Trek Week: The Original Series

By Shamus Posted Monday Dec 1, 2014

Filed under: Nerd Culture 256 comments

Sure, it’s campy and cornball sometimes, the uniforms are pure comedy, and Shatner is an epic ham. I actually didn’t like it very much when I was young. I saw Star Wars before I saw Star Trek, and so Trek always seemed kind of boring and talky and cheap looking to my younger self. It wasn’t until I got older – after The Next Generation had run its course – that I was able to appreciate what TOS has accomplished.

It’s smart. (For TV sci-fi of the day.) It’s reasonably grounded in science. (For TV sci-fi of the day.) It’s amazingly tolerant and optimistic and forward-looking. (For almost any Sci-fi. Always with the dystopias, these Sci-fi writers.)

But the one thing that took me a long time to accept about the setting was Roddenberry’s idea that money wouldn’t exist. He insisted on a future where there were no longer haves and have-nots, and as a shortcut to that goal he just waved his author’s wand and said money was no longer a thing. (After all, if money exists then what’s to stop one person from getting a whole bunch of it, or another person from running out? And if that happens, then we lose our quasi-utopian future.)

Stardate 21398.2. We look ridiculous. We’re a paper hat away from looking like the team of a a space-McDonald’s.

The problem is that it’s pretty darn hard to imagine a world with no money. We can dream up a world where travel is instant. We just make a cardboard set and write “Transporter” on the side. Boom. Now you go from A to B instantly. Done. But we can’t make a box for the technology that will replace money because we can’t picture how that would work.

To be fair, it’s not Gene’s fault he doesn’t know how to magically solve our arguments over money. He just wanted to show a world where – one way or another – those arguments no longer existed. But it did create this odd effect where we couldn’t talk too much about the day-to-day life of the average Earthling, because we couldn’t ever go into detail about how they pursued their long-term goals.

This was probably for the best. This forced the writers out into space where they wouldn’t stumble over these problems, and kept our focus on the “strange new worlds” thing. For someone who is always nitpicking and demanding explanations for thingsMy constant question of “BUT WHAT DO THEY EAT?!” is nearing catchphrase levels this is occasionally hard for me to accept. But I think it’s a big part of the soul of Trek, and makes for a better show.

When you get right down to it, a lot of stories revolve around acquiring, protecting, and holding resources: Food, bullets, land, gold, medicine, technology, etc. Individual A wants something and B doesn’t want to surrender it, so conflict ensues. It must have been a monumental pain the the ass to keep the writers in line, because “lack of resources” is an easy motivator for a writer to use.

DISCLAIMER: This is not an invitation to talk politics. I know how some of you are really eager to praise or curse capitalism, and you’re just looking to a fig leaf of an excuse to do so. Not here, please. Let’s keep this focused on the problems of writing fiction when you’re not allowed to talk about fundamental aspects of the world.

From Left to Right: We should study it! We should have sex with it! We should leave it alone!

My favorite bit on the original series is the Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage video where MrBtongue talks about the core of TOS being Spock (pragmatist) Bones (idealist) and Kirk (opportunistOr maybe hedonist.) who formed a three-man decision making team. The “strange new worlds” formula was perfect for a show that wanted to introduce some seemingly intractable problem and have the characters puzzle their way out of it while offering different viewpoints and staying true to their individual values.

MrBtongue claims the show was a good Socratic Exercise. I don’t know if that was always the case (a lot of the episodes were straight-up adventures, and you could even argue those episodes were the best ones) but it’s just the sort of thing I look for in a sci-fi story. You either postulate on some future technology and how that would shape our lives, or you take a modern-day problem (euthanasia, violence as entertainment, political corruption, warfare, colonialism, racism, ugly mass media) and examine it in a personally un-threateningTo the viewer, I mean. We threaten the hell out of the characters. fictional setting. It lets us ask questions and play around with ideas that would be absurd or uncomfortable to consider in the real world.

There are a lot of arguments about the difference between “science fiction” and “science fantasy”. These arguments generally revolve around how well the technology is explained or whether or not they use space-magic. But I find it much more useful to split things up by whether or not it works as a Socratic exercise regarding ourselves or our technologyOf course, the MOST useful distinction to make is between “stuff that sucks” and everything else.. Trek doesn’t always do the Socratic thing, and even when it does it’s sometimes preachy, confused, and ham-fisted in its conclusions. But when it works, it really works, and gives me a kind of show I can’t find anywhere else.



[1] My constant question of “BUT WHAT DO THEY EAT?!” is nearing catchphrase levels

[2] Or maybe hedonist.

[3] To the viewer, I mean. We threaten the hell out of the characters.

[4] Of course, the MOST useful distinction to make is between “stuff that sucks” and everything else.

From The Archives:

256 thoughts on “Trek Week: The Original Series

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I like deep space 9 the most of all trek,but its reintroduction of money is one thing I must say Im not fond of.Having a communist* utopia is really something not that well explored,especially by the west.And while I never managed to get into the original star trek,I like its idealism.Its not something that should be enforced 100% of the time,but its a nice concept to explore for a while.

    *I dont mean communist in the way its implemented in the real world,but the ideal of communism in which everyone contributes as much as they can and get as much as they need.

    1. Daimbert says:

      DS9 didn’t reintroduce it that much, though. The reintroduction mostly centered on the Ferengi and the Bajorans, both of which would have it for other reasons, and so latinum only really existed or was used by Federation officers to deal with them. “In the Cards” also highlights this a bit, where Jake needs money but doesn’t have any, but he only needs it to get something from someone who DOES use money … and then the person he’s dealing with doesn’t want money anyway, but services. While you could see that as a criticism of the Federation’s system — Chuck certainly does — it is again brought to the fore only because they have to deal with those who are “less evolved”, and as such isn’t a statement on the Federation system itself.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yes it was there only sparingly,which is why I dont fault the show much.And I know that it wasnt precisely used by federation but by others.What I didnt like is the way in which the two were presented to clash.Basically every time money was shown,the show veered into showing it as a good thing,never showing exactly why the federation way is superior(no,I dont count holier than though attitude as a good thing).

    2. Alex says:

      “a communist* utopia

      * I dont mean communist in the way its implemented in the real world,but the ideal of communism in which everyone contributes as much as they can and get as much as they need.”

      That’s not a utopia, that’s subsistence. It’s treading water for eighty years and then you die. In a utopia you don’t need to contribute as much as you can, and you can get not just what you need but also some of what you merely want.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        “That's not a utopia, that's subsistence. It's treading water for eighty years and then you die. In a utopia you don't need to contribute as much as you can, and you can get not just what you need but also some of what you merely want.”

        Thats the thing about ideal of communism:It assumes that people have evolved so much that they want to contribute to the society as much as they can.As for the need vs want,need isnt just what you need to survive,but what you need to be happy.

        1. MichaelG says:

          Drop the communism idea (really, how many people have to die before an idea is discredited?) and think about the “post scarcity economy”. When robots are doing everything, how do ordinary people raise their status? Because that’s what it’s really all about for us primates. Money is just a way of keeping track of status in the tribe.

          Then write a book like “Down and out in the Magic Kingdom” by Cory Doctorow.

          edit: didn’t read the other comments before I posted. A lot of good books recommended below.

          1. krellen says:

            There is a difference between communism with a small-c, which is approximately as old as people (there are Biblical passages about “holding all things in common”) and Communism with a capital-C, whose implementation is largely equated with that of Stalinist Russia. The latter is what you are thinking of, while the former was Roddenberry’s ideal.

          2. ACman says:

            *and think about the “post scarcity economy”. When robots are doing everything, how do ordinary people raise their status?

            Why does that matter? If you’re comfortable, have enough to eat, have friends/family, and are suitibly entertained – what else really matters?

            Moreover what are online competitive-gamers in COD, Starcraft, EVE, WoW, etc doing? What are sports-people doing? Aren’t they “raising their status”? It sounds like you regard one of the main ends of capitalism to be a mechanism for business graduates to raise their real-world gamer-score. Let them play EVE, flex those MBAs that way… If we do ever achieve postscarcity that is.

            1. Mephane says:

              Why does that matter? If you're comfortable, have enough to eat, have friends/family, and are suitibly entertained ““ what else really matters?

              The problem is not you or I who would be happy to live just like that in harmony, but the many people who have this innate urge to compete against each other, outdo their neighbour, have someone lower on the social ladder to look down upon. Because the majority of humans are wired that way, it’s sadly one of the central features of human psychology.

              1. Isy says:

                That’s why we have competitions in our cultures, though. Sports, video game high scores, art competitions, bake offs, debate teams, mock trials, spelling bees in middle school… all this stuff is there precisely to cater to that urge. The idea of a post scarcity economy is that our competitiveness doesn’t leave people in poverty.

                1. Thomas says:

                  There’s that DS9 episode that tries to big-up a cashless economy and ends up just proving that objects of value still exist in a post-scarcity economy.

                  People would just collect rare things, or handsome/influential/important partners or secrets or favours or friendships or a reputation for being fashionable. There’s plenty of ways to compete for rank without money, it would just mean that people compete in a more underhand way and probably actively try and subvert the system

                  1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                    Exactly. No post scarcity economy could ever truly be beyond all scarcity. There are only going to be a limited number of, say, Van Halen’s guitars, 50 yard line seats to the big game, copies of the Nintendo console signed by Miyamoto.

                    And unless we take up terraforming, things like beach front property are going to be limited. Maybe everybody could have a self contained spaceborne ecosystem or something.

                    1. Joe Informatico says:

                      Having had this argument with several people recently (always over Trek, it seems), I think there needs to be a new term for when a society’s economy is able to provide all basic needs (food, shelter, health care, security, lets even add education and the various rights and freedoms a typical 21st century Westerner enjoys to that) for its citizens, but there are always going to be certain limited resources (e.g. real estate), luxuries, or unique works of art that will generate feelings of want and desire.

                      E.g., why does Picard’s brother get acres and acres of French vineyards, while Sisko’s dad only has a restaurant in downtown New Orleans? Is it solely based on their wishes? Even if that’s the case, the planet probably can’t support several million would-be vinters. And there’s only one Mona Lisa (Fajo had it in the episode “The Most Toys”, but it was returned to its “rightful owner”, whoever or whatever that was). And there are clearly some limited energy resources–they can’t just replicate dilithium whenever they need it. This might explain why only the governments of planet-sized or larger advanced civilizations seem to operate warp-capable ships in large numbers. Privately-owned ships are few and far between, but in fairness the show is usually dealing with political matters on the frontiers, so the Enterprise/Defiant/Voyager probably isn’t running into many.

                      So the Federation, at least the core worlds, is a society where presumably nobody has to worry about going hungry, feeding their children, making the rent/mortgage, paying for a relative’s cancer treatment, saving for their kids’ college fund, and roving gangs of murderers committing home invasions. But some things like real estate, works of art, and dilithium are finite. So what do we call that economy? Post-survivalist?

                    2. stratigo says:

                      it’s stilled called post scarcity. A competition for luxury as opposed to necessity is a way better a conceptual society, but requires a level of technology, eg super cheap or free energy.

                    3. Yeah, while there are some people who would covet the rare and exotic, those things aren’t needed to live. Even at the height of their craze, nobody needed a Beanie Baby more than they needed basic food, shelter, etc.

                      Also, that assumes that just because something is rare, it’ll be coveted. Look at how our society has fragmented in its interests, desires, and emphases. While Action Comics #1 is still quite valuable, I know very few people who would crave a copy of it to the point of committing a crime or whatever. Now take that fragmentation and spread it across multiple worlds, cultures, and species.

                      Something that’s non-essential is only as valuable as someone is willing to trade for it, be it currency or another item. In a way, a lot of these items would be of casual interest, I would think, like a lot of things I see in museums or collections: Sure, I’ll admire a classic car, but I wouldn’t want to have to care for or maintain one, let alone a building full of them.

                  2. Adam says:

                    I love the tabletop RPG Eclipse Phase because of this. They have a mix of pre and post-scarcity economies (driven by nanotechnology, with the line between the two being drawn by how scared they are of what nanobots can do-a reasonable fear in the setting, since nanobots were part of the reason the Fall of Earth was so destructive.) The mix means it really wouldn’t be possible for humanity as a whole to be post-scarcity, except SO MANY PEOPLE died that what’s left can easily survive on the wreckage. In post-scarcity “New” economies, they freely acknowledge that the only reason they survive is that the people who aren’t willing to pull their own weight don’t live long, and trade continues in a reputation economy where services and favors are traded directly, along with goods that cannot be easily replicated.

                    An example transaction: “I need blueprints for that plasma rifle you have, so I’ll trade you this handcarved necklace, made of oak grown on Earth before the Fall, and I’ll take over your maintenance shift on the reactor for the next two weeks.”

          3. nm says:

            Doctorow replaced resource money with reputation money, and kept the whole haves/have-nots dynamic. The difference is supposed to be that people who deserve to be rich (because their peers hold them in high esteem) are. I don’t want to break Shamus’s rules about talking politics, but I think it’s safe to say that being wealthy in the real world does not imply anything particularly good (or bad) about a person.

            Post-scarcity is definitely a better way to describe the Star Trek universe than communist, but Doctorow’s world still had scarcity. It was just a scarcity of time, expertise, and services instead of energy and material resources.

            Of course, Star Trek still has scarce resources (like dilithium and planets) that people can fight over.

            I always imagined the world of Trek as one in which citizens of the Federation get to live where they want and do what they want in order to make a better society. It may be unrealistic, but who knows? Maybe it’s visionary.

            Incidentally, transporters were invented in TOS because they didn’t have the budget for the (originally scripted) shuttlecraft.

    3. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

      I tread lightly, but wouldn’t what you are suggesting be Marxism rather than “Communism”? To my understanding of the subject they are not the same ideology. In my mind, Communism is the application of Marxism. True Marxism would be what Roddenberry depicted, but realistically it’s just not possible without completely re-aligning the human spirit.

      So, shouldn’t it be a Marxist* utopia?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I think youre right.Im not that knowledgeable of all the various forms of comusocimarxisms.

        1. Michael says:

          Basically. There’s a bunch of strands of Marxism, but what we usually think of, at a glance, is the “forced revolution” strand that came from Lenin (which lead to Mao, Stalin, Che, and others… not exactly in that order.)

          Roddenberry’s work fits in a kind of social equality strand. It’s Marxism, and communism, but it’s not Soviet communism.

      2. ACman says:

        Actually Marxism is focused on societial evolution due to “class struggle” and the theory that societies would eventually replace “working” and “ownership” classes.

        Communism is what he declared should be the end result and that it would result from class struggle causing capitalism to fail and move to socialism.

