Why I lose my head every time I hear F*ING SWEAR WORDS in PICARD and DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

NO SPOILERS…BUT LOTS OF SWEARING!

I really liked the fourth episode of STAR TREK: PICARD. It wasn’t perfect (ahem, Narek and his sister Narissa), but it was close enough that I really loved the entire experience of watching it. And let’s face it, JONATHAN FRAKES knows how to direct Star Trek! Patrick Stewart and the entire cast (aside from the guy playing Narek) give consistently outstanding performances.

Show-runner MICHAEL CHABON was the lone writer credited this episode (all the other episodes have had multiple credited writers), and those 44 minutes flowed perfectly. With solid pacing, new and fascinating characters were introduced and developed. The episode filled in more of what happened to Picard over the last decade and a half, had amazing VFX (not too dark, too too fast, not too confusing), wonderful music, incredible make-up and costumes, gorgeous locations, and a thrilling surprise ending.

I truly have nothing to complain about…except one thing: the f*ing swearing!!!

So this time, because the episode itself was so enjoyable, my editorial review is going to be more editorial and less review. After all, this episode was titled “Absolute Candor,” so let me share my truth with you.

Let me start by saying that I am not a fucking prude. I know how to swear, and I’ll even indulge in “colorful metaphors” myself from time to time. I also know how NOT to swear. I don’t use profanities within earshot of my 9-year-old son or with my in-laws or in mixed company or with clients. I don’t use them during my audio interviews with fan filmmakers. Swear words are a choice…even if you accidentally drop a stack of dishes and they shatter all over the floor.

And I don’t mind hearing swear words on most shows on television. In fact, I welcome them! For me, not hearing swear words on network TV takes a little of the realism out of certain dramatic scenes.

So why the #$%@ do I have a problem with swearing on Star Trek, you ask? After all, if I want more realism on TV, then why shouldn’t Star Trek be as realistic as other shows?

Fair question. And I am going to explain why. But in order to do so, I need to take you all on a fast time wrap through the first 50 years of Star Trek

As a network show in the 1960s (and 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s for that matter), the likelihood that viewers would hear anyone cursing on a Star Trek TV series was zero. But that was okay because Star Trek was an idyllic future where poverty, hunger, prejudice, and (one would assume) vulgarities were all eliminated. In fact, one of the show’s most iconic scenes dealt very frankly with the issue of harsh language and its place (or lack of a place) in the societies of the 23rd century…

What a wonderful scene! And the message was clear that the people of the future had evolved in ways that we in the 20th (and 21st) century had not yet. The reason that we weren’t hearing swear words and obscenities in the future is that such words had long since lost their power and impact and were, therefore, no longer necessary. It was very much the way GENE RODDENBERRY felt himself—hopeful that the future would be a better place than the present…still not completely perfect but much closer to the ideal than today.

In fact, there’s another excellent scene that I recall which underscored this message by having the “villain” state the opposite…

Although Khan says, “How little man himself has changed…” the point of the episode is that, yes, man has indeed changed. In Khan’s time, someone would have joined him when he threatened to kill Kirk. Someone would have shown weakness because humans who weren’t genetically engineered like him were weak, inferior. And yet, the Enterprise crew wasn’t (even Lt. McGivers in the end). Man HAD changed, but Khan was too arrogant to notice or realize it, and that led to his defeat.

But what do Abraham Lincoln and Khan Noonian Singh have to do with swearing??? Cut the bull$%!# and get to the f*ing point already!

Okay, I will as I take you forward in time to 1979 and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Freed from the censorship of network television, the first Star Trek feature film could easily have added some swear words to the script. When V’ger obliterates the first Klingon battlecruiser, the subtitled translation from the Klingon captain could have been, “Holy shit! Get us the fuck out of here!” And hey, they’re Klingons. Of course they’d swear. But no, not even for shock value at the beginning of the movie did the writers choose to do that.

McCoy also could reasonably have had a potty mouth. “Why is any object we don’t understand always called a ‘thing’?” could have been spiced up with an f-bomb. After the ship escaped the wormhole, McCoy would have been totally justified to inject a little “realism” into the scene with an s-bomb. But he didn’t. In Star Trek II, Kirk picks up the comm bracelet and says, “Khan, you bloodsucker!” And hey, here was nothing stopping the admiral from calling Khan another name that would have rhymed with “bloodsucker,” but he didn’t.

