Finding the Human: Hidden Disability in Star Trek



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In this thesis, I explore depictions of characters in Star Trek (ST) media that question what it means to be human and how those depictions match narratives in disability studies. While criticism has explored both liberal and conservative depictions of various disenfranchised groups in ST, very little has focused on characters with disabilities, and even less on those with hidden disabilities. Thus, this thesis aims to explore a media touchstone and place it within the larger conversation of rhetoric, identity, and disability. Chapter I is an introduction to ST itself, to disability studies, and the scholarship surrounding both before establishing the characters and arguments that will be discussed. In Chapter II, I focus on Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) to examine the depiction of his mental state and the comparisons drawn between him and Spock from the Original Series. This allows a discussion of the accurate and inaccurate depictions of neuroqueerness and how that impacts a watching audience. In Chapter III, I focus on the EMH from Star Trek: Voyager (VOY) to examine the unique struggles he faces through lack of accessibility and how these struggles affect his own mental state and the people around him. Using Donna Reeves’ concept, I examine the effects of psycho-emotional disablism on EMH. In Chapter IV, I examine Julian Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) to show the era’s ideas and understanding of disability and the cure narrative so entrenched in disability studies and medical knowledge. This allows a complication of the either/or view of ST as entirely liberal or conservative in its depictions of the Other and of the medical/curative understanding of disability that it was commenting on during the events of its era. This thesis concludes that ST’s writing pushed the bounds of what was known and accepted, contributing to its lasting power in the public consciousness and scratching the surface of how the humanities and popular media have influenced each other, and society, despite being generally ignored in scholarship as unimportant.



Literature, Comparative, Disability Studies