their passions have cooled, the two serve together as close friends. Yet the memories of what passed between them linger, and Riker and Troi remain Imzadi , a powerful Betazoid term that describes the enduring bond they still share.

On a delicate mission involving negotiations with an aggressive race called the Sindareen, Deanna mysteriously falls ill, and dies. But her death marks the start of an incredible adventure for Riker—an adventure that takes him across time, pits him against one of his closest friends, and forces him to choose between Starfleet’s strictest rule and the one he calls Imzadi .

9 thoughts on “ 25 Best Star Trek Books ”

Missing “Strangers from the Sky.”

Imzadi is my favorite read of the Star Trek universe. I don’t really remember how many I read, but it was a lot, mostly in Next Gen and DS9. Around the time Imzadi was published I was obsessed with the Star Trek universe and read nothing else but tie-in novels. Good times.

Would have been very disappointed had The Final Reflection not made the list. Awesome look into the Klingon Empire prior to the advent of the Next Generation

I was so happy to see Ishmael on the list. I still have the original copy I purchased back in 1985. I loved almost all the TOS books from around that time, but Ismael was my favorite. Only one I kept.

How is Destiny not on this list? You’ve got some wonderful titles here, but I think I’ve read the Destiny trilogy at least 5 times!

Zero for 25 here.

I did read the Star Trek Log books by Alan Dean Foster back in the 1970s. https://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Alan-Dean-Foster/dp/0345250427/

Best Destiny should be on here as a great alternative Kirk coming of age story versus the JJ trash. Probe would have been a good book to include, as would Strangers from the Sky as someone else pointed out. I’m also disappointed that Starfleet Year One wasn’t included. Otherwise, I agree with this list mostly.

So glad Federation made the list. It’s my all time favorite Trek novel. The Ashes of Eden is great too and deserved a spot but overall, it’s a solid list.

I am amazed the Uhura’s Song is rated second best book let alone it is on this list at all. That book is awful – probably the worst of all the Star trek books I’ve ever read and that is a lot. I’m glad to see Yesterday’s Son on the list and surprised the First Frontier is not.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

  • Newsletters

Site search

  • Israel-Hamas war
  • 2024 election
  • Supreme Court
  • Animal welfare
  • Climate change
  • What to watch
  • All explainers
  • Future Perfect

Filed under:

Harlan Ellison wrote Star Trek’s greatest episode. He hated it.

The famously cantankerous science-fiction legend died this week. The story of “City on the Edge of Forever” represents his career in miniature.

Share this story

  • Share this on Facebook
  • Share this on Twitter
  • Share this on Reddit
  • Share All sharing options

Share All sharing options for: Harlan Ellison wrote Star Trek’s greatest episode. He hated it.

Harlan Ellison in 1977

Harlan Ellison, the legendary, legendarily irascible speculative fiction writer who died this week at age 84 , wrote the greatest episode of Star Trek ever made. And he hated it.

“The City on the Edge of Forever” aired on April 6, 1967, late in the original series’ first season , and won acclaim for capturing everything Star Trek could do at its best while suggesting weighty themes and emotional depths only hinted at in previous episodes. It won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Episodic Drama on Television. Ellison accepted both. Neither salved his bitterness that the episode had been rewritten.

At the Hugos he dedicated the award to “the memory of the script they butchered, and in respect to those parts of it that had the vitality to shine through the evisceration.” “The City on the Edge of Forever” that aired may have been praised by virtually everyone who saw it, but it wasn’t his “City on the Edge of Forever,” and a compromised triumph was no triumph at all for Ellison. Ellison would spend the next several decades being publicly aggrieved by “City on the Edge of Forever.”

Was the reaction overkill? Of course. Overkill was part of Ellison’s persona. He held grudges. He deployed lawsuits liberally, sometimes successfully. (He’s now acknowledged in the credits of The Terminator thanks to one such suit.) He boasted of assaulting his publisher in the ’80s . And many never looked at him the same way after he groped author Connie Willis at the Hugos in 2006, for which he apologized — then grew angry when the apology wasn’t immediately accepted.

Ellison was famous for his contributions to science fiction and American literature, which extend well beyond his Star Trek script. But he was also famous for his grievances. The story of “The City on the Edge of Forever” represents that duality in miniature, and helps explain what made him both a beloved and divisive figure.

Star Trek ’s best episode is credited to Harlan Ellison alone. It was a lie he would not let stand.

Leonard Nimoy (as Mr. Spock), DeForest Kelley (as Dr. McCoy) and William Shatner (as Captain James T. Kirk) stand in front of The Guardian Of Forever

Here’s the version of “The City on the Edge of Forever” that’s been seen by countless viewers since 1967: After administering a small dose of a dangerous drug to Lt. Sulu (George Takei), Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) accidentally administers a massive dose to his own abdomen after getting knocked about when the Enterprise hits some interference from a strange time distortion.

Driven temporarily mad, McCoy beams down to the nearest planet, home to the Guardian of Forever, a talking portal that allows visitors to travel through time and space. When McCoy uses it to travel back to Depression-era New York, the Enterprise ’s landing party learns their ship has disappeared. Whatever McCoy has done has distorted history in such a way that the universe as they know it has ceased to exist.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) give chase, in time learning that McCoy has changed time by saving the life of Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), the near-saintly proprietor of a soup kitchen. If allowed to live, her idealistic message of pacifism and tolerance will delay the United States’ entry into World War II, allowing Hitler to develop the atomic bomb, win the war, and dominate the Earth — shutting the door on the hopeful future imagined throughout the series.

And so, as Spock says twice in the episode — first as a question then as a statement arrived at through cold, hard logic — Edith Keeler must die. The only problem: Kirk has fallen in love with her and isn’t sure he can bring himself to let her die. But, after reuniting with McCoy, he does just that, stopping the doctor from saving Edith from a truck that strikes her down in the street.

Many elements contribute to the episode’s greatness. The Guardian’s planet is an eerie, dreamlike place, one that inspires Kirk to comment, with understated poetic flair, “These ruins stretch to the horizon.” Journeyman director Joseph Pevney wisely lets the atmosphere, both of the alien world and 1930s New York, do a lot of the work.

Then there’s Shatner, who, often justifiably, gets a lot of flak for laying it on thick, but his performance here is measured. His love for Edith feels real, far removed from the flings seen in previous episodes. So does his heartbreak.

Yet much of the brilliance can be traced back to the script. Star Trek had raised philosophical issues before, but few as thorny as whether taking one life can be justified in the name of a greater good. And not just any life: Kirk falls for Edith because she’s virtuous and beautiful and finds him charming, sure, but also because she’s the living embodiment of the utopian principles he’s sworn to uphold as a member of Starfleet.

She believes in humanity’s potential to overcome hatred and selfishness, in the possibility of the better future in which Kirk lives. But to make that future possible, he has to let her die. She has the right message at the wrong time. It’s a Kobayashi Maru scenario in the form of a tragic romance.

It’s a near-perfect episode of television, recognized as such from the moment it aired. The credits bore only one name: Harlan Ellison.

Ellison knew it was a lie. He’d seen the script through several drafts, only to have it reworked, at Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s insistence, by D.C. Fontana, Gene Coon, Steven W. Carabatsos, and Roddenberry himself. Ellison asked his name be taken off, but backed down. It would be the last time he backed down on this matter.

Most writers would sit back, take the praise, and keep quiet about the sausage-making process. Ellison wasn’t most writers, telling anyone who’d listen what had happened to his script, all the alterations and adjustments that made it lesser than the version he’d dreamed up. In 1975, during a short-lived rapprochement with Roddenberry, Ellison published the original version in his collection Six Science Fiction Plays , allowing the curious to compare and contrast the version they knew with the version that might have been.

Ellison’s version shares much of the filmed version’s bone structure. The time travel, Edith Keeler, the central moral question are all there. But it also contains a murderous drug-dealing crew member (an element Roddenberry found out of sync with his vision of an idealized future and a squeaky clean Starfleet), alternate-universe space pirates summoned into existence by the altering of time, 9-foot aliens (who would become the much more budget-friendly talking portal), and a World War I veteran named Trooper.

Most significantly, at the climactic moment, Kirk can’t bring himself to let Edith die. It’s Spock who makes the choice. Ellison saw Kirk as a man who, at a critical juncture, couldn’t let the love of his life die to save the universe. Roddenberry thought otherwise. The question of which feels truer to Kirk, and to Trek , serves as a litmus test for fans of the show.

Without Ellison’s talent and imagination, “The City on the Edge of Forever” wouldn’t have existed. Applying the butterfly effect to its absence — appropriate, given the episode’s plot — the Star Trek we know today wouldn’t have been possible without the ripples of complexity and moral ambiguity Ellison helped introduce to the series. (Not that Ellison had anything nice to say about the later series.)

But Ellison, whose early history includes multiple stories of running away from home, could seemingly never live comfortably in any world, even a world he helped create, be it Star Trek or the larger world of speculative fiction, which he helped shape with his work and his championing of other writers. Because Ellison could always imagine a better world, one in which “The City on the Edge of Forever” aired without evisceration, one in which the same sort of piggish shortsightedness that led to that evisceration wasn’t allowed to run rampant in so many aspects of life, one in which everyone finally saw he was right.

Reflecting on “The City on the Edge of Forever” years later, Ellison wrote, “The solitary creator, dreaming his or her dream, unaided, seems to me to be the only artist we can trust.” Ellison did a lot of that sort of dreaming. Sometimes the dreams went astray.

Ellison always had to have the last word. And then he’d just keep talking.

Ellison’s adventures in the TV trade — there would be more, and more frustrations — prompted him to write about television for the Los Angeles Free Press, unsparing observations collected in the influential 1970 book The Glass Teat and its sequel, The Other Glass Teat . It also assured he’d keep prose as his primary profession, helping to shepherd and elevate the literary careers of others.

The landmark collection Dangerous Visions , a collection of stories from science fiction stars and stars-to-be, appeared the same year as “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Again, Dangerous Visions followed in 1972. (A long-promised third volume never arrived.) He mentored Octavia Butler and others. He wrote. And wrote. And wrote. In a 2013 interview with the Guardian , Ellison put his tally at around 1,800 short stories, novellas, essays, and scripts. Today, “The City on the Edge of Forever,” both the filmed teleplay and Ellison’s original drafts, represent only a tiny fraction of his output and influence.

science fiction writers star trek

But even with his version of “The City on the Edge of Forever” available for the world to read, the matter felt unsettled for Ellison. It didn’t help that Roddenberry was out there telling his version of the story, claiming that Ellison’s script was filled with budget-breaking elements and that he had Commander Scotty dealing drugs.

Ellison knew better. The pirates were added at Roddenberry’s insistence and Scotty never dealt drugs in any drafts. He didn’t even appear in any drafts. Then there was all that money others were making from the episode, money that seemed never to find its way to Ellison.

This would not stand. So in 1995, four years after Roddenberry’s death, Ellison published “The City on the Edge of Forever” again, this time as a standalone book titled The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay . The book includes two treatments for the episode; Ellison’s final draft of the screenplay; testimonials from Fontana, Kelley, Nimoy, and others; and a new introduction from Ellison designed to set the record straight.

The opening sets the tone:

“Speak no ill of the dead? Oh, really? Then let’s forget about a true introductory essay to this book. Let’s give a pass to setting the record straight. Let’s just shrug and say, ah, what the hell, it’s been more than thirty years and the bullshit has been slathered on with a trowel for so damned long, and so many greedy little pig-snouts have made so much money off those lies, and so many inimical forces continue to dip their pig-snouts in that Star Trek trough of bullshit that no one wants to hear your miserable bleats of “unfair! unfair” … that it ain’t worth the price of admission, Ellison.”

And so it goes for 90 profane, repetitive, discursive, hilarious, pitiless, insightful pages. It’s, in its own way, classic Ellison, who turned interviews into monologues. Smart interviewers generally knew to get out of his way and just let him talk. In the end, Ellison always had the last word. And then he just kept talking.

Ellison was sometimes too much, and too much in ways that are hard to excuse; offenses committed out of an excess of passion are still offenses. But, oh, that passion. Ellison simply had to fight back against every perceived slight and loss. He even had to fight back against any wins that weren’t on his own terms. He left behind miles of scorched earth and a towering body of work. He reshaped science fiction and changed the way his readers looked at the world. It wasn’t enough. Nothing ever was.

Will you help keep Vox free for all?

At Vox, we believe that clarity is power, and that power shouldn’t only be available to those who can afford to pay. That’s why we keep our work free. Millions rely on Vox’s clear, high-quality journalism to understand the forces shaping today’s world. Support our mission and help keep Vox free for all by making a financial contribution to Vox today.

We accept credit card, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. You can also contribute via

science fiction writers star trek

Next Up In Culture

Sign up for the newsletter today, explained.

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.

Thanks for signing up!

Check your inbox for a welcome email.

Oops. Something went wrong. Please enter a valid email and try again.

A woman holds a flashlight while kneeling, the light showing ice-covered water.

An attempt to reckon with True Detective: Night Country’s bonkers season finale

Anti-immigration protesters in Huntington Beach, California, hold a Trump flag and a sign saying “Build the Wall.”

How NIMBYs are helping to turn the public against immigrants

An illustration of a red bird looking out of a building at a natural landscape through an opening in the shape of a woman’s silhouette.

Why we fear uncertainty — and why we shouldn’t

science fiction writers star trek

This Is Me… Now is the most J. Lo thing J. Lo’s ever done

A photo of a row of yellow candles in glass jars; at the end, surrounded by roses, is a color photo of Navalny, a clean-shaven white man with sandy brown hair.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death, explained

Donald Trump’s face is in focus in a courtroom during his fraud trial.

Trump is suddenly in need of a lot of cash. That’s everyone’s problem.

September 8, 2016

The Science Sticklers Who Kept Star Trek in Line

Fifty years after the original series premiere, it's still the gold standard of scientific accuracy, even with the occasional blunder

By Thomas Vinciguerra

science fiction writers star trek

The goal of scientific accuracy began with the creator and executive producer, Gene Roddenberry (third from the right).

NASA Wikimedia Commons

In the early days of television, small-screen science fiction generally ignored the laws of nature, technology and common sense. Take the 1960s TV series Lost in Space. In one early segment a comet’s heat somehow threatens to fry a couple of members of the spacefaring Robinson family. Pretty far-fetched, considering that comets are made of ice, rock and dust.

Even quality shows like The Twilight Zone made gaffes, as in the 1962 episode “The Little People,” which postulated humanoids hundreds of feet high. Unfortunately, as a body’s height is squared, its volume is cubed. So these fictional life-forms would in reality collapse under their own weight.

Then, in 1966, came Star Trek , setting the new gold standard of scientific plausibility in TV entertainment . This year the cult series celebrates the 50th anniversary of its September 8 premiere.

On supporting science journalism

If you're enjoying this article, consider supporting our award-winning journalism by subscribing . By purchasing a subscription you are helping to ensure the future of impactful stories about the discoveries and ideas shaping our world today.

The goal of scientific accuracy began with the creator and executive producer, Gene Roddenberry. “Roddenberry told me, ‘I wanted scientists to be able to watch our show, believe it, enjoy it and not laugh at it,’” says Marc Cushman, co-author of These Are The Voyages , a three-volume set about the making of the series. “He said, ‘I wanted to know that if it’s not probable, it’s at least possible.’”

Many of the details that gave Star Trek its futuristic feel—medical monitors, hand-held communications devices, automatically sliding doors—have become reality. What, after all, was Mr. Spock’s “library computer” but an early imagining of the internet? What about those square record tapes, packed with digitized information, which the crew slipped into convenient slots for everything from readouts to meals? They were no more than 23rd-century floppy disks.

Admittedly, Star Trek sometimes reached too far. We likely won't see faster-than-light travel, aka “warp drive,” achieved anytime soon. Not to mention the transporter—a device that broke down bodies and objects into energy, “beamed” the particles to a certain point and then rearranged them into their original components. “Of everything they had on Star Trek,” Jerry Pournelle, former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, said in 1978 in the magazine Science Fantasy Film Classics , “the transporter is the toughest of the lot. It’s going to be the longest one coming.”

Nevertheless, the makers of Star Trek did try to get things largely right and reasonable, starting with the first pilot episode, “The Cage.” Roddenberry contracted with Harvey P. Lynn, Jr., a RAND Corporation physicist, to provide technical advice for a nominal fee. As later documented in a book about making the series, Lynn’s comments were varied and astute. For example, he picked up on one particular line of dialogue from the pilot script: “Any oxygen planets?” the commander asks. In his feedback on the episode Lynn wrote, “Technically, a planet could have oxygen and still be unsuitable to sustain life for many other reasons.” Hence, in the final version an Enterprise underling reports, “Our reading shows an oxygen–nitrogen atmosphere, sir. Heavy with inert elements but well within safety limits.”

Elsewhere, Roddenberry had written that the home planet of the featured alien race, the telepathic Talosians, had a gravity that was “1.3 of Earth.” But he also described the inhabitants as small and slim, with elongated heads. “This is not consistent with a gravity of 1.3,” Lynn pointed out at the time, “but it is consistent with a gravity of less than that of the Earth. Why not substitute ‘0.85,’ ‘point 85,’ or ‘85 percent’?” So the line was changed to “zero point nine of Earth.”

When Star Trek became a regular series, the show's producers turned to the De Forest Research, Inc., to provide scientific and legal guidance. “What [Roddenberry] was trying to avoid was the standard television clichés of bug-eyed monsters,” according to 89-year-old company founder Kellam de Forest.

The majority of script review fell to de Forest's then-associates, Joan Pearce and Peter Sloman. “Most of the time, the science was not at the level that I had to do too much consulting,” Sloman, 66, recalls. “Once in awhile I would call someone at U.C.L.A. in the physics department, but in most cases I knew enough. Unless it was an active violation of physical laws, I would tend to let it go, because so much had been established in science fiction. Like time travel. Wells did it, Heinlein did it, so we did it.”

Some problematic matters were solved with the stroke of a pen. In the popular comedic episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode writer David Gerrold conceived a species of cute, purring, rapidly breeding little fluff balls. But de Forest’s team pounced on the creatures' “asexual” nature. “Asexual means reproducing by fission,” they wrote. “Better make it bisexual, meaning the creature is both male and female.” So Gerrold rewrote accordingly.

Similarly, the episode “By Any Other Name,” envisioned the Enterprise crew being captured by the Kelvans, a race that could freeze their enemies’ nerve impulses. Pearce objected. “If all nerve impulses were paralyzed,” she wrote in a feedback memo, “the organism will die because the automatic as well as the voluntary muscles will be affected.” The solution: The head Kelvan intones, “You are all paralyzed by a selective field that neutralizes nerve impulses to the voluntary muscles.”

“Joan did not suffer fools gladly,” Sloman says with a chuckle. “She didn’t suffer them at all. She loved words and liked to use them properly and got pissed off when they were not.” Hence, Pearce seized on this utterance by the navigator, Ensign Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), in “Bread and Circuses” on approaching the planet 892-IV: “Only one sixteenth parsec away, Captain. We should be there in seconds.”

“This is equivalent to the driver of an automobile traveling at 60 miles per hour, saying, ‘Only a few feet away. We should be there in seconds,’” Pearce protested. “Suggest the Enterprise will be traveling at low sublight speed (for example, 5,000 kilometers per second) and the system be 100,000 kilometers away.”

Perhaps the most nettlesome scientific conundrum that Star Trek encountered occurred in “The Devil in the Dark,” written by producer Gene L. Coon. The script called for a hideous, corrosive-spitting blob of a creature that eats solid rock, moving as easily through that medium as Homo sapiens move through the air. This “horta” was made of compounds based not on carbon but on its nearest elemental relative, silicon.

Stern words came back from de Forest and company: “Silicon-based life could only develop and be sustained under conditions of extreme heat—perhaps an environment comparable to that prevailing on the planet Mercury. It could not possibly exist in the oxygen atmosphere. In the presence of oxygen the silicon compounds would undergo spontaneous chemical transformation—that is, they would burn.”

Ultimately, the Star Trek crew skirted the issue with a synthesized, artificially created, human-friendly, underground environment. That scenario still allowed for a skeptical Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) to argue, “Silicon-based life is physiologically impossible—especially in an oxygen atmosphere.” To which the ever-logical Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) responds, “It may be, doctor, that the creature can exist for brief periods in such an atmosphere before returning to its own environment.” It may have been fudging but it was also an honest attempt to reconcile scientific law and artistic license.

As Star Trek flew on, its penchant for plausibility turned out to be a double-edged sword. Fans picked up on, and began dissecting, the show’s self-assured techno-jargon. “A stereotypical letter,” co-producer Robert H. Justman mused in a later memoir, “might say: ‘In act three of last week’s show Capt. Kirk’s narration indicated a star date of 4891.4, but he’d already mentioned star date 4323.7 in act one. This means he made love to Phobos 7’s four-breast alien maiden princess before he arrived and beamed down. How can this be?”

Peter Sloman once received a letter from a high school classmate who skewered him for allowing the hull skin temperature of the show’s Galileo shuttlecraft to reach an impossibly high threshold upon reentering a planetary atmosphere. “You do realize,” Sloman’s friend wrote, “that this temperature is 500 degrees above the recrystallization point of iron?”

There were other blunders: In “The Omega Glory,” McCoy remarks that the human body is about 96 percent water. The actual figure is approximately 60 percent. In “Court Martial,” Capt. Kirk explains how to enhance the power of the Enterprise’ s computer auditory sensor. “By installing a booster, we can increase that capability on the order of 1 to the fourth power.” Alas, the good captain didn’t grasp that 1 raised to the fourth power is still 1.

Sloman, who majored in linguistics at Georgetown University, had a particular prejudice against the “universal translator,” a handheld device that, in the episode "Metamorphosis," turned extraterrestrial thoughts (not even language) into English. Unless the gizmo had bona fide telepathic powers, he argued, it was unworkable. “It was like something out of Captain Video,” a series that predated Star Trek by about 15 years.

In the end, though, when it came to serving both the god of drama and the caesar of science, Star Trek more than held its own. No less than science fiction giant Isaac Asimov said as much: “That’s what makes the difference between Star Trek and all the other science fiction series that I have seen,” he said in an interview in the mid-1970s. “ Star Trek was the only one when, whoever it was who was involved, Gene—and I mention no names—insisted on people knowing something about science and preparing. And it showed, you know! You could see that even when you broke the laws of science, you were doing it intelligently and plausibly.”

Smithsonian Voices

From the Smithsonian Museums

Smithsonian Books logo


The Influence of Star Trek and Science Fiction on Real Science

For Star Trek Day, learn about the relationship between sci-fi and real-life science in this excerpt from “Reality Ahead of Schedule”

Starship Enterprise.jpg

As with several other iconic Star Trek technologies, replicators are directly responsible for inspiring developments in real-life technology, which use 3-D printing to create food, meals, plastic and metal items, buildings, and even complex machine parts. Star Trek is far from being the only sci-fi source of inspiration for the dream of a device that can produce finished items from scratch.

Preview thumbnail for Reality Ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact

Reality Ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact

A rich visual history of science fiction's impact on real-world technologies, this book is perfect for lovers of H. G. Wells, Star Trek, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, Aldous Huxley, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

To trace the roots of Star Trek ’s replicator, it is necessary to understand that it is essentially a repurposed form of the transporter—the teleportation or matter transmission device that “beams” the crew between starship and planet surface. According to legend, the transporter was invented only because the original series lacked the budget to film special, effect-heavy scenes of planetary landing shuttles, but Star Trek did not invent the concept of matter transmission. Its first appearance in science fiction dates back at least as far as 1877, in Edward Page Mitchell’s story “The Man Without a Body,” which prefigures George Langelaan’s much better-known 1957 story “The Fly,” by having a scientist experience a teleportation mishap when his batteries die while he is only partway through a transmission, so that only his head rematerializes. The replicator uses the same basic principle as the transporter, in which the atomic structure of a physical object is scanned and the information is used to reconstruct the object at the “receiving” end through energy-matter conversion. In practice, all transporters are replicators and matter “transmission” is a misnomer, because matter itself is not transmitted, only information. Every time Captain Kirk steps out of the transporter having “beamed up” from a planet’s surface, it is, in fact, a copy of him—the original has been disintegrated during the initial phase of the operation.


In the world of the TV series, the replicators of Picard’s Enterprise are a development of food synthesizers— simpler machines present on James Kirk’s Enterprise in the original Star Trek series (known as The Original Series , or TOS). These closely resemble the later replicators but were conceived by the writers of TOS more as highly advanced, mechanical food preparation devices instead of matter-energy converters. They, therefore, represented a televisual outing for a concept long popular in science fiction: the automatic food preparation device. A machine that performs complex autonomous physical tasks can reasonably be described as a robot, and, as early as 1899, Elizabeth Bellamy’s novel Ely’s Automatic Housemaid features a robot cook, which might be seen as a precursor to later food synthesizers. Unspecified “mechanical apparatus” was at work in the automated cafeterias of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars. In his 1912 A Princess of Mars , Burroughs, probably inspired by the automat (a kind of vending machine café imported from Germany to the United States in 1902), describes “gorgeous eating places where we were served entirely by mechanical apparatus. No hand touched the food from the time it entered the building in its raw state until it emerged hot and delicious upon the tables before the guests, in response to the touching of tiny buttons to indicate their desires.”

Moving from Burroughs’s mechanical cafeterias to a Star Trek -style food synthesizer was simply a matter of miniaturization, and, by 1933, David H. Keller was imagining “a small but complete production laboratory, not much larger than [an] electric refrigerator … entirely automatic and practically foolproof.” In his story “Unto Us A Child Is Born,” Keller envisages a machine that can both create food and prepare it “for the table in any form desired by the consumer. All that was necessary was the selection of one of the twenty-five menus and the pressing of the proper buttons.” Only recently has this dream of a kitchen appliance-scale food synthesizer neared reality, with the launch of the Genie food replicator, explicitly inspired by Star Trek ’s replicator. The Genie, a device not much larger than a microwave with futuristic styling, claims to be “a kitchen in a box” that can make nutritious, freshly cooked meals in 30 seconds. However, it should be noted that the device relies on pods that contain dehydrated ingredients; in other words, the food preparation labor has simply been moved upstream in the process, and the Genie might be little more than a device for adding hot water to a cup of dried noodles.


So what is meant by today’s technology boosters when they talk excitedly about Star Trek -inspired, real-life replicators? The technology to which they refer is the 3-D printer, a device that lays down some form of plastic (in the sense of malleable) medium in layers to build up a three-dimensional form. Such printers are heralded as the drivers of a second Industrial Revolution, in which manufacturing is distributed and universal, available to all through desktop 3-D printing machines. These devices are already available, usually restricted to fabrication using quick-setting plastics or resins, but larger and more specialized machines can print in media varying from living cells and foodstuffs to metal to mud or concrete. Large-scale concrete printers, for example, are suggested as a solution to housing crises, such as those found in refugee camps, where rapidly assembled, cheaply erected structures are needed. Meanwhile, biological implants and replacement tissues can be printed by laying down layers of cells on organic scaffolding, and, in the near future, it may be possible to print entire organs for transplant.

Although the 3-D printing community often plays up the lineage of inspiration from Star Trek ’s replicators to desktop fabricators, in practice, the former has a completely different mechanism. The true conceptual forefather of the 3-D printer is a 1964 story by Italian writer Primo Levi, “L’ordine a buon mercata” (“Order on the Cheap”). A mysterious multinational enterprise of dubious intentions makes available a device called the Mimer duplicator, which can create exact replicas of anything from money and diamonds to food and humans. It works by extruding “extremely thin superimposed layers” of a multielement substance named “pabulum.” This is a concise and extremely accurate description of how a modern-day 3-D printer works.

Star Trek featured gadgetry and devices that have since become iconic, and that have been directly responsible for inspiring the gadgetry and devices that have come to dominate modern personal technology—including the smartphone and the tablet computer—and perhaps soon to include portable, personal medical devices. Science and technology sometimes progresses in mighty leaps, but more generally it advances incrementally, contingent on prior research.

Reality Ahead of Schedule:  How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact  is available from Smithsonian Books. Visit  Smithsonian Books’ website  to learn more about its publications and a full list of titles. 

Excerpt from  Reality Ahead of Schedule  © 2019 by Carlton Books Limited

‘Star Trek’ is the greatest sci-fi franchise of all. Why it’s stood the test of time

Illustration for Robert Lloyd's story about the greatness of the Star Trek franchise.

  • Show more sharing options
  • Copy Link URL Copied!

Of all the science fiction franchises in the known universe, the one I would take to a desert island — or planet, I guess — is “Star Trek.”

I am not a Trekkie by any means (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I have never dressed as a Vulcan. I can’t speak a word of Klingon or identify the starships by their silhouettes or tell you how many tribbles it takes to make trouble. But a lot of general knowledge has seeped into my brain over the years: “Beam me up, Scotty.” “Fascinating.” “He’s dead, Jim.” “I’m a doctor, not a [insert any other profession].” “Make it so.” “Engage.” I’m au fait with all those catchphrases. I’ve watched every series, if not in their entirety, and all of the movies . (I do not count the J.J. Abrams big screen reboots, which operate on another timeline, though I’ve seen those too.) And I have greeted each new iteration with interest and a certain “Hello, old friend, what are you up to now?” affection.

This year marks the centenary of creator Gene Roddenberry’s birth and 55 years since the premiere of what is now officially referred to as “The Original Series” or “TOS,” and there are various home video remasterings and reboxings available. Thursday sees the premiere of the excellent “Star Trek: Prodigy,” streaming on Paramount+, where the franchise is star-based. This new CGI series is about a bunch of misfit teenagers escaping a slave-labor camp in a stolen Federation starship, on the run from a very bad guy — but kind of joyriding too. (It’s being advertised as the first “Trek” series aimed at young audiences, somehow forgetting or reclassifying the early 1970s “Star Trek: The Animated Series,” which featured William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley in their original roles as Kirk, Spock and McCoy, aired Saturday mornings, and won a Daytime Emmy as a “children’s series” in 1975.) None of the characters is human or in some cases even humanoid, apart from the hologram of Capt. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), employed here as a kind of interactive help-bot. It is quite lively in terms of action, and funny where it’s supposed to be, but as in all “Star Trek” series and films, character is what counts most.

The complete guide to home viewing

Get Screen Gab for everything about the TV shows and streaming movies everyone’s talking about.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.

From the name forward, the franchise bears comparison with “Star Wars,” with its spaceships and aliens and interplanetary scope, not to mention the range of storytelling platforms — movies and TV, cartoons and comics, novels and fan fiction.

I wouldn’t deny that there’s fun to be had from George Lucas’ baby, now bouncing for Disney, but “Star Wars” is not science fiction. It’s a fantasy set in space, where wizards do magic and heroes fight with swords and prophesied chosen ones take up their lightsabers; a special effects western cum samurai film cum collection of war movies in which, a few defections notwithstanding, good fights bad until one obliterates the other; and an expensive homage to the cheap Saturday serials of the 1930s. Its one endlessly repeated theme is bad parenting — or, in the case of “The Mandalorian,” the first “Star Wars” live-action television series, good (surrogate) parenting . But “Star Wars” on the whole has no real interest in ideas, in asking “Why?” or “What if?” The droids are comic relief, and slaves. Joseph Campbell’s the Hero with a Thousand Faces has often been cited, by Lucas and others, to connect these characters to a deeper storytelling tradition; the problem with a thousand-faced hero, however, is that you have seen that shtick a thousand times.

“Star Trek” is a different animal. From the beginning it had a mission, not just to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no earthlings had gone before, but to model a future for its audience that was a little ahead of its time. Where “Star Wars” was slow off the mark with diversity — the only Black actor in “A New Hope,” James Earl Jones, supplied the voice of a white character, and even now has only managed one same-sex kiss between minor characters — “Star Trek” made diversity a point from the beginning, with George Takei’s Sulu and Nichelle Nichols ’ Uhura on the bridge. (Whether the 1968 kiss between Kirk and Uhura was the first interracial kiss on television is a subject of debate and semantics, but it was in any case ahead of its time.) The third series, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” put a Black man (Avery Brooks’ Sisko) in charge; the next, “Star Trek: Voyager,” a woman (Mulgrew’s Janeway). Throughout the various series, and in the sci-fi tradition, contemporary earthly issues — racism, Cold War politics, environmental degradation, despotism, sexism — are seen through the lens of future, extraterrestrial exploits. The presence of aliens (also ethnically diverse), on the crew or just passing through, offered writers a chance to comment with distance on the puzzlements of human behavior.

Illustration of Nichelle Nichols

Entertainment & Arts

Inside the heartbreaking conservatorship battle of a ‘Star Trek’ legend

Nichelle Nichols, the beloved Lt. Uhura on ‘Star Trek,’ is living with dementia and struggling financially. Three parties fight to control her fate.

Aug. 15, 2021

That “Star Trek,” which originally ran from from 1966 to 1969, returned to television in the first place — there was a nearly 20-year break before “Star Trek: The Next Generation” — owes something to “Star Wars,” of course, which made space operas eminently bankable. But it had plenty of firepower of its own, charged by the the post-cancellation success of the original series, which flourished in syndication. A 1975 “Star Trek” convention in New York City, two years before “Star Wars” premiered, reportedly drew a crowd of 15,000 and turned thousands more away at the door; by 1986, the year before “The Next Generation” premiered, it was the most successful syndicated series going. A big-screen franchise, eventually numbering six films with the original crew, was up and running by 1979, followed by four “Next Generation” films — the first of which paired Shatner’s Kirk and Patrick Stewart’s Picard in a timeless corner of space.

To be sure, the revival of the brand may also be seen as a bottom-line event, designed to bring subscribers to what was then known as CBS All Access and is now called Paramount+, much as “The Mandalorian” was a boon to Disney+.

But it has produced excellent results. I’m a fan of all these shows: “Star Trek: Discovery,” especially in its adventuresome second and third seasons, with a fourth season premiering Nov. 18; the deep and thoughtful “Star Trek: Picard,” with Stewart back in the saddle (though going rogue); “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” an adult cartoon about service workers on a “second contact” vessel, that both parodies and celebrates the spirit and story conventions of the live-action shows while adding quotidian context and details. (We see how the ordinary crew lives; I can’t tell if it’s canonical, but it should be.) And there are more “Treks” arriving: the aforementioned “Prodigy”; “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” a spinoff at once from the second season of “Discovery” and the original “Star Trek” pilot, with Ethan Peck as a well-cast young Spock, Anson Mount as Capt. Christopher Pike and Rebecca Romijn as his Number One; and when one of the current series departs and other stars align, “Star Trek: Section 31,” another “Discovery” spinoff, with Michelle Yeoh reprising her role as Philippa Georgiou.

An animated Star Trek captain

Because it was born and grew up on television, in an age when special effects were a luxury and not a given, the franchise has been devoted less to action than talk, and to philosophical questions — what it means to be human, or Vulcan, or Klingon, an android or noncorporeal. The fact that there are many, many, many hours of “Star Trek” content — which are, to some extent, preserved in the new series, with their intersecting plotlines — means that “Star Trek” has had the space to tell many sorts of stories: mystery stories, love stories (and impossible-love stories), funny stories, family stories, spy stories, horror stories, workplace stories. Much of the charm in the original series derives from the double act Shatner and Nimoy developed, based in a kind of affectionate mutual incompatibility, and subsequent “Treks” developed bonds between characters it is easy to invest in, and which in some cases (as with Capt. Picard and Data) became their very foundation.

It’s an emotional show, and not infrequently a show about having emotions — giving in to them, repressing them, making use of them. On the one hand you’ve got Spock, and all the Vulcans who came after, pumping for logic; on the other, there’s Data the android, a logical being who dearly wants to know what it is to be human, like his friends. It’s significant that the second series, “The Next Generation,” added a therapist to the crew — Marina Sirtis’ Deanna Troi — and eventually a bartender (Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan), which is to say, another sort of therapist.

The original series could be incredibly silly, unwittingly (and sometimes wittingly) self-parodying. The lack of money, one might say, was on the screen. One could practically smell the gray paint and plywood on the Enterprise sets. The series’ celebrated technobabble is just a kind of reformulated abracadabra; human characters get the hang of alien gear faster than you could look up how to reset your car’s clock in the owner’s manual. Everything happens in the nick of time. Kirk’s occasional romantic interludes might have seemed kind of hilarious even at the time, but certainly are risible now; and although there were strong roles written for women from the beginning, they were often stuck in some sort of minidress.

‘Star Trek’ was canceled 50 years ago. Now, the franchise is flying warp speed ahead

It was 50 years ago that “Star Trek” died.

May 9, 2019

And despite their hopeful tenor, these shows’ creation was not always peaceable. Roddenberry, whose involvement was lesser and greater over the years for reasons of health or business, could be critical of “Trek” made under others’ watch if he felt they weren’t staying true to his big themes. (Wikipedia will give you a pretty good idea of the rough roads some series and films have taken on the way to launch, and after.) But taken as a whole over time, “Star Trek” has remained remarkably true to a vision: Peace is better than war; violence is dramatically less interesting than discussion; difference is not merely respected but portrayed as a positive good.

There is the convention of the disposable crewman (“redshirts,” referring to the color of their uniform, has become a generic term for an anonymous character who dies early in a scene to indicate danger), but death even of the nameless is not usually paid back with death; revenge, while it is a motivating factor for characters in many stories, is regarded in the “Trek” universe as a dish best not served at all.