In fact, it isn’t until Star Trek IV in 1986 (20 years after Star Trek premiered) that we finally hear our first “colorful metaphor”—and Kirk isn’t particularly skilled at it…

Indeed, that was kinda the point. These men and women from the future had no f*ing idea how to swear! Maybe they thought they did, but really, in another 300 years, cursing really has become a lost skill. Even nearly a century later, we make it through four Next Gen feature films with only one swear word…

…and I suspect that particular S-bomb had been programmed into Data’s emotion chip by Dr. Noonian Soong as a prank (or possibly by Lore). Either way, it stood out specifically because it was so unusual to hear anyone in the future using that word.

So that was always Star Trek for me.

It’s not that I believed that no one in the Federation or Klingon Empire or insert-alien-homeworld-here ever swore. Heck, we even learned a few Klingon four-letter words like p’taQ! But it just seemed like, for most people in the future, we’d moved beyond the need to use profanities in order to communicate our thoughts.

And this concept of outgrowing profane language after 200-300 years doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. Just go back 50 years and you’d likely hear the N-word used pretty commonly throughout many U.S. states. While this insulting obscenity isn’t gone completely (just listen to hip-hop or rap music…although some recording artists are pushing for the N-word to be permanently retired) and is still being used by racists, even that use is fading and will—I sincerely believe—be completely gone within the next several decades, and certainly by Captain Kirk’s and Jean-Luc Picard’s time.

But now we have DISCOVERY and PICARD, and the writers seem to be saying, “Hey, fans, look at what we can do now!” This feeling of getting away with something they really shouldn’t be doing was evident the first time we hear Tilly dropping an F-bomb in the fifth episode of Discovery. She says it, looks suddenly embarrassed, and then apologizes. There’s even a pause for some ominous music to underscore that she just said something inappropriate. But then Stamets agrees with her and uses the word himself as the music returns to normal. And with that, the writers are giving themselves permission to swear because—why not?—they’re old enough now…

And so it began. And while Discovery doesn’t have people swearing in every episode, there were enough instances by season two that one fan saw fit to create a nice compilation…

And that brings us to Picard

I feel as though there’s a certain amount of “Because we can…” going on in this newest Trek series when it comes to dropping in F-bombs and S-bombs. While there weren’t any in the first episode, the next three have all had at least one…and the second episode had THREE (including a rather indulgent F-bomb from Starfleet’s commanding admiral to Picard himself).

As my friend and I started our weekly viewing at his house last Thursday evening, he asked me how long I thought it’d be before someone used a profanity. “Well,” I said, “It’s Jonathan Frakes directing this one, and he’s been around Star Trek a long time. Maybe there won’t be any cussing in the episode…” Eleven minutes later, we saw this…

…and we both said in unison, “And there it is!”

So I’ve resigned myself to the fact that obscenities have made a comeback in the year 2399…used not only by the low-lifes of the galaxy or the “common folk” but also by the top brass of Starfleet. Apparently, people swear as much in the future as they do now. Look, fans: realism!

And therein lies the quintessential problem.

You see, the reason that so many long-time Trekkers like me have issues with the swearing (and if Facebook is any indication, there is indeed quite a large number of us…although probably just as many saying, “Get over it and stop complaining!), the reason it’s so dissonant for us, is that nearly every F-bomb and S-bomb temporarily jolts us out of the fantasy world we’ve so eagerly entered. This doesn’t happen with words like “damn” or “hell” because those were said often on Star Trek…even back in the 1960s. But “fuck” and “shit”? Those just don’t feel like we’re in the 23rd or 24th century. They taken us back—just for a moment—to our own lives here in the 21st century. And that’s NOT supposed to happen when we watch Star Trek.

Hearing those words in an episode feels like a speed bump to me…just as if a character suddenly stopped and said, “The bald soprano!” out of nowhere and then the scene resumed. By trying to make the Star Trek universe seem more “real” and “relatable” by having these future people talk just like us present people, the writers have seemingly accomplished the opposite—at least for me—and taken me out of the moment, out of the illusion that I am immersed within this future “reality.”

Star Trek is a universe in which humanity has moved past swearing, and I am just as jarred when I hear a character use the F-word or S-word as I wound be to hear anyone on the show use the N-word (which is still used occasionally on some shows I watch—but not often). Sure, Abraham Lincoln could say “negress” because he was a man from the mid-19th century. And the TV shows where I hear the word take place in the present day. But imagine Michael Burnham delivering a line like, “What’s a [N-word] gotta do to get a promotion on this ship?” Sure, just like fuck and shit, the N-word is used in the African American community today, but do we really want to imagine it’ll still be around in 2255 or 2399?

Up until recently, nearly all TV sci-fi franchises had to avoid F-word and S-word profanities: Doctor Who, Babylon 5, Stargate, Firefly, Orville. Shows like Battlestar Galactica and Farscape got around this constraint by inventing their own profanities like “frak,” “frell,” and “dren.” And of course, the biggest sci-fi franchise of them all, Star Wars, doesn’t have any contemporary swear words (although Han Solo does say, “Then I’ll see you in hell!” in Empire…and I’m not exactly sure if “Nerf Herder” counts). But now that Star Wars is on TV, I noticed that The Mandalorian doesn’t feature any swearing (and can you imagine the outcry from parent subscribers to Disney+ if it did???).

And that leads us to the “new normal”: streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime (and All Access) plus premium services like HBO and Showtime. There’s no network censors looking over their shoulders, and Game of Thrones has had more swearing and nude/sex scenes than most R-rated movies! Same for a show like Westworld. On the other hand, while The Expanse has some modern-day swearing (plus some Belter jargon that I can’t even understand half the time because of the thick accents), it’s not excessive. The same goes for the excellent Lost in Space on Netflix. Sure, the occasional swear word makes it in, but it’s very rare. Lost in Space proves that you CAN write impactful, engaging, and “relatable” science fiction in today’s streaming video environment without resorting to the shock-value “cheat” of throwing in at least one F- or S-bomb per episode.

And I suppose, when all is said and done, that’s my real point. Star Trek: Picard is a truly excellent show. I’ve loved every episode so far. But I would have loved them all just as much without the swearing…probably even a little more. I joke that show-runner and Trek Tsar ALEX KURTZMAN should change his name to ALEX CURSE-MAN, but the fact is that Michael Chabon wrote the script, and no decision on a show like that happens entirely in a vacuum.

I doubt one blog is going to change the minds of all those participating in the choice to include the profanities in new Star Trek. And maybe the starship has long since sailed on any hope of reversing this trend. But hope I shall…since that’s what Star Trek has always meant for me.

Well, that and not swearing.

61 thoughts on “Why I lose my head every time I hear F*ING SWEAR WORDS in PICARD and DISCOVERY! (editorial review)”

  1. I don’t want to hear swearing at all. As a society, I think we should be better than that. Just like I don’t want to see hurtful stereotypes. We should be more responsible.

      1. What’s very interesting to me is how many comments on this blog page are agreeing with what I said and how few are disagreeing. And yet, on Facebook, it seems the ratio of agree versus disagree is closer to equal…perhaps even a little higher on the disagreeing side. I’m curious why that is.

        1. Because, just as the level of acceptable cussing some folks are comfy with seems to be based upon genre and show, where and how folks interact is based upon what they deem as comfy. Most folks interact on Facebook as easy as having a normal conversation with a friend. Commenting on “someone else’s” website, blog, etc isn’t quite the same

        2. Why is it even on Facebook and not on your blog. Simple answer is the ones that do not agree with your position will not take the time to read your blog. As far as many of them are concerned “your wrong” end of story. I, on the other hand, completely agree with you.

      2. Freedom of speech has nothing to do with it. Freedom of speech is having the freedom to speak out against your government without reprisal.

        1. The Constitution doesn’t limit the kind of speech that Congress shall prohibit to solely political subjects:

          “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    1. I completely agree. For pete’s sake, man… keep it FAMILY FRIENDLY! Why should parents have to pre-screen a STAR TREK show, before letting the kids watch it! Sigh. ๐Ÿ™ R-rated swearing doesn’t belong in Star Trek! Stick to PG, like they have for years, now!

  2. I absolutely love your take on this! I’ve had the same guttural feeling ever since I started watching Discovery, but I never took the time to fully process why I felt that way. Your explanation completely sums up how I – and my family members who love Star Trek – feel! I sincerely hope that CBS will choose to move past this “Ooh, look! I can throw in bad language now” moment and produce the thought-provoking and mind-bending stories that it always has.

    1. As I said, I doubt things will change. So I’ve “gotten over it” as much as I can. I still love the show. But I needed to put into words why the swearing bothers me. I hope you’ll at least accept my feelings in the matter as valid…even if you don’t personally agree with them.

  3. Fully agree…but can we also discuss idiom…would a ROMULAN child being scolded really use the phrase “bite me”? This is uniquely and N Americanism and not used in most other English speaking countries. Would it really have filtered down to the Romulans. Idiom and the use of current vernacular also pull you out of the fantasy; an issue that plaquesd Game of Throme final few seasons.

    Let us hope that Trek does not fall into the same lazy scrip writing errors…

    “Double damn you”

  4. I guess I never pictured an idyllic future where people don’t relieve their stress by swearing. In fact, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the lack of swearing in Trek. The Borg are about the destroy Earth and you don’t drop an F-bomb? Come on.

    People swear. Studies have shown people who swear are more honest and emotionally healthy. Swearing means you’re not bottling up your feelings. Also, words are only vulgar if society randomly says, “This word is vulgar.” It’s arbitrary. Words on their own aren’t vulgar. As a society, we put too much emphasis on relatively harmless things like swearing and nudity and too little on things that actually hurt people.

    1. I think the idea was, in the future, most folks no longer felt the need to use vulgarities in order to communicate their thoughts. They could be emotionally healthy without the swearing. As I said in the blog, Star Trek for me never included swearing (and indeed, Star Trek IV underscored that, in the future, colorful metaphors weren’t common). So when I hear an F-bomb or and S-bomb, it takes me out of 2399 and throws me temporarily back to 2020.

    2. V.R. Craft

      I agree with you on the catharsis of swearing but I think by the 24th century we would have learned other ding mechanisms. Would you be okay with someone on Star Trek calling someone a motherfucking cunt?

  5. Jonathan, I can agree with you to a degree. I believe we may have different views on what makes “too much”, too much.
    Given my career path, I can drop the F-bomb like every form of noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and punctuation in the English lexicon, often within the same sentence or paragraph, and still be clearly understood by most. hehehehe
    In television, even without censors, I am not really in favor of a great of deal of swearing except when and where it would be appropriate in context to the scene and overall story.
    Dude smashes hand with hammer, I expect a great deal of colorful language. Stressful situations I expect an amount based on the level of stress.
    In previous iterations of Trek, we were almost exclusively dealing with “active duty” Starfleet personnel who were expected to maintain a certain level of professionalism.
    Even contemporary Active Duty military frowns on an over use of colorful metaphors during duty hours and absolutely refuses to accept the use of them in any official paperwork or reports. Off-duty is a whole other matter.
    ST: Picard, this is not the case. They are all (currently) civilians; people just like…well mostly like me but something like you, too.
    As for your Michael Burnham example… it goes without saying that most ethnic slurs are offensive regardless of who is using them or whether they believe they have a right to do so or not.

    1. I should point out that we saw a lot of folks who weren’t active Starfleet personnel, and they never swore…and lord knows Cyrano Jones and Harry Mudd would have every reason to do so! Heck, Mudd didn’t even curse on Discovery! ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. The absolute worst use of swearing in Picard came from the Starfleet CNO. I was Navy swearing in the work place is as fucking common as breathing.

  6. How about the words GRATUITOUS and UNNECESSARY! That’s my 2c on the matter! I agree with the notion that mankind has moved beyond that kind of crudeness, and also agree that it “pulls one out of the fantasy world” when that kind of crap happens. Someone needs to make a sign that says, “Just because you can, does NOT mean that you SHOULD!” and hang it above the doors to the studios, editing suites, etc… drum it into the writer’s heads. In my opinion, it ruins the show by ruining the mood. We have, what, 50+ years of Trek tradition.. where even in the MOVIES, they kept obscenities to a minimum. (I did get a kick out of the “Oh yeah? Well, double dumbass on you!” line by Kirk in one of the movies.) ๐Ÿ˜‰ What that single line does, is establish CANON (Gasp! There’s THAT WORD!!) that obscenities are passe’ in the 24’th century and beyond. So, here we go again, the new people in charge of Trek are spitting on tradition, spitting in the fans faces, and spitting on canon, as well. Three strikes, they’re out. >:(

  7. Being from the West of Scotland, I have to say, swearing on TV has never bothered me. It’s a fact of life.
    You walk past any Scottish high school at break time, and you’ll language that would make Gordon Ramsay blush.

