• The name: James Kirk sounds like James Cook (it's surprisingly difficult to check Cook's first name is 'James'; he almost always is brusquely called just 'Cook'. Only in an obituary notice in my book is he addressed as 'Captain James Cook'; one imagines he spent his whole life stiffly being called 'Mr Cook'.)
• He was always called 'Captain' (in fact his title was 'Lieutenant Commander')
• Cook in the Endeavour, with a lieutenant, gunner, carpenter, surgeon, and others, voyaged for four or five years, not at all unlike the Enterprise '..a five year mission to explore..'
• The Star Trek vocabulary is oddly past-regarding and nautical in many ways: 'Ship to ship', 'your vessel', Captain Kirk's 'yeoman', 'Admiral', 'hailing frequencies open', 'engines', 'shore-leave', 'tractor beam', the 'ship's bridge'. I seem to remember they even had a ceremony of piping people 'aboard'. The only reason I can think of for using ships as models is that they were the only really big transport machines when science fiction was developing.
• One of the ridiculous features of 'Star Trek' is the way in which hyper-developed technology is supposed not to apply to weapons - there was a similar absurdity in Star Wars, and of course it's probably necessary to the plot, which otherwise would come to a sudden stop. However, it is applicable to the sort of situation Cook was in. (Similarly, H G Wells's War of the Worlds could be considered a possible parable of the impact of modern weaponry on undeveloped countries).
• I found a 'James Scott' listed as one of the ships officers. There are 'Sulu Islands' somewhere in the area.
• The (supposed) missions sound similar. That is, Cook observed the odd eclipse of the sun and transit of Venus, and collected botanical information; but probably the main motives for his voyages were empire-building. (Incidentally, according to Jillian Robertson, despite the many references of Australians to Cook, Cook had no love for nor any special interest in Australia). Similarly, although the Enterprise is supposed to 'explore strange new worlds', in fact virtually no exploration is done - I suppose Trekkies are too dim-witted to notice this.
• There are parallels for pinching ideas for science fiction; Arthur C Clarke based his main series of stories on Gibbon's Decline and Fall..
• It seems possible that the sort of adventures recorded by Cook - icebergs, waterspouts, poisonous fish, scurvy, trading with natives in canoes, real or supposed cannibalism and human sacrifice, ships losing contact, kings of 'great majesty', shootings of the occasional 'native', language differences, volcanic eruptions, dexterity with spears, strange medical practices, everlasting snow, occasional sexual topics - were used to provide the basis for single episodes.
• There's an amusing filmic parallel with Hollywood films involving ships, namely that the really expensive bit is filming people getting on or off the boats. See for example the not very convincing computer graphics in the film Titanic. Similarly, Star Trek cuts down the expense here with its low-budget transporter.
NEWS!! Aficionados of the absurd will be pleased to see that the British Science Museum is to have an exhibition, apparently 'created by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in association with Paramount Pictures.' '.. a range of Star TrekTM related mechandise will be on sale ..'
Their handout (©Paramount Pictures) repeats the ridiculous lie that 'science and technology in STAR TREK were based on sound scientific principles.' May their exhibition fail!
If you have the misfortune to be a 'Trekkie', feel free to email a comment by clicking here
HTML Rae West First uploaded 1998-04-08 Revd 1998-07-27 Science Museum 2000-10-18