        Id say it’s more likely that some sort of Federation Style statist socialism is more likely – groups of more than 50 humans seem to need some sort of governance – and that it will be due to technological advancement and robotic produced surpluses, not class struggle.

        It either that, or a robo-capitalist dystopia where we’re all addicted to Coke-Plus.

        1. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

          If you make it Classic-coke and a dunkin donuts on every corner and I’ll sign whatever you want….

          1. ACman says:

            No. Classic Coke and Dunkin Donuts do not contain the mandatory obediance and behaviour hormones that every drone is required to consume.

    4. cassander says:

      >Having a communist* utopia is really something not that well explored,especially by the west

      If you think this, you should really read up on your history of thought. Such thinking goes back long, long before communism. You have various proto-protestant movements in late medieval europe, the leveler and digger movements in reformation england, and literally centuries of attempts at utopian communities in what would become the US.

  2. lostclause says:

    Another sci-fi series that did the whole post-scarcity utopia without money was Ian Banks’ Culture novels, in fact getting rid of money was a requirement of joining the Culture. They basically had machines that could fabricate any common good so it made a decent amount of sense in that series. There’s also the RPG Nova Praxis, another post-scarcity society where currency is gone, replaced by a complex system of reputation to allocate the remaining scarce resources (which range from starship travel to getting into the most trendy night clubs).

    So it’s definitely a sci-fi trope that seems to crop up in these post-scarcity or utopian societies, some have systems to replace it and others not. Someone more familiar with classic sci-fi could probably tell me if this trope predates Star Trek or not (I think Asimov used it at least once?).

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Asimovs robot series has moneyless societies,though they are hardly utopian.Basically,earth is turned into a huge hive full of worker bees with communal everything and where everyone is deathly afraid to lose their status,and the spacer worlds are these decadent planets full of robots doing everything while the people either fuck everything that moves(aurora)or have no physical contact with any other human(solaria).The whole robot series is full of these nicely introduced concepts and all the ways in which they could fail.

      1. Tom says:

        Asimov’s stuff is all about taking what looks like a brilliant idea on its face, and deconstructing it and seeing all the flaws you get when you figure out all the real implications.

        The core conclusion of the robot series, which I think one of Asimov’s main characters spells out in as many words eventually, is that any society with large numbers of servile robots in it (one could easily extend this metaphor to any society with slaves in it, or significant power imbalance between human classes, so that’s a really nice example of using sci-fi to “safely” explore otherwise divisive or controversial ideas) produces psychologically unhealthy humans, often to the point of total derangement.

        1. Sorites says:

          Asimov had two knacks that made him my favourite sci-fi author until Sam Hughes: He could make engineering problems fascinating to non-engineers, and he could convincingly portray the human condition as an engineering problem.

          1. MichaelG says:

            What do you recommend from Sam Hughes? Never heard of him before. Amazon doesn’t seem to list much.

            1. Sorites says:


          2. Purple Library Guy says:

            Is being able to convincingly portray the human condition as an engineering problem really a Good Thing?
            I’m fond of Asimov, mind you. He had witty dialogue, good plots, and some ideas.

            1. syal says:

              It’s an Interesting Thing, which in fiction is pretty great.

            2. Felblood says:

              That’s actually the central question of most of his later works.

              Reading the Robots series back to back is like watching a man do a complete 180 flip on this question, over the course of several years, but on super fast forward. It’s Asimov’s inner life story, told in the medium of robot sex fantasies, and essays on social determinism.

              We start out with a story about a history professor who has such a firm understanding of human nature that he can predict historical events thousands of years after his own death, and has determined the optimal set of facts to reveal, to guide mankind to it’s perfect outcome. By the end, basically every faction has come to regard that premise as silly for one reason or another, and there’s no longer the suggestion that even he believed it, torpedoing the long running question of whether he was getting the later prophecies wrong on purpose.

              1. Sorites says:

                That’s the Foundation series.

                1. Felblood says:

                  You are 100% correct.

                  Somebody mentioned Robots up above and I somehow transposed that into my post. +100 stupid for me.

                  Of course, by the time Foundation is over, it is literally a sequel series to Robots, because Asimov really wanted to be writing Robots stories. He’d lost interest in The Foundation after Second Foundation, but he’d promised 1000 years of sequels that would somehow tie together at the end, and was under a lot of pressure to make good on it.

                  Imagine an alternate Universe where nobody really wanted to make any more Star Wars movies, but the fans kept sending death threats to the property owners if they didn’t deliver Episodes 7, 8 and 9. So George pushed out a bunch of THX1138 sequels set in the Star Wars universe, and called the episodes 7, 8 and 9.

      2. Afraid to lose their status?

        How silly. Next you’ll propose a society where everyone works themselves to death for no other benefit than for fear of losing what little they have.


        1. CrazyYarick says:

          But status in a moneyless society isn’t what “little” you have left. It is your new currency. My parents grew up in the USSR and one thing they noticed was that, because my dad had a sister that was a popular opera singer, they were able to live a little more comfortable that some other people. Without money status becomes the defacto money. You can buy things with status. You can live in areas with less crime with status. Status isn’t a little thing at that point.

          Note: I haven’t read the books in question. Just pitching in my two cents for how a moneyless society would work.

          1. syal says:

            Money is in fact simply a physical representation of status, which is why it’s so difficult to imagine eliminating it.

          2. In Asimov’s novels, it was more formal. If you were of a certain level (I believe it was because the main character got a “raise” in his police position, like from Detective 2nd Class to Detective 1st Class), you got the comforts/space that your position was allotted. It wasn’t arbitrary based on favor with the government.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Except when the government threatens him to do a thing if he wants to keep it.

              1. Which is more in line of being a policeman than an ordinary citizen. He worked for the government in some capacity already.

    2. gunther says:

      Yeah, plenty of Sci-Fi puts more thought into their money-less societies than Star Trek.

      Manna by Marshall Brain has a typical example of such a society – every person is issued 1000 credits a week, and you can spend your credits on whatever you like – 100 credits is enough to have a house built, for example. The catch is there’s no other way to get credits and they can’t be traded or saved – whether you’ve spent 1 point or 999 credits, you have 1000 at the start of the next week. The society is heavily reliant on automation to produce everything people might want.

      Basically, what Voyager tried to do with replicator rations.

      1. Decius says:

        How does one prevent credits, or things made from credits, from being traded?

        1. Purple Library Guy says:

          I can imagine a few ways. For starters, simple computer security; assuming these weren’t physical chits, if you had a secure debit system then it shouldn’t be that tough.
          Secondarily, it would probably be workable to check if anyone spends more than 1000 credits in a week. If they do, someone must have broken the rules–busted!
          Anyhow, if you can get a house for one tenth your weekly allowance, who needs extra? I can imagine in a society like that if someone still managed to be obsessed with MORE, everyone would find it rather pitiful.

        2. Felblood says:

          At that point, why bother stopping people.

          Unless there is some other criminal act involved, there’s no reason to interfere. Let people spend their replicator credits on Christmas gifts. So long as they stay within the 1000 credit cap, they aren’t using more of the robots than their share, which is the only thing you really need to control.

          Sure if someone is manufacturing military grade arms, or extorting people to “gift” them items in return for not being maimed, then you need to step in, but if it’s not really doing any harm, why bother.

          In the event that the Diablo: LOD scenario arises (Gold/currency is worthless/decays so people trade particular items of fixed/universal utility for favors instead), and people are routinely replicating particular items for trade, rather than letting their extra credits expire, then the system admins should step in and patch the system for balance. They’ll need to have an MMO manager’s level of statistical analysis going over what the robots are making, to determine why this particular item is worth hoarding, and to ensure that this scarcity is eliminated.

          My chief concern is what you do when you have an art project planned out, but you need 1100 credits at the same time, to actually make it structurally stable. You’d need a friend who owes you a favor to drop the other 100 credits, and suddenly we’re right back where we started. If we have enough robots, why bother with the limits at all.

      2. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

        Wouldn’t this simply encourage waste and extravagance? If I was a Business owner my prices for Whatever I Was Selling would be 10% higher Sunday night than Monday Morning.

        If you bought things with your credits, who does that money go to? Back to the same people that issue the money first thing every Monday?

        If the people SELLING things also were the ones issuing the money, wouldn’t they also have to BUY THINGS?

        UNLESS…everyone “worked for” the same entity, that being the entity that issued them their 1000 credits. Which means everyone is making things to be consumed by, AND ONLY BY, everyone else within the entity.

        So if its a completely closed, self-sufficient and self-sustaining economy, with zero growth OR depreciation….what would be the point of even issuing the 1000 credits? It’s not that much different than an old feudal system of bartering in which people traded shoes for crops or blacksmith work for carpentry.

        1. Thomas says:

          Encouraging waste and extravagance is fine if your society isn’t very resource/time limited anymore.

          How do people decide what something costs and how we make sure that thing is made isn’t answered by the scenario though, and that’s actually the bigger problem.

          If we lived in a world where no-one had to work, but our resources weren’t great enough that everyone could have everything they needed then I guess we’d need a way of ranking the importance people place on things. That system might help there, but so would a standard money system.

        2. Felblood says:

          The difference is that the common property robots are making all the crops and shoes, so there’s no actual trading going on.

          You already own your share of everything, you just need to put in an order to make shoes that will fit you.

    3. ACman says:

      The Ian M Banks “Culture” Novels are a good example of post scarcity Utopia run by AI super intelligences…

      But the books are more focused on their spies and ambassadors (and attendant “benevolent” AI controlled warships) to other civilisations and so aren’t set in culture because reading about self-indulgent humanoids is obviously boring.

      The books are more about the ethics of how far more powerful progressive/liberal civilisations with interventionist foreign policies actually reconcile their values with their actions regarding their neighbours.

      It’s like a more advanced Federation with a reverse Prime Directive. Ie. always intervene if you can reduce suffering. Which is good because the Prime Directive is routinely ignored in Trek due to the plot requiring something happening. :/

      1. Purple Library Guy says:

        An interesting counterpoint is Neal Asher’s books where incredibly intelligent AIs control society . . . and yet the economy is ostensibly capitalist. In his universe all attempts to run an economy on a planet-local level, without AI control, fail miserably because high tech economies are far too complex for puny humans to manage. And apparently also dependent on interplanetary trade . . . don’t know why, our economy doesn’t seem to be dependent on interplanetary trade.
        How a system utterly dependent on AI planning can simultaneously be considered a market capitalist one is never addressed.

        Those books have some very nice plots, and some amazingly creepy badass opposition from incredibly vicious/horrible ecosystems to uber-nasty aliens to forerunner alien technology that infests anyone who tries too hard to investigate it and then tries to take over the universe. But the socio-economic background does not IMO hold up to much poking.

      2. lostclause says:

        Exactly, and that’s why I love those books. Almost all of them are an exploration of whether or not intervention is right or wrong and what limits it should have. Some of them even explore what happens when those policies go wrong. I sometimes think of it as an idealised form of colonisation, how a civilization non-intrusively spreads its core values (the rights of AI are often a sticking point). Whether or not you think that’s a good thing is obviously another matter entirely but Banks sometimes explores that perspective as well.

      3. djw says:

        Money was irrelevant for humans in the Culture novels because the AI basically kept humans as pets.

        It was not clear to me how the economy between the AI worked. They needed to coordinate their actions with each other somehow. The impression I got from the books that I read was that they were smart enough to negotiate a consensus among themselves for any important decisions. Maybe they traded favors? I don’t recall that being discussed in any of the books I read though. Iain Banks is a human, so perhaps he hand waved the god like AI negotiations as out of scope.

    4. Joe Informatico says:

      I’ve only read Consider Phlebas, the first Culture book, most of which is from a point of view outside the Culture. But I really want to get around to finishing the series, it sounds like it explores a lot of great ideas.

      1. lostclause says:

        I didn’t realise that Consider Phlebas was the first one because I read them in a random order… which means that you’re first introduced to the Culture from the perspective of someone actively trying to destroy it. That’s a pretty interesting way of introducing the series.

  3. Daimbert says:

    It was TNG that eliminated money, not TOS. While because it was set mainly on a starship where everything was provided money didn’t come up much, there were a number of episodes where money was talked about and referenced. Harry Mudd was treated significantly differently in TOS than the stockbroker in 1st Season TNG was, where the latter had Picard lecture to him about how humans had outgrown the need for material possessions, while with Mudd the dispute was over him being shady and unscrupulous, not that he was selling things. If I recall correctly, even the tribbles were sold to the Starfleet officers, and they all understood immediately what that meant.

    That being said, replicators were introduced in TNG and not in TOS, and they’d have a huge impact on an economy, so the leap isn’t as hard to understand.

    1. silver Harloe says:

      Yeah – I remember trading with Cyrano on the Trouble with Tribbles using money. I watched all the TOS shows over and over in reruns as a child, and yet when in ST IV Kirk asks “what is money?” I was surprised and confused. I don’t think the “no money” thing came up in the TOS, but I’d be interested in an episode citation if there is one.

      I know money was rarely *mentioned* but we have to keep in mind that we really never saw Earth in TOS. We just had the crew of a militarily-organized ship which, while it didn’t have replicators for everything, had replicators for food. There was nothing to buy and no reason to buy it – your clothes were your uniform, your food was free, your shelter was your assigned quarters, your medicine was free (so that you could return to duty), etc.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Actually, in most cases TOS didn’t have replicators for food either. I recall a case where Kirk was telling the kitchens to make the meatloaf look like turkey, and in “The Trouble with Tribbles” they got into the food supplies as well, so Kirk’s order came up as tribbles and not what he wanted to eat. There might have been some contradictory scenes, though.

        1. silver Harloe says:

          I remember one of the edits the author of Trouble with Tribbles had to make was deleting the cook character (who was going to be the one to tell Kirk all the food was gone) because their food came out of magic machines that made a base substance into any food you wanted. So not exactly replicators, but pretty close.

      2. Peter H. Coffin says:

        David Gerrold, in his autobiographical account of writing the Tribble episode, talks about deep conflict and discussion over Cyrano and the use of money in the show it all. It’s an important read.

        1. Purple Library Guy says:

          I can imagine Gerrold strenuously resisting the whole notion of money-less societies and not wanting to write something that portrayed ’em, as Gerrold as far as I can tell is a right-winger in the “What people tend to think of Heinlein as whether that’s what he really was or not” mold.

    2. Mike S. says:

      And one of Harry Mudd’s markets was miners who accepted hard work in isolated conditions because it was well-compensated. (Hence Mudd’s excitement– they had lots of money, and basically nothing to spend it on till he got there.)

    3. Joe Informatico says:

      It’s inconsistent in TOS (big surprise). The miners in “The Devil in the Dark” are clearly profit-motivated, but the aliens in “Catspaw” try to tempt Kirk and co. with gold and gemstones, which Kirk derides as worthless. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some kind of currency in the TOS-era Federation, just that they don’t value things we consider valuable, probably because they have the means to artificially produce it.

