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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. mwhybark
    March 7, 2014 @ 8:23 am

    Couple tangents:

    The tone of celestial wonder that is present within TNG also has a specific prior TV source: Sagan and Druyan's original Cosmos.

    Scroll down to the art department credits, and note the name Rick Sternbach.

    I seem to recall reading (although i was unable to put cursor to link) that he was responsible for the interior design of the main set of Sagan's "ship of the mind," which used organic forms intended to refer to the dandelion used to introduce the concept on-screen. In my opinion, the bridge of NCC-1701D can be seen as a direct iteration of Carl's bridge, down to the organic forms in the sensor dome lattice.

    The other tangent that may be of interest is the minor subtheme in TNG proper and in fan and pro-lit of mapmaking, which eventually surfaces explicitly in-show as Stellar Cartography and which spawned a series of fan-maps that eventually grew into a series of semi-canon commercially published reference books, referred to and or contributed to by people working on the show. I don't know if you are familiar with them or not but as one of the ways the show self-generates its own mythology.


  2. mwhybark
    March 7, 2014 @ 8:25 am

    … but they are one of the ways …


  3. Josh Marsfelder
    March 7, 2014 @ 11:22 am

    Cosmos will absolutely get its due when the time comes. And I am certainly familiar with Rick Sternbach's work-Intimately so, in fact. He will be a very significant figure and theme to this blog going forward. 🙂

    The reference and technical manuals too, actually: Sternbach was a major figure in that scene, of course. Actually, come to think of it, I just finished writing the post that lays the groundwork for that…


  4. Daru
    March 12, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

    "to return to the timeless world of the mountains, the sea, the forest and the stars is to return to sanity and truth.”

    Absolutely wonderful essay Josh, thanks you! When I watched TNG when it fist was airing here in the UK I recall I had something of a similar experience to you. I was getting into stargazing and with the show in mind I would also go out into the hills where I lived and my mind and imagination would soar upwards and outwards. I loved that spirit of searching present in the show.

    The quote above makes me think of the writings of John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club and instigator of National Parks such as Yosemite (appearing in Trek down the road!). He comes from not far away from me, a little seaside town with a beautiful coastline – Dunbar in South East Scotland.

    Here are some great Vaka Rangi based quotes from him that tie in with your essay:

    "When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty."
    (Travels in Alaska, chapter 1)

    "The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness".
    (John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, page 313)

    "Everything is flowing — going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rocks… While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood…in
    Nature's warm heart."
    (My First Summer in the Sierra, chapter 10)


  5. Josh Marsfelder
    March 13, 2014 @ 5:59 pm

    I can't tell you how wonderful it is for me to hear I'm not the only one who has these feelings about Star Trek: The Next Generation. Especially as we reach the 1980s, my views on Star Trek tend to drift to what I get the distinct impression can be politely called "unorthodox". I'm totally comfortable going fully autobiographical here, but it's nice to know my views don't exist in a complete vacuum.

    And thanks for reminding me that I need to read more John Muir: I've read a little of his work, but every time someone quotes him it becomes obvious to me he's a guy who saw the world fairly similarly to me.


  6. Daru
    March 18, 2014 @ 10:01 pm

    Yeah Josh absolutely! Really TNG as well as inspiring me to connect with the cosmos and the flowing narrative of my imagination in response the that experience, it was also deeply inspiring to me on my own personal journey in my teens/late teens. So I would happily place myself in the unorthodox category too – and will share more when we reach that point – which is really one of the hooks you have placed in me with your writing.

    John Muir is amazing, just gotta say it. I still want to read a lot more of him too. I have been working on a woodland based project to help support positive relationships between children and their parents where where may be trouble. We have been incorporating as part of the sessions the ideas of John Muir – to go and explore and discover, even in microcosm, the nature around them. Witnessed a wonderful moment yesterday with a tiny kid, their attention rapt as they had a conversation with one of the leaders about skills Muir may have used to survive when out in the wilderness. Inspiring.


  7. Josh Marsfelder
    March 19, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

    I'm really hoping the Star Trek: The Next Generation section of Vaka Rangi goes over well and I'm able to really convey the profound impact it had on me and what I think that means. It is unquestionably the part of the project that's going to be the most important to me and will be the hardest and most emotional to write. And I'm really glad at least one other person seems to have had similar experiences with the show.

    Your project sounds great and really important: I love the bit about the kid. Reminds me a bit of something I might have done as a youngster, actually.


  8. Daru
    March 19, 2014 @ 10:16 pm

    Well it will be interesting to see what comes out of you during the TNG period – I love that you are bringing in that weaving of your own personal story there. The time I watched TNG first was (I can see nowadays) was a very formative time for me too, so I look forwards to sharing when that comes. Very happy to to share the emotional connection about the show with you too!

    Yes I adore the Forest Schools work that I do (as one of my jobs) with children, families and adults with mental health issues etc. All of those wonderful fictional worlds that inspired me as a kid led me always out into nature somehow. It's great to have the chance to re-inspire kids now to go out and have their own experiences in a fun way.


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