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Boldly going: Star Trek and spaceflight

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Wed Nov 30, 2005 3:41 am
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by Dwayne A. Day; It is arguably the most famous opening television monologue ever:

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

It turns out that the last line of that memorable speech delivered by Captain James T. Kirk (well, William Shatner) nearly four decades ago came from a White House document produced in 1958 to help calm post-Sputnik hysteria.

Here is an excerpt from the March 1958 document “Introduction to Outer Space:”

“…the compelling urge of man to explore and to discover, the thrust of curiosity that leads men to try to go where no one has gone before.”

The Star Trek line is better, slightly more polished—going boldly is more powerful than trying to go (or, to mix franchises and syntax, if not metaphors or genres, as Yoda said, “Do, or do not. There is no try…”). Of course, Hollywood gets better writers than the White House. The original document said “where no one has gone before,” which was changed to “where no man has gone before” for the original Star Trek, but again became gender-neutral when Star Trek was reincarnated in more politically correct form in the 1980s. Either way, it is still a great line.

It should be no surprise that Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s legendary creator, borrowed language from a White House publication. Various accounts of the creation of Star Trek have discussed its ties to the then-thriving Southern California aerospace community. Numerous aerospace contractors were located all over Los Angeles and its environs in the 1960s. Hughes, the communications satellite manufacturer, was located in El Segundo, not that far from the studios where Star Trek was shot. Roddenberry did his research, and it is not a stretch to believe that he read “Introduction to Outer Space” in his preparation for the show. Read more at the Space Review.

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