Science Fiction Film & Television

Victorian archaeologies, anthropologies and adventures in the final frontier: modes of nineteenth-century scientific exploration and display in Star Trek

Science Fiction Film & Television (2016), 9, (2), 229–252.

Abstract

Sf television programmes such as Star Trek, which play with real-world scientific practices and knowledge, condition public expectations about the ways in which those sciences are enacted. Yet this can be problematic given that the representation of science in these programmes is often rooted in outmoded understandings. This article, using archaeology and its cognate disciplines of anthropology and religious studies as examples, will illustrate some of the ways in which Star Trek’s exploratory science is based on nineteenth-century modes of exhibitionary culture (especially the museum and the world’s fair), and how sf television builds on the legacies of the Barthesian myths entangled with those modes of representation. Drawing on both the colonial implications of nineteenth-century literary sf and the object-based teleological lessons of the museum and the world’s fair, this investigation of Star Trek demonstrates the relationship between sf television and Victorian scientific thought.

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Author details

McGeough, Kevin M.