For example the colony service of Colony Education is a Federation service that forces the colony to grow into a good citizen member of the Federation, instead of becoming some raving nut-job cult colony.
Frontier doctors try to keep the colonists healthy, heal their illnesses, and fix their injuries. But they will frantically shift into high gear if they hear the "P" word. Planetary pandemics are not just a threat to the colonists, a plague could also spread to other planets.
Medical people have to be hard as tool-steel. Case in point is their skill in "triage". This is a very ugly word. Say there is a disaster in a remote area with a large number of casualties and a limited supply of ambulances (technical term is mass-casualty incident). There is not enough ambulances to carry all the casualties. So the emergency medical team has to do triage. They have to classify all the wounded into one of three categories:
- Those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference in outcome.
- Those who are unlikely to live, regardless of what care they receive;
- Those who are likely to live, regardless of what care they receive;
Only the first category gets treatment and priority transport in ambulances.
In other words, the triage classifiers do their best to be objective, but they decide who lives and who dies. It can be tricky trying to determine whether a given casualty belongs in the first or the second category. I would never do such a job, but I'm not as hard as tool-steel.
In Alan E. Nourse's novel Star Surgeon (1960), Terra is invited to join the Galactic Confederation of Worlds. By some quirk of fate, it turns out all the other member races had more advanced technology than Terra, but they sadly lagged behind in the life sciences. Specifically in the field of medicine. Terra became Hospital Earth, providing the galaxy with advanced medical care.
In James White's Sector General series the galactic orbital hospital is established by the federated races. The multi-level facility has a full spectrum of atmospheres and environments, ranging from aquatic to oxygen to chlorine, to vacuum with hard radiation. The best doctors of all the races provide non-partisan health care to all member races and any new races just encountered.
In Murray Leinster's Med Service series, the doctors are responsible for periodically visiting all colony planets. They pass on to local doctors the latest medical advances, conduct planetary health surveys, and deal with plagues and other medical emergencies.
The medical service has to go into emergency mode once somebody mentions the "P" word. Plague ships and plague planets will have to be quarantined. Don't shake your head, this is serious. Imagine how hysterical our society would become if, for instance, a mutant form of the HIV virus appeared that could be spread by sneezing. Or 24-hour lethal Ebola. And you thought a Zombie Apocalypse was bad (I wrote the preceeding in those innocent days before the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic).
But the medical service will go to ultraviolet alert if something like Andromeda Strain or Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters crops up. Then we will see the unassuming medical service calling nuclear strikes on the Hot Zone. These things could devour civilization's infrastructure instead of just causing a few megadeaths, the med service is not going to fool around.
SF authors who want to write on the topic should acquaint themselves with Poe's The Masque of the Red Death".
As long as there have existed naval vessels and bubonic plague, there has been a fear that arriving ships might bring a cargo of the Black Death.
When the plague ravaged 14th century Europe, the city state of Venice decreed that arriving ships had to anchor away from the city for 40 days before they could unload passengers or cargo. 40 days was considered long enough so that infected people aboard would either have blatantly obvious symptoms or be dead. The Italian term quaranti giorni means '40 days'. The term evolved into the word "Quarantine".
In this case, there may be two medical organizations with authority to impose quarantines. The Federal service can impose a planetary quarantine preventing people from leaving the planet. The Planetary service can prevent people arriving in space ships from entering the planet. The Federal service will establish a military blockade around the planet and shoot down any spacecraft trying to leave, so the plague does not spread to other worlds. The Planetary service will detect and apprehend pandemic-infected passengers and crew from spacecraft landing at the spaceport, and wisk them off to medical quarantine facilities so they can't infect the colony. The only available access will be through decontamination airlocks.
This is why there is a medical service under Federation control, in addition to one under Colony control. A quarantine that is required to protect the other planets in the federation will quite likely wreck the colony's economy by cutting off interstellar trade.
A med service under colony control would be under enormous pressure to cover up the plague in order to spare the economy. Obviously this is a short-term solution that ignores the fact it makes the resulting end-game much worse; what with the mega-deaths, plague raging on multiple planets, and the original planet's economy collapsing anyway. But the corporate powers-that-be have a standard operating procedure of maximizing quarterly profits at all costs, even if it results in the collapse of the corporation. Gotta maximize shareholder value, don't cha know?
A med service under federal control will be much more motivated to prevent the plague from spreading to other planets. They will impose a quarantine in a heartbeat, and the colony's economy will just have to suffer.
Within our solar system currently there does not seem to be any extraterrestrial life, and thus no extraterrestrial plagues. The operative word is seem. Under the Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law NASA quarantined the astronauts from Apollo 11 through 14 for twenty-one days, just in case they brought back the Andromeda Strain or something. NASA stopped bothering after Apollo 14 since no space germ was ever found.
- Terrestrial disease germs might become mutated into virulent new strains by the high-radiation space environment
- There is a chance that life can be found in such places as the oceans of Europa and other icy moons
- If your science fiction universe has faster-than-light starships capable of traveling to life-bearing extrasolar planets, all bets are off.
You will also need a quarantine if the space station contains a laboratory working on dangerous technology. Things like civilization-destroying biowarfare plagues or planet-eating nanotechnology.
In our context, a "marshal" or a "sheriff" is the main law enforcement official at a colony, boomtown or large space industrial operation (mine, etc). Just like the town sheriff in a wild west cowboy movie. Only set in deep space instead of the north american frontier.
Yes, predictably TV Tropes has an entire section devoted to it.
Example: Marshal William T. O'Niel who runs the police force in the mining colony on the moon Io, in the movie Outland. In the Captain Future stories grizzled old Ezra Gurney is a Planet Police frontier marshal.
In some science fiction futures, the interstellar government might have a presence on newly founded interstellar colonies. The Colony Educational Service team tries to keep the colonists inside consensus reality instead of straying into delusional truthiness. The goal is to insure they do not turn into a culture of fanatics controlled by evil demagogues. Or worse: fanatics keen to embark on a crusade to cleanse the galaxy of unbelievers or something awful like that.
Such a service could be hastily formed immediately after the first such an incident.
The Education team faces an uphill battle, since they are outsiders and colonies ripe for fanaticism generally have xenophobic commoners. Further: the Education team is trying to keep the commoners in the mainstream, which is in direct conflict with the aims of the evil demagogues.
Science fiction writers can turn this theme on its head, with Terra being the nasty totalitarian regime with a 1984-style Colony Political Educational Service and Political Re-education Camps. In that case the Educational Service are thought police brutally suppressing dissent and dissappearing agitators. Meanwhile the colony is full of underground democratic revolutionaries hungering for freedom. But any devious writer spotted this nifty plot idea already.
If there is no Colony Education team in the colony, it may be wise to have undercover agents or orbital colony monitors around the planet. Ones who can sound the alarm and summon the military if the colony is in any danger of assembling a battlefleet to purge the galaxy of unbelievers. In the novels The Torch of Honor and Rogue Powers a group of militant nut-jobs hijack a colony ship and vanish into deep space to found a militant nut-job colony in an unknown location. The government foolishly figures they all perished. Decades later the government finds itself fighting for its life as the nut-job jack-booted thugs unexpectedly arrive in their battlefleets and try to conquer all the other colonies and Terra.