The Hubble Space Telescope


In these posts, we discuss a non-“Free as in Freedom” popular culture franchise property, including occasional references to part of that franchise behind a paywall. My discussion and conclusions carry a Free Culture license, but nothing about the discussion or conclusions should imply any attack on the ownership of the properties. All the big names are trademarks of the owners, and so forth, and everything here relies on sitting squarely within the bounds of Fair Use, as criticism that uses tiny parts of each show to extrapolate the world that the characters live in.


I initially outlined the project in this post, for those falling into this from somewhere else. In short, we attempt to use the details presented in Star Trek to assemble a view of what life looks like in the Federation. This “phase” of the project changes from previous posts, however. The Next Generation takes place long after the original series, so we shouldn’t expect similar politics and socialization. Maybe more importantly, I enjoy the series less.

Put simply, you shouldn’t read this expecting a recap or review of an episode. Those have both been done to death over nearly sixty years. You will find a catalog of information that we learn from each episode, though, so expect everything to be a potential “spoiler,” if that’s an irrational fear that you might have.

Rather than list every post in the series here, you can easily find them all on the startrek tag page.

Next Generation Season 3 Summary

I don’t think that I have anything particularly interesting to say about this season, so let’s jump right in…


As I did with the original cast seasons, unlike the discussions of individual episodes, I’ll skip the judgment calls and instead break everything down by field of practice.

Before we get moving, as usual, I feel it worth a reminder that Star Trek doesn’t show our future. We see deviations in the timeline, especially when the writers try to predict their futures. I won’t collect them—many people have picked apart the franchise timeline and decided how to resolve the contradictions, including the studio itself—but I wanted to make that point clear early.

Training and Professionalism

Starfleet at least sometimes updates the criteria for dangerous incidents, so that they can claim a strong record of safety1.

Positions seem insecure, with rapid promotions undone on a whim1.

At least in some cases, people have the confidence and emotional maturity to diplomatically refuse impossible demands2.

Our protagonists still refuse to prepare for missions2 3 4 5 6 7 8, denying the central facts of cases2 8 or ignoring deadlines and other constraints5 9 8, putting hundreds or thousands of lives at risk2 5 9, and even risking self-preservation6, though exceptions do occasionally appear3, apparently often believing that a casual exposure to a subject equates to a studied expertise7. In some cases, they also refuse to coordinate with other teams in cooperative missions10. For the most part, nobody reacts or even appears to take notice, when a civilian member of the crew violently assaults a guest11.

They also seem to play favorites, with some people asked to correct their valid statements3, while others can make a series of unchecked errors3 12. Status also confers far greater flexibility in working arrangements and forgiveness in causing problems12.

Similarly, certain people seem to never hesitate to stop important work to ask trivial questions that they could have looked up more quickly13 9 14 8 or otherwise go out of their ways to misinterpret people15. Others seem to use this as an entry point into insulting people9. In fact, bullying seems rampant12, with only token efforts to stop it12.

And they can also always find time during their shifts to play poker16 8 and work on side projects17. Despite that, they feel overworked and look forward to time off18.

However, they do (sometimes) engage in their hobbies outside their shift hours17.

A culture of corruption also seems to persist, with low-level officers happily walking away from their duties whenever a senior officer plans to do something illegal4. Others believe that their connections will get them the best assignments available19. Sometimes, though, someone with authority goes far enough that we at least hear hints that someone will reprimand them20.


People tend to see one another in terms of the value produced by their work histories1, insist that intelligent people shouldn’t work in the hospitality industry17, and hate the idea of pursuing a hobby where they can’t excel6.

Similarly, they don’t place much value in vacation time unless they can find some productivity justification20.

At least some Federation citizens need money to pay bills20. And the Federation sends Starfleet to make certain purchases21. Families judge their relevance by the value of the items that they care for19.

Even if they don’t care about money as such, they often chase status8, and they object to communal lifestyles in favor of abstract freedoms8.


Colonies continue to maintain precarious existences21.

Despite the centrality of colonization to Federation life22, the act doesn’t seem to have any urgency behind it, with ideal worlds claimed, then ignored for decades before attempting to establish a colony2. Many have also begun thinking that colonization efforts waste valuable time22.

On Earth, people have colonized the oceans, using (aquatic) ships as transportation to and from them3.

While we have seen colonies portrayed as precarious in the past, Starfleet still can’t generally reach them to help in less than three days3.

