Science Fiction Film & Television

‘And yet, everything we do is usually based on the English’: sailing the mare incognitum of Star Trek’s transatlantic double consciousness with Horatio Hornblower

Science Fiction Film & Television (1970), 9, (3), 439–472.

Abstract

While pitched and sold to television executives as being a space western – which of course it was not – the world of Star Trek was intentionally and systematically modelled on the British golden age of sail as found in Napoleonic sea fiction. This article offers a synoptic and decidedly transatlantic critique of Star Trek, exposing a hidden British maritime world embedded beneath a veneer of ‘Americanness’. In doing so, it re-addresses and offers a corrective to the question of why Star-Trek-as-space-western has guided most Star Trek scholarship. It will show why it makes sense to re-historicise Star Trek not only as a product of the 1960s, but also as a distillate of impulses that originated in the late 1940s and 1950s. Remapping the origins of Star Trek along these lines reveals how and why it was only logical that the world-building of Star Trek was intentionally and continuously modelled on the eighteenth century British naval world. This maritime endowment is embedded in five maritime dimensions that shape the ontology of Star Trek’s future world in space. They encompass operational discourses, nomenclature, visual and conceptual aesthetics, and character archetypes as well as rituals, traditions and an entire maritime milieu.

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Halliwell, Martin. American Culture in the 1950s. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007. American Culture in the 1950s Google Scholar

Hark, Ina Rae. Star Trek. London: BFI, 2008. Star Trek Google Scholar

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Roddenberry, Gene. ‘STAR TREK is…’. Unpublished manuscript, 1964. STAR TREK is… Google Scholar

Roddenberry, Gene. ‘THE STAR TREK GUIDE. Third Revision’. Unpublished manuscript, 1967. THE STAR TREK GUIDE. Third Revision Google Scholar

Roddenberry, Gene. ‘WRITER/DIRECTOR’S GUIDE STAR TREK: The Next Generation’. Unpublished manuscript, 1987. WRITER/DIRECTOR’S GUIDE STAR TREK: The Next Generation Google Scholar

Sternbach, Rick, and Michael Okuda. ‘STAR TREK VOYAGER TECHNICAL GUIDE V1.0’. Unpublished manuscript, 1994. STAR TREK VOYAGER TECHNICAL GUIDE V1.0 Google Scholar

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Westfahl, Gary. ‘A Civilized Frontier’. Science Fiction Studies 87 (2002): 272–6. A Civilized Frontier Science Fiction Studies 87 272 6 Google Scholar

Whitfield, Stephen, and Gene Roddenberry. The Making of Star Trek. London: Titan, 1991. The Making of Star Trek Google Scholar

Wise, Robert, and Jerry Goldsmith. ‘A Bold New Enterprise’. Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Director’s Edition. 1979. DVD. Paramount, 2006. A Bold New Enterprise Star Trek: The Motion Picture Google Scholar

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Rabitsch, Stefan