Mighty heroes mowing down hordes of literally faceless enemies, crowds cheering military victories — that is not the “Star Trek” style. There is relief when a foe is sent packing, but rarely glee. Phasers are usually set to stun. Spock’s Vulcan nerve pinch can send an opponent to the floor, but the Vulcan death grip (“The Enterprise Incident,” Season 3) is a fiction, a subterfuge. Current custom and affordable, high-quality modern SFX technology does mean that there is more space battling in the new “Treks” and more martial arts-style fighting (you are not going to leave Yeoh sitting in a chair, after all), but diplomacy remains the goal, and it is only when that fails that big things are blown up. “Get us out of here” is a thing Capt. Kirk would regularly say.

A aging space captain works on a hologram screen

“Star Trek” envisions an Earth in which, as in John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the old dividing lines — ethnic, political, religious — have all disappeared; there is no war, no poverty, no pollution, and technology finally works for us rather than against us. Though these things seemed possible in the progressive era when “Star Trek” was born, I’ve grown increasingly doubtful about humanity’s ability to intelligently regulate its most local affairs, let alone join with alien species in a project of interplanetary goodwill.

Which may be why I love the “Star Trek” universe, and why I melt when, at the end of the third season of “Discovery” — a season very much about coming to terms with one’s nature and needs, limits and abilities — Sonequa Martin-Green’s (newly promoted) Capt. Burnham says, “The need to connect is at our core as sentient beings. It takes time effort and understanding … but if we work at it a miracle can happen.”

And who knows? The future is a long road.

More to Read

A photo collage of folks from a variety of Amazon series

Commentary: 10 years ago, Amazon tried to reinvent TV pilots. Its failure foretold our streaming future

Dec. 28, 2023


The best TV shows of 2023

Dec. 7, 2023

Capsules, containing remains of individuals who have passed, are prepared to be launched onboard the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan VC2S rocket in December 2023. Family members pay for their loved ones to be buried in space.

Rocket launch will include sendoff of remains of some ‘Star Trek’ actors and many others

Dec. 3, 2023

It's a date

Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.

science fiction writers star trek

Robert Lloyd has been a Los Angeles Times television critic since 2003.

More From the Los Angeles Times

Jodie Foster, TRUE DETECTIVE: NIGHT COUNTRY Season 4 - Episode 6

Who (or what) killed the scientists? Issa López explains the ‘True Detective: Night Country’ finale

Feb. 18, 2024

Animated shot of Gwen Stacy in white super suit, hanging upside down as Miles Morales hangs nearby in black suit.

‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider Verse’ takes top prize at Annie Awards

A woman and a man laugh on a sofa.

Bob Marley biopic takes the sting out of ‘Madame Web’ in holiday box office

FILE - Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., leaves the Capitol after being expelled from the House of Representatives, Dec. 1, 2023, in Washington. Santos alleged in a lawsuit in New York, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, that late-night host Jimmy Kimmel deceived him into making videos on the Cameo app that were used to ridicule the disgraced lawmaker on the show. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough, File)

George Santos files suit against Jimmy Kimmel alleging late-night host duped him

List of Star Trek: The Original Series writers

  • View history

This is a list of writers for the original Star Trek television series sorted by the amount of episodes written. Collaborations are marked with dashes. (-) Contributions, pseudonyms and episode numbers are noted in parenthesis.

  • 1 13 episodes
  • 2 12 episodes
  • 3 10 episodes
  • 4 4 episodes
  • 5 3 episodes
  • 6 2 episodes
  • 7 1 episode

13 episodes [ ]

  • "Arena" (S01E18) (Teleplay)
  • "Space Seed" (S01E22) (Teleplay - with Carey Wilber)
  • "A Taste of Armageddon" (S01E23) (Teleplay - with Robert Hamner)
  • "The Devil in the Dark" (S01E25)
  • "Errand of Mercy" (S01E26)
  • "The Apple" (S02E05) (Teleplay - with Max Ehrlich)
  • "Metamorphosis" (S02E09)
  • "A Piece of the Action" (S02E17) (Teleplay - with David P. Harmon)
  • "Bread and Circuses" (S02E25) - with Gene Roddenberry
  • "Spock's Brain" (S03E01) (as Lee Cronin)
  • "Spectre of the Gun" (S03E06) (as Lee Cronin)
  • "Wink of an Eye" (S03E11) (Story, as Lee Cronin)
  • "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" (S03E15) (Story, as Lee Cronin)

12 episodes [ ]

  • "Charlie X" (S01E02) (Story)
  • "Mudd's Women" (S01E06) (Story)
  • "The Menagerie, Part I" (S01E11)
  • "The Menagerie, Part II" (S01E12)
  • "The Return of the Archons" (S01E21) (Story)
  • "A Private Little War" (S02E19) (Teleplay)
  • "The Omega Glory" (S02E23)
  • "Bread and Circuses" (S02E25) - with Gene L. Coon
  • "Assignment: Earth" (S02E26) (Story - with Art Wallace)
  • "The Savage Curtain" (S03E22) (Teleplay - with Arthur Heinemann) / (Story)
  • "Turnabout Intruder" (S03E24) (Story)

10 episodes [ ]

  • "Charlie X" (S01E02) (Teleplay)
  • "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" (S01E19)
  • "This Side of Paradise" (S01E24) (Teleplay) / (Story - with Jerry Sohl)
  • "Journey to Babel" (S02E10)
  • "Friday's Child" (S02E11)
  • "By Any Other Name" (S02E22) (Teleplay - with Jerome Bixby)
  • "The Ultimate Computer" (S02E24) (Teleplay)
  • "The Enterprise Incident" (S03E02)
  • "That Which Survives" (S03E17) (Story, as Michael Richards)
  • "The Way to Eden" (S03E20) (Story, as Michael Richards - with Arthur Heinemann)

4 episodes [ ]

  • "The Changeling" (S02E03)
  • "Patterns of Force" (S02E21)
  • "Elaan of Troyius" (S03E13)
  • "That Which Survives" (S03E17) (Teleplay)
  • "Mirror, Mirror" (S02E04)
  • "By Any Other Name" (S02E22) (Teleplay - with D. C. Fontana) / (Story)
  • "Day of the Dove" (S03E07)
  • "Requiem for Methuselah" (S03E19)

3 episodes [ ]

  • "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" (S01E07)
  • "Catspaw" (S02E07)
  • "Wolf in the Fold" (S02E14)
  • "The Corbomite Maneuver" (S01E10)
  • "This Side of Paradise" (S01E24) (Story, as Nathan Butler - with D. C. Fontana)
  • "Whom Gods Destroy" (S03E14) (Story - with Lee Erwin)
  • "The Galileo Seven" (S01E16) (Teleplay - with S. Bar-David) / (Story)
  • "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" (S03E15) (Teleplay)
  • "The Cloud Minders" (S03E21) (Story - with David Gerrold)
  • "The Gamesters of Triskelion" (S02E16)
  • "The Paradise Syndrome" (S03E03)
  • "The Cloud Minders" (S03E21) (Teleplay)
  • "Wink of an Eye" (S03E11) (Teleplay)
  • "The Way to Eden" (S03E20) (Teleplay) / (Story - with D. C. Fontana)
  • "The Savage Curtain" (S03E22) (Teleplay - with Gene Roddenberry)

2 episodes [ ]

  • "Mudd's Women" (S01E06) (Teleplay)
  • "I, Mudd" (S02E08)
  • "Dagger of the Mind" (S01E09)
  • "The Galileo Seven" (S01E16) (Teleplay - with Oliver Crawford)
  • "Balance of Terror" (S01E14)
  • "The Squire of Gothos" (S01E17)
  • "Shore Leave" (S01E15)
  • "Amok Time" (S02E01)
  • "Court Martial" (S01E20) (Teleplay - with Don M. Mankiewicz)
  • "Operation: Annihilate!" (S01E29)
  • "The Deadly Years" (S02E12)
  • "A Piece of the Action" (S02E17) (Teleplay - with Gene L. Coon) / (Story)
  • "Obsession" (S02E13)
  • "Assignment: Earth" (S02E26) (Teleplay) / (Story - with Gene Roddenberry)
  • "The Trouble with Tribbles" (S02E15)
  • "The Cloud Minders" (S03E21) (Story - with Oliver Crawford)
  • "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" (S03E05)
  • "All Our Yesterdays" (S03E23)

1 episode [ ]

  • George Clayton Johnson - "The Man Trap" (S01E01)
  • Samuel A. Peeples - "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (S01E03)
  • John D. F. Black - "The Naked Time" (S01E04)
  • Richard Matheson - "The Enemy Within" (S01E05)
  • Adrian Spies - "Miri" (S01E08)
  • Barry Trivers - "The Conscience of the King" (S01E13)
  • Fredric Brown - "Arena" (S01E18) (Story)
  • Don M. Mankiewicz - "Court Martial" (S01E20) (Teleplay - with Steven W. Carabatsos) / (Story)
  • Boris Sobelman - "The Return of the Archons" (S01E21) (Teleplay)
  • Carey Wilber - "Space Seed" (S01E22) (Teleplay - with Gene L. Coon) / (Story)
  • Robert Hamner - "A Taste of Armageddon" (S01E23) (Teleplay - with Gene L. Coon) / (Story)
  • Don Ingalls - "The Alternative Factor" (S01E27)
  • Harlan Ellison - "The City on the Edge of Forever" (S01E28)
  • Gilbert Ralston - "Who Mourns for Adonais?" (S02E02)
  • Max Ehrlich - "The Apple" (S02E05) (Teleplay - with Gene L. Coon( / (Story)
  • Norman Spinrad - "The Doomsday Machine" (S02E06)
  • Robert Sabaroff - "The Immunity Syndrome" (S02E18)
  • Jud Crucis - "A Private Little War" (S02E19) (Story)
  • John Kingsbridge - "Return to Tomorrow" (S02E20)
  • Laurence N. Wolfe - "The Ultimate Computer" (S02E24) (Story)
  • Edward J. Lakso - "And the Children Shall Lead" (S03E04)
  • Rik Vollaerts - "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" (S03E08)
  • Judy Burns & Chet Richards - "The Tholian Web" (S03E09)
  • Meyer Dolinsky - "Plato's Stepchildren" (S03E10)
  • Joyce Muskat - "The Empath" (S03E12)
  • Lee Erwin - "Whom Gods Destroy" (S03E14) (Teleplay) / (Story - with Jerry Sohl)
  • George F. Slavin & Stanley Adams - "The Mark of Gideon" (S03E16)
  • Jeremy Tarcher & Shari Lewis - "The Lights of Zetar" (S03E18)
  • Arthur Singer - "Turnabout Intruder" (S03E24) (Teleplay)

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • View all journals
  • Explore content
  • About the journal
  • Publish with us
  • Sign up for alerts
  • Books & Arts
  • Published: 07 September 2016

Science fiction: Boldly going for 50 years

  • Sidney Perkowitz 1 , 2  

Nature volume  537 ,  pages 165–166 ( 2016 ) Cite this article

27k Accesses

6 Citations

454 Altmetric

Metrics details

Sidney Perkowitz scans the impacts of Star Trek on science, technology and society.

Half a century ago, in September 1966, the first episode of Star Trek aired on the US television network NBC. NASA was still three years short of landing people on the Moon, yet the innovative series was soon zipping viewers light years beyond the Solar System every week. After a few hiccups it gained cult status, along with the inimitable crew of the starship USS Enterprise , led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner). It went into syndication and spawned 6 television series up to 2005; there are now also 13 feature films, with Star Trek Beyond debuting in July this year.

science fiction writers star trek

Part of Star Trek's enduring magic is its winning mix of twenty-third-century technology and the recognizable diversity and complexity enshrined in the beings — human and otherwise — created by the show's originator Gene Roddenberry and his writers. As Roddenberry put it, “We stress humanity.” The series wore its ethics on its sleeve at a time when the Vietnam War was raging and anti-war protests were proliferating, along with racial tensions that culminated in major US urban riots in 1967–68. Roddenberry's United Federation of Planets, a kind of galactic United Nations, is an advanced society wielding advanced technology, and the non-militaristic aims of the Enterprise are intoned at the beginning of every episode in the original series (TOS): “To explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man [later, 'no one'] has gone before.”

Over the decades, Star Trek technologies have fired the imaginations of physicists, engineers and roboticists. Perhaps the most intriguing innovation is the warp drive, the propulsion system that surrounds the Enterprise with a bubble of distorted space-time and moves the craft faster than light to traverse light years in days or weeks. In 1994, theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre showed that such a bubble is possible within Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, but would demand massive amounts of negative energy, also known as exotic matter ( M. Alcubierre Class. Quantum Grav. 11 , L73; 1994 ). This is not known to exist except (possibly) in minuscule quantities; and some physicists speculate that the Alcubierre drive might annihilate the destined star system. The warp drive remains imaginary — for now.

However, another application of warped space-time in the series has been realized: a cloaking device that shields spacecraft from view by bending light around them. In 2006, electrical engineers David Smith and David Schurig built a 'metamaterial' electromagnetic cloak that hid an object from microwaves by refracting them to pass around it, much as water flows around an obstacle (D. Schurig et al . Science 314 , 977–980; 2006). Now, similar diversionary tactics are being used to hide small objects under visible light, for instance by electrical engineer Xingjie Ni and his colleagues, who devised a “skin cloak” 80 nanometres thick to do the job (X. Ni et al . Science 349 , 1310–1314; 2015).

science fiction writers star trek

The exotic Enterprise transporter, which instantaneously dematerializes and teleports people and things (inspiring the catchphrase “Beam me up”), was supposedly conceived to save the costs of staging repeated spaceship landings. It has a real analogue in quantum teleportation. In 2015, for instance, quantum optics researcher Hiroki Takesue and his colleagues harnessed entanglement to send the properties of one photon to another over 100 kilometres of optical fibre ( H. Takesue et al . Optica 2 , 832–835; 2015 ). Above the atomic level, however, we're a long way from teleporting entire organisms or objects.

Other Star Trek technologies anticipated modern trends. The tricorder that TOS medic Leonard 'Bones' McCoy (DeForest Kelley) uses for diagnosis has spawned real devices, such as SCOUT from medical-technology company Scanadu in Moffett Field, California. Meanwhile, activity trackers already perform basic health monitoring, recording pulse rate, calorie intake and quality of sleep.

Artificial intelligence has begun to emerge in technologies such as speech recognition by Apple's personal-assistant program Siri, Google's self-driving car and the 'all-terrain' Atlas robot created for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. All are significant developments that could pave the way to an eventual approximation of Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner), the sentient android who debuted on television series The Next Generation in the late 1980s.

Star Trek's holodeck — the immersive virtual-reality environment in which the Enterprise crew visits simulated locales — is also years away, but huge advances in the technology are afoot. The Oculus Rift headset, for instance, provides a visual and auditory virtual-reality experience, but must be tethered to a computer, thus falling short of delivering the seamless holodeck experience.

Three-dimensional printers, which lay down successive layers of material to form intricate shapes, are now being adapted to handle food, perhaps a step towards Enterprise meal replicators. The Creative Machines Lab, then at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, designed one model as part of its open-access Fab@Home project, and Natural Machines in Barcelona, Spain, touts its Foodini printer as simplifying the making of textured or layered foods such as ravioli.

Many young would-be scientists have found the series inspirational.

More generally, and arguably with greater long-term significance, Star Trek raised enthusiasm for space exploration and science. In 1975, fans convinced NASA to name its first test space shuttle orbiter Enterprise (the craft was unpowered and never reached space). And many young would-be scientists have found the series inspirational.

Its social message has been no less important. The federation ethic ensured that Kirk, Next Generation Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and their successors 'waged peace' even when confronted by aliens such as the Klingons, a people genetically predisposed to hostility. The February 1968 episode 'A Private Little War', an allegory about Vietnam, was a pointed example. Roddenberry believed that humanity must learn to delight in difference, even in alien life-forms, and ready itself to “meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there”.

Star Trek's portrayal of human diversity and refusal to engage in national exceptionalism remain landmark achievements. Emerging at a time of racial exclusion in US television, TOS crew included Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), the first prominent African American female role in a US television series, as well as the 'pan-Asian' helmsman Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), Russian navigator Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) — and, of course, Leonard Nimoy's star turn as half-Vulcan Commander Spock. Native American first officer Chakotay (Robert Beltran) emerged in the series Voyager (1995–2001). The gender balance tended to the heavily male until the advent of Voyager Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), with half-Klingon chief engineer B'Elanna Torres (Hispanic actress Roxann Dawson). Real-world impacts abound. Nichols, for instance, has related how US civil-rights leader Martin Luther King urged her to remain in the series when she was considering other professional options. Her character, in turn, inspired astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to be sent into space by NASA.

Fifty years later, how does our world compare with Roddenberry's universe? The changes in technology are transformational; and although interstellar travel has yet to become reality, NASA's projected 2030s human mission to Mars follows the dream “to boldly go”. The progressive social values that Star Trek pioneered on television are now much more widely held. But new conflicts and geopolitical stand-offs have erupted, despite efforts by our own federation, the United Nations. Amid these shifts and tensions, this vastly influential franchise continues to carry a subtle but clear message — we can be better than we are.

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

Sidney Perkowitz (http://sidneyperkowitz.net) is Charles Howard Candler Emeritus Professor of Physics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He writes frequently about science, technology and culture; his latest books are Universal Foam 2.0 and Frankenstein 2018 (in progress).,

Sidney Perkowitz

his latest books are Universal Foam 2.0 and Frankenstein 2018 (in progress).,

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sidney Perkowitz .

Related audio

Reporter and trekkie, shamini bundell, investigates the ethical lessons to be learned from star trek., related links, related links in nature research.

Film: Boldly going...where?

Science communication: Science fresh from the box

Nature special: Science fiction

Nature Podcast : Star Trek

Related external links

New York Times obituary for Gene Roddenberry

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article.

Perkowitz, S. Science fiction: Boldly going for 50 years. Nature 537 , 165–166 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/537165a

Download citation

Published : 07 September 2016

Issue Date : 08 September 2016

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1038/537165a

Share this article

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

This article is cited by

Technology: he wrote the future.

  • Andrew Robinson

Nature (2017)

Quick links

  • Explore articles by subject
  • Guide to authors
  • Editorial policies

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

science fiction writers star trek

Memory Alpha

Far Beyond the Stars (episode)

  • View history

Experiencing a vision from the Prophets, Sisko sees himself as Benny Russell, a science-fiction writer in the 1950s, who struggles with civil rights and inequality when he writes the story of Captain Benjamin Sisko, a black commander of a futuristic space station.

  • 1.2 Act One
  • 1.3 Act Two
  • 1.4 Act Three
  • 1.5 Act Four
  • 1.6 Act Five
  • 2 Memorable quotes
  • 3.2 Story and script
  • 3.3 Cast and characters
  • 3.4 Production
  • 3.5.1 Star Trek and science fiction
  • 3.5.2 Star Trek and "Far Beyond the Stars"
  • 3.5.3 Deep Space Nine in 1953
  • 3.5.4 Other trivia
  • 3.7 Video and DVD releases
  • 4.1 Starring
  • 4.2 Also starring
  • 4.3 Guest stars
  • 4.4 Uncredited co-stars
  • 4.5 Stunt double
  • 4.6.1 Incredible Tales references
  • 4.6.2 Unreferenced material
  • 4.7 External links

Summary [ ]

Joseph Sisko , Captain Benjamin Sisko 's father, has left Earth for the first time to visit his son and grandson on Deep Space 9 , but his timing couldn't be worse. Although the Federation is in firm control of the station, the Cardassian border is still a risky place for Federation ships to patrol. In particular, the USS Cortez has recently been destroyed, and even a six-hour search by the USS Defiant failed to discover any survivors. That means Captain Quentin Swofford – a man Sisko knew well – is dead, and Sisko is distraught, given that he introduced Swofford to his wife. He is beginning to despair of making any kind of difference in the war effort at all, and is seriously considering stepping down and letting someone else make the tough decisions. Joseph promises to support his son no matter what decision he makes, but warns him to think carefully before he does anything.

Douglas Pabst in Ops

" Who was that? "

As he discusses the news with his father, Sisko is distracted and puzzled when he sees a strange man walk past his office dressed in 1950s Earth clothing. Dax , standing right outside in ops , insists she didn't see anyone, which only makes it a greater puzzle. Later, when walking down a corridor with Kasidy Yates , Sisko is again confused when a baseball player walks past and calls, " Hey, Benny! Catch the game? " Again, Yates is sure she didn't see anyone. When Sisko follows the man through a door, he finds himself suddenly in the middle of a busy New York street and is immediately hit by a taxi .

Doctor Bashir examines him in the infirmary and finds unusual synaptic potentials – his neural patterns look like they did when Sisko was having visions the year before . When Sisko takes a PADD to examine the data for himself, he finds himself instead looking at a copy of Galaxy at a New York newsstand . What's more, Sisko – or rather, Benny Russell – feels completely at home on this street, and when Albert Macklin comes around the corner they walk off together to the office.

Act One [ ]

The people Russell knows at the office and meets on the street are similar to the people Sisko knows on the station. They sound the same, and look at least somewhat similar, but they are not the same people. The news vendor is not Nog , Macklin is not Miles O'Brien , and Kay Eaton is not Kira Nerys . They are merely characters in a dream created from the likeness of his real-world friends. From this point until Sisko wakes up, the story is told from Benny Russell's perspective (as though the 1950s setting is the "real" world).

When Russell and Macklin arrive at Incredible Tales – the science fiction magazine for which they work – they find writer Herbert Rossoff ( Quark ) and editor Douglas Pabst ( Odo ) engaged in "The Battle of the Doughnuts , Round 28" (as Eaton describes it). Eaton herself has been experimenting with White Rose Redi-Tea (" A pitcher of plain water becomes a pitcher of iced tea ") – a concept her husband, Julius ( Julian Bashir ), as a "self-respecting Englishman," finds appalling. Macklin is, as always, looking for matches to light his pipe, even though Russell just gave them to him. When the bickering and general bustle ebbs enough, Pabst calls the meeting to order.

The magazine's illustrator, Roy Ritterhouse ( Martok ) comes in bearing a stack of science fiction sketches to distribute to the pool of writers for the next month's stories. Russell is particularly taken with a drawing of a space station – basically a circle with pylons at 120 degree intervals, and "USAF DS/9" stenciled around the edge. He takes the sketch and offers to create an appropriate story to accompany it. Trouble starts, however, when Pabst announces that their publisher wants a group photo of the writing staff for the next issue, and Pabst "suggests" that Eaton and Russell "sleep late" the morning it is taken – the public needn't know that women and blacks are writing for Incredible Tales along with the white men. Rossoff sarcastically quips about the dangers of "a Negro with a typewriter " and Russell is angry, but Pabst holds firm. There will be no picture of Eaton and no picture of Russell. " It's not personal Benny, but as far as our readers are concerned, Benny Russell is as white as they are. Let's just keep it that way, " Pabst states, matter-of-factly.

That evening, as Russell leaves the office ( Incredible Tales is located in the Arthur Trill Building ), the space station sketch is caught in a breeze and lands under the shoe of Burt Ryan ( Dukat ) – an NYPD detective with an attitude. He and his partner, Kevin Mulkahey ( Weyoun ) are suspicious of a janitor (as they perceive Russell) dressed in a nice suit , but give back the drawing with " This time you're getting off with a warning. Next time you won't be so lucky. "

Then, as he's almost home, Russell hears a preacher ( Joseph Sisko ) on a street corner who seems to be speaking directly to Benny. " Write those words, Brother Benny! " the preacher advises – write the words of the " God of the spirits of the prophets. "

Benny reflects on Benjamin

" Captain Benjamin Sisko sat looking out the window… "

With all these events fresh in his mind, Benny Russell sits down in his apartment before his typewriter with the space station picture in front of him and begins to write. " Captain Benjamin Sisko sat looking out the window… " Even as he writes the words Benny sees his reflection in his own window – only he has on a curious uniform instead of a shirt and tie and his glasses are gone. He presses on with his story well into the night.

Act Two [ ]

When the story is finally finished some days later he shows it to his fiancee, Cassie ( Yates ) at the diner where she waits tables. While he is sipping coffee at the counter, famous baseball player Willie Hawkins ( Worf ) comes in and flirts, only half-jokingly, with Cassie while saying hello to Russell. Russell also encounters Jimmy ( Jake Sisko ), a street kid. Fresh after hearing Hawkins tell how white people wouldn't want him living in their neighborhoods, Russell hears Jimmy's skepticism about the new story. What's more, Jimmy is trying to pawn a watch he "found" and Russell's cautions about him getting in trouble don't seem to do any good.

Kay Eaton as Kira Nerys

Kay Eaton appears as Major Kira

On the other hand, the entire writing staff of Incredible Tales loves the story, which Russell has titled "Deep Space Nine." In fact, it is the best thing Pabst's secretary Darlene Kursky ( Jadzia Dax ) has ever read. Russell, exhausted from lack of sleep, is worried that he's hallucinating – while Kay Eaton is complimenting the "strong female character" in his story, he takes off his glasses for a moment and sees her wearing a red uniform and strange ridges on her nose .

Unfortunately, Pabst himself is unwilling to print the story. " It's not believable, " he insists, since it features a Negro space station captain for a hero. Pabst tells Russell to make the captain white, but he angrily tells him that's not what he wrote. Pabst tells Russell that it is his call.

Act Three [ ]

Worf in Eva's Kitchen

Willie Hawkins appears as Worf

Russell is sitting at the restaurant with a cigarette in his hand telling about his story and Jimmy isn't remotely surprised, and Cassie suggests it may be a sign he should stop writing and go into the restaurant business with her – owning and running the diner. When Hawkins comes in and grabs Russell by the shoulder, he's surprised to see ridges on his forehead and strange clothing . He jumps off the stool in surprise, but when he looks up again it is just Hawkins, asking if Russell had seen the game. Russell leaves, troubled by the vision.

That evening, he encounters the same preacher again. " Walk with the prophets, Brother Benny! " he insists. " Write the words that will lead us out of the darkness and onto the path of righteousness. " Russell rushes home and sits down before his typewriter once again, concentrating so hard he even forgets about his date with Cassie. She finds him sleeping with a stack of pages in his hand – a new Ben Sisko story – and tries to get him to relax by taking a "spin around the dance floor" in the living room. He's startled once again when he instead sees himself dancing in a strange room and to hear "Cassie" talking about "the Dominion ." He flashes back and forth between his living room and the space station – seeing things from his own story.

Act Four [ ]

As Russell questions his own sanity, Pabst insists he's certifiable – he's written six sequels to the "Deep Space Nine" story Pabst already refused to publish. Macklin makes a suggestion that could salvage everything though: make the story (at least the first story) a dream. If a poor Negro were dreaming of such a future, the story might work, Pabst grudgingly admits, and Russell agrees that anything would be better than not publishing the story at all.

Even as Russell and Cassie are celebrating getting the story published, however, another tragedy strikes. They encounter the preacher, who warns, " the path of the Prophets sometimes leads into darkness and pain ", just as gunshots ring through the air. Russell rushes forward and finds that Ryan and Mulkahey have shot and killed Jimmy. When Russell tries to fight his way to him, the two cops begin to beat him up, and Russell sees ridges on Ryan's neck and long thin ears on Mulkahey's face.

Act Five [ ]

Russell has been badly beaten and is walking with a cane , but a few weeks later on the day his story is finally published, he makes his way to the office anyway (with Cassie's encouragement). The staff are happy to see Russell for the first time since his beating. They also reveal that Macklin has sold a novel, and Russell is very happy for his friend. Then Pabst arrives… but with no magazine. Pabst explains that there's not going to be an edition of Incredible Tales that month; apparently the entire run was pulped because the publisher, Mr. Stone , felt the issue didn't meet their "usual high standards". Russell, already knowing the truth, asks what the publishers didn't like. The artwork? The layout? But Russell, already starting to break down, answers his own question: the magazine was pulped because the hero of "Deep Space Nine" is a colored man. Pabst tells Russell that he knows it isn't right, but he furiously defends the decision, saying that "it's not about what's right, it's about what is ." This leads into further bad news – the publishers have decided that Russell's services are no longer required. The rest of the staff recoil in shock, and even the normally unflappable Julius Eaton is horrified. Russell tells Pabst that he can't be fired, because he quits, before sweeping the contents of a nearby table on the floor in anger as he begins to have a nervous breakdown. He is devastated that everyone is attempting to deny both himself and Ben Sisko, that the publishers are attempting to destroy the story. But he says, sobbing, that they cannot destroy the idea. Ben Sisko, "Deep Space Nine", and all the people from the story, they exist inside his head, and in the heads of everyone who read it.

Russell finally collapses, sobbing and cradled by his former co-workers.

Benjamin reflects on Benny

" You are the dreamer, and the dream. "

As he's carted away in an ambulance , Benny Russell finds the preacher sitting beside him and sees himself in a strange uniform . " Who am I? " he asks quietly. " You're the dreamer, " the preacher answers him, " and the dream. "

Captain Benjamin Sisko wakes up in the infirmary with Kasidy, Jake, Joseph, and Dr. Bashir standing over him, happy to see him awake. He was unconscious for only a few minutes, and Bashir reports that his neural patterns are returning to normal.

As Joseph gets ready to leave, Sisko, sitting on a couch in his quarters , says that his dream has encouraged him to stay on DS9 and keep fighting "the good fight." He also confides to his father that he wonders whether their world really is "the real world," or just a vision, and somewhere far beyond the stars Benny Russell really exists. He stares out the window , and sees a reflection of himself wearing Benny's clothes.

Memorable quotes [ ]

" Wishing never changed a damn thing. "

" Oh! She's got a worm in her belly!… oh that's disgusting. It's interestin', but disgusting. "

" Calm down, dear boy. We're writers, not Vikings . "

" You are the dreamer… and the dream. "

" Hey! You gonna buy that or not?! "

" All right, friends and neighbors, let's see what Uncle Roy brought you today. "

" Well I got news for you… today or a hundred years from now don't make a bit of difference – as far as they're concerned, we'll always be n*ggers . "

" If the world's not ready for a woman writer – imagine what would happen if it learned about a Negro with a typewriter – run for the hills! It's the end of civilization! "

" Herb's been angry ever since the day Joseph Stalin died… "

" I like robots . "

" Call anybody you want, they can't do anything to me, not any more, and nor can any of you. I am a Human being, dammit! You can deny me all you want but you can't deny Ben Sisko – He exists! That future, that space station, all those people – they exist in here! (pointing to his head) In my mind. I created it. And everyone of you knew it, you read it. It's here. (pointing to his head again) Do you hear what I'm telling you? You can pulp a story but you cannot destroy an idea, don't you understand, that's ancient knowledge, you cannot destroy an idea. (becoming hysterical) That future – I created it, and it's real! Don't you understand? It is real. I created it. And it's real! IT'S REAL! Oh God! " (he collapses, sobbing hysterically)

" I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. "

" For all we know, at this very moment, somewhere far beyond all those distant stars, Benny Russell is dreaming of us. "

Background information [ ]

  • A working title of this episode was "The Cold and Distant Stars", virtually the same working title as was used for " Past Tense, Part I ".

Story and script [ ]

  • Marc Scott Zicree 's original pitch focused on Jake Sisko , and rather than actually experiencing a vision, he traveled through time, back to the 1950s, and met a group of struggling science fiction writers. However, at the end of the episode, it was revealed that he never time-traveled at all; it was all part of a trick played on him by an alien who wanted to find out something about Humanity. Ira Steven Behr didn't like the idea, saying, " It felt a little bit like a gimmick. There was no bottom to the story, " and he turned it down. However, Behr liked the backdrop concerning science fiction writers in a 1950s setting, so he kept that in mind, and several months later, he decided to switch the protagonist from Jake to his father and introduce the theme of racism. In an unusual break in protocol, Behr then pitched his idea to Zicree and asked him to write a story based upon it. Zicree did this, then Behr took Zicree's story outline, and, along with Hans Beimler , composed the script . ( Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion  (p. 534))
  • In Zicree's outline, Michael Dorn 's character was a boxer , not a baseball player. He was romantically involved with a white woman, which was discovered by the racist policemen, who subsequently beat him to death; this killing was replaced with the shooting of Jimmy in the finished episode. Also, in Zicree's version, Armin Shimerman 's character got encouraged by Russell's breakdown to go ahead and publish his Benjamin Sisko story. [1]
  • The drawing entitled "Honeymoon on Andoris" did not have a title in the original script.

Cast and characters [ ]

  • Originally, Casey Biggs was supposed to appear in this episode (probably in a different role than his usual character of Damar ), but he was in New York City at the time and couldn't spare time for making it.
  • Despite the fact that he made a total of 282 Star Trek appearances, this is the only time that Michael Dorn appears on Star Trek as a Human . However, he did appear, without his Klingon makeup, as a Boraalan in TNG : " Homeward ", which also featured Penny Johnson .
  • This is the only Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode in which Armin Shimerman ( Quark ) and Rene Auberjonois ( Odo ) appear without make-up. (Auberjonois had appeared as a Human, Colonel West , in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and later as the Kantare Ezral in ENT : " Oasis ".) Aron Eisenberg ( Nog ) and Jeffrey Combs ( Weyoun ) appear again without makeup, in series finale " What You Leave Behind ", as holosuite guests at a farewell party on Deep Space 9 in late 2375 .
  • Although Rene Auberjonois, Armin Shimerman, and Colm Meaney appear in this episode, their regular characters of Odo, Quark, and Miles O'Brien do not, nor are Aron Eisenberg and J.G. Hertzler seen in their regular roles of Nog and Martok .
  • For this episode, Avery Brooks not only portrayed the dual role of Sisko and Benny Russell but also directed the installment, consequently endeavoring to capture, in the episode, the performances of his fellow actors. Regarding his interest in depicting the entire collective of 1950s characters, he commented, " The people we saw in that office each had a very specific identity. I wanted to see who those people were, in order to investigate one of the most oppressive times of the twentieth century. They were living with McCarthyism and the atomic bomb and the Red Scare . I mean, that was a very interesting period. " ( Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion  (p. 534))
  • The characters were used to highlight the episode's inherent theme of racism. Avery Brooks commented, " If we had changed the people's clothes, this story could be about right now. What's insidious about racism is that it is unconscious. Even among these very bright and enlightened characters – a group that includes a woman writer who has to use a man's name to get her work published, and who is married to a brown man with a British accent in 1953 – it's perfectly reasonable to coexist with someone like Pabst . It's in the culture, it's the way people think. So that was the approach we took. I never talked about racism. I just showed how these intelligent people think, and it all came out of them. " ( Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion  (p. 536))
  • Avery Brooks also commented, however, that the episode is not exclusively about racism; " The people thought it was about racism, well maybe so, maybe not […] But the fact of the matter in 'Far Beyond the Stars' is that you have a man who essentially was conceiving of something far beyond what people around him had ever imagined, and therefore they thought he was crazy. " ( Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars , DS9 Season 6 DVD special features)
  • This episode was Avery Brooks' personal favorite, and it was his episode of choice for the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Captain's Log collection. Brooks stated, " I'd have to say, it was the most important moment for me in the entire seven years. " ( Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars , DS9 Season 6 DVD special features) He appreciated the episode so much that, when asked to sum up his feelings about it, Brooks smiled and said, " It should have been a two-parter. " ( Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion  (p. 537))
  • Apart from Avery Brooks himself, this episode is also a favorite of several members of the cast. ( Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars , DS9 Season 6 DVD special features) Rene Auberjonois, for example, commented, " Brilliant episode. One of the best of the whole series and Avery did a fabulous job of directing it. " Michael Dorn said, " It was wonderfully shot. " Penny Johnson commented, " This was beautifully handled and beautifully shot. But it still, in the heart, it got me. " ( Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars , DS9 Season 6 DVD special features) J.G. Hertzler commented, " I thought ['Far Beyond the Stars'] was one you could have built an entire series from. " [2] Of Brooks' performance in the episode, Jeffrey Combs commented, " Avery was spectacular. There was a scene toward the end where he falls apart with the camera right in front of his nose. It was just riveting. " ( Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion  (p. 537)) The same scene was also extremely memorable for Nana Visitor . ( What We Left Behind )
  • Armin Shimerman enjoyed the installment, too. He said, " 'Far Beyond the Stars" is without question my favorite episode. It is perfect science fiction. " Shimerman specifically thought highly of how the installment serves as a reminder of prejudice, especially racism, the actor commenting, " That's what that episode does terrifically well. " ( Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars , DS9 Season 6 DVD special features) He also remarked, " Obviously ['Far Beyond the Stars'] is not a Quark episode, but the reason I like that one so much is that it's perfect science fiction. I think it really stretches the imagination of the viewer and breaks down the fourth wall to talk about the real heroes of any TV shows, which are the writers. I loved what our writers did with it. It was one of the most creative TV episodes I've ever seen or been in. I do tend to watch it again whenever it's on because it was just a terrific episode. " ("Boom and Bust", Star Trek Magazine  issue 127 )
  • Armin Shimerman's enjoyment of the episode was despite the fact that he found appearing sans make-up was a challenge to adjust to. He commented, " Being out of makeup was slightly off-putting. I've grown accustomed to the Quark mask being a mechanism for support. That face describes who I am as an alien character. And also, while many actors worry about how they look on camera, I don't, because my face isn't on camera. So it was bizarre to be bare-faced on a Star Trek show. I never had been before. " ( Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion  (p. 535))

Production [ ]

Far Beyond the Stars sketch

Roy Ritterhouse drawing of "Deep Space 9" which inspires Benny (drawn by John Eaves )

