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Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

Nov 3, 2018

Mental Health, Part II: From The Next Generation to Enterprise.

When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987, there were two striking additions to the traditional bridge crew: Worf, an emblem of the newfound peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and Deanna Troi, a professional psychotherapist. A sign of the times, perhaps, Troi’s role was given symbolic significance by the fact that she even had her own chair next to the captain’s. Yet, in practice, the TNG writers often struggled with finding the right role for a mental health professional in the 24th century. For the most part, the they did little more than dip a toe into the murky waters of mental illness and it was the two next series—Deep Space Nine and Voyager—that really took the mental health of their crews seriously, crafting complex, psychologically credible stories based on the internal struggles faced by the characters.

In this episode of Primitive Culture, we conclude our discussion of mental health in Star Trek with a look at The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. We consider how these series charted new ground in the franchise’s depiction of mental health and illness through episodes that deal sensitively with depression, breakdown, suicide, and psychosis. We also share some thoughts about mental healthcare in the real world and the importance of removing the stigma that surrounds mental illness if our own societies ever hope to boldly go into Star Trek’s utopian future.

For those keen to look up the books Clara mentions, they are A Very Human Ending by Jesse Bering ( and This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (

Intro (00:00:00)
Counselor on the Bridge (00:04:30)
Depression in the Delta Quadrant (00:28:35)
Suicide and Psychosis (00:49:35)
Stiff Upper Lips (01:11:10)
Final Thoughts (01:17:45)

Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook

Tom Whelan (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)