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"Where no man has gone before" is a phrase originally made popular through its use in the title sequence of most episodes of the original Star Trek science fiction television series. It refers to the mission of the original starship Enterprise. The complete introductory sequence, narrated by William Shatner at the beginning of every episode of Star Trek except "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before", is:
|“||Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its 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 has been suggested that the quotation was taken from a White House booklet published in 1958. The Introduction to Outer Space, produced in an effort to garner support for a national space program in the wake of the Sputnik flight, read on its first page:
The first of these factors is 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. Most of the surface of the earth has now been explored and men now turn on the exploration of outer space as their next objective.
The situation came full circle in 1989, when NASA used the Star Trek version of the quotation to title its retrospective of Project Apollo: Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions.
Following an early expedition to Newfoundland, Captain James Cook declared that he intended to go not only "... farther than any man has been before me, but as far as I think it is possible for a man to go" (emphasis added). Cook's most famous ship, the Endeavour, lent its name to the last-produced of the space shuttles, much as the Star Trek starship Enterprise lent its name to the program's test craft.
Similar expressions have been used in literature prior to 1958. For example, H. P. Lovecraft's novella "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath", written in 1927 and published in 1943, includes this passage:
At length, sick with longing for those glittering sunset streets and cryptical hill lanes among ancient tiled roofs, nor able sleeping or waking to drive them from his mind, Carter resolved to go with bold entreaty whither no man had gone before, and dare the icy deserts through the dark to where unknown Kadath, veiled in cloud and crowned with unimagined stars, holds secret and nocturnal the onyx castle of the Great Ones.
The phrase was first introduced into Star Trek by Samuel Peeples, who is attributed with suggesting using it as an episode name. The episode became "Where No Man Has Gone Before", the second pilot of Star Trek. The phrase itself was subsequently worked into the show's opening narration, which was written after the episode. Indeed, the introductory sequence was devised in August 1966, after several episodes had been filmed, and shortly before the series was due to debut. It is the result of the combined input of several people, including Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and producers John D. F. Black and Bob Justman. Under their influence, Roddenberry's original narrative:
This is the adventure of the United Space Ship Enterprise. Assigned a five year galaxy patrol, the bold crew of the giant starship explores the excitement of strange new worlds, uncharted civilizations, and exotic people. These are its voyages and its adventures.
went through several revisions before settling on the one used in the TV series.
The quotation has been used numerous times by various Star Trek characters, and has been given a back-story within the Star Trek canon.
The quotation is changed from "where no man has gone before" to "where no one has gone before" with the Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint" in 1987. The quotation is engraved on the dedication plaques of the Enterprise-B, Enterprise-D and Enterprise-E.
The narration was used in the title sequence of every episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series.
At the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Leonard Nimoy reads a version of the quotation that adds the word "continuing" between "the" and "voyages", replaces the words "its five-year" with "her ongoing", and adds the word "forms" after "life":
Space... the Final Frontier. These are the continuing voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Five years after the release of The Wrath of Khan, a version of the introduction was included in the title sequence of the TV-series Star Trek: The Next Generation. The new version replaced "five-year" with "continuing" and the word "man" with the gender and species-neutral "one". The new introduction, narrated by Patrick Stewart (who played the Enterprise-D's captain, Jean-Luc Picard), at the beginning of every episode of that series, was:
Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
A first-season episode of 1987 of that series was named "Where No One Has Gone Before", the plot of which bears no connection to that of "Where No Man Has Gone Before".
The title of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier references the "final frontier" mentioned in the title sequence of Star Trek: The Original Series. The quotation "where no man has gone before" appears on the dedication plaque of the Enterprise-A, and is also engraved on the base of a decorative ship's wheel found in the ship's lounge.
Captain's log, stardate 9529.1. This is the final cruise of the starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man...where no one... has gone before.
According to the 2001 pilot episode of the TV-series Enterprise, "Broken Bow", the Star Trek: The Original Series title sequence mission statement of Kirk's Enterprise originates from a speech given by Zefram Cochrane at the dedication of the Warp 5 Complex in 2119:
On this site, a powerful engine will be built. An engine that will someday help us to travel a hundred times faster than we can today. Imagine it. Thousands of inhabited planets at our fingertips. And we'll be able to explore those strange, new worlds. And seek out new life and new civilizations. This engine will let us go boldly where no man has gone before.
The quotation was changed to use the split infinitive "to boldly go" at some point before 2151. At that point, it was adopted as the motto of the Enterprise and engraved on its dedication plaque with the split infinitive.
The titles of two episodes also mention lines of the title sequence of the original Star Trek series: "Strange New World" and "These Are the Voyages...". The latter is the finale of Enterprise, and also closes with a voice-over of the quotation, segueing from Picard's Next Generation opening to Kirk and then closing with Jonathan Archer using the original series' gender-specific version:
- Picard: Space... the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission...
- Kirk: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations.
- Archer: To boldly go where no man has gone before.
At the end of the Star Trek motion picture released in 2009, Nimoy reads a revised version of his quotation from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that segues from the original series' opening to the phrase "her ongoing mission" in place of "its five-year mission", and closes with the Next Generation's gender-neutral version:
Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
At the end of the 2013 film Star Trek Into Darkness, the quotation is revealed to be the Captain's Oath. Kirk (Chris Pine) reads a revised version of the original series monologue as part of his speech at the re-christening of the Enterprise in the closing scenes of the film, ending as Kirk enters the bridge, marking the start of the famous five-year mission:
...and those words: 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 one has gone before.
A 1996 book written to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek is called Star Trek: These are the Voyages....
The quotation has also gained popularity outside Star Trek. The phrase has become a snowclone, a rhetorical device and type of word play in which one word within it is replaced while maintaining the overall structure. For example, an episode of Futurama that dealt with a character's devotion to Star Trek is named "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", a level in the videogame Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time is called "Starbase: Where No Turtle Has Gone Before", and an episode of DuckTales parodying Star Trek is entitled "Where No Duck Has Gone Before".
The phrase was referred to sarcastically on the retail box of the 1987 computer game Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter, sending its hero Roger Wilco on "His mission: to scrub dirty decks...to replace burned-out lightbulbs...TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS SWEPT THE FLOOR!" (emphasis original) and similarly in 1992 regarding Apple's Mac 7.0 (code named "Star Trek") which was planned to run on the Intel chip by calling it "the OS that boldly goes where everyone else has been". Likewise on Babylon 5, Ivanova implies that a woman is promiscuous by telling the captain, "Congratulations. You're about to go where every man has gone before."
The split infinitive "to boldly go" has also been the subject of jokes. British humorist and science-fiction author Douglas Adams describes, in his series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the long-lost heroic age of the Galactic Empire, when bold adventurers dared "to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before." In The Physics of Star Trek, Lawrence M. Krauss begins a list of Star Trek's ten worst errors by quoting one of his colleagues who considers that their greatest mistake is "to split an infinitive every damn time."