    But then again, British TV is *vastly* different to US TV.
    We’ve got this thing called “The 9pm Watershed”. Generally speaking shows for a family audience go out before 9pm, those intended for the grown ups air *after* 9pm.
    It’s more an unofficial Gentlemen’s Agreement, rather than a hard and fast rule.

    I can understand that the swearing in Star Trek: Picard and/or Discovery might upset some people. But I suppose that it represents that even in the future, people are people.

    1. I have no problem with swearing, as I said. I just have a problem with hearing it in Star Trek because it temporarily transports me out of the illusion of being in the future ‘reality” that I’ve come to believe in (figuratively, at least).

  8. I think your take on this is spot-on. The writers appear to have taken “no censorship” to mean ONLY that the gloves are off where profanity is concerned.

    Like you, I’m no prude–I’m more like Ralphie’s old man in “A Christmas Story,” working in profanities like other artists work with oils or clay. But using f-bombs and s-bombs in the Trek universe never fails to throw me out of the story I’m watching, and I know writers (especially writers like Michael Chabon) are capable of better things.

  9. As a result of the swearing, I am unable to share these episodes with my students. The TV-MA rating is a problem if I want to share.

  10. So long as it fits the narrative, I wouldn’t really mind if Captain Kirk drops an F-bomb here or there. Apart from the problems you covered, there are some more things:

    1) Colorful metaphors are supposed to make things edgy, realistic, and inject emotion. When we heard this kind of language in the 60s, 70s, and even the 80s it really meant something. There was a sense of shock in the audience that jarred people out of their seats (in the 60s you could even get arrested for obscenity). The problem is if the words are over used and lost their power… and that’s where the problem is. They DON’T have that kind of power anymore.

    2) Dovetailing on this, these words are now used as a substitute for good writing. Instead of making things actually edgy, realistic, or emotional, writers just spice up the language for a little artificial shock and awe. If you add in salty language to great writing it can really work. If you decide to throw in an expletive as a substitute for building tension or getting a cheap laugh line, it just doesn’t work. The Tilly lines from Discovery are a good example of this–the writers of Discovery seemingly just threw this stuff in there ’cause (apparently) there was not enough swearing in Star Trek and were going for an easy laugh line. In the same vein, cussing a blue streak doesn’t make dialog real. Good writing (with or without foul language) makes the dialog real. Bad language doesn’t make up for bad writing (or bad acting). In the case of a lot of Discovery, bad language doesn’t substitute for the absence of a real plot, but I digress…

    3) It shows loss of control. If Kirk, in the lone Federation vessel, faces down a fleet of Klingon cruisers, drops his jaw, and says, “Holy Sh@t!” [Ed. Note: keeping it kid friendly], it sounds as though he really isn’t in command of the situation. As a crew member or an audience member, maybe, we should be thinking, “Holy Sh@t,” but Kirk is the guy who is supposed to stare down the impossible odds, even as Spock is calculating them down to the last decimal point. It’s better to have the actor subtly show an instant of vulnerability using an expression, than express a total loss of what to do out loud. Kirk has to inspire his crew’s confidence (and, vicariously, ours too). He can’t do that if he tells everybody he is overwhelmed.

    4) Writers are doing it just because they can do it. It’s apparently their mission to desanitize 1960s, NBC censored Star Trek. I’m not pro-1960s style TV censorship, but the limitations made writers more creative. It took creativity in the era of heavy media censorship to write around the censors. It gave us Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man (and without that we wouldn’t have had the definitive rendition by Mr. Shatner)–yeah, sure, Dylan could have just made up a song about asking a pusher to sell him some drugs, but it never would have made it on the radio and this is so much better. Because the whole song is reference to drugs… or is it? Now that’s good writing.

    1. Yep, I know all about “Mr. Tambourine Man” being about a drug dealer. I’m just trying to figure out what “Mama’s Got a Squeeze Box” is really trying to say…oh, that and “Lola.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. The primary take-away from Star Trek for me is, “We can be better than we are.” Why not start with something simple.

  12. I think the tree is blocking the forest. Maybe this is an adaptation of star trek with its mistakes, maybe it’s small to try to be “modern” and in that attempt use forms that are not to everyone’s liking. But the work on the scripts, compared to other versions, is from my point of view magnificent. And what has most caught my attention is the work on the personality of Picard, a man who sought perfection and when he couldn’t achieve it, he didn’t settle for the good he could do and quit, a sin of pride that betrayed all his collaborators. A despondent man, who knows his fate (there are clues about his future illness) and awaits it as a self-punishment (or atonement). But who out of loyalty to an old friend is able to rise again for one last adventure, a man who recovers his faith in the future and works actively to create it.
    I’m sorry about my English.

