UPDATE 10/24/21: After watching some of the films Dylan allegedly borrowed from, I’ve found evidence that the info below may be incorrect (and the lyrics may have originated with Star Trek after all). See my new post here.
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Since I wrote my earlier post on The Last Jedi’s use of Elvis Costello, another famous sci-fi/rock ‘n’ roll connection has been on my mind: a minor incident in Bob Dylan’s career that involves fans thinking he had pilfered Star Trek dialogue for lyrics.
See, back in the ’80s, some people thought Dylan borrowed a few lines from the Star Trek episode “The Squire of Gothos” and used them in his 1985 single “Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love?)”
If you don’t know the song intimately, for Pete’s sake, go watch the video on YouTube now. (It’s a perfect 1980s video; Dylan dresses like Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice, hangs out in neon-soaked Japan, and lip-synchs like nobody’s life depended on it). The video’s kinda-sorta narrative seems to be about someone wrongly accused of murder.
So, where does Star Trek come in? About 36 seconds into the song, when Dylan sings this line:
“I’ll go along with the charade until I can think my way out.”
Star Trek fans–justifiably famous for their dialogue memorization skills–immediately caught this as dialogue from the 1967 episode, “The Squire of Gothos.” In it, the crew deals with a strange being with God-like powers who calls himself Trelane and is obsessed with Earth’s history. Trapped by Trelane, Sulu asks Kirk how long they should “go along with the charade.” Kirk responds,”Until we can think our way out.”
Was Dylan a closet Star Trek fan?
Turns out, they’re both paying homage to the same source: Humphrey Bogart. Bogie utters the “charade” line in the 1949 film, Tokyo Joe. Dylanologists studying the song have discovered references to multiple Bogart movies, including The Maltese Falcon, in “Tight Connection to My Heart.” Clearly, Dylan was playing with Bogart’s persona throughout the song, borrowing his lyrics from movies to give the tune a hard-boiled feel.
Presumably, Paul Schneider–the credited writer for Star Trek’s “Squire of Gothos”–was familiar with the Bogie line as well. Kirk and Sulu’s exchange is a tip of the hat to Tokyo Joe.
As is often the case with the Internet, rumors about Dylan stealing lyrics from Star Trek will still pop up occasionally and are quickly quelled by referencing more Internet: in this case, Wikipedia’s fairly comprehensive response. For even more info, look at Oliver Trager’s Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, a book I found invaluable while preparing the curriculum for my UC Davis poetry class that featured Dylan this summer.