There is a moment in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Nicholas Meyer, 1991) when the Klingon Chancellor Gorkon toasts “The undiscovered country—the future.” Captain kirk later repeats the chancellor’s words, firstly to Gorkon’s daughter—“Your father called the future the undiscovered country”—and then in the film’s closing voiceover:
This is the final cruise of the Starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man—where no one—has gone before.
While Spock notes that Gorkon has quoted Hamlet he does not note that he has misinterpreted the line.
I’d never really thought of writing about the Star Trek franchise — there’s too much it to get on top of, but I did write about the first film in Solar Flares.
But Simon Bacon invited me to write for his collection, To Boldly Go: Essays on Gender and Identity in the Star Trek Universe, co-edited with Nadine Farghaly, and the ghears began grinding.
I remember shouting at the screen for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country that the Hamlet was being mangled, and that the undiscovered country was death rather than the future.
When I read Emmanuel Levinas, during the PhD, I’d read and stored his ideas on patriarchy, filiality, the future and death, and this returned to mind. I’d also been reading Robin Wood and Andrew Britton on 1980s sf movies — for two other projects — and this joined the dots.
How does the avidly liberal and feminist Star Trek represented fatherhood in the future — and how does that relate to death?