Star Trek’s Greatest ‘Labor’ Episodes

In the US today is Labor Day, a day which can be traced back to unions giving a day off for working citizens. Throughout the history of Trek, many episodes dealt with giving workers a break and other issues related to the toils of the worker, and so today we take a look at those Treks with labor.

TrekMovie’s picks for the top ‘labor’ related episodes of each series (and the movies).

The Original Series – The Cloud Minders
Long before Han Solo visited his old buddy Lando in Bespin, Captain Kirk took a trip to Stratos, a cloud city involved in mining. Both Kirk and Spock argued for the plight of the ‘Troglyte’ workers and eventually took up their cause to fight for their rights.

Fighting for their rights, but being Kirk, there is always a woman involved

Next Generation –The Quality of Life
Labor forces come in all types in the 24th Century and in "Quality of Life" Data discovers some robots (the ‘exocomps’) are more than just simple tools, but sentient beings with rights who should not be exploited or considered expendable, and he is willing to defy orders to protect them.

Power to the people (and robots)

Deep Space Nine –
Bar Association
Rom gets tired of being exploited and unionizes the workers at Quark’s bar to fight for better labor conditions, something that is a high crime in Ferengi circles, but in the end, after negotiating a compromise, the workers win.

Ferengi of the galaxy, unite!

Voyager – Workforce
In a commentary on both the value of workers and how they can be exploited, Janeway and her crew are kidnapped, have their memories erased and reprogrammed to join the workforce of a planet that is having a labor shortage.

Janeway gets a real job


Enterprise – North Star
Perhaps one of the most Kirkesque episodes of any sequel show, this was oddly placed in the third season. Yet despite that, as a stand alone, it is a very good for discussing social stratification and shows the connection between education and work.

Howdy, need some help pardner

Movies – Star Trek First Contact
Although this film is all about Borg and action and revenge, there is one Star Trek moment when Picard has to explain to Lily how things work in the future when he tries to explain how the cost of the ship is not a factor, saying "The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We wish to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.

Excuse me? No money?


TrekMovie hopes you are having a nice day off this Labor Day


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A lot of the Ferengi episodes are related to labor- at least how left-minded folks in the US think big business treats it’s workers.


It’s its, not it’s.


You’re spot on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Trek episode (or for that matter, much of ANYTHING out of Hollywood) that treats the problems of the business owner in any sort of favorable light.

If the most salient criticism you can raise is the placement of an apostrophe, then that says a lot in and of itself.

Oh, boo-hoo. I’m a business owner, poor me.

Fight the power! Troglytes ho!

I liked the “Past Tense” DS9 with Sisko as Gabriel Bell, too.

As in all things, there is a balance.

If a business is not profitable, the workers loose out (no jobs, no money to pay them).

If the workers have no rights, then the exploitation that can result is just as detrimental to workers.

I work for a company for a comfortable wage, that my employer can afford, and that I’m happy with.

Unions, IMHO, are a double-edged sword, in that they can stand for what’s right, but can also go too far by making unreasonable demands.

Hey, at least “A Piece of the Action” implicitly suggests that running a business and making a profit is better than being a gangster. :-)

I liked the DS9 episode (I believe it’s the last one) where Quark thinks he is to become the new Grand Nagus and is shocked to learn of the new social reforms on his home planet. It’s a great bit of satire whether you’re pro or anti union.

First Contact is the best Star Trek movie ever.

Well I was going to launch into a spirited defense of unions and other social democratic values (look it up) on this beautiful Labour day (the proper spelling, why Americans insist on dropping the ‘u’ from so many words I’ll never know). But Daniel Broadway’s comment about First Contact being the best Star Trek movie ever needs much more urgent correction!!

Star Trek 2 is the best Star Trek movie ever!
Then 6, and then in third spot is First Contact.

Happy Labour Day!
In Solidarity,

This is off-topic, but who else has been watching the TNG marathon on Sci-Fi today? Some great episodes have been shown. I’m watching “Yesterday’s Enterprise” right now.

“That’ll be the day.”
Picard doing his best John Wayne.

“… to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.”
Nog: What does that mean exactly?
Jake: It means… it means we don’t need money!
-In the Cards (DS9 5×25)

Ronald D. Moore is mocking the very line he wrote for “First Contact”.

Nope. It’s The Wrath of Khan.

Agreed: Wrath of Khan is the best Trek movie ever. I’m not sure which TNG-era movie I would say is best (IMO), but it probably would be First Contact.

Anyone worrying about how businesses are portrayed on TV shows has to remember writers are employees or free-lancers, not management.

So of course they’re cynical about management, as they should be.


I think there have been enough “burdens of command” episodes to show us that it ain’t easy at the top, either.

One of my favorite episodes of TNG, though, was “Lower Decks.” I loved seeing the grunt’s-eye point of view.

Happy Labour Day. The Ferengis they are workers in the galaxy.

The Cloud Minders is considered one of TOS most controversial episodes. Apparently the execs at NBC were worried about having an episode in which people revolted against a government with the aid of the Federation. The story was rewritten to make the people of Stratos less evil in their treatment of the Troglytes. In the cold war years of TOS, the fear of communist revolution made TV execs nervous about depicting episodes/shows supporting Labour movements.

10 13 14
TWOK is a fun film to watch as long as you don’t think about it too much. :-)

As for pick of labor movies, there is the penal colony of Rura Penthe in TUC also for consideration.

What about ST Nemesis? The Remans and Shinzon were used as Slave Labor.

Also, “Author Author” for Voyager, where The Doctor’s holonovel is read by other holograms that were reduced to working in mines?

Ok. The best movies are as follows. 1 the wrath of khan 2 theundiscovered country.3the voyage home.4first contact.5the motion picture the directers edition.6the serch for spock.7 generations8insurection.9 nemisis.10 the final frontier.thats mt list of the best and worst trek movies. hopefully trek 11 will be in the top 3. No. for labor. Voyagers work force was a great 2 parter. the cloud mineders was great. but Number 20 you are correct. author author is a great work as well.

It’s also Labour Day in Canada. Just throwing that out there.

And yes it is spelt with a u…just like colour.

Pfft. I had to work today.

20 – “Nemesis” doesn’t exist. Don’t ever mention it again.

The idea that workers don’t get paid in the 24th century is so nonsensical that I disregard it utterly. If the Federation has no economy, it can’t interact with other races that do! How can a member of the Federation go and buy a drink in a Ferengi bar, for example? How can it cross-finance a big research project with a extra-Federation organisation.

We all know the characters used and earned money in the 23rd century and common sense says that there is a better explanation than some weird banning of finance.

My reading of the: “The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We wish to better ourselves and the rest of humanity” line is that it’s some sort of 24th century joke, hence Jake Sisko and Nog repeat the joke in DS9, with the punchline ‘What does that mean? ‘ ‘Dunno’ being the completion of the joke!

An unpaid (and clearly un-unionised) workforce, to me, represents anything but a positive future.

Mr. Moore has always show a distinct lack of creativity vis. the capactiy to imagine a society different that the one he lives in. He likes to spout off about how this or that thing is “impossible” or “ridiculous” because it doesn’t exist as such on Earth in 2008. To, me, that’s the whole point of science fiction – imagining that such and such a thing is different, and how that would CHANGE society. Putting aliens in three-piece suits and naming them Bill doesn’t seem like much of an intellectual exercise to me.

He’s probably one of those people who confuses the misquote “Money is the root of all evil” with the actual quote “LOVE OF money is the root of all evil.” The accumulation of wealth for its own sake is not the same thing as being remunerated for one’s labor, and trading goods and services for other goods and services. There can be one without the other. “People needed money back then” sounds to me like just another way of saying “people had to do without things they needed back then.”

There has been a complete collapse of society in between our time and Kirk and Picard’s, a time in which technology has made survival commodities like medicine, food, and transportation readily available. To suggest that these events would NOT fundamentally change the economic system into something that looks radically different from today is what seems ridiculous to me.

To summarize, a different economy is not NO economy.

Just because it’s a post-monetary economy doesn’t mean it’s a post-economy economy. The Third World War probably blew the basis for anything but a barter economy to hell–at the very least, the current international economy was wiped out–and the guys who showed up to help reconstruct it are a bunch of hyper-rationalists. The Vulcans have no reason to *not* maintain a planned economy. Combine a clean slate with economy theories coming from a completely new civilisation with an alien history *and* suddenly your commune or libertarian enclave or anarchist operation can move to a new, self-contained world, and who the hell knows how it will affect the distribution of labour and goods? At the very least, we’ll have the opportunity to experiment a lot more than we can now–instead of thousands of years of economy history bearing down on every slice of bread.

My take on that statement is that rampant consumerism is what the 23rd/24th centuries are really devoid of. No push by “suits” to develop the next Big Thing in order to feed the corporate coffers. No steady stream of junk to make the opiated masses feel elitist or cool, junk that will be passe in five years (if not sooner.) And no inequality based on the collection of that junk.

Of course in the ST universe, that has been accomplished primarily through technology.

Sorry, but even a bartering-based economy is ultimately going to lead to IOUs and therefore money. And who cares about a couple of wars on Earth? Why would the Klingons, Romulans or Fereng change their ways?

Clearly the concept of a no-money economy in the Federation is, even by TNG standards, the worst kind of ’80s middle class Californian hippie-dippie garbage.

If the Cold War hadn’t ended, no sane person in the West would have given this nonsense a second thought! The insane ones would have gone to live in the Soviet Union! Unfortunately, too many of them are weilding power in our everyday society!! :p

All I can say is, what would happen to all the singers, artists and random outsiders who don’t fit in, who need to make money to live? Judging by their absence in TNG, they were probably routinely taken behind a barn and shot!

In economic terms, Star Trek TNG = the bridge between TOS and Blake’s 7!

hear hear. artists were usually elite cloud dwellers. and data’s paintings sucked. the NEA was nuked in the eugenics wars, never to be heard from again.

The point isn’t in the details of currency and distribution. I think we can safely assume that creative people are remunerated for their labor in some way we really don’t need to understand the petty details of for the story to work.

The point is, that in a society where there’s no longer competition for basic survival needs, the motivation for acquisition simply as a sign of status – the “most toys” mentality – is removed. People still acquire goods and services that, to paraphrase William Morris, they know to be useful or believe to be beautiful, but not to define their self-worth. Since it’s within anyone’s reach to attain the things they need by the fruits of their labor, the ability to attain in and of itself is no longer a sign that a man is superior in some way to his neighbor.

The details of the system by which goods and services are exchanged is so far beside the point you can’t even bring them together by crossing your eyes.

It’s not out of the question to end homelessness, unemployment, hunger, lack of health care, etc. The problem becomes convincing enough people that doing so would not be “communism” or some other nonsense.

Yeah, but we all know anyone sensible would use the holodecks to have sex several times a day, but we never saw TNG officers visiting holo-brothels! The utopian view of TNG humans just doesn’t add up, I’m afraid!

I can’t say whether the NEA was nuked or not, but it’s music branch obviously survived. There’s at least 5-6 instances of Enterprise crew members giving Classical music recitals at Ten Forward. And, really, can you see Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Music or Literature students/practinioners rushing to join Starfleet Academy?

I think the lack of holo-brothels had more to do with TV censors and sensibilities/requirements than their absolute non-existense. In ST:TNG’s “Offspring” we see two teenagers kissing, and Guinan tells Lal, more or less, that they’re leaving the bar so that they can be intimate in a more, ah, private manner. There’s also ST:TNG’s “The Outrageous Okona,” where sex is clearly implied between Okona and female members of the crew. So it was there… [Picard says, “Not now!” to Beverly in “Naked Time,” after all, not “Not ever!”] it just couldn’t be as overt as it can be nowadays [see ST: Enterprise].

“but we never saw TNG officers visiting holo-brothels!”

So, what do you think Riker meant when he told the Bridge that if anybody needed him he’d be on the holodeck, after Kamala got him all hot and bothered in “The Perfect Mate?” I doubt he was going for a virtual cold shower! ;-)

Um, what about the TNG episode “Disaster”? Keiko was in labor in that one…