“What’s this, Dayton? Trying to resurrect another dormant corner of your staggering, stuttering blog?”
Yeah, it’s been a minute since the last time I did one of these.
For those wondering what I’m on about, “Tuesday Trekkin’” is basically a transparent ploy which allows me to yammer on about some bit or bob of Star Trek fandom. What this means is I wax nostalgic, recounting a fondly remembered bit of oddball merchandise or collectible, anniversaries, “milestones,” or important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day.
The “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker is something of a salute to a pair of friends, Dan Davidson and Bill Smith aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” They have a fan group over on Facebook, Camp Khitomer, devoted to all things Trek where all are welcome to join in their positive vibes and community. Sometimes, they also like to push a #TrekTuesday hashtag over there, inviting members to share updates, links, and/or pictures celebrating their fandom, so this feature is definitely offered in that same spirit.
What’s on the agenda today? Well, to begin, this wasn’t something I’d planned on doing until earlier today, after I posted a picture on Facebook:
“The Elysian Kingdom,” the eighth episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds‘ inaugural season, sees Captain Pike and the crew of the Starship Enterprise acting out for reasons not immediately known to them the storyline from a fictional novel, The Kingdom of Elysian. What viewers might not have caught when a copy of the book is shown on screen is the author’s name: Benny Russell.
Of course hardcore fans will know that Benny Russell, a creation of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is the persona Captain Benjamin Sisko inhabits thanks to visions induced by the Bajoran Prophets in the sixth-season episode “Far Beyond the Stars.” Russell, a writer of science fiction stories in 1950s New York, confronts systemic racism in both his work and personal life. Despite vowing to continue fighting for what he believes is right, he suffers a mental breakdown and is committed to a psychiatric hospital. Thanks to the visions, Sisko finds the strength within himself to continue his vital role in leading Starfleet forces to defeat the Dominion. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing it, “Far Beyond the Stars” is widely recognized as one of DS9’s best episodes and one of the all-time great Star Trek stories.
The episode never actually confirmed that Benny Russell was an actual human writer in the mid-20th century rather than simply being a creation of the Prophets, but there was nothing to refute the idea, either. The book cover in “The Elysian Kingdom” retroactively confirms that Russell was a real person…at least within the Star Trek universe.
Meanwhile, I started thinking about other books we might’ve seen in various Star Trek episodes which were their own flavor of Easter egg. To be fair, there aren’t that many, but the ones we do see? They’re definitely fun.
First up? We go to “Horizon,” a second-season episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. In it, Enterprise helm officer Travis Mayweather visits the Earth Cargo Ship Horizon, a civilian vessel crewed by his family and where he was born and spent his early life. Among the books on the shelf in the quarters he uses while visiting is a large white tome, Chicago Gangs. Though the title isn’t the same, this is obviously meant as a wink and a nod to a similar book, Chicago Mobs of the Twenties, left to the people of Sigma Iotia II by the crew of an Earth ship called the…wait for it…Horizon, as detailed in the original Star Trek series episode “A Piece of the Action.”
Hee hee. Also? Hee.
Things get a little more mischievous when we return to “Far Beyond the Stars.” For this episode, the production crew had a field day creating props and set dressing that included covers to science fiction books and magazines one might find in the 1950s.
Among these were several covers for Incredible Tales of Scientific Wonder, a fictional counterpart to such magazines as Amazing Stories, If, Astounding Stories, and Galaxy Science Fiction to name just a few. Indeed, Galaxy‘s covers of that period were the visual springboard for Incredible Tales.
For the “March 1953” issue, several of the faux covers featured “stories” riffing on familiar science fiction novels, movies, and TV episodes, but one cover went all in with the Trek references. Every story in one “issue” bears the name of an original series episode. Come on…how can you not love this sort of thing?
It’d take almost twenty years before something like that popped up again. In the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery, we’re introduced to Philippa Georgiou, captain of the U.S.S. Shenzhou and mentor to series lead Michael Burnham, who’s serving as the ship’s first officer when the show begins. In the captain’s ready room is a shelf bearing several books, and while they’re not easily readable in the episode itself, a behind-the-scenes photo reveals the truth: Each of the books is named for an original series episode.
Although we don’t know the “authors” of these books, the episode writers seem like prime candidates. As an alternative, I nominate James Blish.
Is that all of the self-referential Star Trek Easter eggs in this vein? I’m honestly not certain. I feel like I’m overlooking something obvious, but nothing else came to me as I was pulling this post together. If anyone thinks of another example, feel free to drop it in the comments.
And so another “Tuesday Trekkin'” installment is in the books. Hopefully I won’t wait two or three months before the next one.