While many scholars agree the Gothic mode has been a precursor to science fiction since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Carey Millsap-Spears argues in this book that the made for streaming series Star Trek Discovery draws on an even older gothic formula, namely the Female Gothic of Ann Radcliffe’s romance novels, including The Romance of the Forest and The Mysteries of Udolpho. Millsap-Spears reads the streaming series through the lens of the Female Gothic, illustrating that each season contains the formulaic elements of a mystery, a gothic villain and heroine, an escape narrative, and the explained supernatural. In doing so, the author expands Star Trek scholarship and sheds new light on the intertextual connections between gothic literature and contemporary science fiction.
Carey Millsap-Spears is professor of communications at Moraine Valley Community College.
Chapter 1: “Haven’t you ever been afraid of a ghost?”: Gothic Romances, Star Trek, and Science Fiction
Chapter 2: “That Hope is You”: Female Gothic Heroines and Michael Burnham
Chapter 3: “He Groomed You. He Chose You”: The Gothic Villain and Star Trek: Discovery
Chapter 4: “That’s How We Find Our Way”: Escape Narratives, the Female Gothic, and the Voyages
Chapter 5: “I Like Science”: the Explained Supernatural, the Female Gothic, and Star Trek: Discovery
Chapter 6: “Sometimes We Know the Role We’re Meant to Play”: Starfleet’s (Ineffective) Gothic Heroes
About the Author
Star Trek: Discovery and the Female Gothic offers a deep dive into the history of the female gothic and scholarly responses to it, as well as into the unique position of Star Trek: Discovery in the wider Star Trek canon. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the ways in which a series grounded in science fiction and adventure narratives makes use of apparently incongruous gothic tropes and narrative forms. The Discovery series emerges here as a critically reflexive addition to the Star Trek universe, one that, like the gothic heroine herself, dares to highlight the casually colonialist, heteronormative, misogynist, and blithely optimistic discourses that underpin it. Star Trek: Discovery and the Female Gothic is a valuable resource for scholars and fans alike, boldly going into territories old and new.
Star Trek, along with much of American science fiction, has long been seen as a masculine genre, made for men, by men, about men. In Star Trek Discovery and the Female Gothic, however, Carey Millsap-Spears boldly re-situates the franchise in the rich, complex history of the female gothic narrative. By tracing a direct line between classic female gothic authors Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelley, Millsap-Spears offers a much-needed re-examination of a beloved science fiction universe through an historical and critical lens.
If you’ve never thought that Star Trek Discovery and the female Gothic belong together, then let this entertaining and informative book show you where you must boldly go. By linking risk-taking heroines of centuries past to cutting-edge science fiction on television, Carey Millsap-Spears makes an original and compelling contribution.
In Tell Fear No: Star Trek Discovery and the Female Gothic, Carey Milsap-Spears persuasively delineates the Gothic roots of the Star Trek franchise, and convincingly argues that Star Trek: Discovery – female led and orientated – can be further characterised as part of a tradition of “Female Gothic” dating back to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Charlotte Brontë. With rich and satisfying analyses of both the Gothic and Star Trek, this a welcome addition to the burgeoning scholarship on the most recent entries in a franchise that marries both science and emotion.
The spirit that undergirds the Star Trek continuum in its entirety is encapsulated in the axiom of ‘Eyes Open’ that compels us to tell fear ‘no’. Like an intrepid Starfleet science officer, Carey Millsap-Spears expertly peels away the layers of a narrative substrate—the Female Gothic—and makes it unambiguously visible and accessible to Trekademics, other scholars, and fans alike. If you do not (yet) appreciate what Discovery is trying to do and/or if you still harbor reservations about newer Star Trek, after having read this book you will likely feel and think differently. Reading and understanding Discovery as a contemporary remediation of the Female Gothic makes things simply click into place.