“Scotty, you’ve got the conn.”
We’ve heard it a zillion times. Kirk is frequently leaving the Bridge of the Enterprise for one reason or another and leaving someone in charge of the Bridge.
The Online Etymological Dictionary clarifies that con, conn, and conning when used in this context come from the old word cond, which comes from Middle English conduen (meaning “to conduct’) which comes from old Anglo-French cunduire, which in turn comes from Latin conductus (past participle of conducere), meaning ”to lead or bring together.” The earliest written English use of the word con in this context would seem to be from the year 1626. This concept of “getting something (in this case, a ship) successfully from Point A to Point B” is also still in use in the English word conduit. The differences in spelling (conn versus con) would seem to be simple American English verses British English variant–like tires and tyres. In the end, whatever the actual etymology of the word is, its meaning is clear: “you have control of the ship.”
The Naval Shiphandler’s Guide has this to say about the term:
“One of the most important principles of ship handling is that there be no ambiguity as to who is controlling the movements of the ship. One person gives orders to the ship’s engine, rudder, lines, and ground tackle. This person is said to have the ‘conn.’
—James Alden Barber, 2005, ‘Introduction,’ p.8, The Naval Shiphandler’s Guide”
So, how many times did Captain Kirk actually have someone “take the conn?” It turns out, not quite as many as you might expect.
Without getting into those times where “giving the conn” to someone happened throughout the Star Trek movie series, and without getting into all those times where someone (like Lieutenant Leslie, for example) clearly had the conn without us ever seeing the initial handoff, here are the thirteen (13)–yes, thirteen–a baker’s dozen–times that Kirk gave orders for someone to “take the conn” in The Original Series and The Animated Series:
1. “A Private Little War” (episode 45) “You have he conn, Scotty.”
2. “A Piece of the Action” (episode 49) “Scotty, you have the conn.”
3. “Return to Tomorrow” (episode 51) ”Mister Sulu, you have the conn.”
4. “Elaan of Troyius” (episode 57) “Mister Spock, you have the conn.”
5. “The Tholian Web” (episode 64) “Scotty, you have the conn.”
6. “For the World is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky” (episode 65) “Mister Scott, you have the conn.”
7. “Wink of an Eye” (episode 68) “Mister Spock, you have the conn.”
8. “That Which Survives” (episode 69) “Mister Spock, you have the conn.”
9. “The Cloud Minders” (episode 74) “That’s an order, Mister Spock. You have the conn.”
10. “The Way to Eden” (episode 75) “Scotty, you have the conn.”
…and then the final three times were in the Animated Series:
11. “One Upon a Planet” (animated epiosde 6) “Mister Arex, you have the conn.”
12. “The Survivor” (animated episode 9) “Take the conn, Mister Spock.”
13. “The Pirates of Orion (animated episode 17) “Mister Sulu, you have he conn.”
So, all in all, it wasn’t that many times. With no instances in the first season, three instances in the second season, and the rest in the third season (or later, in the case of the animated episodes), the use of the term “the conn” was actually a fairly late development in Star Trek.
For those who are keeping score, here are the final counts:
Mister Spock 5
Mister Scott 5
Mister Sulu 2
Mister Arex 1
For the sake of being a completest, there were a few times where someone was asked to simply “take over.” Presumably, this general “take over [command of the Bridge]” order is about the same thing as the “take the conn” order. Those times were:
1. “Tomorrow Is Yesterday (episode 21) “Try and beam that pilot aboard. Take over, Mister Spock.”
2. “The Doomsday Machine (episode 35) “Very well, Mister Spock: the Bridge is yours,” says Commodore Matt Decker.
3. “I, Mudd” (episode 41) “Spock, take over.”
4 “Journey to Babel (episode 44) “Mister Chekov, take over.”
5. “The Tholian Web (episode 64) “Take over, Mister Sulu. I’ll be in the transporter room.” says Mister Scott.