  • For the art department, working on this episode was a thrilling experience. " The art department was very excited about what we were going to be doing for 'Far Beyond the Stars', " reminisced John Eaves . " We had all grown up with the wacky science fiction stories and movies of the Fifties and it was great to have the opportunity to pay homage to the past. " ("Far Beyond the Drawing Board", Star Trek Monthly  issue 54 )
  • "Far Beyond the Stars" was a particularly different episode for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to work on, necessitating a lot of collaborative effort. John Eaves remembered, " Doug Drexler , Mike and Denise Okuda , and Anthony Fredrickson were all very busy working on the magazine covers and background art. Jim Van Over created the Fifties style version of the Deep Space Nine station. Fritz Zimmerman and Tony Bro designed these fabulous office sets representing Fifties New York City. Laura Richarz had a field day finding circa Fifties decor, and Herman Zimmerman and Randy McIlvain were busy doing the production design on the whole project. I got the task of doing the pack of drawings that the stories were to be written from. " ("Far Beyond the Drawing Board", Star Trek Monthly  issue 54 )

Avery Brooks directing 'Far Beyond the Stars'

Avery Brooks sets up a shot on the set of "Far Beyond the Stars"

  • In terms of why Avery Brooks was chosen to direct this episode, Supervising Producer Steve Oster explained, " Ira Steven Behr and I discussed the possibility of Avery directing, knowing that he was going to be in every frame of film. We don't like that combination, because it's very hard to direct yourself. However, this was a story about racism and prejudice and we felt very strongly that it would be wrong if it came from a bunch of people who didn't necessarily know about that experience. We knew that it was imperative to the story and imperative to the integrity of television for it to be done right. " ( Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion  (p. 535-536)) Additionally, Oster reflected, " Originally, on our director's schedule for that season, Avery wasn't scheduled to direct 'Far Beyond the Stars', and I think as we talked about it more, it became clear, we can't not have Avery direct that episode, because it's all about representing this struggle in our country's past and, in some instances, the present. " Regarding how the invitation itself was given to him, Brooks himself recalled, " Ira Behr came to me. He said, 'I have this idea, and I wanna know whether you are interested, because you will be in front of the camera, but I also wanna know if you wanna direct.' I said, 'Well… okay. " ( What We Left Behind )
  • Avery Brooks was pleased to be given the assignment of directing this episode. " You know, because of the writing of it, because it talked about 1953, because it talked about who we are or who we were, this idea of this brown man, writing this science fiction, I thought that was incredibly clever, " he enthused. ( What We Left Behind )
  • Of course, one of the tasks Avery Brooks had in directing this episode was making its 1950s setting appear convincing. Michael Dorn stated, " Avery spent a lot of time and effort to make it look like the fifties. " ( Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars , DS9 Season 6 DVD special features)
  • Upon filming the scene in which Benny Russell falls to the ground, Avery Brooks became extraordinarily involved in delivering his performance. Ira Steven Behr commented, " Avery was so deeply into the character that he went down and stayed down. " First Assistant Director Lou Race recalled shooting the scene; " He falls to the floor, and I'm saying, 'Well, I gotta say cut. But how long should I let this go on?' " Nana Visitor related, " They called cut, and he's… not coming out, and I know what that feels like as an actor. You're gone, and he was… he was gone. " Added Lou Race, " If I'd stood there for half an hour, I think he would have kept on. He was very committed to that part and very committed to that scene. " ( What We Left Behind )

Reception [ ]

  • Ronald D. Moore said, " In my humble opinion, I think it's one of the best episodes in the entire franchise. (And I wish I was the one who wrote it!) Ira & Hans have written a true classic and when this show is long gone, I hope that people will still remember this one. " In particular, Moore singled out the ending. " I always liked the idea that all of DS9 may be nothing more than the fevered imaginings of Benny Russell. I still get a kick out of the ending and think it is one of the key ingredients to elevating the show to something very special. " ( AOL chat , 1997 )
  • Appropriately, this episode first aired during Black History Month . According to Ron Moore, this wasn't planned – " Just a happy coincidence. " ( AOL chat , 1997 )
  • This episode was nominated for three Emmy Awards : Outstanding Art Direction for a Series, Outstanding Costume Design for a Series ( Robert Blackman ), and Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series. According to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion  (p. 537), everyone who worked on the episode felt that Avery Brooks gave an Emmy-award-winning performance, and there was a great deal of disappointment amongst both cast and crew when he wasn't even nominated.
  • Ira Steven Behr reckoned that most fans didn't realize Avery Brooks had gotten as deeply as he did into playing Benny Russell's breakdown. ( What We Left Behind )
  • Zicree commented: " I was thrilled at the bravery. It was Ira Behr who was entirely responsible for that story existing because he went to bat for it. He had to convince Rick Berman and Paramount. This was going to be overtly about racism and Jake's character is a teenager who breaks into a car and gets shot by racist cops. And now watching it twenty years later it has amazing resonance, it has more power now than it did then. It was courageous for a major studio to do that on a major science fiction show. " [3]

Cinefantastique cover 146

The Cinefantastique cover honoring the episode

  • Cinefantastique ranked "Far Beyond the Stars" as the seventh best episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine . Cinefantastique honored the episode with a cover image in 1999 . ( Cinefantastique , Vol. 32, No. 4/5, p. 99-100)
  • Empire Magazine placed "Far Beyond the Stars" third in a list of the top fifty Star Trek episodes. [4]
  • Adam Nimoy , son of Leonard Nimoy , commented, " One of my favourites is 'Far Beyond the Stars' – but, y'know, you've got to know who they are to understand and get that episode. That's absolutely of the best television ever made, but you've got to know […] the history to appreciate what's going on. " [5]
  • This episode has been repeatedly screened by Professor John Putman, of San Diego State University, to his students. " Of course in my classroom, using Star Trek: Deep Space Nine , particularly the episode 'Far Beyond the Stars', that is where I really bring in the experiences of the early 90s [concerning racism and social unrest]." ( What We Left Behind )
  • Michael Chabon commented: " One of my favorite episodes of any Star Trek ever is the episode of Deep Space Nine , 'Far Beyond the Stars'… [It] squarely takes on the subject of race and racism in America, not in the future, in the past, in a really interesting way, but in a way that also clearly resonates on many levels with science fiction fandom as it currently exists or as it existed when that episode of Deep Space Nine was made. You know, that's what Star Trek 's for, in addition to all the other things that it may be for. " [6]
  • Chabon also described this episode, along with TNG : " The Inner Light ", as "two of my favorite episodes of television, period." [7]
  • Kirsten Beyer commented: " Can't get enough of Benny Russell. 'For all we know he's out there right now dreaming of us'. It feels classic while being entirely meta. I love how it doesn't shy away from the implications of race in the period and the tragedy of Russell's ultimate fate. " [8]
  • In 2022, BBC Culture called it " the most remarkable Star Trek episode ever made. " [9]

Star Trek and science fiction [ ]

  • Of this episode's relationship with the pioneering science fiction of the 1950s, Director Avery Brooks commented, " It presented a page of our history, from a time when science fiction was becoming a part of the mainstream. And when we talk about those writers, we're talking about the reason that we're even here! " ( Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion  (p. 534))
  • According to an interview in Star Trek Monthly  issue 40 , the Incredible Tales staffers were based on various real-life genre authors. For instance, Albert Macklin was intended as an homage to Isaac Asimov . Indeed, Albert's first novel was to be published by Gnome Press , as was Asimov's debut book in 1950 – a collection of short stories entitled I, Robot . Kay Eaton , who wrote under the name "K.C. Hunter" to hide her gender, was a version of Catherine Moore , who similarly wrote under the name "C.L. Moore", as well as Star Trek 's own D.C. Fontana , who wrote for Star Trek: The Original Series .

Honeymoon on Andoris

"Honeymoon on Andoris"

  • The drawing titled "Honeymoon on Andoris" (which depicts a giant praying mantis scaling a skyscraper to find a beautiful woman at the top) is a parody of King Kong . This drawing may also be a reference to the novella The Savage Swarm by Harlan Ellison . [11]
  • When Benny Russell enters the office on the day his story is to be published, Kay and Julius Eaton are discussing their story and Kay suggests the title "It Came from Outer Space", to which Julius responds positively, adding, " I wish I'd thought of it! " This is a reference to a 1953 Jack Arnold film of the same name , which was written by famous sci-fi author Ray Bradbury .
  • Although Incredible Tales is a fictional magazine created for the episode, their competitor magazine Galaxy Science Fiction was an actual science fiction digest magazine published from 1950 to 1995 , and it featured writing from such greats as Robert A. Heinlein , Ray Bradbury, and Theodore Sturgeon .
  • A memo from Douglas Pabst above Rossoff's desk reads, " No one would believe that a cheerleader could kill vampires " – a reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer , a TV show which featured Armin Shimerman in a recurring role. Buffy returned homage to Star Trek in an episode of its last season, with a Spock lookalike.

Star Trek and "Far Beyond the Stars" [ ]

  • During a scene where some of the Incredible Tales staff have an argument, Douglas Pabst says that he can't change the world, explaining, " I'm a magazine editor, not a crusader. " In a later argument, Julius Eaton tells them to be civilized and adds, " We're writers, not Vikings . " These lines are homages to the famous " I'm a doctor, not a... " series of quotes perpetuated by Leonard McCoy .

Incredible Tales Cover - March 1953

Incredible Tales cover – March 1953

  • The cover of the March 1953 edition of Incredible Tales shows the surface of Delta Vega from " Where No Man Has Gone Before ". It also advertises such stories as " The Cage " (written by E.W. Roddenberry , who is also said to be the writer of " Questor "), " The Corbomite Maneuver ", " Where No Man Has Gone Before ", and " Journey to Babel " (written by D.C. Fontana ).
  • The offices of Incredible Stories are found in the "Arthur Trill Building", a reference to both the Trill species and the real-life Brill Building .
  • The title "Honeymoon on Andoris" is a reference to Andoria .
  • A poster outside the Rendezvous Dance Club can be seen advertising " Phineas Tarbolde and the Nightingale Woman," a reference to Tarbolde 's Nightingale Woman mentioned in TOS : " Where No Man Has Gone Before ". The Star Trek Concordance (p. 251) first suggested Tarbolde's first name was "Phineas", later also listed in the Star Trek Encyclopedia  (4th ed., vol. 2, p. 371).

Deep Space Nine in 1953 [ ]

  • There was some talk that the final scene of " What You Leave Behind " would feature Benny Russell sitting outside a sound stage holding a script that read Star Trek: Deep Space Nine , essentially making the series, and all of Star Trek , a dream . ( Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion  (p. 537); Cinefantastique , Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 99) Hans Beimler commented, " At one point we were considering ending the series with Benny Russell walking the station, what he imagined. But Benny Russell was something that was introduced in the sixth season . It's important that this series be a seven-year arc, not a two-year arc, so to end on that note I think would have been inappropriate. It's an interesting way to go, [though]. " ( Cinefantastique , Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 86) Recalled Ira Steven Behr, " At one point I pitched the idea that at the end of the series everything would have been from the imagination of Benny Russell. Of course they wouldn't let me do that – it would have taken away the entire franchise. But what's so crazy about the idea that DS9 was part of Benny's mind? It's part of Rick Berman 's mind and Michael Piller 's mind and my mind, Robert [Hewitt Wolfe] 's mind, Hans [Beimler] ' mind, René [Echevarria] 's mind, and Ron [D. Moore] 's mind. So of course it's part of someone's mind. " ( The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years , p. 526)
  • Zicree commented: " It would have been very interesting, but it would have screwed up all of Star Trek 's chronology. Rick Berman is right to say if DS9 is a dream, then what about the original Star Trek , what about Next Gen , what about the shows coming down the pike? Are they all dreams of Benny Russell. Ira said he doesn’t care about the other shows. But, in reality, it would have been a strange, strange, strange oddity. So, I guess Rick was right. It would have been interesting and daring but would have hugely pissed off the fans. I think it would have been interesting and I certainly would have admired Ira’s guts for doing that. I would have got a character payment for Benny, but in retrospect, it is okay that they didn’t do that. " [12]
  • Benny is in the office, discussing his story, when his world and that of Sisko begin to merge. This begins with Darlene Kursky ( Jadzia Dax ) referring to the woman with a worm in her belly, after which K.C. Hunter momentarily becomes Kira Nerys as she compliments "this major of yours," and Roy Ritterhouse (Martok) says he wants to sketch the Cardassians in Benny's story. Furthermore, Michael Dorn ( Willie Hawkins and Worf ), Jeffrey Combs ( Kevin Mulkahey and Weyoun), and Marc Alaimo ( Burt Ryan and Dukat ) all appear for brief moments, wearing their usual make-up at various points.
  • The rivalry between Douglas Pabst (Odo) and Herbert Rossoff (Quark), Albert Macklin (Miles O'Brien) having an affinity for machinery (Macklin wrote about robots; O'Brien was an engineer), and the depictions of Burt Ryan ( Dukat ) and Kevin Mulkahey (Weyoun) as villains are parallels of the Deep Space Nine plot.
  • Herbert Rossoff calling Douglas Pabst a "fascist" mirrors Quark calling Odo one in the previous season in " The Ascent ".
  • The Benny Russell plot continues in the seventh season episode " Shadows and Symbols ", although that vision is sent by the Pah-wraiths . Casey Biggs ( Damar ) appears as Doctor Wykoff at that time, continuing the practice of having characters in the Benny Russell version of the world be parallels of antagonists in the DS9 plot.

Other trivia [ ]

  • This is the first time Kasidy Yates appears since " Rapture " in early season 5, despite her close bond to the Siskos in that episode (the long gap between that installment and this one was due to Penny Johnson's obligations to The Larry Sanders Show ).
  • This is the only episode in Star Trek directed by the episode's lead actor to depict the actor's character heavily; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has a similar distinction, being directed by leading actor William Shatner . Similarly, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was directed by Leonard Nimoy , though his version of Spock has less screen time than in the also-Nimoy-directed Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home . Usually, when an actor directs, their character has a very small role (such as Brooks' role in " Tribunal ", Rene Auberjonois' role in " Prophet Motive ", Alexander Siddig 's role in " Business as Usual ", Patrick Stewart 's role in " In Theory ", etc.), rather than, as in this episode, the same person directing also playing a prominent lead role.
  • This is the only Star Trek episode to contain the racial slur "n*ggers"; in this episode, it is said by Jake's character, Jimmy, in reference to his belief that black people will never get into space except to shine white people's shoes. Also unique is the utterance " For Christ's sake, " by the character Douglas Pabst. Both of these have been censored in re-airings.
  • The song playing over the first Benny scene, the argument with the newspaper boy, is " The Glow-Worm ", written by Paul Lincke in 1909. It was recorded in 1952 by the vocal group Mills Brothers and reached number one in the pop charts that same year.
  • "Far Beyond the Stars" is most probably referencing the story surrounding the production of the comics " Judgement Day ", written by Al Feldstein and drawn by Joe Orlando, in which an astronaut working for the Galactic Republic (an equivalent of the Federation) assesses a planet of robots for joining and ultimately rejects their candidature due to their color-based racism. In the very last panel of the comic, the astronaut is revealed to be black of skin, with the text reading, " And inside the ship, the man removed his space helmet and shook his head, and the instrument light made the beads of perspiration on his dark skin twinkle like distant stars … " The Comic Code Administrator, Judge Murphy, required of the editor, Gaines, to censor the black character. Feldstein reported having replied to the judge, " For God's sakes, Judge Murphy, that's the whole point of the goddamn story! " The story was eventually printed uncensored despite the judge's opposition, but the magazine suffered from this daring act.
  • When Benny lists famous black writers and their works, he mentions the 1940 Richard Wright novel Native Son . In the same year as "Far Beyond the Stars", Avery Brooks appeared in the Tony Kaye film American History X , in which Brooks' character also had a strong affinity for Wright's novel and introduced it into the school curriculum.
  • The quote from the Bible at the end of the episode is from 2 Timothy 4:7 . The full passage reads, " For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, will award me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing. "
  • John Eaves stated in an interview that he was in charge of the Deep Space Nine drawing getting its footprint , and to accomplish this he saw a woman in the corridors wearing Combat Boots, and asked her to stamp on it, He didn't realise until he was told later but it was Jeri Ryan in costume, as she was filming the " The Killing Game, Part II " at the time and that was part of Her French resistance costume. [13]
  • This episode was adapted in the novelization Far Beyond the Stars .
  • Remastered scenes from "Far Beyond the Stars" are featured in the documentary What We Left Behind .

Video and DVD releases [ ]

  • UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video ): Volume 6.7, 6 July 1998
  • As part of the DS9 Season 6 DVD collection
  • As Avery Brooks' episode choice in the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Captain's Log collection

Links and references [ ]

Starring [ ].

