Bibliophilia & Anarchism in Star Trek: Picard

By María Angeles Castro & Javier Sethness Castro

Following up on our previous analysis of the political and philosophical affinities between Mikhail Bakunin and Richard Wagner, in which we discussed social ideologies such as feminism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and anarchist revolutionism in the epic opera The Ring (1874), we turn now to an examination of the first two seasons of Star Trek: Picard (2020/2022). We hope our artistic study of this television show might help to elucidate the anti-authoritarian themes present in its first and second seasons, as well as draw attention to the numerous literary allusions and extensive bibliophilia (‘book-love’) present in both. Our purpose here is to illuminate the anarchist values and revolutionary messages conveyed in the show through the presence of literature. Reader be forewarned: this text contains spoilers for both seasons.

Star Trek’s Radical Politics

The brainchild of former Army Air Force officer and ex-LAPD cop Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991), Star Trek paradoxically owes debts to the left-wing, counter-cultural, and Civil Rights Movements. As an experiment in psychological and sociological utopianism, set centuries to millennia from now, Star Trek combines “social critique and description[s] of human flourishing in a society […] quite unlike any other.”[1] To begin with, the first two notes of the series’ theme sample “Symphony No. 1” by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), a Jewish Romantic composer and socialist-vegetarian.[2] In addition, the design of the flagship of multiple series, the USS Enterprise, is highly suggestive of a mushroom. As such, it may symbolically allude to the therapeutic and mind-altering functions of the fungus psilocybin, as psychedelic youth had learned during the 1960’s, and as psychiatry is now openly recognizing. Moreover, it was on the Enterprise in The Original Series (TOS, 1966-1969) that Lt. Nyota Uhura (played by Black actor Nichelle Nichols) served as communications officer. In this sense, the positive future envisioned by Roddenberry would involve Black women in positions of relative authority. It was also on this series, in 1968, that television’s first inter-racial kiss took place—this, between Lt. Uhura and Captain James Kirk.

Although the highest-ranking officers of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG, 1987-1994) are (as in TOS) white males—Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Executive Officer William Riker—Lt. Geordi LeForge and Lt. Worf (played by LeVar Burton and Michael Dorn, respectively) are crucial to the Enterprise’s missions. Building on these precedents, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) features the Black male Captain Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, just as the Black female Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) stars in Star Trek: Discovery (2017-present). In addition, Discovery is unique in comparison to most of the other series, for it centers women and LGBTQ experience.

Not only does Star Trek promote feminist, internationalist, and LGBT-friendly messages, but it also champions anti-capitalism. The United Federation of Planets (UFP) depicted in the series symbolizes a future vision of ‘cosmic communism,’ whereby member planets unite in a cooperative, inter-species, and post-capitalist association, while the peoples of Earth abolish poverty and class in parallel. As José-Antonio Orosco observes, Star Trek’s “vision of the future is one that puts a radical anti-racist, egalitarian, post-colonial, and environmentalist message at its core.”[3]

That being said, if the Federation is progressive, it is not necessarily anarchist. Although its anti-authoritarian rationalism shares much with the anarcho-communist vision, the UFP has not abolished military rank or bureaucracy. Moreover, as we see during flashback sequences in Picard, season 2, patriarchal family structures exist within the Federation. Speculatively, it may be due to Roddenberry’s rumored attraction to Trotskyism and membership in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) that the Federation resembles the Fourth International, which was founded in 1938 by former Red Army commander Lev Trotsky himself. Perhaps echoing such politics, in TNG, the Federation’s totalitarian nemesis, the Borg, brings to mind the “dystopian socialism” espoused by Stalinists. Seen this way, the travels of the Enterprise, Discovery, and Picard’s La Sirena can be viewed as visionary explorations in permanent revolution that champion socialist and anarchist values.

Picard, Season 1: Plot Summary and Analysis

The elder Jean-Luc Picard, as a retired admiral of Starfleet—the military-scientific wing of the United Federation of Planets (UFP)—begins his eponymous series as an outcast. He has unexpectedly resigned from Starfleet due to fallout over the botched emergency campaign he had led to evacuate 900 million Romulans, long considered the Federation’s primary enemies, from an imploding supernova.

