Space-age Hornblowers, or why Kirk and co. are not space cowboys: The Enlightenment mariners and transatlanticism of Star Trek

  • Stefan Rabitsch

Abstract

Many mistakenly perceive Star Trek to be, simply, a “Wagon Train to the stars,” a space western/opera that projects the U.S. American frontier into outer space. However, by introducing his starship captain in archetypal terms as a ‘space-age Captain Horation [sic] Hornblower,’ and by making him a descendant of ‘similar [naval] men in the past,’ Star Trek (1966-1969) creator Gene Roddenberry makes it clear that his starship captain is not based on the quintessential cowboy hero found in the U.S. American national imagination (Roddenberry, 1964: 5). In this article, I seek to (re)map the character contours of the principle Star Trek captains and compare them with C. S. Forester’s ‘man alone,’ Horatio Hornblower, as well as with Hornblower’s romanticised predecessors. I will demonstrate how ‘Starfleet’s finest’ fit the role of the sentimental naval officer/hero of the Romantic period. Ultimately, it will become clear that Roddenberry used Horatio Hornblower as an archetypal blueprint to craft the Star Trek captains as interstellar masters and commanders, as well as spaceborne naturalists and scientists, extending the historio-mythical continuum of British maritime heroes into Star Trek’s fictional, yet “historical” future. The “Hornblowers in space” represent the central node in the decidedly transatlantic double consciousness of the Star Trek continuum - a maritime endowment which has largely escaped scholarly attention.

Published
August 31, 2012
How to Cite
Rabitsch, S. (2012). Space-age Hornblowers, or why Kirk and co. are not space cowboys: The Enlightenment mariners and transatlanticism of Star Trek. Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.31165/nk.2012.52.268