At the start of the "Lens Flare: the Motion Picture" 2009 "Star Trek" film, Kirk gets into a fight in a bar with a bunch of Star Fleet cadets. He does NOT start the fight (the first punch is thrown by them), they gang up on him and beat him up. Yet, the worst punishment they seem to face - instead of disciplinary hearings or being dropped from recruitment - is being told by Captain Pike to clear out of the bar. Next day, they are happily on the same shuttle as Kirk.

Why weren't they disciplined for their actions?

  • 33
    Real answer: because the writers are not sailors and have no idea about real military culture. In the real world they'd have lost their places at the Academy.
    – Gaius
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 6:07
  • 9
    The writers think sailors love to fight in bars. These types of incidents have also been referred to and shown in the older TV series, i.e. Picard's dodgy heart. They seem to employ a 'boys will be boys' attitude.
    – n00dles
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 15:10
  • It was a different time, a bar fight was just not seen as that big of a deal.
    – HighInBC
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 16:48
  • 1
    @HighInBC: So you're saying that the Federation had not yet raised the bar on ethical conduct? Hmm.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 1:39
  • @DVK-in-exile: Thanks for the generous bounty! The question was excellent, and it was fun to think about it. :-D
    – Praxis
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 3:08

5 Answers 5


Because Captain Pike decided, for better or worse, to give them a break.

As he is portrayed in the Abrams-era films, Captain Pike is a firm but nice guy. If "Cupcake" (as he has come to be known) and the other cadets had a note in their records saying that they beat an unarmed civilian to a pulp for no apparent reason, they might have a tough time finding future assignments, and that's assuming they aren't thrown out of the Academy itself.

Pike gave them a second chance. This is a luxury that Pike also grants Kirk several times in both Abrams-era films.

Note: I'm not saying that Pike should have given them a second chance, nor am I saying that he has the authority to do so. He was the only senior officer present in the bar and chose not to report the incident to the cadets' superiors at the Academy. If someone can face disciplinary action for cheating on a test (i.e. Kirk), they would most certainly face disciplinary action for beating an innocent unarmed man senseless. Since their careers have suffered no ill effects — Cupcake was an officer on the Enterprise in Into Darkness — we must assume that Pike did not report the beating. By doing so, he subverted the normal course of disciplinary action. Whether that is right or wrong in this case is beyond the scope of the original question.

  • 13
    (1) Why would Pike want stupid thugs in Star Fleet in the first place? (2) why does he have the leeway to do so? Does Starfleet equivalent of UCMJ give him that much leeway in clear assault on civilian case? Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 3:09
  • 15
    @DVK Well, it is the Redshirt era
    – Izkata
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 3:10
  • 14
    @DVK : The intelligence level of everyone on screen in those films is not that high.
    – Praxis
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 3:11
  • 4
    @Praxis - Pike saw Kirk's data (he said so explicitly), he didn't just evaluate him from the bar. And Kirk didn't do anything majorly objectionable in the bar and clearly held his own in a physical fight against severely overwhelming opponents. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 3:26
  • 18
    In the actual military "firm, but nice" means an officer will get a sergeant to scuff the offenders up for a series of 23-hour days instead of writing any career-damaging reports -- and hence saving their careers at the cost of copious amounts of sweat and blood. In the US Army this sort of treatment tends to begin with the dreaded instruction"Report to SSG ScaryGuy at Secluded Place at 04:00 to begin 'remedial training'. Bring a 2-quart." Any time you are told to "bring a 2-quart" (the large-size canteen) its going to be bad. (The other "career-preserving, but not as nice" is FM 22-102...)
    – zxq9
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 7:29

Who said they weren't?

In TNG era we see several instances of cadets being disciplined for various actions, notably the flight accident when a cadet was killed. So, we know that discipline does probably exist.

Regarding this specific incident, when Pike entered the bar, he ordered all the cadets outside; what is to say their details weren't recorded and they were to be given discipline later on? We simply don't have sufficient evidence to believe they weren't disciplined in some way.

Yes, we do see them sitting on the same shuttle as Kirk. However, bear in mind that it's possible they were to be disciplined at Starfleet Academy later; they weren't heading straight off to serve aboard the Enterprise necessarily - Kirk ends up at Starfleet Academy from that trip. So, I'd argue that they probably did receive discipline of some form, but it was to be dealt when they arrived at Starfleet Academy - all instances of cadet discipline we see in the rest of the Star Trek (that I can recall anyway) are conducted at Starfleet Academy!

