Star Trek III Gives Fan-Favorite Character The Oddest Plot Hole

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock features one of the weirdest plot holes in the entire franchise. Doctor Leonard McCoy—known to his friends as Bones—attempts at one point to hire a pilot to fly him to a forbidden area of space. Given the “off-limits” nature of where McCoy wants to go, the pilot tells him it will be an expensive trip, to which McCoy responds, “Money, I’ve got.” The only problem is that other people in Star Trek repeatedly mention that they don’t use money in their time. So what gives?

A Future With No Money

star trek voyage home

In the very next movie of the original film series, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Captain Kirk makes no less than two very specific statements implying that money is obsolete by the 23rd century. The first time is when he tells his crew, “They’re still using money. We gotta find some.” The second time is when Gillian Taylor says, “Don’t tell me they don’t use money in the 23rd century.” to which Kirk replies, “We don’t!”

One could assume that McCoy was lying to the alien pilot, except at that point in Star Trek III, he was semi-possessed by Spock’s ghost and most likely too discombobulated to lie. That and Spock isn’t big on the whole fibbing thing.

All Needs Are Met

Looking up what McCoy was talking about only raises more questions. Try Googling “Do they use money in Star Trek?” and you’ll get a bunch of contradictory theories that basically amount to “No, but Yes, but no.” In frank terms, it would appear that Gene Roddenberry wanted the future of Star Trek to be post-capitalist, but other writers had differing opinions. From there, it seems yet more writers have tried to come up with a plausible explanation that boils down to “The Federation doesn’t use money, but it has money, so it can do business with non-Federation members.”


Everyone Else Uses Money

Let’s see if we can break this down further. The general idea is that the citizens of the Federation no longer use money because everybody has everything they need, and there’s really no use for it. Different societies, like the Ferengi, however, still use hard currency like gold-pressed latinum. We’ll ignore that for now, though, because we’re mostly dealing with the Federation and McCoy’s secret treasure stash.

A Secret Millionaire

So the Federation (and, by extension, Starfleet) have no use for money. However, instances like McCoy’s comments in Star Trek III and Kirk mentioning selling his house in Star Trek Generations have created plotholes that writers and fans have tried to fill by saying that the Federation does have money—Federation credits—but that no one uses it because they don’t need to. Continuing with this line of thinking, it’s conceivable that McCoy could have a fortune in Starfleet back pay just sitting in a bank somewhere accumulating dust.

Is There A Secret Federation Bank Account?

Unfortunately, there’s no way that’s what McCoy was talking about. There’s a reason that drug dealers don’t take credit cards, and that reason is because cash can’t be traced. There’s no way that a pilot offering to take McCoy somewhere illegal is willing to do so for official Federation credits. A shady backroom deal like the one McCoy tries to set up in Star Trek III would almost certainly be done using Latinum or some other “no-questions-asked” currency.

Who knows if Federation credits even have a physical representation? Is an unknown alien pilot who admits to McCoy that he’s never been to Earth before really going to open up a Federation bank account so he can have McCoy transfer the credits? The answer is no, no, he’s not.

Easily Explained As A Writer’s Mistake

Could McCoy have a stash of gold-pressed latinum somewhere? Probably not, because he has no use for money while living and working in the Federation. Why would he go out of his way to transfer Federation credits into another currency he’ll never use?

It’s not like McCoy knew prior to Star Trek III that Spock might die and transfer his consciousness into Bones, resulting in the need for him to charter an illegal flight. The only plausible explanation is that the line about McCoy having a bunch of money saved up was written in error.

A simple plothole that in no way affects anyone’s enjoyment of Star Trek but is fun to point out in a nerdy article online. To quote the Simpsons, “Boy, we really hope someone got fired for that blunder.”

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