      1. SharpeRifle says:

        Hmmm well since we can make gold and diamonds artificially now I would imagine “gold and gemstones” would be worthless in a Star Trek future.

  4. Sorites says:

    Genuine question about Trek from someone who’s totally missed the boat: What’s a good jumping-in point for the TV series? The pilot? Or is there a point later in the saga where you can draw a line and say “You need everything after this, but can/should dispense with the stuff preceding”?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Depends on what you like.If you can tolerate the cheese of the 60s,then go with the original from start to finish.If not,maybe some other series would please you better.Tng if you want more idealism,ds9 if you want something more dark and closer to what we have today.Also,with both of those you should probably skip the first couple of seasons and come back to them later.

      Or maybe the best introduction to trek would be SFDebris and you should watch the episodes that seem appealing to you based on his reviews.

      1. Sorites says:

        I take it Trek is the kind of show where you can skip seasons (or whole series) and not be lost, then? My biggest concern when taking recommendations from long-time fans is that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to not know anything about the universe, so I’ll jump into season 3 of the fourth series and everyone will be speaking jargon.

        Kinda like Shamus’s ancient “I Know Kung Fu” series, if you’ve read that.

        1. CJ Kerr says:

          You can definitely skip straight to TNG if you want to – despite being contemporaneous with the last few TOS-cast movies, it was a long time after TOS itself.

          I’d watch the first story (Encounter at Farpoint) not because it’s particularly great, but because all the characters introduce each other. Then skip…all of season 1. Go to “Measure of a Man” in season 2.

          Now you know what TNG is about, and what a good episode of it looks like. From there, you can skip through it pretty much at will, although I’d try to keep it roughly chronological.

          EDIT: And read the AV club link below – it’s a tiny bit haphazard, but there’s a viewing order recommendation right down the bottom.

          1. Joe Informatico says:

            I have trouble coming up with newbie viewing guides for TNG. It’s true just about all of Season 1 and 2 are awful, but on the other hand there are a few concepts introduced in those seasons that pay off in later seasons. (I’m rewatching TNG and I’m impressed the way the 3rd-7th season writers under Michael Piller took some poorly executed ideas from the first two seasons and really made them good.)

            So here’s my recommendation, assuming you have easy access to the whole series (Netflix, library DVDs, a friend’s collection, etc.):

            Watch “Encounter at Farpoint” for the reasons CJ Kerr states. It’s not very good, but just get through it.

            Now jump to Season 3, and watch episodes 1 to 12 (“Evolution” to “The High Ground”). They’re all mostly good examples of standalone episodes during the series’ peak, and they don’t tie into previous episodes except the ongoing Cold War with the Romulans, but it’s straightforward enough.

            After that, go back to Seasons 1 and 2. Watch the following episodes if you can. The ones marked with asterisks tend to pay off much better later on, so I’d especially recommend those even if you can’t get through the rest:

            Season 1:
            The Naked Now
            The Last Outpost
            Where No One Has Gone Before
            *The Battle
            *Hide and Q
            The Big Goodbye (the first “problem with the holodeck” episode)
            Coming of Age
            Heart of Glory
            *Skin of Evil
            *Conspiracy (this is maybe the best episode of Season 1 IMO)
            The Neutral Zone

            Season 2:
            Where Silence Has Lease (good standalone)
            *Elementary, Dear Data
            A Matter of Honor
            **The Measure of a Man (CJ Kerr is correct, this is must-viewing)
            Time Squared (another decent standalone)
            Pen Pals (interesting Prime Directive discussion)
            **Q Who (almost must-see)
            Samaritan Snare (it has…issues, but pays off really well several seasons later. But not strictly necessary)
            *The Emissary

            Then go back to Season 3 and pick up from episode 13, “Deja Q”. And you’re good to go!

            Anyone wants to debate or critique my Season 1 and 2 choices, please do. I’ll hide the reasoning for my choices behind a spoiler tag.

            So anything that establishes setting or character that becomes something interesting or at least recurring in later seasons, I’ve tried to include. The Klingon Civil War arc is pretty dominant throughout the series and carries over to DS9, so I’ve included every Klingon episode.

            Lore’s introduction in “Datalore” is kind of lame, but he shows up a few more times, and the Crystalline Entity shows up again in a Data-backstory-related episode.

            Tasha Yar’s hookup with Data in “Naked Now” informs “Measure of a Man”, plus her death in “Skin of Evil”, which pays off in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. And I guess her Romulan daughter.

            Most of the Q episodes are at least entertaining, and the introduction of the Borg in “Q Who?” is really good.

            I added the first two Ferengi episodes because it introduces them and Picard’s history with the Stargazer.

            “11001001” introduces Minuet, who pays off in a much later episode.

            Some are in there just because I think they’re much better than most Season 1-2 episodes.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Well deep space 9 is the only one with a huge continuity,but even that gets going after the second season.Tng has some stories continuing stuff from previous ones,but not much.Voyager can definitely be watched out of order(thats what I did),picking only the good episodes and skipping the rest.Basically once you learn who the characters are,you can watch most trek out of order.

        3. ehlijen says:

          Skipping seasons works in TOS and mostly in TNG. DS9 had a growing plot, that while not leaving you confused if you jump in later, will work best if you follow the show. Voyager for the most part works with any episode as a starting point; other than when they swap Kes for 7/9 there is almost no persistent change.

          You can absolutely watch any show without needing any of the others.

          1. Purple Library Guy says:

            “Voyager for the most part works with any episode as a starting point”–or fails to, depending who you ask.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              It actually depends on what episode you sink in.There are good voyager episodes out there.Just avoid any that has the borg,or is centered on neelix.Heck,you can just watch the doctor centric episodes,most of those are good.

              1. krellen says:

                I kind of liked Species 8471.

                1. I would’ve liked them better if they hadn’t been presented as an attempt to re-create the Borg’s popularity in a new package, complete with catchphrase.

                  I could’ve also done without “fluidic space.” Make it a weird higher dimension or something, guys…

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    And they wouldnt need to recreate the borg if they left the borg as powerful as they were.In that case “What can scare the borg” wouldve been a really terrifying idea.

              2. I think that idea of starting anywhere in Voyager is one of its weaknesses. The premise of a stranded Federation starship with (at least in the beginning) limited resources and a patchwork crew (which became un-patchworked pretty quickly) really, really needed a head writer and a plan. Instead, it was formulaic stand-alone ‘Trek but with no Federation around.

                I had such high hopes for the show. Crewmembers should have died and been replaced by other races (7 of 9 doesn’t count), parts of the ship should have been swapped out as damage/destruction or new tech was found (but ‘Trek was still married to physical models for its FX) and a general beginning, middle, and end to the series should have been in place before filming started.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  The best is when voyager encounters a federation ship that actually had all those trouble,and resorted to some really dark things in order to survive.Why wasnt the show about that crew?Id follow them.

                  1. The Equinox. It wasn’t bad, though having aliens that turn into anti-matter was pretty high on the weird-o-meter for my tastes.

                    Still, the idea of using a personal brain-holodeck as an escape was a nice touch.

        4. Ingvar M says:

          Disclaimer: I’m not a strict follower of any Trek, but I like articles dissecting story-telling formats and this is based heavily on that.

          My recollection of both TOS and TNG is that there are exactly two episodes per season that fundamentally change things, and that’s the first and last episodes. There may occasionally be clever back-references to previous episodes in later episodes, but usually they’re not required.

          This is not the case for DS9, where there’s a multi-season story arc that may or may not be adhered to.

        5. Regiment says:

          There isn’t usually any jargon you need to know – it’s either mentioned in passing or the focus of the episode. (For example, midway through TNG there’s a lot of stuff about a Klingon civil war, but either the whole episode is about it, or you don’t need to know anything other than that some aliens called Klingons are having a civil war.)

          Regarding good episodes of TNG, I’ve always gone by what I’m gonna call the Riker Beard Rule: if Will Riker has a beard, it’s probably a good episode. If he doesn’t, it’s probably not.

          1. MrPyro says:

            Interestingly, that mostly covers the films as well; Riker shaves at the beginning of Insurrection.


      2. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

        I would highly recommend watching the two-part episode called “The Menagerie”. Gives a lot of character development and USS ENTERPRISE back-story as well as one of the most intriguing installments in Rodenberry’s universe. Kirk, Spock and McCoy don’t have that much screen time but what little they have is good stuff.

        1. Peter H. Coffin says:

          That’s all the material with Captain Pike was the original pilot, fitted out with a wrapper of a court martial so that the contemporary acting team could keep getting paid.

          1. Mike S. says:

            And while it’s been heavily retconned, that original pilot felt a lot more like the situation in “Enterprise” than any of the later Treks: fast warp travel is new, colonists able to communicate with nothing faster than radio (and possibly traveling sublight) less than two decades in the past, and everything has a very raw frontier feeling. (Pike idly considers chucking it all and becoming a slave trader(!!!) on “the Orion colony”, someplace humans are evidently in charge but where ships like Pike’s don’t visit often enough to keep civilized.)

            Kirk’s Enterprise isn’t the sleek diplomatic carrier of the TNG era, but his Federation is a lot more of an established great power and less the distant overseer of far-flung half-forgotten colonies that Pike’s Earth (no Federation mentioned, nor is Spock’s origin) is. The tech is more familiar too: rockets and lasers, not impulse engines and phasers.

          2. Joe Informatico says:

            It’s probably not too hard to find “The Cage” in its original form, before it was spliced into “The Menagerie” (I actually saw “The Cage” first, when they aired it during the 25th anniversary special). That might make a better introduction than “The Menagerie” without context.

            1. Mike S. says:

              “The Cage” is available on Netflix. (I don’t know if the effects are remastered as with the rest of TOS.)

    2. gunther says:

      Consider just watching the good episodes from each show rather than ignoring everything before a cut-off date.

      This article has a decent viewing order at the bottom:

      When it tells you to skip seasons 1-3 of Enterprise, for god’s sake; listen to it.

      1. Decius says:

        I thought Enterprise had more than three seasons…

        1. krellen says:

          Yes, there was a fourth season, and the advice being given here is “only watch the fourth season”.

          1. “Minus the series finale.”

    3. Corylea says:

      If I were you, I’d start with the original series and watch it in PRODUCTION order, rather than the order in which the episodes were originally aired.

      It’s clear in the early episodes that they were frantically making stuff up as they went along, and the producers don’t solidify such things as Starfleet and the Federation for several episodes. (And Gene Coon doesn’t even think of the Prime Directive until halfway through the first season; it isn’t really solidified until Season 2. People often claim that Kirk didn’t care much about the Prime Directive in Season 1, but that’s because the writers didn’t CREATE the Prime Directive until partway through the first season and didn’t really get a handle on what it meant until Season 2. Once it’s solidified, he’s actually portrayed as quite respectful of it.)

      Nobody quite knows who Vulcans are in the beginning, either, and early in the series, they’re still putting pink blusher on Spock’s cheeks, before someone realizes that a person with GREEN blood wouldn’t blush PINK. :-) It takes awhile for Nimoy to figure Spock out; we have him acting far more emotional than usual in the second pilot and smirking inappropriately as late (in production order) as “Charlie X.” So I think watching the episodes in production order allows one to see that development, as the producers, writers, directors, and actors all gradually get a handle on who these people are and what the setting is.

      If you decide to watch some Star Trek, this page of Memory Alpha lists the episodes in production order if you scroll down a little: Memory Alpha.

  5. silver Harloe says:

    There was a really long time where TOS was the only game in town. 20 years.
    I remember in middle school and high school I was obsessed with Star Trek. I had seen all the episodes in reruns many times. I had read Blish’s adaptations of them a few times. I read Foster’s much longer adaptations of the animated series episodes (Blish put 5 hour-long TOS episodes into a book – they read almost like scripts. Foster put a book out for each of the half-hour animated episodes. I imagine he filled in a lot of backstory and detail). I had some of them in a sort of hybrid-comic-book form where it was pictures from show with talk bubbles. I read the first 90 or so Star Trek novels (before they started coming out too fast for my moneys). I read the “technical manuals.” I read the book by the writer of Trouble with Tribbles (David Gerold?) where he talked about how it was adapted into the episode and all the changes he had to make (not mentioned: changing anything about the use of credits to buy things on the station). I owned all the FASA Star Trek RPG supplements and tried to play it a few times but I was young and a crap GM and didn’t really have a regular schedule for things, anyway. There was a whole alternate version of Klingons based on two novels by John Ford which delved deep into their culture and society which the FASA game based all their Klingon material on. The first two movies were pulled into the extended universe without too much trouble, and they even tried to patch around the third movie (in the RPG lore, the Romulans were still the only ones who could make cloaking devices, but traded their Bird of Prey scout ships to the Klingons fully made).

    When Mark Okrand’s Klingon dictionary came out (just after Star Trek III), I wrote him a dumb letter asking about how words from Ford’s Klingons fit in. Of course, the words Ford invented as part of Klingon language were tied to his view of Klingon culture, which I was about to learn was being radically demolished.

    TNG finally broke me. The new Klingon culture was nothing like the one from the EU. Perhaps that is why I didn’t blink when Star Wars fans found out recently that their beloved novels were no longer canon – I had already gone through this when I was 18. To be fair, I had had some practice at canon-washing already: some of the novels had to be ignored to make a coherent universe.

    Anyway, I watched TNG like a good boy, and the first few seasons of DS9, but didn’t last even a whole season of Voyager (I described it at the time has having “too much of the Tao of Gilligan”) before I realized I was no longer a fan. Too many of my childhood Trek memories were pushed aside. It was pretty easy for me to get behind the recent reboot movie – to me, that had already happened. Trek was already not a continuity to me, but an idea – a framework for related but not truly connected stories.

    Anyway. I said this above, but it bears some re-mention now that I’ve remembered more of my experience from 26-30 years ago: Star Trek IV was the first time I heard of “no money.” In all the novels I read, in all the RPG supplements, in all the adaptations, in all the extended universe of Trek, no one had bothered to mention that little detail before. Or if they did, I don’t remember it.

    1. Rick C says:

      “Of course, the words Ford invented as part of Klingon language were tied to his view of Klingon culture, which I was about to learn was being radically demolished.”

      You must be talking about The Final Reflection and the sequel? I found Ford’s Klingons far superior to the childish honor-obsessed sulkers the TV shows gave us.

      1. Mike S. says:

        The Final Reflection is a solid Trek novel that’s also a solid SF novel in and of itself– a rare distinction. (Ford’s standalone work is also very good. It’s a serious shame he died so young.) And I also wish that Trek had built on his Klingons (who were an elaboration of the Klingons of TOS, who were brutally pragmatic but mostly didn’t give a fig for honor) rather than giving us the Viking Mongol Samurai of TNG.

