The Debunker: Did Captain Kirk Ever Say "Beam Me Up, Scotty"?

by Ken Jennings

In honor of the long-awaited return of the critically beloved TV drama Mad Men, we’ve asked Jeopardy! fixture Ken Jennings to educate us on some of the most persistent myths from the Mad Men era. Last month he set us straight on the 1950s; this month, we’re moving right into the turbulent 1960s. It’s often said that anyone who remembers the sixties wasn’t actually there, but luckily Ken was born a decade later, when most of the pot smoke had dispersed and all the go-go boots and lava lamps had been moved to the nation’s attics. So he’s pretty much an expert.

Sixties Myth #2: Captain Kirk Was Always Saying “Beam Me Up, Scotty.”

It’s the one thing that even non-Trekkies know about Captain James T. Kirk: when he was done interfering in planetary politics and sexing alien women for the week, he would pull out his little walkie-talkie thing and say “Beam me up, Scotty!” to someone (Scotty, I guess?!?) aboard the starship Enterprise. But guess what? It never happened. Believe it or not, the line “Beam me up, Scotty” doesn’t appear in any Star Trek episode or movie.

Oh, Kirk said things like this many times. In “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” (a.k.a. “the one with the Quatloos”) he says, “Scotty, beam us up.” In Star Trek IV (a.k.a. “the funny one with the whales”) he says, “Scotty, beam me up.” In a couple of the animated episodes, he even says, “Beam us up, Scotty.” But that’s as close as he ever got.

Despite this fact, “Beam me up, Scotty” became the archetypal Star Trek catchphrase, appearing on a bajillion bumper stickers and even titling the autobiography of the late James “Scotty” Doohan. But that’s no surprise. Sherlock Holmes never actually said, “Elementary, my dear Watson” and Joe Friday from Dragnet never said “Just the facts, ma’am.” A character’s pop-culture reputation doesn’t always come from what he did—it comes from how we remember what he did. If you want to hear William Shatner actually say, “Beam me up, Scotty,” you’ll have to buy the audiobook of his Star Trek tie-in novel The Ashes of Eden, where the phrase appears. Or slip him $500 at a convention and maybe he’ll oblige.

Quick Quiz: What company has been producing the “Transporter” line of vans and minibuses since 1950?

Ken Jennings is the author of Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.

Photo by Flickr user jot punkt. Used under a Creative Commons License.