In the past, Star Trek has never shied away from dealing with god. The crew of the Enterprise encountered numerous false deities or godlike alien beings over the course of its mission. In the pilot for Voyager, the eponymous ship is hurtled into the Delta Quadrant by a powerful being that’s worshipped as a god. The central plot of Deep Space Nine revolves around Captain Sisko being an emissary to the Bajoran gods, and there are multiple episodes that deal intimately with the concept of faith. But now, it seems, at least in the world of Star Trek: Discovery, even the mention of god is prohibited.
When Entertainment Weekly visited the Discovery set for this week’s cover story, they captured a slightly awkward moment between Jason Isaacs and one of the show’s writers in which the G-word was discussed:
The director halts the action and Lorca, played by British actor Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter fame, steps off the stage. The episode’s writer, Kirsten Beyer, approaches to give a correction on his “for God’s sakes” ad lib.
“Wait, I can’t say ‘God’?” Isaacs asks, amused. “I thought I could say ‘God’ or ‘damn’ but not ‘goddamn.’ ”
Beyer explains that Star Trek is creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a science-driven 23rd-century future where religion basically no longer exists.
“How about ‘for f—’s sake’?” he shoots back. “Can I say that?”
“You can say that before you can say ‘God,’ ” she dryly replies.
This hard line the Discovery writers seem to be taking is founded in the initial concept penned by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. According to Roddenberry, an ardent atheist, the Earth of the future had not only done away with material wealth and most forms of prejudice, but had also moved beyond the need for religion. But it seems odd that, simply because people don’t believe in god anymore, they would drop the word “god” from their vocabulary all together. As Katharine Trendacosta of Gizmodo puts it, “We say all sorts of things collegially that we don’t believe in… I fully believe that ‘god’s sake’ would still be an interjection in the future devoid of any actual religious belief.”
What makes this choice for Discovery doubly strange is that the atheism of the Federation didn’t really become a focal point until Roddenberry returned to work on the first season of The Next Generation. But Discovery is meant to take place 10 years before The Original Series, when one would think colloquialisms involving god or remnants of religion would be more common. Whether or not this bodes poorly for the show itself is up for debate; we’ll all find out when it premieres September 24 on CBS.
[Note: Gizmodo, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]