IDIC (glossary term)

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If you're looking for fanworks titled IDIC, see that disambiguation.

Synonyms: I.D.I.C., Kol-Ut-Shan
See also: Vulcan, Your Kink Is Not My Kink
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“Until humans learn to tolerate -- no, that’s not enough; to positively value each other -- until we can value the diversity here on Earth, then we don’t deserve to go into outer space and encounter the infinite diversity out there.” -- Gene Roddenberry

IDIC is a canonical term from Star Trek: The Original Series and stands for "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations." In Star Trek canon, IDIC is a Vulcan philosophy and also a prestigious Vulcan award of merit. The phrase in Vulcan is Kol-Ut-Shan.[1]

"The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity."

"And the ways our differences combine to create meaning and beauty."
-- Miranda and Spock, "Is There In Truth No Beauty?" (Star Trek: The Original Series)

"We've each learned to be delighted with what we are. The Vulcans learned that centuries before we did."
"It is basic to the Vulcan philosophy, sir. The combination of a number of things to make existence worthwhile."
-- Kirk and Spock, "The Savage Curtain" (Star Trek: The Original Series)

In my time, we knew not of Earthmen. I am pleased to see that we have differences. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.

-- 'Surak', "The Savage Curtain" (Star Trek: The Original Series) [2]

The Philosophy

Gene Roddenberry originated the IDIC philosophy as a Vulcan belief:
"Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations represents a Vulcan belief that beauty, growth, progress -- all result from the union of the unlike. Concord, as much as discord, requires the presence of at least two different notes. The brotherhood of man is an ideal based on learning to delight in our essential differences, as well as learning to recognize our similarities. The circle and triangle combine to produce the gemstone in the center as the union of words and music creates song, or the union of marriage creates children. [3]

Star Trek fandom quickly adopted the IDIC philosophy and internalized it to the point where it has become a cornerstone of real world fannish interactions. [4] "IDIC" is often used in fandom as shorthand for "To each her own," or to indicate non-judgement of fans with different preferences -- primarily, in the matter of whether or not one approves of explicit, X-rated fanfiction, especially slash and depictions of unconventional sexual practices. [5]

Because for all that Trek was supposedly about New Worlds and New Civilization, when it was at its best it was always about understanding youself by seeing yourself through new eyes. IDIC isn't about notching some kind of cosmic bedpost, it's about the way that listening to a thousand different viewpoints is still not enough to tell the whole story - but that doesn't mean you stop asking. [6]

However, some fans are "turned off" by the Doylist revelation that the introduction of the IDIC symbol was pushed into the show by Gene Roddenberry, as a commercial for IDIC merchandise. [7] The practice of offering a premium within a program (for kids or adults) is as old as radio. Roddenberry may have been thinking of this practice when he thought of putting the IDIC on the show, rather than merely offering it to fans.[8]


Advertisement for the IDIC in Inside Star Trek 12, May 1969.

Fans first heard of the IDIC in the summer of 1968 via a "Vulcan Pendent" announcement, probably written by Roddenberry himself and published in the first issue of Inside Star Trek (July 1968, pp. 15–16). It describes "ardent rock hound and amateur lapidary" Roddenberry as having come up with the Vulcan philosophy after he presented Leonard Nimoy with a unique "hand-crafted piece of jewelry," a "pendent" [sic] of polished yellow gold (circle) and florentined white gold (triangle), with a stone of brilliant white fabulite — an artificial gem "developed by the laser industry and used in space mechanisms for its optical qualities," and thus well-suited as a gift for an actor in a science fiction show. Readers were encouraged to submit their interest in such a product to the Star Trek Enterprises mail order firm. It was noted that "less expensive materials" would keep costs down. The IDIC was first offered for sale in May 1969, first as a special announcement sent out to fans and then on page 4 of Inside Star Trek 12.

The Vulcan IDIC pendant was designed by Gene Roddenberry as a marketing premium long before the third season. As early as the end of the first season, fans of the show had begun writing in asking for copies of the scripts, film clip frames, etc., and these were soon sold through Roddenberry's "Star Trek Enterprises", run at that time by Bjo and John Trimble before Roddenberry renamed it Lincoln Enterprises and turned it over to Majel Barrett. As evidenced in some of his letters and memos, Roddenberry was fond of circle-and-triangle designs and had wanted to use them for purposes of theatrical unity as early as the first season's "The Return of the Archons".

The appeal of a pendant or medallion with a Vulcan theme for young viewers in the 1960s cannot be overstated. There was already a demonstrable fan craving for any souvenir of the show, and this was the first item to be specifically manufactured for the fans. Medallions on long chains were extremely stylish in 1968, many featuring Gerald Holtom's familiar peace symbol. The IDIC was instantly and enthusiastically embraced as a "Vulcan peace symbol". Along with the Vulcan hand salute and the phrases Peace and long life / Live long and prosper, IDIC was a recognizable code symbol for the growing subculture of Star Trek fandom.

It was a masterpiece of timeliness and astute marketing instinct on the part of Roddenberry. Star Trek was first developed in 1964 and came to fruition in 1966, almost exactly coinciding with the hippie/counterculture movement with its 'peace' hand salute and identifying phrases like "do your own thing", "make love, not war", being "on the bus", and "turn on, tune in, drop out".[9]

According to the blog Star Trek Fact Check, "Roddenberry first tried to include the IDIC at the end of 'Spock's Brain"... In a July 10, 1968 memo to Fred Freiberger, Roddenberry outlined his idea for a scene with the IDIC. Perhaps emphasizing the importance the jewelry had to Roddenberry, the memo was titled 'Spock's Medallion.'

"This proposed epilogue began with Uhura presenting Spock with 'a boxed item from the junior officers of the vessel, which they have had made up to show their delight that Spock has been brought back to life.' Inside the box, of course, is the IDIC medallion, which Roddenberry says 'has great meaning to all Vulcans' and is 'like the cross' to Christians and similar symbols to other religions and creeds. ... Freiberger elected to ignore Roddenberry's story suggestion, likely because it was too late to implement in the episode."[10]

Roddenberry was successful in inserting the IDIC into the episode "Is There In Truth No Beauty?". According to William Shatner in Star Trek Memories, the book about TOS he dictated to Chris Kreski[11] Roddenberry sent down several pages of new script for the dinner scene, in which Spock was to give a long-winded explanation of the philosophy. The actors all knew IDIC was a mere advertising toy. Worse, Leonard Nimoy found the dialogue "deadly dull and almost completely pointless... we were both just babbling at each other." The episode's director, Ralph Senensky, said that Leonard Nimoy first phoned producer Fred Freiberger about the IDIC debacle; Freiberger wouldn't do anything, so Leonard called Roddenberry.[12] Nimoy confirms this in Star Trek Memories and adds: "Overnight, the irrelevant scene had been replaced with a far more irrelevant scene. The dialogue now consisted of Diana Muldaur asking me something like, 'What's that medallion you’re wearing, Spock?,' and I explain that it's an IDIC and then I proceed to spend the next page-and-a-half explaining exactly what this IDIC is and why it's so great."

While Senensky remembered Roddenberry "vehemently denied these accusations" that the IDIC was a premium,[12] Shat said in his book that Roddenberry was honest about that.[11] However, the actors refused to film the scene until Roddenberry cut out the lengthy exposition.[13]

In I Am Spock, Leonard Nimoy remembered objecting to the ethics of a product insertion. While he liked the IDIC philosophy, he didn't appreciate Spock being used as a "billboard" and "the whole incident was rather unpleasant; Roddenberry was peeved at me for not wanting to help his piece of mail-order merchandise get off to a resounding start, and Fred Freiberger was peeved at me for going over his head."[14][10]

Roddenberry agreed to rewrite the scene, but explained:

The inclusion of the IDIC in that script was valid. I truly believe in the statement -- in the message behind it -- Infinite Diversity, Infinite Combinations. Why wouldn't I want that in the show? In that episode, in particular, because of the woman character having studied on Vulcan. And then taking that philosophy and making it available to the fans was something I wanted to do. Imagine the power of that -- kids wearing that and explaining to their parents and their peers what it meant. To be able to get those kind of ideas across to people who might not have ever seen the show was worth doing. Look, tie-in merchandising is part of the business of television. We had it from the start of Star Trek, with toys and comic books, and the ship model, and the record albums. Leonard didn't see how making those records was a form of exploitation, but he felt that marketing the IDIC was. He missed the point. If we were going to sell anything, it should be something with a positive message and philosophy behind it.[15]

Fan Uses of IDIC

Star Trek fans were immediately attracted to the IDIC and Lincoln Enterprises was soon flooded with orders. The symbol was subsequently offered as pendants in three sizes and as earrings, pins and patches. The largest pendant went for $7.50. Apparently Roddenberry failed to trademark the symbol, or wanted to leave it free for public use like Gerald Holtom's original peace symbol. Today, the IDIC symbol is printed on t-shirts and hats, and has even turned up on scrabble tiles for use by crafters.

Many fannish institutions have taken their name from IDIC or related subjects. IDICon, a K/S con was held in Houston throughout the mid-'80s. The Surak Awards were named after Surak, founder of the Vulcan IDIC philosophy.

There have been several Star Trek zines and newsletters called IDIC, and others with IDIC themes, such as the United Federation of Planets Journal, which has the subtitle, "Dedicated to the Universal Understanding of I.D.I.C."

In 2009, Vividcon's Challenge show had IDIC as its prompt.

The Philosophy as Fans Saw It

IDIC was invoked frequently in the debates concerning Slash Controversies in the mid- to late 1970s. The pages of the letterzine Interstat became the home of much of this lively debate. Fans who objected to depictions of their beloved heroes in homosexual relationships, for whatever reason, were reminded that the universe has room for all and that diversities are required for health and growth. Those who felt that homosexuality itself was immoral often received an education on the gay rights movement, then in full swing. Although there were times when people seemed to use "IDIC" as short for "don't like, don't read", on the whole the discussions were intelligent and thoughtful.

  • In a 1985 issue of Interstat, a fan responds to a new subscriber's complaint about fans arguing with each other: "Those who bellow 'IDIC!' loudest in public are often those who displaythe crudest understanding of the not a delicate, hothouse, faraway philosophical idea. It's a tough, adaptable, demanding, way of living one's life. IDIC, when confined to a television or movie screen or to the printed page, is a very pretty thing. IDIC in everyday life isn't quite so attractive; it's often aggravating as hell and ugly as sin... [reading Interstat, I] began to realize that what I was witnessing—the blood feuds, the elite alliances, the extravagant praise and vitriolic condemnations—was IDIC in action. Within the pages of Interstat...within ST fandom itself...IDIC works. Oh it creaks and groans and more often than not seems past the point of total disintegration...but it does, somehow, hold together."

Meta/Further Reading


  1. IDIC on Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki
  2. Cheap Thoughts: Variety, the Spice of Life
  3. Inside Star Trek 1, p. 15.
  4. Star trek and sacred ground by Jennifer E. Porter and Darcee L. McLaren.
  5. bradygirl_12, Recs, The Nature Of BDSM, D/s, and Other Things I understand I'm probably in the minority with this opinion but that's fine. I am happy to honor IDIC. :) Posted Jan 3, 2010. Last accessed October 25, 2010.
  6. melannen, In which I cannily pretend to talk about Star Trek, but am actually talking about fanfic instead. Posted May 4, 2007. Last accessed October 25, 2010.
  7. kindkit, TOS reviews I sort of enjoyed the discussion of the IDIC symbol (yay Kirk for coming to Spock's defense) but knowing that it was just a marketing ploy by Gene Roddenberry rather palls my enthusiasm. Posted July 10, 2009. Last accessed October 25, 2010.
  8. He stopped just short of having a special announcement at the end of the show offering IDIC to viewers for three Geritol labels and a dime. In fact, it's clear that he didn't understand the difference between tie-in merchandise (like the Enterprise models, comic books and toys) and premiums displayed in-show. For some background and examples of radio premiums, see Jim Harmon, The Great Radio Heroes (MacFarland, 2001), and the website Old-Time Radio Premiums.
  9. What we think of as "hippie" things were a combination of art and political-philosophical movements ca. 1963-1967. They included the Diggers and the Artists Liberation Front. In 1967, lured by two years of media hype about an ecstatic utopia of free sex, drugs and psychedelic music, thousands of young people flocked to the Haight-Ashbury and other districts. What they didn't understand was that this was a small cultural experiment, still very much under construction. The "Summer of Love" was actually the end of "hippie" on a wide scale. The movement did not die but diffused into a number of channels including commune experiments and the back to the land movement, natural/organic food, quantum mechanics research, New Age/space music, and the development of personal computers/internet. Use of LSD to gain insight and self-understanding, as well as for recreational purposes, began as early as 1960.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Don't Know Much About Vulcan Philosophy" in Star Trek Fact Check, August 23, 2013.
  11. 11.0 11.1 William Shatner and Chris Kreski, Star Trek Memories (Harper, 1993), pp. 287-289.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Ralph Senensky, "Is There In Truth No Beauty?: Filmed July 1968", in [Ralph's Cinema Trek] probably in March 2011.
  13. Senensky confirmed this in an interview with Edward Gross for Starlog 172 in November 1991, quoted in Marc Cushman, These Are The Voyages: TOS -- Season 3 (Jacobs Brown Press, 2015).
  14. Leonard Nimoy, I Am Spock (1995), p.123-124
  15. Gene Roddenberry, interviewed by Marc Cushman in 1982 and 1990 and quoted in These Are The Voyages: TOS -- Season 3.