Of whales and cannons and movies and burgers and consonants

I was flipping around on movie channels while flipping a burger for supper (lots of double consonants) and I caught this:

“He tasks me! He tasks me, and I shall have him! I’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia, and round the Antares Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up! Prepare to alter course!”

You must know which movie this is!  The quote, however, is obviously an allusion to Moby Dick by Melville.  Ahab, obsessed with revenge against the white whale cries out:

“Aye, aye! It was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day!” Then tossing both arms, with measureless imprecations he shouted out: “Aye, aye! and I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up.”

More double consonants!  Too bad the whale’s blubber isn’t referred to there.

Moby Dick is a favorite of reference point for Star Trek movies, I think.  In another one, First Contact, Picard says:

“And he piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.”


In Moby Dick the real quote:

“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

Come to think of it, a character in another vast SiFi series is named from a character in Moby Dick.  So, through I am in the middle of prepping supper, and the burger zizzles and I must away to put creatures in my body (trekkies will get the reference), I thought I would scribble this note. As soon as possible I will butter and grill the bun on the griddle and, all hassles aside, take the opportunity to apply pepper and drizzle mustard.

Burgers are a dish best not served up cold, after all.

I was out of gagh.



I had forgotten that the movie ends with a quote not from Melville, but from Dickens.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. disco says:

    It was the LCWR! Made us say lies! Do things!

  2. Kerry says:

    Skip the burgers, onto the Fibius claw!

  3. plemmen says:

    I am waiting for Vogon poetry …

  4. plemmen: You will wait for a long time, I’m afraid! Vogons are banned from this blog.

  5. Kathleen10 says:


    I never read Moby Dick, but, I have often wondered why was the White Whale hated so! What did he do, this poor whale.

    Sad that “from Adam down” had to be removed from a script.

    Don’t you love burgers? Boy they’re good.
    I made Veggie Lasagna tonight. Left out the meat, but had enough mozzarella and ricotta to put down a large horse. My husband, the sweet talker, said “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be”. Then he had seconds. Ahhh…..what bliss.

  6. plemmen says:

    Sorry for the incomplete comment! Part II:
    “Oh freddled gruntbuggly/thy micturations are to me/As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
    Groop I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes. And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles, Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don’t!”
    More doubles here, both consonants as well as vowels.

  7. plemmen says:

    My apologies Fr Z, I was unaware of this prohibition! I hereby retract all references to those “banned” individuals and their attempts at “art”.
    What is my penance good Father?

  8. plemmen: I sentence you to read more Vogon poetry.

  9. plemmen says:

    Yes Father. I guess that means going to some of the commentaries as well as the sixth volume (NOT written by Doug, may he R.I.P.) of the trilogy …

  10. APX says:

    Oddly, it appears one of the few things I actually retained from my grade 10 English class was Vogon Poetry and the HHGTTG, which was one of the three novels I actually bothered to read in high school.

  11. TheMother says:

    I also miss the “from Adam down”, but in each case, the movie-altered version has a better rhythm.
    Just say them out loud–
    “If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it” has more strength in utterance than “…if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”
    And, n.b., Vogon poetry never works in translation.

  12. jmgazzoli says:

    And don’t forget Khan’s last words, also from Melville: “To the last, I will grapple with thee… from Hell’s heart, I stab at thee! For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!”

    And, of course, earlier in the film, Spock gave Kirk a copy of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. [Ah yes! I’d forgotten that.]

  13. jmgazzoli says:

    And let’s not forgot the many Shakespeare references in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country! [Quoted, if memory serves, by the Klingon.]

  14. spock says:

    Cry havoc ! And let slip the dogs of war !
    I am as constant as the Northern Star !

    ST 6 is the one I like the most.

    Peace and long life,


  15. Legisperitus says:

    And Khan was a fan of Milton also. When he was first marooned on the planet by Kirk, he alluded to Lucifer’s “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.” Then the movie has a shot of Khan’s bookshelf, which includes a volume of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regain’d.

    Someone should design a college course on literature quoted in Star Trek.

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    Just so long as nobody quotes the poetry of Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex . . . .

  17. Oh, Vogon poetry. I thought you meant Vorlon (B5) poetry—or was it Vogon (ST:TNG) poetry? Well, they’re all ghastly….

  18. Captain Peabody says:

    “You have never experienced Shakespeare until you have heard him in the original Klingon.”
    -Chancellor Gorkon, ST VI

  19. Stephen Matthew says:

    Oddly enough there is a theater group which has performed Shakespeare in Klingon.

    Far stranger, however, is that they have done so in front of what are reported to have been full houses of paying patrons.

    If there is a market for dramatic productions in Klingon there is a market for any and every thing which does exist or may yet come to be.

    Quite possibly this could be developed into a moral argument against the market… but first to settle the question of the Borg queen being actually in control of the collective versus mearly a personification of the collective will of the Borg…

    Oh, what’s that? Have a taken a tangent down a rabbit hole again? [In a thread like this, I hardly think that’s possible.]

    Well, beam me up Scotty! (On second thought, don’t. The transporter rips you apart and builds an exact copy at another location, and as I am against both suicide and human cloning I should think I must be opposed to the transporter.)

  20. Stephen Matthew says:


    “Razeed” is in interesting word, describing a sailing ship, reduced from its original scale, usually by cutting down a deck, such a ship then being a “razee”. For example an outdated ship-of-the-line could be reduced from two decks to one, making a rather large frigate with often quite impressive sailing qualities, at the expense of fighting strength. (There were some such ships, however, that were poor in both sailing and fighting qualities.) The descreption of Ahab as such seems rather curious on reflection.

    On additional reflection the U.S.S. Reliant, the ship Khan hijacks, could be thought of as something of a razee of of the larger Federation cruisers like Enterprise, since it lacks the secondary hull.

    [I think HMS Indefatigable was a razeed ship. She appears in Post Captain in the Aubrey/Maturin series. If people out there haven’t read them yet, go HERE for the US and for the UK Kindle 1st Book HERE. Buy. Enjoy. Read again and again!]

  21. Bender says:

    The name “Starbuck” is the only thing remotely close to Moby Dick in that other series. [You mean other than the Cylons chasing Galactica through the cosmos…] But there is also Scully naming her dog “Queequeg.”

  22. Supertradmum says:

    Many years ago, when I was teaching a modernist heresy section, (in history of ideas), my students’ final exam was to spot and define the heresies in the Wrath of Khan. They found twenty in the first half-hour of the movie. Wonder if commentators here can do the same.

    Moby Dick is without .doubt the greatest American novel. [! Some might dispute that.] The Patrick Stewart version, which I saw many years ago, is superb. Melville’s second is Walker Percy, whose books I have taught as well. I give Mark Twain third place for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, stupidly banned in some states.

    And, returning to Star Trek, if one watches the original television series, Space Seed, with Ricardo Montalban’s introduction as Khan and then look at the later movie, one can see the excellence of this actor’s portrayal in growth of the character.

    As to Vogon poetry, I feel sick…..

  23. Kerry says:

    Plemmen, “Surely you know at least one theme from Octool and Meylota?”

  24. Bryan Boyle says:

    But I do know where my towel is.

    (I think I was the one that brought up Klingon and Vogon poetry in another thread….)

  25. Tradster says:

    “Oddly enough there is a theater group which has performed Shakespeare in Klingon.
    Far stranger, however, is that they have done so in front of what are reported to have been full houses of paying patrons.”

    But…but…isn’t Klingon too haaaarrrd?

  26. Jon says:

    For those of you with a sharp eye, it’s no wonder Khan spit Ahab quotes at Kirk.

    I vividly remember watching the movie thirty (yikes!) years ago in the theater. As Commander Chekov and Captain Terrell boarded the marooned shuttle craft on Ceti Alpha VI, their flashlights scanned the chaos of the wreck. The light swept over bookshelves, and I remember immediately recognizing the same paperback edition of Moby Dick I was reading in college at the time. I almost wanted to shout, “Hey, there’s my book!”

    With little else for entertainment except catching those brain-munching bugs, with that book in hand Khan had fifteen years to “wonder at the fiery hunt” and become “madness maddened.” Sort of like I did in my American Lit class.

  27. Tantum Ergo says:

    “Gagh” (the Klingon delicacy) was my son Matthew’s first word, back in 1989. (Sniff!) I guess I’m just a sentimental old fool.

  28. Supertradmum says:

    Tantum Ergo, my son’s first word was “cat”, quickly followed by “daddy”, and “mum” was annunciated one year later. However, he did recite Vogon poetry at six months.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    Tantum, I forgot to add that was in 1989 as well. Sniff.

  30. plemmen says:

    Never was a fan of TNG, however, I do know that many in the fan world have gone far overboard in creating musical themes based or derived from the one for Arktul and Meylota in the series.

  31. Laura98 says:

    LOL – this thread is too funny! Being a bit of a ST geek myself, loved watching the original series as re-runs on TV after school every day. When the movies came out! Wow!!! (Well… not the 1st one – we won’t count that one!). Yep, loved watching the TV shows too. Had my mother tape the shows for me and ship them to Germany, so I could watch them in English and not 2 years behind schedule. (We had cheap, bulk overseas shipping back then.) And I for one, would love to take a course on all the literature quoted and talked about in the series – would be fascinating!

    @Supertradmum – funny how your son’s first words included “cat.” My daughter’s first words were “hi” and “cat” – because her cat (Indy) was always near her… I’ve never known any other kid to do that! It’s always “dada” and “mama.”

  32. Captain Peabody says:

    And, of course, we all remember the Borg Queen’s adaptation from the Book of Revelation (with a
    Trinitarian twist!) : “I am the beginning…the end…the one who is many. I am the Borg.”

    Hmmmmm…that brings up an interesting question: how could Trinitarian theology be applied to understanding the Borg Queen? I think this merits further study.

  33. Tantum Ergo says:

    I’ll never forget when they finally uncovered the Borg spy, masquerading as a Swedish tennis player. I believe his name was “Björn.”

  34. pcstokell says:

    Captain Peabody, if you want to see the “Hive Mind” at work, I suggest you visit that other Minnesotan’s blog. All the hate, malice and will to dominate that Sauron poured into his ring couldn’t rival that guy’s comboxes, I can tell you.

  35. MAJ Tony says:

    Being a good Field Artilleryman of 20+ years, I’m supposing the substitution of “cannon” where Melville used “mortar” was probably done for effect, as perhaps most today would not recognize the use of the word “mortar” as a weapon used to “rain down hate and discontent among one’s enemies.” “Cannon” (with double-n) is pretty obvious.

    In the words of a distant cousin to Fr. Franz Gruber:

    Over hill over dale we have hit the dusty trail
    As our caissons go rolling along.
    Up and down, in and out,
    Countermarch and right about,
    And our caissons go rolling along.

    For it’s hi-hi-hee
    In the Fifth Artillery,
    Shout out the number loud and strong.
    Till our final ride,
    It will always be our pride
    To keep those caissons a rolling along.
    (Keep them rolling – keep them rolling)
    Keep those caissons a rolling along.
    (B-a-t-t-e-r-y H-a-l-t!)

  36. trekkie4christ says:

    It’s like you’re pandering just to me, Father. In all seriousness, I love the references to historical culture in Star Trek. They make the universe all the more believable, recognizing that what is considered as a classic today will continue to stand the test of time in the future. One of my personal favorites is the scene in Insurrection (one of the worst of them overall) where Picard, Worf and Data sing from HMS Pinafore while dancing their shuttles around each other. Were it not for that scene, I may have never seen the film more than once.

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