Creating people's geographies
By Adam Morton | The Age (Melb., Australia) | August 28, 2006
Gotta love those research methods …
Forging new frontiers in academic exploration: Dr Djoymi Baker with Star Trek fans (from left) Angelo Kene, Scott Liston and Ben Kimberley.
Photo: John Donegan
It’s the PhD thesis that boldly goes where no thesis has gone before. Djoymi Baker watched 700 episodes – 624 hours without ads – of Star Trek and its spin-offs, dating from 1966 to 2005, in the name of research.
She analysed the series armed with an exhaustive knowledge of the characters and storylines of ancient mythology – from Homer’s Odyssey down.
It may sound like torture for those with an aversion to William Shatner’s campy theatrics but, six years and 90,000 words on, it has earned Dr Baker a coveted chancellor’s prize for excellence at Melbourne University. And the respect of academics and Trekkies alike.
“I was interested in where myths turn up in less obvious forms, and there wasn’t much work on the early years of television and its relation to myth,” Dr Baker said.
Importantly, she was also a fan of the series.
“I don’t think just because a study is serious and that I’m connecting Star Trek to a broader history of TV and ancient myths that it means there is not also a fun side – I can see the fun side as well.”
Among the dark corners where Dr Baker’s thesis – titled Broadcast Space: TV Culture, Myth and Star Trek – shines light is the changing link between the starship Enterprise’s intergalactic adventures and the real world’s space race.
Shatner’s monologues were inspired by the visionary speeches of JFK, advocating greater exploration. Thirty years on, the roles were reversed, with astronauts from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration guest-starring on Star Trek spin-offs to promote their underfunded existence.
Since finishing her thesis last year, the 34-year-old has had a daughter and is turning her thesis into an academic text.
She’s also writing an introductory piece for a Star Trek exhibition at the Victorian College of the Arts in October.