5 Facts About the United Federation of Planets

Flag of the United Federation of Planets
Flag of the United Federation of Planets. Paramount Pictures

It's almost impossible to watch an episode or movie of Star Trek that doesn't involve the Federation. The United Federation of Planets is one of the most important organizations in Star Trek, so it's important to know what it is. Here's an overview of this mighty galactic state.

1. What is the Federation?

The United Federation of Planets (most often referred to as simply "the Federation") is an interstellar republic, one of the most powerful organizations in the known Galaxy.

It's really a collection of planetary governments who agreed to work together to share knowledge and resources. They cooperate in science, trade, exploration, and defense. The Federation was originally intended to be an analogy of the United Nations, but set in space.

The Federation's governing body is the Federation Council, which is made up of representatives from all the member worlds. The Council's headquarters is based in San Francisco on Earth, making Earth the focus of the Federation. The Federation is largely democratic, and acts for the good of its member races and the Galaxy in general.

2. Who is the Federation?

There are over one hundred and fifty worlds within the Federation, spread across 8,000 light years. Those worlds include Earth, Vulcan, and Andor. In order to join the Federation, another race must meet three criteria. The first is that the species must have achieved at least faster-than-light travel.

The second is that the member race must have achieved planetary unity, respecting the rights of all individuals. The third is that the member must not practice any kind of discrimination or caste system. Anyone who joins the Federation can leave at any time without resistance.

3. How did the Federation begin?

The Federation was formed by four species: the Vulcans, the Andorians, the Tellerites, and humans from Earth. It began as a temporary alliance in 2154, which became the permanent Coalition of Planets. Over time, more species joined the Coalition, and it became more powerful until it formally became the United Federation of Planets in 2161.

4. What is Starfleet?

The most well-known branch of the Federation for Star Trek fans is Starfleet. Starfleet is the space exploration arm of the Federation. It's the service used by the Federation for exploration and defense. Starfleet builds, organizes, and commands the starships under the Federation's control.

Most of Star Trek involves starships like the USS Enterprise, and space stations like Deep Space Nine. They must follow all rules and regulations of the Federation, which often puts the crew into moral and ethical conflicts. But it's Starfleet that makes the adventure possible.

However, the Federation isn't just Starfleet. There's also a judicial branch with a Supreme Court, and a legislative branch which decides Federation law.

5. What is the goal of the Federation?

If you ask, you'll be told that the Federation is not a military organization.

It's mainly focused on deep space trade and exploration. However, the Federation isn't afraid to get into combat to enforce its needs. Over time, the Federation has become more and more militant, and the struggle between its peaceful goals and harsh reality has been a common a theme of the franchise.

In the original series, the Federation's main rival was the Klingon Empire. The Klingons stood in for the Soviet Union and reflected Cold War conflicts in the 1960's. However, in later series, other races such as the Cardassians and the Borg brought the Federation into warfare. When the Dominion invaded from the Gamma Quadrant, the Federation developed into an all-out war.

Ultimately, the Federation is an expression of our ideals, our hopes, and dreams for the future and what we could be.