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Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

Mar 6, 2020

The Eugenics Wars, with Greg Cox.

For a high-tech futuristic utopia, the United Federation of Planets can seem surprisingly cautious when it comes to new technologies. Time and again, Star Trek has played out the science fiction staple of technology run amok. In some cases, the response we have seen has been a kind of retrenchment, a refusal to make use of certain technologies because of their perceived moral cost. The complex web of problems surrounding the banning of synthetic lifeforms in Star Trek: Picard calls to mind the extremely strict rules on genetic modification seen in episodes of The Next Generation and Voyager, all of which stem from the Eugenics Wars—a particularly dark period of Earth’s history in Star Trek’s timeline.

In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by prolific Star Trek novelist Greg Cox, author of a trilogy of tie-in novels filling in the history of Khan and the Eugenics Wars, for a look at how Star Trek has approached the subject of genetic engineering and the ethical problems it raises. We discuss the retconning of the Nazi-inflected eugenics described in the Original Series episode “Space Seed” and how that carried through to genetic manipulation and the creation of augmented humans in The Wrath of Khan. We also consider, with the benefit of hindsight, whether real-world advancements in genetics over the half century since Star Trek was born make the Federation’s position seem a little too restrictive.

Intro (00:00:00)
Writing the Eugenics Wars (00:03:00)
From Eugenics to Genetic Manipulation (00:15:43)
Brave New Worlds (00:33:08)
Towing the Trek Line (00:44:00)
Future Projects (01:09:55)

Duncan Barrett

Greg Cox

Duncan Barrett (Editor and Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)