Torture is the practice of inflicting extreme pain on a captive subject.
While the pain inflicted during torture is often physical in nature, it can also possess an emotional or mental character.
Torture (or the threat of torture) can be intended to:
- Serve as a disincentive to the subject against withholding information from the torturer
- Force the subject into an altered state of mind in which they are more likely to confess misdeeds or swear on lies, as a consequence of the autonomic elevation of neurotransmitter levels
- Intimidate the subject
- Induce someone responsible for the safety of the subject to provide information desired by the torturer
- Punish the subject for disobedience or unsuccessful escape from captivity
- Condition the subject to accept the torturer's authority without question
- Please the torturer, for example, sadism
- Test the reactions or limits of the subject
Torture can be directed not only to the subject tortured, but to persons forced to watch or whom the cruelty of the act is told for any purpose described above, as well as in order to force sacrifice.
As implied above, torture is considered by some to be useful during interrogations. However, Captain Jean-Luc Picard asserted to Gul Madred that "torture has never been a reliable means of extracting information. It is ultimately self-defeating as a means of control. One wonders it is still practiced." (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II")
Acts of torture were in theory banned by the Seldonis IV Convention, however governments who were signatories to the treaty would often attempt to find ways around this restriction. The Cardassians were one such example, who justified their torture of Jean-Luc Picard in 2369 by claiming the treaty only applied to those acting on behalf of a treaty signatory, which Picard would not admit to doing. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II")
Races known to sanction the use of torture include:
- Anarchists of Tilonus IV
Torture is common in the mirror universe.
- "Broken Bow" - Klaang appears to have been tortured when Archer and Tucker rescue him from the Suliban helix
- "The Andorian Incident" - Archer is tortured by Shran
- "Shockwave, Part II" - T'Pol and Malcolm Reed are tortured by Silik
- "Anomaly" - An Osaarian is tortured by Archer
- "Azati Prime" - Archer is tortured by Dolim
- "Cold Station 12" - Doctor Lucas and his assistant are tortured by the Augments
- "Kir'Shara" - Soval is tortured by Shran
- "In a Mirror, Darkly" - Terev is tortured by Major Reed, Archer and Reed are tortured by Captain Forrest, the Tholian prisoner is tortured by Phlox
- Star Trek films:
- TNG: "Ensign Ro" - Ro Laren mentions that she had to watch her father being tortured by the Cardassians
- DS9: "Battle Lines" - Julian Bashir was eager to help the Ennis and Nol-Ennis to end the state of torture and reprogramming the artificial microbes so that they could die.
- DS9: "Duet" - Kira Nerys mentioned the murders and torture which happened at the Gallitep labor camp during the Occupation of Bajor.
- DS9: "The Wire" - Elim Garak explained that living on Deep Space 9 is torture for him.
- DS9: "For the Cause" - Tora Ziyal stated that Dukat informed her that his father was tortured and killed by Garak.