Video of the Day: Stephen Fry Explains How Star Trek Ties Into Nietzsche And Ancient Greece

It turns out that Stephen Fry, the British actor, author humorist and all around intellectual, is a Star Trek fan. In our video of the day (which was actually recorded last year) Fry explains how "most of human history and art can be expressed through Star Trek."


Stephen Fry explains how all life can be explained through Star Trek

In the video below Stephen Fry talks about Star Trek and how it relates to all of human history. If you wanted to know how Star Trek can be tied to 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and to ancient Greek philosophy, then this is the video for you.

(NOTE: just the first 4 minutes cover Trek)

This is actually not our first encounter with Stephen Fry’s Trek-love. He is currently working on a BBC Documentary show called "Planet Word," which explores language. Earlier this year Fry traveled to Washington DC to film a segment on the Klingon language for his upcoming BBC documentary series Planet Word. For the segment, Fry himself joined in a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (in the original Klingon).

Stephen Fry as Klingon

Video uploaded by orginalmaja.

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Stephen Fry is obviously a very intelligent fellow!

“most all life can be explained through Star Trek”

Here, here.

He kinda looks like Alec Guiness.

Stephen Fry is saying exactly what I’ve been saying, and why the symbolism of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad in which Kirk represents the balance between logic and emotion is so important to keep. That IS the heart of Star Trek. Change that and you’ve lost what make Star Trek unique.

Amen!! :)

Stephen Fry in a national British Treasure.


Oh yes, we do love Stephen Fry over here. An all round very smartified and pleasant fellow.

Fry made a very interesting programme for the BBC which you guys may find interesting. Stephen Fry Across America.
Here’s a small taste.

If you can find it all I can certainly recommend it to you..

Mr Fry is the man here in the UK, ever seen QI? great programme!

@6 “Stephen Fry in a national British Treasure.”

Can somebody please rescue him then from inside the treasure vault then? Where is Captain Jack Sparrow when we need him? :-))

egg – cel – ent.


I believe Stephen Fry is now a part of Kivas Fajo’s private collection, right next to a naked android and rare alien insects and animals. Nobody’s been able to rescue him because everybody who attempted to do so was killed slowly and painfully by Fajo using a rare disruptor. :-)

Yes. We have just finished watching the latest QI series. Great show.

We love Stephen Fry in Ireland, too, and it comes as NO surprise to me WHATSOEVER that he’s a Star Trek fan. Fry is cool right now. And that makes being a Star Trek fan cool. AND he can speak Irish. More people in the world speak Klingon than Irish. That’s saying something. I’m sure his TV show, yet to be aired, about languages will delve into that in some way, since his photo above is of him, dressed as a Klingon.

Amazingly eloquently, succinctly put! Annoying that the audience seemed to treat it all as a joke, and respect to Mr Fry for not pandoring to the crowd :) Anyway, just to check, he was referring to ST: Voyager’s “Blink of an Eye”, right…?

If (in my opinion) ST09 went through a Hero Cycle with Jim Kirk, I would like to see more of the TOS passion/logic between McCoy/Kirk/Spock play out in ST12.

It´s the Original Series’ “Wink of an Eye”, he said it is pre-tachyons duh

Most humorous.

” Anyway, just to check, he was referring to ST: Voyager’s “Blink of an Eye”, right…?”

No. He was referring to “Wink of an Eye,” one of the worst episodes in the history of the original series. Which suggests that his remarks were more than a little tongue-in-cheek themselves, though that by no means precludes a genuine love for the show itself.

Okay. :-) Having loved Trek for so long, I appreciate it as much as anyone when a smart performer (he has to be, talking about Nietzsche with that veddy, veddy British accent) who comes off like a smurf crossed with William F. Buckley rhetorically launches my favorite space opera into the heights of the Western canon.

I, too, love the Kirk-Spock-McCoy dynamic, which could enliven even the most pedestrian plots with the writing talent responsible for that memorable dialogue, and those three irreplacable actors who brought the characters to life with their warmth, humor, and occasional wisdom. But the leading man being pulled back-and-forth between two subordinates with differing philosophies (and a mostly feigned dislike for each other) was a standard trope of television for decades. If you want to see it repeated in another context right down to the stalwart hero, his second-in-command (i.e. deputy) and a crotchety-but-lovable doctor, check out any episode of Gunsmoke, especially in its latter seasons

For me, Star Trek actually worked best when it moved beyond its archetypes and the characters suprised you. (For example, one of the things I really appreciate about “The Menagerie” is Spock’s compassionate willingness to risk everything to spare his former captain a life not much worth living, while McCoy rationally–if incorrectly–concludes that the notion of Spock lying or committing mutiny is just preposterous.)