That being said, just before the Romulan evacuation was to begin, Starfleet’s shipyards at the Utopia Planitia station on Mars are attacked by synthetic workers, or robots, who rebel against their effective enslavement by the Federation through destruction of the rescue armada. These ‘Synths’ are super-exploited and abused by their human supervisors—despite the Federation’s claims to be post-capitalist. The assault on Mars leads the Federation to immediately ban all scientific programs designed to develop artificial intelligence (AI). Picard considers this a great mistake, in light of his intimate and productive bond with the deceased android Lt. Commander Data, as featured on The Next Generation.

Despite the Federation ban on AI, Commander Bruce Maddox teams up with Dr. Altan Inigo Soong, the son of Data’s creator, to continue this innovative work on the distant planet of Ghulion IV, otherwise known as Coppelius. The main conflict in Picard, season 1, revolves around a Romulan intelligence operation to locate this ‘Synth’ homeworld and exterminate its inhabitants.

The season’s finale features a Romulan armada arriving to Coppelius, threatening this communist haven with annihilation. At the same time, the androids launch enormous defensive orchids into space, and Picard and his colleague Dr. Agnes Jurati courageously confront the armada using a single ship. Through a combination of highly advanced AI technology, Jurati’s scientific knowledge, and use of the stunning military tactic known as the “Picard maneuver,” the admiral and doctor make it seem as though La Sirena represents a swarm of starships. In this way, they succeed in distracting the armada, until a Starfleet squadron arrives to back them up. Simultaneously, this scene emblematically affirms the doctrine of the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) those at risk of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide. This question is especially pertinent now, in light of ongoing atrocities committed by the Russian military in Ukraine. At the same time, Picard and Jurati’s gambit conveys the late Black feminist bell hooks’ concept of the anarchism of love: namely, that “[w]hen love is present the desire to dominate and exercise power cannot rule the day.” In place of the dynamic of exploitation and submission governing social relations under capitalism, both anarchism and love presuppose mutual recognition and the leveling of authority.

The first season’s final showdown can be interpreted as a symbolic depiction of the despotism and brutality of the Old World—the Romulans, based on the Roman Empire, as well as Euro-American colonialists and Nazis—against the values of egalitarianism and (trans)humanism represented by the Federation (at its best). Even so, when threatened with immediate desolation, the androids call on their supposed protectors—an “alliance” of synthetic life which exists “beyond the boundaries of time and space”—who promise to invade the galaxy and elevate their fellow Synths by simultaneously annihilating all organic life. In this sense, the in-group threatened with extermination turns around and threatens all out-groups with the same.

To convince the Synth populace to go along with this monstrous plan, the crafty AI Sutra manipulates them into thinking that all organic beings hate them, whether Romulan, human, or otherwise. Toward this end, Sutra sacrifices her fellow Synthetic, Saga, and blames the human crew of La Sirena, in a way that recalls Bakunin’s protégé Sergei Nechaev (1847-1882), who assassinated the agronomy student Ivan I. Ivanov in Moscow in November 1869 for having questioned his authoritarian methods.[4] Although these mysterious ‘über-Synths’ are cut off just before they arrive, such a near-miss is a warning about reactionary forms of rebellion, including fascism and Stalinism, as well as the dangers of technology. It also functions as critical commentary on the reproduction of abuse through trauma, in line with psychodynamic theories of aggression and authoritarianism.[5]

​​[Kore (Isa Briones) rests in a public library after destroying her father’s nefarious archive (Picard, Season 2)]

