Star Trek has been such an influential popular culture conduit for the historical past. This science fiction genre is packed with archaeology too! Hence, in two previous posts, I surveyed 5 archaeological themes across Star Trek’s original series season 1.

Star Trek Archaeology, Original Series 1, Part 1

Star Trek Archaeology, Original Series 1, Part 2

My 6 themes are:

  1. archaeological investigators being key characters in the show;
  2. ancient alien civilizations and their legacies in the galaxy in terms of ruins, artefacts and technology;
  3. alien cultures inspired by past human societies;
  4. artefacts and relics of the human past in outer space: space junk but also curated heirlooms and fictive human pasts;
  5. specific alien material cultures, memorials and monuments inspired by the human past;
  6. funerary archaeology in outer space – human or alien.

I invite readers, which I anticipate will include many experts and enthusiasts in Star Trek, to correct and augment my observations; I’m sure to miss points and dimensions! Here, I focus on the five themes above as closely as possible for series 2. And there is a lot to cover! The second series of 26 episodes includes a staggering 16 episodes with examples of these archaeological themes: sufficient to warrant a dedicated blog-post! This matches closely with the 15 episodes with prominent archaeological themes in series 1!

Amok Time

Spock undergoes Pon Farr and upon returning to Vulcan is accompanied by Kirk and McCoy to participate in his wedding ceremony. A Stonehenge-like ceremonial space is enhanced with additional graphics with its digital release showing the pinnacle upon which it is situated. We learn the temple has been held by Spock’s family for ‘more than 2,000 Earth years’, gaining a sense that Vulcans have their own family sacred spaces. This is where Koon-ut-kal-if-fee – the Vulcan mating ritual of ‘marriage or challenge’ – takes place. A jade gong is situated centrally; this is struck by Spock who thus invites the approach of the marriage procession. This is mash-up of Themes 2 and 5: this is both an ancient monument upon Vulcan (2) and architecture inspired by Earth’s human past (5).

Vulcan
The temple on Vulcan – Stonehenge and jade

Who mourns for Adonais?

Not for the first time, women are represented as archaeologist and who are susceptible to seduction by dangerous men from the past! Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas on the Enterprise is the focus of amorous attentions from a god-like being which detains the ship with a giant hand and calls himself Apollo. He derives from Polex 4 which had been hitherto investigated and found to have no life. It transpires that Apollo is the last of a group of ancient aliens who once visited Earth and inspired the Greek mythos. Carolyn we learn is the A&A officer – described by McCoy as incorporating ‘Archaeology, Anthropology and Ancient Civilization’. The very existence of such an officer suggests an expectation by Star Fleet that its craft will encounter traces of beliefs and cultural practices in the galaxy which parallel Earth’s past!

Apollo sits upon a throne with a lyre in front a Classical Greek temple facade without a building behind: Olympus! He calls it a ‘temple’ and demands worship as did humans of old on Earth. It possesses pure-white columns and entablature with a garden with white statues, vases and a picnic table set in front amidst Mediterranean dark-green vegetation.

Kirk outlines his theory that Apollo was one of a number of highly sophisticated space travellers who 5,000 years ago landed around the Mediterranean and were treated as gods. Kirk is himself shown here in full-stretch archaeological detective mode, postulating theories to explain his discoveries. McCoy responds: ‘Yes, to the simple shepherds and tribesmen of early Greece, creatures like that would have been gods.’ Kirk responds ‘… in fact they couldn’t be taken for anything else!’.

Mimicking some of the ways the surviving myths portray the gods as vain and attention-seeking in their interactions with mortals, Apollo and his brethren craved love, admiration and worship. Having been rejected by humanity, the other aliens faded away into the cosmos, leaving only Apollo who retained hope some day humans would seek him out. He cannot quite imagine the Enterprise crew could shun his attentions and plans to create a new world for them and even breed with him.

Apollo at Olympus
Olympus with the temple fading

While clearly obsessed with Apollo whose nausea-inducing chauvinism is somehow attractive in a fashion reminiscent of Khan in series 1, Lieutenant Palamas is convinced by Kirk to spurn Apollo. Kirk uses his own ‘human flesh’ to remind her that humans are tied together through a shared humanity while Apollo is not. Her duty lies with humanity, he argues.

