For more consistently successful use of classical imagery in the 1960s than that achieved by Doctor Who, it is necessary to cross the
Captain James Kirk’s middle name took a long time to be established. Indeed, when he was first introduced, in the second pilot of Star Trek, ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ (1966), his middle initial is shown on a gravestone as ‘R.’ This detail had been forgotten by the next time someone wanted to give Kirk’s middle initial, and so it became ‘T.’ But what this stands for remained unknown throughout the original run of Trek.
That it is ‘Tiberius’ was finally established in 1974, in an episode of the animated series of Star Trek that followed the original – ‘Bem’, written by David Gerrold. Almost everything that happened in the animated episodes is considered non-canonical for subsequent Trek productions. That is, they are never referred to, and no attempt is made to avoid contradicting them. But, curiously, the detail of Kirk’s middle name does get into the Star Trek canon. This suggests that it was series creator Gene Roddenberry’s notion, rather than writer Gerrold’s.
In Roddenberry’s novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), there is a preface made out to be by James Kirk himself. In that preface, Kirk shows his Classical credentials by stating that he has come to be seen as a new Ulysses, and that he is uncomfortable in the role. He also explains his name:
My name is James Tiberius Kirk. Kirk because my father and his male forebears followed the old custom of passing on a family identity name. I received James because it was both the name of my father’s beloved brother as well as that of my mother’s first love instructor. Tiberius, as I am forever tired of explaining, was the Roman emperor whose life for some unfathomable reason fascinated my grandfather Samuel.
Anybody who has read Suetonius’ Life of Tiberius, or is familiar with I, Claudius or Tinto Brass’ 1979 film Caligula, will know that Tiberius was notorious for the quantity, variety and invention of his sexual perversions. Several questions therefore clearly arise. What exactly was it about Tiberius that so fascinated Samuel Kirk? Do Samuel Kirk’s interests, together with James being named after his mother’s ‘love instructor’ (whatever one of those is), explain the voracious heterosexual appetite of the grandson? But above all, what was Roddenberry thinking?
The full establishment of that detail, of course, postdates the original series. Looking at the ‘classic’ episodes, and passing over the hyperbolic assertion of Allan Asherman that the second pilot, ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’, has ‘all the elements of a Greek tragedy’, the first episode that I will studied comes from the second season. Roddenberry and Gene L. Coon’s ‘Bread and Circuses’ (1968), which of course takes its title from a famous line of the Roman poet Juvenal (Satires 10.80-1: ‘The citizen anxiously wishes for two things only, bread and circuses’).
The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise arrives at a planet which has developed in much the same fashion as Earth (explained in the episode by a pseudoscientific excuse called ‘Hodgkins’ Law of Parallel Planet Development’), except that the Roman empire never fell. Thus the viewer is presented with a late twentieth-century Earth ruled by a First Citizen and a Proconsul, in which the leading car is called the Jupiter Eight. Slavery still exists, and imperial rule exploits the population and keeps it downtrodden.
What is most interesting about this story is the gladiatorial show which takes place in the episode. It is an often-noted irony that
In one further point the story draws inspiration from
The gladiatorial motif is also used in another episode produced almost simultaneously with ‘Bread and Circuses’, ‘The Gamesters of Triskelion’ (1968),  written by Margaret Armen. In this aliens abduct
This is a far more straightforward treatment of the subject matter of bloodthirsty entertainment. The gladiatorial elements are ascribed to aliens, and thus distanced from humanity, whilst Kirk is seen verbally and physically to espouse the human (i.e. American) devotion to freedom and the human (i.e. American) ability to triumph over outstanding odds. It is poorly-written and clichéd, and entirely lacks the satirical edge of ‘Bread and Circuses’.
‘Bread and Circuses’ is an example of interaction with ancient
It’s interesting to quote what a 1988 article on Star Trek has to say about the Romulans:
Like the Klingons, the Romulons [sic] are a warrior-race, but one molded in the shape of the
There is actually quite a lot to disagree with in that statement. Decius in ‘Balance of Terror’ does have a Roman-sounding (indeed Roman) name. However, he is the only Romulan given a name in any of the original Star Trek episodes in which they appear (‘Balance of Terror’, ‘The Deadly Years’, 1967, and ‘The
Star Trek can make such use of the
Star Trek also deals with the Greeks, in three episodes. Two of these, one from the second season and one from the third, draw from Greek culture in a fairly transparent fashion. The first is Gilbert Ralston’s ‘Who Mourns For Adonais?’ (1967), most famous at the time for the costume worn by actress Leslie Parrish (it involved a heavy strip of material drawn up from the waistband, arranged across her breasts and then draped over her left shoulder, but not anchored in any way at the back, relying on the material’s weight to keep it in place). In this episode, the
The choice of Apollo is interesting. Star Trek emerged out of the optimism for space exploration engendered by the NASA programmes of the 1960s, and Starfleet appears a natural successor to NASA. By 1967, at the forefront of NASA’s activities was the Apollo programme to put men on the moon. First aired in September 1967, ‘Who mourns for Adonais?’ was undoubtedly written and filmed with the knowledge of the Apollo 1 fire of January 27th of that year. This may well have something to do with the sympathetic portrayal of the god.
