It is difficult for me not to see Le Guin's 1973 "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" as deeply embedded in the ST:SNW episode "Lift Us Above Where Suffering Cannot Reach". Both stories tell of:

  • A paradisaical society predicated wholly on the suffering of a single child
  • The conscious awareness of the significance and nature of this sacrifice by the other members of society
  • The threat of the immediate and total end of the society should the child be spared from this suffering
  • A self-exiled group of former members of the society—the 'ones who walk away' seeking something better

There are other superficial parallels—outsiders visiting the enlightened society, a sunny outdoor festival, feelings of shock and anger when first understanding the child's fate (Capt. Pike), feelings of just righteousness about the necessary sacrifice of the child (Majalis' President Alora). There are also differences (obviously): Le Guin's 'psychomyth' was not a story with plot, so much as an extremely detailed scene and ethical conundrum.

Le Guin was not credited in the title sequence, or the closing credits as far as I saw.

Have the writers or show-runner commented on "Omelas" with respect to "Where Suffering Cannot Reach"? Did they receive permission from Le Guin's estate to use the story?

Apparently I am not alone in noticing this.

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    Apparently you're not alone. The Escapist mentions it. While they mostly rant about the beakness of the episode, they make the connection with Those Who Walk Away from Omelas. Jun 10, 2022 at 2:19
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    @InTheAbsenceOfFear Many reviewers have noted the debt. Edited in the last line of my question.
    – Lexible
    Jun 10, 2022 at 2:19
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    Trekmovie.com review also makes the connection
    – NKCampbell
    Jun 10, 2022 at 2:44
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    Plagiarism is actually a high hurdle. Just because George Lucas thought he could sue anyone with ray guns and spaceships in their stories doesn't mean it would work in court. Likewise space tardigrades and tortured kids wouldn't be enough See Scènes à faire en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sc%C3%A8nes_%C3%A0_faire and the tardigrade case law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca2/19-3160/… and plagiarismtoday.com/2022/04/21/… Jun 10, 2022 at 3:02
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    +1 @lucasbachmann Plagiarism ≠ copyright infringement (which you may know, but I want to point out for others), and my concluding question (now bolded) is about the latter (although I do touch on the former earlier in my question).
    – Lexible
    Jun 10, 2022 at 3:09

1 Answer 1


Yes Kurtzman has commented on the story previously. But it was regarding the Kelpian that caused the burn in STD not this Strange New Worlds episode.

Nitpicking Nerds' thoughts on the Discovery Episode - where ironically he points out how little it has to do with the Omelas story.

Nitpicking Nerds' repost of the interview where he jokingly titles it Strange New Worlds plagiarism.

youtube transcript

"and the idea that we needed to answer what was responsible for this cataclysmic event um the idea emerged from um a short story called those who walk away from omalas which is you know it's it's not really a one-to-one analogy but in that story a child is held captive and tortured so that an entire town can live in happiness all the time and so it raises this question of okay well if you could live happily and everybody could live peacefully with no war no strength no sickness no nothing except it caused one child to stay in a permanent state of suffering would you actually be able to be happy in that town right and those who walk away are the ones who have conscience so from that idea emerge the idea of a child right and the idea of how interesting it would be if it was an accident right that you think you think that what is initially presented as a monster actually isn't a monster at all but very in fact very human and i use human in quotes but you know very relatable um and that's ultimately how we kind of circled around tsukal"

  • +1 It's interesting, I do not see the parallels between the Discovery arc and "Omelas" at all, even with his blather that you quoted.
    – Lexible
    Jun 10, 2022 at 3:11
  • (joke) - almost feel like mentioning the burn and the screaming kelpian is worth a downvote ;)
    – NKCampbell
    Jun 10, 2022 at 3:15
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    @Lexible Yeah basically for Discovery all Omelas did was give him the idea for a miserable kid with none of the context or ethics debate. Jun 10, 2022 at 3:15
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    @NKCampbell I note many people made jokes about Kurtzman being a reverse Omelas situation in the sense we all suffer so he can be happy. Jun 10, 2022 at 3:16
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    I'm not sure if linking to a "thoughts" video adds to the answer. Jun 12, 2022 at 20:42

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