Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is Turandot a Vulcan?

Does every blogger have bits and pieces of unfinished posts lying around? Back when I was putting together "Star Trek: Virgil Says Don't Sleep" to the aria "Nessun Dorma," from the opera Turandot, I saved these posters of Turandot because I thought the Chinese dominatrixy heroine looked like the Vulcan T'Pring, Mr. Spock's betrothed from "Amok Time," (2nd row, below), but I never got around to posting them, thinking I wanted to write something about Cold War politics and Star Trek to go with them. But I didn't and I probably won't soon, so here they are.

People sometimes say Star Trek's "alien races" (how's that for loaded language?) stood in for Cold War-era powers. The received wisdom is that the Klingons were the Soviets, though I'm not sure they line up quite right. The Vulcans and the Romulans were projections of the Inscrutable Asian that existed in the 1960s Western mind-- the Romulans specifically representing the hostile Chinese. (Does that make the Vulcans Japanese?) Jim Kirk, of course, played for the Home Team. So, maybe the Chinese Turandot is actually a Romulan, like the commander from "The Enterprise Incident" (botttom row, below).


Jennifer said...

Oh, fascinating. :D I had heard about the Klingon=Russian connection, which is pretty obvious in some episodes and less so in others, but had never made the jump to Romulans= Chinese. And I rather like the Vulcans as Japanese! Allies, but not always on the best terms...and with the warlike background that they've renounced...interesting indeed.

T'Pring and the Romulan commander are just gorgeous in those shots!

Fresca said...

I had never heard anyone compare Vulcan/Japan before until I read Zen priest Brad Watson who says he thinks Vulcans are a kind of American misrepresentation of Zen, and I thought that made a ton of sense, and then the political relationship seems about right too--as you say, allies, but not really entirely sympathetic to each other...

The Klingons on TOS seem to me a mishmash of American fears, not just the Soviets. Though they become more clearly the failing USSR in ST VI: The Undiscovered Country.

The Romulan commander is one of my most favorite characters ever on ST.