For all of the accusations of self-aggrandizment leveled as he made the transition from writer/producer to a pop-cultural guru, Gene Roddenberry never lost sight of the fact Star Trek was, at base, a television show–and a very flawed one at that. He would often admonish the college students who filled lecture halls to see him back in the ’70s that Trek, even at its best, was not Ibsen or Shakespeare, that they would do well to watch TV less and read the classics more, and that much of the magic and wonder they saw in Trek actually lay within themselves. He certainly turned out to have his flaws, but when I hear the endless talk about his womanizing and pot smoking and hogging all the credit he didn’t deserve, those are the words that stand out in my memory.

That’s exactly right, Stephen.

That’s exactly what Trek’s about (TOS especially but even TNG and ENT). I would have phrased it differently, though. In Plato’s philosophy, there’s the theory of the tripartite soul: body/appetite (McCoy) rational/mind (Spock) and spirit (Kirk). In Trek, the triumvirate is not just the billing that the three recieve: it’s this relationship. I do worry that JJ just doesn’t get it. However, this same relationship exists in the original Star Wars, to a lesser degree, with Han, the Princess, and Luke, respectively. So, perhaps JJ can understand it that way: he seems to think along the lines that, ‘in the beginning, Lucas created Star Wars…’.

Trek 2009 only hinted at this relationship; e.g., the bridge scene where McCoy wants Spock to act like casting Kirk off the ship was a tough decision: to which Spock replies that crew morale is not not best served by acting so, even if it’s the human thing to do.

Give him a role in the next Trek sequel!

Take a hint from Mr. Fry and the rest of us Bob Orci. The Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad is the most important aspect of Star Trek. Please please keep this alive and strong in your alternate timeline. Spock needs to stick to his Pon Farr schedule.

20. It was there, barely in Trek 2009. In the best Trek they were fully-fleshed out characters, and not just archetypes.

Stephen Fry is the man! He is funny as hell, best friends with Hugh Laurie, and is an amazing documentary filmmaker. Haven’t seen “Stephen Fry Across America”, but his two-part documentary on bi-polar disorder (which both Fry and myself have) was heartbreaking and educational.

“I think now, looking back at it, I probably would have been diagnosed with attention defecit disorder and given, um, you know, Rohypnol…”

I’m not surprised that Mr. Fry is a Star Trek fan. He was in one of my favorite movies of all time, “V for Vendetta.” On the commentary to that film he mentioned that he had a passion for dystopian fantasies and sci-fi. I am surprised that he has never been tapped to play in any Star Trek film yet.
Here’s hoping that he gets the nod to play a villain or even a tragic victim someday. (What a Trelaine he’d have made!)

As for the constant mention of the eternal triangle: Spock is cooly logical, McCoy all passion, and Jim Kirk in the center, I’ve never seen it that way. I’ve always seen Kirk as Spock’s opposite. It is he who is all passion, lust and appetite. McCoy is simply the 20th Century-cam. It is through McCoy that our view of this odd couple is expressed. McCoy gets to say what we would if we were in that situation.

In the best stories Star Trek stories, Kirk is the protagonist and Spock is the antagonist. Not the space spores, not the “thing out there.” Nothing is more poignant than the spectacle of two close friends at odds with each other.
Often the tables are turned with Spock temporarily becoming the emotional one (“This Side of Paradise” “The Naked Time”) and Kirk struggling to control his emotions. Whether duking it out in the arena of the Vulcan mating ritual like an old-style gladiator movie (“Amok Time”) or in the courtroom (“The Menagerie,” “The Deadly Years) or arguing over whether to kill a new life form, Kirk can have no finer antagonist than Spock. Often McCoy and Spock are in agreement, and must work together to find cures or answers (“Miri” “The Deadly Years”) And how many times has Spock directly challenged Kirk’s authority by attempting to take over the ship?
With a First Officer like this, I wouldn’t sleep very well if I were the Captain.

In later seasons, the writers got lazy and inserted the Spock-McCoy Insult-of-the-Week, but the bickering between Spock and McCoy was never more than humorous verbal insults. Only in “All Our Yesterdays” did Spock ever lay a hand on the doctor. Most of the time Spock tenderly cared for the Doc (“The Empath” “All Our Yesterdays’) and Lord knows McCoy nursed Spock’s wounds many times. It’s Kirk and Spock who often come to blows. And the fights were often vicious.

It will be interesting to see how the triad or quatrad plays out in the new franchise. Presumably Captain Pike will assume command of the Enterprise. I can’t see them giving Kirk command right away. He’s kind of a loose cannon and one act of bravery does not merit promotion from cadet to Captain. That’s just ridiculous.

I get the feeling that Kirk and Spock will again be opposites and rivals under the Daddy figure, Pike. Again the Good Doctor plays the role of the Reasonable Man.

Since the great Majel is no longer with us, how about getting Mr. Fry to voice the Enterprise computer? Though… that may come too close to parody, what with his voicing “The Guide” in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Other than that, I can easily see him playing a Vulcan.


I agree with you on most of your points, but as for the McCoy and Spock bickering thing—I watched “Bread and Circuses” recently and noticed their bickering went well beyond petty sniping, with McCoy particularly getting under Spock’s skin… psychologically, that is. The good doctor came [this close] to getting an emotional reaction out of old pointy ears.

Great episode, by the way. Love the satirical look at network television in the “modern” Roman Empire. “You mess this up, Flavius, and we’ll make a special out of you!”

“Great episode, by the way. Love the satirical look at network television in the “modern” Roman Empire. “You mess this up, Flavius, and we’ll make a special out of you!”

Yeah, Roddenberry’s and Coon’s only (official, anyway) teleplay collaboration. A wicked satire of network television that expresses some genuine admiration for the Christian religion while also condescending to it. I wish they had done more together.

Wink of an Eye is one of my favorite episodes! When I saw that as a kid the idea of that episode blew my mind, it still makes me think, and I have never been able to look at it unfavorably.

IT’s that triumverate of Kirk, Spock and Bones that makes “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” not just stomachable, but one of my favorite “Star Trek” pictures. It’s not about God or some crazy half-brother or bad special effects; it’s about the friendship and love between these three men, the acceptance that they will be spending their lives together, and a celebration of their differences. “Star Trek V” is the first time since “Wrath of Khan” that we get a somewhat back-to-normal Spock, no longer afflicted radically by the experience of being reborn. It’s the first time since “TWOK” that we get Spock and McCoy rattling each other’s cages, and it’s the first time since “TWOK” that we truly feel that “I have been, and always shall be, your friend” between Kirk and Spock. And for all of those strong, strong character moments, I’ll forgive shoddy special effects, a cheesy plot about the Enterprise finding Eden (“What does God need with a starship?”) and some conveniently left-out family member of Spock’s (“His mother was a Vulcan princess.”)

I have no worries that the next “Trek” film will play upon that triumverate. After all, you gotta get the instruments in in their places before you can set them up to play.

Good old Stephen.
A fine fellow with good taste and a supporter of Norwich City Football Club like myself- although I no longer get to matches as I now live in New Zealand!

He would make a great Klingon.

He could be Lursa’s great Grandfather.

‘Its pre-Tachyon beams..’

Too true….

Dear God!! I can’t even escape him here. Fry is everywhere!! He has been elevated from comic actor to sage for some unknown reason. Bring back Blackadder so he can do what he does best.

26. Yes, Vultan, right again! I almost mentioned that episode as the farthest extent of bickering between the two, which may have tipped over into a bitter argument, but it was late and I was tired.

Still it is not evidence of rancor or even real conflict. McCoy is HURT that Spock does not acknowledge his human gratitude and he reacts as most humans would, with anger. His attempt at an emotional connection with this strange being has been rebuffed.
But the scene starts off with McCoy observing Spock with an almost clinical detachment, like a scientist observing an animal. Spock frustration is evidence of emotion and MCoy, now wearing the hat of the psychiatrist, wants to prove that. McCoy’s is always sticking some probe in Spock’s face and marveling at his readings, and this also annoys Spock, sometimes, being treated as something less than human. I think this adds to the tension, the conflict between our world and Vulcan.
But the scene is quickly resolved with Spock’s almost painful admission (“Oh, really, doctor?”) that he feels as deeply as McCoy’s in his concern over the Captain. The same kind of thing happens in “Specter of the Gun” where Spock reminds everyone at the table that despite his outward appearance he is capable of FEELING but not SHOWING grief (for Chekov), just as any of them might.

Another episode I might have mentioned as an example of a real fight between the two was “The Immunity Syndrome” where Spock and McCoy are vying for the chance to study and perhaps kill the giant ameba. One of the most unsettling looks I’ve ever seen from Spock is when he asks McCoy to grant him his own kind of dignity by wishing him luck, and McCoy (out of sheer spite) refuses. It is hard to know what the Vulcan feels at this point as Nimoy gives us the most chilling and opaque stare. Only a slight downturning of the eyes as he turns to leave suggests that he might be hurt by McCoy’s words. But again the tension is quickly resolved with banter between the two from ship-to-ship.

They are working for the same goal. They are different but often on the same page.

