Less concerned with who’s first up against the wall than with how to decorate it

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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. Flex
    September 13, 2013 @ 6:31 am

    I think this is one of your best posts yet. Great job all around with exploring how this episode meets and fails to meet what your whole blog is all about. Really nothing to disagree or quibble with, both in the episode's pluses or minuses.


  2. K. Jones
    September 13, 2013 @ 7:32 am

    Muldaur is a can't lose commodity.

    I actually thought Kirk missing his infatuation cues was a smart move on Shatner's part; in no way is Mulhall unlikable, she's very attractive and is certainly meant to be the "woman-of-the-week" … but Muldaur wasn't about to play her as anything less than an equal to the boys, and it works in the episodes favor that Mulhall then comes off as, well, just not being Kirk's type.

    If his type is the kind of women we usually see, he might not know what to do with a woman his equal, who basically won't put up with his 60s era bullshit.


  3. Josh Marsfelder
    September 13, 2013 @ 7:52 am

    Oh I agree: I never meant to insinuate I was criticizing William Shatner for his performance here. I think he absolutely made the right call.

    "Deliberately missing" is not a knock when the stuff you are deliberately missing would have made the production demonstrably worse and you know it.


  4. Jack Graham
    September 13, 2013 @ 9:27 am

    Great post. I especially like ths stuff about hegemony.

    Couple of queries. I have little knowledge of anthropology (beyond the stuff trainee Marxists all have to read by/about Engels, etc) but my background in cultural studies makes me want to quibble with you slightly over your employment of the word 'Modernist'. I associate this term with the great shift/trend of late 19th/early 20th century Western art and culture, 'Modernism'. You seem to be using 'Modernism' to refer to Western culture generally, or perhaps to what I might want to call 'Modernity' (though you seem to be referring, at least part of the time, to what I would think of as pre-Modern Europe). I may have misconstrued you, or perhaps this is a terminology issue between disciplines. Another possible nitpick (again, I could well be wrong about this): didn't at least some of the Europeans (even pre-Moderns) think Jerusalem was the centre of the world? That might actually tie in better with your ruminations upon the essential Christian-inflection of the hegemonic European idea of 'exploration'.

    As ever, fascinating stuff.


  5. Josh Marsfelder
    September 13, 2013 @ 10:41 am

    I think it largely is a semantic difference between disciplines. "Modernism" the way I define it is not quite interchangeable with "Westernism", but it is one of the things that sets it apart from other perspectives.

    The way I'm using "Modernism" is in fact largely equivalent to the sociological concept of "Modernity", that Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution concept of the focus on secularization, rationalization and capitalism (i.e. to be Modern or a part of Modernity is Modernist or Modernistic). I acknowledge the fact it's a problem it shares its name with an art movement, but it's another one of those cases where the term is troubling but there doesn't seem to be a better alternative as of yet.

    (Of course, radical anthropologists and SSK scholars are keenly aware of how just about every term is problematic. I used to joke with my colleagues in the field about how difficult this makes talking about anything.)

    Another term I use on occasion, but probably should more often, is "technoscience", which is a word from STS and early SSK designed to make explicit how intrinsically linked Western Science is with the idea of technology and technological progress. In my view, both technoscience and Modernism/Modernity are defining traits of Westernism (but not the only ones, as your comment about Jerusalem demonstrates).


  6. Jack Graham
    September 13, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

    Thanks, that's very clarifying. 🙂


  7. BerserkRL
    December 14, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

    colonial Western Europe couldn't figure out what shape the Earth was such that they thought you could sail off the edge of it

    Sorry, but no; this is a complete myth. The spherical shape of the Earth was widely known and pretty much uncontroversial in western Europe during the late medieval and early modern period. Columbus never had to convince Ferdinand and Isabella that the Earth was round. (He had to convince them that the Earth was small enough that getting to Asia by sailing west was practical. And he got that wrong.)


  8. BerserkRL
    December 14, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

    Agree on Muldaur; I was delighted when Pulaski replaced Crusher on TNG, and disappointed when she left.

    No comments on the names Sargon, Henoch, and Thalassa?


  9. Josh Marsfelder
    December 15, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

    I knew the story IRT Columbus was false; I was responding to the larger Western Nautical theme of "The Edge of the World", beyond which monsters dwelt.

    I confess I'm not enough of an expert on this time and place to say for sure how much historical merit it holds, I just know it's a popular motif.

    But I don't mind admitting I'm wrong: If it's a myth it's a myth.


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