Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
The Star Trek franchise has an aesthetic all its own, and a big part of that is the way starships are designed. Many Trekkies have said over the years that a ship is like an extra member of the cast; a vital part of any Star Trek series or film. While there have been some visual misses, of course, for the most part Star Trek’s ships have been fantastic to look at.
Aesthetics are always going to be a matter of personal taste, and there are many factors at play in considering what makes for a “good-looking” starship. Because the ships and most of their technologies are wholly fictional, designers and artists have a fair amount of leeway when it comes to designing a new starship. Technobabble can always be employed to explain away inconsistencies – like how the USS Defiant’s warp nacelles work, for example.
Over more than half a century, Star Trek has featured many different designs of starship. Many of these, even the newest ones, take inspiration from the original USS Enterprise, which was designed by Matt Jeffries (with some input from others, including Gene Roddenberry) for The Cage in 1964. The basic saucer section, drive section, plus two nacelles on pylons style has been present in most Federation ships – and, in some form, all of the “hero” ships – ever since.
On this list I’m going to pull out ten of my favourite designs of both Federation and non-Federation starships. The list is by no means exhaustive, and it may be a topic I revisit in future as I can already think of several more I could have easily included! As indicated, this whole thing is entirely subjective. So without further ado, let’s jump into the list – which is in no particular order.
Number 1: The Klingon Bird-of-Prey
The Bird-of-Prey is absolutely iconic as a Klingon vessel, at least on par with the D-7 battlecruiser from The Original Series. The vessel debuted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, before going on to appear in four more films, all of the 24th Century shows, and even recently in Lower Decks. Few non-Starfleet ships are as iconic or recognisable, and even many non-fans would easily identify the design.
In cinema, the Bird-of-Prey has had starring roles in five films, making it one of the most well-known enemy or villainous ships. Iconic adversaries like General Chang and Dr Soran used Klingon Birds-of-Prey in their nefarious schemes. But as Klingon-Federation relations improved in The Next Generation, we began to see the iconic vessel as an ally; a workhorse of the Klingon fleet. By the time of the Dominion War in Deep Space Nine we were rooting for the Klingon-Federation alliance, and some of the ships most often seen on the front lines were these wonderful Klingon ships.
Based loosely on the earlier Romulan Bird-of-Prey, the winged design captures the warrior philosophy of the Klingons perfectly. The small ship is incredibly powerful, armed to the teeth with disruptor cannons and photon torpedoes. The way the wings change position for combat or while at warp is clever, too, and the green colour scheme makes the craft stand out when compared to Federation ships.
Number 2: The Excelsior Class
Another starship that would be a workhorse for decades, the Excelsior is a really neat, futuristic design. It manages to look smarter and newer than the Constitution class that it would eventually replace, yet at the same time is clearly manufactured by the same organisation. It retains the saucer, drive section, and nacelles on pylons of older Federation ships, but switches up the design too. The ship is flatter, with a shorter “neck,” and has nacelle pylons that are shorter and have a ninety-degree bend instead of coming out of the drive section on a diagonal.
The Excelsior class also debuted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – the film succeeded at introducing us to two of the most iconic designs in the franchise! Though we’ve never seen a show or film set entirely aboard an Excelsior class starship, Excelsiors have been featured in five films and all three of the 24th Century shows.
By the 24th Century the Excelsior class was still in use, and while it had taken a back seat to the likes of the Galaxy class and other newer ships, many Excelsior class vessels were still in service in a variety of roles. Some would even see action in the Dominion War, meaning that the Excelsior class was still being deployed almost a century after its inception. That must be one solid ship!
Number 3: The Runabout
I adore the Runabouts that debuted in Deep Space Nine. They remind me of camper vans (or RVs) in terms of size and design, incorporating most of the mod-cons a 24th Century Starfleet officer might expect – just in a much more compact vessel. If I could pick any starship for myself (and the cats) to have for cruising around the galaxy, I’d definitely pick a Runabout.
When Deep Space Nine was being developed, there was a sense that setting a series on a static space station might be too far removed from Star Trek’s past, and thus there was a need to give Commander Sisko and the crew something to keep them mobile. From an in-universe perspective, too, the station needed to have some way for the crew to leave in an emergency – or just to make routine visits to nearby planets. Hence the Runabout was born – larger than a shuttlecraft but smaller than any starship we’d seen before.
These cute mini-starships each have their own name and registration, but from what’s shown on screen they seem to be assigned to bases and starships as auxiliary craft rather than being fully-independent vessels in their own right. Despite that, Runabouts are depicted as highly capable, versatile vessels. Early exploration missions into the Gamma Quadrant often utilised Runabouts based at DS9, and the ships were more than capable of surveying planets and charting star systems.
Number 4: The Constitution Class (original configuration)
The original Constitution class has to make any Trekkie’s list of great starship designs, right? Though it may feel dated in some respects, this is the source from which basically all of the other designs on this list were created. Federation starships are pretty much all designed with the Constitution in mind – the saucer, drive section, and nacelles design is emblematic of Starfleet, and thus of Star Trek. Even non-Federation ships are designed to stand in opposition to the Constitution (and the ships derived from it) so it’s undeniably the most significant and important starship design in the franchise.
The original design was simple, mid-60s futurism at its finest. The saucer is a design that had been synonymous with spaceships for decades thanks to myths of UFOs and flying saucers, so the decision to incorporate that kind of design was genius. The ship’s engines with their glowing tips became inseparable from warp speed and faster-than-light travel. And of course the deflector dish was reminiscent of satellite dishes – a new technology at the time.
Most importantly, this is where Star Trek began. The Constitution class USS Enterprise kicked off the franchise and became one of the most iconic sights in all of science fiction. Even today it’s instantly recognisable, even to folks who don’t watch Star Trek or know anything about the franchise.
Number 5: The Constitution Class (refit configuration)
As much as I love the original Constitution class, I think I like the refit even more. The refit Constitution class is the subject of one of my favourite sequences in all of Star Trek – where Admiral Kirk and Scotty approach the newly-refitted Enterprise when it’s still in drydock in The Motion Picture. That sequence is so beautiful (and with an amazing musical score to boot), showing off the starship in all its glory.
If the original configuration of the Constitution class had design features emblematic of its 1960s space race origins, the refit is much more “up-to-date,” replacing the satellite dish-style deflector with a glowing light, toning down the grey colour, and generally adding more lights and more features that make it an icon of the ’80s. In fact, I’d argue that many ’80s and ’80s-inspired sci-fi ships can trace some part of their design back to the refit Constitution class.
At the same time, though, the refit doesn’t completely abandon what made the original starship so iconic. The saucer section, drive section, nacelles, and pylons are all still present. The domed bridge is still there at the top of the ship, and even though a lot as been changed, it’s still clear that this is supposed to be an updated design, not a wholly new one.
Number 6: The Galor Class Warship
The Cardassians – and their Galor class warships – debuted in The Wounded, a fourth-season episode of The Next Generation which, in many ways, began to lay the groundwork for Deep Space Nine. And it was in the latter show that the Galor class would be seen most often; a vehicle for the villainous Cardassians.
Its design is, in some respects, a blend of Starfleet and non-Federation ships. The semi-circular “mini saucer” that juts out at the front, as well as the deflector array it sits atop, kind of resemble Starfleet designs, but the wings and elongated “tail” – as well as the yellow colour scheme – make it clear that this is definitely not a Federation starship!
The Galor class would be seen as the mainstay of the Cardassian fleet, serving in combat roles before and during the Dominion War. Some engagements during the Dominion War would see dozens – perhaps hundreds – of Galor class vessels deployed alongside their Dominion and Breen allies, and they could look incredibly intimidating en masse. Seeing Galor class ships open fire on the Breen and Dominion indicated that the Cardassians had switched sides during the war’s closing hours, and that sequence is absolutely outstanding; one of the best space battles in the entire franchise.
Number 7: The USS Pasteur
Unlike the ships mentioned above, the USS Pasteur was only seen in one episode – All Good Things, the season finale of The Next Generation. Despite its limited screen time, however, I like the design. Its spherical “saucer” section is distinctive, and gives it a look all its own. The spherical design was based on an unused concept Matt Jeffries had for the original USS Enterprise during early development on The Original Series, which is a cool little fact!
As I’ve said before, I really like the concept of a hospital ship in Star Trek. I’d be quite happy to see a “Star Trek-meets-ER” series one day, and such a series would surely make use of a ship like the USS Pasteur. Modern navies have hospital ships, so it stands to reason that Starfleet would too, and the USS Pasteur was our first up-close look at such a support vessel.
