Kirk is known to be based on Horatio Hornblower. (from a recent answer on SFF.SE)

Is there some reference showing that ("based on") to be an actual fact as opposed to inference?

I'm not asking for comparison of characters (as is loosely covered on Memory Alpha's Hornblower page) which is merely circumstantial and doesn't prove "based on". Similarities between the two could be as easily explained by archetypes as by intentional homage.

What I'm seeking is information originating from Roddenberry, or someone else on Star Trek creative team, indicating that there was intent for Kirk's character to resemble Hornblower, or specific influence of those books on creative team.

  • -The similarity is evident as it is with Leslie Neilson's character in Forbidden Planet.
    – Ihor Sypko
    Jan 14, 2014 at 17:56
  • 6
    @IhorSypko - "similarity" doesn't imply "is based on". Archetypes tend to be similar in general. Jan 14, 2014 at 17:57
  • @DVK True, but in this case the archetype is wholly intentional.
    – Valorum
    Jan 30, 2014 at 19:35

3 Answers 3


The original pitch for Star Trek can be found here.

Roddenberry describes the Captain of the S.S Yorktown (who was at that point named "Robert April") as a;

"Space-age Captain Horatio Hornblower, lean and capable both mentally and physically.

A colorfully complex personality, he is capable or action and decision which can verge on the heroic — and at the same time lives a continual battle with self-doubt and the loneliness of command

As with similar men in the past (Drake, Cook, Bougainville and Scott), his primary weakness is a predilection to action over administration, a temptation to take the greatest risks onto himself. But, unlike most early explorers, he has an almost compulsive compassion for the plight of others, alien as well as human and must continually fight the temptation to risk many to save one"

Obviously April became Kirk in the same way that the Yorktown became the Enterprise.

  • Better than my own answer. Jan 14, 2014 at 19:54
  • One of the benefits of using ABBYY Finereader is that you can drag quotes directly out of PDF documents
    – Valorum
    Jan 14, 2014 at 19:57

This is a well-know fact.

If the multiple wiki entries at Wikipedia and memory Alpha don't satisfy, the primary source should be The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E Whitfield, written at the time when Star Trek TOS was still on the air. This describes Gene Roddenberry consciously basing Kirk on Hornblower (and the Star Trek setup as specifically analagous to Hornblower's situation). Nicholas Meyer also describes the relationship between Hornblower and Kirk, as quoted in Inside Star Trek: The Real Story by Bob Justman.

  • 4
    +1, but I'd love to see some quotes from those sources if you have them. Jan 14, 2014 at 20:07

The answer is simple: In the 1991 Tv special: Star Trek: 25th anniversary, an interview with Roddenberry has him saying, "So we redid the pilot, with Bill Shatner this time. Kirk is Horatio Hornblower, a great hero of the sailing ship era..." etc etc.

  • 1
    Can you add a link to that specific video?
    – Valorum
    Apr 28, 2014 at 12:57

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