        1. JAB says:

          On a side note, I highly recommend The Last Hot Time by Ford [not Star Trek related].

          1. Mike S. says:

            Seconded. Also “Growing Up Weightless”. (Though both reward careful reading– Ford tends to tell a lot of his stories by implication, so that the reader has to put together some of what’s going on without it ever being flat-out explained.)

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      Even though TNG is “my” Trek, the one that started when I was 10 and obsessed over as a teen, I can recognize its shortcomings. And the Klingons are a big one. Really, it’s the way just about every alien culture (even humans!) in Trek was reduced to a one-dimensional stereotype throughout the TNG/post-TNG era, but the Klingons were the most established in the TOS era, and seemed to have the most screentime in the TNG era, so we saw the biggest reduction with them.

      There are some interesting essays on Trek on Mike Wong’s site (which I’m not sure is even updated anymore). And even bearing in mind that it’s a site made by a Star Wars superfan for the purpose of winning internet nerdfights with Trekkies, he does make some intelligent, critical observations about Trek. I’ve always found this essay pretty convincing, especially his views on the Klingons:

      Klingon Vikings

      In the original series, the Klingons were an aggressive military superpower with expansionist ambitions. In the Cold War politics of the time, they obviously represented the USSR, while the Romulans just as obviously represented Red China. They appeared little different from us; they could be violent, aggressive, sly, cloying, or deceptive, just like us. But at the end of “Errand of Mercy”, Kor reflected wistfully upon the grand battle that never was: “it would have been glorious!” Oh, from such humble beginnings did such a vast mythology grow…

      In “Heart of Glory”, Worf ran into Korris, a Klingon social reactionary who wanted to return to the bygone era of ancient warrior values…Nobody seemed to notice that Korris was a dinosaur even among his own people. They noticed only that this was a cool new aspect of Klingon culture, so the writers grabbed this assumption and ran with it. They proceeded to construct an entire society around the notion that the Klingons were futuristic Vikings…

      The writers even resurrected the Vikings’ primitive melee weapons, arming Klingons with large, gleaming bladed weapons that became more and more prominent in their fighting style until they seemed to constitute the Klingons’ primary combat weapon by the time of DS9. Even the animism associated with some of the ancient Nordic pagan rituals returned. The Klingons were transformed from civilized people into animalistic predators who ate raw meat, growled ferally during lovemaking or when threatened, and treated the act of hunting not as a method of gathering food or as a sport, but as an eroticized ritual. Their appearance, altered for the TOS movies in order to make them look more alien, was altered again, in order to further this sub-human characterization…

      It’s worth a read, even if you don’t agree with all of Wong’s arguments. For myself, I liked some ideas of Klingon society from early TNG. Mostly the notion that Worf, a Klingon raised outside of Klingon culture, believed in its romanticized ideals, while every Klingon he met actually grew up in a society where those ideals were a veneer over a culture that dealt in deception, backroom dirty-dealing, and political compromise. If you grew up in an immigrant family like me, you see how true that is. Unfortunately, later TNG and DS9 slowly moved to making Worf’s idealized view of Klingon society into the actual Klingon society, whereupon I liked them less and less.

      1. Mike S. says:

        I think DS9 did a pretty decent job with the Klingon society TNG established. The double-dealing was there, especially as represented by Gowron, and ditto the old dinosaurs (the three Klingon captains from the original series, played by the same actors in the new makeup!). But General Martok was an awesome contrast to and foil for Worf, as someone who took Klingon culture seriously without treating it as idols or objects of romance. Worf was all theory, Martok practical but not wholly cynical.

  6. MikhailBorg says:

    I think people overthink Kirk’s “We don’t have money.” I figured it simply meant “We use a digital medium of exchange in the future, and I doubt I can pay for our pizza in 1986 by waving my communicator at your sales terminal like we can in 2014 – err, 2286.”

    1. I’d say it can represent both money no longer being tied to material currency as well as living in what amounts to a post-scarcity economy (thanks to matter replicators).

  7. krellen says:

    Roddenberry’s utopia actually exists – it’s probably what inspired him to create it in Star Trek, actually. It’s the US Military (most modern militaries, actually). Soldiers don’t pay for things, they requisition them – if they need it, they get it. They don’t worry about logistics, they worry about the mission (sometimes the mission is someone else’s logistics).

    The US military already is basically Starfleet (maybe a bit less meritocratic than the ideal, but that’s a flaw between practice and principle.)

    1. Tulgey Logger says:

      Roddenberry’s utopian vision etended past starfleet though. There’s plenty of hunger and greed in the US today, despite the existence of the military, whereas he conceived of them as having been wiped away by a future human society. Starfleet is also not primarily concerned with making war, even though it has the ability to do so. That’s one of the better things about Abrams Trek II: Khan Boogaloo: Kirk and crew resisting the militarization of Star Fleet (but then it turns into something ridiculous with the Big Mean Spiky Enterprise doing a Hyper-9/11 on Earth.)

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        The “Non-militarization” of Starfleet is one of the worst ideas to ever hit trek.

        Starfleet ships are constantly being called upon to perform dangerous tasks and uphold the security of the Federation. Making them superficially less militarized and more poorly armed does nothing but put the crew and the rest of the federation in unnecessary danger.

        “Hey, we’re being attacked by the Borg. What should we do?”

        “Send the Enterprise- you know, the ship with all of the civilians and young children on it? – to fight them!”

    2. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

      I was in the US Military, on a Navy aircraft carrier designated as ENTERPRISE CLASS no less. Money is a HUGE issue. You can requisition whatever you like, that doesn’t mean you will get it. The military literally has jobs in which the person’s only</i) duty is to prove to someone else that what they are asking for is required.

      And then another job who's only duty is to determine if the requisition is valid based on need, availability and yes, cost.

      I also never got to bump uglies with a green-skinned alien or get dirty with the ship's doctor on the holo-deck. And fixing the reactor to WAAAAAY LONGER than 15 minutes, so Scotty was either completely full of shit or a complete hack.


      1. Purple Library Guy says:

        Supply is an issue. Money isn’t. Within the military system, a soldier’s day to day life does not involve buying food, rifles, shelter etc. etc. Even in terms of requisitioning stuff, your description makes it clear that you’re not working in terms of, or at minimum not solely in terms of, a monetary budget for stuff; rather, you can get things that are required, what is available, what you can persuade other bureaucrats you should have. “Cost” still sneaks in as a descriptor, but it seems like it’s operating as a vague representation of “how much stuff it’s reasonable to be asking for”. It’s not operating as money in the sense of “I have this much money, I buy my ‘requisitions’ with the money”.

        Indeed, this is one thing that made Roddenberry’s life easier. Whether he was imagining the military as a model for the Federation’s civilization in general or not (ugh I hope not), the Enterprise itself was part of a system modeled after the military; the absence of money within the Enterprise and in the Starfleet organization doesn’t require much change at all.

        1. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

          Well his vision of the Enterprise was almost certainly US militaristic simply because everyone had a title prefix: Captain, Commander, Liutenant, Chief ect. The uniforms were of a military ilk. Minus Uhura’s skirts or the “blouses” Troi wore, of course.

          But to your original point, yes, its a matter of supply and less of actual printed, bank sanctioned currency. Interestingly enough one of the most heavily traded “currencies” during my Navy career epitomizes this lack of supply: Coffee and porn.

        2. Mike S. says:

          Re the military environment, it’s probably no coincidence that both DS9 and M*A*S*H had that epitome of terrible (but funny when it happens to other peple) military/command economy inefficiency, the Chain Of Deals episode: a character needs something, and rather than being able to just buy it, he has to get A to give something to B so that they’ll provide something C wants…

          DS9 had about three, as I recall, generally centered around Nog. Who was a walking advertisement for how the Federation’s abandonment of scarcity economics left it quite vulnerable when someone actually needed something that they couldn’t just replicate.

          (“It means we don’t need money!” “Well then you definitely don’t need my money!”)

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            I really dont like those episodes.Not because they are bad,far from it,but because they show only the problems of moneyless societies,and not anything that makes it a good thing to have*.And if federation having no money only creates problems without giving anything in return,why still keep that system?

            *Elimination of starvation and poverty dont count because,as many have commented already,you can provide everyone with all the basic needs for free,and still give them money to spend just on luxuries.

            1. Mike S. says:

              I love those episodes, partly because they tend to be funny (especially “In The Cards”), and partly because I enjoy seeing the TNG-era Federation’s sense of smug superiority punctured.

              (For all that Kirk gets derided as a loose cannon, he and his Federation are a lot humbler about themselves and humanity than Picard’s is. Contrast Kirk’s sense that he’s one step from barbarism– “I will not kill, today” with Picard’s response to twentieth century concers.)

              But even in its own terms, I think it works. The moneyless economy is like warp drive or the transporter. It’s a thing that exists as a plot device that’s by definition better than anything we have now. (And a working model of either would require several theoretical breakthroughs.) If the writers had the slightest idea how to build one that works they wouldn’t be wasting their time writing a TV show.

              So they don’t raise questions that don’t have answers (“how do you go faster than light without violating causality?”/”what information source replaces prices for allocation of resources that can’t be replicated?”), and they don’t show the details of any inner workings beyond the pretty flashing lights.

              You could do an episode in which the warp core malfunctions and some guest from a newly spacefaring world has to rig up rockets to move the ship, without even slightly implying that rockets are better than warp drive. (Obviously if you’ve got the latter, it’s vastly better during the 99.999…% of the time that it’s operational.) And likewise, it’s possible to do a story in which Federation resource allocation fails because it’s dealing with an eccentric, or because the crew is on the frontier where the magic economic black box can’t be fully brought to bear yet, without implying that it’s not comparably superior under normal circumstances.

              It’s not as if there’s any danger of the viewer thinking that, say, Ferengi culture is actually better. (It’s so broadly drawn it barely qualifies as satire.) And Trek has always treated engaging in any form of trade as probable cause. (It’s as suspicious of the grotty business of buying and selling as any Victorian squire living on agricultural rents.)

              Part of the humor of the chain of deals episode is how transgressive it is against the show’s norms: clean-cut Jake or veteran O’Brien has to go out of his depth and ask Nog to use Ferengi tactics (ew!) to get what they need.

    3. Joe Informatico says:

      Starfleet is more closely related to the British Navy of the 18th century. (That whole Horatio Hornblower ideal that Roddenberry loved.) It’s ostensibly a military institution. But ship captains were often operating far from home–like literally the opposite side of the planet/galaxy–with no easy way to communicate with the Admiralty, so they had a lot of autonomy to deal with situations. And they were engaged as often in scientific, exploratory, or diplomatic missions as military ones. Also, at this point in time, the Royal Navy is the closest thing to a meritocracy in British society: officers on board a sea-going vessel had to be competent at a great many things, which were often a matter of life and death. No one not up to the task would go far in the Navy no matter how impressive his wealth, titles, or connections.

      E.g., look at James Cook’s first voyage. Publicly, the mission was a Royal Society request to observe the transit of Venus from the opposite side of the world to further astronomical knowledge. Secretly, he had a second mission from the Navy to seek out the legendary Terra Australis Incognita (Australia). Cook was approved for the voyage because he had a good reputation with both the Admiralty (for his military record during the Seven Years’ War) and the Royal Society scientists (for his cartography and geographic surveys during the same war), so he’s kind of a model for the type of captain Starfleet would desire: soldier, explorer, scientist, and diplomat.

  8. Mke says:

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned but i loved the bringing up of a currencyless future is something that we are actually dealing with right now, it’s a crazy future but it might be in the future. See this link of a CGP Grey youtube video here where he manages to discuss a lot of those themes such as lack of resource scarcity.

    Scary Scary times!

  9. Zak McKracken says:

    “the uniforms are pure comedy”
    …I did not mind those at all, and actually using the shirt colour to distinguish people seems a much better idea than some symbols worn on the shoulders or somewhere else.
    Also, the TNG uniforms were way weirder, especially with the way that starting with TNG, the hot female crew member always got a special uniform that accentuates her … ahem … status?

    1. krellen says:

      I note that Troi started wearing normal uniforms by the end of TNG.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Once she finally exited puberty.And by she,I mean the intended audience.

      2. MrPyro says:

        It was a plot point I think; there was an episode in which she took the exams to be able to become a watch commander, and she started wearing a standard uniform after that.

        1. Malimar says:

          Close, but not quite. The plot was this: A different officer than Picard took over the ship for an episode, and during his time in charge he instituted a bunch of changes to how things were done, one of which was requiring Troi to be in uniform. After he left, she just stayed in uniform.

          1. Thomas says:

            I’m imaging Troy being so happy that she was ordered into having a tiny amount of respect for her position, that even after the commanding person left she clung onto her uniform and just hoped that if she didn’t mention it no-one would take it away from her again.

          2. MrPyro says:

            Ah, was that Jellico?

            The episode with the command exam did happen: I think I just falsely connected that with the start of her wearing the uniform.

    2. Nelly says:

      The Royal Navy used to do something similar – officers had a different colour between their rank insignia to denote their specialisation. Black was Warfare (drivers and shooters of the ship) Green Marine Engineers, Red Medical, White Stores, Pink Weapon Engineers… Marine engineers are still greenies, weapon engineers still pinkies (or less polite names) to sailors of a certain age…

      1. Purple Library Guy says:

        I wonder who was the nasty SOB who condemned a branch of a military service to wear pink?

        1. 4th Dimension says:

          And who assigned that color to the guys in charge of all your munitions and things that make other things go BOOOOOM!

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Ohhh,so thats why too much pink energy is dangerous.

        2. Joe Informatico says:

          Pink didn’t really become identified with femininity until around the 1940s, before then, it was considered a masculine colour as often as not. And pre-synthetic dyes, your colour choices were limited. But there were a lot of natural options for red and pink dyes.

    3. ? says:

      Colour coding is a nice idea (and done on real life aircraft carriers for example), except Star Fleet code is confusing. Same colour for engineering and security? “You there! Fix this panel that just exploded!” “By punching or shooting it?”. Maybe McCoy wouldn’t have to remind everyone that damn it Jim, he is a doctor, not a science officer if he wasn’t dressed in a uniform identical to that of a science officer.

      To me, most ridiculous thing about those uniforms is not the colour, it’s that there is no field uniform and they go in just a long sleeved t-shirt into possibly hostile alien environment. No jacket to protect from exposure, not even a backpack to put samples in or carry emergency survival kit, completely impractical. Is making a couple of reusable costumes really that expensive? (And of course I much prefer uniforms from Wrath of Khan and subsequent films)

      1. Mike S. says:

        A friend worked on one of the Trek RPGs– he handwaved Security and Engineering as sharing a department as going back to the earliest days of starflight: you needed big beefy guys to wrestle the reactor rods, so when crews were limited they tended to get tagged to handle keeping discipline. Then it stuck as ships and crews got bigger.

