82

Watching Star Trek made me think of a few "deeper" questions about Starfleet, which are all related to the Star Trek TV series.

So, let's take for example the Dominion War: people are dying every second, ships get destroyed and cadets are still joining although they know they are probably going to die unless they are with Picard or Sisko.

As I read and got to understand, money has no value anymore, latinum is the general trading currency in the universe. But people on Earth don't trade and don't earn their paychecks. Earth is a much better place than today and yet young boys and girls from every culture/civilization are joining Starfleet as they are willingly signing their death note.

Why are they joining, what motivates them? They might know that they're probably going to die.

They don’t earn paychecks. They could be doing any other job, yet they choose this. And what's more interesting how many died on battlefields must be lined up in front of StarFleet every day?

What do they receive after service? Why are they doing it other than preserving their homes?

  • 91
    “Why are they doing it other than preserving their homes?” Is that not reason enough? Did the people who fought in World War One do it because it paid well? – Paul D. Waite Feb 24 '15 at 9:18
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    @PaulD.Waite Well, some of them fought, because desertion was punishable by death. Otherwise I totally agree with you and I find this question odd: What good is a big paycheck if you (as the question supposes) gonna die anyway? Dying defending your home and your family on the other hand makes a lot of sense. – Einer Feb 24 '15 at 9:24
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    @Einer: Yes -- and at the beginning of the First World War, massive numbers of people volunteered to fight. The UK fought for more than a year with an all-volunteer army, only introducing conscription in January 1916. – Royal Canadian Bandit Feb 24 '15 at 10:09
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    out of the hundreds of thousands of star fleet members, there is very few casualties, if anything being apart of the enterprise crew or DS9 is the most dangerous possition, typically the federation is, as stated in the new reboot of startrek, a peace keeping organization, they typically dont fight anyone, the enterprise on the otherhand has quite a track record of interfering and getting into fights, crew members drop like flys(unless your a bridge officer). the Dominion war, and the borg are really the exception. and then it turns into a WW2 scenario, fight or be slaughtered. – Himarm Feb 24 '15 at 14:09
  • 3
    Because it's fun / exciting / challenging / rewarding to do, and those are much better reasons to do anything than money. – Mark Micallef Feb 27 '15 at 3:51

11 Answers 11

112

The Star Trek world is based on a post scarcity economy, which this article explains nicely.

My guess: because you are born in a place where all your basics are covered up until almost the top of the pyramid, what is left is just self-actualization. What could be better for that than to explore the universe? I would sign blindly if I were there. Keep in mind that the Star Trek series only cover the intensive events: they won't cover an episode about a routine space exploration with no contact whatsoever, or we would fall asleep ;-).

I think they simply receive the feeling of having some meaningful stories in their lives + an awesome experience in the unknown! It's in us, otherwise why the **** did Columbus decide to get into so much trouble?

  • 31
    “Keep in mind that the Star Trek series only cover the intensive events, it won't cover an episode about a routine space exploration with no contact whatsoever” — Quite right. The assertion in the question that “they are probably going to die unless they are with Picard or Sisko” is surely wrong — a percentage would die, but not enough to mean a given conscript would “probably” die. – Paul D. Waite Feb 24 '15 at 9:20
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    This answer, while somewhat correct doesn't take in the canon reasons given by the crew for joining. For example, O'Brien wasn't interested in self-actualisation, he just wanted to get out of going to music school and see the universe a bit, Tom Paris was pushed into it because of his father's expectations and because he wanted excitement and adventure. – Valorum Feb 24 '15 at 12:49
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    @Richard I would say both of those qualify as self-actualization – shadowtalker Feb 24 '15 at 13:21
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    Columbus is probably a bad example, since he did it to get rich. – Dancrumb Feb 24 '15 at 13:30
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    @Dancrumb I find him as a good example, his family was not poor and he didn't have to bother about money in the XV century. Still he decided to risk his life to find another path to get to the Indies. – user5514 Feb 24 '15 at 13:39
176

From each individual series (and the new canon comics), each crewmember seems to have different reasons for wanting to join Starfleet:

To challenge themselves (Picard)

PICARD: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. ...We work to better ourselves ...and the rest of humanity.

