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Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

Aug 25, 2022

Autistic representation in Star Trek

“Perhaps you’re just different,” Tam Elbrun tells Data in the Next Generation episode “Tin Man.” “Not a sin, you know, though you may have heard otherwise.” Both characters—the emotionally sensitive Betazoid and the supposedly emotionless android—have been seen by fans as allegories of a particular kind of difference, standing in for those on the broad spectrum of neurodiversity.

In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by autistic Star Trek fan Thad Hait to discuss how Trek has encoded the experiences of neurodiverse people—often accidentally—over the course of its long history. Looking at characters such as Data, Seven of Nine, Reginald Barclay, and Sylvia Tilly, we consider how Starfleet’s approach to difference both mirrors and differs from our own, and ask whether the time is ripe for Trek’s first explicitly neurodiverse character.

Duncan Barrett

Thad Hait

Duncan Barrett (Editor and Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer)