Starfleet Historians:
History and Historians in Contemporary Science Fiction



Good Evening!


premièrement, je voudrais féliciter le comité du gala de l'association des étudiants en Histoire.

la directrice, Isabelle Chartrand,

et Chantal Bédard, Lisa Celentano, Tracey Langlois, Julie-Anne Mainville, Bonnie Mick, Glen Poupore, John Séguin, et Heather Taylor.

de les féliciter pour un travail bien fait.

et de les remercier de la part de tout le département.

(First, I would like to thank the Gala Committee of the History Students Association.)

(The director, Isabelle Chartrand, and Chantal Bédard, Lisa Celentano, Tracey Langlois, Julie-Anne Mainville, Bonnie Mick, Glen Poupore, John Séguin, Heather Taylor.)

(To congratulate them for a job well done ...)

(and thank them on behalf of the entire department.)


it was a real pleasure to have been invited by this committee to speak this evening.

it was an even greater pleasure to find out that this meant that I was going to get a free ticket.

moreover, it gives me the opportunity to speak out on a issue that I believe should be of vital concern to every member of our department, whether undergraduate, graduate student, or professor.

an issue that concerns everyone, in fact, who has made a serious commitment to the study of history at the University of Ottawa.


c'est une question plus urgent que la nécessité de preserver et renforcer le caractère bilingue de notre département,

une question plus serieux que le financement universitaire à l'ère de Bob Rae,

une question plus importante que le rôle des humanités dans les années quatre-vingt-dix.

Ça va de soi que je parle de la question ... de l'histoire, ... des historiens, ... et ... de ... Star Trek.

(It's a question more urgent than the need to preserve and reinforce the bilingual character of our department ...)

(A question more serious than university finances in the era of Bob Rae ...)

(A question more important than the role of the humanities in the nineties.)

(It goes without saying that I'm speaking of the question of ... history ... historians ... and ... Star Trek.)


now, for most of you, history and Star Trek may not be an issue.

for most of you, Star Trek means one thing and one thing alone.

its God's way of telling you that you have too much time on your hands ...

and that you should be spending more time in the library and the archives.


malheureusement, Star Trek représente plus qu'une diversion innocente.

c'est aussi un assaut, à la fois subtile et dangereux, contre l'histoire et les historiens.

ce soir, je vais essayer de vous démontrer que l'image des historiens dans Star Trek est faux, déformé, et pernicieux, ...

et que le vrai dessein de Star Trek est de diffamer et d'insulter l'histoire et les historiens.

(Unfortunately, Star Trek represents more than an innocent diversion.)

(It's also an attack, at once subtle and dangerous, on history and historians.)

(this evening, I will attempt to demonstrate to you that the image of historians in Star Trek is false, warped, and pernicious ...)

(And that the real goal of Star Trek is to defame and insult history and historians.)


I hope to convince you that the image of historians in Star Trek is so utterly false and so completely malicious that one can only assume that a sinister conspiracy is at work.

for Star Trek, as I am sure you all have noticed, does not entirely neglect historians.

in Star Trek and The Next Generation, there are, in fact, a total of three characters who are professional historians.

they are Marla McGivers, John Gill and Berlinghoff Rasmussen.

the first is a traitor, the second is a Nazi, and the third is a fraud, thief and murderer.


les traitres, les nazis, et les criminels,

ça, c'est l'image des historiens dans Star Trek.

(Traitors, nazis, and criminals.)

(That's the image of historians in Star Trek.)


la répresentation des historiens dans Star Trek commence avec Marla McGivers, l'historienne officielle de l'Entreprise à l'ère de Capitaine James T. Kirk.

elle fait son apparence dans "Space Seed."

pendant cette épisode, on trouve un ancien astronef, le Botany Bay...

et sa cargaison d'anciens criminels de guerre, sous la commande de Kahn Noonien Singh.

le Capitaine Kirk décide d'employer Marla McGivers pour lui fournir des renseignements sur les anciens astronefs.

(The presentation of historians in Star Trek begins with Marla McGivers, the official historian of the Enterprise in the era of Captain James T. Kirk.)

(during that episode, we encounter an ancient starship, the Botany bay ...)

(and its cargo of ancient war criminals, under the command of Kahn Noonien Singh.)

(Captain Kirk decides to ask Marla McGivers for information on starships from the past.)


and how, you might ask, does James T. Kirk articulate his need for a historian?

he proceeds to utter the line that will place him forever in history's hall of infamy.

he says:

"here's a chance for that historian to do something for a change."

note the implications of this statement.

that of the four hundred and thirty people aboard the Enterprise, only one is a historian,

and this historian is portrayed as a passive repository of obsolete knowledge, rather than a useful member of the crew.


mais Marla McGivers est plus qu'une historienne inutile.

elle est aussi traîtresse.

au cours de l'épisode, elle trahi le Star Fleet et la Fédération.

elle assiste Kahn et sa bande de criminels de guerre à s'emparer de l'Entreprise.

(but Marla McGivers is more than a useless historian. she's also a traitor.)

(in the course of the episode, she betrays Starfleet and the Federation.)

(She helps Kahn and his band of war criminals to capture the enterprise.)


so, Star Trek's portrayal of historians begins by depicting the historical officer of the Enterprise as both utterly useless and a dangerous renegade.

you might think that with Marla McGivers, history in Star Trek had sunk just about as low is it could get.

but after "Space Seed," things only got worse.


un autre historien de Star Fleet paraît dans "Patterns of Force."

au cours de cette épisode, l'Entreprise fait visite à Ekos,...

une planète dominée par un gouvernement raciste, meurtrier, et Nazi.

un gouvernement crée par un certain John Gill, historien de Star Fleet.

un historien qui utilise sa connaissance de l'histoire pour imposer un gouvernment totalitaire à une planète autrefois pacifique et civilisée.

(A second Starfleet historian appears in "Patterns of Force.")

(during that episode, the Enterprise visits Ekos ...)

(A planet dominated by a racist, murderous, nazi government.)

(A government created by John Gill, a Starfleet historian.)

(A historian who uses his knowledge of history to impose a totalitarian regime upon a hitherto peaceful, civilized planet)


he imposes this government on the grounds that the Nazi model represents the most efficient way to organize a society.

questions of ethics aside, this perspective does not say a great deal about Gill's abilities as a historian.

I may be a Canadianist, but even I know that Nazi Germany lost the war, and liberal democracies won.

I don't know where John Gill got his degree, but he would have known this if he had studied at a real university like Ottawa U, ... OR EVEN AT CARLETON.


mais ça, c'est seulement le premier des crimes contre l'histoire commis dans "Patterns of Force."

car John Gill n'est pas seulement un historien de Star Fleet, il est aussi PROFESSEUR D'HISTOIRE.

c'est lui, en fait, qui a ensigné l'histoire à Kirk et Spock à Starfleet Academy.

à ce point, il me manque de mots pour exprimer mon horreur et mon traumatisme.

John Gill est le seul professeur d'histoire dans Star Trek, et il est Nazi.

(But this is only the first of the crimes against history that appear in "Patterns of Force.")

(because John Gill is not only a Starfleet historian, he's also a PROFESSOR OF HISTORY)

(he was, in fact, the one who taught history to Kirk and Spock at Starfleet Academy.)

(at this point words fail me ...)

(John Gill is the ONLY history prof in Star Trek, and he turns out to be a Nazi.)


of all the hundreds, of all the thousands of characters to appear on Star Trek and The Next Generation, only one is a professor of history, and he's a Nazi.

it is here that Star Trek sinks to the uttermost depths of infamy and shame ...

as it portrays history professors as crazed fascists with a distorted view of history and a tendency towards dictatorship.

I'm sure that you will all agree that this is entirely false, libellous, untrue, absurd, unbelievable, inconceivable, and malicious.

well, at least I'm sure that the professors will all agree.


donc, des deux historiens de Star Fleet, l'un est traitre, l'autre Nazi.

Le troisième historien de Star Trek, par contraste, n'est qu'un voleur, imposteur, et assasin.

ce prodigue est le charmant Berlinghoff Rasmussen, soi-disant historien du vingt-sixième siècle.

un historien qui fait visite à l'Entreprise de Jean-Luc Picard par le moyen d'une machine à explorer le temps.

(Thus of two Starfleet historians, one is a traitor, the other a Nazi.)

(Star Trek's third historian, on the other hand, is only a thief, impostor, and murderer.)

(this prodigy is the charming Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a self-styled twenty-sixth century historian.)

(a historian who uses a time machine to visit Picard's Enterprise)


but in the end, Berlinghoff Rasmuussen proves to be a fraud.

a criminal, who murdered a time traveller, stole his time machine, then came to the Enterprise to attempt to steal of number of high-tech artifacts, ... including Lieutenant Commander Data.

once again, even though the villain proves to be an imposter, the practice of history is not portrayed in a very positive light.

so this is how Star Trek treats historians.

about the way that television as whole treats drug dealers.

even the Romulans have a better image.

even the CARDASSIANS have a better image.

Star Trek is said by many people to specialize in delivering messages.

in this case, the message is very clear, "never trust a historian."


que les historiens sont des gens néfaste, inefficace, et généralement dangereux.

(that historians are evil, ineffective, and generally dangerous.)


now it may be, that in making this assertion, I have shattered your faith in a cultural icon that is fairly popular among the Ottawa historical community.

however, I should perhaps remind you that this grim picture of the future of history and historians is not one that I share.

and the proof that I'm right is before us this evening in the persons of our honours and graduate students.


c'était pour moi un grand plaisir d'avoir l'occasion d'enseigner à l'université d'Ottawa.

ceci m'a donné l'occasion de rendre au département comme professeur une partie de ce que j'ai réçû ici comme candidat au doctorat.

mais ce n'est pas la vrai raison de mon bonheur.

la vrai raison se trouve dans les étudiants en spécialisation d'histoire et les étudiants du deuxième et trosième cycles.

(it has been a great pleasure for me to have the chance to teach at the university of ottawa.)

(it has given me a chance to give back to the department part of what I received here as a doctoral candidate.)

(but that's not the real reason I'm so pleased.)

(the real reason are the undergraduates majoring in history and the grad students in our M.A. and Ph.D. programmes.)


with students like these I have not really been working for the past three years

instead, I have been having fun...

and getting paid for it.


c'est un vrai plaisir de travailler avec les étudiants si gentils, si intelligents, si enthousiastes, et, parmi les francophones, si FRANCO-ONTARIENS.

(it has been a real pleasure to work with students who are so nice, so intelligent, so enthusiastic, and among the francophones, so FRANCO-ONTARIAN.)


looking around me this evening, I have every confidence that, regardless of what Star Trek may say, the future of history is in good hands.

Thank you all ... Live Long and Prosper.


tophomesf homecv homewrite me!

Copyright © 2001 D. Peter MacLeod

The top left and bottom right images are details from David Rickman, Eastern Woodland Indians, middle of the eighteenth century, Department of National Defence. The top right and bottom left images are NASA photos of M16-the Eagle Nebula, prepared by the Space Telescope Science Institute.