Star Trek Controversy Stopped Episode From Airing For 17 Years

By TeeJay Small | Published

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Long before the existence of the term “cancel culture,” television shows and other forms of art were censored for a myriad of reasons, often failing to go to air for years on end. This was the case for a 1990 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was banned in the UK for nearly two decades due to allegations that the episode was supportive of the IRA. The season 3 episode, titled “The High Ground,” portrays a guerrilla separatist group called Ansata, who site an at-the-time made-up historical event called the “Irish Unification of 2024.”

While the line was initially written as an offhand comment, the sentiment strikes true in the real world, as Northern Ireland is due for a consent vote to gain full independence in December of 2024. Fans who have any understanding of Irish politics throughout the last several centuries can no doubt spot the reason why the controversial line resulted in the episode being pulled from UK televisions.

As with many episodes of the sci-fi series, this Star Trek: The Next Generation episode posits the pros and cons of utilizing acts of terror to gain freedom from an oppressive regime.

“The High Ground” portrays a guerrilla separatist group called Ansata, who cites a historical event made up at the time called the “Irish Unification of 2024.”

Like many Star Trek plots, the moral center and exploration of ethics found within “The High Ground” is eerily prescient today, as Israel and Palestine continue their bloody conflict at the Gaza Strip. The episode centers on the Ansata soldiers capturing the entire Enterprise crew, after Jean-Luc Picard and his crew are tasked with brining medical supplies to the war-torn region.

Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The High Ground”

Though the Ansata use terrorist tactics to gain a foothold in the conflict, the episode depicts the separatist group as sympathetic, making it highly controversial to any region impacted by similar violence.

Still, it seems likely that the episode could have aired within the borders of the UK if the line hadn’t been so specific to the nation’s ongoing political firestorm. After all, many television shows and films are able to make insurgent groups sympathetic to the audience by stripping the titles of real-world conflicts and using the characters and their motivations to paint allegorical pictures of true tales.

Though a version of “The High Ground” did air in the mid to late 1990s with several minutes of material edited out for cultural sensitivity, the unabridged version didn’t see the light of day until 2007.

The choice of the Star Trek writers to utilize the phrase “Irish Unification of 2024” seems to be an intentional showing of their personal opinions regarding the controversial situation.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode was originally set to air in 1990, nearly a full decade before the ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland titled “The Troubles” would finally come to a close. Just one year earlier, a bomb allegedly planted by the IRA resulted in the death of 11 at a music school, meaning a Star Trek episode directly sympathizing with the group would be, at best, a hard sell to the people of the UK.

Though a version of “The High Ground” did air in the mid to late 1990s with several minutes of material edited out for cultural sensitivity, the unabridged version didn’t see the light of day until 2007. Now that the actual Northern Ireland referendum of 2024 is on the horizon, fans have begun to wonder if the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode will serve as predictive programming in the years to come.

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