Science and Technology

Discoveries appear to have no value to the Federation or Starfleet, unless they can find an immediate commercial or military application13 6.


Technology has safety protocols that have little effect5 12, and which people can disable without much reason or trouble5 22. Perhaps related, the replicators have restrictions on what users have permission to eat13. Computers also refuse to convert between systems of units, actively disregarding other cultures14.

They allow personal communications to interrupt important legal proceedings7.

Health Care

The disinterest in and distaste for psychiatric help, along with recognition that their systems for it don’t work, have become explicit1 23 14, though they still might recommend it for “lesser” individuals12. Our one example of a therapist also actively manipulates her colleagues to provoke various responses23 21, with counseling overtly designed to support and benefit leaders16, and psychological profiles have no privacy restrictions on them5.

People also seem to believe that healthy people repress their emotions as often as possible23 15.

Similarly, they don’t place much value in vacation time20, despite wanting people rested8.

They do, however, occasionally rush people to get medical care for physical ailments3. Doctor-patient confidentiality doesn’t appear to exist, though22.

The presumption of branded drugs appears to even apply to descriptions of pharmaceuticals developed by other cultures24.

People also continue to treat people with disabilities as interlopers in mainstream society22.


Students often find themselves pressured to maximize their grades at the expense of everything else in their lives1.

We also see a continuing anti-intellectual sentiment, considering reading on vacation a horrifying idea20 and obsessing over the details of unlikely legends20. Or they’ll consider paranormal phenomena15 while dismissing a documented illness as fiction15, or refusing to discuss a scientific find because they worry about knowledge draining the mystery from things19.

Food and Drink

The Federation appears to have almost a parody of cocktail culture5. Romulan Ale appears to have passed into the realm of legend14.

People believe that replicated food lacks some important nuance7, and so the affluent and powerful will maintain a protected store of their favorite foods when they travel7.


Government officials have apparently suppressed the story of at least one planet-wide plague16.


The Federation apparently has no objection to genocide, with no laws governing people who wipe out an entire species3.

Many appear to believe that their personal ideas about morality should take precedence over actual laws12.

Government, Law, and Corrections

We continue to see evidence of corruption, such that resettling refugees created by Federation action requires powerful connections1. People believe that leaders inherently need to hide the truth and can’t show any vulnerability2. They also have a hatred of lawyers2.

Leaders refuse to show any evidence of vulnerability or compassion, despite realizing that the choice makes them less-effective leaders14 11.

The Federation contains powerful rebellious factions that they generally don’t speak about3 and even attempt to deny noticing9. Earth also appears to still recognize sovereign boundaries between nations14.

People still have no comprehension of the Prime Directive4. They use it to excuse standing by as people die4, but have little to no interest in preventing people from outright meddling in novel cultures4, instead debating on how to most efficiently interfere4. But they also seem to use it as an excuse to avoid preventing death4 10, seeing humanitarian aid as useless or cowardly10.

The Federation doesn’t appear to have any asylum laws, or at least nobody respects them24 18, especially during negotiations.

It also doesn’t appear to necessarily serve as a military alliance, with at least certain member worlds left to deal with hostilities against them on their own16. However, it appears to have power over local law enforcement19.

Starfleet appears to consider itself a successor to the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy16.

Structurally, people seem to assume authoritarian institutions10 16, fully aware that underlings with legitimate concerns remain silent1, and with those underlings fully expecting to engage with the arbitrary whims of leaders as new priorities16 22. They especially find criticism of leaders objectionable, even it has nothing to do with their leadership abilities6.

We also see strong protection for the reputations of powerful men, including intimidation and discrediting accusations against them15.


People appear to value success significantly more than acting ethically1.

They also only grudgingly tolerate an interest in not hurting people3, seeing such decisions as inherently weak3.

Researching new acquaintances still happens, with a certain amount of shame attached13.

They only see issues with the creation of holographic duplicates of people for recreational purposes as concerning when it involves their own likenesses12.


They frown strongly on expressing and dealing with grief22.


People don’t talk about domestic abuse23.

Children continue to suffer from the pressure to succeed at all costs23. In addition, parenting techniques haven’t stabilized at all, and still include corporal punishment17, and expect young people to obey their superiors without question16.

Rather than judge parents on that basis, authorities instead judge them by how well they have assimilated into mainstream culture17.

Gender Roles

People think of women as prey to hunt1 5, with dating focused on the idea of a man making things happen to provoke specific responses5 6, and don’t believe in respecting a woman’s boundaries2 5 6. Certain women, at least, object to this treatment5, and we see rare objections to the broader toxic masculinity in the culture25, as well.