Apollo never falters from his claim that he is a god, except in one scene where he almost admits to Carolyn Palomas (Parrish) that he and his fellows had a non-divine origin. This attitude is conveyed by a marvellous performance by the experienced Shakespearean stage actor Michael Forrest. Forrest had previously starred in Roger Corman’s 1960 Atlas, and so had previous association with the whole sword-and-sandal or peplum genre (the production team originally considered a British actor, but could not find one suitable). As Gideon Nisbet shows in his discussion of Atlas, modern American audiences find it hard to take seriously the notion that a man dressed in an ancient tunic and showing a lot of leg can be a virile male lead, unless they have a reluctant Christian girl to win over. Yet Forrest spends the entire episode dressed in a very short gold lamé tunic, which he apparently disliked, without ever once giving any suggestion of camp (though a ‘blooper’ reel does show him parading effeminately in it). The episode does this by drawing upon the conventions of Roman toga epic, and the central romantic clash between the pagan male and Christian female that often features. In this instance, for ‘pagan’ and ‘Christian’ read ‘irrational’ and ‘scientific’. Apollo claims divinity; Starfleet officer Carolyn Palomas has been trained to deny such notions (reflecting the rationalist outlook of the series as a whole). Yet despite this, Palomas falls for Apollo, and in an abandoned final sequence (reinstated by James Blish when he novelized the story in Star Trek 7 (1972)), falls pregnant by him.
This is one of the most philosophically interesting episodes of Star Trek. It ends, after the Enterprise crew have caused Apollo to destroy himself, with Kirk musing on whether it would have hurt them so much to gather a few laurels in Apollo’s honour.
The second Greek episode, Meyer Dolinsky’s ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’ (1968; originally entitled ‘The Sons of Socrates’), comes from the third season. At the time, this episode was controversial in the United States, because it was reportedly the first television show to feature an interracial kiss (between Kirk and Lt. Uhura, though according to William Shatner the director refused to actually allow their lips to touch); in the UK, the episode was banned for over a decade, presumably because of a scene where two Enterprise women are threatened by Kirk and Spock with a whip and a branding iron.
In ‘Who Mourns For Adonais?’ the Greek elements are integral to the story. In ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’, they seem more like window-dressing. There is no real reason for the Platonians to be followers of Plato, as the real story revolves around their possession of strong psychokinetic powers and their irresponsibility in using them. There is no good evidence from the episode that Dolinsky had actually read any Plato, unless you believe that the central message of Platonism is that the powerful should be self-indulgent hedonists and bully the less powerful.
Finally, there is ‘Elaan of Troyius’, again from the third season of 1968, written by John Meredyth Lucas. A Greek connection for this episode is often overlooked, but is clearly present in some of the names, and the basic premise, drawn from the Trojan War, though Lucas departs from that premise at many points.The beautiful Elaan is clearly Helen of Troy, who can make any man fall in love with her (given a pseudo-scientific explanation as being due to a biochemical compound in her tears). She is marrying the ruler of Troyius (
 This chapter concentrates on the original series of 1966-1969. Subsequent spin-off series were the animated series of 1973-1975, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999), Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001), and
 At the time Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space was more popular in the ratings, but it is Star trek that is now iconic.
 This is left vague in the original series, with some episodes, such as ‘Tomorrow is Yesterday’ (1967), suggesting that it might be the 22nd century. The dates were fixed when Star Trek: The Next Generation was produced in the 1980s.
 Technically not until mentioned on-screen in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).
 Persistent rumour has suggested that this, whilst appearing under Roddenberry’s name, was actually written by Alan Dean Foster. However, though Foster had done the equivalent when he wrote the novelization of Star Wars (1976), which was published as by George Lucas, and though he was undoubtedly involved at an early stage in the screenwriting of what eventually became Star Trek: The Motion Picture, he denies writing the novelization, and David G. Hartwell, who edited the book, insists that it was written by Roddenberry (Ayers 2006).
 Writers of ‘slash’ fan fiction featuring the unspoken love between Kirk and Spock (of whose work Roddenberry was presumably aware) might take such a statement as evidence that they were right all along.
 Allan Asherman, The Star Trek Compendium (1987), p. 17.
 Duas tantum res anxius optat / panem et circenses. Recent translations tend to avoid ‘circuses’ for circenses; so Rudd in the Oxford World’s Classics edition has ‘bread and races’ (1991, 89), whilst Green in the Penguin uses ‘bread and the Games’. These, I feel, lose the cultural resonance of ‘bread and circuses’, which has passed into popular usage.
 Recorded after, but broadcast before, ‘Bread and Circuses’.
 There is also the first season episode ‘Arena’, in which Kirk has to battle an alien captain at the whim of god-like beings (which are not rare in Star Trek). This would be more a case of allusion than anything else.
 Up to a point. The Enemy Below ends with the destruction of both vessels, clearly not an option for an ongoing series like Star Trek.
 Rick Worland, ‘Captain Kirk: Cold Warrior’, Journal of Popular Film and Television, vol. 16 no. 3 (Fall 1988), p. 110.
 There is no doubt some truth in Worland’s assertion (op. cit., p. 112) that, to some degree at least, the Romulans stand in for Red China in an allegory of the Cold War, with the United Federation of Planets as NATO, and the Klingon Empire as the Soviet Union.
 The spelling is deliberate, after Shelly’s ‘Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats’ (1821).
 On this episode see now Otta Wenskus, “Star Trek: Antike Mythen und moderne Energiewesen,” in PONTES II: Antike im Film Film, ed. Martin Korenjak and Karlheinz Töchterle, Comparanda 5 (
 Wenskus 2002, 130, notes that the motto of
 This scene is discussed by Winkler 2005, 402.
 His name is spelt this way in the credits for this episode, though he has more often been credited as ‘
 See Nisbet 2006, 9-20.
 Since Kirk has been the prime mover in destroying Apollo, this line actually seems quite odd coming from him. William Shatner was rumoured to have ensured that he got all the best lines in the show, and one wonders whether this one was originally intended for another character, perhaps Dr McCoy, whose role is often to act as the crew’s conscience.
 Including by myself in earlier treatments of this topic, and I am grateful to Dr Alexandra Villing of the
 Gerry Turnbull (ed.), A Star Trek Catalog (1979), p. 130.