Palamas comes round and does her orders and her duty, using her ancient civilization specialism as her excuse: ‘surely you know I’ve only been studying you?’ What a line! Even better: ‘I could no more love you than I could love a new species of bacteria’. This gets Apollo mad: he expends his energies and the Enterprise is able to break free and destroy Apollo’s temple.

Hence, this is thus the first true ‘ancient aliens’ episode in the Star Trek television series, combining Themes 1, 2 and 5.

Two further historical references require note. First, we learn that Kirk and his 23rd century world is monotheistic: ‘Mankind has no need for gods, we find the one quite adequate’. A further subsidiary reference of note in this episode is Scotty cursing Apollo as a ‘bloodthirsty Saracen’ to articulate the ‘savage’ nature of Apollo’s actions.

The Changeling

The Meleurians have been destroyed by an unknown force and the Enterprise is under attack from an alien force which identifies itself as NOMAD. This transpires to be a probe from Earth in the early 2000s that has combined with an alien life force and possesses considerable power. The probe was originally on a peaceful mission but (following transformation with ‘the other’) is now determined to probe for ‘biological infestations’ and is therefore bent on destroying all living species it encounters. Confusing his creator – Jackson Roykirk – with Captain Kirk, NOMAD believes Kirk to be the creator. Kirk plays on its logic and NOMAD’s quest to destroy imperfection in order to convince him it that it is imperfect itself. The killer probe is convinced to destroy itself. This dangerous legacy of early space exploration is thus an example of our Theme 4, a technological killer from the human past, made lethal through its integration with alien technology, which must be combated and overcome.

NOMAD

Mirror, Mirror

Our first explicit Theme 3 appears in this episode through multiple facets.

Kirk is trying to convince the Halkan Council to let the Federation mine dilithium crystals. The Halkan appear as a peaceful ancient Mediterranean culture. Wearing tunics and their leader bearing a staff, there is an ornate quasi-classical throne on a dais. This contrasts with the mirror universe’s ‘barbarity’ which we then encounter when the transporter beams swap the places of key crew members during an ion storm. The Terran Empire embodies cruelty and violence without mercy, articulated through devilish facial hair, scanty and rakish costumes, vicious and violent material cultures and brutal behaviours which allude to both 20th-century fascism (Scotty compares the behaviour to that of the Gestapo) but also to ancient Roman cut-throat imperial politics. ‘Our’ Kirk feigns to have his eye on becoming a ‘Caesar’. The mirror universe Spock has a quasi-Roman bust (or is it a helmet) in his quarters (an example of Theme 5). In his captain’s log, Kirk describes it as a ‘savage parallel universe’. Via the Terran Empire and the Halkan, we see juxtaposed two contrasting visions of the human past in outer space.

Again, early empires are seen as ‘barbarian’ and ‘savage’, conflating this with the brutalities of 20th-century fascisms which themselves drew inspirations from the ancient past. A further ancient allusion is the ‘Tantalus Field‘, a device using alien technology with which the mirror universe Kirk kills his rivals.

Theme 3 is therefore evident both in the Halkans and the mirror universe Enterprise crew.

Spock with a beard!

The Apple

Where to begin with this one with its overt racist representations of noble savages? The planet Gamma Trianguli 6 is an Eden of peaceful ‘primitive’ and ‘tribal’ society of white folks with bleached white-blonde hair who dress like a stereotype of Polynesian islanders: The People of Vaal (McCoy calls them ‘the natives’). They have no children and their society is kept in control without reproduction and near-immortality. As well as the society, the entire planet is held in stasis, with the ancient technology acting as a deity who articulates his wishes through one of the villagers: the Voice of Vaal. We learn that Vaal – represented like an idol of a snake’s head spouting steam like some mythical monster – is a powerful machine but it requires nourishment and is fed by the People of Vaal, embodying a ‘primitive’ transactional relationship between the people and their god. The moral dilemma is posed: are these a ‘society’ if they do not change or evolve over time? Inevitably, the Enterprise crew intervene…

This constitutes an example of Theme 2, an ancient alien technology that acts as a god for primitive peoples, and also Theme 3 as an example of ‘primitive’ human life-forms inspiring the representation of other species in the galaxy.

The Enterprise crew destroy Vaal and free the People of Vaal so they can have love and freedom, putting them ‘back on a normal course of social evolution’, as McCoy puts it. Spock accuses Kirk of taking on the role of Satan in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve: this is supposed to be amusing… Star Fleet are shown as not only guardians of free will and individuality, but also of the progress of history and sexual reproduction!

