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The Origins of 11 Famous Star Trek Lines

This morning, Leonard Nimoy passed away at the age of 83. Beloved for his portrayal of Mr. Spock on 'Star Trek,' Nimoy was also an accomplished director, stage actor, and writer.

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..."

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.

6. "To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before..."

The infinitive-splitting opening narration for each episode of Star Trek: The Original Series (with the exception of the pilot episodes) was famously recited by William Shatner, but the actual origins of the line are uncertain at best. Some reports suggest that it was inspired by a 1958 White House press booklet promoting the space program, though some have speculated that it came from a statement made by explorer James Cook following an expedition to Newfoundland. Writer Samuel Peeples, who authored the pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” is often credited with the decision to make the phrase such a significant part of the series. The line was eventually repeated—with a few minor tweaks—in each iteration of the series and films.

7. "Khaaannnn!"

Possibly the most meme-friendly line of dialogue ever to come out of the Star Trek universe, this scream of rage originated in (no surprise here) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Left marooned on a dead planet by the evil villain Khan then taunted about his predicament, Kirk let loose with a primal roar—and the rest was viral-video history.

8. "I'm Givin' Her All She's Got, Captain!"

Much like “Beam me up, Scotty,” this famous catchphrase often associated with USS Enterprise Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in Star Trek: The Original Series was never said in this exact form by actor James Doohan in the series or subsequent films. The closest approximation is a line in the second-season episode “The Changeling,” when Kirk asks Scotty to divert more power to the ship's shields. Scotty responds with, “Giving them all we got.” However, Doohan did utter every word of the famous line as part of a cameo in 1993's Loaded Weapon, in which he turns up as a panicky police officer trying to fix a coffee machine. Similarly, Simon Pegg used the same line “I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain!” in 2009's Star Trek reboot, in which he plays a young Montgomery Scott.

9. "Nuclear Wessels"

Russian crew member Pavel Andreievich Chekov's inability to pronounce the letter “V” became a recurring joke after the character was introduced in the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series as the ship's navigator. While it made for some funny moments throughout the series and subsequent movies, one of the most memorable pronunciation gaffes occurred during Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, when Chekov begins asking passers-by in 1980s San Francisco where he can find “nuclear wessels.” Even though Walter Koenig had been playing the character for almost 20 years before The Voyage Home hit theaters, the two-word line soon became indelibly connected with his portrayal of the character.

10. "Resistance Is Futile"

This famous line was first uttered by robotic aliens The Borg in the epic third-season finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, titled “Best of Both Worlds, Part 1.” Not only did the 1990 episode offer up one of the greatest cliffhangers in television history, but it also coined a phrase that would live forever in the nightmares of fans—mainly because it was recycled for use in countless other series and films down the road.

11. "Set Phasers To Stun"

It was established early on in Star Trek: The Original Series that the phasers used by the crew of USS Enterprise had a “stun” setting (as mentioned in “The Man Trap” episode), and both Kirk and Spock often found themselves instructing their crewmates to use the non-lethal capabilities of their standard-issue weapons. However, it wasn't until the second season of Star Trek: The Animated Series that we first heard Kirk issue the command “Set phasers to stun.” The line eventually became an oft-repeated order in subsequent series, turning up in both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as many of the movies (including 2009's reboot).

This article originally appeared in 2013.

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Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
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15 Must-See Holiday Horror Movies
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Families often use the holidays as an excuse to indulge in repeat viewings of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Elf. But for a certain section of the population, the yuletide is all about horror. Although it didn’t truly emerge until the mid-1970s, “holiday horror” is a thriving subgenre that often combines comedy to tell stories of demented Saint Nicks and lethal gingerbread men. If you’ve never seen Santa slash someone, here are 15 movies to get you started.

1. THANKSKILLING (2009)

Most holiday horror movies concern Christmas, so ThanksKilling is a bit of an anomaly. Another reason it’s an anomaly? It opens in 1621, with an axe-wielding turkey murdering a topless pilgrim woman. The movie continues on to the present-day, where a group of college friends are terrorized by that same demon bird during Thanksgiving break. It’s pretty schlocky, but if Turkey Day-themed terror is your bag, make sure to check out the sequel: ThanksKilling 3. (No one really knows what happened to ThanksKilling 2.)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Fittingly, the same man who brought us A Christmas Story also brought us its twisted cousin. Before Bob Clark co-wrote and directed the 1983 saga of Ralphie Parker, he helmed Black Christmas. It concerns a group of sorority sisters who are systematically picked off by a man who keeps making threatening phone calls to their house. Oh, and it all happens during the holidays. Black Christmas is often considered the godfather of holiday horror, but it was also pretty early on the slasher scene, too. It opened the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and beat Halloween by a full four years.

3. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

This movie isn’t about Santa Claus himself going berserk and slaughtering a bunch of people. But it is about a troubled teen who does just that in a Santa suit. Billy Chapman starts Silent Night, Deadly Night as a happy little kid, only to witness a man dressed as St. Nick murder his parents in cold blood. Years later, after he has grown up and gotten a job at a toy store, he conducts a killing spree in his own red-and-white suit. The PTA and plenty of critics condemned the film for demonizing a kiddie icon, but it turned into a bona fide franchise with four sequels and a 2012 remake.

4. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)

This Finnish flick dismantles Santa lore in truly bizarre fashion, and it’s not easy to explain in a quick plot summary. But Rare Exports involves a small community living at the base of Korvatunturi mountain, a major excavation project, a bunch of dead reindeer, and a creepy old naked dude who may or may not be Santa Claus. Thanks to its snowy backdrop, the movie scored some comparisons to The Thing, but the hero here isn’t some Kurt Russell clone with equally feathered hair. It’s a bunch of earnest kids and their skeptical dads, who all want to survive the holidays in one piece.

5. TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

To All a Goodnight follows a by-now familiar recipe: Add a bunch of young women to one psycho dressed as Santa Claus and you get a healthy dose of murder and this 1980 slasher flick. Only this one takes place at a finishing school. So it’s fancier.

6. KRAMPUS (2015)

Although many Americans are blissfully unaware of him, Krampus has terrorized German-speaking kids for centuries. According to folklore, he’s a yuletide demon who punishes naughty children. (He’s also part-goat.) That’s some solid horror movie material, so naturally Krampus earned his own feature film. In the movie, he’s summoned because a large suburban family loses its Christmas cheer. That family has an Austrian grandma who had encounters with Krampus as a kid, so he returns to punish her descendants. He also animates one truly awful Jack-in-the-Box.

7. THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005)

“Eat me, you punk b*tch!” That’s one of the many corny catchphrases spouted by the Gingerdead Man, an evil cookie possessed by the spirit of a convicted killer (played by Gary Busey). The lesson here, obviously, is to never bake.

8. JACK FROST (1997)

No, this isn’t the Michael Keaton snowman movie. It’s actually a holiday horror movie that beat that family film by a year. In this version, Jack Frost is a serial killer on death row who escapes prison and then, through a freak accident, becomes a snowman. He embarks on a murder spree that’s often played for laughs—for instance, the cops threaten him with hairdryers. But the comedy is pretty questionable in the infamous, and quite controversial, Shannon Elizabeth shower scene.

9. ELVES (1989)

Based on the tagline—“They’re not working for Santa anymore”—you’d assume this is your standard evil elves movie. But Elves weaves Nazis, bathtub electrocutions, and a solitary, super grotesque elf into its utterly absurd plot. Watch at your own risk.

10. SINT (2010)

The Dutch have their own take on Santa, and his name is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands via steamship each year with his racist sidekick Zwarte Piet. But otherwise, he’s pretty similar to Santa. And if Santa can be evil, so can Sinterklaas. According to the backstory in Sint (or Saint), the townspeople burned their malevolent bishop alive on December 5, 1492. But Sinterklaas returns from the grave on that date whenever there’s a full moon to continue dropping bodies. In keeping with his olden origins, he rides around on a white horse wielding a golden staff … that he can use to murder you.

11. SANTA’S SLAY (2005)

Ever wonder where Santa came from? This horror-comedy claims he comes from the worst possible person: Satan. The devil’s kid lost a bet many years ago and had to pretend to be a jolly gift-giver. But now the terms of the bet are up and he’s out to act like a true demon. That includes killing Fran Drescher and James Caan, obviously.

12. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE (2015)

Another Santa slasher is on the loose in All Through the House, but the big mystery here is who it is. This villain dons a mask during his/her streak through suburbia—and, as the genre dictates, offs a bunch of promiscuous young couples along the way. The riddle is all tied up in the disappearance of a little girl, who vanished several years earlier.

13. CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

Several years before Silent Night, Deadly Night garnered protests for its anti-Kringle stance, Christmas Evil put a radicalized Santa at the center of its story. The movie’s protagonist, Harry Stadling, first starts to get weird thoughts in his head as a kid when he sees “Santa” (really his dad in the costume) groping his mom. Then, he becomes unhealthily obsessed with the holiday season, deludes himself into thinking he’s Santa, and goes on a rampage. The movie is mostly notable for its superfan John Waters, who lent commentary to the DVD and gave Christmas Evil some serious cult cred.

14. SANTA CLAWS (1996)

If you thought this was the holiday version of Pet Sematary, guess again. The culprit here isn’t a demon cat in a Santa hat, but a creepy next-door neighbor. Santa Claws stars B-movie icon Debbie Rochon as Raven Quinn, an actress going through a divorce right in the middle of the holidays. She needs some help caring for her two girls, so she seeks out Wayne, her neighbor who has an obsessive crush on her. He eventually snaps and dresses up as Santa Claus in a ski mask. Mayhem ensues.

15. NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

Because the holidays aren’t over until everyone’s sung “Auld Lang Syne,” we can’t count out New Year’s Eve horror. In New Year’s Evil, lady rocker Blaze is hosting a live NYE show. Everything is going well, until a man calls in promising to kill at midnight. The cops write it off as a prank call, but soon, Blaze’s friends start dropping like flies. Just to tie it all together, the mysterious murderer refers to himself as … “EVIL.”

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10 Surprising Ways Senses Shape Perception
The American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History

Every bit of information we know about the world we gathered with one of our five senses. But even with perfect pitch or 20/20 vision, our perceptions don’t always reflect an accurate picture of our surroundings. Our brain is constantly filling in gaps and taking shortcuts, which can result in some pretty wild illusions.

That’s the subject of “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience,” a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Mental Floss recently took a tour of the sensory funhouse to learn more about how the brain and the senses interact.

1. LIGHTING REVEALS HIDDEN IMAGES.

Woman and child looking at pictures on a wall

Under normal lighting, the walls of the first room of “Our Senses” look like abstract art. But when the lights change color, hidden illustrations are revealed. The three lights—blue, red, and green—used in the room activate the three cone cells in our eyes, and each color highlights a different set of animal illustrations, giving the viewers the impression of switching between three separate rooms while standing still.

2. CERTAIN SOUNDS TAKE PRIORITY ...

We can “hear” many different sounds at once, but we can only listen to a couple at a time. The AMNH exhibit demonstrates this with an audio collage of competing recordings. Our ears automatically pick out noises we’re conditioned to react to, like an ambulance siren or a baby’s cry. Other sounds, like individual voices and musical instruments, require more effort to detect.

3. ... AS DO CERTAIN IMAGES.

When looking at a painting, most people’s eyes are drawn to the same spots. The first things we look for in an image are human faces. So after staring at an artwork for five seconds, you may be able to say how many people are in it and what they look like, but would likely come up short when asked to list the inanimate object in the scene.

4. PAST IMAGES AFFECT PRESENT PERCEPTION.

Our senses often are more suggestible than we would like. Check out the video above. After seeing the first sequence of animal drawings, do you see a rat or a man’s face in the last image? The answer is likely a rat. Now watch the next round—after being shown pictures of faces, you might see a man’s face instead even though the final image hasn’t changed.

5. COLOR INFLUENCES TASTE ...

Every cooking show you’ve watched is right—presentation really is important. One look at something can dictate your expectations for how it should taste. Researchers have found that we perceive red food and drinks to taste sweeter and green food and drinks to taste less sweet regardless of chemical composition. Even the color of the cup we drink from can influence our perception of taste.

6. ... AND SO DOES SOUND

Sight isn’t the only sense that plays a part in how we taste. According to one study, listening to crunching noises while snacking on chips makes them taste fresher. Remember that trick before tossing out a bag of stale junk food.

7. BEING HYPER-FOCUSED HAS DRAWBACKS.

Have you ever been so focused on something that the world around you seemed to disappear? If you can’t recall the feeling, watch the video above. The instructions say to keep track of every time a ball is passed. If you’re totally absorbed, you may not notice anything peculiar, but watch it a second time without paying attention to anything in particular and you’ll see a person in a gorilla suit walk into the middle of the screen. The phenomenon that allows us to tune out big details like this is called selective attention. If you devote all your mental energy to one task, your brain puts up blinders that block out irrelevant information without you realizing it.

8. THINGS GET WEIRD WHEN SENSES CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.

Girl standing in optical illusion room.

The most mind-bending room in the "Our Senses" exhibit is practically empty. The illusion comes from the black grid pattern painted onto the white wall in such a way that straight planes appear to curve. The shapes tell our eyes we’re walking on uneven ground while our inner ear tells us the floor is stable. It’s like getting seasick in reverse: This conflicting sensory information can make us feel dizzy and even nauseous.

9. WE SEE SHADOWS THAT AREN’T THERE.

If our brains didn’t know how to adjust for lighting, we’d see every shadow as part of the object it falls on. But we can recognize that the half of a street that’s covered in shade isn’t actually darker in color than the half that sits in the sun. It’s a pretty useful adaptation—except when it’s hijacked for optical illusions. Look at the image above: The squares marked A and B are actually the same shade of gray. Because the pillar appears to cast a shadow over square B, our brain assumes it’s really lighter in color than what we’re shown.

10. WE SEE FACES EVERYWHERE.

The human brain is really good at recognizing human faces—so good it can make us see things that aren’t there. This is apparent in the Einstein hollow head illusion. When looking at the mold of Albert Einstein’s face straight on, the features appear to pop out rather than sink in. Our brain knows we’re looking at something similar to a human face, and it knows what human faces are shaped like, so it automatically corrects the image that it’s given.

All images courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History unless otherwise noted.

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