Men also seem to want women to have a lower status8, with people rushing to interrupt and correct feminine-coded entities5; other use this difference in status to try to seduce women with the promise of treating them like equals, at least in private9. Sexual harassment, predictably, seems pervasive5 13 9 6 16 20 18 8, with women taking the blame for when men treat them poorly13 6, as well as taking the blame for not seeming friendly and approachable enough at all times9. This seems to hold especially true for hospitality workers17 20. Their relationships also become automatic topics for discussion18.

This appears to extend to the legal sphere, where they consider it acceptable to try to undermine a woman’s testimony if it threatens a man’s reputation6. Women also engage in this, insisting that the accusation must prove false, because she believes that she knows better6.

By contrast, they see mature and/or assertive women as threats20 19 8.

Associated with this lower status, they denigrate women for having emotions, and use that as an attack when a woman expresses an opinion10 18. They also dismiss women’s professional credentials18. However, some exceptions do arise8.

Sexism pales in comparison to racism, however, with racism playing a role in how at least some men flirt20.

Within some odd restrictions, the possibility exists that parents don’t typically have an issue with a child choosing their gender17.


People may consider “flirting” to include public groping17.

Potentially, at least, the Federation has no serious issues with sex work4. It appears that the holodeck designs centered primarily around sexual gratification of users5.

However, they still vastly prefer boasting about sex4 18 over participating, to the point that a common prank involves tricking friends into having casual sex20.

They also consider the love lives of teenagers a reasonable topic of conversation15.

Race Relations and Nationalism

We see serious biases against androids, dismissing all evidence that they have emotions2 23 24 17 21. They barely acknowledge androids as people3 11 17, don’t stand up for their colleague when criticized9 and only reluctantly defend their civil liberties17, and ask questions for apparently the primary purpose of interrupting the answer14 22 or suggest that an android needs someone to teach them to stay silent17. The androids notice this and dislike feeling left out11. They will, however, assert that androids have rights, in the abstract21.

Likewise, they continue to ignore evidence that their holograms appear to have some consciousness5.

They have a similar situation with Worf, insisting that Klingons have no sense of humor despite his solid joking around11, or presuming that a Klingon-like appearance will automatically bond a person to Worf17. And they openly talk about how they don’t want people to treat them like a lowly Klingon and insisting that their Klingon friend would love what they see as insulting treatment7.

Likewise, they have no concerns about labeling another culture abhorrent for not having human-like customs or biologies15.

Stereotypes also pervade, with physical resemblance to “model minorities” automatically conferring both unearned praise and unwarranted responsibilities on them4 15. An expectation exists that people will act with a personality that fits the narrowest stereotypes of their home culture7 15, with an expectation that they will hold conflicting loyalties7. They also judge fitness for raising children by how well the parent has assimilated into mainstream Federation society17.

Non-human and non-white human men all seem to share a lower status, with people using their lives as the fodder for gossip5 17. We also see plainly that the Federation considers Earth its most central world8.


Federation schools teach children about the Klingons as enemies, appending after the fact that this no longer holds true23.

Klingons do not, apparently, consider themselves part of the Federation14.

International Relations

International status may revolve around a favor-based economy25.

People have begun to object to lashing out at novel forms of life1, even taking credit for helping new life that would have gotten along fine without them18. However, they take no responsibility for escalations in violence1, and also often seem happy to dismiss the autonomy of new life22. Federation citizens outside Starfleet seem to have even worse views of new life1. Both novel and even more conventional forms of life face instant retribution if they appear to pose a threat, rather than confinement or discussion9 24 22.

When interacting with less-advanced cultures, the Federation often treats people like unintelligent animals, hiding scientists in to secretly monitor and catalog everything about their lives4.

Similarly, the Federation still has an extreme bias against the Romulans, seeing secret plots around every corner26 14 17, presuming that they have no potential for honesty26, and seemingly trying to provoke a war26 14. The Federation appears to think of the Neutral Zone as their territory14. They even appear to find personal interactions with Romulans inherently distasteful14. They do, however, have some regular diplomatic relations with the Romulan Empire14, and Romulan expeditions have peacefully begun operating outside the Neutral Zone22, though the Federation puts all responsibility for peace-making on the shoulders of the Romulans14 and project all sorts of nefarious impulses onto them22.

Likewise, they scapegoat the Ferengi for many unrelated problems13 20 19.

