- Jul 14, 2005
I'm currently reading a book... I'll give you the title and subject later... and I'm currently casually watching some of the original Star Trek series. The thought that this book (with which I am only half way through) might be the single most important inspiration for Star Trek led me to start this thread.
Now a quick google search for Gene Roddenberry's inspirations shows the usual suspects...
Roddenberry served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in WWII.
Roddenberry was a commercial pilot.
Robert A. Heinlein's juvenile series... especially Space Cadet.
I'm sure I've missed many obvious sources of inspiration... and many not so obvious sources.
The book I'm reading details a mission of exploration. The mission was to be multi-year in nature. The mission was to journey until they could not go any further... and then return. The purpose was twofold: 1) to discover trade routes and indigenous peoples with whom to trade, and 2) to document every people, every plant, every animal, every insect, every waterway, every location, every temperature, every sunrise, every sunset, every rock, every change in soil... i.e. it was a scientific journey of discovery. The purpose sounds a lot like the opening narration to Star Trek, the very mission statement for the Enterprise.
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!
The book I am reading is Undaunted Courage: Merriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose. Jefferson gave Lewis the best scientific education possible so Lewis could lead the expedition. Lewis was a tough guy, but he insisted on William Clark as co-captain since Clark was rough, stubborn, Virginia born, and army tough... and they'd have leadership backup in case one of them died. They took 30 men, armed to the teeth, on their exploration through Sioux, Arikawa, and Mandan territories. (They have not yet crossed the Rockies on their westward journey.) I'm sure they'll run into more natives along the way. Jefferson was negotiating terms to buy the land from Napoleon, but Lewis and Clark also had to deal with a French Governor, Spanish spies, British traders, and scouts from all three nations plus the natives. They have traded, bartered, bargained, bluffed, marched, rowed, sailed, walked, ridden, and camped their way from Washington, DC to the (current day) Rocky Mountains of Montana.
I'd love to say the names connected....
Scotty = Corporal Scott
Spock = Lieutenant Spock
Uhura = Uhurajewea, Shoshone woman
Chekov = Private Tchekoff
Starfleet Academy = Americanfleet Academy
Klingons = Klingakawa Tribe
Romulans = Siouxomulan Tribe
... but the only one that even comes close is ... Captain Kirk = Captain Clark.
I have no idea if Roddenberry ever listed Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery as a source of inspiration. But for me, the parallels are easy to see.
The set up for each story begins with the Captain's log/journal.
Negotiating with peaceful natives.
Negotiating with hostile natives.
Dealing with dissent from the crew.
One of the members gets suddenly sick and the doctor has to figure it out on the fly.
Transportation breaks down and they've got to find a way to get going before the solar flare/winter storms set in.