The STAR TREK Episode Quietly “Banned”

Way back in 1992, when the IRA was still carrying out a terrorist campaign on the British mainland, they placed a bomb at the Baltic Exchange in the heart of London’s financial center. This killed three people and injured more than ninety. What is less well known is the impact this terrorist atrocity had on an episode of Star Trek.

The BBC carried an interesting in-depth article discussing this little-known side-effect.

In the Next Generation episode The High Ground, the crew of the Enterprise is sent on a mercy mission to deliver medical supplies to the war-torn non-affiliated planet Rutia IV, in the middle of a decades-long conflict with rebel separatists called the Ansata.


The Enterprise crew cannot intervene in the conflict itself, internal to the planet, because to do so would violate the Prime Directive. While Chief Medical Officer Dr. Crusher, Commander Data, and Lieutenant Worf relax in a cafe, a bomb goes off in a public plaza, injuring many bystanders.

The rest of the episode deals with Captain Picard having to navigate the political complexities of an ongoing armed struggle while trying to protect his crew. The episode features an exchange between Captain Picard and Commander Data. Data Says:

“I’ve been reviewing the history of armed rebellion, and it appears that terrorism is an effective way to promote political change.”

Picard responds

“Yes it can be, but I have never subscribed to the theory that political power flows from the barrel of a gun.”

Data then says:

“Yet there are numerous examples of when it was successful. The independence of the Mexican state from Spain, the Irish unification of 2024, and the Kenzie rebellion. Would it then be accurate to say that terrorism is acceptable when all options for peaceful settlement have been foreclosed?”

Picard thinks, and then says:

“Data, these are questions that mankind has been struggling with throughout history. Your confusion is only human.”

Referencing Irish Reunification so soon after the deadly bomb in London touched a nerve. It also fell foul of some legislation.

Just like in the US, where First Amendment Rights do not extend to advocating for terrorism if it incites, threatens, or conspires to commit violence, in the UK promoting the aims and objectives of a proscribed terrorist organization was against the law.


At the time, US TV shows often debuted internationally several years after their original broadcast. The episode was originally shown in the US in 1990. Come 1992, and its debut elsewhere, the exchanged dialogue was highlighted and the episode was not broadcast on the BBC or Irish public broadcaster RTÉ.

In the end, the episode was aired out of sequence sometime later, with that exchange removed.


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