Gimme That Star Trek Ep.32: The Klingon Glasnost

Siskoid is joined by political sciences expert Elyse Hamel (from oHOTmu or NOT) to discuss Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country through the lens of the Cold War metaphor. How do the Klingons relate to the Soviet bloc of the film’s era? Get your dose of political history right here on Gimme That Star Trek!

Listen to Episode 32 below!

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Credits:
“Star Trek Theme” by Alexander Courage, with the Irredeemable Shagg on vocals. End theme: “Deep Space Nine Theme” by Dennis McCarthy.

Bonus clips from: “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” by Nicholas Meyer, starring Leonard Nimoy, Brock Peters, Paul Rossilli, George Takei, and Grace Lee Whitney.

And thanks for leaving a comment!

17 responses to “Gimme That Star Trek Ep.32: The Klingon Glasnost

      1. So maybe I should rephrase that
        I don’t know about anyone else but I wouldn’t mind READING a copy of Hamel’s thesis.

        Considering that I can easily “see” it then…

  1. I’m surprised at the comment about cutlery and toasting. In European society the “toast” precede the use of modern cutlery by a fair amount of time. While there is mention of the fork being used in the old testament that was only for priest to use it wasn’t really seen on the table in European society until the 1500’s and that was only really nobility and royalty. It didn’t become more common for a formal setting until the 1700s though we are still talking mostly just the upper class. The fork as a major eating tool in European societies by middle and lower class didn’t happen until the industrial revolution of the 1800s. But even today the number of people who eat with forks vschopsticks vs their hands is about the same around the world.

    The act of toasting if not the exact same custom has been around since at least the Roman Empire when people were to drink to the health of Ceasar.

    “God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks – his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metallic forks for them when eating.” -St. Peter Damian (sometime around 1004)

      1. Yes, I think that was my general reflexion – the movie seems to pick and choose what Klingons are familiar with and what they’re not, and how this affects their perception as a “civilized” people.

        I didn’t get a chance to touch on it in the episode, but it reminded me a lot about how Europeans evaluated the ability of the indigenous population to govern their land following the discovery of America. They rationalized many of their colonial actions because they considered the indiginous population to be primitive (the fact that they did not overexploit their resources and that women had an important place in society were actually used to justify their characterization as a lesser developed people). Beate Jahn’s book, The Cultural Construction of International Relations : The Invention of the State of Nature, is a fascinating read on this and featured prominently in my thesis.

        1. Well as you said “I find it ridiculous that they know what a toast is but not what cutlery is” No, saying it makes complet sense that they wouldn’t know something like a fork. Whereas we know some Klingons have had interaction with the federation in situations where drink was there. For example K7. Also if we just look at the modern day eating habits only about 1/3 of the human population actually use forks for eating. However many cultures all over the world dating back through time have some ritual that is not unlike toasting so it would make more sense to have encountered something like that than the use of forks.

          1. You’re arguing your point with someone who very explicitly said this was her first experience with Klingons (or most of Star Trek).

          2. Really it was directed both of you as you didn’t “correct” it. Because what always “surprised” me more with that scene is that Uhura is Bantu from the United States of Africa a region today where it is very common to eat with hands and not forks yet she is the one to say” did you see how they ate”. It always struck me more as a comment on assimilation and what that could mean. The scene ends with the comment about the annihilation of the Klingon culture followed by “to be or not to be” which of course in Hamlet is him questioning suicide. Therefore for me I viewed the scene as by getting help are the Klingons worried about cultural sucied through assimilation. Which is why going back to the toast which is common in many cultures makes sense with them knowing, but the eating with forks not as much. I just viewed it through even more layers.

            “God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another”
            Hamlet ACTIII Scene I

  2. What a terrific episode! Would love to hear more of Elyse’s thoughts on this subject where it relates to other pop culture arenas (no pun intended).

    While I enjoy Trek VI very much, I have never regretted that it was the last original crew movies. I think a lot of the seams are showing in the movie (some of the jokes are pretty ham-handed, the characterizations pretty broad), so if they had tried to eke out one more film I think the odds are it would have been pretty bad and then the series would have gone out on a down note. By ending it with VI, it leaves you feeling they managed to pull it off one last time.

  3. I enjoyed the HECK out of this episode! Such great observations and discussion! As if this show couldn’t be more offbeat, you brought it to a new level. Thank you, Siskoid and Elyse!

    1. Thanks! I actually enjoyed preparing for it more than I thought I would… except for the prison sex shenanigans. Could’ve skipped that.

      1. You were a good sport, putting up with the Stars and the Treks and purple blood and, yeah, prison sex. Oh Kirk, going a bit too boldly.

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