Star Trek: First Contact

Because they were inspired to do so by a famous relative (Kirk, Janeway)

KIRK: Wait. Where you came from, did I know my father?

SPOCK PRIME: Yes. You often spoke of him as being your inspiration for joining Starfleet. He proudly lived to see you become Captain of the Enterprise.

Star Trek (2009)

and

JANEWAY: Shannon O'Donnell inspired me when I was a girl. She had an influence on my imagination, on my goals.

SEVEN: I never realised genealogy could have such an impact.

JANEWAY: I wouldn't have become a Starfleet Captain if it wasn't for her.

VOY: 11.59

Because of gratitude toward Starfleet (Tasha Yar, Worf, Data, Saru)

ISHARA: So Tasha took care of me. And when I got old enough, I joined the Coalition.

DATA: And Tasha did not?

ISHARA: My sister hated the cadres. Blamed them for our parents death. For everything. She refused to join. And she left [to join Starfleet] as soon as she had the chance.

TNG: Legacy

and

WORF: I was rescued from Khitomer by humans. Raised and loved by human parents. I've spent most of my life around humans, fought beside them.

TNG: Redemption

and

SOONG: I gave you the ability to choose whatever you wanted. To do whatever you wanted. Why Starfleet?

DATA: It was Starfleet officers who rescued me.

SOONG: Ah. So you decided to emulate your emancipators, huh? How disappointing.

TNG: Brothers

and

Saru: Every story I heard created a space inside me to feel more, to love more. I joined Starfleet to help those in need the way I was helped.

STD: An Obol for Charon

Because it seems a logical fit for their skill-set (Data, Spock, Michael Burnham)

FAJO: A military pacifist. What a marvelous paradox. Tell me - whose dreadful decision was it to enlist you in Starfleet?

DATA: It was ultimately my own decision. My skills seemed appropriate...

TNG: The Most Toys

and

SCIENCE MINISTER: You have surpassed the expectations of your instructors. Your final record is flawless. With one exception. I see you have applied to Starfleet as well.

SPOCK: It was logical to cultivate multiple options.

Star Trek (2009)

and

MICHAEL BURNHAM: From my youth on Vulcan, I was raised to believe that service was my purpose. And I carried that conviction to Starfleet.

STD: Battle at the Binary Stars

Because they feel that it's their destiny (Worf)

WORF: I ran away into the mountains. I was without food or water for three days. But there, in the caves of No'Mat, Kahless appeared to me in a vision and told me I would do something no other Klingon had ever done. After I returned to Earth, I pondered the meaning of his words and wondered what lay ahead for me. When I was old enough, I joined Starfleet.

DAX: Something no Klingon had ever done.

DS9: The Sword of Kahless

To get away from other, less palatable choices (Chief O'Brien, Nog, Ezri Dax)

O'BRIEN: When I was seventeen, my father even sent a recorded audition to the Aldeberan Music Academy.

JAKE: (perking up) What happened?

O'BRIEN: I got in. It was the happiest day of his life. I didn't know how to tell him I didn't want to go. So two days before I was due to leave, I went into town and signed up for Starfleet.

DS9: Shadowplay

and

SISKO: Why is it so damned important for you to get into Starfleet? Why are you doing this?

NOG: Because I don't want to end up like my father [....] I want to do something with my life... something worthwhile.

SISKO: Like joining Starfleet.

DS9: Heart of Stone

and

EZRI: I guess I was so busy dreaming of ways to get out of that house... I never saw what was really going on inside it... what was happening to Norvo... the endless humiliations... the constant drumbeat of criticism... the way his heart was carved up into little pieces. I should've seen it. I should've tried to stop it.

DS9: Prodigal Daughter

For humanitarian reasons (Dr. Bashir, Dr. McCoy, Saru)

VARGAS: I can see you've done that before.

BASHIR: Too many times. Funny. I joined Starfleet to save lives.

DS9: The Siege of AR-558

and

MCCOY (VO): With every new place we discover, comes the possibility of new solutions, new possibilities, new cures. It's a funny thing. I thought I'd never leave Mississippi but it was there that I lost my way. It took traveling across the galaxy to find it again. A new sense of purpose.

Star Trek IDW #17

To see what's out there (Capt. Archer, Trip Tucker, T'Pol, Chakotay, Travis Mayweather, Dr. Phlox, Harry Kim, Simon Tarses, Hoshi Sato, Melora Pazlar, Paul Stamets)

PHLOX: Oh, nonsense. Nonsense. You're too concerned with human morality. I thought you wanted to learn about new cultures. Isn't that why you joined Starfleet?

TUCKER: Why, of course it is. But I was brought up believing you don't play around with another man's wife. I don't think I'm ever going to change my mind about that.

ENT: Stigma

and

CHAKOTAY: They'd manage. Palaeontology was always my first love. It's the reason I joined Starfleet.

SEVEN: Why didn't you pursue it?

VOY: One Small Step

and

TUCKER: I don't get you, T'Pol. I thought you joined Starfleet so you could interact a little more with humans. But it seems to me that ever since we left spacedock, you spend all your free time cooped up in your room reading that bible of yours.

ENT: Daedelus

and

PHLOX [OC]: I had meant to transmit this letter by now but the Valakian epidemic has been taking up most of my time. Working with the physicians here has been quite fulfilling. I suppose it's the reason we joined the Interspecies Medical Exchange, but I worry about falsely raising their hopes.

ENT: Dear Doctor

and

TAYMON: I joined the merchant fleet so I could get into space, because I wanted to explore every quarter of the galaxy.

KIM: Like me with Starfleet. All my life, that's all I ever wanted to do.

VOY: Favorite Son

and

TARSES: I used to sit and watch the drills and picture myself an officer. I knew it would make my mother happy.

PICARD: But you didn't do it.

TARSES: No... I was eighteen, and eager... the last thing I wanted to do was spend four years sitting in classrooms... I wanted to be out there... traveling the stars...I didn't want to wait for anything.

TNG: The Drumhead

and

HOSHI: What do you know about these Klingons?

ARCHER: Not much. An empire of warriors with eighty poly-guttural dialects constructed on an adaptive syntax.

HOSHI: Turn it up.

ARCHER: Think about it. You'd be the first human to talk to these people. Do you really want someone else to do it?

ENT: Broken Bow

and

MELORA: I dreamed about exploring the stars as a girl. And I wasn't going to allow any... "handicap," not a chair, not a Cardassian station... to stop me from chasing that dream.

DS9: Melora

and

STAMETS: I became an astromycologist because of awe. Awe at the miracle of life. I met Straal, and we formed a partnership. We would get to the veins and muscles that hold our galaxies together. We would find truth. And we were happy in our lab, then your war started, and Starfleet co-opted our research.

STD: Context is for Kings

Because they crave command responsibility (Michael Eddington)

EDDINGTON: You'd be surprised. People don't enter Starfleet to become commanders, or admirals for that matter. It's the captain's chair that everyone has their eye on. That's what I wanted when I joined up, but you don't get to be a Captain wearing a gold uniform.

DS9: The Adversary

To advance their career prospects in the civilian sector (Mortimer Harren)

HARREN: I signed on to Voyager because I needed a year of hands-on experience. It was a requirement for getting into the Institute of Cosmology on Orion One. If we hadn't gotten lost in the Delta Quadrant, I'd be there right now.

JANEWAY: Sorry to have delayed your career plans, but all of us have had our lives interrupted. That's the nature of space exploration. It's unpredictable.

HARREN: Which is why I don't like space exploration. Stumbling from star to star like a, a drunken insect careening toward a light source is not my idea of a dignified existence. Pure theory is all that concerns me.

VOY: The Good Shepherd

Because of family connections (Tom Paris, Will Riker, Worf, Geordi La Forge, Tuvok, Deanna Troi, Wesley Crusher, Jake Sisko)

A large number of the crew appear to be 2nd and 3rd generation Starfleet personnel, referred to in Voyager as "Starfleet brats". Tom Paris, Will Riker, Worf, Tuvok, Geordi La Forge, Deanna Troi, Wesley Crusher and Jake Sisko are all examples of those who've been effectively pushed into Starfleet by their parents. Note that Jake, Wesley, Tuvok and Tom all eventually turn their backs on Starfleet when their life choices become incompatible.

VALTANE: Well, if you hated it here so much, why'd you join Starfleet in the first place?

TUVOK: I joined under pressure from my parents. But I've already decided to resign my commission once this assignment is complete.

VOY: Flashback


The new IDW Star Trek comic series features a number of poster prints entreating people to join Starfleet. As you can see, the main thrust of the advert is the opportunity for exploration:

Cross the final frontier: Enlist in Starfleet

enter image description here

as well as other benefits of joining, such as the opportunity to, ahem, meet interesting people...

Go boldly: Enlist in Starfleet

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    You left out "to impress girls (or boys)". I'm pretty sure part of the motivation for some people was to put on a uniform that makes them respected and hence attractive to people they want to impress. – Peter Cordes Feb 25 '15 at 0:34
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    We all know that McCoy joined Starfleet to get away from a nagging x-wife ... at least that's the way it was in the reboot, lol! – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 7 '15 at 16:50
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    @Paulster2 - The comic actually makes it pretty clear that the "ex-wife" story was only half a truth. A large part of his inspiration was the death of a (young) patient. – Valorum Mar 7 '15 at 16:52
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    This is an awesome compilation, but I would also have accepted the currently accepted answer because it mentions Columbus. – Captain Cold Apr 3 '15 at 13:40
  • 1
    @PeterCordes aka "only in it for the hats and the girls" – Neuromancer Jul 22 '18 at 15:37
36

There is an obvious parallel: Why does anyone volunteer to join an army in the real world?

Sometimes, recruits come from backgrounds so impoverished that the armed forces offer the only chance of a steady job and an education, but this is not necessarily the case. The average soldier could make a living in a profession which does not involve being shot at. Much the same goes for police, firefighters, or any other dangerous occupation.

So, why do they join? Maybe for the excitement and adventure. Maybe for the chance of serving something bigger than themselves. Maybe out of family tradition. Maybe, hokey though it may sound, out of a sense of patriotic pride and idealism.

While mercenaries do exist in the real world, even they typically have some motivation in addition to making money -- probably along the lines of "excitement and adventure". All the money in the world (or galaxy) is not much use if you are killed or permanently disabled in a war zone, so you need some reason to take those risks instead of staying home and becoming an accountant.

I am really a bit shocked that the questioner cannot imagine any motivation for a person to risk his or her life, besides big piles of cash.

  • 9
    Absolutely this - volunteer armed forces in most First World Countries are highly motivated and highly effective, yet most non-officer teeth-arm trades are fairly low paid. In addition to that, some countries such as the UK have a Reserve Army who pay a small fee to part time soldiers and match their pay if they're deployed. Nobody ever got rich from the joining the TA is the message they'll tell you - the money is just a sweetener for those who want to give their time. You could probably write a long thesis on why young men join the military, but I suspect money would be simply a footnote! – Dan Feb 24 '15 at 11:20
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    "I am really a bit shocked that the questioner cannot imagine any motivation for a person to risk his or her life, besides big piles of cash." I agree there are many possible motivations. However, coming back to the army in the real world example - I sometimes wish nobody, just nobody would join in any war-like operation. It could be so simple. If no-one would be willing to take part in it, we wouldn't have any war. So some motivations in the real world might also be of a darker nature (ISIS for example). Of course, this is not the case for Starfleet (except Section 37 maybe). – Trilarion Oct 27 '16 at 8:46
21

I am surprised nobody has stated the obvious yet:

to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

and don't forget "Space: The final frontier".

  • Except that that's the mission of the Enterprise – Valorum Oct 7 '17 at 10:37
13

I'm going to throw my 2 cents in here as well. As a former serviceman here in the states I can testify to the validity of the mindset of individuals joining Starfleet. I'll list the reasons and then discuss some afterwards. And yes, these were pretty much all hit on in the comments above.

