The West Wing (1999–2006)
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100,000 Airplanes 

On the night of the State of the Union, Sam has to explain the process of writing the speech and grading reaction to it to a magazine reporter (Traylor Howard) throughout the evening; C.J. ... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Bill O'Brien ...
Oncologist #1
Dr. Ken Walker
Oncologist Bobby


On the night of the State of the Union, Sam has to explain the process of writing the speech and grading reaction to it to a magazine reporter (Traylor Howard) throughout the evening; C.J. arranged the coverage aware that the reporter, Lisa Sherbourn, is Sam's ex-fiancée; flashing back to the speechwriting process, we see the president dining with several of Abbey's medical colleagues, and they ponder the future of cancer research, motivating Bartlet to ask that a section be added to the SOTU in which he calls for U.S. scientists to find a cancer cure by 2012; the staff, convinced that the Congressional censure is weighing heavily on the president, tries to talk him out of this bold but risky proposal. Written by meebly

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Release Date:

16 January 2002 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


The episode title refers to how, with the Nazi threat looming over the US and having a relatively small army, Roosevelt announced they would build an unheard of 50,000 planes over the next four years, and then ended up going well beyond that, building twice as many. Sam refers to this when explaining how the US could make it a national effort to cure cancer within the decade. See more »


After Sam finishes reading the section about curing cancer, the camera displays the laptop before he deletes the text. The title of the document open is "N_Science.doc", upon hitting delete the title changes to "Curing_Cancer.doc" and there is a slight shift in the angle of the laptop. See more »


Sam Seaborn: Over the past half century, we've split the atom, we've spliced the gene and we've roamed Tranquility Base. We've reached for the stars and never have we been closer to having them in our grasp. New science, new technology is making the difference between life and death, and so we need a national commitment equal to this unparalleled moment of possibility. And so I announce to you tonight that I will bring the full resources of the Federal Government and the full reach of my office to this ...
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West Wing Main Title
Written by W.G. Snuffy Walden
Performed by Pete Anthony
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User Reviews

Inspiration, and then a reality check
14 January 2010 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

In season 2 there was a string of what I thought were four slightly underrated episodes, starting with The Leadership Breakfast and ending with The War at Home. One of those episodes was Bartlet's Third State of the Union, which made the interesting choice of skipping over the making of the speech, providing just a glimpse of the preparation, and just a glimpse of the speech itself, and focusing on the reception. 100,000 Airplanes, a highlight of season 3, is also about a state of the union, but it's focused on the making of the speech. I'm not going to argue whether the season 2 or season 3 episode was better: both were great at looking at something from different angles.

This episode is also interesting partly because we learn a little more about Sam. I learnt he was engaged (although I'm not sure if that wasn't mentioned before), and we met the girl and heard why the relationship ended. He describes to her how the White House staff considered promising that they would find a cure for cancer by the end of the decade. Maybe it's good that they didn't because it's 2010 now and there's still no cure. Still, for a moment the thought was uplifting. Is it true we're close to a cancer breakthrough? It was good to see the president wanting to take charge and pursue the possibility. It may seem like an impossible promise to make, but Bartlet takes inspiration from President Kennedy's promise to land on the moon, and it inspired me too. As Sam noted, it was "optimistic"- it's one of those things that makes you feel good about government. It's the kind of thing that makes a president's legacy.

But then we get a reality check. Sam and the president were the only ones who thought the promise would be a good idea, but then they admit to themselves that this is a promise they can't make. Still, Sam's speech regarding the promise is nice, we can share in the dream one last time.

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