Catspaw

In a truly awful episode, the planet Pyris VII sees the death of one of the landing party and Scotty and Sulu are taken under the control of alien beings experimenting with humanoid corporal form. One of them is called Korob who appears as a wizard with his familiar, a black cat who transforms into a woman: Sylvia. They draw fearful images from the memories of the Enterprise crew to create terrors including witches, black cats and a Gothic castle with suits of armour and a dungeon. Kirk et al surmise this was done by accident when they had intended to imitate the Enterprise crew’s conscious world using a ‘transmuter’ device. Spock explains his theory that the world they perceive, created by the aliens, relate to ‘universal myths’ shared by ‘races’ which below to the twilight world of the subconscious. Theme 5 is represented through the extraction of imaginary human pasts from fairytales and their conjuring. So apparently the Gothic, embodied in mock-medieval architecture, is a universal source of terror? I guess there are hints of Theme 6 here too, but not explicitly.

Friday’s Child

Conflict ensues between the Klingons and the Enterprise among another pre-space flight worlds. This time the noble savages are the Capellans. These violent and honest ‘barbarian’ people have numerous taboos and constitute another unspecific transplantation of pre-industrial societies of Earth into outer space. The Capellans are manipulated by the Klingons into conflict with the Enterprise crew. This is another Theme 3 episode in which barbarians are caught in colonial conflicts between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets as each seeks to expand and consolidate their power and territory. Unlike other episodes, at least the Capellans aren’t explicitly modelled on specific human societies in material culture and costume terms, at least as far as I can surmise.

Wolf in the Fold

Jack the Ripper in outer space! The Argelians live a hedonistic lifestyle on Rigel IV but Scotty is arrested for the murder of a young woman. We learn the real murderer is the alien reincarnation of Jack the Ripper: a ‘hunger that never dies’. It is a being that feeds on fear and kills women who are (allegedly) more prone to being deeply terrified. Beyond that, there is no specific archaeological dimension, but this might be seen as a version combining Theme 2 and Theme 5 in regards to the trope of the knife-killer surviving through the ages mashed up with the transhistorical sexist claim regarding female fragility and fear.

The Gamesters of Triskelion

Transported to Gamma II, Lieutenant Uhuru, Ensign Chekov and Captain Kirk are abducted and forced to fight in gladatorial contests against thralls of other species including a couple of Amazons, a cutrate Elvis Presley and a cave man with bad teeth. Galt, Master Thrall of Triskelion serves The Providers. Again, we encounter Theme 3 in which the trope of combat to the death as entertainment by slaves is played out, inspired by ancient Rome in general terms, and specifically and explicitly through the choice of depicting the use of a net, inspired by the retiarius.

A Piece of the Action

Visiting Sigma Iota 2 visited by the USS The Horizon 100 years earlier. They were at the beginning of industrial revolution, but the intelligent but imitative Iotians are found to have modelled their society on Chicago in the 1920s based on a history book left behind by The Horizon called Chicago Crime Ganges of the Twenties. The territorial gangs try to utilise the Enterprise crew to gain more power but Kirk and Spock broker a peace deal. Once again, we have Theme 3 created not by parallel evolution, but because of a history book being utilised as a blueprint for society right down to the hats and the slang. Truly a cringeworthy episode.

Gangster Trek

A Private Little War

Another rehearsal of the ‘garden of Eden’ noble savages trope and again played out between the Klingons and the Federation. This time Kirk has been here before and remembers a peaceful society. Upon his return, he finds they have been given firearms and that the Hill People and the Villagers are being instigated to conflict by the Klingons. Similar to The Apple episode, it has been seen as an allegory for the Vietnam War. Yet again, Theme 3.

Return to Tomorrow

On an ancient lifeless planet the telepathic Sargon invites Kirk, Spock and Lieutenant Commander Ann Mulhall, Astrobiologist, to visit him deep beneath the planet’s surface. Sargon takes over Kirk’s body and explains their story. Three receptacles survive of the ancient aliens and Sargon claims that the humans are ‘seed’ of his people whom he calls ‘my children’.

