The Origins of 11 Famous Star Trek Lines

Few franchises have had the cultural impact of the various Star Trek television series and movies, and nowhere is that more evident than in the snippets of dialogue that have become a part of the American vernacular—and in some cases, found their way abroad, too. Here are 11 of the most notable Star Trek catchphrases, as well as a little more information about their origins.

1. “LIVE LONG AND PROSPER”

The Vulcan greeting and the finger-separating hand gesture that accompanies it first appeared in the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series, during an episode titled “Amok Time.” Spock himself (actor Leonard Nimoy) has made no secret of the fact that the gesture and phrase were his idea, and that he based them on Orthodox Jewish blessings he remembered from his childhood. In the Jewish blessing, the position of the fingers forms the Hebrew letter “Shin,” which represents the name “Shaddai” (Almighty God). Nimoy put his own spin on the traditional gesture by holding up just one hand (instead of both) and changing up the verbal blessing slightly.

2. “HIGHLY ILLOGICAL…” Star Trek: Original Mo... Best Price: $16.47 Buy New $47.99 (as of 01:30 EDT - Details)

While Spock never shied away from questioning the logic of those around him—usually Kirk—it wasn’t until the second season that he took things up a notch and deemed the actions of the native inhabitants of planet Omega IV “highly illogical” in the episode titled “The Omega Glory.” Previously, it had always just been “illogical” or, in rare cases, “most illogical,” but it took a pair of natives attacking Kirk in a jail cell for Spock to pair his trademark raised-eyebrow reaction with the term “highly illogical.” The phrase would then be repeated in several more episodes, as well as the subsequent films and J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the franchise.

Bonus: “Highly Illogical” was also the name of Leonard Nimoy’s 1993 music album featuring several songs he recorded in the 1960s (including “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”) as well as a few new tunes.

3. “BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY”

One of the most interesting aspects of this phrase—a request directed at Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott for transport back to the USS Enterprise—is that it was never actually uttered in any of the Star Trek television series or movies. More often than not, the command was akin to “Three to beam up” or more directly, “Beam them up,” with the closest approximation being “Beam us up, Scotty” in a few episodes of the Star Trek animated series. However, William Shatner did say this line while reading the audio version of his novel Star Trek: The Ashes of Eden.

4. “I’M A DOCTOR, NOT A…”

Everyone knows that Dr. Leonard McCoy is not an engineer, a coal miner, or an escalator, but that never stopped him from reminding his fellow crew members. The first time DeForest Kelley uttered his famous catchphrase as we know it was in a first-season episode titled “The Devil in the Dark.” In that episode, McCoy saw fit to let Kirk know that he was a doctor, not a brick-layer. It’s worth noting that an earlier episode, “The Corbomite Maneuver,” had him asking Capt. Kirk, “What am I, a doctor or a moon-shuttle conductor?” but it wasn’t until much later in the season that we got the full line that would later be heard in just about every subsequent series, as well as the Star Trek films. The line even made it into J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot, with Karl Urban (as McCoy) exclaiming, “I’m a doctor, not a physicist!”

5. “MAKE IT SO”

Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s signature line was a part of Star Trek: The Next Generation from the very start, with actor Patrick Stewart uttering what would become his character’s most memorable catchphrase in the pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint.” The episode was written by Gene Roddenberry himself, so it’s likely that he wrote the line for Picard, though the phrase has been in use for quite a while in military circles as a way to tell someone to proceed with a command.

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