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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Okay content, but terrible choice of reader
The essays in this volume are a mixed bag, but generally worth reading. Of course, an anthology of essays on Star Trek contains some rehashes of popular ideas like 'Gene's vision' or the 'revolutionary impact' of communicators and PADDS. But there are also real gems in this volume, especially those with a sociological focus. For those who have read the similarly-titled books 'Star Trek Psychology', 'Trekonomics' or 'The Physics of Star Trek', I'd say it most closely resembles Star Trek Psychology; not as brilliant as The Physics of Star Trek, but still generally interesting and ocasionally thought-provoking.
The chapters on Native Americans, Uhura, Cardassia and gender roles, in particular, included interesting perspectives that I had not previously considered. While I don't agree with all of those perspectives and more conservative readers may strongly disagree with them, they were well argued and avoided the one-sided glorification or condemnation that so many essays on Star Trek outside of this volume seem to be. For instance, one essay argues that Janeway was not just the first female Captain, but also a sad reminder that women in authority are expected to be celibate. At first, counter-examples like 'Workforce' came to mind - but then I realised that, empirically, she has fewer romantic interests than even Picard and that that is probably a result of trying to make a female leader believable or acceptable to 20th century viewers. Thus, the book really changed my mind on some topics.
However, the reader made it very hard for me to take the book seriously. I was constantly distracted and irritated by her pronunciation.
Firstly, she consistently mispronounces alien names. I would be okay with the occasional mistake, but Star Trek mainstays like 'Bajor' and 'Kahless' are inexcusable. I realise that there may not have been an ardent trekker available to read this book, but at least give the poor lady a pronunciation sheet for recurring names! The most jarring example is Uhura: her name is variously pronounced as Uhura (correct, but rare), Uhara (how did that even happen?) and U-hora (rather offensive). I find it very hard to follow an essay on Uhura read by someone who has clearly never heard of her before and pronounces her name U-hora (that, by the way, is the more 'safe for work' spelling of what the reader says).
More importantly, her pronunciation of the English language is very unclear. The only positive thing I have to say about her voice is that she reads at pleasantly slow and consistent pace. Both, consonants and vowels, are often replaced by other letters. Examples:
- Experiment sounds like expierment
- Mirror sounds like mere
- Atoms sound like Adams
I suppose this may be some genuine Californian accent with an extremely rhotic r and I do not wish to degrade anyone for their background or accent. But, in my opinion, this way of speaking is very distracting in serious non-fiction.
Even ignoring her accent, it is still a rather uninspired reading. When quoting directly from the films, she just doesn't find appropriate voices for the characters the way the reader of Trekonomics does. There is no understanding of those characters or their emotions. When not quoting from the films, she constantly over-emphasises to the point where it becomes monotonous again.
In conclusion, please listen to the excerpt! The excerpt is representative of her reading style. If you can live with that style, the book's text is fairly good, though not exceptional.