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Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

Primitive Culture is a Trek.fm podcast dedicated to a deep examination of the connections between Star Trek and our own history and culture. In each episode, Duncan Barrett and his guests take you on a fascinating exploration of how our world inspires the franchise we love—and how that franchise inspires us.

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27: The Purview of the Diplomats

Federation Politics in Star Trek. The United Federation of Planets is at the heart of Star Trek’s utopian vision of a deeply complex future society, though relatively little interest has been shown in the nuts and bolts of the organization’s democracy and governance. The machinations of the Klingon High Council have taken up more screen time than the workings of the Federation’s own equivalent, and the bulk of our time is spent in the military environment of Starfleet rather than the civilian halls of power. In this episode of Primitive Culture, hosts Tony Black and Duncan Barrett are joined by Star Trek novelist Keith R.A. DeCandido, author of Articles of the Federation, a West Wing-inspired novel about the day-to-day business of the Federation president and her staff. They discuss the three Federation presidents shown on screen—in The Voyage Home, The Undiscovered Country, and Deep Space Nine’s “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost”—and examine how future Star Trek might engage with the democratic and diplomatic process in more detail. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) Military and Civilian Authority (00:09:36) Presidential Qualities (00:17:34) The Birth of the Federation (00:35:59) President Ian McKellan (00:43:24) Closing (00:49:44) Hosts Tony Black and Duncan Barrett Guest Keith R.A. DeCandido Production Tony Black (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

55mins

9 May 2018

Rank #1

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12: The Fable Conference

Star Trek and Allegory. In February 1964, Gene Roddenberry’s television show The Lieutenant produced an episode dealing with racism in the US military. The episode proved so controversial that NBC refused to pay for it, let alone broadcast it. A month later, Roddenberry pitched Star Trek, a science-fiction format that would allow him to address such incendiary issues indirectly, by telling stories set in the future as allegories of contemporary concerns. Although occasionally ham-fisted, Star Trek’s early allegories trod provocative new ground, and, half a century later, the allegorical mode is still a key part of Trek’s storytelling. In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Zachary Fruhling of Meta Treks and To The Journey to discuss the relationship between Star Trek and allegory, considering both Star Trek as allegory and instances of allegorical narrative within individual episodes. From Aesop’s Fables to medieval romance—and beyond—we trace a line of allegorical writing that leads all the way to the twenty-fourth century. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) Morals, Meanings, and Messages (00:06:15) Loose Canons (00:17:13) An Allegorical Taxonomy (00:35:55) Fables and Fools (00:42:07) Personification (01:09:45) Closing (01:22:15) Host Duncan Barrett Guest Zachary Fruhling Production Tony Black (Editor) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 26mins

17 Oct 2017

Rank #2

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20: Would You Rather?

Star Trek’s Impossible Choices. Since the publication of William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice in 1979, the title has entered the cultural lexicon as a term meaning a difficult situation in which a person must choose between two equally deserving alternatives. Two Star Trek episodes-Discovery’s “Lethe” and Voyager’s “Latent Image,” both written by Joe Menosky-borrow the story’s horrifying central conceit: a mother forced to choose between her children. In Jeri Taylor’s Voyager novel Mosaic, we learn that a similarly unbearable choice early in Kathryn Janeway’s Starfleet career almost destroyed her chances at command, plunging her into deep depression. In this episode of Primitive Culture, hosts Clara Cook and Duncan Barrett consider Star Trek’s approach to impossible choices. For the men and women who want to sit in the captain’s chair, part of their training involves facing the most terrible dilemmas-sending a friend to his death to save the ship or facing the ultimate no-win scenario: the Kobayashi Maru. But are some choices just too awful for human beings to cope with? And what happens when being forced to choose makes us lose something we can never get back? Chapters Intro (00:00:00) “Lethe” (00:04:43) “Latent Image” (00:13:00) Boundaries of Impossibility (00:23:00) Mosaic (00:31:45) The Kobayashi Maru (00:36:15) “Children of Time” and Generational Empathy (00:38:20) The Needs of the Many (00:50:45) Twenty-first-century Choices (01:02:00) Hosts Clara Cook and Duncan Barrett Production Clara Cook (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 12mins