A Pasteur-type ship was seen in Season 1 of Lower Decks (albeit in a flashback) so the design isn’t dead. Perhaps one day we’ll see more of these ships and get to know a little more about them. Regardless, I love the design.
Number 8: The Borg Cube
Few adversaries in Star Trek are as genuinely frightening as the Borg – for reasons that I discussed in my essay on the faction. An intimidating villain needs an intimidating starship, and the Borg cube delivers. There’s something frighteningly mechanical about a plain cube. There are no engines, no obvious bridge or command centre… everything about the vessel from all sides looks the same.
The Borg’s hive mind sees them operate as one entity, and their ships are part of that. The “philosophy” of the Borg – for want of a better term – is perfectly expressed in the design of their most commonly-seen starship. Every part of the ship is the same, just as every Borg drone is the same.
When we first see a Borg cube in Q Who, the sheer scale of the ship is impressive, too. The Borg vessel dwarfs the Enterprise-D, and then its powerful weapons and tractor beam overcome the Galaxy class ship’s defences with ease. Even though we’ve seen Borg cubes defeated in subsequent stories, remembering that a single vessel was able to destroy 39 Federation ships and almost succeed at assimilating Earth reminds us that these ships are incredibly powerful. Even by the time of First Contact, defeating a single Borg cube was a tall order for Starfleet.
Number 9: La Sirena
Captained by Chris Rios and chartered by Admiral Picard, La Sirena made its debut in Star Trek: Picard Season 1. Everything I said about the Runabout feeling like a fun-sized ship could also apply to La Sirena, but the visual style makes it distinctive. La Sirena is basically a Runabout mixed with a hot rod!
The red and white colour scheme suits the ship perfectly, and there are even echoes of Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon in La Sirena’s design and concept. It’s the perfect vessel for Picard; small enough to be run by a skeleton crew (plus holograms!) but large enough not to feel cramped. It’s definitely not Starfleet, but there are Federation design elements present throughout.
Star Trek hasn’t really had many opportunities to showcase civilian starships, so La Sirena represents a look at a completely different side of the Star Trek galaxy, one we haven’t seen before. Though the franchise keeps these things deliberately vague, there must be a great deal of interstellar traffic, including transporting passengers and cargo. People like Captain Rios – and also others like Kassidy Yates – show us a glimpse of that world.
Number 10: The Sovereign Class
Perhaps it’s because Nemesis was the furthest forward the Star Trek timeline had got for almost twenty years, but to me the Soverign class has always seemed like one of Star Trek’s most modern and futuristic starships. The design represents a complete overhaul from the previous Galaxy class, flattening the “neck” of the ship again so the elongated saucer is almost contiguous with the drive section.
It’s a shame that the Sovereign class Enterprise-E only had the opportunity to make three appearances, as I would have dearly liked to see more of it in action. In some ways it has more of a militarised feel than the Galaxy, especially in terms of its interior, and perhaps we can say that’s a response to Starfleet taking on board threats from the Borg and Dominion during the design process.
The most iconic Sovereign class moment for me is the Enterprise-E’s arrival at the Battle of Sector 001. Swooping in to take on the Borg cube when the Starfleet armada was falling apart – accompanied by another beautiful piece of music – is one of the best moments in First Contact!
So that’s it! Ten great Star Trek starship designs.
There were many other ships I could’ve picked for this list, so stay tuned for “part two” in future! The Star Trek franchise has some great starships, and by keeping a relatively consistent aesthetic – generally speaking – has carved out a niche within sci-fi. Star Trek’s starships are almost always distinctive, and seldom feel like they could easily be part of some other film or franchise.
Everybody has their own favourites, though! There are some starships that we see often, either because they’re a “hero” ship or because they’re a frequently-used secondary design, and some of these have become iconic and emblematic of the whole Star Trek franchise. Other ships only make a handful of appearances, yet still manage to leave a lasting impression.
The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and the teaser for Season 4, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 and the teaser for Season 2, and Star Trek: Picard Season 1. Minor spoilers are also present for other iterations of the franchise.
This is going to be a controversial list! Practically every Trekkie I know has their own take on which Starfleet uniforms are the best – and why! Even if we can agree on some of our favourite episodes and films, the aesthetic of Star Trek has always been a world unto itself. Some of the best uniform designs may not feature in the best stories, and likewise some of the best individual episodes and films may not have their casts in the best uniforms, so the two aren’t necessarily connected – though a truly bad costume can, in some cases, detract from an otherwise-decent story.
There have been a wide variety of uniforms used across Star Trek’s 55-year history. Most designs incorporate at least some elements of the original – the costumes designed for The Original Series by William Ware Theiss in the mid-1960s. Gene Roddenberry’s brief for the uniforms was that they were to be “simple, utilitarian, and naval” in style, reflecting his vision of the future and of Starfleet. The very first uniforms, seen in The Cage, Charlie X, and a couple of other early Season 1 episodes, arguably best fit the “naval” aspect of the brief, with toned-down colours and a slightly thicker rolled collar. It was only partway through Season 1 that the typical uniform in its three bright primary colours was rolled out.
Colour is a hugely important factor when discussing Starfleet uniforms. Since The Next Generation went off the air, most Star Trek projects have tried to move away from big bold blocks of colour, opting for smaller coloured patches or other ways to express differences in division and rank. Partly this is an attempt to make the uniforms look “modern,” but also I think there’s a feeling among at least some folks that the brightly-coloured shirts and tops of The Original Series in particular, but also The Next Generation, look rather childish or even camp, detracting from the serious messages present in many Star Trek stories.
That said, even the attempts to design sleeker, “cooler” Star Trek uniforms have almost universally resulted in garments that aren’t exactly serious by today’s standards! Recent attempts like the Discovery uniforms are still very sci-fi; hardly the kind of thing you’d see someone wear out on the street – unless they were on their way to a Star Trek convention. I guess what I’m trying to say is that trying to design a “cool Star Trek uniform” may simply be an impossible task!
So I’m all in favour of embracing the campiness – at least to a degree. Once you get lost in Star Trek, things like uniform colours don’t take you out of it, or at least they don’t for me. I’m not really a fan of attempts to make uniforms that look too much like things that we already have in the real world. There obviously has to be a line between something plausible and something completely outlandish, but in sci-fi that line can be further away than some folks seem to think!
Several generations of Starfleet uniform have become truly iconic; instantly recognisable emblems of the franchise that hardly anyone with even a passing knowledge of popular culture could fail to identify. This has been helped by internet memes, with Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Captain Kirk, Captain Janeway, and even Voyager’s Doctor all re-entering popular culture years after their respective series went off the air.
We also need to give some of the new variants time. A uniform – or any aesthetic element of a series or film – doesn’t become an icon overnight, so the 32nd Century uniforms we saw in the Discovery Season 4 teaser, the uniforms in Picard Season 1, and whatever the Strange New Worlds crew end up wearing need time to grow on us! Some Trekkies have already taken to some of the new styles, which is great, but for a lot of folks it takes time to even get used to a whole new look – let alone learn to love it!
As I always say, this whole list is entirely subjective! If you hate all of these uniforms and love others, that’s 100% okay. As with practically every aspect of Star Trek, it’s a big galaxy and there’s room for fans with different tastes and preferences. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at five of my favourite Starfleet uniforms!
Number 1:The Motion Picture – Admiral’s variant
I can understand why fans were unimpressed with The Motion Picture uniforms on the whole. They represent an attempt – the first real attempt – for Star Trek to try something new and step away from the bold primary colours of The Original Series, but ended up being understated at best, bland and forgettable at worst. The dull colours, t-shirt design, and lack of any distinctive features all meant that these uniforms only ever saw one outing.
But there was an exception! Kirk’s uniform as an Admiral, which he wore for the first part of the film prior to taking command of the Enterprise, is undoubtedly one of my favourites. It’s understated, for sure, but I love the smooth lines between its grey and white sections, the high angled collar, and how the gold Starfleet insignia stands out without being too flashy or over-the-top.
A lot of the criticism of The Motion Picture’s uniforms is absolutely fair. But there’s something about Kirk’s variant that I absolutely adore. I’d suggest that it’s the most “uniform-looking” costume in the whole film, and with its shoulder epaulets and wrist braiding, it’s a unique blend of The Original Series and future, more military-inspired uniforms – some of which we’ll look at further down the list.
Number 2:The Next Generation – Season 3-7 variant
I’m not calling today’s list my “all-time” top uniforms, but if I were putting Starfleet uniforms in a ranked list these uniforms would have to be near the top. Excluding variants like the acting ensign uniform Wesley Crusher wore, Troi’s “casual” outfits, and Picard’s jacket, the standard uniforms that were introduced beginning in Season 3 of The Next Generation hit all the right notes for me.
These uniforms have a high collar, which gives them a more “serious” feel than the previous crew-neck style. They retain the large blocks of colour across most of the top, yet the colours are ever so slightly toned down when compared to the bright colours of The Original Series, which I’d argue makes them appear a bit more serious and less camp. With the collars and pants being black, the coloured blocks on the top are striking and draw the most attention, and it’s easy to tell at a bare glance which officer represents which division.
It was a surprise when The Next Generation swapped the red and gold colours over – The Original Series had used gold for command and red for security/engineering. But there’s no denying it works well, and Picard and his crew honestly look fantastic in these uniforms.
Number 3:First Contact and Deep Space Nine Seasons 5-7
Though reportedly “uncomfortable” for some of the actors, I really like these uniforms. Until Star Trek: Picard premiered last January, they were also the most up-to-date uniforms in Star Trek’s internal timeline – at least if you exclude far future variants! These uniforms shrank the division colours down, retaining only a coloured undershirt poking up through the collar, with the rest being black and grey.
To me, this design says “new Star Trek” – even though the uniforms haven’t been new for almost 25 years! When the franchise was off the air, and even after it returned with prequels, these uniforms still represented the furthest forward Star Trek’s timeline had got, and I guess it’s for that reason I have more of an affinity to them. They’re modern-looking, swapping out big blocks of colour for greys and blacks that are more toned-down, and I guess the intention was to give them a more military style.
First Contact and Insurrection are two of my favourite films, and the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine – where these uniforms were also worn – saw the Dominion War story arc play out, which happens to be my favourite part of that series. I have very positive associations, then, between these uniforms and the narratives they were present in!
Number 4:The Wrath of Khan uniforms – a.k.a. the “monster maroon”
Speaking as we were of uniforms with a very military style, the uniforms which debuted in The Wrath of Khan were a total change from those present in The Motion Picture three years earlier. They incorporated elements of military dress uniforms, with a wide double-breasted jacket, high collar, epaulets, rank insignia, and a belt around the jacket.
In Star Trek’s internal timeline, these are the longest-serving uniforms (that we know of!) having been in service for around 75 years. I don’t personally think that they work well without the high collared undershirt, so my preference is for the Wrath of Khan variant, not those seen in The Next Generation. But the fact that they were in service for a long time is neat – and a way for The Next Generation to connect itself visually to the films of The Original Series era!
If The Original Series uniforms were campy and bright, these military-inspired ones were the complete opposite. Designed to be serious and focused while still retaining some colour, I think they look amazing. Having so many different elements could’ve made for a complicated look, but the simple use of one predominant colour helps settle things down.
Number 5:Star Trek: Picard – 2399 variant
Star Trek: Picard showed off two new uniform styles – one for flashback scenes and one for Starfleet in 2399. I would have preferred the flashback uniforms were replaced with the First Contact uniforms as they didn’t look great and were ultimately unnecessary, but the 2399 uniforms – which we saw Commodore Oh, Rizzo, and later Acting Captain Riker wear – were fantastic.
What I like most about these uniforms is that, after almost twenty years, colour was back in a big way! Enterprise had blue boiler suits, Discovery mostly showed off an all-blue look, and while neither of those uniforms are bad, I was keen to see something visually different – something more “Star Trek.” Picard delivered.
These uniforms are, in some respects, similar to the Voyager and early Deep Space Nine uniforms in that they’re mostly black with a coloured shoulder area and collar. But the lack of a prominent undershirt and the Starfleet delta detailing on the coloured sections makes them look far superior to those older uniforms! I hope we’ll get to see more characters wearing these uniforms going forward.
So that’s it! Five of my personal favourite Starfleet uniforms.
Aesthetic, colour, and costume style are very much subject to personal taste, and I know there can be a range of opinions on all of these things. Despite that, with the exception of Kirk’s uniform from The Motion Picture, I think a lot of Trekkies would put at least one or two of these uniforms on their own lists of favourites!
There really aren’t many Starfleet uniforms that I passionately dislike. Most serve a purpose, and it’s usually at least understandable what the intention behind the design was. Enterprise’s boiler suits, for example, were clearly inspired by modern-day naval, submarine, and astronaut uniforms, and were designed to be a bridge between more typical Starfleet uniforms and 21st Century attire.
Voyager and Enterprise kept consistent uniforms during their entire runs, but every other Starfleet crew has had at least one change of uniform. Changing things up keeps the aesthetic of Star Trek interesting, and while I can understand why some folks lament changes of this nature, without radical departures from “normal” uniforms we wouldn’t have got to see some of the best and most visually interesting ones. I like that the Star Trek franchise is bold enough to continue to shake things up.
The teaser trailer for Discovery’s impending fourth season showed off another new uniform – a more colourful variant of the 32nd Century uniform that we saw worn by Admiral Vance and others. Though we really only had a few seconds of footage, I liked what I saw and I think these new ones have the potential to join a future list of this nature!
Regardless of what your favourites might be, and whether or not any of them made this list, I hope it was a bit of fun. I’ll never miss a chance to talk about Star Trek!
The Star Trek franchise – including all titles on the list above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. All Star Trek shows and films mentioned above may be streamed on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom. Availability may vary by region. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Trek franchise, including the most recent seasons of Discovery and Picard, as well as recently-revealed teasers for upcoming seasons and projects.
The announcement a couple of days ago that a brand-new Star Trek film is in the works was incredibly exciting! There hasn’t been a feature film in the franchise since 2016’s Star Trek Beyond, the third film in the Kelvin (or JJverse) series. Since The Motion Picture made its debut in 1979, the Star Trek franchise has been reasonably consistent in its cinematic output, with the longest gap between films to date coming between Nemesis’ release in 2002 and JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot. Aside from that seven-year gap, we’ve seen Star Trek films every three or four years on average, and there have been thirteen films released since 1979.
I’ve always considered Star Trek to primarily be a television franchise, and its return to the small screen in 2017 felt like a proper homecoming. As interesting as the Kelvin timeline films were, I was far happier to see Star Trek back on television. That’s not because the Kelvin films – or any other Star Trek films – were bad, it’s just that the television format seems to work particularly well and lend itself to the kinds of stories Star Trek does best.
As I said when I wrote up a short piece about the film’s announcement, no information was provided by Paramount Pictures or ViacomCBS about the film other than its June 2023 release date. So it would be foolish to speculate, wouldn’t it?
Foolish, perhaps, but also a lot of fun! So this time we’re going to take a look at a handful of possible settings, scenarios, and ideas for Star Trek 2023 and what it might be all about. My usual caveat applies: I don’t have any “insider information,” nor am I suggesting any of these film ideas will turn out to be correct. This is pure guesswork and speculation on my part. That’s all.
With that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!
Number 1: A direct sequel to Star Trek Beyond.
Attempts have been underway since before the release of Star Trek Beyond to get a fourth Kelvin timeline film off the ground. At one point, rumours swirled of a script that would have brought back Kirk’s father George – who had been played by Thor actor Chris Hemsworth in the opening scenes of 2009’s Star Trek. Pre-production on that project appeared to make headway, but – again, according to widely-reported rumours – the salaries of some of the principal cast members, including Kirk actor Chris Pine, were said to have derailed the project.
Beyond ended with a strong tease at a potential sequel. Kirk and his crew gazed out over the new USS Enterprise-A as construction on the vessel was completed, and there was a sense that the film was setting up a new story. After more than five years it hasn’t happened, and as I said when I considered the pros and cons of a return to the Kelvin timeline, Star Trek’s return to the Prime Universe and the expansion of the franchise to new shows and projects means that, at least in my opinion, the Kelvin timeline doesn’t really feel like a good fit right now.
In many ways, it would make more sense for any new feature film to at least have some connection or tie to the shows currently being produced, even if it isn’t a direct spin-off from any of them. The Kelvin timeline was a way to reboot Star Trek in 2009 after three decades of near-continuous production had burnt it out in the minds of many viewers. That doesn’t feel necessary right now. And going back to the Kelvin timeline after years in the Prime Universe risks overcomplicating things for a more casual audience.
So there are mixed feelings on this one! On the one hand, the story of the Kelvin timeline abruptly ends after Beyond, despite teases of a sequel. And the Kelvin timeline films were incredibly successful, bringing in huge audiences and plenty of money! But on the other hand, the reinvigorated Star Trek franchise has gone in a different direction since 2017, and I don’t see where a Beyond sequel fits any more.
Number 2: Captain Worf.
Michael Dorn, who played Worf in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and four Star Trek films, has often talked about his desire to reprise the role. Since at least the early 2010s, Dorn has talked at every opportunity about his pitch to Paramount and ViacomCBS for a “Captain Worf” series, miniseries, or film. Perhaps, after years of pestering them, he finally got his wish?
At this stage we can’t rule it out! Knowing so little about the upcoming project means, in theory, that practically any Star Trek pitch that we know about could be in contention. Maybe the “Captain Worf” concept was one that the company liked, and a feature film was considered the best possible option for it. One advantage to it, at least in theory, would be that Michael Dorn is well-versed in both Star Trek and the project’s central character, meaning it would be less challenging to get started with when compared to a wholly new concept. Given that the film has just over two years to go from announcement to release, that could be a significant help!
However, I’ve never been sold on the “Captain Worf” idea, personally speaking. Worf is a fun character, but I see two distinct disadvantages if he were to be the central focus of a new story. Firstly, Worf is the character we’ve spent the most time with in all of Star Trek to date – he appeared in 270 episodes and four films across fifteen years. We’ve seen most aspects of his life unfold on screen already, including his role as a father, husband, friend, and Starfleet officer. Do we really need more Worf?
And secondly, Worf is a great secondary character, but the “Captain Worf” concept would put him centre-stage. That’s great for Michael Dorn, of course, but I’m not sure Worf is the most nuanced or interesting character to spend so much time with. Both Worf and Voyager’s B’Elanna Torres have explored the “Starfleet-versus-Klingon” concept on many occasions, which is perhaps Worf’s biggest point of internal conflict and the best reason to do a project like this. It could be interesting, and a chance to return to the 24th or early 25th Century would be great. But I’m not sold on this being the right way to do it.
Number 3: Ceti Alpha V.
A few weeks ago I looked at a pitch by The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country director Nicholas Meyer for a miniseries tentatively titled Star Trek: Ceti Alpha V. That project was planned as a three-part miniseries, but it could have been adapted into a feature film, I suppose!
This concept would focus on iconic villain Khan in the years between his exile by Kirk in Space Seed and his return in The Wrath of Khan. He and his followers were marooned on the titular planet Ceti Alpha V, and had to endure disaster following the explosion of nearby Ceti Alpha VI.
As I wrote then, I’m not convinced that we need to see that part of the story! It wouldn’t really explain anything from The Wrath of Khan, as seeing Khan’s descent into madness for ourselves across several hours of television – or an entire film – isn’t necessary in any way to explain his actions or characterisation. Everything we needed to know about Khan is present in Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan.
As a feature film, though, a project like this has merit. It would pull on those nostalgic strings, connect to the franchise’s most well-regarded piece of cinema, and feature an iconic Star Trek character. From Paramount’s point of view, those advantages may make it worthwhile!
Number 4: Borg Invasion.
If you’re a regular around here you might remember a Borg Invasion concept being one of my “unsolicited Star Trek pitches” last month! This is a concept that I’ve long felt would be fascinating, and while I envisioned it as a television series, it could perhaps be made to work as a film trilogy instead – potentially making Star Trek 2023 the first part of a short series of films.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves! The Borg are one of the franchise’s most iconic villains, participating in one of Star Trek’s most highly-regarded episodes – The Best of Both Worlds – and best films – First Contact. The faction itself also hasn’t been seen on screen in any major way since 2003’s Enterprise Season 2 episode Regeneration, perhaps making them due for a comeback!
Discovery’s second season told a story which had the potential to be a Borg origin story, and Picard Season 1 also touched on the Borg, in particular Picard’s lingering trauma following his assimilation. But neither series brought back the Borg in a big way, despite the potential existing for either to do so. Could that be because ViacomCBS knew that Paramount Pictures (its subsidiary) was in the early stages of working on a new Borg film? Maybe!
The Borg are terrifying, and such a film would be action-packed and tense in equal measure. It’s been 25 years since Star Trek: First Contact took the Borg to the big screen for their only visit to the cinema so far, so I can’t help but wonder if they’re about to make a reappearance! Whether a Borg story would look to bring back any familiar characters or not is not clear – it wouldn’t have to, but as always in Star Trek, I’d be thrilled to see practically anyone connected to the franchise make a return.
Number 5: The Kelvin timeline version of The Next Generation.
2009’s Star Trek reboot presented an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and take another look at Kirk, Spock, Dr McCoy, and the rest of the crew of The Original Series. Ever since, (some) fans have been wondering what would happen to The Next Generation in the alternate reality – would the same crew have been assembled, or would its members even exist given the dramatic changes to the timeline?
Perhaps this is something we should explore in more detail another day, but I think that the existence of Chekov in the alternate reality, and the fact that he joined Starfleet, could be taken as evidence of the alternate reality not straying too far from the Prime Universe. Chekov was born after the incursion of Nero’s ship and the destruction of the USS Kelvin, so in theory we could argue that most people we met in past iterations of the franchise should have an alternate reality counterpart – just as they have a Mirror Universe counterpart too.
Discovery Season 3 made a small reference to the Kelvin timeline – or at least, an ambiguous reference that felt like a Kelvin connection! In the episode Terra Firma, Part 1, the mysterious Kovich told Dr Culber of a “time soldier” who crossed over from the alternate reality to the Prime Universe. This soldier was wearing a uniform style seen in the first couple of seasons of The Next Generation, so it seems as though there was a comparable era of Starfleet in the alternate reality.
Could Discovery have been dropping a hint at this film? Possibly! Even if that’s just coincidence, it reinforced the existence of the Kelvin timeline – a fact that was known to Starfleet by the 32nd Century. Perhaps it was a subtle reminder to Trekkies that the alternate reality still exists, getting us ready for a new project? The Next Generation is very popular with fans, and rebooting it may seem like a solid idea for Paramount Pictures. Though I know some fans who detest the Kelvin films – or who refused to watch on principle – there’s no denying the reboot was a success, and rebooting The Next Generation could be as well.
Number 6: A Discovery film – if the show ends with Season 4 or Season 5.
Speaking as we were of Discovery, its fourth season is due for release later this year. While there is no word yet on Season 5 – at least officially – it seems likely that the show will be renewed for a fifth season, which would presumably be broadcast in 2022. But what will happen next?
Both The Original Series and The Next Generation were followed up by films starring the casts of the shows, and perhaps something similar could be on the cards for Discovery, with Captain Burnham leading her crew onto the big screen. By 2023 we’ll have had at least one – probably two – more seasons of Discovery, so the crew will be almost as familiar to audiences as Kirk and his officers were when The Motion Picture was in production!
If there is to be a fifth season of the show, that would mean production on Season 5 would likely be ongoing at the same time as this film, so maybe this is an indication that there won’t be a Season 5. With a number of other Star Trek television projects in various stages of development – including the untitled Section 31 series which is itself a spin-off from Discovery – perhaps the plan is to end the series after Season 4 and turn it into a feature film franchise instead, with television attention refocused onto other projects.
It would be a big change, but I can see at least one big advantage to a Discovery film: it would firmly establish the 32nd Century in the minds of audiences. I’ve felt for a while that Star Trek needs to try to condense its disparate timelines and time periods as much as possible, and the 32nd Century is by its very nature totally open-ended when it comes to storytelling potential. A Discovery film could be a “soft reboot,” relaunching Star Trek in the 32nd Century and setting the stage for new projects.
Number 7: A Deep Space Nine film – the return of Sisko.
I was perhaps overly-critical of a “Captain Worf” idea in the entry above, but one character who I’ve been hoping to see return for over twenty years now is Captain Sisko. The ending of What You Leave Behind – the last episode of Deep Space Nine – more so than any other Star Trek finale left things open. Sisko entered the realm of the Bajoran Prophets, but promised to return in due course.
That return could happen at literally any point in the timeline; the Prophets don’t see time as linear. Sisko could thus appear in the Strange New Worlds, Picard, or Discovery eras – despite the fact that those shows take place centuries apart! But given the importance of his return to Star Trek, perhaps a Sisko feature film is on the cards.
Sisko would be such a great point-of-view character. His absence from galactic affairs for decades or even centuries would allow the writers of the film to dump a lot of exposition onto the audience without it feeling like it came from nowhere. His return could both set up the plot of a new Star Trek story and provide the audience with a way in; introducing us to new characters, factions, technologies, and the state of the galaxy itself in whatever time period he finds himself.
Such a story could also return to Bajor, looking at whether the Bajorans ever joined the Federation, as well as the aftermath of the Dominion War. The Dominion War arc is one of my favourites in all of Star Trek, and a follow-up of some kind would be absolutely amazing to see. If Sisko returned during the Picard era, he could reunite with people like Major Kira or Dr Bashir, and a mini-reunion of some of the Deep Space Nine crew would be wonderful.
Number 8: A Nemesis sequel.
A direct sequel to Nemesis seems unlikely, especially with Picard Season 2 underway and planned for next year. But the official announcement of Star Trek 2023 mentioned a film set after Nemesis as one possibility. That seems incredibly interesting! Would it be set in the Picard era, perhaps with the crew of La Sirena in major roles?
The surviving crew of the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-E have largely gone their separate ways, at least as of Picard Season 1. Riker and Troi live in semi-retirement on the planet Nepenthe. Picard is off with the crew of La Sirena. Worf and Geordi were mentioned by name, but there’s no indication that either are still even in Starfleet at this point! Season 2 of Picard may answer these questions, as well as establish what became of Dr Crusher, and if so that could set the stage for a reunion on the big screen.
As above with Discovery, Picard Season 2 is currently filming, meaning that production on Star Trek 2023 would have to wait if it wanted to include Picard himself. But there is another possibility: that a Nemesis sequel would focus on other characters. Perhaps it would look at Riker and Troi in more detail, especially if they returned to Starfleet following the events of Picard Season 1.
Star Trek 2023 may follow Riker’s time in command of the USS Zheng He, and perhaps he reunites with Worf, Dr Crusher, Geordi, or even Wesley! Or we could see the return of characters from Deep Space Nine and/or Voyager, such as Ezri Dax or Tuvok. With Captain Janeway coming back in Prodigy, anything’s possible right now!
Number 9: A Kelvin timeline crossover with either Strange New Worlds or Discovery.
One of the really enticing possibilities that came up when Strange New Worlds was announced was the possibility of some kind of Pike and Spock crossover story. I would be surprised in some ways to see Strange New Worlds – a highly-requested but completely untested – series hit the big screen, but a Kelvin timeline crossover could be a great way to do it.
Pike and Spock could team up with their alternate reality counterparts, perhaps looking to return to their own universe following some kind of crossover event. The two “young Spocks” would have to logically stand off – Kelvin Spock has already met Prime Spock but he can’t let young Prime Spock know that! It might be confusing, with two different versions of the characters, but it could be a lot of fun too.
Alternatively the Kelvin cast could cross over with Discovery’s 32nd Century. Not only have we had the aforementioned reference to the Kelvin timeline during Discovery’s third season, but we know that crossing between the two universes also seems to mean crossing into a different time period. Perhaps someone in the Kelvin timeline accidentally opens a black hole, sending them to Discovery’s 32nd Century.
The reverse would be interesting too, and could draw on themes present in episodes of Voyager like The ’37s. If Captain Burnham and the crew of Discovery found themselves in an alternate 23rd Century, how many of them would struggle with the idea of remaining there, trying to rebuild their lives in a different universe, but perhaps a setting more familiar to them than the 32nd Century? That could be fascinating to explore – as would any crossover between two sets of crews!
Number 10: The Earth-Romulan War.
Picard Season 1 brought back the Romulans in a big way, and they also appeared in Discovery Season 3. The faction is clearly a big part of Star Trek right now, but one aspect of their history has never been explored – despite plans to do so in 2004-05. The unproduced fifth season of Enterprise would – allegedly – have included the Earth-Romulan war, one of humanity’s first major interstellar conflicts.
Fans have long wondered what this would have looked like – even as far back as the Earth-Romulan War’s first mention in The Original Series Season 1 episode Balance of Terror. We saw the first hints of Romulan aggression in Enterprise, as they attempted to disrupt the Earth-Vulcan alliance and start a Vulcan-Andorian War. Captain Archer managed to prevent that from happening, but as we know from Star Trek’s history, conflict with the Romulans broke out regardless.
This would be a great opportunity to bring back Captain Archer, T’Pol, or other major characters from Enterprise. It wouldn’t necessarily be an “Enterprise film,” but it could be a film that included at least some of the same characters. A single film might not be able to tell the story of the entire conflict, but it could certainly look at its most decisive battle – and with so little information having been shared on screen, it’s an almost-blank slate for any new writer or producer to play with.
The drawback, really, is that it would be hard to connect such a film to the ongoing Star Trek franchise, which has series set in the 23rd, 25th, and 32nd Centuries. Going back to a time shortly after Enterprise would isolate Star Trek 2023, and while it could be the springboard for more 22nd Century adventures to come, it could also end up feeling disconnected.
So that’s it. Ten possibilities for Star Trek 2023.
It’s quite likely that all of these suggestions are completely wrong; Paramount Pictures and ViacomCBS are just as likely, in my opinion, to want to take the cinematic franchise in a new direction with a new crew than they are to revisit something from Star Trek’s past. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a lot of fun putting this list together and considering the possibilities!
Star Trek 2023 is a truly exciting prospect. I desperately hope that it will come to streaming instead of the cinema – as you may know if you’re a regular reader, my poor health means I can’t get to the cinema in person any more. Probably it will be given a theatrical release, though, which will mean months of trying to avoid as many spoilers as possible for me! Time will tell.
For now, though, suffice to say I’m intrigued by the prospect of the first new Star Trek film since Beyond, and potentially the first film to feature a different cast of characters since 2009. Whether or not this is the previously-announced project written by Discovery and Short Treks producer Kalinda Vazquez is also not clear. We know basically nothing about this film right now except its planned release date! Hopefully we’ll learn more soon, so stay tuned. I’ll be sure to take a look at any casting information, behind-the-scenes details, or any other news that comes our way.
The currently-untitled Star Trek film is scheduled for release on the 9th of June 2023. This film is the copyright of Paramount Pictures and ViacomCBS, as is the entire Star Trek franchise. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, and the casting of Star Trek: Prodigy. There are further spoilers for older iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
A few days ago I took you through a short list of five main characters from past iterations of Star Trek that I’d love to see come back. This time, in a similar vein we’re going to look at five secondary or recurring characters that likewise could make for interesting returns to the franchise. Though most Star Trek shows have primarily focused on a main cast of characters, every series to date has featured at least one or two recurring characters as well.
For this list, I’m counting characters who appeared on more than one occasion – not one-off guest stars. And as with my previous list on this topic, these are characters I’d like to see return to the franchise in a general sense, not characters I’m predicting will appear in any specific upcoming show or film.
As always, I have no “insider information!” This is purely for fun and a chance to highlight some of these characters, as well as speculate about what their futures (or pasts) might be like beyond what we saw of them in their original appearances.
Number 1: Shran
We don’t know for sure how long Andorians live, but it’s at least a possibility that Shran – who appeared in Enterprise as an antagonist and later ally to Captain Archer – could still be alive in the 23rd Century. If he is he’d be well over 100 years old, but that doesn’t necessarily count against characters in Star Trek!
Jeffrey Combs played Shran, and also played recurring characters Brunt and Weyoun on Deep Space Nine. As someone who has close ties to the franchise, it would be wonderful to bring him back. It was amazing to hear JG Hertzler’s voice in Lower Decks last year, and it would be amazing to welcome back Jeffrey Combs as well.
Shran offers the Star Trek franchise an opportunity to tie in Enterprise in a significant way. At the moment, Enterprise is very much an outlier in the Star Trek canon; cut off all on its own in the 22nd Century. Despite there being opportunities in the three films and two seasons of television set in the 23rd Century, only the briefest references to Enterprise have been made since it went off the air in 2005.
Strange New Worlds is the prime candidate for Shran to reappear, but if the untitled Section 31 series uses a 23rd Century setting, he could potentially appear there as well. Shran was depicted primarily as a soldier, but the passage of time could have softened that side of him, and I would love to see him occupy a less-aggressive role, perhaps as a Federation ambassador. However, if there were a story featuring the Andorians in a major way, we could certainly see him included there as well.
Number 2: Garak
We got to know Garak very well across the latter part of Deep Space Nine, and his backstory as a spy was given plenty of attention. What we don’t know, of course, is what came next – what happened to Garak after the Dominion War was over?
Sooner or later, I hope Star Trek takes us back to Bajor and Cardassia in a major way, looking at the aftermath of that conflict. I know that the Dominion War wasn’t wildly popular with everyone – some of my Trekkie friends regard it as the worst part of ’90s Star Trek! But it was a major event in the fictional history of the franchise, one which seriously impacted the Federation. Exploring its aftermath, and looking at how the Federation managed to rebuild, would be worth doing.
Garak was last seen on Cardassia Prime at the end of the Dominion War. With Damar dead and the Dominion withdrawing, it’s possible he would have been in some kind of leadership role, at least temporarily. His years living with the Federation on DS9 would have put him in a unique position to liaise between Cardassia and the Federation alliance.
However, I don’t think Garak would have necessarily stayed in a leadership position. As a former agent of the Obsidian Order he represents Cardassia’s past – an empire governed from the shadows. Having fought hard to overthrow their Dominion oppressors, the Cardassians may have wanted to look to civilian leadership. I doubt Garak would have been re-exiled or returned to DS9, but may have gone into quiet retirement instead.
Number 3: Morn
Morn was really just a background character in Deep Space Nine, but the fun alien design was unique and made him instantly recognisable. As a result he became a somewhat ironic fan favourite, and ultimately got his own episode in Season 6: Who Mourns for Morn? Though he never spoke a line in the series, Morn was a significant character at points, and during the Dominion War smuggled information to the Federation from the occupied station, allowing for the success of Operation Return.
In at least one future timeline, Morn took over Quark’s bar, so perhaps a story that revisited DS9 could see him in that role. If Quark’s is still around, perhaps Morn is simply seen there as a regular patron – he appeared to be semi-retired, after all. Even if a return to DS9 simply saw him in his familiar background role, that would be good enough!
Who Mourns for Morn already explained a lot of his backstory, so there really isn’t a lot of room to go into more detail in that regard. A story that brought back almost any of the Deep Space Nine cast could include Morn, though, perhaps as a trusted confidante. With Picard and the crew of La Sirena operating outside of Starfleet, if they found themselves in Bajoran space perhaps they’d need someone like Morn – he seems like the type who could be very helpful at flying under the radar!
Maybe this would completely ruin things, but I would dearly love to see Morn speak if he did return. Even a single line of dialogue would be more than enough! I’m sure some fans will scream and say “no! Leave Morn alone!” but I think it could be a really sweet moment if done well. If we did return to DS9, seeing Morn sitting on his usual barstool would feel like a homecoming of sorts – almost as though no time had passed.
Number 4: Naomi Wildman
Naomi Wildman made 19 appearances across Voyager, the majority of which came in Seasons 5 and 6. The show tried to explore the idea of her being the only child on a ship full of adults, but only really managed to land that kind of story once – in the episode Once Upon A Time. The introduction of Icheb and the other ex-Borg children potentially gave Naomi playmates, but we never truly saw much of this. And on at least one occasion, Naomi was not included in a story that focused on the Borg children – the episode The Haunting of Deck Twelve.
As a character who quite literally grew up in space, and aboard the lost USS Voyager no less, Naomi may have a rather unique perspective after growing up. How did she react to Voyager’s return to Earth – which would have happened when she was around six years old? In at least one future timeline she’d joined Starfleet, but whether she’d do so in the prime timeline is unknown.
Naomi had a close relationship with Seven of Nine, who is currently a recurring character in Picard. She was also close with Icheb, who we know was killed a few years prior to the events of Picard. Exploring her post-Voyager relationships with those two characters could prove very interesting. If Picard Season 2 – or any future seasons of the show – spend more time with Seven, we could be reintroduced to Naomi and learn what she’s been up to.
The death of Icheb, if explored in more detail, could also be an opportunity to bring her back. Did they remain in touch after returning to the Alpha Quadrant? Icheb joined Starfleet – did Naomi join too? If so, maybe they served together before Icheb’s untimely demise. Otherwise we could see Naomi return in any story featuring main cast members from Voyager. So perhaps an appearance in Prodigy – where Captain Janeway is set to return – is on the cards?
Number 5: Jack Crusher
Jack Crusher was the deceased husband of Dr Beverly Crusher and father to Wesley Crusher. He served on the USS Stargazer under Captain Picard’s command, and that’s about all we know. He was killed during an away mission, and it was at least implied that Picard bears a degree of responsibility for that, either through something he did or didn’t do.
As a deceased character, Jack Crusher could only come back via a flashback, time-travel story, or story set in the past. But where I think there’s scope to see more of him is in Star Trek: Picard, particularly if Beverly and/or Wesley Crusher return. We could learn the circumstances of his death, and it could be a very interesting story if Jack Crusher’s death were somehow connected to some event taking place in the current Picard era.
For example, Picard, Dr Crusher, and the crew of La Sirena may have to travel to the world where Jack was killed, only to learn that the beings responsible for his death were the super-synths, the Zhat Vash, or someone else that we met in the new series. There would be something cyclical about bringing back, even if just in flashback form, Jack Crusher.
In the future timeline shown in The Next Generation’s finale, Picard had married Dr Crusher. While there was no evidence for or against that outcome in Picard Season 1, any story that explores Picard and Dr Crusher’s post-Nemesis relationship could be made to include flashbacks to Jack. He was a significant character in both of their lives, and in addition, his legacy may have been a factor in Picard and Dr Crusher never taking their relationship beyond friendship in the prime timeline. A story that took them back to his death could be interesting for both of them.
So that’s it! Five recurring or secondary characters who I believe could be welcomed back to the Star Trek franchise in some form.
This was the second part of a two-part miniseries looking at the possibility for certain characters to reappear in the franchise. It’s unlikely to be the last time we talk about such things – with so many different Star Trek projects on the go, practically anyone from the past could come back in some capacity!
Aside from those who have been definitively killed off within the prime timeline, I would argue that basically any character could return. Not all of them would be suitable for the current crop of shows, but if the franchise continues its renaissance… who knows? Maybe we’ll finally get Star Trek: Morn after all!
The Star Trek franchise – including all series mentioned above – is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other territories where the service exists, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, and for other iterations of the franchise.
This is going to be the first part of a short two-part series in which I look at a few significant characters from past iterations of Star Trek that I would love to see return. Rather than tying these characters to a specific series, film, or ongoing project, this list is more general. I’m not advocating, for example, for any of these characters to necessarily appear in Picard or Strange New Worlds, but rather to return to the franchise at some point, when a suitable story could be written.
It goes without saying that practically every major character (at least those who weren’t killed off) could be brought back in some capacity, and with the franchise continuing to expand I think it’s increasingly likely that we’ll get some significant moments where characters reappear. For the sake of this list I’m not counting characters who are starring in shows that are currently in production, so I’ll be limited to characters from The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and the films.
By my count there are 42 characters across those five series that we could call “major” – i.e. they regularly had their names listed in the main credits, and weren’t considered guest stars or just recurring secondary characters. This time I’m picking on just five, and my usual caveat applies: I don’t have any “insider information!” This is just a short list of characters that I think could be fun to bring back in some capacity, nothing more.
Of the 42 characters that occupied major starring roles in at least one season of the five aforementioned shows, I’m excluding five: James T Kirk from The Original Series, Data and Tasha Yar from The Next Generation, Jadzia Dax from Deep Space Nine, and Trip Tucker from Enterprise. All the exclusions are for the same reason: those characters have died in-universe. While there could be convoluted ways to bring back alternate versions (such as we saw with Sela, for instance) the original character can’t return after death.
Though it may be controversial, I don’t believe that the death of an actor necessarily excludes a character from returning. The Kelvin films recast the entire main cast of The Original Series, and Star Trek: Picard recently recast a couple of legacy characters as well. So characters whose primary actors have passed away are still in contention.
Now that we’ve laid down the ground rules, let’s take a look at my choices.
Number 1: Chakotay
This one is inspired by the return of Seven of Nine in Season 1 of Picard. I’ve written about this before, but Seven’s return to Star Trek was cathartic for me, because the passage of time allowed her to be a very different, more emotional, and much more human character than she ever was in Voyager. Seven was sometimes annoying and difficult to root for, especially toward the end of Voyager’s run, and basically the reason was that she’d always seem to “reset” after learning what should have been a big and important lesson in how to be human. It made her character bland and repetitive. But we’re not here to talk about Seven of Nine!
Chakotay didn’t have a lot to do in Voyager, despite being the first officer. There were a handful of episodes in which he was given a storyline, but a lot of the time he was just a presence, someone there for other characters to bounce ideas off or to tell Captain Janeway he didn’t recommend she do something we all knew she’d end up doing anyway. In short, bringing back Chakotay is something I would see as a chance for his character to get a Seven of Nine-like “redemption,” with some genuine development and a significant storyline.
One thing Voyager touched on briefly but never really explored was the way Chakotay felt about the deaths of the Maquis. The episode Extreme Risk focused on B’Elanna as she struggled to come to terms with what happened to their former colleagues, but Chakotay never really got a similar moment. As part of a larger story looking at the aftermath of the Dominion War, learning what happened to the Maquis’ colonies in the aftermath of that conflict could include Chakotay, as one of those worlds was his home.
We could also learn that Chakotay was allowed to remain in Starfleet following Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant, and may even have been given his own command. Given that Voyager quite quickly dropped the Maquis angle, I’m not sure this is the route I’d go down because it doesn’t seem like it offers a lot of development or growth potential for his character, but it’s a possibility.
The final few episodes of Voyager’s seventh season saw a burgeoning relationship building between Chakotay and Seven of Nine. With Seven now a recurring character in Picard, and with the possibility of her entering into a relationship with main character Raffi, we could potentially explore what happened between Seven and Chakotay. Voyager’s finale certainly suggested that he had strong feelings for her, even after her death in that timeline.
Unfortunately, for reasons that aren’t especially clear, the producers of Voyager lost interest in – or didn’t know what to do with – the “one ship, two crews” concept that had been part of the show’s inception. Chakotay and the rest of the Maquis were absorbed into the crew by midway through Season 1, and while lip service was paid to Chakotay’s Maquis past at numerous points, I think that’s one aspect of his background that would be ripe for exploration. In any 24th or early 25th Century story that looked at Bajor, Cardassia, and the aftermath of the Dominion War, I’d spend at least an episode or two considering the legacy of the Maquis, and Chakotay could play a major role in such a story.
Number 2: T’Pol
I’ve mentioned T’Pol before in relation to Strange New Worlds, and that series is certainly one where we could see her crop up. Because of Enterprise’s place in the timeline, unless Star Trek plans on returning to the 22nd Century for some other story, there aren’t many characters who could realistically still be active and able to play a major role. The 23rd and 24th Centuries (as well as Discovery’s 32nd Century) are where current Star Trek projects are focused – and I have to say I think that’s the right call. Enterprise was an interesting experiment, but I see no pressing need to return to the 22nd Century at this stage.
The story I’d include T’Pol in would go something like this: she’s a senior Federation ambassador by the mid-23rd Century, and accompanies Captain Pike on a diplomatic mission. The mission would make first contact with a race we met in The Next Generation era, such as the Cardassians. We’d thus tie together all three of Star Trek’s eras in one story! I think an episode like that would be incredibly rewarding for longstanding fans of the franchise; a “love letter” to the fans.
But there are many other roles T’Pol could occupy. Having spent so long with humans during those early days of humanity striking out into space, she could prove an invaluable guide or advisor to a young Spock. Whether Spock is “the first Vulcan in Starfleet” is a point of contention without an obvious answer, but even if he wasn’t it’s clear that the Vulcans continued to operate an independent fleet into the 23rd Century, and thus Vulcans serving in Starfleet seem to have been rare. T’Pol is well-placed to be a kind of mentor to Spock for this reason.
However, both of those story concepts take T’Pol out of her usual scientific role, and perhaps a story could be devised which would be better-suited to her career as a scientist. I’m still thinking of a 23rd Century story, but one which perhaps requires high-ranking Federation scientists to work on a mystery or puzzle.
Number 3: Dr Pulaski
I’ve never met a fan of The Next Generation who likes Dr Pulaski as much as I do. I understand why she wasn’t popular with fans, replacing Dr Crusher after one season and especially because of her early run-ins with Data that amounted to anti-android bigotry. But where Dr Crusher could be fairly bland, Dr Pulaski had a really strong personality that shone through.
On another occasion we’ll talk about Dr Pulaski and how her introduction in Season 2 of The Next Generation was an attempt to shake up the new series and bring in a Dr McCoy-type character. But for now I want to consider how she could return, and what sort of role she could have.
Picard Season 1 missed an opportunity to bring back Dr Pulaski – or another medical officer from The Next Generation like Alyssa Ogawa – in the second episode. Picard receives bad news from a doctor he knew while serving aboard the USS Stargazer, Dr Benayoun. This was a new character created for Picard, and if I’d been writing it I might have chosen to bring back Dr Pulaski at this moment instead. I don’t know if that was ever suggested, because it’s well-known that actress Diana Muldaur didn’t have a great time working on The Next Generation. But it would have been neat to see!
One series that has been doing great with references to less well-known parts of canon is Lower Decks, and perhaps that means Dr Pulaski would be a good fit to return there. I don’t know if Diana Muldaur is still working, nor whether she’d be well enough or willing to reprise the role. But it was at least a little sad that Dr Pulaski was dropped in The Next Generation Season 3 with no explanation. There’s scope, I feel, to learn what came next for her – even if the character has to be recast.
Almost any medical story or story involving characters from The Next Generation Season 2 could see Dr Pulaski return, and of course Star Trek: Picard has to be the prime candidate of the shows currently in production. She could, for example, be one of the chief medical officers assigned to help the surviving ex-Borg now that they’re (presumably) under Federation protection. Or how about this: in a storyline that clearly shows how much she’s changed her attitude to synthetic life, she could be the head of a Federation medical team sent to Coppelius to help the synths. This would cement her “redemption” from her earlier interactions with Data, and would perhaps provide a suitable epilogue to her role in The Next Generation Season 2.
Number 4: Benjamin Sisko
Captain Sisko is probably the character whose return I’ve touted the most! Because of the unique nature of his disappearance in the Deep Space Nine finale – vanishing into the realm of the Bajoran Prophets – he could return literally anywhere, in any time period. The Prophets don’t experience time in the same linear manner as humans, so they could send him to a point in his future, his past, or anywhere along the Star Trek timeline.
This is why I’ve proposed Sisko as a character who could appear in Picard, Strange New Worlds, and Discovery – because he could be sent back by the Prophets at any moment in time. I would argue he would have more to do in a story set in the late 24th or early 25th Centuries than he might in the 23rd or 32nd, but in any story that brought back Bajor, Sisko could play a major role.
He could also be part of a story looking at the aftermath of the Dominion War, at Cardassian relations with the Federation, and of course at Deep Space Nine itself. I think Sisko has the potential to be a useful character too. If he joined the story right at the moment of his return to normal spacetime, he could potentially be a point-of-view character, and an excuse for a film or episode to dump a lot of exposition that could otherwise feel clunky and out-of-place. This would be done under the guise of other characters bringing Sisko up to speed on what he’s missed – and we could catch up on galactic affairs right along with him!
Of all the characters on this list, Sisko is the one whose story feels the most unfinished. There was almost a cliffhanger ending to his role in Deep Space Nine, with a tease that one day he’ll be coming back. Whether we’ll ever see that on screen is another matter, of course, and Avery Brooks has seemed less willing to reprise the role than some other Star Trek actors. But you never know!
Number 5: Montgomery Scott
It would be relatively easy for Scotty to crop up in Strange New Worlds as a junior engineer – or in any other 23rd Century series, for that matter. But that’s not really what I’m proposing this time. That idea has merit, and I think I included Scotty in one of my character ideas lists for Strange New Worlds. However, this time what I’m suggesting is Scotty in the 24th Century.
Relics, the Season 6 episode of The Next Generation, established that Scotty had been kept alive in a form of transporter stasis of his own devising for over eighty years, finally rematerializing when the crew of the Enterprise-D encountered his crashed ship. After working briefly with Geordi La Forge, Captain Picard, and others, Scotty was given a shuttle and set out to explore the new century on his own. We would later learn in 2009’s Star Trek that Scotty had gone back to work, developing a method of “transwarp beaming” that became important to the plot of that film.
