Gene Roddenberry declared there’s no money in the Star Trek universe, but thanks to the IRS, there are now taxes.
A video produced by the U.S. tax agency surfaced this week showcasing IRS staff as characters from the hit TV show, including Mr. Spock and Lt. Uhura. The spoof features an elaborate set depicting the control room of a spaceship.
The government agency told Associated Press the six-minute parody, along with a Gilligan’s Island version, cost $60,000. It was shown at the opening of a 2010 training and leadership conference.
The video features the crew of the Starship Enterprise Y, whose “never-ending mission is to seek out new tax forms; to explore strange new regulations; to boldly go where no government employee has gone before.”
In one scene, an officer complains of “interplanetary tax practitioners practicing without a licence.”
Star Trek fans will notice glaring inaccuracies. The set and cast names are from The Original Series, but the uniforms and intro music emulate The Next Generation.
In addition, a yeoman offers the Captain “Starlight coffee,” presumably a reference to Deep Space 9‘s Promenade restaurant. The purpose of the scene is to set up a joke about per diems.
A more accurate beverage may have been “tea, Earl Grey, hot.”
The $60,000 evidently did not cover voice coaching. One agency staffer pressed into acting service employs a subpar Russian accent in an attempt to imitate Ensign Chekov, and a barely discernable brogue from a stand-in Scotty is heard toward the end of the video.
Watch the video:
Rep. Max Baucus, a Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, has demanded a line-by-line accounting of the costs involved.
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller, Baucus wrote, “I want to know exactly how this video came to be, exactly who is responsible, and what the plan is for ensuring taxpayer dollars won’t be wasted on another futile endeavor like this again. […] As a tax administration agency, why does the IRS even have a production studio?”
Perhaps Baucus would have gone easier on IRS if they’d sent up the Voyager franchise.
Even William Shatner, the Canadian actor who portrayed Captain James T. Kirk and holds a BCom from McGill, criticized the spoof on Twitter, calling it an “utter waste of U.S. tax dollars.” No doubt he’s glad he decided not to seek U.S. citizenship, citing concerns he’d fail the required exam.
In response to the outrage, the IRS said it’s tightened controls over use of its production equipment to “ensure that all IRS videos are handled in a judicious manner that makes wise use of taxpayer funds while ensuring a tone and theme appropriate for the nation’s tax system.”
Mockery abounded in YouTube comments, most of which focused on the poor production values and sum of taxpayer money devoted to the video.
However, commenter NoTeaBaggers pointed out, “Every business I have been associated with has spent money for training and leadership skills. […] This appears to be an attempt to make the rank and file laugh a bit during the conference. Keep in mind that most IRS employees live boring lives; this video, complete with inside tax accounting jokes, probably had them rolling the in the aisles. Overall, the IRS could have done worse.”