23 Jan 2018

Rank #3

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74: A 1990s Time Capsule

Looking back on 25 years of Star Trek: Voyager. On January 16, 1995, Star Trek got lost in space. The premiere of the fourth live-action Star Trek series offered not just the franchise’s much-anticipated first female captain (something explicitly ruled out in the final episode of The Original Series) but a strong science fiction premise: a ship stranded on the far side of the galaxy and crewed by a mixture of by-the-book Starfleet officers and reckless Maquis renegades. It was a bold new approach, brimful of opportunity. And yet, somehow, the show—hampered, in part, by meddlesome corporate oversight—became one of Star Trek’s least adventurous outings, retreading familiar ground rather than truly venturing into the unknown. To its detractors, Voyager was little more than a lite version of The Next Generation. But its devoted fan base found much to love in the franchise’s most cozy and comfortable show. Some 25 years on, is it time for a reassessment of Voyager’s strengths and weaknesses? In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Darren Mooney, who has recently completed a set of detailed Star Trek: Voyager reviews on his website The M0vie Blog, to celebrate the show’s silver jubilee with a thorough retrospective. We consider Voyager’s merits and failings, the behind-the-scenes battles that set the template for what played out on screen, and how looking back with the benefit of hindsight offers new perspectives on familiar stories. In particular, we examine how a quarter-century of history helps us see just how quintessentially of its time Voyager was. For Darren’s complete Voyager reviews, visit: https://them0vieblog.com/reviews-hub/79613-2/ Chapters Intro (00:00:00) DS9 vs Voyager (00:05:32) First Contact with the Delta Quadrant (00:35:38) Partying Like It’s 1995 (01:05:25) Now Voyager (01:29:00) Final Thoughts (01:41:55) Host Duncan Barrett Guest Darren Mooney Production Duncan Barrett (Editor and 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)

2hr 1min

16 Jan 2020

Rank #4

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68: Feeling the Fear and Doing It Anyway

Phobias in Star Trek. Killer clowns! Crashing planes! Confined spaces! Crumpets? When our most deep-seated fears hold us hostage, our ability to make rational decisions flies out the airlock. What hope, then, for the transporter-phobic officer serving on a Federation starship, or the claustrophobic Cardassian living in exile on an overcrowded space station? In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Brandi Jackola of Live from The Edge to discuss the phobias of some of Star Trek’s characters, as well as our own irrational terrors. We look at transporter phobia as an analog for fear of flying in TNG’s “Realm of Fear”, claustrophobia triggered by “misplaced guilt” in DS9’s “Afterimage”, and—worst of all for a crew of intrepid spacefarers—the “nihilophobia” (fear of nothingness) in Voyager’s “Night.” In space, there are plenty of reasons to be scared … even if no one can hear you scream. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) Our Worst Nightmares (00:04:30) Hostage to terror (00:09:40) Trapped in the Closet? (00:20:15) Federation Health and Safety (00:36:00) The Sum of All Fears (00:43:50) Saru and Barclay (01:11:20) Host Duncan Barrett Guest Brandi Jackola Production Duncan Barrett (Producer, Editor) 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)

1hr 38mins

30 Oct 2019

Rank #5

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16: More, More, More, More, More!

Live from London: Star Trek and Director’s Cuts. As Star Trek fans, we know there may be more to a story than what we see on screen. We pore over deleted scenes, read novelizations and comic books, listen to behind-the-scenes stories, and scour unrealized versions of shooting scripts—all to find subtle nuances of character and plot as we imagine how things might have been. But what does it mean when the creator themselves decides that the original cut isn’t final? Three of the six movies featuring the crew of the original Enterprise 1701 now exist in multiple versions, creating a dilemma for the most devoted audiences. Is it better to experience them as originally released, or should we trust that those who take the time to tweak them have the right to say which version is final? In this episode of Primitive Culture, recorded live at the Prince Charles Cinema in London ahead of the UK premiere of the extended director’s cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, hosts Duncan Barrett and Tony Black are joined by Clara Cook and Tony Robinson to discuss the director’s cut phenomenon and how it affects the relationship between a film and its audience. In addition to the changes made to the 1982 classic, we consider the alternate versions of The Motion Picture and The Undiscovered Country—along with other films—and debate which Star Trek movies might benefit the most from another go-around. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) A Special Message from Nicholas Meyer (00:02:45) Star Trek: The Motion Picture (00:08:27) For Better or Worse? (00:12:56) How Long Is a Piece of String? (00:21:25) Blade Runner (00:25:25) Beyond the Farthest Shot (00:29:44) Final Thoughts (00:50:28) Hosts Duncan Barrett and Tony Black Guests Clara Cook and Tony Robinson Production Tony Black (Editor) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Neslon (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr

28 Nov 2017

Rank #6

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33: Playing the God Card

Religion in Star Trek. “Nothing more than a substitute brain” was the characteristically dismissive phrase Gene Roddenberry once used to describe religion. This perspective found its way on screen in various episodes of The Original Series and The Next Generation that presented religious practice as misguided, primitive, or worse. It wasn’t until after Roddenberry’s death in 1991 that Star Trek began engaging with religion—frequently rebranded as faith—in more positive ways. Deep Space Nine, in particular, took religious belief seriously from the get-go, offering not only two series regulars who were viewed as religions figures, but a serialized narrative that demanded viewers consider spiritual questions and themes. In this episode of Primitive Culture, recording live at the Church of St. Michael East Wickham in London, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Reverend Peter Organ for a look at Star Trek’s changing stance on religious belief and practice. They consider the shift, from the mid-90s onwards, away from Roddenberry’s implacable atheism, and also look at how key elements of Christian scripture have, in fact, been incorporated into the show’s storylines ever since the 1960s. They also look at how their own beliefs about religion—as an atheist and a man of the cloth respectively—have impacted their viewing of Star Trek. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) Roddenberry’s Atheism (00:06:35) Having Your Cake and Eating It … on DS9 (00:15:00) Ways to Eden (00:22:40) Gods (00:27:40) Devils (00:38:55) Reluctant Messiahs (00:49:12) Sacrifice (00:58:35) Faith of the Heart (01:05:15) Final Thoughts (01:09:43) Host Duncan Barrett Guest Peter Organ Production Clara Cook (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 21mins

18 Jul 2018

Rank #7

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32: Klingons Don’t Listen to Teachers

Schooling in Star Trek. On a Federation starship or space station, every day is an opportunity for learning. But for Starfleet officers whose families have joined them in space, providing a well-rounded education can be a challenge. Aboard the USS Enterprise-D, a host of professional educators were on hand, teaching everything from ancient history to calculus. Meanwhile, on Deep Space 9, an untrained amateur, Keiko O’Brien, stepped up to provide a curriculum tailored to the needs of the station’s dozen or so children. In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Amy Nelson of Earl Grey and The Edge to take a look at education in Star Trek. We also discuss the ways in which Star Trek has inspired Amy’s own teaching and how she has incorporated her fandom into her classroom. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) Teaching Trek in Amy’s Classroom (00:02:35) The Enterprise-D: Glorified Crèche? (00:08:40) Educational Software and Online Schooling (00:15:15) Pastoral Care and Discipline (00:22:55) Amateur Teachers, from Keiko O'Brien to Seven of Nine (00:36:25) Religious Controversy and Faith Schools (00:43:08) Teaching Versus Testing (00:57:45) Final Thoughts (01:04:09) Host Duncan Barrett Guest Amy Nelson Production Clara Cook (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 11mins

4 Jul 2018

Rank #8

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70: All the World’s a Bridge