So, this is a second ancient aliens episode for series 2, following ‘Who mourns for Adonais?’ This time, however, there are no specific archaeological allusion. Following conflict, the most brilliant individuals from both sides of the turmoil had their identities preserved in spheres deep beneath the planet’s surface. The formless ancient aliens have the aspiration that androids can provide them with new bodies once their temporary occupation of the human bodies is completed. So here we perhaps see a version of Theme 2 focusing on hyper-diffusion of ancient alien technology and populations across the galaxy millions of years in the past.

While perhaps only to my mind, the orbs in which the identities of the survivors are kept evoke a kind of funerary environment: columbaria for the living-dead. Theme 6.

Equally interesting though, when reflecting on the gamble of risking their own bodies in exchange of the promise for new technologies, Kirk equates risk and adventure with the spirit of human progress. These ancient aliens therefore afford the promise of untold technological secrets.

Columbaria for ancient aliens

Patterns of Force

Space-Nazis and Theme 3! Visiting the planet Ekos they find Professor John Gill’s historical expertise has been co-opted to persecute the neighbouring planet of Zeon and its people. This is explicitly modelled on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Gill had tried to unite a divided planet, regarding it as the ‘most efficient state ever known’ – good intentions and the road to evil – but his second-in-command, Melekon, perverted his aspirations and the ‘final solution’ for the Zeons is planned. While not an archaeologist, Gill is ostensibly playing the same role: a well-intentioned researcher who imposes ideas from human history which inevitably goes wrong. So I recognise this as a further example of Theme 1.

Commenting on Spock, Melekon explicitly narratives a racist set of observations mimicking those held in late 19th and early 20th-century Europe against the Jews: ‘note the sinister eyes and the malformed ears, definitely an inferior race’. He goes on: ‘note the low forehead denoting stupidity, the dull look of a trapped animal… I want the body saved for the cultural museum, he’ll make an interesting display.’ While we don’t get to see this museum, this is a striking allusion to the history of scientific racism reaching its apogee with Nazi Germany. So Theme 5 is present too.

On the outro, Spock and McCoy bicker about lessons from Earth’s history: was Nazi Germany uniquely evil, or an extreme example of what can be found throughout the human past: the leadership principle and the danger of men seeking absolute power?

We leave them to bicker, but see the striking use of the 20th-century past and the dangers of even well-intentioned transplantations of ideas onto other planets. Again, we’re left wondering whether the Federation are doing more harm than good in the galaxy!

By Any Other Name

The Kelvans from the Andromeda galaxy attempt to take over the Enterprise and Scotty must perform the age-old Scottish stereotype of excessive drinking to help save them. For the first time, we see Scotty’s quarters and we realise his Scottish ancestry is celebrated through antique armour and navigational equipment. But as the Kelvan increasingly demands more alcohol, in rage Scotty realises he must sacrifice his most prized possession: a very old bottle of scotch whiskey which he keens hidden inside a medieval knight’s helmet and breastplate. From another perspective, we see a kilt hangs from the wall too. Not exactly ‘space junk’ but definitely heirlooms of the human past as an integral part of Scotty’s cultural heritage; so Scotty is an antiquarian of sorts as well as an engineer! This spans Theme 1 and Theme 4.

The Omega Glory

The Cold War in outer space! Theme 3 returns in a truly ludicrous fashion, with the planet Omega IV where the USS Exeter is in orbit with its crew disappeared or dead. On the planet itself, Captain Tracey has used Federation technology to support the Kohms who are waging a war against the Yangs – both seemingly ‘tribal’ peoples, the Kohms with cringeworthy native American associations (but of course all the actors are of European descent) while the Kohms are Asians and presumably intended to represent medieval steppe nomad character. This reflects some version of America versus Communist China in outer space. The Yangs perpetuate the crude parody of First Nations, carry the American flag in victory procession, and read from their holy text: the Pledge of Allegiance. Please don’t let me say more, other than this is the most ridiculous parallel evolution episode to date, although one must note the importance of national ‘relics’ among the Yangs does reflect the ongoing American cult of the flag as well as artefacts and texts created by the nation’s founding fathers.

Yangs

Bread and Circuses

Spartacus in outer space! Theme 3 isn’t over yet! Following the wreckage of the survey vessel S.S. Beagle captained by R.M. Meyrick, The Enterprise encounters Planet 4 in Star System 892 that displays parallel evolution with Earth but where the Roman Empire never falls and who actually call themselves ‘Romans’. The survivors of the Beagle are treated like ‘barbarians’ and forced to fight in the gladatorial arena. Kirk and his party beam down and are intercepted by a slave resistance. Kirk cites the planet as a prime sociological example of ‘Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planet Development’.

