Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Star Trek Ur-texts

I am beginning a review of what I am calling Star Trek Ur-texts. An Ur-text, for those non-English majors out there, is a text that is a source that had an explicit and major influence over a later work, a direct antecedent, a kind of literary father. You mostly hear about them with Renaissance plays, especially Shakespeare. The Hamlet and Macbeth stories existed in earlier versions, which Shakespeare took, refashioned for the stage and stuffed with the lines that high schoolers now have to memorize.

The classic 79 Star Trek episodes are the most literary inspired of all the Trek series. Naturally, because the writers were creating something never before seen on TV of film. So they had to reach into fiction to find character and story-telling models. The later series just copied each other instead of fresh material, and the genetic drift resulted in some retarded children. (Interestingly, the most unique later Trek, DS9, was heavily modeled on classic Hollywood movies--and not just westerns--that were favored by the various producers).  

In this analysis, I will try to base my label of Ur-text on accounts that the series writers actually viewed them as important sources. The writers were steeped in Sci-fi from the 30s, 40s and 50s, but not every Amazing Stories piece has imprinted its DNA into Star Trek. But some of them may have, and I will eventually try to find them.

The one text that we know is a definitive Star Trek Ur-text is the Horatio Hornblower novels. I will begin with these.


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