United Federation of Planets

selfsealing stembolts

The United Federation of Planets, usually referred to as ‘the Federation,’ is an interstellar federal republic composed of planetary sovereignties depicted in the ‘Star Trek’ science fiction franchise. Formed in 2161, the planetary governments voluntarily exist semi-autonomously under a single central government based on the Utopian principles of universal liberty, rights, and equality, and to share their knowledge and resources in peaceful cooperation and space exploration.

The Federation is described a post-capitalist, libertarian, constitutional republic, which was composed of more than 150 member planets and thousands of colonies spread across some 6,000,000 cubic light years of the Milky Way Galaxy by 2373. The social structure within the Federation is classless and operates within a moneyless ‘New World Economy.’ It is described as stressing, at least nominally, the values of universal liberty, equality, justice, peace, and cooperation. The Federation also maintains its own quasi-militaristic and scientific exploratory agency, known as ‘Starfleet’ which handles many other governmental processes, sometimes with no other agency’s influence, such as border defense and diplomatic relations.

The television series and films depict Earth and humanity as holding a center-stage political role within the Federation, in some ways first among equals. The legislature, the Federation Council, is located at the Presidio of San Francisco. Several other bodies of the Federation have been depicted. There is an executive branch headed by a Federation President, who keeps offices in the Palais de la Concorde in Paris. There is a judiciary branch as well, the highest court of which is the Federation Supreme Cour. Starfleet is headquartered at Fort Baker, just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. The Federation comes into military conflict with other major powers in the galaxy such as the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, the Cardassian Union, the Borg, and the Dominion. The Federation also has its own semi-independent black ops agency, referred to only as ‘Section 31.’ It can be considered analogous to the Romulan ‘Tal Shiar’ and the Cardassian ‘Obsidian Order.’

The United Federation of Planets has existed as part of the ‘Star Trek’ universe since the first season of the original series and is the primary focus of all the series. The first mention was in the 1967 episode ‘A Taste of Armageddon,’ although other vague references such as just ‘the Federation’ or to the ‘United Earth Space Probe Agency’ were used in prior episodes. As part of the anti-war message he wanted the show to convey, ‘Star Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry intended to depict the Federation as if it was like an ideal, optimistic version of the United Nations. In several following episodes of the original series that were intended as allegories to the then-current Cold War tensions, the Federation took on the role resembling NATO while the Klingons represented the Soviet Union.

The Federation Charter codifies Starfleet’s role and ‘Prime Directive,’ which forbids interference in the natural development of pre-warp civilizations. This is intended to prevent even well-intentioned Federation personnel from introducing changes which could destabilize or even destroy other pre-warp-era cultures. In practice, however, consistent application of the Prime Directive tends to be a controversial issue, and the Federation does not always abide strictly by it, such as when it attempted to strongarm the Organians into forming an alliance with it, or when it initially approved the forced relocation of the Ba’ku from their adopted homeworld (although it was eventually determined that the Ba’ku were not a pre-warp civilization). Starfleet’s ‘Omega Directive’ supersedes the Prime Directive allowing for any means possible to destroy the Omega particle (a dangerously unstable substance) if encountered. Other aspects of the Articles provide for rule of law, equality among individuals and protection of civil and creative liberties, which appears to be based on principles found in contemporary Western political theory. It includes a set of guarantees of civil rights, the ‘Seventh Guarantee’ being analogous to the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and its protection against self-incrimination.

Under the New World Economy material needs no longer existed. People were no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. The challenge and driving force that motivated most people shifted to self-improvement, self-enrichment and the betterment of all humanity. However, the Federation continued to deal with other cultures which had money-based economies. The Ferengi in particular were scornful of the Federation’s economic system. The Federation has exacting requirements for prospective member worlds that wish to join. Caste-based discrimination is forbidden, and major systematic violations of sentient rights, such as the unjust peacetime imprisonment of specially modified soldiers on the planet Angosia, are not tolerated for any petitioner. Furthermore, while most member worlds have single, unified world governments, it is not required for entry, as the Federation will consider ‘associate membership’ of non-unified worlds. The Federation Council is the legislature of the United Federation of Planets. Seats on the Council are filled by representatives from the various Federation Member Worlds. In addition to legislation, only the Federation Council may declare war and frequently passes resolutions which the Federation President and his or her staff must carry out and enforce.

The Federation formed after the end of World War III. On Earth, scientist Zefram Cochrane built humanity’s first warp-capable vessel, the Phoenix. He launched it on April 5, 2063. The warp-testing of this vessel would garner the attention of a Vulcan science ship operating just outside of the Solar System. Vulcans had not previously considered the Solar System of Earth, or Earth itself, worthy of their attention before this time. However, the science ship lands on Earth, and makes first-contact with Zefram Cochrane and the inhabitants of Bozeman, Montana. This contact would be the first time that Earth joins the interstellar community, and begins the road toward the foundation of the United Federation of Planets. In the year 2119, an aging Zefram Cochrane opens the Warp 5 Complex on Earth, in the hope of building a vessel that would be the fastest human starship at the time. Eventually this project would yield the Enterprise NX-01, Earth’s first deep-space exploration vessel. In 2150, a World Government, United Earth, was formed that included virtually all of the old nations on Earth.

Although no single individual is responsible for the foundation of the United Federation of Planets, the exploratory vessel Enterprise NX-01 was a major catalyst. Under the command of Captain Jonathan Archer, it helped build an alliance between the formerly belligerent Vulcan, Andorian, and Tellarite states, and forged a spirit of unity and cooperation in the Alpha Quadrant, culminating in a formal union in 2161. It was first preceded by the Coalition of Planets, which was mainly opposed by the xenophobic group, Terra Prime. The Federation was formed largely out of the aftermath of the Earth-Romulan War of the late 2150s ending in 2160, when the founding members saw the need for interstellar unity to prevent the horror of further war. Archer was one of the individuals who signed the Federation Charter, after giving a historic speech.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.