In the Next Generation Episode Unnatural Selection it is revealed that the Darwin Genetic Research Station was involved in human genetic modification. But in the Deep Space Nine episode Doctor Bashir, I Presume it is revealed that genetic engineering is outlawed in the Federation.

So why was it that the crew of the Enterprise did not react to the fact that the Darwin Station was working on human genetics? Especially when it was found out that they had created children that were the cause of a deadly disease.

Obviously the facts presented in DSN were not in effect during TNG, but was there any retcon reason given for this?

  • Because the point of the episode was a different one. The writers wanted to make a different observation.
    – bitmask
    Sep 5, 2012 at 0:20

2 Answers 2


The topic of Genetic Engineering seems pretty wide in the Federation. There's two examples of legal applications of genetic engineering from that page:

  • By the 24th century, the United Federation of Planets allowed limited use of genetic engineering to correct existing genetically-related medical conditions. (Either TNG 7x19 Genesis or DS9 5x16 Doctor Bashir, I Presume; the reference isn't clear)
  • In some cases, genetic engineering can be permitted to be performed in utero when dealing with a developing fetus to correct any potential genetic defects that could handicap the child as they grew up. (VOY 5x19 The Fight)

Note that both of these are about making people healthier - not better. This is perfectly in line with what the Darwin Genetic Research Station was supposed to have been doing. The children on the station were guilty of nothing more than an overactive immune system. Their weaponization was an accident.

The ban is primarily meant to prevent people like Khan from being created, after all, so using it for health reasons seems like it would be highly regulated, but not illegal.

Memory Alpha includes a theory that what happened at the research station caused a crackdown in the Federation with regards to genetic manipulation, restricting it even further than it was before. However, except for the existence of the station, I don't think there's anything that really supports that theory.

  • @DVK Genetic engineering (retconned from (or combined with?) TOS's selective breeding) was what created the Augments, Khan included. They were the cause of the Eugenics Wars - it was their grab for power on Earth in the mid 1990s. To quote one of the in-universe scientists that created the Augments, "superior ability breeds superior ambition."
    – Izkata
    Sep 5, 2012 at 1:40
  • @DVK I posted the answer then edited that line in like a minute later, before the edit history would've showed up. Maybe you managed to open this page in that tiny interim?
    – Izkata
    Sep 5, 2012 at 10:53
  • 1
    @Izkata The children on the station also matured faster (the 12 year old child teleported onto the Enterprise was physically more like a tween) and they were also telepathic. Neither of those traits would have contributed much to overall health (aside from possible side benefits of becoming an adult earlier).
    – Xantec
    Sep 11, 2012 at 20:08
  • “Memory Alpha includes a theory that what happened at the research station caused a crackdown in the Federation with regards to genetic manipulation” — that wouldn’t have affected the Bashir plot though, as he was 24 in 2365 (when the events of *Unnatural Selection occurred), whereas he underwent his illegal genetic engineering at the age of 7. Feb 22, 2014 at 18:47

The problem with the theory that it's okay to engineer the children to be healthier ignores the fact that the children were also engineered to be both Telepathic AND Telekinetic. My personal theory is that Darwin Station was outside of Federation jurisdiction. The Enterprise-D encountered a whole colony of humans that were the result of selective breeding practices. The episode was "The Masterpeice Society". Even though they were human they were an isolationist society which would technically mean they were not considered part of the Federation. They were outside Federation jurisdiction. Theoretically any attempt to intigrate into the Federation would see them banned from joining Starfleet like other augments, but otherwise free to live a "normal" life as a Federation citizen.

I always just assumed Darwin Station must have been like the Moab Colony. But a little more cooperative with the Federation. Which makes sense. If they're not part of the Federation then the Federation can't technically stop them from doing their research. But the Federation would certainly want to keep an eye on that research so they worked out an arrangement that allowed the Federation to at least be involved and keep a close eye on the situation.

According to Memory Alpha, a non-canon novel has a scene where Picard refers to Darwin Station as an exception to the rule which never should have been allowed. Which also makes a certain sense. Sort of like the Defiant's cloaking device was an exception to the treaty with the Romulans which banned the Federation from using Cloaks (with the Romulan's blessing). Either explanation works but I prefer my own.

  • 3
    "According to memory alpha, a non-canon" - could you edit in the name of the novel and also link to the Memory Alpha page to provide the reference?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Mar 11, 2020 at 16:05

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.