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Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

May 30, 2020

Cold War Détente and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

When Nicholas Meyer returned to the Star Trek cinematic universe with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, he produced one of the franchise’s most flagrant—and successful—examples of “ripped from the headlines” storytelling, reimagining the collapse of the USSR in space. Gorbachev became Gorkon and Chernobyl became Praxis. And, in the story’s imagined cabal, who will stop at nothing to preserve the Cold War status quo, the film tapped into an anxiety that lingered around this pivotal moment. After the “end of history,” as Francis Fukuyama memorably described it, what kind of future might lie around the corner? Would the old cold warriors still find a place for themselves in this new, as-yet-undiscovered era?

In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Tony Black for a look at Fukuyama’s seminal 1989 essay “The End of History” and its influence on The Undiscovered Country. We consider some of the inherent risks—as well as the pleasures—in borrowing from current events and also ponder a tricky question: If only Nixon could go to China, does that make Kirk, who once seemed like an echo of JFK resurrected on the bridge of a starship, the heroic president’s most cynical and untrustworthy successor?

Intro (00:00:00)
Discovered Countries (00:08:55)
Make Peace or Die (00:15:36)
Dinosaurs (00:40:55)
Klingon Lives? (00:55:25)

Duncan Barrett

Tony Black

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