Set Phasers to Teach!

Set Phasers to TeachFans of Star Trek have thus already been introduced to the plays of William Shakespeare, and experienced intertextual analysis in action as the aforementioned Star Trek episodes directly relate to Hamlet and Henry V. The same can be said of the motion picture The Wrath of Khan, which portrays Ricardo Montalban’s villain as a futuristic Captain Ahab from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

More important than the interconnection of Star Trek narratives to classic literature of the past, however, is the ways that Star Trek incorporates books into the everyday lives of the characters. In the beginning of The Wrath of Khan, for instance, Spock presents James Kirk with an antique edition of Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities that not only relates to the plot in the same way as Moby Dick but is both warmly accepted and genuinely appreciated by Kirk as well.

“In the world of Star Trek, books matter,” Elizabeth Baird Harvey writes in Set Phasers to Teach. “Whether it is the antique volume of Shakespeare in Picard’s quarters or Holodeck experiences that take crewmembers into books historical and contemporary, literature is a valuable part of these characters’ lives. Though they have a wealth of technological diversions for entertainment and education, they still choose literature, printed words on a page. They read because they enjoy reading, not because there is nothing else to do.” Review:

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