Picard, Season 2: An Exploration

Picard, season 2, is set in an alternate 24th century, due to a sudden fissure in time. In this dystopian future, the crew of La Sirena must confront hellish social and political realities: namely, climate collapse, xenophobia, and state violence. Beyond the “Bell Riots” episodes of Deep Space Nine, season 2 of Picard is Star Trek at its most “in-your-face” socio-political commentary about the trajectory of our world. Instead of the Federation, a fascistic “Confederation” holds power on Earth. Rather than seek peace and cooperation with other galactic species, the imperialist Confederation seeks human domination over all other forms of life. The Confederation’s highest holiday is known as “Eradication Day,” when “dissidents, alien sympathizers, and terrorists” are publicly executed. Intriguingly, Confederation headquarters is filmed in the Los Angeles Walt Disney Hall, which in our world is a highly exclusive concert hall. Yet in Picard, this temple of music and art becomes the place of execution on Eradication Day. In this sense, the world is upside-down. As Dante Alighieri begins The Inferno (1472):

“I found myself within a forest dark;

For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”[6]

To prevent this authoritarian future from taking hold, Picard and his comrades rescue a Borg Queen and mysteriously employ her to go back in time to the near future in Los Angeles. Then, following the advice of the queen, the crew of La Sirena seek out a so-called Watcher named Tallinn, who they hope can help them stifle the Confederation before it begins. In the meantime, Picard meets a younger version of his old friend Guinan, who channels Afro-pessimism in denouncing global warming, war, oligarchy, and anti-scientific bias in our day. This Afro-pessimist critique reflects despair among those Black Americans who perceive that they are still seen and treated as they were during chattel slavery.

The rest of season 2 revolves around the mission of the crew of La Sirena to ensure that Jean-Luc’s ancestor, Renée Picard, successfully completes a space-flight to Jupiter’s Europa moon that will be critical to the future founding of the Federation. Importantly, the Europa mission will discover a special micro-organism that can be used to clean up pollution and reverse global warming on Earth. In this sense (despite the fate of this exploited life-form), Picard season 2 ends on a happy note.

Bibliophilia and Anarchism in Star Trek: Picard

Bibliophilia, or love for books and literature, is present and relevant throughout the first season of Picard, and parts of the second. The different characters’ interactions with the written word show the general importance of acquiring knowledge through reading, as well as underline some of the heroes’ interest in expanding and interrogating their minds by engaging with classic books of science fiction, philosophy, and children’s literature. Books appear in key moments of the plot of both seasons to illuminate values and reinforce political meaning, connecting the artworks in question to the story line.

Books also function in significant ways as enlarging mirror-images of the characters’ life struggles and adventures and, at the same time, as symbols and metaphors of the entire meaning of the narratives of the two seasons. Not only do books in Star Trek: Picard link the individuality of the literary work with a single character (or a group of characters), but they also convey the values and messages displayed in the show.

The Complete Robot by Isaac Asimov (1982): The first book that comes out in Picard season 1, The Complete Robot appears directly in episode 2, when Dr. Agnes Jurati, a cybernetician from the Daystrom Institute and leading expert of synthetic life on Earth, is visiting Picard in his château in southern France. This is the place to which he has retired after his resignation from Starfleet. In the scene that depicts Dr. Jurati’s visit to Picard in his French estate, she holds and looks inside the pages of Asimov’s literary creation. As though she were hypnotized by the work’s content, she leaves the book aside and reveals to Picard that her lover Bruce Maddox and Lt. Commander Data were friends. She adds that Maddox built an android named Dahj, using Data’s positronic neurons as the basis for her creation. Therefore, in essence, she became one of Data’s two daughters: Dr. Jurati reveals that Maddox created Dahj and her twin sister Soji as an identical pair. Dahj seeks seeks sanctuary at Picard’s château, but is murdered by the Zhat Vash (the Romulan secret police, who want to destroy all synthetic life in the galaxy). Thereafter, the retired admiral feels the imperative to find Soji and rescue her from a certain death.

