Star Trek and Epic Heroes.
“Sokath, his eyes uncovered!” When Captain Jean-Luc Picard finally cracked the Tamarian language, he countered “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” with an ancient myth of his own: the Epic of Gilgamesh. One of the earliest known works of literature, this deeply strange but profoundly beautiful Mesopotamian poem, predating the Old Testament by more than a thousand years, offers an unlikely bridge between two very different spacefaring cultures.
In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Clara Cook to discuss Star Trek’s engagement with epic narratives, focusing on the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old English poem Beowulf, as played out in TNG’s “Darmok” and Voyager’s “Heroes and Demons.” Do Starfleet’s brave and brilliant officers share a common heritage with the epic heroes of yore? And to what extent can a twenty-fourth-century reader understand a poem written in a culture so alien from their own?
Epic of Gilgamesh and “Darmok” (00:03:31)
Beowulf and “Heroes and Demons” (00:31:46)
Heroic Qualities and Epic Tropes (00:43:16)
Monsters and Realism (01:07:02)
High and Low Culture (01:24:34)
Final Thoughts (01:36:59)
Justin Oser (Editor) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)
Hitler’s British Isles and the Dominion takeover of Deep Space 9. We consider the parallels between the opening arc of DS9’s sixth season and the occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II.
Starfleet and the US Space Agency. We look at the developing relationship between real-world exploration and the famous science fiction franchise.
Shrinking Sci-Fi and DS9’s “One Little Ship.” We look at some examples of shrinking in Star Trek, comparing the franchise’s tiny people to those in science fiction cinema, such as The Incredible Shrinking Man and Fantastic Voyage.
Federation Politics in Star Trek. We’re joined by Keith DeCandido, author of Articles of the Federation, for a look at Star Trek’s political structures, the Federation Council, and its three on-screen presidents.
Star Trek and Fan Fiction. We consider Star Trek's role in the cultural phenomenon of fanfic, charting its development from the 'slash' stories of the 1970s through to the vast online archives of the twenty-first century.
Anne Frank and Counterpoint. We look at the influence of The Diary of Anne Frank on Star Trek’s screenwriters, considering how science fiction handles fascist and authoritarian regimes and the role played by ordinary people in resisting oppression.
Michael Piller, Joseph Conrad, and Star Trek: Insurrection. We look at some of the inspirations behind the script of the third TNG film, including Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness and discuss Piller’s book Fade In.
The British Isles in Star Trek. We discuss the portrayal of our homelands over a few synthales at the Grosvenor Hotel in London, and examine real-world independence movements and the effects of transporters on national identity.
Cinematic Influences on Star Trek: First Contact. We discuss the influence of Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, and James Cameron on Jonathan Frakes and how their films inspired his big-screen directorial debut.
Gay Representation in Star Trek. We look at the franchise's fraught engagement with LGBT issues, from The Next Generation to Discovery.