Yes, by the time that Kirk is aboard the Enterprise the other thugs that were involved in the brawl are also aboard, this is several years later. In fact, based upon this, we could draw the conclusion that they were disciplined! If you consider that they were cadets at the time when they assaulted Kirk, then three years later were still cadets, probably in their final year (because they were serving aboard a starship), then, yes it is possible they weren't disciplined. However, if they were in second year or above, then being held back could relate to disciplinary action being served. Just for context, in the Nova Shuttle incident we see in 'The First Duty', for manslaughter, Wesley Crusher was required to repeat that year at the Academy. If a similar punishment was dealt to the thugs involved in the brawl, this could explain this. However, I do concede a more plausible explanation would be that they were simply first years.

So, basically, I fail to see any evidence to support the contention that they didn't get disciplined! Even if it was relatively mild disciplinary action, I expect that, considering how abhorrent violence was considered in 23rd century society to a Starfleet officer (well, except for Kirk in the prime reality), they would have been dealt at least some disciplinary action!

  • 1
    Nice answer, N_Soong. :-) But violence is abhorred in the Federation, and I believe a crime of their magnitude (and it really was a crime) would not go without severe punishment. It is the kind of thing that would severely curtail a Starfleet career, that could lead to expulsion from the Academy, or worse. The lack of serious effects is the evidence to suggest that the beating wasn't taken up at a higher level.
    – Praxis
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 3:57
  • @Praxis yes, but thinking about the death of the pilot that we see in TNG, for manslaughter cadets are able to remain at the Academy. Based on that, I wouldn't be surprised if they were disciplined in some manner. And regarding violence being a crime, well, surely that would make Kirk from TOS one of the worst criminals of the era? ;P Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 3:59
  • 2
    Hehe, but TOS Kirk's victims weren't unarmed innocents! :-) Regarding TNG: the fact that it was manslaughter and not murder has to do with the fact that there was no intent to kill in the Locarno incident. It was an accident that was covered up. In 2009 Trek, there was an actual intent to do harm to Kirk.
    – Praxis
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 4:12
  • I think this answer is probably closer to how it would have happened. There's nothing to say that the cadets didn't get sent back afterwards to clean up the bar and pay for the damage, nor that they didn't get latrine cleaning duty.
    – Jane S
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 4:20
  • 2
    Unless it were disciplinary action!
    – Jane S
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 4:30

Because this is a world where a hot head cadet who hasn't even finished the academy can be promoted directly to Captain and given the flagship of the fleet. Hot head cadets are highly prized, apparently. The Federation needs guys who will gang up on a guy in a bar. I figure that while Kirk got a ship, at least one of the thugs in the bar was made an Admiral.

  • 10
    Sadly, this is the answer that better fits the films. +1.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 9:54

They were under orders from Pike.

Do note that this is strictly a personal theory with no overt evidence, but Pike is suspiciously overly familiar with Kirk and his history. I wouldn't put it past Pike to set up the situation in order to recruit Kirk; as evidenced in the TNG episode Coming of Age, Starfleet are not beyond creating misleading situations for training or testing purposes and it's not a large stretch to see Pike using similar justifications, especially given the more cavalier attitude that the Kirk-era enjoys.


One of the cadets...the one who punched Kirk over and over again who was sweating and turned pale when Pike saw him was not around on the shuttle when his mates were. When Uhura said Kirk had enough he kept on punching looking to beat him near to deathHe was most likely disclipined if not expelled.

  • 2
    Can you provide any references to help support your answer?
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 0:33
  • The reference would be the scene Pike walks in everyone freezes. The scene he talks to Kirk to convince him to join up. When he takes his bike to the Iowa shipyards to join the shuttle occupants to sign up. He sees his assailants minus the one who nearly beat him to a pulp. They seem less than enamored and shocked to see him when he says "carry on gentlemen." This can infer that they were reprimanded but allow to continue on duty. But the absence of their comrade could infer he was just written out of the scene.
    – ChrisM
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 7:24
  • But it can also imply Pike dealt with him as such does not live up to Starfleet material and he was put in the brig or dismissed from the service.
    – ChrisM
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 7:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.