The Inspiration for Our Favorite Star Trek Characters
Kirk, Spock, Picard, Data, Uhura and Chekov
Photo by Gage Skidmore
Captain James T. Kirk
Kirk was inspired by C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower. Derived from Admiral Horatio Nelson, the literary character was driven by duty, while his courage and skillful cunning cemented his place in the popular culture. At the same time, the larger than life figure had a sense of the rest of us at his core, and Kirk followed suit. “The introspective captain is continually burdened by fear and self-doubt,” writes Nathan Miranda of Screenrant.com.
So Kirk constantly finds himself wrestling with the uncertainties of command and the internal struggles contained within. Thus, the "space-age Horatio Hornblower" must weigh duty, the safety of his crew and the morality of actions against the far-off, ambiguous orders of Starfleet Command, according to Miranda. But the man of action that Kirk is inspired by ultimately wins out, and any self doubt falls in favor of the decisiveness that has made him endure as well.
Spock’s inspiration derived from Roddenberry’s time spent as an LA Police officer. The man responsible was Police Chief William Parker, and he was two sides of the same coin. On one hand, he was an open minded intellectual who modernized policing but was also a full on racist. The man was at war with himself, and the internal strife brought life to the divisive battle Spock waged throughout his.
Captain Jean Luc Picard
Auguste Picard designed the Bathyscaphe Trieste. A vessel that was the first to reach the bottom of the Challenger Deep, which is the deepest point of the ocean. The journey was made on January 23, 1960, and among the crew, was Picard’s son, Jacques. The Picard family was not done inspiring Roddenberry either. The creator also drew from from Auguste’s twin brother Jean-Felix, who built the first stratospheric balloon in 1933.
When Nichelle Nichols came to audition for Star Trek, she was carrying the book she was reading. Uhuru is a 1962 novel by Robert Ruark about the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya, and Roddenberry noticing, a 20 minute conversation ensued. The audition going pretty well from there, Roddenberry was inspired to read the novel and decided to name the communications officer after the title. Switching out the "u," he had Uhura’s Kenyan point of origin and her presence on the bridge meant the struggle for African freedom (or Uhuru) had been achieved.
Dr. Leonard McCoy doesn’t really tie to a person. Instead, the character comes from an old moniker and actually expresses the attitude the good doctor came to be known for. In the 19th century, surgical doctors were often referred to as sawbones because that’s what an amputation amounted. Doctors had to saw through bones, and the chief medical officer very rough around the edges, doesn’t that sound exactly like our Bones.
According to Scott Baird of Screenrant, the circuitry of our favorite android got its spark from the never realized Phase II Star Trek Series. Without Spock signing on, Xon was the his replacement. Fully Vulcan, the character had already manhandled the Kolinahr and made emotions a thing of his past. Still, the new first officer wanted a better understanding of human emotions, so he joined the Enterprise as a form of on the job training. Way over his head, Poor Xon was never intended to get us, but the best laid plans going awry, Data swoops in to pick up the slack. In turn, Data's quest to become more human, that’s undetermined. But the search was the mission, and Data has Xon to thank.
Yes, we know the Russians called us out about not having any Russian astronauts on Star Trek, but once acknowledging the omission, the show had a less lofty goal in filling the slot. Davey Jones of the Monkeys was cute and appealing to young fans, and with his 1960s mop top, Walter Koenig looked the part and got it.
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