  • Avery Brooks as Benjamin Sisko and Benny Russell

Also starring [ ]

  • Rene Auberjonois as Douglas Pabst
  • Michael Dorn as Worf and Willie Hawkins
  • Terry Farrell as Jadzia Dax and Darlene Kursky
  • Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko and Jimmy
  • Colm Meaney as Albert Macklin
  • Armin Shimerman as Herbert Rossoff
  • Alexander Siddig as Julian Bashir and Julius Eaton
  • Nana Visitor as Kira Nerys and Kay Eaton (aka "K.C. Hunter")

Guest stars [ ]

  • Brock Peters as Joseph Sisko and The Preacher
  • Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun and Kevin Mulkahey
  • Marc Alaimo as Gul Dukat and Burt Ryan
  • J.G. Hertzler as Roy Ritterhouse
  • Aron Eisenberg as a News Vendor
  • Penny Johnson as Kasidy Yates and Cassie

Uncredited co-stars [ ]

  • Henry Kingi, Jr. as diner patron
  • Angus McClellan
  • Ambulance driver
  • Two ambulance paramedics
  • Rendezvous patrons

Stunt double [ ]

  • John Lendale Bennett as stunt double for Avery Brooks

References [ ]

1938 ; 145th and Lennox ; 1953 ; 2373 ; Alpha Quadrant ; amateur ; ambulance ; Amsterdam News ; Arthur Trill Building ; artwork ; Asimov, Isaac ; attractive ; Bajor ; Bajoran interceptor ( unnamed ); ballfield ; ballplayer ; baseball ; Bible ; bleacher ; blue plate special ; bongos ; boxing ; Bradbury, Ray ; Brooklyn Dodgers ; Buick Roadmaster Skylark ; Buick Super Sedanet ; Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special ; cane ; Capitol Cab ; Campbell, Hugh ; Cardassia ; Cardassians ; Cardassian border ; Cardassian space ; cent ; chalk ; cheerleader ; Chevrolet Bel Air ; Chevrolet Suburban ; Christ, Jesus ; coin dispenser ; color ; colored , color blind ; Communism ; Cortez , USS ; Coon, Gene L. ; convict ; cover ; crowbar ; crusader ; cruller ; curve ball ; " Daily News "; deafness ; Defiant , USS ; delivery boy ; DeWaay ; dishwasher ; distributor ; Dodge Luxury Liner Special ; Dominion ; doorstop ; doughnut ; drawer ; dream ; dreamer ; DuBois, W.E.B. ; Dugler, Rex ; editor ; earrings ; Earth ; Eaves, Alicia ; Eaves, Olivia ; egg ; Ellison, Ralph ; Englishman ; Eva's Kitchen ; fantasy ; fascism ; First National ; flying saucer ; Ford Super De Luxe ; frank ; fridge ; From Here to Eternity ; Gnome Press ; God ; Goldberg, Seth ; grand jury ; " grand slam "; gun ; gutting ; H-bomb ; Harlem ; headline ; heart ; Heinlein, Robert A. ; hopscotch ; hot dog ; Hudson Hornet ; Hughes, Langston ; Hugo award ; Hurston, Zora Neale ; iced tea ; imbecile ; Incredible Tales readers ; indictment ; intellectual ; Jackson , Mrs.; janitor ; Japanese Zero ; Jem'Hadar ; Jem'Hadar fighter ( unnamed ); Johnson ; jumper ; Lancaster, Burt ; lemonade ; liberal ; Lincoln Capri ; Lincoln Continental ; Lindbergh, Anne Morrow ; Lindbergh, Charles ; London ; machine gun ; magazine editor ; make-believe ; Manhattan ; Men from Mars ; Mars ; mechanical engineer ; medical tricorder ; mood-o-meter ; Moore ; Municipal Bus Lines ; Nash Statesman ; Native Son ; necklace ; needy ; Negro ; neural pattern ; New York City ; New York Giants ; New York Globe, The ; New York Yankees ; newsstand ; novel ; novella ; nun ; outer space ; Parker, Charlie ; pearl ; Pearl Harbor ; pedestrian ; Peeples, Samuel ; piano ; pie ; pinko ; potato salad ; printer ; Prophets ; publisher ; pulp magazine ; pulp ; Puppet Masters, The ; quote ; race riot ; " Red "; Rendezvous, The ; reporter ; robot ; rocket ship ; sauerkraut ; science fiction ; scrambled eggs ; secretary ; Selected Poems of Langston Hughes ; sequel ; shoeshine boy ; sidewalk ; Sisko's ; skin pigmentation ; Smith Corona ; Snider, Duke ; " Solar Odyssey "; soup ; " Space Mongoose "; " Space Mutant "; spaceships ; Space Voyager ; squadron ; staleness ; Stalin, Joseph ; steak and eggs ; Stone ; Stone Publications ; stop sign ; " strike three "; sunbathing ; Sturgeon, Theodore ; surgery ; Swofford, Quentin ; Swofford's widow ; tater ; tea ; television set ; title ; tone of voice ; " Top cops "; traffic accident ; transport ; Tri-Borough Pest Control ; True Story ; typewriter ; United Nations ; US Air Force ; US Navy ; vampire ; vendor ; Viking ; voila ; volume ; war stories ; Wells, H.G. ; West, Jonathan ; white ; white people ; White Rose Redi-Tea ; whites ; wholesaler ; Wolfe, R. ; Wright, Richard ; writer ; Writer's Monthly ; Xhosa , SS

Incredible Tales references [ ]

" 1001: First Odyssey "; " Assault on Planet 10 "; Astounding Science Fiction ; Atomic Adventure ; " Attack on Planet Eminiar Seven "; " Bad Day at Red Rock "; Behr, I.S. ; Berman ; Beyond the Rim of the Starlight ; Braga ; " Cage, The "; Cogley, Samuel T. ; " Corbomite Maneuver, The "; " Court Martial "; " Dad's Revenge "; " Deep Space Nine "; " Dogs Themselves, The "; Eaves, John ; " Everything I Have Is Yours "; " Far Beyond the Stars "; " Federation and Empire "; " First Contact "; Fontana, D.C. ; " From the Moon to the Earth "; Galaxy ; " Glow-Worm, The "; " Hazardous Images "; Hamner, Robert ; Honest Joe's Used Rockets ; Honeymoon on Andoris ; " I Have No Voice And I Must Shout "; Incredible Tales ; Interstellar Adventure Book Club ; " It Came From Outer Space "; Jefferies, Matt ; Lectroid Attack! ; " Legends of the Ferengi "; " Journey to Babel "; " Loner in a Lonely World "; " Lucifer's Chainsaw "; " Me, Android "; " Metamorphosis "; " Midnight at the Mill "; " Most Fortunate Accident, A "; Phineas Tarbolde and the Nightingale Women ; " Please, Take Me With You " ( characters ); " Quantity of the Monster "; " Questor "; Roddenberry, E.W. ; Sisko, Benjamin ; Sternbach, Rick ; " Strange Martian "; " Third Foundation "; " This Island Mars "; " Trials and Tribble-ations "; " Where No Man Has Gone Before "; " Venusian Chronicles "; " Voyage into the Atom "

Unreferenced material [ ]

Baldwin, James ; Unearthly Stories

External links [ ]

  • "Far Beyond the Stars" at StarTrek.com
  • " Far Beyond the Stars " at Memory Beta , the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
  • " Far Beyond the Stars " at Wikipedia
  • " "Far Beyond the Stars" " at MissionLogPodcast.com , a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
  • 2 USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-G)

Star Trek home

  • More to Explore
  • Series & Movies

Published Oct 2, 2023

How Ben Sisko Wrestled With American History

Deep Space 9's captain, and Avery Brooks, never shied away from shining a light on American racism.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


The world of Star Trek is filled with numerous references to American history. James T. Kirk’s reverence for Abraham Lincoln served as a subplot for The Original Series episode “ The Savage Curtain .” Tom Paris’ love of American popular culture from the 20th Century gave him and the crew of the starship Voyager numerous headaches thanks to holodeck malfunctions. However, Benjamin Sisko’s relationship to American history is the best example of the complicated story of the American people. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ’s willingness to tackle this complexity is part not only of that show’s enduring legacy in pushing the boundaries of what Star Trek would talk about, but also of the larger cultural shift in the 1990s towards greater awareness of America’s history — warts and all.

The episode “ Far Beyond the Stars ” uses the Prophets and fascination with their Emissary, Benjamin Sisko, to talk about the role of racism in 1950s America. The perspective offered in the episode is a look at life specifically as a Black writer. Benny Russell, the persona Sisko adopts in the episode — and, as it wears on, slowly begins to believe he is — represents the lost dream of Black science fiction fans and writers in the 1950s. Science fiction has always had a diverse fanbase, with some of the earliest science fiction fan clubs being formed in Harlem, New York. But Russell’s struggle to get his story published at Incredible Tales mirrors the real-life lack of diversity amongst most of the science fiction writing club of the 1950s.

Star Trek History: Far Beyond the Stars

But that isn’t to say Black Americans never attempted to write science fiction. W.E.B. Du Bois, the famed African American scholar, activist, and intellectual, wrote the science fiction short story “The Comet” for his 1920 collection Darkwater . Before that, the fantastical work by 19th Century Black Nationalist Martin Delany Black, or the Huts of Africa , dreamt of an independent African empire century before anyone wrote about the exploits of Wakanda. Russell’s story of a Black man in charge of a space station would have, in the 1950s, seemed more fantastical than the aliens he would have squared off against.

“ You are the Dreamer…and the Dream .” A Preacher, appearing in the image of Ben Sisko’s father Joseph (and played by the legendary actor Brock Peters) tells this to Benny Russell during the climax of “Far Beyond the Stars.” To dream of a world free of racism animated many members of the Civil Rights Movement, which was occurring in the era Sisko dreamed himself to be in. It’s a reference to the “dream” Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to in his “I Have a Dream” speech— one that Sisko was likely familiar with.

Benny Russell (Ben Sisko) sits at his typewriter in his home office typing a story in 'Far Beyond the Stars'

"Far Beyond the Stars"

Sisko’s knowledge of 20th Century American history plays a role in the episode. Avery Brooks as director also shines through in the episode. Referring to it as his favorite episode, in interviews about his time on Deep Space Nine , Brooks said, “It was the most important moment for me in the entire seven years” the series ran. Where Star Trek normally deals with problems of racism, discrimination, and prejudice through the allegorical lens of alien races, what sets “Far Beyond the Stars” apart from those stories is its real-world setting — one that likely would have been familiar to Black American fans of Star Trek who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s.

The science fiction of the 1950s sometimes dealt with racism and prejudice via allegory. The most glaring example of how science fiction literature, in particular, tried to confront racism was via the company EC Comics. According to University of South Carolina professor Qiana Whitted, Entertaining Comics Group published stories about racism that directly challenged the world Benny Russell confronted. Publishing stories that included Black people as astronauts — during an era when NASA would soon be criticized for having no actual Black astronauts in the space program — shows that some science fiction writers in the 1950s attempted, with varying levels of success, to confront the limitations of the genre that Russell himself could not overcome.

Benny Russell and his colleagues sit around the office common space with a model rocket ship and a box of donuts in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 'Far Beyond the Stars'

Sisko’s knowledge of American history also comes to be part of another episode of Deep Space Nine . “ Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang ” hinges partly on Sisko’s knowledge of racism in 1960s Las Vegas. Where “Far Beyond the Stars” left Sisko with no choice but to confront racism in American history, “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” allows Sisko the opportunity to reject what he sees as a false, comforting vision of humanity’s past. Asked by Kasidy Yates, his soon-to-be wife, to join other members of crew to save hologram Vic Fontaine from 1960s-era mobsters harassing him on the holosuite, Sisko appears at best reluctant to go join the program. He argues, “ We cannot ignore the truth about the past ” about racism in Las Vegas, or America more broadly, in the 1960s.

Kasidy’s push-back on this question is interesting to note. She tells Captain Sisko, “ Going to Vic’s won’t make us forget who we are or where we come from. It reminds us that we’re no longer bound by any limitations. Except the ones we impose on ourselves .” Kasidy reminds Sisko, and the audience, that the fantasies seen on the holosuites aren’t meant to be taken as real history — and, in fact, show us what could have been in a far better, freer world. Still, Sisko’s initial response to this holosuite program is not just him remembering what he has likely read and learned about American history in the past. Much of it also reflects his own experience with American racism in the 1950s, the era that “Far Beyond the Stars” portrays.

Ben Sisko raises his champagne glasses to a seated Kasidy Yates' glass while they're in the holosuite in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's 'Badda-Bing, Badda Bang'

"Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang"

Ben Sisko’s reckoning with American history reflects a broader societal trend in real life with trying to come to terms with racism in American life. In the 1980s and 1990s, films such as Brother From Another Planet (1984), Malcolm X (1992), Glory (1989), and Do The Right Thing (1989), among others, tried to show how America’s complicated and painful relationship to Black history continued to shape the nation throughout its history.

Avery Brooks himself starred in a PBS production of the book Twelve Years a Slave in 1984, over 30 years before the big-budget Hollywood version. Brooks would later go on to play the iconic Hawk in Spencer for Hire and, more importantly in A Man Called Hawk , a short-lived spinoff series where Hawk deeply embraced Black history. For example, in the pilot episode Hawk rejoices at reading a copy of W.E.B. Du Bois’ Souls of Black Folk signed by the author himself. And Brooks also starred in American History X , a film that was made and released in 1998 near the end of Deep Space Nine ’s run. There, he starred as a high school principal who teaches a white supremacist, played by Edward Norton, a version of American history that does not shy away from racism.

Sisko looks out of his window with his reflection as Benny Russell looks back at him on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's 'Far Beyond the Stars'

Both Star Trek and Avery Brooks have dealt with racism in American history through trying to entertain and inform audiences, all at once. While this show’s relationship to racism in American history is but one example of that, we must always remember that Deep Space Nine pushed the boundaries of Star Trek in ways that many fans are still wrestling with today.

Get Updates By Email

This article was originally published on April 10, 2020.

Robert Greene II (he/him) is an Assistant Professor of History at Claflin University, and is the book reviews editor for the Society of U.S. Intellectual Historians. He has also written for The Nation, Jacobin, Scalawag, and other publications.

  • Societies and Cultures

Graphic illustration of several wine bottles and glasses of wine

  • Cast & crew
  • User reviews

Far Beyond the Stars

  • Episode aired Feb 11, 1998

Nana Visitor in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993)

Captain Sisko has a full sensory vision of himself as an under-appreciated science fiction magazine writer in 1950s America. Captain Sisko has a full sensory vision of himself as an under-appreciated science fiction magazine writer in 1950s America. Captain Sisko has a full sensory vision of himself as an under-appreciated science fiction magazine writer in 1950s America.

  • Avery Brooks
  • Gene Roddenberry
  • Rick Berman
  • Michael Piller
  • Rene Auberjonois
  • Michael Dorn
  • 44 User reviews
  • 5 Critic reviews

Michael Dorn in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993)

  • Captain Benjamin 'Ben' Sisko …

Rene Auberjonois

  • Constable Odo …

Michael Dorn

  • Lt. Cmdr. Worf …

Terry Farrell

  • Lt. Cmdr. Jadzia Dax …

Cirroc Lofton

  • Jake Sisko …

Colm Meaney

  • Chief Miles O'Brien …

Armin Shimerman

  • Doctor Julian Bashir …

Nana Visitor

  • Major Kira Nerys …

Brock Peters

  • Joseph Sisko …

Jeffrey Combs

  • Gul Dukat …

J.G. Hertzler

  • Kasidy Yates
  • (as Penny Johnson)

Henry Kingi Jr.

  • Diner Patron
  • (uncredited)
  • Benny Russell (Typing Double)
  • All cast & crew
  • Production, box office & more at IMDbPro

Did you know

  • Trivia Kira's alter ego, the female writer forced to use her initials to hide her sex, is a direct reference to D.C. Fontana (Dorothy Catherine), a writer on (among others) the original Star Trek (1966) who had to do the same.
  • Goofs When they turn on the radios, they instantly come on. The radios at that time were tube, so they had to warm up before they would come on.

Benny Russell : I am a Human being, dammit! You can deny me all you want but you cannot deny Ben Sisko. He exists. That future, that space station, all those people, they exist in here, in my mind.

  • Connections Featured in The Captains (2011)
  • Soundtracks Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Main Title (uncredited) Written by Dennis McCarthy Performed by Dennis McCarthy

User reviews 44

  • GreggoWhitehead
  • Feb 11, 2021
  • February 11, 1998 (United States)
  • United States
  • Official site
  • Paramount Studios - 5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA (Studio)
  • Paramount Television
  • See more company credits at IMDbPro

Technical specs

  • Runtime 47 minutes

Related news

Contribute to this page.

  • IMDb Answers: Help fill gaps in our data
  • Learn more about contributing

More to explore

Production art

Recently viewed

Why Is Star Trek Ship Design Unique In Science Fiction?

Throughout the history of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek universe, starship design has remained consistently unique among its sci-fi contemporaries.

Quick Links

How walter matt jefferies broke the starship design mold for star trek, the next generation of star trek ship design didn't veer too far from the original, how star trek: discovery and picard veered from classic designs, the consistency in starship design helps every series feel like star trek.

Science fiction is a vast multiverse of stories set in the far reaches of outer space as starships travel to and from different worlds. In the earliest days of sci-fi on television and film, there was a lot of homogeneity to the design of rockets and flying saucers. Gene Roddenberry knew this when he set out to create Star Trek , and that's why he was determined to ensure his universe was visually distinct. However, nearly 60 years after the first USS Enterprise took flight, Star Trek ship design remains very unique in science fiction.

When Star Trek was in development, Gene Roddenberry spent a lot on starship research , so much so Desilu had to tell him to stop. However, what Walter Matt Jefferies ultimately created was nothing like anyone had seen on screen before or outside of this universe. It's so unique that with just a line drawing of a circle and five lines, even someone only vaguely familiar with this universe could correctly identify the shape of the USS Enterprise. In both the second and third waves of this universe, ship designs have evolved along with modern visual effects. While successive designers have evolved the look of Starfleet vessels, none have departed too far from Jefferies's original design. Yet, this isn't just for visual or "brand" consistency, but rather because the shape is simply that good.

The original USS Star Trek Enterprise model by Matt Jeffries.

Gene Roddenberry's Reason for Naming Star Trek's Ship 'Enterprise' Is Brilliant

Before Star Trek: The Original Series was canceled, Gene Roddenberry stepped away from showrunning duties. Afterward, he and Stephen E. Whitfield published The Making of Star Trek . The book was an accounting of the creation of the show in detail. Jefferies discussed the creation of the "hero" ship, originally meant to be called the USS Yorktown, named after the ship Roddenberry was stationed on during World War II. His edict to his art director? He wanted no rockets, no flying saucers nor anything else that had been seen before.

As if that wasn't difficult enough, he wanted the ship to be a centuries-ahead advancement of the vessels being designed by the nascent United States space program. Knowing this, it makes more sense why they spent so much on research. Whatever the price tag, it was a steal at twice the price as the USS Enterprise is the most beautiful ship in science fiction. On the DVD special features for Star Trek: The Original Series , the late Manny Coto said "the Enterprise haunts" people, in a good way. Something about the vessel is immediately iconic, and it looks like no other starships in fiction before or since.

Other iconic ships appeared in Star Trek: The Original Series , from the Klingon cruisers to the Romulan Bird of Prey. All of them are special, but not quite as enduring the Enterprise. Jefferies went on to design the sets inside the vessel as well, including his eponymous "Jefferies tubes," which was another element that persisted into future iterations of the universe. Yet, even if the Enterprise was all he ever designed, Walter Matt Jefferies would be a legend for it. So much so, that when concept designers were brought in to redesign the ship for the jump to feature films, Andrew Probert changed very little and didn't mess with the iconic silhouette.

Mike Minor Drawing of the Star Trek Phase II Enterprise refit, the ship against a painted blue and black sky via Paramount

How the Abandoned Star Trek: Phase II Pilot Became The Motion Picture

The creation of Star Trek: The Next Generation used leftovers from Star Trek: Phase II to shape its stories and characters. However, it was a leftover of Andrew Probert's design from The Motion Picture that became the next "hero" ship. It was a drawing he did where he wanted to push the design in a more "organic" direction. He also lowered the nacelles below the saucer, because he always thought the raised nacelles on the original would cause the ship to tip forward as it accelerated. Other elements from Jefferies' past designs were included, such as the saucer section's ability to separate from the secondary hull.

The USS Enterprise-D looked completely different from what fans were used to seeing in The Original Series and the refit design in the film series. However, because it maintained the elements of the original silhouette, it was immediately recognizable as a Star Trek vessel. For The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine , designers like John Eaves, Rick Sternbach, Doug Drexler and others were given more freedom to experiment. The Romulan Warbird, for example, looked nothing like the Bird of Prey of old. Cardassian and Klingon vessels similarly evolved, though older models, like the Klingon Bird of Prey and the Excelsior and Miranda Class starships continued to appear because filming models were scant.

