Star Trek’s Worst Line Powered By Pure Greed

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Star Trek Discovery gorn

Star Trek: Discovery has caused many controversies, but one of the earliest involves Captain Lorca asking Paul Stamets if he’d like to be remembered as positively as Elon Musk. The line stood out at the time because Musk’s name was mentioned alongside both real-life visionaries (the Wright Brothers) and the franchise’s biggest fictional hero (Zefram Cochrane). The ongoing online antics of Musk have caused many fans to hate this line, but it turns out Lorca only said this because actor Jason Isaacs was trying to get a free Tesla.

Stamets Is Under Pressure

star trek elon musk

For all of this to make sense, you need to know more about the Star Trek: Discovery episode which mentioned Elon Musk. In the episode “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For the Lamb’s Cry,” Paul Stamets is struggling to make Discovery’s spore drive work.

He is getting pressured by Captain Lorca to get the drive working in order to save a planet under siege by the Klingons, one responsible for most of the Federation’s dilithium supply.

The Quote

star trek discovery lorca

The two men clash, with Stamets telling Lorca that good science takes time and that he signed on to serve as a scientist, not a soldier. When Stamets threatens to leave Starfleet, Lorca (already a very unconventional Star Trek captain) asks if wants to be “remembered in history… alongside the Wright Brothers, Elon Musk, Zefram Cochrane…or as a failed fungus expert, a selfish little man who put the survival of his own ego before the lives of others?”

Master manipulator Lorca then begins playing the desperate audio transmissions from the besieged planet across the entire ship, essentially guilting Stamets and the others into being good soldiers.

The Line Didn’t Age Well

star trek elon musk

When this Star Trek: Discovery episode first aired in 2017, many fans raised their eyebrows, Spock-style, at Lorca name-dropping Elon Musk. It seemed odd to mention a real-life billionaire alongside the Wright Brothers and Zefram Cochrane, especially because Musk had yet (and arguably still has yet) to deliver on his many promises of space exploration and Mars colonization.

In subsequent years, the line aged very poorly because Musk did his best to position himself as an extreme right wing figure–not exactly the kind of guy who a progressive franchise like Star Trek would normally commend.

The Mirror Universe

star trek mirror universe

Some Star Trek fans joked that Lorca name-dropping Elon Musk belatedly made sense after we discovered that the captain is from the Mirror Universe. After all, it would make sense for someone from that evil alternate dimension to praise someone like Musk.

However, it’s worth noting that Musk might have been completely different in the Mirror Universe–after all, the Cochrane of that universe initiated first contact with the Vulcans by shooting them and then looting their technology.

An Improvisation For A Car

tesla semi

However, on After Trek (the brief-lived Star Trek: Discovery aftershow), Lorca actor Jason Isaacs admitted that the script didn’t mention Elon Musk–this was something he ad-libbed that made it into the final cut.

He was also upfront that he had a greedy ulterior motive in name-dropping the billionaire. In short, he was hoping that Musk or someone else at Tesla would be flattered enough to send the actor a free electric car.

Considering how much Star Trek fans have argued about the Elon Musk line, it’s darkly hilarious that the whole thing came about from a greedy ad-lib from Isaacs. What else would you expect, though, from someone who played an evil captain from a different dimension?

If he hadn’t been vaporized, it would be nice if his Discovery character could answer one question–does Tesla’s Full Self-Driving actually work in the 23rd century?