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"Where no man has gone before" is a phrase originally made popular through its use in the title sequence of most episodes of the original Star Trek science fiction television series.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" (which preceded Shatner's involvement with the show) 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.
The phrase in the Star Trek universe is called "The Captain's Oath".
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.
In-universe, the quote was attributed in the Star Trek: Enterprise pilot episode "Broken Bow" to warp drive inventor Dr. Zefram Cochrane in a recorded speech during the dedication of the facility devoted to designing the first engine capable of reaching Warp 5 (thus making interstellar exploration practical for humans) in the year 2119, some thirty-two years prior to the 2151 launch of first vessel powered by such an engine, the Enterprise (NX-01):
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 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.
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.
The word "no one" was substituted for the original sequence's "no man" to be gender-neutral.
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".
The phrase was referred to sarcastically on the retail box of the 1987 computer game Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter as "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, "Good luck, Captain. I think you're about to go where... everyone 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".