    1. Your English is excellent, Leonardo! As for Picard’s character, you are 100% correct, and I find that intriguing. He did quit (likely out of fucking hubris) and in so doing, betrayed countless Romulans who never forgave him. But in truth, he owed them nothing. He owed the galaxy nothing. He’d saved earth, the Federation, and even the universe on multiple occasions. He was under no obligation to keep going and giving until his final breath. I don’t condemn him for giving up and calling it a career. But it doesn’t matter what I think. Picard hasn’t truly forgiven himself, and that’s what’s important in this show.

      And Patrick Stewart’s acting is a tour de force when it comes to this. His “older” Picard is lacking in spirit, operating on simple momentum and muscle memory for most of the first four episodes. But the two glimpses we’ve had of Admiral Picard, especially this most recent one, have shown us a man with much more vim and vigor, more zest and determination, a force to be reckoned with. Picard on Vashti in the flashback had a spring in his step and a sparkle in his eye. I’d initially thought, from the first three episodes, that Sir Patrick was simply slowing down a little as an actor. But now I see that he still has all of the old energy he used to…he is just choosing not to use it (yet).

      As for the swearing, I don’t let it ruin the show for me, and it’s not a huge peeve (more of a “pet” peeve). I simply like to write my blogs about interesting things rather that just providing summaries and saying, “I really liked this” or “I thought this could have been better.” So for a while now, I’d been wanting to delve into my reasons for being bothered by the swearing, and so I took this opportunity to do so.

      1. Interesting analysis. I didn’t look at it as though Picard abandoned the Romulans. I thought the implication is that he became the face of the Romulan rescue, leveraged everything he could leverage, and as an act of desperation put his career on the line–a gesture that he thought that Starfleet couldn’t ignore… and they called his bluff and retired him. At that point, he no longer had any power and retreated to his vineyard, a broken man. The present mission brings back a sense of purpose to Picard and he seems to be gaining energy as the show goes on.

        The things that this show has going for it that Discovery still struggles with are: 1) a real, overarching, coherent story line that makes sense; 2) three dimensional characters that have actual depth to them (even on first meeting) and whose actions make sense in the context of their character; 3) science fiction concepts that don’t constantly defy even a shred of plausibility (e.g. the mycelial drive/space tardegrade transport (their shark jumped the shark on this one when the mycelial network reincarnated Culber. Next season, the mycelial network will cure the common cold and get my kids to do housework willingly… then there’s the time jumping red angel equipped with time travel paradoxes…. ).

        The thing I dislike about Picard is the writers’ inherent need for complete darkness and corruption in the upper levels of Starfleet. In Discovery, they transmogrified Section 31 into a rogue, subversive force in Starfleet that doesn’t share any values with the parent organization. Lack of control and 007 status aside, there was no indication in DS9 or Enterprise that section 31 was evil. Now we have the Tal Shiar, which has infiltrated the highest levels of Starfleet. (It’s not clear to me whether the TS wants revenge against Starfleet because of the aborted attempt to save the Romulans or whether the TS actually aborted their own rescue back in the day. It’s still not clear why the TS hates android life… perhaps we will find out why later…).

        The turn towards the dystopian is a trend in science fiction these days. Just like the horrid aftermath of nuclear Armageddon was the theme de jure in 70s science fiction, until Star Wars tuned things around gave us at least a little (new) hope. Discovery has adopted that incredibly dark vision that we see in pretty much all sci fi these days–they even keep the sets so dark and dreary, the Discovery crew probably has to use flashlights to find their way around. Even Spock was a misery when first introduced in STD. I think that’s why they needed Pike–he’s the only thing that brightened the place up, from his uniform on out, and brought in the sorely needed truth, justice, and the Federation way.

        Although much darker then STNG, in comparison to recent Trek, Picard is lighter. Maybe there’s corruption in the Federation and there is lawlessness within the Federation which seems to be rife with freebooters, vigilantes, and 4 letter words. However, we still have Picard himself is a beacon of hope and goodness; even if a head or two is lost, at least he regrets it.

