5 Spiritual Life Lessons from “Star Trek”

star trek

Those who know me know of my undying love for the cheesy, overacted, overheated slice of TV heaven that is Star Trek (the original series). I vividly remember catching the very first episode (my parents were yelling at me to come downstairs to welcome my sister home from college and I was all like, “Yeah, later – there’s a cool alien on the TV”). I even built (badly) a plastic model of the Enterprise.

To this day, and having seen every episode multiple times (#nerd), I appreciate the storylines, characters, and vision that Gene Roddenberry gave us of the future. One of my ultimate fangirl moments was riding in an elevator with William Shatner. Star Trek has stayed with me and helped shape my worldview.

There are some moments that are worth remembering as we navigate our lives. So excuse me as I beam myself up to share some helpful Life Lessons from Star Trek.


In the episode, “Return to Tomorrow,” Kirk, Spock, and some random crew babe are asked to exchange bodies with superior disembodied aliens in order for the aliens to use them to build new “bodies” for themselves. It’s a gamble and naturally, everyone has an opinion. But Kirk makes a plea that the whole point of their mission is to engage with fantastic, out-of-the-box moments. The key phrase of this speech is, “Risk…is our business.”

What are you holding back from? Because it can’t be any scarier than putting your consciousness inside what looks like patio decorations from the ‘70s.


Kirk has been bitten by the Mogatu – a ridiculously fake creature rightfully spoofed by Will Ferrell in Zoolander. Nonetheless, he’s dying and the only thing that can save him is a local witch woman. She uses a “Mako” root. Despite being a hardcore medical man, McCoy is sufficiently intrigued and wants to know more. Be like Bones: stay open to the weird and be willing to learn.


The final episode of the series ranks as perhaps one of the most “cheese-tastic” of them all. In “Turnabout Intruder” a jilted lover of Captain Kirk’s “exchanges” bodies so she can take over command. It’s nuts on multiple levels (not the least being one scene where “Captain Kirk” is delicately filing his nails in his cabin), but there’s a point. Once Spock figures out what’s up, he has to convince the rest of the crew that the apparent Captain is not who he seems to be. Needless to say, the concept seems outlandish. Gradually, Fake Kirk’s behavior makes them question what seems “real.” At one point in the episode, Spock speechifies about how the crew is trained to accept many odd things that seem impossible. Do the same.


One of my favorite episodes is “The Doomsday Machine.” The Enterprise encounters a wrecked starship, one that’s fallen victim to a huge planet-killing device. They rescue the captain, Commodore Decker. At one point, Spock decides to veer off and alert Starfleet to the danger. He knows that the ship cannot combat the Planet Killer alone. However Decker, now temporarily in charge of the Enterprise, stubbornly insists on staying and fighting a losing battle. The scene is riveting and Spock’s logic is sound: in impossible situations, it’s a good idea to humble yourself, pull back, and regroup. Decker’s insistence on “full speed ahead” proves tragic. Don’t be a Decker.


“Amok Time” is epic, if only for the awesome “fight scene” music. I want this to be my ringtone.

Spock is essentially in heat and beams down to Vulcan to get his freaky-deaky on. He brings along Kirk and McCoy, who are getting their first glimpse of Vulcan culture. The first person they encounter is the imposing “T’Pau,” who is roughly the equivalent of Queen Elizabeth II, the Pope, and General Patton. You’d forgive them for being a little intimidated. Nonetheless, at one point, McCoy – in his genial Southern accent – asks, “Ma’am, I don’t understand…” He respectfully poses a question. No matter how out of your depth you may feel, a polite question or two is always OK. It’s about learning and increasing your understanding of things.

Hopefully now, you have the equivalent of a spiritual “Tricorder reading” to help better navigate the next adventures in your life. So… “live long…and prosper.”

-Cindy Grogan

Photo: “Star Trek” publicity photo

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20 comments on “5 Spiritual Life Lessons from “Star Trek”

  1. Ha, and here I thought only “Twilight Zone” taught me so much (once I got past some frightening episodes). Good pointers from “Star Trek,” which also drew me to the family floor model television set.

  2. Albert Loan

    A celebration of Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek is so needed amidst the nonsense that passes for Star Trek since CBS took over the franchise. Enjoyed your article.

    • Avatar photo

      So glad you liked it. I personally agree — could never warm up to TNG and onwards. TOS remains the best.

      • SW Thompson

        TNG had nothing to do with CBS. TNG was a syndicated series as was DS9 and Voyager.

      • Harold Boyer

        According to a lot of people, the problem with TNG was Rick Berman. Although, I do enjoy Enterprise…

  3. The Omega Glory.” We the People was not just written for the Yangs but the Coms. They must apply to everyone or they mean nothing do you understand?” Kirk explaining the Constitution of the United States! Excellent episode and what is needed today to remind us how great a document it is.

  4. My favorite is from A Taste of Armageddon “All right. It’s instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands, but we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today. “

  5. Jim Wilcox


  6. John Giambalvo

    The culture of Star Trek has changed the course of America. To a standing ovation, Shatner was the guest speaker for the celebration of the moon landing at NASA.

  7. Jane Eichenberger

    TOS was the birth of my social conscience. Uhura, black woman, was an officer! In the 1960s, that was HUGE!
    I have no doubt Star Trek made me a better person than I would have been without it.

  8. Aloha Scott

    Brilliant and my kind of warped sence of humor.

  9. The episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” seems especially relevant for speaking to persistent divisions seemingly based on appearances (eg, skin color) alone.

  10. Mike Parmet

    The Doomsday Machine is my favorite TOS episode.

    As far as messages go, we could sure use the Organians from “Errand of Mercy”
    Kirk : “We have the right”
    Ayelborne: “ To kill millions of innocent people, to destroy life on a planetary scale? Is that what you’re defending”

  11. Howard Palys

    Another lesson Star Trek taught us, only a fool fights in a burning house.

  12. “Day of the Dove” has a wonderful lesson as well. The Federation and the Klingons battle on The Enterprise. Meanwhile, an alien draws strength from fight and hatred. I love the final scene when Kirk and the Federation as well as The Klingons start laughing which weakens the alien. It leaves.

  13. Harold Boyer

    Great article! FYI the random crew babe from #1 became Beverly Crusher’s replacement on TNG.

  14. Ughhhh!!!!! Why does the greatest moment in ALL of Star Trek never make these lists?? “[You’re just] a lump of flesh and blood adrift in a universe without end, and the only thing you have that is truly yours is the rest of humanity” Who cries for Adonis.

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