Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Star Trek’s a thesis

By Adam Morton | The Age (Melb., Australia) | August 28, 2006

Gotta love those research methods … 

Dr Djoymi Baker with Star Trek fans (from left) Angelo Kene, Scott Liston and Ben Kimberley.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.

One comment on “Star Trek’s a thesis

  1. umbrarchist
    10 March, 2008

    Well there is no reason not to add a Biblical twist to the myth.

    The number 7 appears more than 700 times in the Bible and there are more that 700 episodes of Star Trek. Can Dr. Who compete with that?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on 29 August, 2006 by in Entertainment, My Academe, Science fiction.

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"