  13. This piece provoked me to think about swearing on Trek and to realize that I too was jarred by it but not enough to focus on it.

    But now I remember how I almost dropped a load in my pants when someone I know who I think of as refined dropped an F-bomb on me at one point. I was shocked out of my train of thought and taken aback.

    But I’m not utterly against the use of colorful metaphors when not having one would jolt me. So I agree with Willie’s comment that gratuitous and unnecessary use of them should be avoided.

  14. Excellent point made. I agree with you 100%. Profanity cheapens the image of a future we might honestly wish to live in.

  15. So now we have a Star Trek that I cannot watch with my grandchildren. I am doubting I will pay for the privilege.

  16. At the risk of nitpicking one of your very enjoyable reviews, I recall that STIII TSFS had an earlier out-and-out profanity, with Kirk’s “you Klingon b***tards killed my son!”

    But I do agree with your views. I fully expect to hear vulgarity in a Quentin Tarantino film and it doesn’t bother me. However, I really don’t expect to hear it in Star Trek. It detracts from the feeling of wonder and awe that I always felt when watching TOS and TNG, and feeling that it was going to be a bold, brave and exciting adventure. Perhaps I’m just crusty and old now. Sigh…

    It does seem as though Disco and Picard have permanently moved Star Trek away from its ‘seeking out new life and new civilisations’ phase, and we haven’t really had an exploratory episode since the days of Enterprise. And in ‘getting from there to here’ we seem to have arrived in a period of unlikely existential angst – aptly illustrated by the (real) book that Rios was reading.

    I still think that Picard is streets ahead of Disco and much more carefully crafted, but it seems ironic that the producers of both shows have deconstructed the utopian future that GR envisioned and that the franchise was built upon. It probably delivers more exciting telly, but also seems a bit of a shame.

    1. The reason that I didn’t include the Star Trek III quote is that it would have been perfectly acceptable had Kirk said instead, “You Klingon sons, you killed my bastard!” ๐Ÿ™‚

      It is interesting that Discovery and Picard are both doing anything BUT exploring strange new worlds. But if you think about it, that’s been done four (possibly five…DS9 didn’t have much of it) times before. So why reinvent the wheel? Why not try out something different. I like DS9 the best specifically because it was more political and cultural. Rather than visiting a new planet with a new problem every week, we stayed and watched a few select planets (Bajor, Cardassia, Ferenginar, Qo’NoS, Earth) deal with the same old problems in new and challenging ways. So I actually welcome the experimentation…to a point. Don’t call a show “Discovery” if you’re not really planning to discover anything. And now that Discovery is off in the far-flung future, Picard is exploring characters, and Section 31 will likely not be doing the ol’ “seek out new life” thing…why not launch that Star Trek: Pike show we all want so desperately and let the USS Enterprise return to doing what it does best?

  17. There ’tis. A great song, on at least two levels. I think The Who was just testing the limits to see what they could slip by and get on the radio. As an elementary school kid, would hum it a lot or sing the lyrics to myself all the time. Of course, I was totally sure it was about an accordion, so Pete Townsend got one over on me too–I wonder how many little kids and parents were singing about… err… accordions in the mid-to-late 70s.

  18. The Lincoln example had absolutely nothing to do with the use of colorful language, but slavery.

    As to the rest, we should be down on our hands and knees to be grateful from the idiotic restrictions of both network censorship, broadcast FCC regulations, and the idiotic restrictions placed on characters by Gene Roddenberry.

    The world of Star Trek is at a different place than it was during the idyllic age of TNG. Snce then…

    1. The Federation traded the rights of scores of colony worlds to broker a peace with the Cardassians.

    2. The entire Human race was subjected to a conspiracy panic attack by renegade Starfleet Officers who tried to take military power by making up Dominion hysteria.

    3. The Klingons who were supposedly the allies of the Federation, reverted to type and turned on them.

    4. The Borg came that close to assimilating Humanity…. TWICE.

    5. Earth’s closest neighbor as far as habitable worlds go is burning becasue Synthetic Persons went on a Kill All Humans mode.

    It’s been a couple of traumatic decades… and the aftershocks of those events is still reverberating. There’s been a lot of destruction, death, and resource loss. The galaxy as a whole is suffering from collective PTSD.

    And let’s face it… there’s been swearing throughout the entire post TOS franchise. None of you ever cared because it was in Klingon. Now Human characters are finally free to act….. Human.