        (Likewise, there was a whole bit about how in an emergency, it’s a lot easier to hit nice big buttons on a chunky tricorder than it is to fiddle with something pocket-sized…)

        1. SharpeRifle says:

          Heh…actually I would bet its because if you aren’t trained on anything useful in a ship to ship battle your gonna be on Damage Control parties with the Eng.

      2. cassander says:

        Engineering and security with the same color actually kind of makes sense. there is a tradition in navies of distinguishing between line and staff officers. That is, the doctor might be a commander, but he didn’t know much about sailing so he wouldn’t be eligible to command a ship, he was a staff officer, not part of the line of command. After the introduction of steam power, a new class was introduced, limited or restricted line officers. These were people who were essential to the functioning of the ship (i.e. not scientist or medical personnel) but who were considered too specialized to be eligible for command. the red/gold/blue setup in TNG corresponds fairly well to the line/restricted/staff setup of the modern US navy. The biggest outlier is that the tactical officer should be wearing red, not gold, but since he also shouldn’t be the same guy as the head of security, that’s hardly the biggest problem.

    4. ehlijen says:

      Don’t forget the one brief glimpse we get in the TNG pilot of a male crewman dressed in a minidress style uniform. (~14.15 mark)

      Between that and Tasha Yar vs Troy, they could have really messed with the idea of gender typed clothing in general. Alas, they didn’t.

      1. MikhailBorg says:

        I have the sewing pattern for the men’s “skant” as it’s called.

        Planning to cosplay it at a con soon to mess with people. “Yes, it’s canon. No, I’m not cross-dressing.”

        1. ehlijen says:

          You, sir, have my respect and praise :)

    5. I loved the uniforms in Star Trek II. I wish they’d stayed with those. even the cheapened ones seen later in TNG worn by the crew of the Enterprise-C were better than TNG’s early pajamas-style color-coded clothes (in my opinion).

      The show also seemed to suffer from sci-fi’s apparent love of polyester, especially for civilians.

      1. MikhailBorg says:

        The Star Trek II uniforms have the advantage of looking sharp on a wide range of body types, including the body types of fan costumers who don’t get to the gym as often as we can assume real Starfleet officers do.

        1. ehlijen says:

          Not only an advantage for fan costumes, but also for extra hiring and costuming up, I bet.

        2. That’s another point: I think we only saw one chunky/fat Starfleet person in the whole history of TNG. That was Lieutenant Argyle.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            What about old scotty?

            1. He was a refugee from the fatter, more elderly TOS era, not a native TNG character.

  10. Chris says:

    The main problem with a setting without money is that it would be very boring. It would necessarily be a post-scarcity society (which itself is likely to be impossible) with no rivalrous goods. There could be no conflict or war since everyone’s wants are completely met. Post-scarcity is necessary because the moment there isn’t enough of a good to supply all possible human wants, somehow it must be decided to which ends that resource is applied and to which ones it isn’t. Whether you like it or not, money is the only tool that can do this at scale. Computers can’t do it for us.

    For example, why aren’t there tens of thousands (or more) ships like the Enterprise flying around the galaxy? I bet many of the people on the Enterprise would want to run their own ship, with full crew and all, where they’re the captain. Presumably there’s only so much crew to go around — more people want to be starship captains than red shirts — and so there are only a few captain positions available. Anyone not selected for such a position (by some process that decides how goods are distributed) who still wanted to be a captain would need to fund their own expedition — using money — which would then be economically rivalrous with the federation as they compete for the same, limited resources (crew, etc.).

    1. MikhailBorg says:

      The Federation has relatively cheap interstellar travel, replicators that can build almost anything from generic matter, and high-quality solar collectors.

      While this doesn’t mean everything’s free, it means there won’t be many things that are scarce.

      1. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

        And with Holo-deck technology even non-material…umm, forms of entertainment? Companionship?…wouldn’t be scarce.

        In fact, if every man could “date” Kate Upton, and every woman could date Ryan Gosling, then the main reason for obtaining wealth might disappear the very second the first person uttered the words:

        “Computer: Run simulation program ‘Who’s your Daddy’ 1.0.”

    2. Purple Library Guy says:

      I’m a looking through that article you linked. It strikes me as a claim (which exists among a family of claims) that planning, conceived as a purely centralized operation, cannot possibly reproduce the outcomes that markets are theoretically supposed to but don’t in real life, such as clearing, Pareto-optimal equilibria and so forth.
      This strikes me as irrelevant on a number of grounds:
      1. Non-market economies generally are not trying to duplicate market ones, the whole point is they want different outcomes from those the market economy produce.
      2. It’s a bit of a silly raising of the bar. If there were an economics that described what market economies actually do and to what extent the price system actually does regulate the economy, it might be plausible to argue about whether a planning-based system could replicate that. But it’s pointless to argue about whether a planning-based system can replicate the features of the drastically counterfactual universe of efficient market theories, because it is also impossible for market economies to replicate those.
      3. Hence, all advocates of even a planned economy would need to prove was that such an economy would be capable of a “muddling through” approximation to efficiency that was broadly comparable to the approximations market economies achieve. The moment you discard perfection, I suspect most of the computation-intensiveness arguments go out the window.
      4. But in any case, most notions of non-market economies are not based on central planning, rendering the argument irrelevant to them; one could prove central planning was impossible and it would not back up your claim, “the moment there isn't enough of a good to supply all possible human wants, somehow it must be decided to which ends that resource is applied and to which ones it isn't. Whether you like it or not, money is the only tool that can do this at scale,” with respect to non-centrally-planned approaches.

      None of this is to say you’re necessarily wrong, (or that even if computationally workable a centrally planned command economy would be a good thing). It’s just that your link does not show it. I will say that all in all, it seems unlikely to me that in a vastly complex universe it should turn out that there is only one way to organize an economy, for ever and ever, amen.

      1. syal says:

        … has anyone ever written a story where the primary currency is body heat?

        1. Steve C says:


      2. Steve C says:

        I love your points Purple Library Guy. I have nothing to add except it put a smile on my face.

        1. Purple Library Guy says:

          Well, gosh.

      3. cassander says:

        >But in any case, most notions of non-market economies are not based on central planning, rendering the argument irrelevant to them;

        all the stuff in the world, and all the stuff that will ever exist, is controlled by someone. there are only two ways to move that stuff between people, either you can let them swap stuff themselves or you can tell them who to swap with. the former invariably ends in markets, the latter requires central planning by definition. there are no other alternatives.

        1. Purple Library Guy says:

          Erm, no. Look up “Participatory Economics” for instance. More generally, there is no requirement for planning to be centralized. One can do planning in a co-operative way where everyone gives some indication of what they want and suggests what they can help produce and stuff. One can argue whether such things can be done efficiently or practically, but it is another option and there are real-world instances of its use on smaller scales.

          For that matter, technology is rapidly heading us towards yet another option: Stuff on demand. Rather than either planning production in detail or estimating production based on notions of what people have been buying, we’re on our way to the ability to use sophisticated 3d printers to make the things people want when people decide they want them without worrying in advance too much about just what things those will be. This still requires some planning and/or markety stuff to make sure appropriate raw materials are on hand, and it doesn’t help with for instance food. But it certainly has the potential to simplify a number of issues, such as by radically shortening and simplifying supply chains.

          1. cassander says:

            >One can do planning in a co-operative way where everyone gives some indication of what they want and suggests what they can help produce and stuff.

            that is still centralized planning. you can have have your assembly, parliament, soviet, whatever, but it is still a centralized decision making body. and sure you can make it work in sub-dunbar sized groups, but you can make almost anything work in such small groups.

            1. Purple Library Guy says:

              No, it isn’t. I don’t think we can have a debate about this because you don’t know enough about what I’m talking about to comment on it in a relevant way, and it would take way too many paragraphs to describe it.

            2. Boobah says:

              To me, this sounds suspiciously like a market.

              And ‘Stuff-on-demand’ is just a shuffling of the same stuff; you’re buying production capacity and raw materials in a more direct way than you do currently, but it doesn’t fundamentally change anything. It may simplify transport, how much depending on how centralized your manufacturing appliances end up.

      4. Some other guy says:

        Actually, the article attempts to refute the claim that economic planning is hypercomputational. Two of the article authors (Allin Cottrell and W. Paul Cockshott) even wrote a book about how they thought a democratic centrally planned economy could work: Towards a New Socialism.

        Your objections still hold, though. Real world market economies are not populated with perfect rational individuals, and so the market “muddles through” to the point where it finds an acceptable solution. If the economy had been complex to the point that central planning would be impossible due to hypercomputational concerns, then the market would also have been impossible. The article makes a similar point on page 5. “If production processes were strongly nonlinear (…) then the iterative functional system would be highly unstable, and the evolution of the entire price system would be completely chaotic and unpredictable. Prices would then be useless as a guide to economic activity.”

  11. Shamus:

    I hate to be “that guy,” but regarding pretty much all of the second paragraph of your post (and more), text in parentheses that ends a sentence should be contained within the punctuation for that sentence.

    1. Zukhramm says:

      I see no such sentences in that paragraph. Either way, the rules are bad so you shouldn’t follow them!

      1. Purple Library Guy says:

        The point made is,

        “It's smart. (For TV sci-fi of the day.)”

        (and those other similar formations) should probably instead be

        “It's smart (for TV sci-fi of the day).”

        Although if “for TV sci-fi of the day” were a complete sentence it looks as though it’d be okay to do it Shamus’ way.

        1. Zukhramm says:

          Preceded by a period. Starting with a capital letter. Looks like a sentence to me. And before you do: Don’t bring grammar into this!

        2. syal says:

          The second style de-emphasizes the parenthetical phrase. Considering it’s the running theme of the paragraph you don’t want to de-emphasize it.

          If sentence fragments bother you, I’d say it’s on you; they’re quite common, quite popular and quite useful. (For TV sci-fi internet commentary of the day.)

          1. Purple Library Guy says:

            I was just elucidating the point made. Your argument that style in this case outweighs grammar is fair enough.

          2. Thomas says:

            I think if you were doing a sentence fragment it should be:

            It’s smart. For TV sci-fi of the day.

            I feel like the whole point of doing that kind of punctuation break is to give them a brackets kind of quality. Mixing both looks weird to me, I don’t think I parse it so cleanly.

          3. If the goal is to emphasize the second phrase, one shouldn’t use parentheses at all. Instead, one should use the magic of HTML:

            “It's smart. For TV sci-fi of the day.“

            Further, by placing the paranthetical phrase outside of the punctuation for the sentence it’s supposed to refer to, you’re basically saying “these are totally separate thoughts because see that period? Yeah, that’s when the first thought ended and this second one is out on its lonesome, wearing parentheses for no real reason other than the words think they look good.”

            1. MichaelGC says:

              The italics would give it a different type of emphasis, though, especially if repeated. It would be as though Shamus was really trying to hammer the point home for some reason. (If he’d italicised the whole of that last one I’d be wondering why he was quite so adamant about it!)

              Whereas hiding the fragments in parentheses nicely de-emphasises them: they’re more like conversational asides (and one way of adopting a conversational tone is to flout strict rules of grammar, o’ course).

              1. (Why did you put parentheses around a separate sentence, making it somehow an aside rather than a primary point of your text? Parentheses aren’t used for emphasis in any way, shape, or form.)

                This is a simple statement that shows little about my opinion (see other posts above for those).

                How is that latter phrase in any way emphasized?

                This is another simple statement that shows little about my opinion. (See other posts above for those.)

                Why are parentheses even needed there? It’s a complete sentence by itself with a period and everything, and its not contained behind the period from the sentence it’s supposed to supplement. It’s like you’re making a BLT by putting the bacon, lettuce, and tomato between one pair of bread slices and then putting two other pieces of bread with mayo on them on another separate table.

                1. MichaelGC says:

                  Aye, I’m not saying it’s always appropriate to flout the rules (and I certainly agree with you about the rules!). In Shamus’ paragraph the bits in parentheses are already emphasised by virtue of the repetition. However, if left to their own devices, they come to dominate a little too much:

                  It's smart. For TV sci-fi of the day. It's reasonably grounded in science. For TV sci-fi of the day. It's amazingly tolerant and optimistic and forward-looking. For almost any Sci-fi. Always with the dystopias, these Sci-fi writers.

                  and also leave Shamus sounding a little like a robot. So, using the parentheses de-emphasises the relevant bits so that they stop monopolising things, and play their intended role in the paragraph. (They also act like a little set, so that when the third one comes along Shamus is able to subvert the expectations the first two have set up. If those bits were folded into their preceding bits to make proper sentences then the slight switcheroo on the third one would be less impactful.)

                  I agree that doing it the right way (i.e. not using fragments) would have been entirely acceptable (and correct!), but I do think doing it the wrong way gives things a chatty conversational tone. (As an aside, I think it’s fine to put whole sentences, paragraphs and indeed whole chapters in parentheses if one is trying to indicate that the text within is less important somehow than the text without.)

                  1. MichaelGC says:

                    And of course I said all that before actually testing it out, and it turns out that doing it correctly works perfectly well, too:

                    It's smart (for TV sci-fi of the day). It's reasonably grounded in science (for TV sci-fi of the day). It's amazingly tolerant and optimistic and forward-looking (for almost any sci-fi; always with the dystopias, these sci-fi writers).

                    Perhaps a little less chatty, but meh: not a great deal in it, is there? :D If anyone needs me I’ll be over here conceding the point…

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Well you,see there,is a perfectly good explanation for that(if by “perfectly good you consider a huge act of trolling(which I definitely do(in this instance at least

  12. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

    The rub for me always came from when I accepted Roddenberry’s narrative for what he wanted (no money) and continued it all the way through to the final question(s):

    -There is no money, so the motivation of accumulating wealth is moot. So how does a person decide what to do “for a living”?
    -If given the option to choose a profession, without personal gain as a motivator, wouldn’t everyone want to be Captain of the Enterprise? Point guard for the LA Lakers? Movie Star? Pilot? If everyone wants the sexy jobs, who would choose to be, say, the guy who has to go around fixing the self-cleaning toilets?
    -Without money, how do you make someone accept or submit to a life in which they aren’t Capt. James T. Kirk, but Bob from custodial services. I’m certain that even in the future kids are still going to eat to damn much candy and throw up on the floor, and somebody’s got to clean that up.
    -Even if we hand wave it as being done by a robot or magic vomit-away zap-r-gun, then there has to be a factory in which those guns are made.
    -Even if that factory is automated and the vomit-away guns made by other machines, then who made those machines? Who fixes the machines that make machines?
    -You can see where this endless spiral goes. Basically, at some point, there has to be a guy at the bottom of the pyramid. Somebody has to do the shit jobs. Without money how else would you get someone to do the shit jobs? Jedi mind trick him into thinking cleaning up vomit is better than being Captain of the USS Enterprise? By force? Giving him no other options?
    OR…. am I to believe that in the future people have “evolved” enough that they are content and happy with going to work in a factory making vomit-cleaning machines and being rewarded with nothing more than the knowledge they made the universe contain .0000001% less vomit? By happy with nothing more than the pride of a job well done?

