In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, there is a scene where Scotty arrives on the bridge with the fatally wounded body of a crewman. In the next scene, they are in sickbay (why he didn't just take him to sickbay directly, I'll never know).

During that scene, the crewman says his dying words to Kirk:

Crewman: Is the word given, Admiral?

Kirk: The word is given. Warp speed.

Crewman: Aye. (He breathes his last death and dies)

What is the meaning of this phrase "is the word given"? And why is it so important to the crewman that this is his dying breath?

  • FYI the crewman is Scotty's nephew: memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Peter_Preston – BCdotWEB Jul 29 '16 at 18:14
  • The word being the all clear, that they are safe and he did his job right. That seems straight forward. – cde Jul 29 '16 at 18:23
  • @cde Is it a military phrase? It unfortunately wasn't straight forward to me. – Thunderforge Jul 29 '16 at 18:25
  • As a submarine thriller, yes. – cde Jul 29 '16 at 18:34
  • I think that crewMAN might not be as accurate as crewBOY. When I first saw Midshipman Peter Preston I thought he looked too small and young to be in Starfleet. When I recognized actor Ike Eisenmann I figured he was old enough (Eisenmann was 19 when the movie was shot). But the novelization and the script describe Peter Preston as 14. So I don't know if they decided to make Peter Preston older or left his age at 14. – M. A. Golding Feb 25 '18 at 18:44

I would say that this quote actually works on two levels.

The first level is, I feel, the more obvious one. It is meant to imply that, even at the moment of death, the character (Midshipman 1st Class Peter Preston) is ever the professional. His concern, even then, is for the ship and fulfilling his role. He is still looking to his captain for orders. The ever-professional element is further enhanced by the words of Scott just after:

He stayed at his post... when the trainees ran!

The second level to the quote is a little bit deeper, but follows the first quite logically, and I feel is the more important one, given the situation in that scene. I think that it is also meant to imply that Peter is also asking his captain for permission to leave his post (ie die).

I haven't found a source to back this theory up, so if anybody has any input on this, I'd be interested to hear.


Just to add to this theory, the phrase by Kirk is quite specific: "The word is given. Warp speed." Why the addition of warp speed? The captain wouldn't give the order 'warp speed' to a Midshipman. This part of the phrase is meant to emulate another phrase: 'God speed', usually used to express blessing to somebody going on a long and dangerous journey.

  • 1
    Permission to leave, Dismissed, at ease, etc, yep makes sense. – cde Jul 29 '16 at 18:34
  • 2
    Agree with this. It feels like the character is mindful of his duty to obey orders, even at the point of death. – Leatherwing Jul 29 '16 at 18:51

I think the scene is a call-back to an earlier one, the one shown around the three-minute mark in this video:

KIRK: Well, Mister Scott, are your cadets capable of handling a minor training cruise?

SCOTT: Give the word, Admiral!

KIRK: Mister Scott, the word is given.

SCOTT: Aye sir.

Also note the alternate (and much longer) version of the death scene around the five-minute mark.

  • I would think that the earlier scene is there to foreshadow the later scene, not the other way around, but I guess it's kind of a chicken/egg scenario in that regard. – TheBloodyPoet Jul 29 '16 at 22:18

He is asking for permission to relinquish his duties through death - Kirk gives him permission to die.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .