No nationalism but Terry Nationalism

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Jack Graham
    November 20, 2013 @ 5:29 am

    Have you seen the Red Dwarf episode 'Meltdown'?


  2. Flex
    November 20, 2013 @ 8:07 am

    Not to be too essentialist, but I think there are basically two types of people in this world: those who scorn Flying Space Abraham Lincoln, and those who embrace him. 😛

    This doesn't necessarily save the story, but there was a line in this episode I like quite a bit – and it's the one that sticks with me most whenever I re-watch this episode – when Flying Space Abraham Lincoln and Kirk are talking and Lincoln makes the point that he's obviously not REALLY Lincoln, but Lincoln as Kirk imagines him. It's a nice little moment that comments on (to paraphrase the famous – and famously apocryphal – saying) how we remember things not as they were, but as we are.

    I can't fault any of your analysis of the story or Roddenberry, naturally. Although your point about how silly it is and how hard it is to take seriously is probably why the usual problems Roddenberry brings to the table just don't seem as big a deal here. It's all just so silly. Deliciously or gratingly silly, depending on one's point of view.

    In conclusion: Flying Space Abraham Lincoln, Fuck Yeah!


  3. K. Jones
    November 20, 2013 @ 8:08 am

    I don't want to sound too sentimental, but in the scheme of things, with only three episodes to go, it was important to me that Roddenberry got another chance in the end to put out another terrible episode. And in his defense; I think this is the best terrible episode he wrote. It suffers from every conceivable problem he was noted for, but it does at least quite successfully attempt to build some historical context for Star Trek – every single character here, save the Tiburon lady, gets to be an important and oft-recalled historical figure – Surak, and Kahless of course to massive degree.

    I liked the Excalbians. Lava-men with matter-mastery is a great concept. And while I see the childish conception of good and evil as a fault of Roddenberry (and something endemic in men, and endemic in let's say, young men who sign up for law enforcement), it does kind of work in the context of the Excalbians, who having no conception of good and evil, would sort of have to have a child-like conception of it as they learned more about it.


  4. Flex
    November 20, 2013 @ 8:11 am

    Oh, also, re: the commentary on pacifism. My general rule of thumb is to take seriously critiques that come from a revolutionary perspective (or from the bottom-up or what have you), even if I disagree with them.

    In this case, I find the critique suspicious since it comes from a person in a place of fairly substantive privilege who has a vested interest in the current Ordering of Things. Anti-pacifism in this case seems more like hippie punching and an implicit extolling of the virtues of killing for your country. There are damned dirty commies – I mean Klingons – to be fought, after all.


  5. Jack Graham
    November 20, 2013 @ 8:47 am

    Like 'The Dominators' in Doctor Who. There is plenty to be said about the problems of pure pacifism, but I don't want to hear a childishly simple caricature of pacifism attacked from a smug, reactionary platform during a nasty imperialist war.


  6. Josh Marsfelder
    November 20, 2013 @ 11:41 am

    This was not a fun post for me to write, and it probably shows.

    I suppose it is somewhat sentimental that in the waning days of Star Trek we get one last Great Roddenberry Turkey, but this episode just pissed me off in a way the show hadn't managed to do in awhile (on top of last week just not being great for me in general), so I think my frustration comes through in what I wrote. And I mean there were one or two interesting things about this one, and I hope I was able to make that at least somewhat clear.

    IRT to the pacifism argument: Yeah, you're all right. As bad as Surak is handled here it would have been far worse for Roddenberry to actually attempt something more nuanced: It would have been a disaster. But I'm too much of a perfectionist to not go into some hypothesizing about what a "good" version of this plot could have looked like. I've tended to slip into that kind of analysis in the past for better or for worse, and a good chunk of Monday's post is pretty much that-It's just the way I approach this show.


  7. K. Jones
    November 20, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

    I'm dying in anticipation of "Turnabout Intruder".

    So much wrong to end things on … but so much right in Shatner queering things up more than ever before. My curiosity piqued as to whether you'll have some flipped, reversed, subversive reading of it. But then, there's "All Our Yesterdays" to get through, first.


  8. Jacob Nanfito
    November 21, 2013 @ 7:48 am

    I'm absolutely impressed that you've almost made it to the end of TOS. What a project! I can't wait to hear your thoughts on TAS, the films, and TNG.

    While I don't disagree with your analysis here, for the record, I love Flying Space Abraham Lincoln. It's so wonderfully absurd.


  9. BerserkRL
    December 21, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

    like it was Wan Hu's mythical Rocket Chair

    Or this guy, who debuted two years later.


  10. BerserkRL
    December 21, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

    In real life, Colonel Greene was actually a fairly good guy.


  11. BerserkRL
    December 21, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

    the participants are quite literally Objectively Good and Objectively Evil

    As opposed to what other kind of good and evil?

    I'd understand if you said they were simplistically good and evil, or something like that. But objectively?


  12. BerserkRL
    December 21, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

    I'm reminded of the scene in Scott McCloud's New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln in which the real Lincoln debates (an alien simulacrum representing) Lincoln as popularly imagined.


  13. Josh Marsfelder
    December 22, 2013 @ 11:47 am

    Not to get too relativist, but I'm really not a fan of any kind of objectivity. I think using that word as capriciously as it''s frequently used tends to push one dangerously close to pulling Donna Haraway's God Trick.


  14. John Voorhees
    June 11, 2014 @ 5:55 am

    I, for one, sorely wish that Into Darkness had been a reboot of Flying Space Abraham Lincoln.


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