On Star Trek: The Original Series

All Our Tomorrows

The Shared Universe of Star Trek

By Allen Steele

If, by some quirk of fate, you were to find yourself in a strange part of the world where you don’t know the native language and were cornered by hostile locals who meant you grievous bodily harm, the wisest thing to do would be to attempt to communicate that you’re just an innocent bystander. In that case, you could do worse than to raise your right hand palm outward, divide your middle and ring fingers in a V-shape and gravely intone, “Live long and prosper.”

By much the same token, if you were driving on the interstate with some friends and noticed oily smoke boiling out beneath from the hood, and you were trying to make it to the next exit where you could pull over at a service station, you might find yourself trying to ease the situation by affecting a Scottish accent and saying, “I’m doing all that I can, Captain, but I don’t know much how long the engines will take the strain.”

And likewise, if you were at a party and wanted to get a laugh out of someone–maybe a pal who’d had a hard day at work–then you might lightly place your hands on either side of his head, close your eyes and say, “I sense…strong emotion. Longing. Longing and endless…thirst. Beer… I need more…beer.”

These lines, either exactly quoted or loosely paraphrased, have become so much a part of our culture–not only Western, but global as well–that just repeating them will provoke immediate recognition. Certain phrases from  …

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