Development of a sensitive assay that measures the rate of cellular internalization of an infecting bacteriophage T7 genome has led to surprising observations on the initiation of infection. Proteins ejected from the phage virion probably function as an extensible tail to form a channel across the cell envelope. This channel is subsequently used for translocating the phage genome into the cell. One of these ejected proteins also controls the amount of DNA that enters the cell, rendering subsequent internalization of the remainder of the genome dependent on transcription. Mutations affecting this protein allow the entire phage genome to enter a cell by the transcription-independent process. This process exhibits pseudo-zero-order reaction kinetics and a temperature dependence of translocation rate that are not expected if DNA ejection from a phage capsid were caused by a physical process. The temperature dependence of transcription-independent T7 DNA translocation rate is similar to those of enzyme-catalysed reactions. Current data suggest a highly speculative model, in which two of the proteins ejected from the phage head establish a molecular motor that ratchets the phage genome into the cell.