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Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

Apr 3, 2020

Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes.

“When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Sherlock Holmes’s famous maxim is one that any self-respecting Starfleet science officer could live by. So it should come as no surprise that Star Trek’s two most-celebrated rational minds—Spock and Data—should both draw comparisons with the great detective. When Spock, in The Undiscovered Country, suggested that Holmes was an ancestor on his human side, the joke was two-fold: first, because it cheekily suggested that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary creation was, in fact, a flesh-and-blood human being; and, second, because Leonard Nimoy had famously played Holmes on stage. Brent Spiner, meanwhile, got to give his own take on the character—a parodic performance modeled on the great 20th-century Holmes, Basil Rathbone—in three episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation: “Lonely Among Us,” “Elementary, Dear Data,” and “Ship in a Bottle.”

In this episode of Primitive Culture, Duncan Barrett is joined by former co-host (and avowed Sherlockian) Clara Cook to investigate the curious links between these two sprawling fictional universes. In particular, we focus on the role of “canon” and its relationship to the freer realm of ancillary literary materials. Although many people credit the original Star Trek fans with inventing the idea of fan fiction, Sherlockians were, in fact, way ahead of them. The followers of the great detective participate in a kind of collective fantasy known as “The Game,” in which they presume Doyle’s writings to be statements of absolute truth and try to fit them into their own narratives, and their own investigations, into the cracks between them. It’s no coincidence that one of the most celebrated Sherlockians, Nicholas Meyer—whose bestselling novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution saw Holmes and Watson team up with Sigmund Freud—was the writer who cheekily suggested that Spock was descended from Holmes himself. Join us as we slip on our smoking jackets, light up our pipes, and embark on The Adventure of the Intertwined Franchises.

Intro (00:00:00)
The Rules (00:05:10)
Cold Reason(00:23:55)
The Napoleon of Crime (00:41:40)
Enduring Archetypes (01:10:35)
Unseen Adventures (01:34:15)
Final Thoughts (01:42:25)

Duncan Barrett

Clara Cook

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