The first poetry in Star Trek was about a “bird” and a plane
Poetry and Star Trek have gone together since almost the very beginning.
There’s no poetry in “The Cage,” unless you count Dr. Boyce’s philosophical musings about doctors’ and bartenders’ two kinds of customers.
But in the original series’ second pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Gary Mitchell (played by Gary Lockwood) demonstrates his new, uncanny power of recall by reciting the first few lines of a random page from a random data tape selected by Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman).
"My love has wings, slender feathered things With grace in upswept curve and tapered tip."
Mitchell identifies the lines as coming from “Nightingale Woman,” “written by Tarbolde on the Canopus Planet back in 1996.” Mitchell calls it “one of the most passionate love sonnets of the past couple of centuries.”
Now, Gary Mitchell may not be the most objective poetry critic! He immediately uses his recitation as an opening to manhandle “our good-looking lady doctor,” as he calls her, in the scene above.
From a mere 15-word sample, it’s hard to judge for ourselves whether Tarbolde’s poem deserves praise an erotic magnum opus. The fragment we have fits the classic Shakespearean sonnet form: Each line has five beats, the first line with nine syllables rather than the usual ten.
In actuality, the lines come from verses written by none other than the Great Bird of the Galaxy, Gene Roddenberry, about a B-17 Flying Fortress he flew during World War II.
We can only wonder what particular moments in flight inspired Roddenberry to deepen their meaning through poetry. Despite some fans’ memories and best efforts, Roddenberry’s complete text remains unknown.
(Would-be literature PhDs, there’s your thesis research assignment!)
“Nightingale Woman” also showed up in set decorations on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, according to the Memory Alpha wiki. You can spot a poster advertising Phineas Tarbolde and the Nightingale Women near the door to the Harlem night club in “Far Beyond the Stars.” And you’ll see the poem’s first line right under Rita Hayworth’s picture in the wall calendar at the Roswell Air Force base in “Little Green Men.”