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Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

May 30, 2019

Galileo and “Distant Origin.”

That Galileo Galilei, the man who Albert Einstein called “the father of modern science,” turned up on Star Trek: Voyager should come as no surprise. The series was, after all, the first in the franchise to feature a captain with a scientific background. The story of the legendary Renaissance figure was retooled as a classic Trek allegory in the third-season episode “Distant Origin.” In its 24th-century rendition, the story features a society of hyper-evolved hadrosaurs that survived the mass extinction on Earth 66 million years earlier. Escaping to the stars, these smart dinos established their own advanced society and forgot where they came from. Beliefs about how their world came to be are challenged when the crew of the USS Voyager encounters Professor Forra Gegen, a Voth scientist whose radical discoveries about his people’s “distant origin” conflict with the conservative doctrine of their rulers.

In this episode of Primitive Culture, hosts Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook look at how the Star Trek: Voyager writers adapted the persecution of Galileo Galilei by the Catholic Church to tell the story of Voth scientist Forra Gegen. Like Galileo, who was put on trial for his proposal of a heliocentric view of the solar system, Gegen is tried for heresy against doctrine for claiming his people originated on a faraway planet called Earth. We also consider why the Renaissance should be a key moment for Star Trek’s understanding of history, question where the true story of Galileo ends and the myth of the persecuted scientist begins, and wonder whether mythologizing—be it of the past or the future—inevitably means suppressing inconvenient truths.

Intro (00:00:00)
The Life of Galileo (00:03:28)
Science and Scripture (00:09:50)
Dino DNA (00:22:20)
Method or Madness? (00:35:30)
Iconic Adverbs (00:45:50)
The Renaissance of the Future (00:55:30)
Galileos in Space (01:12:20)

Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook

Clara Cook (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)