Turning the political into ideology: The exorcizing of a metaphor in James Blish’s short story adaptation of a cold war Star Trek narrative | Intellect Skip to content
1981
North American Speculative Fiction and the Political
  • ISSN: 1466-0407
  • E-ISSN: 1758-9118

Abstract

The article is a case study of James Blish’s short story adaptation of the (TOS) episode ‘Balance of Terror’, originally a pacifist narrative focused on tragic choices forced upon individuals. The episode is notable not only for introducing Romulans to the franchise but also for painting them in an unexpectedly sympathetic light as the extratextual power struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union is criticized by means of cognitive estrangement. The hegemonic tenor of the submarine film subgenre the episode emulates becomes quickly subverted as both sides of the conflict are given a voice, and the eventual victory of Captain Kirk is painted almost as a moral defeat. Blish’s adaptation is a testimony to the misinterpretation of TOS. Blish did not translate an SF story into another medium but rewrote it into a war narrative while not changing any major events, taking the episode at face value and apparently not noticing the allegory on which it was founded. This case serves as an example of how easily a subversive narrative can be co-opted the moment genre is misidentified.

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2022-09-01
2024-02-27
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