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I’ve been sure from the first that the job of Star Trek was to use drama and adventure as a way of portraying humanity in its various guises and beliefs. The result was that Star Trek… is an expression of my own beliefs using my characters to act out human problems and equations.

Gene Roddenberry, interview with The Humanist (1991)

Gene Roddenberry, creator and executive producer of the television series Star Trek, was a humanist who rooted the show in explicitly humanist ideals: that human beings can solve problems through reason and cooperation, that there is no need to turn to superstition or religion for help, that human understanding and intelligence will help us to develop and progress; and that the universe is a natural wonder waiting to be explored and understood. This philosophy shines through the many adventures in Star Trek, in which the crew of the starship Enterprise travel through the Milky Way ‘​​to boldly go where no man has gone before’. Star Trek also featured concepts like that of IDIC, or Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, which underpinned Vulcan philosophy, and was based on the concept that it is the coming together of different viewpoints that makes for progress and wellbeing. Set in the future, but conceived of in the 1960s, Roddenberry saw a very clear opportunity to present the kind of progress he hoped to see through the medium of the ship and its crew. This included (as far as he was allowed by the television network), parity between the sexes and racial integration.

In an in-depth interview with The Humanist in 1991, Roddenberry said: ‘I have concentrated on reality and equality, and we’ve managed to get that message out.’ This striving towards progress from the society in which he lived was also applied to Roddenberry himself. In the same interview he said:

I guess in my majority years, somewhere along the line, I must have said to myself: “Hey, you’re not a bad person. Yes, you make mistakes, but you constantly strive to overcome that and to repair them. I’ve noticed, Gene, that as the years go by you’ve changed your points of view on things, which I like to see in a human and in a humanist.” I think I try to continually perfect myself without any hope of reaching ultimate perfection. It is a marvellous journey.

This concept has been echoed by actor and Humanists UK Patron Patrick Stewart, who played Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Speaking of our personal role in the progression of human society as a whole, he said: ‘It is what you do from now on that will either move our civilization forward a few tiny steps, or else… begin to march us steadily backward.’

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