The Wit, Wisdom, and Wisecracks of 'Star Trek'

Updated on April 22, 2019
Jerry Cornelius profile image

I like variety—so I love travelling, exploring and writing fiction and non-fiction on a daily basis.

Giant Kirk and Spock or very small USS Enterprise?
Giant Kirk and Spock or very small USS Enterprise? | Source

To Boldly Go...

Great quotes reflect a brilliant series, and Star Trek was one of those television landmarks, proven here with these great quotes.

Calling Trekkies everywhere. If, like me, your favourite Star Trek series is the original one, then you might like the pearls of wisdom and wit scattered across the episodes like stars in the galaxy.

Why do I prefer the original series? That’s easy—it’s funnier, wittier, and has a simple home-grown wisdom flowing though it that some of the subsequent incarnations are missing. I don’t mean to say that it was without drama and tension; there too, it scored highly. It’s just that the offspring of the original series have often taken themselves a little too seriously. I also think the balance of characters in that first series was near perfect—the combination of Kirk’s wit, Spock’s dry and sardonic observations, Scotty’s panic-stricken outbursts, and Bones’ sarcasm made for a great dynamic.

Out of all the original Star Trek characters, who had the best one-liners, the most biting wit, or their fingers on the pulse of a generation…?

Mongomery ‘Scotty’ Scott

‘Scotty’ was the Chief engineer of the Enterprise played by James Doohan. Stubborn and emotional, ‘Scotty’ was the glue that held the ship (and often the crew) together. Scotty knew that if he looked after the Enterprise, she would look after him. Still, in nearly every episode there was a ‘Houston, we have a problem’ situation, usually culminating in the phrase “She canna' take no more, Captain!”, shortly before he miraculously fixes the problem (Apollo 13 style). Even if Scotty, was not the wittiest of characters, he was pivotal to many of the story lines and was blessed with a straight-forward approach that endeared him to fans and gave him the authority to deliver some of the best and most direct lines of the series.

“The best diplomat that I know is a fully-loaded phaser bank.” – Scotty in ‘A Taste of Armageddon’

"I canna' change the laws of physics." - Scotty in ‘The Naked Time’

Spock - A modern icon
Spock - A modern icon | Source

Spock

Spock, often known as Mister Spock (Leonard Nimoy), is one of the most well-known characters of any science fiction series ever. Half-Vulcan and half-Human, Spock, was able to walk the tight-rope between totally logical (Vulcan) thinking and understanding (Human) emotions – although he often struggled in that respect. This ability to see both perspectives enabled Spock to assist Captain Kirk with detached and cool observations. Unfortunately, that same ‘detachment’ also brought him into direct conflict with the highly emotional Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy.

“The readings are perfectly normal for me, Doctor, thank you. And as for my anatomy being different from yours, I am delighted.” – Spock (in conversation with Bones) in ‘The Naked Time’

Spock’s quiet and dry humour is a perfect counterfoil to Kirk’s more robust shenanigans, at the same time he offered plenty of pearls of wisdom (although, illogically, even he got it wrong sometimes).

“The mid-1990s was the era of your so-called Third World War” - Spock in ‘Space Seed’

Bones: “What am I, a doctor or a ...?"
Bones: “What am I, a doctor or a ...?" | Source

Dr Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy

Dr McCoy (or ‘Bones’) played by DeForest Kelley, was a close friend of Captain Kirk, and as such was an influence on Kirk’s decision–making process (as was Spock). However, McCoy was the complete opposite to Spock, in that he was cranky, blunt and very human. This made for an interesting juxtaposition between Kirk, Spock and McCoy – usually with Kirk in the middle of two very different arguments.

“You! What planet is this?” – McCoy (to a poor hobo in 1930’s Chicago) in ‘City on the Edge of Forever’

Like the Chief Engineer of the Enterprise, McCoy was not afraid of voicing his opinion, especially when it came to arguments with Spock, and like Scotty he was fixated on his role in the Enterprise, that of doctor. Whenever a moral argument arose during an episode (which happened nearly every time the show was on the screen), you could guarantee that McCoy would be in the middle of it, wearing his ‘doctor’s hat’ and arguing fervently with Spock.

“I don’t know, Jim. This is a big ship. I’m just a country doctor.” - McCoy in ‘The Alternative Factor’

“Near as I can tell, they’re born pregnant... which seems to be quite a time-saver!” – Bones (talking about Tribbles) in ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’

Like many of the main characters in the show, McCoy had interchangeable catch phrases – McCoy’s usually starting with an exasperated: “What am I, a doctor or… (Fill in the blank)?” - or something similar.

“What am I, a doctor or a moon-shuttle conductor?” - Bones in ‘The Corbomite Maneuver’

Captain Kirk - His best serious look
Captain Kirk - His best serious look | Source

Captain James T. Kirk

Captain Kirk, played with gusto by William Shatner. Although Shatner has often been criticised for ‘camping up’ or over–acting in the role of Kirk – I don’t think the series would have been a hit without him. The greatest thing about Kirk’s character is that he was all too human, he made mistakes, he suffered and he fell in love (nearly every episode) – he also had a ‘cocky’ arrogance that was quite appealing, and an irreverent humour that was a perfect opposite to Spock’s dry introspections.

“One of the advantages of being a Captain is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.” - Kirk in ‘Dagger of the Mind’

“Is there anyone on this ship, who even remotely, looks like Satan?” – Kirk (walking around Spock) in ‘The Apple’

Kirk was also a man of action, throwing himself gamely into the most dangerous situations and coming out unscathed and wiser (while the unknown crewman in the ‘away team’ wearing the red shirt invariably perished).

“There’s only one kind of woman...or man, for that matter. You either believe in yourself or you don’t.” - Kirk in ‘Mudd’s Women’

“You’ll learn something about men and women...the way they’re supposed to be. Caring for each other, being happy with each other, being good to each other. That’s what we call love. You’ll like that a lot.” - Kirk in ‘The Apple’

Chekov (Walter Koenig): "Ensign Authorization code: nine-five-wictor-wictor-two!"
Chekov (Walter Koenig): "Ensign Authorization code: nine-five-wictor-wictor-two!" | Source

The Final Frontier

Of course, there are other memorable characters for the original series, such as Uhura, Sulu and Chekov – but the four above are my favourites.

Hope you enjoyed this dive back into the archives of Star Trek: The Original Series. And a few last words from Spock…

“Live long and prosper”

Star Trek (The Original Series) Wittiest Character?

Who do you think had the wittiest and wisest lines?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Jerry Cornelius

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      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        4 months ago from UK

        Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I grew up watching the original series.

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