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<   No. 1659   2007-08-12   >

Comic #1659

1 Martian 1: Earth, thy soul-destroying administration conquers me! From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.
2 Martian 1: Sink all decisions and all paperwork to one common pool! And since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee,...
3 Martian 1: ... though tied to thee, thou damned planet! Thus, I give up the invasion! {to other Martians} Prepare to leave.
4 Martian 1: {to Ishmael} By the way, what is this animal?
4 Ishmael: My cat, Moby Tom.

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Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!
These are the last words spoken by Captain Ahab in Herman Melville's classic Moby-Dick. Those more familiar with another great work of fiction may instead recognise part of this speech as the dying words of Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Part of the plot of that movie is that Khan spent much of the intervening 17 years since Kirk had stranded him on the planet Ceti Alpha V reading Melville's novel and brooding over his vengeance. This theme of the movie closely echoes that of Moby-Dick: self-destructive lust for vengeance. Khan quotes or paraphrases several other lines from the novel during the film. Also, interestingly enough, Ceti Alpha is presumably the star more correctly known as Alpha Ceti in the constellation of Cetus - the whale.

Moby Dick (without a hyphen when referring to the creature rather than the title of the book) is of course a great white whale. So what better name for Ishmael's white cat than Moby Tom?

2017-12-20 Rerun commentary: The association of Ceti Alpha with the constellation of Cetus, the whale, in a story laden with Moby-Dick references is mostly, if not entirely, a coincidence. The name Ceti Alpha was bestowed on Khan's stranding location back in 1966, in the script of the original series episode "Space Seed". The ideas behind Khan's eventual return to the Star Trek story didn't begin until 14 years later in 1980. Reading up on the history of the film production, it's not clear if anyone on the production team even realised the Ceti/whale/Moby-Dick coincidence or not at the time.

In fact, doing a bit of web searching specifically on this topic, it's not entirely clear if anybody else but me even recognises this coincidence. The only hit I can find which specifically discusses it is my own comments on my parody of The Wrath of Khan in Planet of Hats. I'm sure someone else must have noticed the same thing - I can only sensibly conclude that my Google-fu is failing me.

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