The Complete Robot (1982) is a collection of science fiction short stories, some of which contain humanoid robots as protagonists. In the story “Let’s Get Together,” androids appear as perfect replicas of kidnapped scientists, who are brought to the USA to destroy millions of people. A security officer who brings the news of the intended invasion and destruction turns out also to be a humanoid robot.[7] This inclusion of menacing and dangerous robots echoes the negative attitude towards synthetic lives present among the Zhat Vash, which contrasts with Picard’s loving view that androids need to be respected and preserved. Love for all creatures in their diverse forms and styles is present as a transhumanistic and cosmopolitan value held by Picard and other characters of the series (such as Maddox and Jurati). Both Asimov’s stories and the protagonists of Picard believe in the need to continue caring for life in general, especially the lives of advanced, intelligent, artificial creatures.

Some of the stories from The Complete Robot point to Dr. Jurati’s professional life, but its significance also expands to other characters involved in the creation of artificial life and to the existence of artificial life itself, including Bruce Maddox, Professor Soong, and the “Synths.” The development and increasing perfection of robotic life is one of the main themes of the book by Asimov and Picard, season 1. Asimov’s idea that androids can grow wiser, more powerful, and more human infuses Picard by analogy, as synthetics in the television series have reached a great deal of advancement as near-perfect machines. In the words of Dr. Jurati, who is mesmerized that Soji eats, drinks, and sleeps, the artificial Other is “a wonder, a technological masterpiece, almost human.”

If humanism can be defined as “the idea of the perfectibility of the individual and of the unity of the human race,” then transhumanism suggests the union of organic and synthetic life.[8] In season 2, we see that Dr. Jurati melds with the Borg Queen, and that during this transition, Jurati loses her will-power and struggles with intense feelings of aggression. By the finale, she has resolved these difficulties by interrupting the notoriously predatory nature of the Borg collective. Now, the Borg is anarchistic rather than totalitarian, and it seeks to protect life rather than destroy it.

The second book that appears in the series is The Tragic Sense of Life (1912) by Spanish existentialist philosopher Miguel de Unamuno. When Picard decides to embark on a mission to rescue Soji from the hatred and wrath of the Zhat Vash, he is denied permission by a Starfleet admiral to use one of their ships for this purpose. Still intent to perform his moral obligation, Picard then tries to get an alternative form of transportation through his friend Raffi, another former Starfleet officer, who now lives alone in the desert. She helps him find Captain Ríos and his starship, La Sirena (The Siren), on which they will conduct this noble but dangerous mission.

While on board, Picard spies the book The Tragic Sense of Life. At this point, Picard speculates hopefully that Captain Ríos is an ex-Starfleet officer. In response, Ríos says that to be Starfleet “to the core” is his tragic sense of life. As such, he alludes to the existential idea, present in Unamuno’s book, of revolutionaries and philosophers sacrificing themselves for others over the course of generations, without necessarily having a clear object or tangible fruit. This masterpiece of philosophical literature is also relevant to Picard’s transhumanism, as it condemns violence and annihilation as wrong, emphasizing instead the Kantian need to think of our fellow humans (and, by extension, Synths) as ends, not means. The defense of the right of other fellow humans to live in Unamuno’s concept clearly mirrors Picard and Ríos’s mission to save android life from the authoritarian aggression and destructive impulsiveness present in the Zhat Vash against out-groups that do not fit their conventional life forms.

Captain Ríos has a special attachment to the Spanish philosopher’s book. He holds it and reads from it several times over the course of the series. During a conversation with Dr. Jurati in episode 4, in which she mentions the immensity of space surrounding them and her father’s own bibliophilia, she asks Ríos about the content of The Tragic Sense of Life. He replies that the book is about “the existential pain of living with the consciousness of death.” Ríos knows that he has embarked on a dangerous mission, and that his life is constantly threatened by accidental or intended destruction. Unamuno’s main philosophical idea about the torment and suffering of being non-existent is evident in Ríos’s statement. Along similar lines, Dr. Jurati’s remark about being conscious of the immensity of space equally points to Unamuno’s desire to extend himself into the illimitability of space and prolong himself into the infinity of time, as a manifestation of his hunger for endless life. In this sense, Ríos and the other characters in Picard seek symbolic immortality through their daring activism, just as artists seek the same through creative artworks. However, because they are programmed to live forever, Soji and her Synth comrades transcend the pain of aging and death.

Star Trek: Picard visually incorporates several other existentialist works, which are briefly displayed on a bookshelf in Captain Ríos’ living quarters: The Stranger (1942) and The Rebel (1951) by Albert Camus; Death in the Afternoon (1932) by Ernest Hemingway; Casebook on Existentialism (1966) by Spanos; Fear and Trembling (1843), The Concept of Dread (1844), and The Sickness unto Death (1849) by Søren Kierkegaard; and again The Tragic Sense of Life by Unamuno. These existentialist books appear as tangible objects in Captain Ríos’ intimate surroundings, acting as reinforcement and confirmation of the character’s inner struggles and self-interrogations. (To this point, at the end of season 2, Ríos confesses that he “never fit [in].”) The philosophical and literary classics which he reads examine death-anxiety and the meaning of life, the tragedy of non-existence, and the absurdity of life, echoing the captain’s desperate mental state. Their allegorical presence also expands into the idea of the seemingly impossible, iconoclastic mission undertaken by Picard.

In reality, Camus—a principled critic of Left authoritarianism, and a supporter of anarcho-syndicalism—defined the human essence as rebellion and freedom.[9] Captain Ríos, as “The Rebel” by Camus points out, personifies the human in revolt, disenchanted with the unjust authority of the Federation. Likewise, the crew of La Sirena as a whole, especially the female ex-Borg Seven of Nine, who is known as a “Fenris Ranger,” or an autonomous vigilante. Camus’ anarchist emphasis on rebellion and freedom underpins the first season of Picard, dovetailing with the themes of the next two classics considered below.

On board La Sirena, the spatial display of books illuminates Ríos’s self-seclusion, fear, and existential Angst due to his remembrance of the tragic suicide of his mentor, Captain Vandermeer, after contemplating a photograph of himself and the captain in his personal effects. Nine years before the events of the first season, Captain Vandermeer had a mental breakdown after implementing a “black directive” issued by the half-Romulan Commodore Oh, head of Starfleet security. This order was to kill the ambassador Beautiful Flower and his protégé, Jana, who are emissaries from a strange new world. This encounter takes place in the same sector of space to which Maddox had fled after the ban on synthetics. By looking back at a drawing of Jana he made, Ríos comes to realize that she is connected to Soji, and this increases his philosophical Angst.

In sum, the “synthetic question,” as posed fearfully by powerful bureaucratic forces, threatens widespread self-destruction, but it also encourages the reconstructive revolt successfully carried out by the warriors of La Sirena. The “happy ending” of season 1 is consistent with Camus’ advocacy of rebellion in place of suicide, given the absurdity of existence.

The Three Musketeers (1844) by Black French writer Alexander Dumas: In episode 4 of Picard, season 1, the admiral visits the Romulan relocation hub on the planet Vashti fourteen years prior to the show’s events. Like a wise man bearing gifts, Picard brings the adventure novel The Three Musketeers to Elnor, a Romulan orphan boy who has been adopted by the all-female warrior-nuns known as the Qowat Milat. Young Elnor is eager to immerse himself in the historical romance, and Picard is shown reading to him from the book’s fifth chapter. This sees the hot-headed, robust squire D’Artagnan and the King’s “Three Musketeers” abandon their duels against each other to join forces and fight off a posse of Cardinal Richelieu’s Guards.[10] In this case, Dumas’ text about ancien régime France runs parallel to, and perhaps informs, the events in Picard, just as our own socio-political reality influences the show, too.

Rather like D’Artagnan, Elnor becomes a powerful, perceptive, though impulsive, young warrior, as he demonstrates in defense of Picard on many occasions. In this role, Elnor (like Starfleet) serves the Federation, much as the Musketeers serve the royal family of France—however fundamentally a post-capitalist galactic federation should differ politically from a monarchy. To extend the metaphor, the crew of La Sirena represents the “band of dare-devil heroes” known as the Three Musketeers (while being twice their number, half of them women).[11] Like the protagonists of Picard,D’Artagnan and the Musketeers are “good and true” precisely because, within the context of a corrupt world, they are prepared to “dare any danger in the common cause,” including taking “the law into [their] own hands.”[12]

Indeed, in “The Organization of the International Brotherhood” (1866), the outline of an anarchist secret society, Bakunin describes the Musketeers’ well-known slogan—“one for all and all for one”—as the “sacred and fundamental rule of theinternational federation” sought by the Brotherhood.[13] Likewise, in Anarchy (1891), Errico Malatesta recognizes the Musketeers’ call to arms as the appropriate alternative to the bourgeois principle of “each for himself,” which gives rise to “the war of all against all.”

Although the classic Don Quixote (1605/1615) by Miguel de Cervantes does not appear physically during the first season of Picard, it nonetheless exerts a powerful influence on the retired admiral’s character. The protagonist of this literary masterpiece, Don Quixote, is an idealistic old member of the gentry, motivated by moral justice and a chivalrous desire to protect and help people in need. After all, Don Quixote decides to take up knight-errantry after he goes mad reading heaps of medieval romances. The character’s delusions and resort to direct action make him embark on numerous adventures, always in search of beauty and the repair of wrongs. As Walter Benjamin understood, “spontaneity, intoxication, and salvation” are inseparable from anarchy.[14] In other words, the struggle for liberation is intimately connected with inspiration, illumination, and normative defiance. In turn, iconoclastic values typify the missions of both Picard and his literary predecessor. As the Starfleet officer decides to launch a very difficult, almost impossible mission to protect and rescue synthetic life, he has almost melted into Cervantes’ hero. Picard’s identification with Quixote is made explicit in episode 8 of season 1, when he disparages himself as a “quixotic, senile, and paranoid old man” before Admiral Clancy, Starfleet’s commander in chief, who agrees that he is quixotic. In the end, Picard’s heroic madness brings positive solutions and restores harmony in the galaxy.

Another indirect literary reference is the queer anarcho-aristocrat Lev Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych” (1882). After saving the Synths from the Romulan armada, Picard dies—though he is soon resurrected in a new body. As he lies moribund on Coppelius, he is comforted by his comrades from La Sirena. During this scene, he becomes elated at the sight of Elnor and caresses his face, in a way that is strongly reminiscent of Tolstoy’s titular character, who cuddles with the handsome peasant youth Gerasim at night before passing away. While this convergence also alludes to bell hooks’ vision of the anarchism of love, Picard’s accomplished life contrasts radically with Ivan Ilych’s infamously conventional ‘death-in-life.’[15]

Dante’s Inferno (1472): In the second episode of Picard, season 2, the protagonist cites the Inferno after drinking a sickening cup of coffee within the altered future timeline. This harrowing episode, together with subsequent episodes, functions to highlight the corrupt and infernal aspects of capital and authority. The powerful entity known as Q serves as Virgil to Picard’s Dante, as they progress through various circles of hell on earth. At Picard’s château, Q reveals house slaves, barren fields, an extensive armory, a collection of skulls of defeated alien rivals, and an enclosed rather than open sky. Such explorations of capitalist sinfulness continue in the near-future sequences, set in Los Angeles, with scenes featuring homelessness and the brutality of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids.

In episode 7 of the second season of Picard, the titular character’s mother tells paraphrases Sun Tzu’s Art of War (c. 5thcentury BCE) when she insists that “There is no better teacher than one’s enemy.” Moreover, while at the manor, Picard and his friend Tallinn hide from a Borg assassination team by descending into a basement that is hidden behind a special bookshelf, in a manner reminiscent of the portal to Narnia featured in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950). Lastly, Kore—Soji/Dahj’s counterpart in season 2—remotely destroys the archive of her father’s gruesome, fascistic techno-experiments while sitting down in the stacks of a public library, with a poster that says “Open a Book, Open Your Mind” behind her.