However, confusion arises that the slaves worship the Sun, seemingly in contradiction to every other parallel with ancient Rome; only later we learn that the words of peace and freedom come from the Son, not the Sun: i.e. the parallel evolution of Christianity across the galaxy! Slavery is seen as ‘evolving into an institution’, to the surprise but approval of Spock, but the worship of the Sun (that all men are brothers) is the inspiration for slave resistance. While no Black characters appear and no explicit allusions are made, given its parallel 20th-century context, this is perhaps an allegory for the Civil Rights movement.

The conservative world based on Roman strengths and virtues is fearful of ‘contamination’. Spock and McCoy spar over the relative merits of the ‘order’ of Planet 4 and the chaos of Earth’s three world wars. Incidentally, while combatting the ‘Roman’ society, Kirk seems to be content to compromise his moral stance to enjoy the physical company of a female slave who requests to be commanded…

Gladiators on TV!

This is therefore yet another Theme 3: a planet that reaches 20th-century Earth level of technology but still with ancient Roman political systems and gladiatorial games to the death. ‘The Romans have always been the strongest’ says Merrick. And yet faith is the salvation of the planet: ‘Caesar and Christ: they had them both’ determines Kirk when back on their ship and Uhuru has explained her fresh interpretation of ‘the Son of God’ as opposed to ‘the Sun’. Spock predicts that the brotherhood and love of Christianity will replace Roman imperial rule in their 20th century, rather than presumably some liberation from Roman yoke through Christ that is imagined as happening on Earth in Late Antiquity. Kirk muses how it will be great to watch it ‘happening all over again’, but of course we never learn of a precise thesis of how Christianity supplanted Roman imperial despotism! It’s best to not think too much about any of this!

Assignment: Earth

Going back to 1968 to see how Earth survived cataclysmic events… I can’t even begin to deal with this time travel, even though there is considerable potential here for exploring the ‘archaeology of us’ via this episode. I’ll skip over it here!

Summary

Theme 1 appears explicitly only once: a single archaeologist from the science division who is beamed down with the away team to interpret the alien calling himself Apollo; she is seduced by Apollo but Kirk reminds her of her duty (Who Mourns for Adonais?). Gill is an historian but fits into a similar role (Patterns of Force). Scotty might also be regarded as something of an antiquarian too from his hoard of military and navigational antiques in his quarters (By Any Other Name).

Theme 2: ancient technologies from ancient aliens is a theme found thrice in this series: Amok Time, The Apple, and Return to Tomorrow (although the androids in ‘I, Mud’, might also be seen in this context).

Theme 3 is widespread and frequent, even more so than in Series 1! Moreover, this manifests itself in a diversity of ways.

First we have hyper-advanced civilizations mimicking and manipulating allusions to the human past, as well as through the link to Theme 2 via narratives of ancient hyper-diffusionism. The past is also evoked through mining the human imagination (Catspaw).

We also have multiple examples of primitive ‘tribal’ honour-based martial ‘barbarian’ societies that draw on a range of colonial and historical stereotypes from Polynesians (The Apple) to native American (A Private Little War; The Omega Theory) as well as vaguely Asiatic/Mongolian ‘barbarians’ (The Omega Theory). Between these poles, we have mixed portrayals of the brutality of ancient Rome (Mirror Mirror; Gamesters of Triskelion; Bread and Circuses). Contrasting with these parallel evolutions, we have instances where Earth/Federation ‘contamination’ has inadvertently led to the replication of Earth history, from 1920s Chicago gangsters (A Piece of the Action) and Nazi Germany (Patterns of Force) paralleled upon the planets encountered.

Theme 4 appears in the quarters of Scotty (By Any Other Name) and in the NOMAD probe (The Changeling): the first instrumental in overcoming the Kelvans, the second a dangerous artefact of early galactic exploration.

Theme 5 is represented only by the Greek architecture of Apollo’s temple (Who Mourns for Adonais?), the Stonehenge allusions in the Vulcan temple (Amok Time), and perhaps also the ancient and fascist dimensions of the mirror universe also apply here (Mirror, Mirror).

Theme 6 makes only partial appearances as in series 1 but there are further examples to come in series 3!

Having surveyed the eclectic range of archaeological allusions in the storylines of OST series 2, I’ll aim to review series 3 in a future post.