The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode That Was So Controversial the UK Banned it

One periodically controversial ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ episode that got banned in the UK, following its release.

star trek the next generation

SUMMARY

  • The 1987 show, Star Trek: The Next Generation turned into a popular sci-fi series right after it's release in the US.
  • Despite its popularity, the season 3 episode The High Ground turned controversial in the UK for political reasons.
  • Teasing Britain and Ireland’s uneasy history in The High Ground, the episode got banned in the UK.
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Released more than three decades back in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation, remains one of the most popular projects from the franchise. Its legacy is so enduring that the seven-seasoned series has been ranked as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, with many of its episodes receiving critical acclaim.

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Michael Westmore's work on Star Trek: The Next Generation has been crucial for its success
A still from Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) | Paramount Domestic Television

However, apart from earning fans’ praise for delivering high-concept entertainment, and executing a dramatically satisfying storyline, Star Trek: The Next Generation suffered controversial backlash for one particular episode. Aired in the US in 1990, The High Ground became a subject of controversy over sensitive grounds of violence against Ireland, leading it to get banned in the UK.

Controversial Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Banned in the UK

The popular Star Trek franchise has spawned multiple spin-offs and TV series over decades, and most of them have turned into cult classics. One such iconic TV series is the 1987 show, Star Trek: The Next Generation which not only acquired a nerdy fanbase but even got popularized among celebrities.

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However, despite gaining praise and attention, the show later attracted some heat over one controversial episode. While Star Trek: The Next Generation had many memorable moments, one episode in particular got banned overseas. Released in 1990 in the US, the season 3 episode The High Ground was surprisingly singled out in the UK for political reasons and its portrayal of terrorism.

Sir Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Sir Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation | Paramount Domestic Television

According to reports from Collider, the episode initially caused chaos by portraying a sympathetic view toward violence and domination. However, the main controversy appeared surrounding the character Data, who briefly mentioned a made-up piece of UK history.

Talking about the “Irish unification of 2024” as an example of violence successfully achieving a political aim, Data teased Britain and Ireland’s uneasy history of violence and bloodshed. Further, considering the time when the episode was released, Britain was actually dealing with the IRA, who fought to get the British out of Northern Ireland.

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The scene where Data speaks about Irish unification of 2024 | Paramount Domestic Television
The scene where Data speaks about Irish unification of 2024 | Paramount Domestic Television

Therefore, considering the real-world events that were happening back then, BBC refused to air The High Ground because of the line of dialogue that referenced the reunification of Ireland, which was a sensitive topic. Thus, the United Kingdom banned the particular Star Trek: The Next Generation episode and later aired an edited version on television.

Star Trek Sci-Fi Writer Addressed the Controversial Star Trek Episode

Back in the 80s, when sci-fi writer Melinda M Snodgrass penned down the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The High Ground, she had little idea of the unexpected ripples of controversy it would make. While the show at large acquired legions of followers, the particular season 3 episode found its prosperity in infamy.

Speaking with BBC, Melinda M Snodgrass thus noted her reaction when she got to know about the chaos that the episode had caused in the UK. Since most US TV shows often debuted internationally several years after their original release, Satellite broadcaster Sky reportedly got the opportunity to cut crucial scenes and air an edited version in 1992, in the UK.

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We became aware of it later… and there isn’t much you can do about it. Writing for television is like laying track for a train that’s about 300 feet behind you. You really don’t have time to stop… Science fiction is incredibly important because it allows people to discuss difficult topics – but at arm’s length.

Sci-fi writer Melinda M Snodgrass | image: Bruce Matsunaga/ Wikimedia Commons
Sci-fi writer Melinda M Snodgrass | image: Bruce Matsunaga/ Wikimedia Commons

The remarks used by Data as well as the story certainly paralleled the situation that was prevailing in Northern Ireland at the time. But Snodgrass implied that it was a deliberate move. Using her history major degree and her law school knowledge the sci-fi writer claimed that it’s completely normal to talk about complicated issues as long as no one’s picking a fight.

I was a history major before I went to law school and I wanted to get into that; discuss the fact that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. I mean, these are complicated issues.

A scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation | Paramount Domestic Television
A scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation | Paramount Domestic Television

And when do people feel like their back is so much against the wall that they have no choice but to turn to violence? And is that actually ever justified? I think what I wanted to say was: if we’re talking and not shooting, we’re in a better place.

Eventually, while The High Ground sparked concerns over the exchange between the characters, leading the episode to not be broadcast on the BBC or Irish public broadcaster RTÉ, Star Trek: The Next Generation overall remained popular, even decades later.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is available on Paramount+. 

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Written by Krittika Mukherjee

Articles Published: 1738

Krittika is a News Writer at FandomWire with 2 years of prior experience in lifestyle and web content writing. With her previous works available on HubPages and Medium, she has woven over 1700 stories with us, about fan-favorite actors, movies, and shows. Post-graduate in Journalism and Honors-graduate in English Literature, when this art enthusiast isn't crafting your next favorite article, she finds her escapism in coffee, fiction, and the Wizarding World.