Star Trek and Theatre. As Q told Picard, all the galaxy’s a stage. Both the Bard-bothering captain and his real-world alter ego, Patrick Stewart, who was famously dubbed “unknown British Shakespearean actor” by the Los Angeles Times when he first took on the role—are better placed than most to appreciate the wisdom of these words. And Star Trek has always had one foot in the old-school theatrical tradition as much as it has been defined by the almost magical possibilities of television. Not for nothing do we refer to some of the best Trek episodes as “morality plays.” In this episode of Primitive Culture, recorded live at the Destination Star Trek convention in Birmingham, England, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Tony Black for a look at the debt Star Trek owes to the theatre. Whether in the casting of Shakespearean heavyweights such as Stewart, David Warner, and Christopher Plummer, or in the presence of companies of players—both amateur and professional—aboard the starships of the future, Star Trek consistently maintains a link to its theatrical roots. Indeed, some popular episodes, such as Deep Space Nine’s “Waltz” and Enterprise’s “Shuttlepod One” are structured as near-one-act plays in their own right. Join us as we raise the curtain and take a look at Star Trek on the stage. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) Arise, Gul Madred (00:07:55) Black Box, Yellow Stripes (00:16:25) Up Close and Personal (00:26:05) Five-Act Mission (00:40:55) Host Duncan Barrett Guest Tony Black Production Duncan Barrett (Producer, Editor) 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)

49mins

24 Nov 2019

Rank #9

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46: A Lesson in Empathy

The Attica Prison Uprising and DS9’s Past Tense. Typically, Star Trek’s two-parters have skewed toward the action-adventure formula rather than hard-hitting social commentary. But in Deep Space Nine’s third season, the writers decided to use the longer ninety-minute running time to delve into a weighty contemporary subject: the homeless crisis in the United States. The resulting story, “Past Tense,” took Trek in a surprisingly dark direction and offered a future that was distinctly dystopian. “Past Tense” succeeded in shining a light on the treatment of the homeless in 1990s America. But there was another real-world influence that, according to DS9 head writer Ira Steven Behr, was the key to making it work. That inspiration was the 1971 uprising in Attica Prison, a maximum-security facility in rural New York state. It was Attica that lent the story its hostage-taking plot and much of its bleak cynicism—in particular the catastrophic failure of empathy for those hidden away behind concrete walls. In this episode of Primitive Culture, hosts Clara Cook and Duncan Barrett look into the history of the Attica uprising, brilliantly reconstructed in Heather Ann Thompson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Blood in the Water. Comparing this ugly chapter of not-so-distant US history with one of Star Trek’s most biting examinations of human moral failure, we find that some of the most obvious lessons from both stories have yet to be learned—even decades later. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) A Brief History of the Attica Uprising (00:09:15) Empathy and Understanding (00:27:49) Between Two Worlds (00:41:10) Julian 2.0 (00:50:27) Crossing Boundaries (00:59:30) Care in the Community (01:14:40) Final Thoughts (01:23:45) Hosts Clara Cook and Duncan Barrett Production Clara Cook (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 36mins

4 Dec 2018

Rank #10

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19: You Can Go Home Again

Voyager, History, and Nostalgia. While Captain Picard took command of the Enterprise-D with an order to “see what’s out there,” Captain Janeway’s mission statement was almost the opposite: “Set a course for home.” For seven years, the crew of the USS Voyager was, in a sense, exploring backwards; and this return journey was reflected in the show’s obsession with the past. Many episodes dealt with thorny questions of history and historiography, debating the relationship between official narratives and more personal, individual memories of days gone by. Others reveled in the pleasures of nostalgia, celebrating the ways our links to the past—and to our ancestors—can inspire and comfort us in the present. In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by award-winning Irish blogger Darren Mooney to discuss Voyager’s approach to history and nostalgia in the context of the broader Star Trek narrative. Is the impulse to get home an inherently conservative mission? Does the shift to prequels and reboots since Voyager ended signal an inability to truly move forward? Or is it simply inevitable that a franchise with a fifty-year history would be as concerned with the past as with the future? Chapters Intro (00:00:00) History (00:04:01) Nostalgia (00:08:50) Memory As the Guarantee of Truth (00:22:24) Guilt and Shame (00:30:05) The Impossible Future (00:40:00) Tom Paris, Retro Screenwriter (00:54:00) Corporate Meddlers and Continuity Pornographers (01:06:30) Final Thoughts (01:23:15) Hosts Duncan Barrett Guest Darren Mooney Production Clara Cook (Editor) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 36mins

10 Jan 2018

Rank #11

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11: In Years Gone By

Star Trek and Epic Heroes.

 “Sokath, his eyes uncovered!” When Captain Jean-Luc Picard finally cracked the Tamarian language, he countered “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” with an ancient myth of his own: the Epic of Gilgamesh. One of the earliest known works of literature, this deeply strange but profoundly beautiful Mesopotamian poem, predating the Old Testament by more than a thousand years, offers an unlikely bridge between two very different spacefaring cultures. In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Clara Cook to discuss Star Trek’s engagement with epic narratives, focusing on the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old English poem Beowulf, as played out in TNG’s “Darmok” and Voyager’s “Heroes and Demons.” Do Starfleet’s brave and brilliant officers share a common heritage with the epic heroes of yore? And to what extent can a twenty-fourth-century reader understand a poem written in a culture so alien from their own? Chapters  Intro (00:00:00)   Epic of Gilgamesh and “Darmok” (00:03:31)   Beowulf and “Heroes and Demons” (00:31:46)   Heroic Qualities and Epic Tropes (00:43:16)   Monsters and Realism (01:07:02)   High and Low Culture (01:24:34)   Final Thoughts (01:36:59) Host Duncan Barrett Guest 
Clara Cook Production 
Justin Oser (Editor) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 51mins

3 Oct 2017

Rank #12

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47: The Forty-Sevens

In-Jokes and Easter Eggs in Star Trek. When Joe Menosky began writing for Star Trek in 1990, he brought with him a peculiar relic from his university days: an obsession with the number 47. This unassuming digit soon found its way into unofficial Trek lore, popping up with increasing frequency and creativity. Before long, Star Trek scripts were replete with the references to 47. Even the art department got in on the act, dotting PADDs, corridors, and weapons lockers with the designation. As the not-so-random inclusion of the number grew throughout the 1990s like a subliminal infestation of Tribbles, spotting them became a fan-favorite activity—the ultimate Star Trek Easter egg hunt. In this episode of Primitive Culture, hosts Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook are joined by Carlos Miranda from TrekNews.net for a look at in-jokes and Easter eggs in Star Trek. We consider the origin of such carefully hidden nuggets in Warren Robinett’s 1979 Atari 2600 video game Adventure, and how cleverly hiding references has become a familiar part of pop culture. We also look at some of Star Trek’s most popular running in-jokes, as well as the use of self-parody and quotation—in Deep Space Nine in particular—and consider what such creative gestures say about the unspoken contract between Trek’s producers and fans. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) Pomona College and the original 47 (00:03:47) Robinett's Egg (00:11:04) Okudagrams (00:19:03) Cetacean Ops (00:33:21) Recurring (non-) characters (00:42:20) Quotation and parody (00:47:10) Flirting with the viewer (00:53:07) Fan silver-service (01:01:47) Final thoughts (01:13:00) Hosts Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook Guest Carlos Miranda Production Clara Cook (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 21mins

23 Dec 2018

Rank #13

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60: Musical Chairs

Cast Changes in Star Trek. When Star Trek’s original pilot, “The Cage,” was rejected by NBC, Gene Roddenberry was forced to rethink the acting lineup for his new show. Jeffrey Hunter’s Christopher Pike was out, replaced by the more charismatic William Shatner as James T. Kirk. Gone, too, was Roddenberry’s partner, Majel Barrett, leaving Leonard Nimoy as the only cast member to survive the recasting process. It was the first in a series of periodic reshuffles that have marked the franchise throughout its long history, many the result of bitter behind-the-scenes disputes between actors and producers. Most recently, the Deep Space Nine documentary What We Left Behind has shone a light on the circumstances surrounding Terry Farrell’s abrupt departure from the show at the end of its penultimate season—a subject that is clearly emotive for those involved, even more than 20 years later. In this episode of Primitive Culture, recorded live in London following the first public screening of the Deep Space Nine documentary, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Carlos Miranda, Drew Barker, and Andy Poulastides to discuss Star Trek’s reshuffling of personnel in front of the camera. We consider the introduction of Worf to DS9 and Seven of Nine to Voyager with the goal of boosting viewing figures, the abrupt departures of Gates McFadden from The Next Generation, Terry Farrell’s exit from DS9 and Jennifer Lien’s Voyager farewell, and the ways in which modern TV sensibilities—in the wake of shows such as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones—have upended long-held assumptions about the longevity of series regulars.

51mins

10 Jul 2019

Rank #14

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48: The Captain Kirk of the Ancient World

Odysseus, Craft, and Calypso. When Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon was announced as the writer the Star Trek: Short Treks episode “Calypso,” fans knew they would be in for something special. But the poignant, wry, and bold story he came up with was full of surprises. Chabon chose to set his episode a thousand years in Discovery’s future, further than any Star Trek episode had gone before. Far from reveling in the high-tech futurism of the barely glimpsed world beyond the ship, he instead produced a bottle show that seemed fixated on the past—both Star Trek’s and our own. The central premise—and title—of the story originate in Homer’s ancient Greek epic poem Odyssey, while twentieth-century cultural curios Betty Boop and Funny Face add a quirky real-world humanity to this otherwise deeply detached tale. In this episode of Primitive Culture, hosts Clara Cook and Duncan Barrett consider how the use of cultural touchstones from long-ago play into the Star Trek: Short Treks episode “Calypso.” Along the way, we consider the importance of names and stock epithets in the Homeric literary traditional, ideas of female sexuality as embodied in both classic Hollywood film and more recent forays into virtual romance, and how the products of an ancient, long-dead culture can continue to resonate centuries later. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) Crafty Odysseus (00:08:04) Funny Faces (00:17:55) Romancing Alexa (00:31:10) Beyond the Short Form? (00:54:30) That Which Survives (01:09:20) Final Thoughts (01:16:30) Hosts Clara Cook and Duncan Barrett Production Clara Cook (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 31mins

3 Jan 2019

Rank #15

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41: Star Trek Saved My Life

Mental Health, Part I: Discovery and TOS. In space, no-one can hear you scream—whether out of terror or sheer misery. But while Federation doctors seem to hold the cure for virtually any ailment in the barrel of a hypospray, looking after their crews’ mental health can be more challenging. Like the members of any military organization, Starfleet officers experience trauma and loss on a regular basis—not to mention the whole gamut of more everyday psychological trouble: anxiety, depression, phobias, and more. In this episode of Primitive Culture, the first in a two-part discussion recorded on World Mental Health Day 2018, hosts Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook look at mental health in Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: Discovery. They also open hailing frequencies to receive correspondence from listeners who share stories of how Star Trek has helped them through difficult times. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) Mailbag (00:03:03) Discovery: Breakdown vs. Fake-out (00:29:20) Saru: The Anxious XO (00:43:45) The Original Series: Criminally Insane? (00:53:15) Hosts Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook Production Tom Whelan (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 13mins

26 Oct 2018

Rank #16

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59: A Safe Pair of Hands?

Stuart Baird and Star Trek: Nemesis. The lowest-grossing of the Star Trek films, 2002’s outing by The Next Generation crew—Star Trek: Nemesis—was the first installment to open below number one at the box office. Losing out on the top spot to the Jennifer Lopez rom-com Maid in Manhattan may seem bad, the fourth TNG trip to the cinema performed so poorly that it proved to be their last. In fact, it killed off Star Trek’s silver screen prospects for more than half a decade. For years, many fans have blamed the failures of Nemesis—both commercially and critically—on its director, Stuart Baird. Better known for his work as an Academy Award-winning editor than for his three less lauded directorial outings, Baird apparently had minimal interest in the Star Trek franchise. This is said to have been true both before and, perhaps more surprisingly, during the making of the film. But is it fair to lay all the blame squarely at the feet of its director? In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Dr. Chris Nunn, a lecturer in film at the University of Greenwich in London, to take a fresh look at Nemesis in relation to Baird’s two other Hollywood movies: Executive Decision and U.S. Marshals. Will an examination of the director’s previous work change the longstanding view among Star Trek fans that Braid broke the odd-numbered curse for all the wrong reasons? Is it right to blame one man for a broth that had plenty of cooks around to spoil it? And, most importantly, is Nemesis really as bad as it’s cracked up to be? Chapters The Presence of Time (00:01:25) New Beginnings (00:12:16) Baird to the Bridge (00:22:26) Khan Revisited (00:37:20) Post-Nemesis (00:58:20) Meanwhile, in a Parallel Universe … (01:05:00) Host Duncan Barrett Guest Chris Nunn Production Duncan Barrett (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)

1hr 25mins

26 Jun 2019

Rank #17

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49: Forbidden Planets

From Altair IV to Talos IV. Star Trek’s original unaired pilot, “The Cage,” established the template for much of what was to come. But that episode was, itself, heavily influenced by an earlier work of science fiction, the 1956 film Forbidden Planet. Stylistic similarities between the two works abound, but there is a deeper link as well: both stories concern a highly advanced alien race whose incredible mental abilities have brought about societal collapse. In this episode of Primitive Culture, hosts Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook look at the connections between Forbidden Planet and “The Cage,” focusing on the character of Christopher Pike, captain of the USS Enterprise before Kirk. With the return of Pike and his first officer, Number One, in Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery, we also consider the popular longevity of these barely glimpsed characters and how their presentation has changed over the course of half a century. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) In the Beginning… (00:03:00) “Born Sexy Yesterday”(00:11:50) Monsters from the Id (00:27:00) Where No Men Have Gone Before (00:35:30) A Tale of Two Captains (00:42:00) Number One Fans (00:58:24) Acting Up? (01:09:25) Final Thoughts (01:25:25) Hosts Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook Production Clara Cook (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 31mins

24 Jan 2019

Rank #18

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50: Size Does Matter

Short Treks and bite-sized content. Between 1966 and 2001, Star Trek seemed to be the incredible shrinking franchise. The 50-minute running time of The Original Series gave way to the 44 minutes for episodes of The Next Generation, 43 minutes for Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and a lean 42 minutes by the time of Enterprise. But when Trek made the leap to a streaming service with Discovery, all bets were off. The length of an episode began to vary from week to week, depending on the needs of the story. More striking than Discovery’s variable length, however, was the decision to release a series of shorts between seasons. This short-form approach to storytelling was previously the domain of fan films, not officially licensed Trek. In this episode of Primitive Culture, hosts Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook look at the Short Treks in relation to both Star Trek’s own short and long forms—from The Animated Series (22 minutes) to The Motion Picture (well over two hours), and also in relation to short fiction in general. Is brevity truly the soul of wit? What does it mean for Star Trek to embrace the format so readily? And is something inevitably lost when our content keeps shrinking and shrinking? Chapters Intro (00:00:00) First Impressions (00:03:04) Picking Up the Pace (00:18:00) Comic Timing (00:36:10) To B-Plot or Not to B-Plot? (00:46:01) Anthology: The Final Frontier (01:00:30) The Perfect Proving Ground (01:18:12) Final Thoughts (01:26:25) Hosts Duncan Barrett and Clara Cook Production Clara Cook (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 42mins

8 Feb 2019

Rank #19

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17: Everybody’s Human

Star Trek and Human Rights. Star Trek’s progressive, humanist outlook has always involved the extension of legal protection to a wide range of non-human entities. The courtroom battles fought by Data and Voyager’s EMH reflect how legal status is called into question in our own world as a way of justifying exploitation. Although Starfleet—for the most part—upholds the same moral principles enshrined in the UN and European rights charters, other species, such as the Cardassians, show a systematic disregard for the rights of individuals—human or not. In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Guinevere Nell of The Briar Patch and Clara Cook for a special episode to mark International Human Rights Day, recorded live at the London School of Economics. We consider how Star Trek has engaged with real-world debates about human and animal rights, the impact of war on our most dearly held principles, and the limitations placed on the Federation’s role as an interstellar moral police force. Chapters Intro (00:00:00) Rights for Non-humans (00:09:37) Moral Dilemmas vs. Legal Debates (00:29:20) Rights in Other Cultures (00:34:40) Cardassian Rights Abuses (00:41:50) When the Laws Fall Silent (00:57:00) Privacy (01:02:25) Collective Rights (01:08:00) Hosts Duncan Barrett Guests Clara Cook and Guinevere Nell Production Tony Black (Editor) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)

1hr 22mins

13 Dec 2017

Rank #20