From Elizabeth Dehner to Katrina Cornwell, an exploration of Star Trek and post-traumatic stress

[Image] The mental health professionals of Starfleet: Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman), Katrina Cornwell (Jayne Brooke), Ezri Dax (Nicole deBoer), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis)


        Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was a military and commercial pilot who survived multiple crashes. From inception his utopian vision of the future included clinical counselors as part of the main crews of his Starfleet. The various Star Trek series and episodes did not always present a clear, concise, accurate, or helpful portrayal of Post-Traumatic Stress, however, providing stories of a variety of peoples addressing PTS symptoms for a variety of reasons allowed the disorder to appear more mainstream and potentially helped educate one subset of the audience, while representing another. I wish to view the evolution of the series portrayal alongside the increase of understanding and acceptance of the disorder and answer the following questions:

  1. How does STAR TREK present post-traumatic stress?
  2. How has the portrayal changed over time?
  3. How has the portrayal affected the audience?
  4. How has the audience (and wider society) affected the portrayal?


  • Episode: Star Trek “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (1966)
  • Episode: Star Trek “The Conscience of the King” (1966)
  • Episode: Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Hunted” (1990)
  • Episode: Star Trek: The Next Generation “Family” (1990)
  • Film: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  • Episode: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine  “Emissary” (1993)
  • Episode: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine  “Hard Time” (1993)
  • Film: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
  • Episode: Star Trek: Voyager “Extreme Risk” (1998)
  • Episode: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “It’s Only a Paper Moon” (1998)
  • Episode: Star Trek: Voyager “Lineage” (2001)
  • Episode: Star Trek: Enterprise “The Forgotten” (2004)
  • Film: Star Trek: Beyond (2016)
  • Episode: Star Trek: Discovery “Into the Forest I Go” (2017)
  • Episode: Star Trek: Discovery “The War Without, The War Within” (2018)

Select Readings:

  • The Unheard Cry for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
  • Trauma and Recovery, Judith Lewis Herman
  • Shattered Assumptions, Ronnie Janoff-Bulman
  • Shell shock to PTSD: Military Psychiatry from 1900 to the Gulf War, Edgar Jones & Simon Wessely
  • Star Trek Psychology: The Mental Frontier, Travis Langley ed.
  • Stress Appraisal and Coping, Richard Lazarus
  • The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk