What I’ve Learned: Star Trek at 50 (Me at 44)

It is no secret that I love Star Trek. My daughter asked me why. I told her the following: I love it for its aspirational nature, its optimistic outlook for humankind, it’s marrying of science and art, and its borderline Shakespearean drama. I also love it for its horrible effects, its over-emoting, and the sheer high-corniness of most of the story lines. To me, Trek is the epitome of important television1. It entertained me. It made me think. It spurred me to action. Trek and Raiders of the Lost Ark are directly responsible for my pursuing undergraduate and graduate education. I learned things from Star Trek. Our conversation got me thinking about what I have learned from Trek.

So in the spirit and honor of Cal Fussman’sWhat I’ve Learned” column in Esquire magazine, Star Trek’s 50th and my 44th, I want to share “What I’ve Learned: Star Trek Edition.”


  • You need both the smart ass (McCoy) and the stoic (Spock) in your crew. They will hold you accountable in different ways and they will force you to negotiate between them, allowing you to find your balance.


  • You also need the person who will handle things when they go pear-shaped. You also need a Garak in the crew.
  • Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Why is difference coded as bad? The more types of beings there are, the more folks you have to learn from. Cultural homogeneity is stagnation. See the Borg.
  • Technology is not always the answer.
  • Technology can greatly enhance your life.
  • Science and art can and do complement each other.
  • Making a better society demands sacrifice.
  • Almost any dire situation can be made better with humor.
  • If your friends are correct, back them up to the fullest. If they’re incorrect, you let them know and try to stop them from doing something foolish.
  • If you find yourself in a no win situation (shout outs to the Kobayashi Maru) and you… adapt to win, that isn’t cheating. That is called thinking and acting outside the box.


  • Sometimes you have to let love go, even if it is staring you in the face. Sorry, Worf. She’s gone.
  • Only “appropriate culture” if the culture is enhanced by your contributions.
  • One of the primary characteristics of being a leader is sitting back and letting people with more knowledge and skill act in your stead.


  • Want to talk to kids about war, post-war occupation, and the costs of war? Use Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as their entrée.
  • Not everyone wants your version of utopia. Shout out to the Maquis.
  • Authority (rank) doesn’t matter when it comes to your family. Family first. Always.


  • I always thought Quark was the most ethical character in the entire franchise. Say what you will, but Quark always stayed true to himself. He never flip-flopped. He evolved while continuing to adhere to his core values.
  • Diplomacy works when people are in diplomatic moods.
  • You don’t have to go it alone. Asking for help is a significant sign of strength.


  • If you took the good leadership qualities of Janeway, Sisko, Kirk, Picard, and Archer, you could develop one helluva management seminar.
  • The ability to explore a wider world (universe) should be a right, not a privilege.

Happy 50th Anniversary Star Trek


  1. I’m leaving out the films because there have only been 3.5 decent films. I’m including Star Trek: Beyond as an addition to my initial total from a previous post

11 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned: Star Trek at 50 (Me at 44)

  1. Awesome. Quark in particular was one of my favorite characters I mean the Ferengi were a sexist, exploitative society but they didn’t practice slavery nor genocide in their history they were flawed sure but I met they were more ethical than many societies in Star Trek. Quark noticed something particular about humans, we like to believe we’re not like the Klingons but when push comes to shove, we can be just as bloodthirsty. One of my favorite aspects of DS9 was Section 31, why would 24th century Earth still have such an organization? Because as Sloane said they lived in a galaxy full of governments that did not share their optimistic views it stands to reason when the Vulcans made contact with humanity in 2063 not everyone became an optimistic idealist.

    1. I liked the DS9 episode when Stephen McHattie played Romulan Senator Vreenak and his DEEP dialogue with Avery Brooks, Captain Benjamin Sisko.

      1. I liked the scene where Sloane explains to Bashir just what Section 31 is. I happened to agree with Odo, I found it hard to believe the Federation did not such an organization every galactic power had such an organization.

  2. Great article. I agree with you that Star Trek has a lot to offer us on how to behave toward family, friends, and society in generally. If you feel like it, check out my ST blog post from yesterday “My Star Trek Life” by Geeksburgh. LLAP April

  3. Pretty cool…what’s funny for me is Trek is at 50 and I’m at 49 and have been a fan since 7 or 8 years old. Live long and prosper my fellow Trekkie/Trekker!

  4. If I may suggest a couple more? I know, I know, this is your list…and I’d like to share a couple…
    • Everything you need to know about assertive communication can be learned by watching Dena Troi double as a Roman Warbird Capitan. TNG Season 6 Episode 14
    • Love always wins. As an adoptee, I was touched and moved by Data’s Mom, Dr. Juliana Tainer who’s last words to Data in TNG Season 7 Episode 10 were “On Atrea, there is a saying – that a child born from parents who love each other will have nothing but goodness in [their] heart.”

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