The biggest departures during the second-wave era were the USS Voyager, designed by Sternbach and Richard D. James, and the NX-01 Enterprise, designed by Drexler. Voyager continued the trend towards organic shapes, with its saucer and second hull seeming like a single piece. The NX-01 didn't have a secondary hull, and Drexler also designed the vessel with accents reminiscent of the real-world aerospace design that inspired Jefferies during his The Original Series era research. Had Star Trek: Enterprise returned for a fifth season, Drexler designed a "refit" of the NX-01 that would've tacked on a secondary hull and deflector dish.

Michael Burnham in Star Trek Discovery

Discovery Restarted Star Trek Like Gene Roddenberry Did With TNG

Technically, the USS Discovery maintains the visual look established by Jefferies, but also took elements from a Ralph McQuarrie design for Star Trek: Planet of the Titans . The never-realized movie would've seen a flatter, more angular starship. The flagship of the third wave of Star Trek was more angular, with squared off nacelles that pulled back into a sharp point. The other ship designs in the early seasons of Star Trek: Discovery shared these visual details, looking very different from what fans were used to.

Even with what seemed like drastic departures, the Jefferies silhouette of a saucer, secondary hull and two nacelles were still there. It was clearly a Starfleet vessel. When the USS Enterprise showed up in the Season 1 finale, it looked similar to the shape of The Original Series' model. However, it had larger struts and more visible construction lines, instead of the smooth, almost magical look Roddenberry wanted back in the day. It was a fantastic blend of the upgraded aesthetic, production design and visual effects capabilities while still hearkening back to the familiar.

Star Trek: Picard went a different route, with the titular character a retired Starfleet Admiral in need of a civilian ship. La Sirena looked more like the long-range Vulcan shuttle seen in The Motion Picture or something out of Star Wars . By Season 2, production designer Dave Blass and showrunner Terry Matalas brought Eaves, Drexler and other design alums into the fold. The USS Stargazer and USS Titan-A still had a sleek, fresh look but with more rectangular nacelles evocative of the Probert-designed refit from the The Original Series films.

A collage of the USS Enterprise in front of various Star Trek ships drawings

25 Best Star Trek Ships, Ranked

The 2009 Star Trek film and its sequels featured a radical redesign for the USS Enterprise, with a "hot rod" aesthetic according to Star Trek: The Art of the Film by Mark Cotta Vaz. Even larger and chunkier, the ship is unmistakably a Starfleet vessel. The look of Star Trek ships remains so unique because of how revolutionary it was in the 1960s. They were so different that no successive franchise dared try to copy the style. Otherwise, they'd either be mistaken for part of Roddenberry's universe or accused of copying it. Star Trek owns this look and not just in a legal sense.

Someone can look at a show or film, from any era and in any medium, and immediately recognize it as Star Trek . Even Star Wars , with its unique designs from McQuarrie, Doug Chiang and others, doesn't stand out as profoundly from its peers. The reverence successive designers had for what Jefferies accomplished helped them evolve the look and feel of these vessels, while not veering too far from what makes them so beloved. After six decades and countless iterations, the Star Trek look remains unique and, even more impressively, never feels staid or tired.

The original Star Trek cast gathered behind an image of the USS Enterprise on a Star Trek poster

The Star Trek universe encompasses multiple series, each offering a unique lens through which to experience the wonders and perils of space travel. Join Captain Kirk and his crew on the Original Series' voyages of discovery, encounter the utopian vision of the Federation in The Next Generation, or delve into the darker corners of galactic politics in Deep Space Nine. No matter your preference, there's a Star Trek adventure waiting to ignite your imagination.

With Its Most Thoughtful Episode, Star Trek Leveled Up And Was Never the Same Again

In the beginning , The Next Generation struggled to find its voice. But one pivotal episode changed everything.

Brent Spiner as Data in "The Measure of Man."

Remember The Next Generation episode where Data learned to swim? In the first draft of one of the most pivotal Star Trek episodes of all time, “The Measure of a Man,” things were originally very different. Instead of having Data playing poker with the crew, writer Melinda Snodgrass imagined the themes of the episode could be foreshadowed by Data struggling with a swimming pool. But, because the budget didn’t allow for the swimming pool, Snodgrass created the poker scene. And with that one decision, the entire direction of Then Next Generation was changed forever.

On February 13, 1989, The Next Generation dropped what is still considered its greatest courtroom episode, “The Measure of a Man.” This ethical critique at the center of the story is obviously why the episode remains so classic and beloved. But, at the same time, the small details of this episode were harbingers of the kind of show that The Next Generation eventually became. Mild spoilers ahead.

Star Trek loves legal dramas. From the 1967 classic two-parter, “The Menagerie,” to the 1991 film The Undiscovered Country to the recent fan-favorite Strange New Worlds episode, “ Ad Astra per Aspera,” the contemplative philosophizing inherent in Star Trek’s DNA often works very well when those ideas are put on trial. This isn’t just a classic trope, it's an expedient way to drill down on a science fiction story. Even the very first episode of The Next Generation , “Encounter at Farpoint,” in 1987, framed the entire series as the trial of humanity.

Data and Maddox in "The Measure of a Man."

Data and Maddox in "The Measure of a Man."

But, “The Measure of a Man” is easily Trek’s best courtroom episode. Briefly, the set-up is this: When the Enterprise arrives at Starbase 173, a zealous Starfleet roboticist named Maddox demands that Data be dismantled to further android research. This forces Captain Picard to create an ad-hoc trial, administered by Starbase 173’s resident judge advocate general, Captain Louvois. The logistical question of whether or not Data is the property of Starfleet initially elides the moral imperative: Is Data actually alive? And if he is a sentient being, does that mean he has the right to choose the path for his own life?

Unlike the droids in the Star Wars franchise, when Data’s off-switch is used in “The Measure of a Man,” it feels like a violation of his rights. In a sense, for longtime science fiction fans, this episode wasn’t just the trial of Data, but, in a way, the trial of Asimov’s robots, and the Replicants from Blade Runner , too. With this episode, The Next Generation, in a sense, began to take itself more seriously, not just as a mainstream drama, but as a serious work of science fiction.

When somebody says Star Trek: The Next Generation is the greatest of all of the Trek series, that statement almost always comes with a caveat. If you binge TNG from the beginning, starting with Season 1, you’ll find a deeply uneven show. And, while conventional wisdom holds that Season 3 is where the true classic era of TNG begins, many — including Brent Spiner — have long maintained that the seeds for the greatness of this version of Star Trek began in Season 2, specifically, with this episode.

Written by former attorney Melinda Snodgrass — a close friend of George R.R. Martin, and co-creator of the Wild Cards series with him — “The Measure of a Man” succeeded in 1989 for the same reason it resonates today; it was both allegorical about human rights in general but specific enough in its sci-fi premise to create a bit of doubt in the mind of the viewer. For strange legal reasons, Riker, Data’s friend, is required to be the prosecutor, an ethical wrinkle that makes the viewer wonder whether or not Data is a true living being. Riker has to be good at his job as a prosecutor, allowing us to follow the logic of his arguments, which are, at times, compelling!

Data and Picard in "The Measure of a Man."

Data and Picard try to prove Data is “alive.”

The title of the episode comes from a quote from Martin Luther King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” As pointed out by authors Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann , this means the episode title does not reference Data himself, but instead, the behaviors of humankind relative to the questions that the episode raises. How Picard, Riker, Maddox, and Louvois will judge Data is really what’s on trial.

This emotional arc is best seen in the journey of Maddox, someone who, at the beginning, couldn’t imagine Data as a person, and by the end of the episode, changes his mind. In the 2012 Blu-ray commentary track for this episode, Melinda Snodgrass noted of Maddox: “I wrote him as a true believer because I wanted him to change.”

The crew plays poker in "The Measure of a Man," in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation,' Season 2

This is the first episode of TNG in which the crew plays poker.

Canonically, this change of heart later resulted in another classic, the season 4 episode, “Data’s Day,” in which Data narrates his entire day in the form of a letter to Maddox. Additionally, Star Trek: Picard Season 1 used Maddox’s admiration for Data as the entire foundation for a season-long mystery, as well as the creation of even more intelligent android-esque lifeforms. This notion eventually resulted in Jean-Luc Picard being reborn in a “Synth” body , pushing the envelope of Trek’s definitions of “new life” even further .

And of course, there’s that poker game that begins the episode. This was the first time we saw members of the Enterprise-D crew playing poker, an image that became the last shot of “All Good Things...” in 1994, and the final episode of Picard , “The Last Generation” in 2023. From the journey of Data to the warm feelings about this Enterprise crew to great allegorical science fiction for TV, the best of The Next Generation started right here.

Star Trek: The Next Generation , Season 2, Episode 9, “ The Measure of a Man” is streaming on Paramount+.

Phasers on Stun!: How the Making — and Remaking — of Star Trek Changed the World

Ryan Britt's new book on the history of Star Trek's biggest changes. From the '60s show to the movies to 'TNG,' to 'Discovery,' 'Picard,' Strange New Worlds,' and beyond!

  • Science Fiction

science fiction writers star trek

A Discarded Idea For Star Trek's Troi Probably Would Have Stirred Some Controversy

Star Trek: The Next Generation

When "Star Trek" first aired in the late 1960s, it wasn't an overwhelmingly popular hit. When the show was canceled in 1969, it was put into eternal syndication, and it wouldn't be until the mid-1970s that Trekkies would begin to appear in earnest. "Star Trek" conventions started to pop up in hotel ballrooms across the nation, and "Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry would occasionally appear at said conventions to discuss his creation with his many fans. 

It was during these conversations, really, that Roddenberry began to mentally highlight the messages he put into "Star Trek." Fans, he saw, were responding to Trek's depiction of a world without war and money, a world where diplomacy and exploration took precedence over conquest and acquisition. Many loved the show's diversity. 

When it came time to create "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in 1986, it appeared Roddenberry was eager to shift Trek's themes into overdrive. "Next Generation" was going to have even less conflict, even more diplomacy, even more gentle consideration of humanity's emotions. Indeed, some of the show's writers were frustrated at Roddenberry's infamous mandate that "Next Generation" feature no interpersonal conflict. In the future, Roddenberry said, people will get along. 

No character symbolized Roddenberry's peacenik tendencies better than Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) . Troi was half Betazoid, which meant she could psychically read the emotions of others. She was ready for missions of diplomacy, but also regularly talked to the crew about how they were coping. She also had a chair on the bridge, seated right next to the captain. Mental health was key. 

She also originally had three breasts. Back in 2007, talking to EW , writer D.C. Fontana recalled the early days of "NextGen," and how she had to adamantly reject the idea that Troi be tri-breasted.

The three-breasted Counselor Troi

It shouldn't be forgotten that Gene Roddenberry, in addition to envisioning a future without war and conflict, was also an insufferable horndog. He clearly believed in free love, and exalted the importance of sex and orgasms on more than one occasion. He likely had no issues in the 1960s with keeping the show's female cast members in miniskirts. 

Fontana recalls the early brainstorming sessions for "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and some of the ideas that would eventually make it onto the show. For one, the U.S.S. Enterprise was a much larger ship. The captain wouldn't be an adventurer but would remain on the bridge during away missions. Fontana also recalled the multi-breasted Troi idea: 

"I objected to Troi having three breasts. I felt women have enough trouble with two. And how are you going to line them up? Vertically, horizontally, or what? I was like, 'Please, don't go there.' And they didn't, fortunately." 

Adding an additional breast to a very human actress would have not only required a heck of a lot of makeup, but would certainly have pushed the boundaries of good taste. Three boobs sounds like a conceit from "Flesh Gordon" rather than "Star Trek." Fontana didn't say if it was Roddenberry who suggested Troi have three breasts, but Trekkies may infer all they like (although, honestly, it could have been anyone). 

Incidentally, there is a character on "Star Trek" that had polymastia. An unnamed cat-like alien in "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" — one who gave table dances at a dive bar on Nimbus III — had three breasts. 

Also, actress Lycia Naff, who played Sonya Gomez on "NextGen" would also play a three-breasted sex worker in Paul Verhoeven's 1991 film "Total Recall."

Every product was carefully curated by an Esquire editor. We may earn a commission from these links.

a hand holding a paint brush

Inside the Censorship Scandal That Rocked Sci-Fi and Fantasy's Biggest Awards

Last week, the Hugo Awards melted down over unexplained disqualifications. Insiders tell Esquire what really happened—and what it could mean for the future of literary awards.

A thousand miles west of Shanghai, on a vast plain between two mountain ranges teeming with giant pandas, it looks like an alien spacecraft has landed in the fourth-largest city in China.

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects to resemble a star nebula, this is the 59,000-square-foot Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, constructed at lightspeed over the course of a single year to host the 81st World Science Fiction Convention, also known as WorldCon. For writers and readers of science fiction and fantasy, it's like the National Book Awards, the Academy Awards, and San Diego Comic-Con all rolled into one.

On Saturday, October 21st, 2023, thousands of people gathered here for panels, parties, and the annual Hugo Awards ceremony, which celebrates the best works of science fiction and fantasy published or released during the previous calendar year.

In Hollywood, a Hugo Award for best film or TV series may not carry the same cachet as an Oscar or an Emmy, but in bookstores from New York to Moscow, a bright Hugo Award badge on the cover of a novel can help it stand out. “We usually make a display in the store for the nominees and winners,” says Matthew Berger, co-owner of the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego. In their early days, the Hugo Awards recognized writers who have since become genre legends, like Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Frank Herbert; more recently, honorees have included modern masters like George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, and N.K. Jemisin.

main venue for 81st world science fiction convention

That evening in Chengdu, in a massive auditorium shaped like the belly of a whale, Dave McCarty—a middle-aged software engineer for an Illinois trucking company and lifelong sci-fi fan who was chosen by the convention’s leaders to oversee last year’s Hugo Awards—walked onstage to thundering applause. Within the WorldCon community, he’s nicknamed the “Hugo Pope” for serving on so many awards committees over the years.

“With the help of fans from all over the world, including many fans here in China participating for the very first time, we identified a ballot of 114 deserving finalists,” McCarty said behind a podium, wearing a black tux over a white waistcoat and bow tie. “We then asked the community to rank those choices as they saw fit.”

But that’s not what happened. Something had gone horribly wrong.

Among sci-fi and fantasy fans, the uproar was immediate and intense. Had government officials in the host country censored the finalists? Did the awards committee make a colossal mistake when tallying the votes, then try to cover it up? Or did something even stranger occur?

To get to the bottom of the mystery, I spoke with more than a dozen past Hugo winners, finalists, and committee members, some of whom requested anonymity. But to understand what these insiders believe really happened —and what it means for the future of the Hugos and other literary awards—we have to utilize a science fiction trope and go back in time.

The Hugo Awards have courted controversy before. In 2015, a right-wing voting bloc led by Brad R. Torgersen dominated the ballot after he complained that the Hugos had become “an affirmative action award” for “underrepresented minority or victim group” authors and characters. In 2021, the voting process to select the host city for the 2023 convention became a lightning rod for conspiracy theories. Each year, anyone who purchases a membership in the World Science Fiction Society can vote on where WorldCon will be held two years later. In 2021, voters could choose between Chengdu and Winnipeg, Canada for the 2023 convention. “There were concerns that a couple thousand people from China purchased memberships [in the World Science Fiction Society] that year to vote for Chengdu,” says Jason Sanford, a three-time Hugo finalist. “It was unusual, but it was done under the rules.”

While Sanford welcomed the participation of new Chinese fans, other people were alarmed that many of the Chinese votes for Chengdu were written in the same handwriting and posted from the same mailing address. The chair of the convention that year, Mary Robinette Kowal, says some members of the awards committee wanted to mark those votes as invalid. “But if you’re filling out a ballot in English and you don’t speak English, you hand it to a friend who does,” she says. “And the translation we’d put in could be read as ‘where are you from,’ not ‘what is your address.’”

Eventually, a few votes were invalidated by the committee, but most were allowed to stand. “China has the largest science fiction reading audience on the planet by several magnitudes, and they are extremely passionate,” Kowal says.

Later, when Chengdu was announced as the winning site for the 2023 convention, more than 100 authors—including N. K. Jemisin, G. Willow Wilson, S. A. Chakraborty, and Tochi Onyebuchi—signed an open letter “in protest of serious and ongoing human rights violations taking place in the Uyghur region of China.” Other authors were concerned about the Chinese Communist Party’s history of censoring LGBTQ content, as well as material that criticizes the party’s government.

These concerns planted the seeds for this year’s crisis, which reached a boiling point on January 20, 2024.

the 81st world science fiction convention opens in chengdu

Compared with other literary awards, the Hugos are usually remarkably transparent and democratic. While the National Book Awards and the Booker Prizes are selected behind closed doors by a panel of judges, anyone can vote for the Hugos by purchasing a supporting membership in the World Science Fiction Society for each year’s convention.

Most years, the Hugo committee shares the nominating statistics later the same evening after the winners are announced, or a few days later, at most. This year, Dave McCarty didn’t share the statistics until January 20—91 days after the awards ceremony, with no explanation for the delay. “The World Science Fiction Society’s constitution says the statistics have to be released within three months, but it’s never taken that long before now,” says Sanford.

When McCarty finally shared last year’s nominating statistics on his Facebook page, authors, fans, and finalists were shocked. In the history of the awards, no works had ever been deemed ineligible like this. Many people who had expected Kuang to win for Babel were now stunned to see she very well could have, and McCarty’s refusal to explain what happened made everything worse. (McCarty did not respond to interview requests for this story.)

“Fandom doesn't like people fucking with their awards, no matter who does it or why,” says John Scalzi, a three-time Hugo Award winner who was a finalist last year in the Best Novel category: the very same category in which R.F. Kuang should have been nominated for Babel, according to the nomination count on page 20 of McCarty’s document. “The reason people are outraged right now is because they care about the award, in one fashion or another, and this lack of transparency feels like a slap,” Scalzi says.

Brandon Sanderson , another past Hugo winner, says this incident damages the reputation of the award: “To find out that the committee behind the scenes [overrode] the voter base without saying anything AND with possible political motivations is extremely unsettling.”

Neil Gaiman didn’t respond to my interview request, but he did comment directly on McCarty’s Facebook post : “Is there anyone who could actually explain WHY Sandman episode 6 was ineligible?”

McCarty responded: “The only statement from the administration team that I can share is the one that I already have, after we reviewed the constitution and the rules we must follow, we determined the work was not eligible.”

Since then, hundreds of people have asked McCarty to explain what exactly in the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) constitution or rules made these works ineligible, but his responses quickly deteriorated into insults, such as “Are you slow?” and, “Clearly you can't understand plain English in our constitution.” However, there isn’t a single rule in the WSFS constitution that could possibly explain why any of these writers were deemed ineligible.

