Star Trek: The Next Generation predicted Ireland would be united by 2024
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Star Trek: The Next Generation predicted Ireland would be united by 2024

STAR TREK: The Next Generation was ahead of its time and rare shied away from a bold prediction – not least when it came to Ireland.

A sci-fi show that wasn’t afraid to point to a decidedly different future, arguably the most contentious forecast came in the Season 3 episode The High Ground.

It saw the crew of the USS Enterprise entangled in a decades-long internal conflict between the people of Rutia IV and a group of rebel separatists called the Ansata.

Far from the kind of nuanced writing that features regularly on TV today, it was an episode offering social commentary on Ireland and 'The Troubles' with all the subtlety of a bulldozer travelling at warp speed.

The separatist Ansata were shown planting bombs to further their cause while the Rutian security forces were accused of excessive violence in their pursuit of the rebels.

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Any possible hint of nuance was lost in teleportation.

Not content with alluding to the conflict in Ireland the episode, which first aired on January 26, 1990, even called on Patrick Stewart's Captain Jean-Luc Picard to have a full-blown discussion about 'The Troubles 'with the Enterprise's synthetic life form Data, played by Brent Spiner.

Discussing the merits and weaknesses of terrorism, Data actually cites Northern Ireland as one example of terrorism working.

More specifically, Data highlights the reunification of Ireland in 2024 as a demonstration of a conflict achieved their desired aim.

With conflict still rife in Northern Ireland at the time, the episode ended up being heavily edited before broadcast in the UK and Ireland.

The entire conversation between Picard and Data was absent from the episode when it first aired on BBC Two and RTE.

To date, it has never aired in full on the island of Ireland.

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Sky also took care to omit the contentious scenes from any future UK  repeats of the episode.

The eventual signing of the Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 1998 brought about a change.

The episode was eventually broadcast unedited in May 2006 on Sky One.

It was eventually broadcast in full on UK terrestrial TV in September 2007.

Even then it was shown on BBC Two just after midnight and more than 17 years on from when it originally aired.

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To date, it has only ever been broadcast in full in Ireland once, as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast in may 2007.

Years later, the episode's writer Melinda Snodgrass revealed the plot was originally intended to have parallels to the American Revolution, but she was told to change the analogy to Northern Ireland.

It was a change she was very unhappy about.

"I wanted it with Picard as Cornwallis and the Romulans would have been the French, who were in our revolution, trying to break this planet away. Suddenly Picard realized he's one of the oppressors," she later explained.

"Instead, we do 'Breakfast in Belfast,' where our people decide they're going to go off to Northern Ireland."

A poorly reviewed episode from the shows otherwise peerless run, it nevertheless offered an intriguingly misguided, if prescient, scenario.

Given that the episode was set in the year 2366, it seems Ireland has enjoyed a unified existence for more than 300 years in the world of Star Trek.

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And with Brexit looming, those predictions about a united Ireland are suddenly looking more grounded in realism than previously thought.

Star Trek The Next Generation boldly went where no man had gone before - but we could be there very soon.