Moby Dick was a novel by American author Herman Melville. The story describes Captain Ahab's obsessive quest to hunt down the eponymous white sperm whale that had maimed him years earlier. In the end, Ahab's thirst for vengeance destroyed both him and his ship.
In 1986, a tour goer in one of Doctor Gillian Taylor's tours at the Cetacean Institute asked her if whales attacked people like in Moby Dick, leading Dr. Taylor to explain that they did not, because most whales didn't have teeth. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
Khan Noonien Singh had access to a copy of Moby Dick published by Signet during his exile on Ceti Alpha V. During his search and battle with James T. Kirk, he quoted lines from the novel. While some were direct quotes (such as the line above), Khan changed others to reference space. For example, Khan stated "I'll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares maelstrom and round perdition's flames before I give him up!" (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Its cultural significance was such that the story was well-known to most people on Earth regardless of their literary knowledge. In 2063, Lily Sloane compared Jean-Luc Picard's hatred for the Borg to Ahab's desire to destroy the white whale when he insisted on fighting them rather than destroying the Enterprise and the Borg along with it, sending Picard into such a rage that he destroyed the display of Enterprise's past in the ship's observation lounge – but when the captain, realizing she was absolutely right, paraphrased a verse from the forty-first chapter, ("And he piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.") Sloane, clearly unfamiliar with the words, admitted she had never actually read the book. (Star Trek: First Contact)
Background information Edit
Moby Dick was at one point to have featured in DS9: "Extreme Measures", as evidenced by an early revision of the episode's final draft script (submitted when the installment was titled "Night Tremors"). In that script, Miles O'Brien referred to the story as a "tough book" and explained that he believed this because "I remember him spending pages and pages talking about the different kinds of harpoons," though Julian Bashir replied, "I actually like the level of detail." In the final version of the episode, Moby Dick was replaced with A Tale of Two Cities.
Patrick Stewart played Captain Ahab in a 1998 of the novel.
Nicholas Meyer decided that while Khan had been waiting for a chance to avenge himself upon Kirk, he would have been reading. "I started thinking, 'What books does a superman take with him into exile?' At one point, Khan says, 'On Earth I was a prince', and certainly he's a fallen angel, so I picked all the books that were Lucifer-related – fallen angel – whether it was 'Moby Dick' or 'Paradise Lost' or 'King Lear', and began to build from there. I thought, 'He's probably been obsessively reading these books again and again until every word out of his mouth has been written by Shakespeare or Milton'. Actually, Melville was the one who finally took over; he just becomes completely Ahab." (citation needed • edit)