Picard’s Contradictions

 That being said, Picard is not flawless in terms of its vision of liberation. The first season opens—like Don Quixote—with the retired admiral in his château. Although he lives a secluded life, it is not strictly speaking a simple one. Indeed, Picard’s home sequences were filmed at Sunstone vineyards, designed after a feudal estate, in a manner suggestive of the archaic power of landlords. Admittedly, this problem starts in The Next Generation, where the family estate first appears, however much grander it is depicted in the reboot. Moreover, the flashbacks to Picard’s childhood on the manor in season 2 show us a traditionally patriarchal family unit, based on the fatal abuse of Picard’s mother by his father. Remarkably, these elements of the show contradict the utopian, post-capitalist dimensions of earlier series of Star Trek. This is not to overlook the anti-authoritarian themes of Picard, as we have discussed above. Yet, we would expect a future socialist Federation to have abolished private property and authoritarianism in the family. Even so, the depiction of such backwardness within supposedly liberated futures is sobering, although a simpler explanation may be that these lapses reveal the screenwriters’ respect for certain forms of authority that would be anachronistic within the context of an anarcho-socialist future.


We have seen how Picard creatively integrates literary and existentialist classics to strengthen its message of cosmic consciousness and revolt. As during the Cold War, when Star Trek was first conceived, Picard takes a critical view of Machiavellianism and bureaucratic domination wherever they may be found, both in fiction and (by extension) in reality. As such, the series communicates an anarchist, transhumanist spirit that rejects the neo-fascism of the Romulan Empire and Confederation, plus the dystopian socialism of the traditional Borg and “über-Synths” alike. Finally, Picard calls the Federation to account for betraying its principles and allowing itself to be led astray. In both the first and second seasons, the crew of La Sirena take direct action to salvage the future. This is all timely advice for our own precarious political moment.


María Castro is professor in the French and Spanish Department at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Her publications in specialized literary journals include work on themes related to the intersection of art and literature in the Spanish-speaking and European worlds. She is a non-Jewish member of LA Jews for Peace.

Javier Sethness Castro is author of Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe (IAS/AK Press) and Eros and Revolution: The Critical Philosophy of Herbert Marcuse (Brill) and editor/translator of I Am Action: Literary And Combat Articles, Thoughts, and Revolutionary Chronicles by Praxedis Guerrero (AK Press).



[1] Petteri Pietikainen, Alchemists of Human Nature (London: Routledge, 2016), 9.

[2] Stuart Feder, Gustav Mahler: A Life in Crisis (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 223.

[3] José-Antonio Orosco, Star Trek’s Philosophy of Peace and Justice: A Global, Anti-Racist Approach (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022), 2.

[4] James Goodwin, Confronting Dostoevsky’s Demons: Anarchism and the Specter of Bakunin in

Twentieth-Century Russia (New York: Peter Lang, 2010).

[5] Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (New York: Henry, Holt, & Co., 1973).

[6] Dante Alighieri, The Inferno, trans. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2003), 3.

[7] Isaac Asimov, The Complete Robot (London: Harper Voyager, 2018), 164-82.

[8] Ze’ev Sternhell, The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution, trans. David Maisel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 76.

[9] Jeffrey C. Isaac, Arendt, Camus, and Modern Rebellion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 149; Albert Camus, Camus at Combat: Writing 1944-1947, ed. Jacqueline Lévi-Valensi, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Princeton University Press, 2006), 196.

[10] Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers, trans. Lord Sudley (London: Puffin, 2003), 49-60.

[11] Ibid 4.

[12] Ibid, 62, 378, 435.

[13] Ibid 77; Mikhail Bakunin, Selected Writings, ed. Arthur Lehning, trans. Steven Cox and Olive Stevens (New York: Grover Press, 1973), 75 (emphasis in original).

[14] Peter Demetz, “Introduction” to Walter Benjamin’s Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 1978), xlv.

[15] David Danaher, “The Function of Pain in Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Il’ich.” Tolstoy Studies Journal, vol. 10 (1998): 20-28.