Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Herschel Conner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Benjamin Goldberg, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amy Rust, Ph.D.


Autism, Autonomy, Genetics, Humanity, Rights, Victim-Blaming


In 1987, more than two decades after Star Trek: The Original Series aired on television for the first time, the Enterprise returned to delight audiences with an all-new crew in Star Trek: The Next Generation. With the new generation came new issues and adventures for the crew and the audience to explore, and the popularity of the show lead to the production of three successful spin-offs. These four new shows in the Star Trek franchise dealt with more complex plots and commentaries than the original series before them; three characters in particular – Lt. Commander Data, Dr. Julian Bashir, and the Emergency Medical Hologram – demonstrate certain questions and issues about personhood and humanity. There is an exploration of what it means to be human in every character’s storyline, from Data winning his right to self-determination, to Dr. Bashir revealing he is genetically enhanced, and to the EMH discovering his autonomy. Through these characters, Star Trek takes the audience on a journey of self-discovery and identity, while opening up room for discussions about neurodiversity and neurodivergent representation, intersecting oppressions and limitations, genetics, victim-blaming, and ableism.