  1. Familial legacy or duty (my father, grandfather, brother uncle, etc. served)
  2. National pride or national duty (serving of fighting for my county)
  3. Educational benefits (College tuition)
  4. Satisfying a sense of adventure, (see the world)
  5. Exploration (rare now but think of Lt. Charles Wilkes discovering Antarctica)
  6. Alternative form of punishment or intervention for at risk youth (rare)
  7. Skill, trade and training opportunities.
  8. Stable career (economic hardships)

I'm certain I may have missed a few but these are the stand out reasons, and most are valid for the Star Trek universe as well.

Personally, I joined the service for 3 reasons, 1, national pride, I'm proud of my country and I wanted to give back in a way I knew was of value. 2, Familial duty, my father and both grandfathers served and my father saw combat in Vietnam, I felt it was my duty to carry on that legacy. 3, Education, I knew I could get a decent education while serving my country. Not for a second did I consider wealth while serving.

In the Star Trek universe the pursuit of wealth and fortune in the realm of the Federation is a distant memory. Since everything someone needs for day to day living is now taken care of, people can focus on experiencing and expanding the human condition. Knowledge, exploration and adventure are the currency of the day.

All people who join Starfleet know there is the inherit possibility of death, just as in our modern military. No one joins without this being made abundantly clear long before ink is placed on paper. With that said, the Federation and Starfleet is not by nature, war mongering. They are adventurers, scientists and explorers who only thirst to further those desires. The realities of the Galaxy however, have shown prudence is necessary when encountering other cultures who's goals are counter to that of the Federation.

Most starships are exploration vessels first, weapons are strictly considered defensive but are quite capable of being used in an offensive role. Sun Tzu said it best "Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack."

The Galaxy is full of danger. Just being in space is dangerous enough, let alone crossing paths with most life forms throughout, not just the intelligent kind. It comes with the job and I'm quite certain everyone in Starfleet is very prepared for the realities of their choice.

  • 1
    These are the reasons I joined, more or less: Family (Dad was Navy, me USMC), National Pride, Personal Pride, Education, career (Although I didn't continue) and last money (poor pay was better than what I had before). All in your list and very valid reasons throughout history (and I assume into the future). – WernerCD Feb 24 '15 at 19:14
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    #3 and #8 wouldn't seem to apply. In the world of Star Trek, everyone can have free access to education and employment. – Valorum Feb 24 '15 at 19:42
  • #6 does apply (to Tom Paris) but only because they plan to blackmail him into rejoining. – Valorum Feb 24 '15 at 19:42
  • 1
    #4 + #5 seem to be the same thing. – Valorum Feb 24 '15 at 19:43
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    @Destroyer73 - I'll accept that. You don't need to be an explorer to see interesting stuff. – Valorum Feb 24 '15 at 20:01
10

I love the answer with all the quotes, but if you want a REAL-WORLD analogy, look no further than a lot of people who pursue Ph.Ds. in a field where you can get a really good job with a Bachelor's or Master's degree (such as Computer Science). According to a study, CS Ph.D.s don't recoup their money (lost due to 'opportunity cost') till they're in their 40s compared to Masters students. So why would they do it? Two simple answers:

  1. PRESTIGE: For people who value education, the Ph.D. is a source of great prestige, especially among family members. This is similar to the prestige accorded to Starfleet officials in Star Trek, especially when they accomplish a noteworthy feat.

  2. LURE OF THE UNKNOWN: You're only going to get your Ph.D. (in any field) if you've done something that has not been done before. It doesn't have to be groundbreaking, like the theory of relativity, but it has to be uncharted territory. The lure of the unknown, the right to claim 'first knowledge' about something is something that drives our species tremendously. What could be possibly more exciting than venturing out into the ultimate unknown, space? We also see some of this passion (for the unknown) in both Captains Sisko and Picard, in terms of their interests in Bajoran technology (see 'Explorers' in Season 3 of DS9) and archeology ('The Chase' in Season 6 of TNG) respectively.

