A guide to the history that informs the world of Star Trek - just in time for the next JJ Abrams Star Trek movie!
For a series set in our future, Star Trek revisits the past constantly. Kirk and Spock battle Nazis, Roman gladiators, and witness the Great Depression. When they're not doubling back on their own earlier timelines, the crew uses the holodeck to spend time in the American Old West or Victorian England. Alien races have their own complex and fascinating histories, too.
The Star Trek universe is a sci-fi imagining of a future world that is rooted in our own human history. Gene Roddenberry created a television show with a new world and new rules in order to comment on social and political issues of the 1960s, from the Vietnam War and race relations to the war on terror and women's rights. Later Star Trek series and films also grapple with the issues of their own decades: HIV, ecological threats, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and terrorism.
How did Uhura spur real-life gender and racial change in the 1960s? Is Kirk inextricably linked with the mythical Old West? What history do the Klingons share with the Soviet Union? Can Nazi Germany shed light on the history and culture of the Cardassians? Star Trek and History explains how the holodeck is as much a source for entertainment as it is a historical teaching tool, how much of the technology we enjoy today had its conceptual roots in Star Trek, and how by looking at Norse mythology we can find our very own Q.
Features an exclusive interview with Nichelle Nichols, the actress behind the original Lt. Uhura, conducted at the National Air and Space Museum
Explains the historical inspiration behind many of the show's alien races and storylines
Covers topics ranging from how stellar cartography dates back to Ancient Rome, Greece, and Babylonia to how our "Great Books" of Western literature continue to be an important influence to Star Trek's characters of the future
Includes a timeline comparing the stardates of Star Trek's timeline to our own real world history
Filled with fascinating historical comparisons, Star Trek and History is an essential companion for every Star Trek fan.
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Must suspend disbelief - about awful narration
Without hesitation. Especially to a Star Trek hater, or worse, a Star-Wars-is-better-than-Trek malcontent. This book provides rich ammunition to explain why Star Trek is so much more than a mere Sci-Fi entertainment franchise: it's an institution deeply woven into the fabric of American culture, ethics and technological progress that has literally changed history, and continues to do so.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. See below for explanation.
Star Trek fans are singularly capable of suspending disbelief (hello warp speed, time travel, and at times even terrible acting and props that came straight out of a middle school woodworking class). But I would sooner see Capt. Picard pray at the altar of Luke Skywalker, or Lt. Uhura join the Maquis and murder a million innocent bystanders, than have to hear Ms. McKean's bright chipper voice refer one more time to Star "Track," Lt. "Uhawrah," the "Markee," or innocent "bystandards." Her verbal atrocities are all the more glaring because they are not limited to Trek-specific terms and they stand in such stark contrast to her otherwise dilithium crystal-clear diction. I'm not exaggerating, and I'm not prone to oversensitivity. I tried to treat it like a game at first (in fact, paired with Romulan ale or even prune juice it would make an epic--albeit lethal--drinking game), but by Chapter 8 I couldn't take it anymore. This is what it must sound like to hear George Bush (either one) recite French poetry. At least they don't even try, let alone get paid to do it. Please, please -- I'm no professional, but I would volunteer my time as a community service to record this program again if Audible would agree to send a free copy to every poor soul who had to listen to this version. My qualifications are that I have a pulse, have watched more than 20 minutes of a single Star Trek episode or movie in my life, and can read and pronounce correctly nearly every word on my 8th grade spelling test.
No joke, I choked up a little when I learned that Martin Luther King Jr. personally implored Nichelle Nichols not to depart the cast after the first season because of the profound impact her presence had on the civil rights movement, both in terms of America's perception of and exposure to black people, and as a role model. He said it was significant not merely because she was a black actress on primetime network television, but because her character, while supporting, was not relegated to some traditionally subservient "black" role -- she was the chief communications officer and fourth in command on the bridge. I mean, seriously, Star Trek has genuinely affected the course of history in the 20th and 21st centuries in myriad ways; this is just a particularly shining example.
Not all of the essays in this book contain sweeping revelations about the societal significance of Star Trek, nor are they intended to. There is a surprisingly diverse mix of subject matter viewed through the lenses of different academic disciplines, not all of which will appeal to everyone. I admit I was tempted to skip several chapters. But overall I was surprised at the breadth and quality of the analysis. It shed new light on episodes and themes with which I was already very familiar, which alone is worth the price of admission for Trekkies. But I think the writing and context provided would be very approachable and at least as interesting to someone with only passing familiarity with the Trek universe. Overall, highly recommended except for the catastrophically failed narration. And even that should not be a deal-breaker because at least it is eminently comprehensible, as long as you suspend disbelief.
Brace yourself for massive mispronunciations.
- Barry T. Smith