Apparently, You Can’t Say ‘God’ On Star Trek

Apparently, You Can’t Say ‘God’ On Star Trek
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Image: CBS

Yes. I know. I know that makes no sense given that one of the most famous bad lines in all of Star Trek history is “What does God need with a starship?” I also know it makes no sense since Deep Space Nine‘s Sisko was the literal chosen one of the Bajoran god-equivalents. I know that and you know that. But my god, does Star Trek: Discovery not know that.

In a preview to its Star Trek: Discovery cover story, Entertainment Weekly shared this little anecdote from the set:

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.

And look, look, I fully understand that Roddenberry’s future Earth had no religion. As a child, that was one of the many things I loved about it. BUT. We say all sorts of things colloquially that we don’t believe in. Most people don’t believe that knocking on wood really forestalls bad luck, but it’s still a handy short cut for “here’s hoping nothing goes wrong.”

Similarly, the horse and buggy is not a common conveyance these days, but we still say “don’t put the cart before the horse.” I fully believe that “god’s sake” would still be an interjection in the future devoid of any actual religious belief. Hell, it’s practically there now.

I have said that I like bad Star Trek over good other things many times. I like the makeup of this crew, and I like that it’s moving away from the captain and avoiding doing another show about ships named Enterprise. I lived through Voyager and Enterprise and did so gleefully. But Discovery is just… weird in its choices.

Like, remember how it was so adamant about “breaking” Roddenberry’s rule about interpersonal conflict among the crew? Despite the fact that this rule hadn’t been enforced for decades? Why adhere to the letter of Roddenberry’s religion vision rather than simply the spirit of that rule? Everything, everything about this show confuses me.

Discovery premieres September 24 in the US, with subsequent episodes available on CBS All Access.


  • Kirsten Beyer made up some bullshit right there. That exact wording has been used 7 times through Star Trek, both during and after Roddenberry’s oversight. The man himself clearly had no problem with its use:

    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
    KHAN: Kill him, Terrell, now!
    [Terrell vaporises himself. Chekov collapses.]
    MCCOY: God’s sakes! What is it?

    Star Trek III: The Search for Spock:
    MCCOY: Spock. For God’s sake talk to me!

    Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country:
    MCCOY: Aren’t you carrying a surgeon?
    CHANG: We were until this disgrace.
    MCCOY: Then for God’s sake man, let me help!

    Star Trek TNG: Conspiracy:
    PICARD: You’re using a code 47. I have to know what this is all about.
    KEEL: Not over subspace, no.
    PICARD: Oh for God’s sake, Walker. This is a secured channel.

    Star Trek TNG: Unnatural Selection:
    PULASKI: The risk to the ship and crew is too great. Until we absolutely know the cause of the disease, the children–
    KINGSLEY: The children are harmless. Every test on them has been negative. I demand that you do something to save them. Please, Doctor. For God’s sake, we haven’t got much time.

    Star Trek DS9: Battle Lines:
    BASHIR: The hell you are. She needs treatment. I’d like my medical case, if you don’t mind.
    [Shel-la sits as if he doesn’t care, and a woman opens the case and starts looking through it. Bashir snatches it away.]
    BASHIR: For God’s sake.

    Star Trek VOY: Investigations:
    NEELIX: I recognise that subroutine. You’re into the weapons system. You’re disabling them!
    JONAS: For God’s sake, Neelix, back off!

    • I really want to believe you knew that all off the top of your head and didn’t look any of it up 😛

      • Haha! I remembered some of them because I marathoned TNG, DS9 and Voyager earlier this year, but I had to cheat this list sadly. There’s a website where you can search every Star Trek script from every show and movie.

    • What a surprise the whole article is wrong. Queue out raged people in comments… 3… 2.. 1.. merry xmas!

    • There’s also a line in TNG: Elementary my dear Data where Geordi goes “Oh God no” when he realizes his mistake. It’s not under his breath, and he is the only character on screen, and it’s subtitled (Was watching on Netflix).

      So I don’t know what they’re talking about, but I assume it’s some stupid politically correct shit about people getting triggered who hear the word “God” when they don’t believe in him.

      • Oh yeah, there are tons of other references to god(s) through the shows, I was just looking specifically for that phrasing. Roddenberry was pretty famously anti-religious and was insistent that modern humanity would be secular and have shed religion wholesale, but he was never so anal about it that he didn’t even want the word used in utterances and idioms.

  • Came here to say exactly this @zombiejesus. Furthermore, the amazing DS9 literally had an episode titled PLAYING GOD. During its run, especially in reference to Bashirs genetically enhanced state, characters would refer to science “playing god”. God vs Science was a core tenet of DS9 after all.

    Infact the ONLY thing banned on Star Trek was as Roddenbury put it “stupid decisions leading to intercharacter conflict”. The only thing.

    If this whole god thing has come about its a whole new rule implemented on Discovery which quite frankly looks more Star Wars/Mass effect than Trek. The trailers look interesting but not very trek like. We’ll see.

    Just stop bullshitting author please to get clicks.

    • To be fair, the characters in a television show wouldn’t know the episode title of their current day’s events.

      Mine would mostly be variations of Zak goes to work and nothing exciting happens.

      • Well yeah but it does go against the idea the word god is never used to a higher extent.

      • i know zac. the ratings have been falling recently and we have ordered 20 ninja’s to attack you for the next episode


        the director

    • Wasn’t the whole point of an entire MOVIE that V’GER became sentient and believed itself to be a god?!

  • Language is littered with religious references. It would be ridiculous to cut them out. Hell, I pray we never have to.
    See what I did there?

  • Everything, everything about this show confuses me.
    That’s exactly how I feel about it. Really want to be excited about new Star Trek on TV but almost everything I see or read about it just makes me more confused…

    • apparently a lot of the confusion causing stuff can be put down to an executive with no interest in star trek deciding he wants to make this show his baby

  • This is completely fabricated bullshit, and so is the idea that Roddenberry’s future ‘had no religion.’ Almost every time human religion comes up in any of the series, someone says something along the lines of ‘ we have a bunch of them, it’s complicated.’

    I’m not going to do an exhaustive search like the guy above, but a quick glance at Memory Alpha has Picard celebrating Christmas, McCoy referencing the Bible with regard to Genesis, and in Who mourns for Adonis Kirk is a straight up Christian: “Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate.’

    Then there’s the undiscovered country, the entirety of DS9, not to mention the Caretaker and Q. What about Chekotay, or does that not count as religion because it isn’t dominant?

    Obviously you can dismiss an Alien religion as not part of Roddenberry’s vision, but human religions are all over Star Trek. They occasionally say things about moving beyond superstition, but I can’t think of any time where a character said something like ‘there’s no religion on earth anymore, we stamped it out in the purges.’

    Oh and in the Animated series I think I remember them meeting Quetzalcoatl.

    So what can we take away from this? That nobody involved in the new show watched the old ones? That they did, but now there’s an agenda being pushed that wasn’t there previously? Certainly we can learn that Trek quotes are easy as hell to look up, and would really give an article some useful foundation.

  • Eh, as a trekkie, i’ll hold my opinion till I’ve watched it… As an agnostic aetheist it doesnt bother me at all that someone isn’t allowing them to use religious references or the word god.

    As a fellow Neutralian once said “Tell my wife hello.”

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