Finally, I'm not ashamed of admitting that Star Trek is THE reason why I chose to go into science, and why I will always be a scientist, no matter what the pay. So perhaps science was an equally big lure for those wishing to go into Starfleet as well. Even in the midst of the Dominion War, for example, we see that there are opportunities for conducting groundbreaking science.

  • 1
    It's good to know there is another one of us out there! I too went into science, and put in the hard work for a PhD, precisely because of Star Trek. It really did help to shape the person I am today. I have less money because of it (most of my secondary school friends decided to stop after an undergraduate degree and make some actual money), but I regret nothing. – Praxis Feb 28 '15 at 21:27
6

Instinct:

Imagine, for example, there is a lion attack. If no one is willing to die to defend the tribe from the lion's, all selfishly flee their homes and the tribe is no more - and the lion is full.

If, however, all the able-bodied men are willing to die to defend the village, perahsp some of them do... but the lion get's speared, and the village remains.

Therefore: defending your turf is simple instinct. It has to be. What we have overcome in the federation is fighting impulsively. Ships are still armed....

If anything, sign-ups probably flair up in starfleet during the worst times to join!

Also, us humans are basically a cancer. We explore everything.

Habits learned during education:

It is made clear that the federation has excellent education. They don't appear to just hook up a mind-scanner/filler and teach you everything (although they ostensibly could do this.) They want you to have the experience. They are probably masterful psychiatrists, (manipulators if they wanted to be) and their educational system establishes a pattern of behavior that isn't idle.

The United States, for example, scores in the middle of the pack on world-wide standardized testing despite it's large educational budget. So obviously some educational methods are more efficient than others. The Federation's medical/psychiatric knowledge is probably enough to mold children into people who will work for the good of society as much as possible.

But it's not even that... graduates from institutions within the federation *simply won't have the habit of being idle!

Boredom:

Humans are ultra-social creatures: even among other primates. The holodeck won't fulfill someone unless he was serious problems (or are very passive) - and then we know education in the federation almost has to be compulsory.

As such, people will probably be getting out all the time - all the luxuries of the federation don't seemed to be designed to be as addictive as T.V.

(I mean, how many decent screens do we even see in people's quarters? Their eyes are all perfect, I guess...)

Who says there are no rewards?

It's doubtful that even the federation will take anyone who wants to see one to hundreds of planets. The enterprise will "drop you off at the nearest starbase", but it's doubtful there are federation star-ships that are in the mood to go any further out of their way for you than that! You'd have to at least get a civilian job to be near all the cool stuff.

Besides the captain still gets bigger quarters. Remember, "post-scarcity" does not mean "infinitude." - it's possible that there are material benifits to serving the federation, aside from the glory of being a stellar explorer!

Look at 10-forward. Then look at some of the seedier ships/bars we've seen during the episodes... there are plenty of personalities that would take 10-forward any day.

3

As others have already stated, consider the reasons people join real world militaries. I think I've filtered out the answers provided by others:

  1. Adrenaline junkies
  2. Interested in fields only Star Fleet investigates (shields, weapons, etc.)
  3. Need or want someone/thing to provide direction to their life
  4. Want to belong to something "bigger than themselves" or something "with meaning"
  5. Sense of brotherhood or belonging
  6. If human life is now sufficiently long, a sense of boredom (as @user1833028 mentioned) might lead to them joining - then they might discover that they enjoy serving and stay in
  7. For years I've worked with the military and frankly they work on some really cool $h1t and found that work professionally (but not financially) rewarding. So perhaps a desire to work with cool $h1t.
  8. My brother is a psychologist who treated returning vets. He determined that he could do more good if he could treat servicemen sooner - in theater. So at the age of 42 he joined the military and promptly got deployed to Afghanistan. He had already been serving others - but he felt he could serve them better if he was part of the military. This fits very well with the Star Fleet ethos.

Frankly, the number of reasons someone might join are probably proportional to the number of people qualified to join. I imagine one of the purposes of the psych tests that are part of the admissions process are to determine the applicants motivations.

2

I think they get paid in "credits" or at least they were in the original series era. I'm guessing they join up for the adventure, and for the experiences it could give them in later civilian life like today's military (not to mention the space babes). But then again Starfleet is not primarily a military organization although it often acts like one. It's like a combination of NASA and the US Navy, with exploration being the main mission.

1

TOS wasn't "post-scarcity". Starfleet was a career choice. Sure, there were higher motives like self-actualization, desire to serve, desire to explore. But consider a couple of things Kirk says...

  • "The Doomsday Machine" (in reply to Scotty declaring that he's got one of the Constellation's phaser banks recharged): "you just earned your pay for the week".
  • "The Apple" (To Spock): "do you know how much Starfleet has invested in you?" (to which Spock begins to cite an actual amount)

These suggest that money of some denomination is still in use. Kirk's remark in "The Doomsday Machine" could be taken as mere figure of speech to recognize Scotty's efforts, but there's no reason to believe such figure of speech would survive into a post-scarcity economy. Kirk's question to Spock is obviously rhetorical (which Spock takes literally), but the fact that he could offer a literal answer says that a literal answer in fact exists, which means money exists.

The notion of a post-scarcity future gets introduced into Star Trek in TNG's first-season finale episode "The Neutral Zone". It's only at this point we would have to consider motives for a career in Starfleet. A few might be:

  • Exploration
  • Service to society
  • Defense of family (back home), society as it exists, the Federation
  • Camaraderie/belonging
  • Family tradition

As for Starfleet service being a dangerous occupation... well, sort-of. Going out into space to fight a war doesn't mean "home" is any safer. Not venturing out to fight could (and often seems to) mean the enemy brings the fight to your doorstep. Venturing into strange space anomalies can be a bit dangerous too, but then countless other occupations could come with hazards of their own.

  • I think it was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home that introduced the idea that there wasn't any such thing as money any more. – Harry Johnston Mar 4 at 4:15
  • @HarryJohnston Good point... the crew seem unfamiliar with money when they are in 20th century San Francisco, despite the apparent references in TOS... it's like they understood it at one time and then forgot. Of course money aside, McCoy and Scotty seem well accustomed to bartering (transparent aluminum formula for the materials they need to refit the bird-of-prey's hold). – Anthony X Mar 5 at 1:55
-2

Although it might seem somewhat dangerous to be in the military, the truth is that it is not dangerous. Well, most of the time soldiers, even front line, are not in battle. Think of US soldiers in Germany, Korea, etc. Even in a hot war, 99% are not wounded or killed. So the dangers are exaggerated.

So people join the military for the same reasons that they take any job. And anyway, we are all now on the “front lines” with all this terrorism. No one is really “safe” anymore.

In the movies—especially Star Trek—the plot is written to show as much action and drama as possible. In a “real life” Star Trek the life of the average joe/jane would be safe and boring. Just like the U.S. Navy.

  • 3
    "So people join the military for the same reasons that they take any job." Which is to earn paychecks... But as the asker pointed out in the question, in Star Trek "they don't earn paychecks". So why join the military in that case? – Null Feb 24 '15 at 22:31
  • "So people join the military for the same reasons that they take any job." - Not always, and from my observations, not all that frequently. Even if you accept that there are a lot of not-terribly-dangerous military jobs, what of the people who volunteer to be at the tip of the sharp end, like Special Forces, Recon, and so on? – jamesqf Feb 25 '15 at 5:01
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    I have downvoted on the basis of egregious factual error. "Even in a hot war, 99% are not wounded or killed." In WWI, Russia and France ran >70% casualty rates, and Germany > 60%. pbs.org/greatwar/resources/casdeath_pop.html In WWII, the USSR suffered > 20 million military casualties from a total military force of ~35 million. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Germany lost 8% of its total population as military deaths, which suggests an overall military casualty rate, including wounded, > 50%. The Ostfront was a meat grinder. – WhatRoughBeast Feb 25 '15 at 21:39
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    Frankly, I have been forced to downvote because you say the military isn't dangerous. I seldom downvote, but the brave men and women who fight deserve to know what ther'ye signing up for.... – user1833028 Mar 3 '15 at 3:47

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