Horatio Hornblower was the title character of a popular series of novels and stories about the adventures of a 19th century officer in His Majesty's Royal Navy, written by C.S. Forester in the mid-20th century.
C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower was largely inspired by the real-life British national hero, Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, as well as Lord Cochrane. The fictional character's exploits bear a striking similarity to major aspects of Star Trek and similar-themed science fiction stories in literature, film and television.
Gene Roddenberry's original pitch for Star Trek described the ship's proposed hero (Robert April) as a "space-age Captain Horatio Hornblower". Both tales shared major themes centering on the captain of a ship far from home, depending on his vessel, a loyal crew, and his own considerable wits to resolve military and diplomatic crises threatening his country's interests. While clearly bearing Roddenberry's stamp, the spirit of Hornblower and the age of sailing ships was evident throughout the franchise, and most prominent in original series episodes like "The Corbomite Maneuver", "Balance of Terror", "Arena" and "The Doomsday Machine", as well as the films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
The portrayal of James T. Kirk as a decisive, often inspired, man-of-action was much like Hornblower, and both characters felt distinct unease when not on the bridge of their ships. Both Christopher Pike and Jean-Luc Picard more closely resembled the literary hero's introverted, intellectual nature. In the early episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, Kathryn Janeway shared Hornblower's internal struggle over keeping a professional distance from her crew. Spock and William T. Riker share qualities with Hornblower's faithful first officer, Lieutenant Bush – all three men initially more comfortable at their Captain's right hand than as commanders in their own right. In either tale, the Captain would be challenged to use his sailing ship or starship in an inventive new manner as often as ordering it into battle.
In his audio commentary for the Director's Edition of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, director Nicholas Meyer spoke of his inability to relate to Star Trek until he "suddenly began to think of it as the adventures of Horatio Hornblower in outer space. Once I got that, I said, okay, this about the Navy... this is about gunboat-diplomacy". He revisited that interpretation in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. In the script for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the antique ship's wheel seen in the USS Enterprise-A's observation lounge is compared to one Hornblower might have steered.
The novel Enterprise: The First Adventure by Vonda N. McIntyre referred to James T. Kirk's first command as the USS Lydia Sutherland. The name was an amalgam of two of Hornblower's commands, the HMS Lydia (from the novel Beat to Quarters) and HMS Sutherland (from Ship of the Line).
Nicholas Meyer alluded to a relationship between Spock and Sherlock Holmes in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The author Philip José Farmer has taken the idea of fictional crossovers far further, by creating the Wold Newton Universe – proposing a single common ancestry for (among other fantasy heroes) Hornblower, Holmes, Kirk and Spock.