    Soooooo, James Kirk gets to have crazy alien sex once a week, travel back in time and have sex with Elizabeth Taylor, fly to far off worlds and, well, also have sex with everything he finds there….and Bob has to work 40 hours a week in a factory making machines to clean up vomit, but gets nothing in return except the non-verbal appreciation of a fleet of sex-crazed frat boys with laser pistols? MMMyyyeeeaaahhhh….EFF THAT.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “-OR…. am I to believe that in the future people have “evolved” enough that they are content and happy”

      Basically yes.Genes vision is that people of the future are more evolved,therefore no money is needed.It leads to some pretty iffy ideas(no grief),and some holier than thou speeches here and there,but its still a nice ideal.

    2. Tulgey Logger says:

      I find it very revealing that many of our questions about how a moneyless society works are “how do we make people submit to being at the bottom of the pyramid without money.” We definitely recognize that money is a form of social control in a capitalist society, and we don’t have ready access to ideas about what motivates people to work together for a greater purpose, apparently.

      How do people choose professions when pay isn’t a factor? Well, presumably their choice of profession would be more closely aligned with their aptitudes, rather than chasing money around a constantly shifting job market, competing with other workers just to maintain their living standards, and sucking up the risk of investing an education in a profession that isn’t going to pay as well by the time they exit school. People would train for and enter professions in the interest of personal fulfillment and helpin others: what we have now, but without the threat of a reduced existence based on class.

      Without a doubt, there are a lot of jobs that wouldn’t exist without the threat of poverty. I can’t imagine companies that get away with paying employees so little that they have to take three jobs and sleep in their cars would exist the way they do now. Good bye, McDonalds. These shit jobs don’t exist because they’re well paying or fulfilling, or because they meet some deep human need.

      But why would anyone do the shit jobs if they didn’t have to for the money? Jeez, I wish I COULD do more of the shit jobs. I’d be totally alright with cleaning toilets and vomit for a very long time if it also meant solid health care, material security, and a reasonable amount of free time. Bring on your turds, Federation: I am here to wipe them up.

      1. krellen says:

        Note that a lot of our societies worst jobs have to do with serving people in the process of acquiring goods – retail and food service. These jobs literally do not exist in Star Trek; people just replicate what food/knick-knacks they want, and any “service” like restaurants are luxury affairs where it is the skill, not the mere presence of service, that is offered.

        A lot of “crap jobs” just don’t exist in Star Trek. I’m not even sure they have janitors, though exactly which technological miracle causes that is unclear.

        Like, seriously, I think the only “crap job” we ever see is crawling through Jeffrey’s Tubes to fix systems, which is basically my profession, and lots of people do this job for reasons other than money.

        1. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

          Well, the “crap jobs” we have now wouldn’t exist. In much the same way that in today’s society we no longer have some professions from 100 years ago, like the guy who had to go around filling and digging new outhouses. That profession has been eliminated, and now some other job is considered a “crap job” in its place (pun intended)

          I suppose the actual job itself or duties aren’t really important, but there has to be some job in Roddenberrys world that isn’t as sexy-cool as Captain of the USS Enterprise. Even if the worst job in his distopia is midfielder for Manchester United, its still the “worst” job.

        2. I figure the closest thing to a “crap job” would be “colonist,” and unless they’re forcing people to go to places they don’t want to live, that’s optional.

          Still, an expanding Federation could be where surplus people would migrate for something to do or a challenge to face.

      2. Purple Library Guy says:

        I know of at least one economic alternative proposed which argues for everyone doing some kind of balanced group of things, some that’s pleasant, creative, with decisions involved or whatever, and some that’s scutwork. So everyone would clean some toilets or wash some floors, but nobody would spend all their time at it.

        For that matter, you could take an approach like this in an economy which still had both money and markets, as long as it didn’t have capitalists (ie centralized ownership of workplaces). If all enterprises were, say, worker-owned co-ops (as quite a few already are), such a scheme could be enacted even while continuing to buy and sell goods, have malls and all that familiar stuff.

      3. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

        Those things are available NOW working at McDonalds. Or Wal-Mart. The problem becomes by what your definition of “material security” means.

        For some material security is a simple log cabin and a garden to grow the basic needs for subsistence. Forothers that would mean a condo and a new Iphone every 5 months. With or without WiFI? Car? Truck? BMW or public transportation?

        You get the idea. But if what you say you want is truly what your heart wants, by all means, quit your job and forgo possessions for a minimalistic lifestyle based solely on the income of the average Wal-Mart employee. It can be done, depending on your comfort level.

        If Shamus wouldn’t ban me for doing so I would have told you all a long time ago a story of who i met in an alley of Hong Kong 20 years ago. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the discussion a few days ago about taveling abroad and seeing other cultures….

    3. Purple Library Guy says:

      The odd thing about your question is that on the most basic level, money doesn’t determine those things now. I mean, people don’t decide to clean toilets because although onerous, it will pay them more than being point guard for the LA Lakers.

      So it seems like you’re assuming that along with no money, there would necessarily be, what . . . some kind of disorganized pseudo-anarchism in which nobody ever had any power/influence over other people’s decisions to join their workplaces and so on. No individuals or groups capable of hiring or firing, no accreditation of any sort, and so on. I’m not sure what this has to do with money.

      1. Thomas says:

        Sure people aren’t premiership footballers because of money, but why people go in every day to a dull as ditches office job, instead of bunking off and spending time with friends, is because money.

        I think in the UK 40% of people say they enjoy doing their job? So without money requiring people to decide between working and eating, 60% of people would probably leave their jobs.

        Even beyond that, if you’re one of the 40% and you’re having a really bad month, if money isn’t a problem for entertainment and food, it’s going to be tempting to just take a week off.

        1. Purple Library Guy says:

          You can make not working uncomfortable without using money. The harder part is replicating the status gradations between different jobs without using money . . . but it’s not clear to me that’s as important.

          But in any case, the main reason for people not wanting to work is bosses. Most people actually seem to prefer working over not working; not working for a living drains people’s self respect and makes them feel not part of society. Take away the unpleasant conditions driven by people who don’t understand what you’re doing telling you what to do and scolding you if you don’t do it the stupid way, and most people would probably choose to work rather than loaf. Even I might choose to work at least half time under those conditions, and I’m unusually lazy and unusually able to be happy occupying my time with pure leisure (eg, when a kid I noticed that many of my peers were actually more or less happy when summer vacation was over because they’d run out of things to do and gotten bored, an attitude I found nonsensical; apparently few of them had noticed that there were still lots more books to read).

          1. Thomas says:

            You might work half the time, but you don’t work with consistency or determination. Because you’re working ‘at your leisure’ there’s no reason to ever crunch down on something difficult.

            We actually know that this system doesn’t work. There are lots of cases happening all the time, where a group decide to do a communal project, or someone offers to do some work for free, and it sort of goes okay for a month or two and then they hit a rough patch and nothing gets done at all. If you try to volunteer some work for a professional company, a lot of the people will actually ask if they can pay you, to make sure the work gets done even if things get rough.

            Sure sometimes it works, but you can’t run a society on “sometimes people do their jobs”

            And if you think about it, it’s incredibly unlikely that the percentages of the population who want to do certain jobs match up with the ratio of jobs we actually need.

            Especially, since there’s no money and no need for food, most of your jobless problems go away. You don’t feel excluded from society, because no-one else you know has a job and you all spend your time on school-kid like entertainment trips or projects.

            The people who choose to do work are the ones who feel excluded because they’re not building their own cabin in the woods or performing their own little village play.

            In a world with money, if people don’t work they also can’t spend their time constructively doing what they want, because they can’t afford it. In a world without money, you can just take up useless carpentry or write that book, or race lambourghini’s.

            When the alternative is between work and sitting at home doing nothing? Sure, people want to work. A little bit. At their leisure. And not if it gets tough.

            When the alternative is between work and living like a millionaire playboy with a huge social circle? No-ones going to do it reliably

            1. Purple Library Guy says:

              Well, I wouldn’t work with consistency or determination. But I don’t do that now either; I just get the job done that needs doing and goof off when that’s taken care of. My wife, contrariwise, definitely would; she has a strong work ethic and feels uncomfortable if she doesn’t spend a fair amount of time working. And in fact she is considerably more productive when her boss is on vacation; she works less hard when she feels like she’s being pushed into it.

              In general, it turns out money is not a very good motivator; see this RSA Animate talk on what mostly motivates people:
              Autonomy, mastery and purpose.

              But again, you’re equating “money” with “social organization”. Your whole “But without money!” thing depends on them being the same. But they aren’t. Many societies have been organized without money or with money but as a relatively unimportant edge case. There was money in medieval times but it was not that important; most wealth did not depend on it and was not expressed in terms of it. Wealth meant land and the ability to maintain lots of armed men using the in-kind rents you got from the peasants working that land.

    4. Matt Downie says:

      I’ll have a go at inventing plausible answers:
      “How does a person decide what to do “for a living”?”
      Pretty much the same way we do in our society – social status, personal interests, aptitude. Nobody says, “I dreamed of being a janitor, until I realized it didn’t pay very well, so I decided to be a rock star instead.”

      “I'm certain that even in the future kids are still going to eat to damn much candy and throw up on the floor, and somebody's got to clean that up.”
      Robots? The child? The child’s parents? The person whose floor it is?

      “Even if we hand wave it as being done by a robot or magic vomit-away zap-r-gun, then there has to be a factory in which those guns are made. Even if that factory is automated and the vomit-away guns made by other machines, then who made those machines? Who fixes the machines that make machines?”
      It’s robots all the way down! In the past it might not have been, but in the past they had money. Or: you can at least imagine a guy who codes replicators for fun, the equivalent of the modern 3D printing enthusiast.

      “OR…. am I to believe that in the future people have “evolved” enough that they are content and happy with going to work in a factory making vomit-cleaning machines and being rewarded with nothing more than the knowledge they made the universe contain .0000001% less vomit?”
      Maybe they’re on drugs so they don’t care? Maybe the factory work involves ordering around your own private army of robots, and that’s actually fun?

      Society might have informal substitutes for money. At a party, people will say, “What do you do that’s useful?” And if your only answer is, “I wanted to be a space ship captain, but I failed my Starfleet exams, so now I spend my days commenting on internet forums and eating replicated junk food,” people will think you’re a worthless loser. Whereas if you say, “I fix the robots that clean the toilets,” people will think you’re an admirable person.
      Even if only a small percentage of the population are willing to work under these circumstances, that’s probably sufficient in a post-scarcity economy.

      1. Patrick the Red Shirt says:

        “I dreamed of being a janitor, until I realized it didn't pay very well, so I decided to be a rock star instead.”

        Well, no…nobody would say that. But PLENTY of people would say the reverse. In fact many people say that NOW.

        I guess that’s what I was getting at originally. Without the benefit of large wealth, and if everyone was left to their own devices and interests, Gene’s vision of utopia would be a world filled with Starship captains and not enough “janitors” (for the rest of this thread, lets not get to hung up on the actual duties of a janitor, but simply agree to use the term “janitor” to describe whatever it is in a Roddenberry-esque world the lowest form of labor would be). Or, probably more likely, far to many blog writers espousing the short-comings of the latest zombie survival horror and not enough art students.

        For example, if there are X number of starships then you will only have X number of Captains. The minute you have X+1 number of people qualified to be a starship captain you have greed/envy and all the other things that drive humans to accumulate wealth (or, more accurately the power wealth provides). The inverse is also true. Culture would dictate that they need X “janitors”. But since being a Janitor is far less full-filling/exciting/interesting than being a Starship captain, you would always have X-1 janitors. Capitalism fixes this through money, which is why the average Garbage man in America makes as much as a High school teacher under age 30 (its true BTW. Both make $36k year on average)

        How would you always maintain a perfect balance of people and the jobs the want to do/are good at? How would you balance that equation no matter what job it is? Any +/- remainder would, by definition, break the utopian construct.

        I don’t know…I’m probably overthinking this. I just can’t get to the point where I can believe people would WANT to be a janitor.

        Also; I apologize to all janitors reading this. I very much value you as a person and your contribution to our society.

        1. Steve C says:

          Corey Doctorow explores the concept of how people decide what to do in a moneyless economy in “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommended it. The tl’dr version (which isn’t a spoiler) is that the pyramid is inverted. The more something is a job that nobody wants to do, the more benefit you get for doing it even if it is only temporary.

          Also watch Humans Need Not Apply by CGP Grey. It’s great.

        2. cassander says:

          just to quibble, but the average teacher in the US makes 55k a year, not 35k. and teachers under 30 make less than that average, but since 90% of teachers make more than 35k, I doubt that stat holds up.

    5. Joe Informatico says:

      See, I can accept that the 23rd/24th century Federation is overall a much better place than anywhere on 21st century Earth, without holding it up as a perfect utopia. I wish my fellow Trekkies would get away from that thinking, because it invests the franchise and its ideas with an almost religious fervour it doesn’t really deserve. Trek can inspire us to be better than we are without having to dictate what a “perfect” society should be.

      If we actually eliminated racism and sexism and nationalism and other similar divisional prejudices and made it so every person had their basic needs fulfilled: food, shelter, health care, education, security, plus the rights and freedoms most 21st century Westerners already enjoy, and truly came together as a united and prosperous Earth–yes, I could see that would be a better place than anyplace in the world today.

      That doesn’t mean Federation citizens won’t have disagreements, or problems. If you look at TNG’s “Best of Both Worlds”, Commander Shelby (one of the best female best characters the franchise ever had, IMO) is incredibly ambitious. She wants Riker’s job and goes over his head to make sure her ideas are heard by higher-ups, and this irritates Riker to no end. But it’s not personal, there’s no sexual component to it, merely an ambitious up-and-comer butting heads with an established old hand. But when crisis hits, they’re able to put aside their differences and do the job they have to do. That’s the Federation idealism I like: we’re still human with our human drives and instincts and emotions, but we can rise above them for the greater good if we have to.

  13. James says:

    Like to point out that by TNG replicators would have killed almost any economy. The federation and antimatter engines can produce crazy amounts of power enough to feed the world several times over. That’s why Earth doesn’t use monney at any rate and why the rest of the universe that may not be as technologically efficient or proficient has to use latinum, one of the few things that can’t be replicated, as a form of currency.