“When I started seeing Dave McCarty’s responses, I was utterly unsurprised,” a former WorldCon committee member who asked to remain anonymous tells me. “That is very consistent with who he is, and how he’s treated other people. It’s incredibly disrespectful on every level.”

china sichuan chengdu worldcon cn

A few days later, McCarty apologized for his “inappropriate, unprofessional, condescending” responses, but still refused to explain the ineligibles. Without answers from McCarty, many Hugo enthusiasts have coalesced around two theories: either the awards committee miscounted early-round votes and realized their mistake too late, or the ineligible writers were censored under pressure from the Chinese Communist Party.

“If they had issued a statement saying there was a miscount and we’re deeply sorry about it, people would have been mad, but it would have been understandable,” Kowal says. Some fans have pointed to mathematical irregularities in the voting statistics compared to past years, and an additional former WorldCon committee member tells me, “I’m guessing someone made a mistake—probably more than one.”

Meanwhile, allegations of censorship have spread like Star Trek tribbles, especially because the protagonist of R. F. Kuang’s Babel is queer, Zhao is non-binary, and all four “ineligible” writers have criticized the Chinese Communist Party or its policies at some point in the past.

Gaiman, Kuang, and Zhao declined to comment on this story, but confirmed on social media that they were just as shocked as everyone else. Weimer says one of his Patreon posts from 2021, where he expressed concerns about holding the Hugos in China, may have marked him for censorship. “It's possible that the [Chinese Communist Party] took umbrage at my piece, or the [convention] felt that they might, and so I was rendered ineligible,” he says.

However, multiple former WorldCon committee members who spoke with me on the condition of anonymity do not believe the Chinese government—nor the Chinese members of last year’s Hugo Awards administration—directly or indirectly censored the awards. Rather, they believe that one or more members of the executive committee mismanaged this year’s awards—and failed to explain why four popular works were deemed ineligible.

On January 31, less than two weeks after McCarty revealed the voting statistics that kicked off the controversy, the California nonprofit that owns the Hugo Awards trademarks released a bombshell statement : McCarty resigned from the organization, alongside the chair of its board of directors, Kevin Standlee. Additionally, the nonprofit censured McCarty “for his public comments that have led to harm of the goodwill and value of our marks and for actions of the Hugo Administration Committee of the Chengdu Worldcon that he presided over.” Two other members of the Chengdu awards committee, Ben Yalow and Shi Chen, were censured as well, “for actions of the Hugo Administration Committee of the Chengdu Worldcon that [they] presided over.”

Yalow and the rest of the 2023 awards committee did not respond to my interview requests for this story. None of my sources know why Yalow or Chen were censured, though as co-division heads of the convention, they would have been McCarty’s superiors.

Meanwhile, organizers of the upcoming 2024 Hugo Awards in Glasgow, Scotland, released a statement of their own to calm the waters: “We will also publish the reasons for any disqualifications of potential finalists, and any withdrawals of potential finalists from the ballot.”

china sichuan chengdu worldcon cn

While this may be the last we hear about the Chengdu crisis, each year’s WorldCon and Hugo Awards are run by a different crop of volunteers, leaving many authors, fans, and finalists hopeful about the future, albeit insistent that permanent changes need to be made to the WSFS constitution that can’t be ignored by individual committees.

“At the very least, I think those [writers] who were removed should have their eligibility extended by a year, and perhaps it's time for a long hard look at the Hugo committee and overhaul how the award is managed,” Sanderson says.

Scalzi agrees. “The thing I would like to stress here is that the Hugos have been to this point pretty resilient: there have been major crises involving them before… and the [community] moved to address them,” he says. “So while this is a problem and needs to be addressed, quickly and comprehensively, I feel pretty confident the community will address it and the Hugos will come out the other side a better award.”

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that the transparent voting process makes the Hugo Awards special. “I love the Hugo for its unique method of walking the line between being a juried award and an open-voting, ‘who has the most fans’ award,” Sanderson says. “It's like an Academy Award, except if any person dedicated enough to the genre were able to join the Academy and participate.”

Perhaps in the future, other literary awards will be inspired by the transparency of the Hugos, if not the controversies that have occasionally accompanied them. Imagine the thrill and tragedy of finding out a book was one vote away from winning or becoming a finalist for the National Book Awards or the National Book Critics Circle Awards. Imagine the drama!

.css-f6drgc:before{margin:-0.99rem auto 0 -1.33rem;left:50%;width:2.1875rem;border:0.3125rem solid #FF3A30;height:2.1875rem;content:'';display:block;position:absolute;border-radius:100%;} .css-1aglugu{font-family:Lausanne,Lausanne-fallback,Lausanne-roboto,Lausanne-local,Arial,sans-serif;font-size:1.625rem;line-height:1.2;margin:0rem;}@media(max-width: 48rem){.css-1aglugu{font-size:1.75rem;line-height:1.2;}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1aglugu{font-size:2.375rem;line-height:1.2;}}.css-1aglugu b,.css-1aglugu strong{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;}.css-1aglugu em,.css-1aglugu i{font-style:italic;font-family:inherit;}.css-1aglugu:before{content:'"';display:block;padding:0.3125rem 0.875rem 0 0;font-size:3.5rem;line-height:0.8;font-style:italic;font-family:Lausanne,Lausanne-fallback,Lausanne-styleitalic-roboto,Lausanne-styleitalic-local,Arial,sans-serif;} "Fandom doesn't like people fucking with their awards."

But when I reached out to those award organizations, they didn’t sound too wild about the idea. “The National Book Awards judges make their decisions independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors, and deliberations are strictly confidential,” says Ale Romero, communications and marketing manager at the National Book Foundation, which presents the National Book Awards.

A rep for the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) says that privacy is part of what gives the award its personality. “Much like the Quakers, nearly every decision made at the NBCC is one undertaken by the entire group, [and] I believe it would be very difficult to persuade a majority of our board to vote for such a change,” says Keetje Kuipers, vice president of awards and diversity, equity, and inclusion for the NBCC. “Releasing a voting statistics tally would not be in keeping with the tenor of our traditional deliberation style, which favors passionate critical argument over all else.”

At the end of my Zoom call with Sanford, I see some emotion in his face around the eyes. “When I was young, science fiction and fantasy books literally saved my life,” he says. “I looked for books that were Hugo finalists or winners, and they showed me a way forward. They showed me there are other people out there who think like me.”

Whatever happens to the Hugos moving forward, one thing is clear: No one should have the power to erase books from the reading lists of future Jason Sanfords.

preview for HDM All sections playlist - Esquire

@media(max-width: 73.75rem){.css-1ktbcds:before{margin-right:0.4375rem;color:#FF3A30;content:'_';display:inline-block;}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1ktbcds:before{margin-right:0.5625rem;color:#FF3A30;content:'_';display:inline-block;}} Books

a stack of books

Meet Your New Robot Co-Writer

dune books

How to Read the 'Dune' Book Series in Order

the bullet swallower

The Western Renaissance Begins With This Novel


How to Take Back Your Life From Algorithms

the end of the multiverse

The End of the Multiverse

historical texts

Rewriting The Rules of Historical Fiction

best horror books

The Best Horror Books of 2023

text, calendar

The Esquire Book Club Holiday Gift Guide


The Holiday Napkin Project: Jeff VanderMeer


The Holiday Napkin Project: Ottessa Moshfegh


The Holiday Napkin Project: Zakiya Dalila Harris



10 Examples Of Real Science In Star Trek

Posted: 18 February 2024 | Last updated: 18 February 2024

The writers of Star Trek went above and beyond to make the universe as realistic as possible.

More for You

Trump is ‘really grotesque’

Trump is 'really grotesque'

Photo: Partisans found Russian equipment in occupied Crimea intended for front (Getty Images)

Partisans found Russian equipment in occupied Crimea intended for front

Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville speaking after his old side's game against Luton Town

Gary Neville makes 'staggering' Manchester United admission after Luton Town win

New or existing customers can bag the cash by switching their main current account to either the NatWest Reward or Select account.

NatWest will pay free £200 to anybody with over £1,250 in bank account

There is no requirement to resit your test due to your age, as things stand

Drivers could be forced to retake driving test under new proposals

Rebel Tory MPs pushing for Rishi Sunak to quit before he is deposed

Rebel Tory MPs pushing for Rishi Sunak to quit before he is deposed


Protesters host ‘everything must go’ sale at Trump Tower following fraud judgment


Liz Cheney turns up the heat on ‘coward’ House Speaker Mike Johnson

Dartmoor deserted

Hundreds to take part in mass trespass on Dartmoor

The Atari 2600 (Picture: Wikipedia)

What was the 1983 video game crash?

Athens topped the list and ranking, followed by Florence, according to travel.alot.com.

Greece and Italy travel warning for UK tourists and 'you should be on guard'

Kasha Rigby pictured in 2015 in Pasadena, California (Pic: Getty)

Renowned US skier dies in Kosovo avalanche

Ceremony marking the anniversary of the death of senior Iranian military commander Mohammad Hejazi, in Tehran

Iraqi armed groups dial down U.S. attacks on request of Iran commander

Chelsea star's career over after Man city draw - Carragher

Chelsea star's career over after Man city draw - Carragher

British Army vehicles are loaded on to a cargo ship near Southampton en route to mainland Europe for Nato's Steadfast Defender exercise

British Army not prepared to respond to war with Russia, warns ex-Trump adviser

Liver disease cases are rising

Liver diseases' four warning signs as cases soar


Nikki Haley hammers Trump on fondness for dictators as South Carolina primary nears

Office for Budget Responsibility documents suggest the amount raised from council tax is set to reach £57.4billion - double what is was under Labour.

Millions of UK households issued brutal £523 council tax bombshell

Russian courts sentence dozens to jail for commemorating Putin critic Navalny

Russian courts sentence dozens to jail for commemorating Putin critic Navalny

Director Christopher Nolan has won his first BAFTA - one of seven for Oppenheimer. Pic: Kate Green/BAFTA/Getty

Oppenheimer sweeps the BAFTAs with seven awards - including the big prize


  1. 15 Amazing Things You Never Knew About 'Star Trek' Writers

    science fiction writers star trek

  2. Spock And Kirk's First Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Meeting Is

    science fiction writers star trek

  3. The Best Star Trek Novels: A Personal List

    science fiction writers star trek

  4. Star Trek: Invasion! First Strike Book One -- Diane Carey

    science fiction writers star trek

  5. Book Review: ‘Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War’ Is An Adventure

    science fiction writers star trek

  6. Gates McFadden: Dr. Beverly Crusher: The Next Generation

    science fiction writers star trek


  1. 13 science fiction authors on how Star Trek influenced their lives

    Gene Roddenberry's drama aboard a spaceship introduced millions of viewers to science fiction across the world, and inspired some viewers to become science fiction authors in their own...

  2. The best writers of "Star Trek"

    1. Ronald D. Moore Producer | Battlestar Galactica Ron Moore was a member of the Kappa Alpha literary society during his time at Cornell University. He dropped out of college during his senior year, after which he moved to Los Angeles, California, with a friend in hopes of becoming a working writer. He was two weeks away from joining the United ...

  3. James Blish

    James Benjamin Blish ( May 23, 1921 - July 30, 1975) was an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He is best known for his Cities in Flight novels and his series of Star Trek novelizations written with his wife, J. A. Lawrence. His novel A Case of Conscience won the Hugo Award.

  4. 25 Best Star Trek Books

    Star Trek books are often ignored (sometimes rightly so) by review sites like Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly, so you'll have to decide for yourself if a certain book sounds like your cup of Earl Grey tea (hot). 25 Available Light by Dayton Ward - 2019 Next Generation

  5. 24 Classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books To Read Based On Your ...

    R is for Rocket contains 15 short stories from classic science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, best known for his novel Fahrenheit 451 and the short story collection The Martian Chronicles. Like Trip, these stories are full of the wonder of space, and the collection is just as good as The Martian Chronicles.

  6. Theodore Sturgeon

    Theodore Sturgeon ( / ˈstɜːrdʒən /; born Edward Hamilton Waldo, February 26, 1918 - May 8, 1985) was an American fiction author of primarily fantasy, science fiction, and horror, as well as a critic. He wrote approximately 400 reviews and more than 120 short stories, 11 novels, and several scripts for Star Trek: The Original Series.

  7. Harlan Ellison wrote Star Trek's greatest episode. He hated it

    Harlan Ellison, the legendary, legendarily irascible speculative fiction writer who died this week at age 84, wrote the greatest episode of Star Trek ever made. And he hated it.

  8. The 15 Best Star Trek Books Ever Written

    Wilder still, in 1985, writer Della Van Hise saw her "Star Trek" novel "Killing Time" published and recalled for an edited reprint as longtime fans realized their beloved slash fiction pairing of ...

  9. 15 Amazing Things You Never Knew About 'Star Trek' Writers

    Theodore Sturgeon, the writer for "Shore Leave" was the author of one of the greatest scifi novellas of all time, 'More Than Human'. The story focuses on six people who are able to blend/mesh...

  10. Stars and planetary systems in fiction

    The authorized Star Trek book Star Trek: Star Charts and Roddenberry himself ... The book, a prime example of the midcentury shift in science fiction authors' attention away from planets in the Solar System to worlds in orbit around other stars, pales in comparison to Brackett's best single work of the same period, ...

  11. The Science Sticklers Who Kept Star Trek in Line

    "Of everything they had on Star Trek," Jerry Pournelle, former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, said in 1978 in the magazine Science Fantasy Film Classics ...

  12. Isaac Asimov

    More Fandoms. Sci-fi. Star Trek. Isaac Asimov (2 January 1920 - 6 April 1992; age 72), born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov, was a scientist in the field of biochemistry, noted science fiction author, a well-respected voice within the scientific community, an outspoken supporter of cybernetics and creator of the "Three Laws of Robotics...

  13. The Influence of Star Trek and Science Fiction on Real Science

    A rich visual history of science fiction's impact on real-world technologies, this book is perfect for lovers of H. G. Wells, Star Trek, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, Aldous Huxley, and 2001: A Space ...

  14. Why 'Star Trek' is the greatest sci-fi franchise of all time

    Of all the science fiction franchises in the known universe, the one I would take to a desert island — or planet, I guess — is "Star Trek.". I am not a Trekkie by any means (not that there ...

  15. List of Star Trek: The Original Series writers

    This is a list of writers for sorted by the amount of episodes written. Collaborations are marked with dashes. (-) Contributions, pseudonyms and episode numbers are noted in parenthesis. Gene L. Coon "Arena" (S01E18) (Teleplay) "Space Seed" (S01E22) (Teleplay - with Carey Wilber) "A Taste of Armageddon" (S01E23) (Teleplay - with Robert Hamner)

  16. Which Time Travel Stories Changed Star Trek Canon?

    Acclaimed science fiction author and curmudgeon Harlan Ellison wrote "City on the Edge of Forever," but what aired was a rewrite by Steven W. Carabtasos, Gene Roddenberry, and Gene L. Coon. The episode introduced the Guardian of Forever, a gateway to time and space. Dr. McCoy, suffering from an overdose of cordrazine leaps into the past and erases Starfleet and the USS Enterprise.

  17. Science fiction: Boldly going for 50 years

    Half a century ago, in September 1966, the first episode of Star Trek aired on the US television network NBC. NASA was still three years short of landing people on the Moon, yet the innovative ...

  18. Far Beyond the Stars (episode)

    Experiencing a vision from the Prophets, Sisko sees himself as Benny Russell, a science-fiction writer in the 1950s, who struggles with civil rights and inequality when he writes the story of Captain Benjamin Sisko, a black commander of a futuristic space station. Joseph Sisko, Captain Benjamin Sisko's father, has left Earth for the first time to visit his son and grandson on Deep Space 9, but ...

  19. Bjo Trimble: The Woman Who Saved Star Trek

    In fact, there was a small letter campaign organized by Harlan Ellison and other science fiction writers when Star Trek was threatened at the end of the first season. Their main push was to save the only TV show that actually bought scripts from writers who knew the subject, so not many fans were involved. ...

  20. Gene Roddenberry

    Eugene Wesley Roddenberry Sr. (August 19, 1921 - October 24, 1991) was an American television screenwriter, producer, and creator of Star Trek: The Original Series, its sequel spin-off series Star Trek: The Animated Series, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

  21. How Ben Sisko Wrestled With American History

    How Ben Sisko Wrestled With American History Deep Space 9's captain, and Avery Brooks, never shied away from shining a light on American racism. By Robert Greene StarTrek.com The world of Star Trek is filled with numerous references to American history.

  22. "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" Far Beyond the Stars (TV Episode 1998)

    Far Beyond the Stars: Directed by Avery Brooks. With Avery Brooks, Rene Auberjonois, Michael Dorn, Terry Farrell. Captain Sisko has a full sensory vision of himself as an under-appreciated science fiction magazine writer in 1950s America.

  23. Why Is Star Trek Ship Design Unique In Science Fiction?

    The 2009 Star Trek film and its sequels featured a radical redesign for the USS Enterprise, with a "hot rod" aesthetic according to Star Trek: The Art of the Film by Mark Cotta Vaz. Even larger and chunkier, the ship is unmistakably a Starfleet vessel. The look of Star Trek ships remains so unique because of how revolutionary it was in the ...

  24. 35 Years Ago, Star Trek Took an Iconic Sci-Fi Trope to ...

    This isn't just a classic trope, it's an expedient way to drill down on a science fiction story. Even the very first episode of The Next Generation , "Encounter at Farpoint," in 1987, framed ...

  25. A Discarded Idea For Star Trek's Troi Probably Would Have ...

    Fontana recalls the early brainstorming sessions for "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and some of the ideas that would eventually make it onto the show. For one, the U.S.S. Enterprise was a much ...

  26. Hugo Awards 2024: What Really Happened at the Sci-Fi Awards ...

    Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects to resemble a star nebula, this is the 59,000-square-foot Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, constructed at lightspeed over the course of a single year to host the ...

  27. Ray Bradbury

    Ray Bradbury Ray Douglas Bradbury ( US: / ˈbrædbɛri / BRAD-berr-ee; August 22, 1920 - June 5, 2012) was an American author and screenwriter. One of the most celebrated 20th-century American writers, he worked in a variety of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, and realistic fiction. [3]

  28. Neil Gaiman, Paul Weimer among writers excluded from Hugo Awards over

    The Hugo Awards, one of the most prestigious literary awards in science fiction, excluded several authors last year over concerns that their work could be offensive to China, leaked emails show. Au…

  29. Scotty & Troi's Original Star Trek Crew Cut Scene Revealed By TNG Writer

    Writer Ronald D. Moore reveals a cut scene in Star Trek: TNG's "Relics" that would have addressed the fate of Scotty's Enterprise crew. Scotty's meeting with Captain Picard and the crew was a well ...

  30. 10 Examples Of Real Science In Star Trek

    10 Examples Of Real Science In Star Trek. Posted: 18 February 2024 | Last updated: 18 February 2024. The writers of Star Trek went above and beyond to make the universe as realistic as possible.