For about the past century, the Federation has struggled with the idea that they have less political and military power than a rival civilization2. They love the idea of having leverage over people from such powerful civilizations, though2 3 11 16 and fear falling to such a culture16 18.

The Federation appears to broadly believe that all rival powers prioritize finding new weapons to use against them, and that nobody would have any interest in novel transportation or energy systems13 6. They also work to undermine foreign territorial claims22.

Federation citizens don’t seem to believe that foreign law or treaties matter, even in territory governed by those laws2 6 7. They see finding petty ways to skirt them as great moral victories2 6 7. However, a culture seemingly killing eleven thousand Federation citizens evokes no curiosity3.

They have no issues with oppression in other cultures, largely ignoring descriptions9.

People believe that invading armies need someone in the target population to love them3.

Despite having internal divisions of their own, the Federation insists on not interacting with divided cultures9. They also ignore that principle, if they can get something valuable out of the divided society10. The Federation does, however, negotiate with terrorists10.

At least in extreme situations, they can see the value of peace and cooperation1, but would generally prefer to lecture other cultures on it9, even as they threaten to kill participants in peace processes9 or undermine their reputations9, considering such activities beneath them20, though Starfleet will sometimes assign an officer to negotiate for both sides of a dispute20. They also see no value in protecting the life of a refugee when they happen to dislike him11.

Outside its borders, the Federation continues to have a mediocre-to-terrible reputation for manipulation and warmongering13 9 14 24, despite their having almost no experience with war25. They also have a reputation for lax discipline7. Even in the Federation, nobody seems to want to answer the question of whether Starfleet builds its ships for war24 and take actions that endanger millions on a whim11.

The origins of some music seems forgotten, thought to have arisen from folk traditions instead of named composers5.

Shakespeare14 and 1970s science fiction animation14 remain popular. They find Shakespeare especially relevant to their current situations, to the point that they recommend acting in the plays to better understand humanity14.

By contrast, they find James Joyce almost completely impenetrable and unenjoyable20.


Dressing in something that approximates Western professional attire on Earth immediately confers respectability and integrity24.

People continue to react to problems with violent solutions24, preferring to arm themselves to retaliate against hypothetical attackers than to prevent the attacks in the first place10. Even after preventing an attack, they may still lash out violently20. And they have no empathy for people in pain18.

They also see caring as weak10, though possibly only when expressed by women11. Gossip about colleagues and (allegedly) friends occupies a lot of their time, however5 17.

People prize physical appearance in friends17, but don’t understand the possibility of caring about something that has no emotions21.

Perhaps most peculiarly, people seem to believe that adult appearance changes quickly enough that one would no longer recognize a close family member after a couple of decades25.

Those who don’t fit into mainstream society face harassment, with many calling them sinners for their differences22. But they also learn that this reflects love and belonging22.


We see some dawning sense that their culture doesn’t always have the correct solution to every problem1.


This season appears to solidify the vision of contemporary fashion, often patterned on office-appropriate attire1, often heavily layered and pleated1 20 22.

Utilitarian clothing may only come in pre-defined sizes19.


The Federation teaches that early humans lived in caves4. History also doesn’t seem to extend far beyond Europe and the United States5, though people care deeply about the Roman Empire8.


Come back in a week, when the “prominent women in the cast becomes mysteriously pregnant and then that threatens everyone” cliché comes to the franchise, in The Child. In all fairness, they did produce it without any professional writers…

Credits: The header image is Hubble Space Telescope by NASA Goddard, in the public domain by NASA policy.


  1. Evolution  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

  2. The Ensigns of Command  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

  3. The Survivors  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

  4. Who Watches the Watchers?  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

  5. Booby Trap  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

  6. A Matter of Perspective  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

  7. Sins of the Father  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

  8. The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

  9. The Vengeance Factor  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

  10. The High Ground  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

  11. Déja Q  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

  12. Hollow Pursuits  2 3 4 5 6 7 8

  13. The Price  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

  14. The Defector  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

  15. Sarek  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

  16. Allegiance  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

  17. The Offspring  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

  18. Transfigurations  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  19. Ménage à Troi  2 3 4 5 6 7

  20. *Captain’s Holiday  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

  21. The Most Toys  2 3 4 5 6

  22. Tin Man  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

  23. The Bonding  2 3 4 5 6 7

  24. The Hunted  2 3 4 5 6 7 8

  25. Yesterday’s Enterprise  2 3 4

  26. The Enemy  2 3