  14. Thomas says:

    The thing about Roddenberry’s ideal is no-one in Star Trek actually behaves like Roddenberry’s ideal exists.

    If you removed all direct references to it from the show, I’m not convinced a stranger would ever notice that it was different from any other non-distopian and non-utopian show.

    Everyone has emotions and disagreements and loads of episodes centre round struggles over resources and conflicting motivations. All that happens is that every now and then they meet an alien culture (who behaves worse than we do now) and says “Look how much better us new enlightened humans are.”

    I like the optimism angle and that does make Star Trek special, but the optimism angle is wholly different from the utopian angle. Star Trek is just a bunch of pretty nice and well-motivated humans trying to do the best they can with what they have. I imagine they’re indistinguishable from actual astronauts right now

    1. Purple Library Guy says:

      There’s a lot to this. Clearly Roddenberry wanted to indicate his belief in an optimistic future which involved general freedom from want and the tyranny of economic necessity, but at the same time was not at all clear about how that would actually work and so avoided the issue with the quasi-military setting of the Enterprise. Also avoided the boredom of a utopian society by having the action be the only place anything ever happened, the interface between the Federation and the vast universe out there.

      But what the heck, we’re raising expectations pretty high here. Like, he’s supposed to be an entertainer, a visionary, and the next Karl Marx? Although even old Karl was much better at relentlessly running down and defining the negatives of the society he existed in than at coming up with the different ways a better future society could be.

      1. Thomas says:

        I guess my issue is that he made a big thing about it existing? If the wider society isn’t visible in the show, and the humans that are visible all act exactly like modern day humans, instead of higher lifeforms, then some of the times he wouldn’t allow a story because it conflicted with his idealised vision… it just seems a bit petty.

        Plus I’m uncomfortable with him offloading all the tension onto aliens. That just feels like an expression of the normal human instinct to inflict all our negatives onto the people who don’t look/act like us.

        1. MikhailBorg says:

          The humans that are visible all act exactly like modern day humans because, frankly, you aren’t going to get the audience that will pay the bills by portraying your guess at the way that humans might actually act 300 years from now.

          If you sat down and did your best to imagine what human society and attitudes might really be like after centuries of technological, societal, and philosophical progress, you’d probably have a fine novel, but no one that a TV-watching audience will relate to. See also: the Galactica reboot, which despite its setting is populated entirely by characters from 2000s America. (Right down to the clothing.)

          1. ehlijen says:

            I common obstacle to what-if scifi. The common solutions are either to avoid it by using present day humans anyway, as you noted, or throwing in a fish-out of water viewpoint character for the audience to latch on to (eg Brave new world, doctor who, farscape (though even the aliens ended up pretty human in that one)).

            It is a rare work that is brave enough to do neither and just tries to make the audience care about someone they barely understand, and even rarer for a skilled writer to pull it off.

  15. EricF says:

    Trek is a post-scarcity society (per comments about huge amounts of power + replicators), but still uses some level of “credits” – as seen in Voyager – far away from the base, the crew is issued a limited number of “replicator credits” that they trade among each-other. Also, in DS9, there is a mention of “using up a month’s worth of transporter credits in one week” when Sisko is talking about his first week at school, and transporting home for dinner every night.

    I’ve always imagined it as: everyone does what they want, but some people are more talented than others. So, if you want to be a starship captain, you join starfleet, work through the ranks, and the most talented become captains / admirals / etc. The “bad” jobs are done by ensigns, who are working towards their dream job of “chief engineer” or “starship captain” or what have you.

    Back on Earth, the factories that make industrial replicators are manned by people working the government mandated 20-hour work weeks, and spending their spare time playing video games, or armature sports, or whatever they enjoy in their spare time.

    1. guy says:

      It’s not really post-scarcity. There are things people want and do not have. Post-scarcity doesn’t just mean that they can produce a lot of stuff, it means they can produce everything they want. Since there have been times Starfleet has wanted more ships than they have, that’s clearly not the case.

      Their production capacity doesn’t justify not having money. It justifies food and other things they have enough of being free.

      1. krellen says:

        The only resource limiting Starfleet production was time – it took time to assemble new ships (there are no replicators large enough to replicate an entire vessel singly). I suppose they could have some sort of monetary system to ration that, but I don’t think it would be very recognisable as “money” to most of us.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Considering all the time traveling they all did,its no wonder that there is shortage of time in the federation.

          1. James says:

            Oh god time travel episodes, as much as i can enjoy them i really dislike time travel as a narrative especially in a serialized show where everything has to be back to status-quo next week (or close to it).

            Time Travel forwards (A Theoretical Possibility in real life science) i can accept, IF it is impossible to return back to the past, which moves us on to

            Time Travel Backwards no no no no. the Episodes can be amazing or whatever just no, sure its fun to see how Kirk would act in 1980’s America or how Janeway and Co would get about in 90s California. but no i don’t like it, especially because everything must be status quo by next week (or the week after assuming a double length arc)

            The Week of Hell was a nice though, a somewhat deconstruction of What if we could alter time and not effect us? with a Tragic antagonist with a reason behind his actions.

            1. Hydralysk says:

              Out of curiosity, is your dislike of time travel based on it’s impossibility given our current understanding of the universe, or on the fact that it’s usually just a thinly veiled justification for a fish out of water episode?

              I also tend to dislike time travel when it’s used simply as a plot device before the status quo is restored in a weekly serial. I’m much more forgiving however, if the idea of time travel and it’s ramifications are the central the focus of the show or novel, regardless of if it’s theoretically possible.

              1. James says:

                partially because in Trek its never ever ever logically consistent, i can accept future space tech making it possible if that thing has some rules you cant just wave dues ex machina in my face and not talk about it.

                also its a very weak excuse for a plot device imo

              2. For most of Star Trek’s run, time travel is a “get out of plot free” card. It was usually an excuse for most major characters to die and then get brought back before the closing credits with no consequences whatsoever. Probably the best story they’ve done on the show with time travel was TNG’s “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” since that required all but one character to be completely ignorant about the causality of what was going on.

                My favorite TV time-travel story was on Babylon-5, consisting of the first season episode, “Babylon Squared” followed by the third season 2-parter, “War Without End.” It had time travel take place, there were no paradoxes, there were still things at stake, and you got to fill out what actually happened as you went rather than just seeing the same story from a different POV.

                1. ehlijen says:

                  Note also that your examples changed the status quo: In both examples, a major character’s fate was irrevocably changed by the time travel, and ended up having a major impact on history.

                  Time travel stories can work. But the threat time travel poses to causality requires a fairly good writer to either pull it off or sufficiently distract the audience so that they’re too immersed to ask questions. Many star trek writers were sadly not of that calibre.

                  1. In one time-travel story, our universe’s Harry Kim dies and is replaced by the Alt-U version.

                    In “The Year of Hell,” everything is retconned to where nothing we saw for two freaking episodes happened at all with the only change being the idiot who started everything getting screwed up decided to not screw things up.

                    In “Timeless,” Harry and Chakotay retcon Voyager’s crash-landing on an ice planet, and all that survives is a recording from Alt-Kim to Harry.

                    The ones I listed in my previous post were significant because they were well done. Pretty much all of the others are episodes which might as well not have happened because nothing significant survives and anything that does is never mentioned again, even if they have personally shattering implications for the characters involved.

        2. guy says:

          Their production capacity is high but not literally infinite. If their only limit was the time it took to assemble large objects, they could replicate an infinite number of small robots to assemble things. Plus they have trouble replicating some organics, and lots of things have value beyond their physical properties, like original copies of fine art. So there are things which can’t necessarily be given to everyone who wants them. If people get to pick how they receive their share of that and can exchange it with other people, that’s basically money.

          Of course, it’s entirely possible for the government to just give everyone the same amount of money on a regular basis.

          1. krellen says:

            Star Trek doesn’t do robots. Might just be a legacy from its birth in the 60s, before automation was really widespread. Nevertheless, it is a reality of the series.

            1. James says:

              Actually i think. while never seen VOY mentioned that their were “robots” as we would see them assembly arms and the like, and that the only “robots” with sentience was Androids like Data and Lore.

              i remember B’Elanna talking about on the episode with the 2 warring robot people (the gold and the silver ones)

              1. Purple Library Guy says:

                Well yeah, Star Trek does do a few high-end, probably-un-replicatable androids like Data. But I think what Krellen was getting at is, it doesn’t do run-of-the-mill not-very-sentient robots that scurry around obeying simple orders and doing the vacuuming and the dishes and building houses.

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Technically,it does robots.Only in star trek they arent made of metal,but from hard light.

              1. “Hard light.”

                Which opens up a whole new can of worms: Why make your laborers holograms with personalities so they can learn to resent their lot in life, even if said resentment is only simulated? Why not just have them with a rudimentary AI that knows their job and the nuances of said job? Why have them at all since the “hard light” is basically a fine-tuned series of tractor beams? Why use a hologram that “failed” to be a good simulation at medical science for anything else at all?

                That whole episode and revelation was awful, as was the title, “Photons Be Free.” Ugh.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  “Why make your laborers holograms with personalities so they can learn to resent their lot in life, even if said resentment is only simulated?…”

                  Well,zimmerman is an egotistical asshole.Plus he doesnt think stuff trough.

          2. James says:

            This made me think about something, for non-physical things the modern world, our world can pretty much send ANYTHING (song, book, game, movie, a dissertation on insect mating habits) to ANYONE ANYWHERE and with the advent of 3D Printing we have moved into being able to send someone the blueprints of how to MAKE REAL things using the internet.
            Granted you cant make organic things, or in fact things not made from plastic and a lot of the time or at least a good deal of the time (ignoring piracy) the Open Source, Open Licence free and shareware world is making and sending things normally paid for for free and the only thing you need to get/send them is Power.

            Granted power, internet and 3d printers and plastic aren’t free but, if we use VOY their seclusion made power, something they took for granted a now finite resource. VOY could be seen as being somewhat of a representation of modern life maby???

            (this started to ramble and i stuck with it, i could be woefully wrong i just let my thoughts kind of roll on and on :P)

    2. krellen says:

      A point of order: Ensign is an officer rank. While Starfleet seems to have an excess of officers, there were always “Chiefs” around in every series who had lower-status jobs (usually teleporter operators, which actually seems to be a high-skilled job).

      O’Brien never attended Starfleet Academy and was never an officer in Starfleet throughout all his appearances in various Treks. (For those more familiar with army ranks, Ensigns are basically Lieutenants; Chiefs are various grades of Sergeant. I don’t think there were ever any Petty Officers on-screen, but they would be the Private/Specialist/Corporal equivilents.)

      1. MikhailBorg says:

        Though no one, including the show creators, ever figured out *exactly* what Chief O’Brien’s noncommissioned rank was.

        1. syal says:

          …it wasn’t Chief?

          1. krellen says:

            “Chief” is like “Sergeant” – to a civilian, that conveys a bit of information, and anything more is likely to be confusing.

            To a military person, “Chief” and “Sergeant” are uninformative; Chief is anything from an E-7 to an E-9, each of which has different implications. (“Sergeant” is even worse for the army, as Sergeant ranges from E-5 to E-9.)

            Although now that I think of it, I believe there actually were several times one of the Captains gave an order to a “Crewman”, and Crewman is very likely to be Starfleet’s E-1 (lowest rank).

            1. syal says:

              Well, the Navy at least only has three real ranks for Enlisted men, with three pay grade divisions each (E-7 through E-9 isn’t all that different as far as I remember). In a society without money I can see those three pay grade divisions being eliminated and going back to just three ranks.

        2. cassander says:

          during TNG, no, it varied wildly. but DS9 nailed it down firmly as a senior non-com.

      2. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Yeah, O’Brien really should have been promoted when he became the chief engineer. Technically, Harry Kim outranked him. Let that one sink in.

        1. Peter H. Coffin says:

          Obviously, there are considerations…

          Sometimes rank matters and sometimes it doesn’t. In a lot of senses, the Chief Engineer is (for practical purposes) equal rank with the captain. That doesn’t mean even that the Chief Engineer has an O rating, but rather that the Chief’s responsibility for the whole integrity of the ship can outweigh pretty much any specific order brought about.

          The other side of this is that the requirements of command also flow up and down the technical ranks throughout most of history. Even someone as far down as “ensign” is likely to find his or herself in command of SOMETHING at some point, and it may be a very long time. Lieutenants are frequently in command of vessels essentially permanently (which for most navies, tends to mean most of a year or so) such as cutters and torpedo boats. (Or in ST terms, long range shuttles and the like.)

          Which makes me wonder: why doesn’t Starfleet seem to have the role of local pilots? You know, some person who’s intimately familiar with the intricacy of local conditions and hazards, markers and beacons, moorages and dockings and such bits.

        2. Blackbird71 says:

          O’Brien could have been promoted to the top of the enlisted ranks, but unless he decided to go through the Starfleet equivalent of OCS (Officer Candidate School), then as an officer Ensign Kim would always outrank him.

    3. Rick C says:

      “as seen in Voyager ““ far away from the base, the crew is issued a limited number of “replicator credits” that they trade among each-other.”

      I’ve been re-watching Voyager this fall. I’m pretty sure, in their case, that replicator credits are because they don’t have enough energy/raw materials for people to eat replicated food all the time–instead, they mostly eat stuff the cook makes. That’s why they’re, at least through the end of the third season, frequently talking about trading, or exploring planets for fresh edibles.

      1. venatus says:

        Indeed, while it wasn’t implemented well the idea behind replicator rations and holodeck rations was that Isolated from the federation voyager had to carefully manage resources that would normally be of little concern.

        1. If by “not implemented well” you mean “let’s make a big deal about how we only have thirty-odd photon torpedoes left and no resources, then forget about that along with where the hell we’re getting all of these shuttlecraft to replace the ones that blow up every week from.”

  16. Peter H. Coffin says:

    The nit I pick over TOS (which extends to TNG and DS9 definitely and I’m not recalling enough Voyager to know if it applies or not, so we can take it as read for those) is that once you have a safe means to incapacitate beings generally without consequence at all, then all the drama involved in hostage situations should be rendered moot. But there’s a LOT of imminent threats that AREN’T resolved simply by immediately hosing down the entire area and sorting things out at one’s leisure.

    1. That’s a part of something I mentioned above: Too much future-tech that either has to be disabled early on or completely forgotten about in order to have drama.

      For added fun, we could talk about how phasers know when to stop disintegrating stuff. Like in Star Trek VI, they could vaporize a cooking pot while leaving the mashed potatoes and wire whisk being used to mix them intact. :)

    2. Purple Library Guy says:

      Lois McMaster Bujold in “Brothers in Arms” has police tactics tending to revolve around masses of unaimed stunner shots, with the intent of sorting out who’s responsible for what later, just as you describe.

