Poised on the eve of its 50th anniversary, this dissertation offers an original, synoptic and decidedly transatlantic critique of Star Trek, exposing a hidden British maritime 'world' underneath a veneer of 'Americanness'. Being a popular culture artifact of the New Frontier/Space Race era, Star Trek is often mistakenly seen as a Space Western; a 'Wagon Train to the stars'. However, the western format is not what governs the actual worldbuilding paradigm of Star Trek, which was, after all, also pitched as 'Hornblower in space'. It is the resulting transatlantic double consciousness which not only makes Star Trek for what it 'really' is but which also represents the central novum in this project. Primary production material, such as series bibles and shooting scripts, and additional resources, like interviews with writers and producers, form an original access point for defining and understanding StarÂ Trek which has largely remained untapped.
Star Trek posits a science fictional world, i.e. an 'imaginary framework', which builds on and sustains a continuum of (hi)stories that partakes in the mythos of the American West and the mythos of the British Golden Age of Sail via two acts of intertextually anchored vraisemblance. In the language of television, this is the formula, i.e.
the thematic make-up of StarÂ Trek, which has maintained a coherent continuum of six television series and ten motion pictures in a process of repetition and modulation for more than 40 years. It is the discursive, symbolic and especially the ideological essence of the two respective mythoi which can be condensed into two logoi-the 'frontier' and 'Britannia, rule the waves!'-which then become the governing principles, i.e. themes of Star Trek's framework. They are in place to ensure the continuing plausibility, verisimilitude and consistency of its world with regards to 1) its ever-changing contexts of production and reception, and 2) its internal logic of building a historicized maritime future. As such, they shape the continuum in the form of two recognizable, structuring sets of discourses and sign systems which perform two central, logical yet different functions.
The 'frontier' emerges as a topical/allegorical theme which serves as the main conduit to comment on the 'big ideas', concerns and issues of the day (e.g. race, gender, religion, politics, ethics, etc.) in the changing contexts of Star Trek's long history. 'Britannia, rule the waves!' is StarÂ Trek's operational/functional theme which delineates the mechanics of worldbuilding. This manifests itself along five interrelated maritime dimensions. They range from 1) a naval corpus, and 2) the starship as a re-imagined sailing ship traversing the partially literalized 'ocean of space' which is 3) captained by the transposed sentimental Royal Navy Enlightenment mariner as a 'fighting naturalist in space', to 4) the practice of archaic nautical traditions vis-Ã -vis the presence of naval intertexts and nautical paraphernalia. They are all set against the future backdrop of 5) a benignly imperial interstellar age of discovery and colonization. Though derived from two distinct national mythoi, these two themes are compatible via an Anglocentric telos of western modernity which itself is but a part of the meta-narrative of western civilization.
Consequently, this dissertation takes the shape of a (con)textual manual for StarÂ Trek's transatlantic double consciousness. By theorizing from the site of practice, the manual is a product of appropriating Star Trek's own codes and relating them back to their multiple constituent (con)texts. The goal is to reassess Star Trek as an artifact of American popular culture which looks not only towards an imagined American West, but also back across the Atlantic for a British maritime legacy to tell is continuum of (hi)stories. In short, Star Trek simply is 'WagonÂ Train to the stars' and 'Hornblower in space'.