The future of the human race in Star Trek is a bright one. Humanity had struggled with war, disease, and hunger, but had “pretty much wiped ‘em out,” by the mid-twenty-second century, as Charles “Trip” Tucker bragged in the first episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. But, as the theme song to the series made clear, “it’s been a long road, getting from there to here.” The path to the bright future of Star Trek’s Earth was a dark and bloody one.
The first indication of that rough path was given at the end of the first season of the original Star Trek, in the 1967 episode “Space Seed.” In that episode, we learned that a group of genetically-enhanced individuals had seized control of more than a quarter of the planet, and that the years 1992-1996 came to be known as the Eugenics Wars as a result. Tens of millions died in conflicts across the globe.
The United States, at least, seemed to have been spared the worst of it, as there was little indication of a global war when Voyager visited 1996 Los Angeles in the two-part episode “Future’s End,” but the novels later posited a scenario where the majority of the fighting was overseas, and imbedded in the very real conflicts in the Balkans and the Middle East during that time.
The United States did not remain free of conflict and bloodshed by any means. Racial and economic tensions that have plagued the nation continued, eventually exploding in the Bell Riots of 2024. The homeless and unemployed in the United States had been driven into concentration camps called Sanctuary Districts in the early 2020s. They were given meager rations, poor healthcare, and extremely limited opportunity to find work. Escaping the Sanctuary Districts became virtually impossible, and they quickly became overcrowded. Though those with criminal records were prohibited from living in a Sanctuary District, the conditions within drove many to acts of theft, violence, and even murder in their desperation for basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter, while the rest of the country willfully ignored the growing problem that lay out of sight, out of mind.
In 2024, a riot broke out in San Francisco’s Sanctuary District A. Hundreds were killed, and violence quickly spread to other Sanctuary Districts around the country. The Bell Riots, as they came to be known, took their name from Gabriel Bell, a resident who selflessly gave his life to protect a group of hostages in the administrative offices of the district. Bell became a national symbol, and his efforts during the riots helped to open a dialogue to finally address the systemic inequalities in the United States.
While progress was being made, humanity still had very far to go. As the Bell Riots raged in the United States, Europe was filled with unrest as well. The Third World War erupted in 2053, and a nuclear exchange between the United States and its allies and the nations of the Eastern Coalition caused massive devastation and killed more than forty million people by the time the war ended.
The devastation would take decades to repair, and some regions endured what came to be known as the Post-Atomic Horror well into the latter years of the twenty-first century. That humanity was able to rebuild and form a stronger, more egalitarian society was thanks to the courage and hard work of those survivors, and some help from an unexpected source.
In 2063, ten years after the war and in the midst of the Post-Atomic Horror, an eccentric scientist named Zefram Cochrane gathered a group of scientists and engineers and their families at an abandoned nuclear missile silo near Bozeman, Montana. There, he created the first human spacecraft with a functional faster-than-light drive. This caught the attention of a nearby Vulcan survey vessel, the T’Plana-Hath, which initiated first contact. With Vulcan assistance, much of the environmental damage to the planet was reversed, and infrastructure was rebuilt, paving the final stones on the path to a stronger, united humanity.
With the beginnings of extraterrestrial commerce, the New United Nations, formed in the wake of the third World War, served as a focal point for off-world contact. As its influence grew, it eventually transformed, and by 2130, the nations of Earth had joined together to form the United Earth Republic.