      1. Mike S. says:

        Though Bujold also points out the problem with stunners due to their lack of intimidation. If you can’t stun them all and let God sort them out in time, a mob is perfectly capable of killing you in cases where a lethal weapon might make them reconsider.

        (Trek phasers do both, which doubtless makes for a very interesting exercise in applied game theory. “I can’t recall whether this phaser is set to stun or kill. So the question you should be asking yourself is, ‘Do I feel lucky?'”)

        1. Richard says:

          Although no engineer would ever make a lethal/non-lethal selectable weapon that didn’t have a very, very clear indication to the user of which setting it was currently in, as the consequences of being wrong are dire.
          – If you try the ‘stun’ setting on something that can’t be stunned then you die. Also the other mistake is bad.

          So the question is “Do you think I want to kill you?”.

          On the other hand, Dirty Harry must also have known how many bullets.

  17. Hitch says:

    The thing that bothers me most about the lack of money is the TNG Enterprise obsession with poker. Given that the typical poker game consist of the psychic who can read all of the other players’ emotions, the robot who can count cards and stack the deck perfectly, the guy with the visor that lets him see through cards, the Klingon who’s likely to rip you in half if he loses, and the other guy who’s inexplicably the best poker player in the galaxy and there are no stakes, couldn’t they find a better game to pass their time?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      If you were in a group like that,would you be willing to bet any money?

      1. If holodecks could simulate sex and had Minecraft, that would be the end of humanity.

        1. Jake says:

          Presumably the people who genetically predisposed towards spending all of their time on the holodeck died without passing on their genes, or never had the drive to volunteer for space exploration and remained on Earth.

          1. Or all of Star Trek is a giant holodeck simulation built in Minecraft. All of the computer malfunctions and technology mishaps on the show would just be Java crashing again.

    2. syal says:

      But what other game would allow that kind of perfect balance between everyone’s abilities to cheat?

      1. silver Harloe says:

        balance? “let the wookie win” still applies and isn’t balanced. heck, everyone who could cheat was probably cheating on Worf’s behalf :)

        1. Asimech says:

          The real game would be in rigging the game very subtly so Worf wouldn’t notice, feel patronised and get upset. Hence: challenge and high stakes!

          1. ehlijen says:

            What is this talk of worf doing a wookie arm ripping? He was never portrayed as using violence out of petulance, least of all against his friends, and I don’t recall him ever being shown to win the games (and yet, everyone still has both arms. Is Dr Crusher really that good?).

            1. Mike S. says:

              Well, yes. (DS9 establishes that legs can be replaced with biosynthetics with a few weeks of recovery, so arms presumably can be too.) But it’s true that Worf was pretty much all bark and no bite even when dealing with genuine enemies, let alone Starfleet colleagues.

              (And the one actually capable of ripping someone’s arm off Beowulf-style was Data anyway.)

            2. Asimech says:

              1. because it’s funny
              2. I really wouldn’t want to upset Worf anyhow, dudes got a rough life I’d feel like an asshole.

    3. Purple Library Guy says:

      The whole “poker” thing is a metaphor anyway. It’s intended as a rejoinder to the original series’ references to Spock and chess, in a conversation about rationality, emotions, and predictability or otherwise of situations.

    4. Tychoxi says:

      I guess you have never played poker for peanuts with your friends.

  18. EricF says:

    For those who don’t have time to watch all the episodes, they are all summarized in a webcomic, starting here:

    (by one of Darths and Droids authors)

    1. Thomas says:

      The one who hates making money.

      Seriously has he never thought of making a comic that he could actually publish without having to negotiate with the largest corporations in the world? :P

      1. krellen says:

        No, because he quite enjoys his science-related day job and doesn’t need to turn his comic-making hobby into a paying gig.

        1. Thomas says:

          I was joking :P (hence the :p)I know that Marr has got an incredible attitude to life and he had very logical and sensible reasons for doing the comic he chose to do. Working on Star Trek achieves his goal much better than something original would do, because it’s neatly structured and gives a very focused objective to keep him working whilst he improves his artistic talent. Plus he gets a load of real-life models to copy.

          I just found it funny that the guy whose spent decades of his life working on comics that he can in no way print or merchandise announces a new project and it also turns out to be one he can’t print or merchandise =D

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Well he is an australian.They are a weird bunch.

  19. Steve C says:

    In regards to a world where money doesn’t exist, it is hard to imagine so it’s easier to imagine in stages.

    First imagine a world where there is guaranteed minimum income and let’s set this at $24,000 a year. You don’t start paying taxes until after $24,000. $500 a week and it doesn’t matter what you do but whatever income you have after that point is like normal income. You have enough money for food, entertainment, etc. Some luxuries but not many. (This isn’t hard to imagine since this is what some countries are contemplating.) If you balk at that for political reasons just imagine it as a weekly income for winning the lottery.

    Now let’s increase that to $240,000 a year. $5000 a week. You can afford a great deal, not everything but most luxuries. Now increase it to $2,400,000 a year. Now it’s getting kind of hard to spend that much. You need to get pretty ostentatious to spend $50,000 a week, every week. Now increase that to $24,000,000 a year. Trying to spend half a million a week you either have to stupid crazy consumption (like crash-up-derbies of F1 cars for fun) or invest. There’s no literally no reasonable way to consume that amount of money without purposely destroying things. And if the investment works then it will repay what you spent plus more… which you also cannot consume. You can only invest that too. People who are truly rich really can’t spend it. It is impossible. It’s just a number in the bank.

    That all exists today and is easy to imagine on the individual scale. Now imagine a world where spending tons of money is actively shunned by everyone else. Where if you spend $500,000 a week that you are considered a huge douche and nobody likes you. Everyone else is in the same boat- able to spend that kind of money. So it’s not impressive it’s just pathetic. That is effectively a world without practical scarcity and a world where money still exists but money itself is irrelevant.

    Watch Humans Need Not Apply to get an idea what the intermediate steps to a world without scarcity would look like. We are actually fast approaching it whether we want to or not.

    It’s hard to imagine a world like that because there’s no theoretical economic framework to conceptualize it. None of the __isms work under it. Trying to fit it into a model we do understand is like trying to use a hammer to screw in a screw. It is the wrong tool and the tool shapes it into a nail if you try. I’m very much looking forward to time when we do have proper theoretical economic tools to screw in that screw.

  20. Dreadjaws says:

    Heh. Just last night I was watching that very same “Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage” video. It was pretty good, even though I did not agree with him in all points. For instance, I don’t think ME3 was a fantastic game except for the end, I found the entire game mediocre, and I better stop before I start ranting on it again.

    Screw you, Kai Leeeeeeeennnnnnnnngggggggg!!!!!

    1. Kai Leng says:

      Screw you too,buddy!

  21. John says:

    People talk a lot about “Gene’s vision” and whatnot, but I’m not convinced that there really is a whole lot of “vision” underlying TOS. Early TNG, on the other hand, suffered from a sometimes-crippling excess. Around the time Star Trek V or VI came out, I read a magazine article by (I believe) one of the writers for TOS, who claimed that Gene’s vision for TOS was “get a show on the air and make some money.” (That’s only a very slight paraphrase, by the way. That quote has really stuck with me.)

    The tone and themes of TOS vary drastically from episode to episode. In a few episodes, Kirk smugly informs aliens or humans from the 1960s that future-Federation-Starfleet-humanity has solved many of the social problems of the 1960s. I suppose that’s where people get the idea that Trek is optimistic or utopian. And I suppose it is optimistic to take the stance that in the future people will find a way to deal with their (or society’s) problems. I mean, sci-fi doesn’t always go that way; see, for example, the inevitable robot uprising. But it’s fairly standard sci-fi practice to criticise the present by contrasting with a hypothetical future. In that sense, I’m not sure that it really matters that whether you posit that the future will be better or worse, because what you are really doing is exhorting the present to get its act together.

    In conclusion, TOS is, yes, a little optimistic and maybe even a little utopian. But it’s not really all that serious about it.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      He got serious about it later,when he demanded from the writers to change their stuff in order to fit his vision.He did it quite a lot,and ruined quite a few stories with it.

    2. MikhailBorg says:

      He was claiming to have a vision during the filming of the original show, at least. If you can find a copy of “The Making of Star Trek” (fascinating book, by the way) written between the second and third seasons of filming, he talked eagerly about his vision.

      It’s easy for people to slam him now that he’s gone. He wasn’t a perfect man by any means, and he made some poor life choices and some enemies.

  22. General Karthos says:

    I don’t have the energy to read all the comments. All I can say is that once cheap, limitless energy becomes available to all, then nobody will have, and nobody will have not. You CAN create complex matter out of energy, and if you have enough energy, you can create all the essentials of life. Water, food, clothing, shelter, etc. When cheap, limitless energy is available to everybody, nobody will need anything any longer.

    If cold fusion ever becomes a reality, then the first step will have been taken. It’s not until cold fusion is cheap and easy to do that we find out whether Gene’s vision of the future is accurate. But it is believable. Because when nobody needs anything, and everyone can have anything they want, what good is money? You won’t be able to make it, because whatever anyone wants, they can have, and you won’t want to spend it, because if you want a lobster dinner, all you have to do is use the energy required to create lobster.

    Yeah, I don’t know if things would actually work that way, but as a quasi-socialist/futurist, it’s a nice vision.

  23. Quent says:

    I like Isaac Asimov’s 3 kinds of science fiction, personally:

    Gadget sci-fi: Man invents car, holds lecture on how it works.
    Adventure sci-fi: Man invents car, gets into a car chase with a villain.
    Social sci-fi: Man invents car, gets stuck in traffic in the suburbs.

  24. Mephane says:

    I must admit I never really got into TOS. I grew up with TNG, basically, and seeing a few TOS episodes for the first time ever after having become a huge TNG fan as a child, I was severely disappointed by pretty much everything, the stories tend to be (subjectively) worse, the writing and dialogue seems worse, the execution (costumes, sets, sound, fight scenes, oh god the fight scenes) seem cheap and silly.

    I do dig all the TOS movies, however. Except the one that Shall Not Be Mentioned, of course.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Except the one that Shall Not Be Mentioned, of course.”

      Wrath of khan?

      “I was severely disappointed by pretty much everything, the stories tend to be (subjectively) worse, the writing and dialogue seems worse, the execution (costumes, sets, sound, fight scenes, oh god the fight scenes) seem cheap and silly.”

      That is a big problem for any long running show that spans through multiple decades.The only one Ive found where the old feels better than the new is doctor who,and even that is achieved only in very few episodes that dont rely much on special effects.

  25. Chris says:

    To chime in about books involving a society with no money, “Biting the Sun” by Tanith Lee has a future where not only is there no pursuit of wealth, but that aging and death were conquered too. The way the young “pay” for things is to sing the praises of the machines who grant them so much.

    I always had the impression from Star Trek that money wasn’t something used in Starfleet, but that the status achieved and the years dedicated would in turn result in a sort-of payout for retirement. A setting in which everyone has a government job and everyone gets a retirement, but the effort and challenge would be landing the position that netted you the most resources to work with or would later get you the best retirement. If someone wants to be known as a great chef, they’d need to spend enough time to net not only the cooking skills but the access to the best tech to save *their* recipes into the replicator files. By the same token if someone wants to teach something they either can go into a simulator and pretend to teach a bunch of pretend students, or they work their way up the ladder.

    And there is a crappy job shown on Trek, in every season and movie.
    The medical field is not idealized even on Trek. Sure they don’t have the range of problems on the show that we have now, but seriously who would want that job if the pay weren’t fantastic? Yet the medical profession is the best example of people going into a field not for monetary gain, but to better the lives of others.
    On Trek, Bones had to put up with high pressure from above on the chain of command. Being dragged away from his post to play traveling medic. If a disaster arose he was expected to solve it or else suffer the guilt of the countless lives that could/would be lost.
    And even at the top of his game, he still witnessed the loss of many lives.
    Seriously the big question should be how did Bones hold it together so well? ..His holodeck-psychiatrist had to have a lotta hours logged.

    That was the thing Voyager actually did best. Robert Picardo’s doctor was so human and afraid of failure in the line of duty. One of the best ideas brought up in an episode was the one where the strain on their resources brought up the question of whether or not to “restart” the doctor, having him forget all of what he had experienced (ie. lived) up to this point. The point made being that the default setting of his program had all the knowledge of the job, but not the empathy or skills that time active had provided. It was probably the best explanation for why there were even real people present, risking their lives, and not ships crewed entirely by holograms.

  26. Cinebeast says:

    For anyone who doesn’t already know, Mark Oshiro started watching Star Trek from the very beginning, and he just started Season 3 last week. He’s never seen a single episode in his life, so it’s pretty entertaining watching him fall in love with the show.

    He should reach TNG sometime in February, I think.

    1. Corylea says:

      Thanks so much for posting this link! I didn’t know about Mark, and watching him squee over TOS is so very much fun. I’ve been forcing my poor husband to watch TOS, and he sorta likes it some of the time, but it’s all very grudging, so I’m thrilled to see Mark’s whole-hearted embracing of the show.

  27. Corylea says:

    I first saw TOS in 1969, at the age of 11, and at that age, I took it all in uncritically and adored it unreservedly. Many years later, I can see that the show is usually sexist and is frequently heavy-handed in its messages. I can see that having Kirk roam the stars applying 20th Century American values to brand-new cultures is blindingly arrogant … and I still love TOS unreservedly. As many flaws as the show has, it was trying to talk about how to be a good person in a difficult world — as Bob Justman said, it was a morality play — and I’ll take that over thoughtless action, anyday.

    Plus, there’s Spock, who calls to scientists, to misfits of all stripes, to autism spectrum folks, and to everyone who’d prefer to think before they react. I will always love Spock, for all that it’s a mite embarrassing to be a 56-year-old woman with a crush on a fictional character. :-)

  28. Corylea says:

    It’s not true that Roddenberry said that money no longer existed. In “The Trouble With Tribbles,” Cyrano Jones dickers with the shop owner about how much the shop owner will buy Jones’ tribbles for. The shop owner thinks that ten credits is too much, and Uhura tells the shop owner that if he doesn’t buy the tribble for ten credits, she will.

    Also, there are several episodes in which Kirk tells various crew members that they’ve “earned their pay for the week.”

    Kirk’s comments are light-hearted and could be discounted as pure jokes, but the buying and selling of the tribble shows that there IS a monetary system in the 23rd Century, though of course it isn’t the US dollar.

    Roddenberry does show us a 23rd Century that’s utopian in many ways — wars within the Federation are evidently a thing of the past — but it isn’t one that lacks a monetary system.

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