Politically, Spock is the liberal. Live and let live. Observe the Doctrine of Non-interference. Respect new life forms, preserve and study them. Cultural relativism.
Kirk’s philosophy (and his mandate from Starfleet) is what we would call today, almost neoconservatism (in the Kennedy-esque rather than William Kristal sense.) Spread the values of the Federation. Cultures must always be progressive. Smash them to smithereens if they don’t comply. Engage in nation building.
Politically, it is usually Spock and Kirk who are in conflict, unless some dire circumstance, e.g. the Horta threatening Kirk’s life, causes Spock to change his mind.
McCoy can blow either way. There is no stereotypical political stance for him. He usually says what a reasonable man would say.

Dramatically, McCoy’s main function is comic relief. And the best straight man for him to play against is Spock. Their styles may be in conflict but the substance of their arguments is not.

You’re really on top of things Anthony. It’s only been ten months since it aired in Australia.

“Since the great Majel is no longer with us, how about getting Mr. Fry to voice the Enterprise computer?”
OMG YES that would be so good.

# 29

Here, here! For 2 long, people have been giving it to STV in spades for not being TWOK or TVH. I agree that it’s character moments last long after the intial impression of weak effects.

I’ve been a Star Trek fan so long that I remember my first episodes on a black and white TV, because Australia didn’t get colour transmission until ’74. Every fan can list their 20 favourite episodes of each series and this means that some of the other episodes won’t make the cut.

Now that we have 11 movies, fans can make their own top 5 or top 10 ten list for the movies. This means that Final Frontier or Nemesis probably won’t make the cut, but it doesn’t mean that you throw those discs away from your boxset either.

Every single one of the trek movies has its merits and its flaws, just like the episodes and they all beat the hell out of no movie at all, which is what we currently have ………….. and why wouldn’t we have this situation? I wouldn’t be Bob Orci or JJ Abrams right now for all the money in Hollywood, those poor b%#%#^^rds can’t win! Make it too recognisable as Trek with the triumverate and there will be cries of “We waited years for THIS? It;s just a re-hashed episode!”, make it original enough to break with convention and surprise the money paying movie audience and the fanboys will cry “Sacrelidge! What have they done to MY characters? I’ll never watch another movie written by them EVER!”

Now tell me, would you want to write the sequel?

Is this General Mel’ChIt I see before me?

@ VulcanFilmCritic 33–

Interesting post. Not sure I agree with all of it–if you look at the episodes, Kirk really wasn’t into the habit of trashing alien cultures for it’s own sake, just when it was necessary to save his ship and crew (still a violation of the Prime Directive that should have gotten him disciplined or cashiered–but definitely food for thought.

I could just listen to Stephen Fry talk all day long. His film WILDE is just fantastic, as is his first auto-biography (I haven’t yet read the second). Thanks for posting!

Definition : “countryside” as “the murder of Piers Morgan”

Stephen Fry ;-)


Then somehow download his performance of the 7 Harry Potter novels…. incredible!

#19 I enjoyed your post and agree wholeheartedly.

Especially with the following:

“For me, Star Trek actually worked best when it moved beyond its archetypes and the characters suprised you. (For example, one of the things I really appreciate about “The Menagerie” is Spock’s compassionate willingness to risk everything to spare his former captain a life not much worth living, while McCoy rationally–if incorrectly–concludes that the notion of Spock lying or committing mutiny is just preposterous.”

Vaguely akin to Winston Churchill, who was half-American; Mr Fry was almost born in America (specifically New Jersey)…

He should try out for Cyrano Jones.

Here’s another Brit who to full of self importance!

I have finally managed to watch the entire interview – had problems downloading due to not having Broadband for a few days…

I found Stephen Fry to be an intelligent, well spoken, entertaining and interesting person. His explanation and his own experience of bi-polar mood disorder, as well as that of others, was revealing and informative. The fact that he met someone who tried to drill his head to stop the pain or the man who ran in front of a lorry and ended up with two smashed up legs and then said that the pain of recuperation was way better than suffering the depressive state of bi-polar disorder was quite shocking and laid bare the kind of suffering some people can experience in their daily lives.

He is NOT another Brit who is too full of self importance. Anyway, who is the other Brit?

I see no evidence in this video that Stephen Fry is self-important. He’s humble, blunt, and sometimes manic, but I’d never call him self-important.

It always pains me to a certain extent to see Mr. Fry is not as well-known in the U.S. as he should be. He’s a remarkably intelligent person who has overcome so much to become and remain successful.

35. Yes i would!


NICE RESPONSE!!!! We anxiously await (even the trolls who will trash it are anxiously awaiting it).

#48 that did make me smile, Bob. Nice one.
Now get back to work!