Why Isn’t Starfleet 50% Therapists?

Star Trek fans, have you ever taken a moment to think about—and I mean seriously consider—how your life would be if you were living in the Star Trek universe? I’ve just finished Season 2.5 of Battlestar Galactica and one of the things that impresses me about the series is its continuity. Sure, in DS9 we had some fantastic storylines and arcs, but BSG never hits the reset button (not that it’s perfectly plotted, but still).

In Star Trek, they’re in peril almost every week. Major characters undergo major trauma on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at the original pilot & first 10 episodes of the first season of TOS, where it all began:

Pilot 1: The Captain (Pike) is taken captive by a group of telepathic aliens as part of a plot to breed a race of slaves.

Pilot 2: Two crew members develop powers that put the whole ship at risk.

Episode 1: The crew is terrorized by a beast that preys on salt. It kills several crewmen and seduces McCoy in the guise of his lost love.

Episode 2: A young man with strong mental powers begins using them on the crew and fucking blows up the ship that dropped him off with the Enterprise.

Episode 3: (Pilot 2)

Episode 4: Naked Time. Need I say more?

Episode 5: A transporter accident creates 2 Kirks one weak and good, one strong and kind of evil.

Episode 6: Androids seize control of the ship and kidnap the command staff. It’s instigated by Harry Mudd who wants the androids to stop studying/serving him and hopes that the Enterprise’s people will become their new subjects.

Episode 7: Captain Kirk is replaced with an android.

Episode 8: The crew lands on a planet where all adults develop an illness. Yeoman Rand is kidnapped.

Episode 9: Kirk is kidnapped and brainwashed.

Episode 10: The ship is threatened by an alien vessel.

In nearly every episode, major characters undergo major trauma. They have to deal with their captain being replaced by an android, split in two, kidnapped and brainwashed. There’s that whole Naked Time episode, though I think they have have forgotten that afterward. The captain has to go through that brainwashing/kidnapping/etc.

One passenger they take on is virtually a serial killer and another is a mass murderer, not to mention the guy who brainwashes Kirk and comes aboard the Enterprise. Except for episode 10, there isn’t a single one where characters avoid direct personal threats.

Maybe this is just the highlights, but if this is business as usual for Starfleet, I don’t know how their psyches could handle it.

Yes, I’m taking sci-fi too seriously, but that’s something I like in BSG—that it takes the whole thing a bit more seriously. One of many examples: when Starbuck leaves Anders on Caprica, she’s changed. Not for one episode, but for most of the season…and when she gets him, she’s changed.

And while the people in BSG undergo a tremendous strain, I don’t think they face nearly what the characters in Star Trek do. Loves of their lives appear and die/are lost forever in a single episode. Picard is tortured by Cardassians and assimilated by the frakking Borg.

What’s your two cents?


  1. I guess I’ve always assumed that if you lived in the Trek universe, seeing people split into two separate beings, time travel, and giant creatures made of pizza toppings would just become commonplace. Like for us, every so often water falls from the sky and along with that there are loud booms. Step back a bit and that might seem a bit odd, but for us, it’s just a thunderstorm.

    Although, maybe Roddenberry acknowledged what you’re saying and that’s why Troi was added to NextGen. Although, she never really lived up to her counseling potential.

    As for Picard, my understanding is that the NextGen producers wanted to blow over the whole Borg assimilation thing and move on as if things were normal afterwards, but Moore fought to have the episode “Family” to deal with the mental repercussions on Picard. It was a great episode and even that didn’t completely resolve the issue as we saw Picard deal with the trauma a couple more times later on.

  2. Ruth says:

    Picard’s post-Borg was one of the first times I think I saw Trek handle something like this with repercussions. I like how much Sisko hates him (at least at the beginning of DS9). Of course, Moore was also the force behind the new BSG, so he clearly as an appreciation of character/development and story arcs.

    I wonder what the human capacity would be for evolving to live with that. One of the ongoing threads in much sci-fi is human resilience.

  3. Terry says:

    Reminds me of this webcomic: http://www.toondoo.com/cartoon/161345

    One of the things I’ve noticed about the Star Trek Universe is that it’s self-correcting. So no matter what happens, things will return to the status quo.

  4. Amy says:

    Huh. You make such a good and valid point. I like that you summarized the big plots, it really lays it out and shows how HUGE the issues are. One of those would seriously screw someone up for a while.

    Maybe while they are in the academy they are implanted with some chip that allows for instant emotional recovery? 😉

    I think SG-1 can get lumped in with Star Trek a little on this as well. I love both shows (though I’ve not seen much Star Trek besides TNG), but the handling of character changes and actual depth separates the campy and fun from the absolutely awesome. Then again, when Star Trek or SG-1 did pull a little emotional reaction / mental consequences out their hats, I was very affected by it.

  5. Andrew says:

    Trek did get better about character development in the movies. You have Kirk dealing with the consequences of his dalliances. The whole crew deals with Spock’s death in the third movie. Repercussions from David’s death at the hands of Doc Brown in ST3 are fuel for Kirk angst in ST6.

  6. Joshua M1001 says:

    Interesting point and is a good point. Although the way I think about is that the episodes weren’t one after the other to the characters. For us as viewers of course it is but to Kirk and crew weeks and months probably passed. The same way a soccer highlight show seems that all the action points happen after another when in fact there is a lot of running around in between. It has been a long time since I saw any of the TOS so they could have mentioned that it had only been a day or two since the last crisis.

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