“Beam Me Up Scotty” was Never Said in the Original Star Trek

Karl Smallwood October 10, 2013 15
star-trek-transporterJust like when we told you, Sherlock Holmes never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson“, today we’re going to blow your mind by telling that nowhere, in the entirety of the original Star Trek, were the words, “Beam me up, Scotty” ever uttered.

They did come close several times, such as in the 1969 episode of the original series, The Savage Curtain, Kirk says, “Scotty, beam us up, fast!“. Likewise, in the 1968 episode, The Gamesters of Triskelion, Kirk simply says, “Beam us up“. Kirk came closer still in the 1967 episode, This Side of Paradise, in which he says “beam me up“. And finally, the closest Kirk ever came to saying that phrase was in Star Trek IV: The Journey Home, in which he says, “Scotty, beam me up“.

The only place you’ll find the line in somewhat official cannon is in The Ashes of Eden (1996), a novel co-written by William Shatner as part of the so-called, “Shatnerverse” of the Star Trek- none of which are we making up. Even then, the novels Shatner wrote are disputed in terms of how “canon” they are; so there’s that.

In popular culture, of course, the line is universally and intrinsically linked with the show. How did this start, you ask? Nobody really knows. There is a theory that these types of movie/TV misquotations, of which there are many, are often remembered that way simply because they sound smoother than the actual quote. For example, “Beam me up, Scotty” flows better than “Beam us up, Mr Scott“. Factor this in with many years of proliferation and eventually a misquotation can become so popular, William Shatner will put it into one of his novels.

Interestingly, this quote almost never was. This may surprise you considering the quality of Shatner’s hairline, but the original Star Trek series didn’t have a very big budget- which if we’re being honest goes a long way towards explaining why everyone wore the exact same outfit all the time…

The budget was so low, in fact, that there was no room in it for showing a giant spaceship landing (originally they planned on having the whole Enterprise land on alien planets). After presumably double checking Shatner’s food budget, the crew realised they’d have to come up with a way of getting the cast onto an alien planet without breaking the bank, which is where the Transporter came in.

Along with looking “science as hell” and reducing the cost of each episode a good amount, the transporter also streamlined the show considerably, adding time which could better be used for fleshing out the story. It also introduced a plot element that would remain a series, and indeed a genre, mainstay for decades. In other words, if Star Trek had a better budget when it first aired, we’d have no idea how awesome being able to transport our matter thousands of miles in an instant would be and the Enterprise taking off and landing would have become as annoying as Team Rocket’s opening speech every single episode.

As for how the effect itself was realised, that too is a fairly ingenious act of cost-cutting. The crew recorded flecks of aluminum perchlorate powder hitting a piece of black cardboard with a bright light shining on the flecks, giving the distinctive twinkling effect seen on the show. In post production, this effect was super-imposed over the crew and using a simple fade out, the effect of the crew disappearing was achieved.  The process was reversed for rematerialization.

As noted in the book, Teleportation: The Impossible Leap, as the series and technology went on, this home-brew effect was phased out… in lieu of a computer generated one. However, as a nod to the past, the twinkling effect was kept in with most transporter technologies depicted in the various Star Trek shows.

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Bonus Fact:

  • Funny enough, Scotty, or more accurately, James Doohan titled his autobiography, “Beam me up, Scotty” after this common misquotation.

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15 Comments »

  1. ZW October 10, 2013 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Pretty decent article, but I found the fat joke at Shatner’s expense to be both an unnecessary, mean-spirited jibe and plain old lazy writing.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey October 10, 2013 at 11:09 am - Reply

      @ZW: Shatner wasn’t fat during Star Trek and it’s only been somewhat recently he’s put on some major pounds. It was more just a general joke. ;-) Ironically enough, though, Shatner’s been known somewhat for fat jokes: “Jason [Alexander] says he was inspired by me. Why is everyone who’s inspired by me such a fat, f-ing loser? -Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner (2006) Also, in a movie: “Fat b- people like you ought to be ground up and made into dog food.”
      .
      The food budget was actually somewhat of a concern though. The original budget was even so low that they couldn’t afford to have the costumes made by union costume makers so ended up using, according to the producers a “sweatshop” and snuck the costumes onto the set.

  2. Jim Trammel October 11, 2013 at 8:05 am - Reply

    This old-timer from the 60s remembers that the phrase “Beam me up Scotty” was first used in that particular way as a slogan for a bumper sticker or T-shirt that went, in its entirety, “Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no intelligent life here.” Obviously inspired by the show.

  3. Aaron Dugger October 11, 2013 at 9:31 am - Reply

    Another one that people always misquote is “Luke, I am your father” from Empire Strikes Back. He never says that. Vader actually says “No, I am your father” in response to Luke saying “He told me you killed him”

  4. John October 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Just like the famous Star Wars misquote, “Luke, I am your father,” (which Aaron already pointed out) the word Scotty was probably added on so people would understand the reference. There are a lot of examples of this in pop culture, such as Bela Legolsi never saying, “I vant to suck your blood.”

  5. Mike October 13, 2013 at 11:42 am - Reply

    Because Scotty would have exploded

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