Star Trek: Discovery doesn’t have to abide by the same rules as other traditional network shows, and that means Discovery can go where no Star Trek has gone before.
During Discovery’s most recent episode, Lieutenant Stamets and Cadet Tilly share a moment of excitement over a discovery, landing a Star Trek first in the process: using the word “fuck.” Not just once, but twice.
Star Trek showrunners in the past haven’t been adverse to fitting in various curses. On The Original Series, Bones used to proclaim, “Dammit, Jim!” multiple times. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Captain James. T. Kirk uses the word “dumbass” — incorrectly — while standing on the streets of San Francisco.
While the Star Trek films could have gotten away with even more adult language, network TV rules are known for being stricter about what shows can get away with. According to the Federal Communication Commission’s rules, “Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1464, prohibits the utterance of any obscene, indecent or profane language by means of radio communication.” That said, the FCC also states that context plays an important role in the utterance of “the F-word.”
Depending on the context presented, use of the F-Word or other words as highly offensive as the F-Word may be both indecent and profane, if aired between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Streaming, however, doesn’t have to abide by these rules. One of the advantages that Discovery has being on CBS’ streaming service, All Access, is that the show can use swears without worrying about the FCC’s ramifications.
Still, Discovery producers aren’t looking to go from zero to 60 with the newfound freedom they have on All Access. Producer Aaron Harberts told Entertainment Weekly that things like nudity and streaming still feel weird for Star Trek as a brand. They don’t want to include them just to have them.
“Every writer’s impulse when you get to work on the streaming shows with no parameters is to go crazy,” Harberts said. “But then you look at things like: How does nudity play on Trek? Eh, it feels weird. How does a lot of [profanity] on Trek? Not so great. Are there moments where it merits it that we’re trying to push here and there? I would say we’re trying to push more by having the type of complicated messed-up characters who aren’t necessarily embraced on broadcast.”
Star Trek fans are onboard with the word being used when it feels appropriate. As one person wrote on Reddit, having people get caught up in their geekiness over a scientific discovery is pretty standard for Star Trek. That said, don’t assume you’ll hear another “fuck” being dropped anytime soon.
Star Trek: Discovery airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on All Access.