    1. Hey, I just realized something! How could Mars still be burning 15 years later? There’s no oxygen in its atmosphere for combustion! Carbon dioxide doesn’t burn.

      Fuck the cursing…we need to talk about the science!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Hey, Jonathan. Well, we’ve had this conversation, but I’ll put the morality of the issue aside and simply make a few observations. First, swear words aren’t needed to create drama. Few would argue that Balance of Terror, Space Seed, Amok Time, Best of Both Worlds, and numerous episodes of Deep Space Nine, Voyager or Enterprise weren’t filled with fantastic drama. Yet, they did so without strong swear words. The writing was just over the top engaging. So, in my opinion (for what one individual’s opinion is worth), they add little if anything to a story. Second, as is evident with the current debate, they alienate. I really enjoyed the first two episodes of Picard. Really. While Discovery has never felt like it was genuinely part of the Prime Universe, I felt like Picard was. It was a genuine continuation. But, because of this creative choice, I’m just not as excited about it. I can’t recommend it to others. Why? On one level, I find it offensive. Yep, call me a prude if you want. I’ll accept that title. Discovering new worlds and new life is noble. Defending the weak is noble. I find nothing noble about swearing. It says, “I don’t care how this affects others, I’m doing it!” I don’t like that attitude. I think we have to live in a world with 7 billion other people and we need to think about relating to others in the best possible way. Generally, swearing doesn’t fit into that parameter. But, on a personal level, I can’t enjoy this with my family. As you pointed out with your son, I don’t want them using words like that. I don’t want to encourage rudeness toward others. So, Star Trek has lost one of the things I used to enjoy about it: the family element. I remember when the remastered original series came out, my wife and girls would sit on our bed together as a family and watch it. We would rush through supper so we could be in front of the TV by 7 on Saturday night. We looked forward to it. Do I want to rush in there with my family to hear the s & f-words? Nope. To hear GD? Nope. But, I’ve resigned myself to this fact: Star Trek isn’t made for me or my generation. And I have to decide if I’m going to continue on the new journey. The jury is still out on that one.

      1. The absolute worst use of swearing in Picard came from the Starfleet CNO. I was Navy swearing in the work place is as fucking common as breathing.

    1. I also agree completely with Mark McCrary… “just because they can” is *NOT* a valid reason to assault the ears and minds of the audience with obscenities… thus putting the show up on a high shelf, out of reach of youngsters. (Our literal Next Generation!) It’s just wrong. ๐Ÿ™

  20. I have to wade in again…

    Itโ€™s not about the profanity, or not being episodic or even non canon…..

    Itโ€™s plain and simply BAD WRITING.

    I just watched the first 5 Episode of The Looming Tower…and I was riveted and saw them back to back… coz itโ€™s damn well written. Hooked, even though I know the plot and the ending.

    But itโ€™s the writing, believable characters, good dialogue, consistent idiom, engaging scenarios, conflict, loyalty, love, betrayal, fear, friendship, authority, tension, humour, drama, action, reflection and more.

    Weโ€™ve all seen tv and film which hoked us on wafer thin plots…COZ IT WAS WELL WRITTEN!

    Picard just doesnโ€™t have the writing to support it. If it was well enough written, Iโ€™m convinced we would not even notice the odd profanity…by the right person in the appropriate and believable situation….(though I agree Trek doesnโ€™t really need it).

    Iโ€™m more annoyed at little musical riffs playing to make me feel itโ€™s Trek…like the TNG riff as Rios flies off at the end of ep 3….you havenโ€™t earned it, itโ€™s not appropriate and feels forced.

    Anyway, itโ€™s mostly all in the can now so our laments wonโ€™t change much this season…

    Roll on Capt Pike for crying out loud….even bad writing can be lifted by some actors….

    Sigh….

    Oh well, time to rewatch Star Trek Continues et al.

    1. Actually, I think the writing so far on Picard has been excellent. I’m quite hooked on the show and can’t wait for the next episode week after week. That said, their villains need a LOT of work! Narek is as interesting as cardboard, Oh just plays the “creepy” note over and over and over, and the other two femmes fatale that we’ve seen have just over-exuded arrogant hyper-sexuality and smugness. Sure, that makes them immediately unlikable while still being “alluring” eye-candy, but it’s not the most impressive way to create a bad guy (gal). However, the protagonists I find to be highly compelling. So A- grade from me on the writing.

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