Because it is the 50th anniversary of the appearance of Gene Roddenberry’s “Wagon Train to the Stars,” IOW Star Trek, I cannot help but remember feeling the excitement and allure of a future of dashing about the galaxy in search of alien worlds, alien life and alien experiences.
I also remember falling in love with a little three masted barque called The Elissa, restored and refurbished in the harbor of Galveston in the 70s as a remnant of the Age of Tall Sail and how badly I wanted to find a book that would explain every shroud and futtock, every sail and brace.
Yes, I was a Trekker in my youth, formed in the 70s and 80s when the local TV station would hold 72 hour Trek-a-thons over the weekend and a close friend of mine and I would vacate all plans to camp out at her house or mine and do nothing but binge watch the episodes they laid out for us, waiting eagerly for the episodes we loved the best. If I tried doing that today, I’d fail utterly, as my tendency in my middle age is to fall asleep within the first 30 minutes of a movie because the couch is so darn comfortable…and I’m all about comfort these days.
Still, if you had told me at the time, that there was a man writing dashing nautical character fiction set nearly 200 years BEFORE our age of space flight, instead of the 300 year future of Jim Kirk’s, I’d wondered which came first, the Patrick O’Brian or the Gene Roddenberry. Considering how both the show and the first book of many, “Master & Commander,” first came to prominence within a year of each other, I have to wonder sometimes if the two didn’t have some kind of mind meld or at least a correspondence with each other. And I haven’t delved enough into the creators’ history to know if this was remotely possible, but considering how the two captains shared a weakness for women, and was close friends with a crusty and irascible doctor who didn’t mind fomenting a little rebellion (good for the heart, you know) now and then, I certainly have a healthy respect for the idea of synchronicity and serendipity.
So here I have found a few articles online, some old, some oldER, making the same correlations I made when I began my Aubriead with the 20 books by Patrick O’Brian. It was Star Trek told with a historical eye, populated with characters familiar and given the same drama and pathos as “City on the Edge of Forever”… or the comedy of hiccup-inducing “The Trouble With Tribbles.”
Some connections observed:
There are other ways in which the film of Master and Commander will remind Trekkies that for all the loopy sci-fi contrivances in that series, it’s the naval-adventure template that holds it together. This is the ur-Star Trek.
The Trek connection never feels stronger than in the film’s final scene, in which Aubrey and Maturin exchange a couple of quips about flightless birds before beginning a violin/cello duet that will play us out to the end credits. Russell Crowe, as Aubrey, even channels a shade of Shatner in his final lines of dialogue – whether consciously, or tapping into some universal source of Charismatic Ship Captains, I couldn’t say.
Captain Aubrey might well say “a glass of wine with you, after we praise wives and sweethearts (may they never meet)” whereas Captain Kirk will just borrow his First Officer’s blessing “live long and prosper,” but I can’t help but feel that both would feel very comfortable on either bridge.