After that, however, what became of Scotty is a mystery. He had initially intended to retire, so did his stint with Starfleet continue? Or did he resume his planned retirement in the 24th Century, catching up on the eight decades of galactic history that he’d missed? He reunited with Spock, apparently, and it’s at least possible he would have been able to visit the elderly Dr McCoy as well.
Scotty offers a “coming out of retirement” story, perhaps prompted by some horrible event or disaster that requires an engineering solution. We could learn, for example, that he’d worked alongside Geordi La Forge in preparing the Romulan rescue fleet, or even that he was helping to rebuild the Mars shipyards after the attack by the Zhat Vash. Those are two ideas based on events from Picard Season 1, but of course there are many, many other ways Scotty could have contributed to Starfleet and the Federation in the late 24th Century.
So that’s it… at least for now. The second part of this short series will look at five secondary or recurring characters who I also think could be fun to bring back!
With so many ongoing and upcoming Star Trek projects occupying different places in the timeline, there really is scope to bring back almost any major character, and I hope the creative team don’t feel constrained! As a Trekkie I think I’d be happy with literally any of them making an appearance, though of course it would have to make sense in-universe as well as not be offputting for casual viewers.
We mentioned the episode Relics, and I think that story manages to walk that line exceptionally well. For fans of The Original Series, Scotty’s return was an amazing treat. But for folks who weren’t familiar with the older series, his inclusion in the episode still managed to make sense. The story was well-written, and while knowing more about who Scotty was and where he’d come from certainly added to it for Trekkies, it didn’t put off casual viewers by demanding a lot of knowledge of Star Trek canon. That’s the kind of model any future episode, film, or story that brings back a character should try to emulate.
We can also point to If Memory Serves, from the second season of Discovery. That episode began with a short recap of the events of The Cage, establishing what happened to Captain Pike on Talos IV, who the Talosians were, who Vina was, and so on. By beginning an episode which features a returning character with a clip or compilation of their past Star Trek exploits, almost any character could be integrated into an ongoing production.
The Star Trek franchise has been running for over five decades, and has a huge roster of wonderful characters. The fact that there are too many to put on the list – or the fact that the list could literally include every single one – is testament to the quality of the franchise and the creative teams who’ve contributed to it over the years.
Stay tuned for the next part in this series, where I’ll look at five secondary or recurring characters who I’d also love to see come back!
The Star Trek franchise – including all series mentioned above – is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other territories where the service exists, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
The most popular article I’ve written here on the website is about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, and how neither series has been remastered. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, The Original Series and The Next Generation were given a complete overhaul and rebroadcast, then re-released on Blu-ray (and HD DVD, if anyone remembers that failed format!)
For a number of reasons, though, The Next Generation in particular didn’t see great sales numbers on Blu-ray. Because of the significant cost involved in upscaling and remastering it, and the lack of a significant return on that investment, ViacomCBS hasn’t been willing to spend money on Deep Space Nine or Voyager. As a result, both series remain in “standard definition,” a.k.a. DVD quality. On today’s ever-larger television screens, the difference between a remastered episode of The Next Generation and a non-remastered episode of Deep Space Nine is incredibly noticeable.
Star Trek has been one of the big franchises that ViacomCBS has used to push its rebranded Paramount+ streaming service. Paramount+ is now the digital home of all things Star Trek – yet two of its flagship series that many folks remember with fondness from the 1990s don’t look great. As I noted last time, that’s a problem. It makes Paramount+ look cheap, as though ViacomCBS simply can’t be bothered to put in the effort.
Netflix runs some shows in DVD quality, but by far the majority of its content is in high definition. As Paramount+ attempts to position itself as a competitor to Netflix, Disney+, and other platforms in a very crowded market, having two big flagship shows in low quality standard definition is not a good look, and it’s something that needs to be addressed.
But last time the company made a significant investment in remastering Star Trek it didn’t pay off, so how should they proceed?
There are a few factors at play here. The first is that ViacomCBS (and its predecessor, CBS) measured the success of the remastered Star Trek series purely by Blu-ray sales. The problem with this approach is that, even by the early 2010s, optical media in general was in decline. Fewer people had made the switch to Blu-ray than DVD, and with the rise of on-demand streaming platforms it seemed only a matter of time before Star Trek would be available to watch. I owned a number of The Next Generation stories on VHS, I’d also bought the entire series on DVD, and in the early 2010s I just wasn’t prepared to spend that money all over again on the same show – especially when it seemed inevitable that eventually the series would be available online. I was right.
Physical media sales are a poor measure of success in the days of on-demand streaming, and the value in investing in any project – be it a remaster or the commissioning of a new series – is less about pure sales numbers and more about the number of subscribers it will drive to your streaming platform. ViacomCBS has invested in Paramount+, so why not go the extra mile and remaster these classic shows for the service too?
That’s the first aspect of this issue – the business side and how to calculate a return on investment. Raw sales numbers are less and less valid as a metric of success in a world that’s moved on to streaming, so making that calculation isn’t easy. But I bet that remastering Deep Space Nine and Voyager would drive new subscribers to Paramount+, as well as convince wavering subscribers that it’s worth sticking around. Both of those things are what any streaming service needs to survive.
The second point to consider is that the cost of remastering any television series is dropping all the time. There is software that uses AI that can produce creditable results from DVD-quality sources, such as the existing versions of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Consumer-grade versions of this software exist, and can be bought for less than $100. You can even find homemade upscaled clips of Deep Space Nine and Voyager on YouTube and elsewhere online – and they look pretty darn good.
As software continues to improve and come down in price, the cost of a project like this drops dramatically, and we may only be a few years away from fans being able to fully upscale their DVD collections at home. In some ways, we’re arguably there already. Rather than ViacomCBS having to spend huge sums of money recruiting new artists and animators to recreate whole sequences from scratch, it’s going to be possible to run entire episodes of the show through software and just have a small team of people make tweaks on the resultant upscaled version to knock it into shape. It’s far less of a project than it was ten years ago – so there are fewer and fewer reasons not to do it.
With ViacomCBS having the original tapes of these shows, it should be even easier to get a good result than it is for someone using the DVD version. I’m not saying it can all be done from home for a few dollars – the project will still cost money – but it’s a far less significant expense than it was last time the company chose to send Star Trek to the remastering suite, and waiting even just a couple of years could see those costs fall yet further.
I really hope that ViacomCBS will consider giving both shows a proper remaster at some point in the future. It’s something that would undoubtedly provide Paramount+ a boost, especially if the service were the only place to access the newly-upgraded shows. And it surely would be, because why bother with a Blu-ray release? Physical media continues its decline, with fewer people than ever upgrading to the latest 4K Blu-ray standard, so there’s almost no point. Remaster the shows, stick them on Paramount+, and enjoy a nice subscriber boost.
I truly believe AI and software offer a path to remastering these shows – and a lot of others, too. There are a few other series from the ’80s and ’90s that are yet to be properly remastered, and the same solution potentially exists for those as well. I’m not a tech expert, but I think the results speak for themselves. When I’ve seen upscaled clips online, created incredibly inexpensively by amateurs using commercially-available software, it really feels like ViacomCBS is missing a trick. Maybe upscaling the series this way wouldn’t be as good as spending huge amounts of money to do it from scratch, but it would be something – and the result would almost certainly be a better-looking show than the currently-available SD version.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the most popular article I’ve written is about Deep Space Nine and Voyager needing a remaster – so there is clearly huge interest there from both Trekkies and casual fans. People who watched the shows years ago may want to rewatch them. New Star Trek fans who’ve joined the fandom since the release of the Kelvin films or Discovery may want to go back and watch older Star Trek shows. And of course us Trekkies would love nothing more than to see the two series get an overhaul. There’s a sizeable audience out here asking for a remaster, an upscaling, or whatever you want to call it. AI could be a good solution – saving money while giving fans what we’ve been asking for for years!
At the very least, I think it’s worth considering. And if ViacomCBS never does it… maybe someone else will. These pieces of software get better and cheaper all the time, and we could be in a position in a very short span of time where fan-made remasters of whole episodes, not just clips, will be widely available.
Deep Space Nine and Voyager were a big part of Star Trek’s most successful era to date, and a lot of casual viewers and Trekkies remember them with fondness. While there’s nothing wrong with the DVD versions, as screen technology improves and televisions get larger, what viewers expect from their programming has changed. For a lot of people in 2021, standard definition isn’t good enough – especially on a streaming service that costs $9.99 per month. If ViacomCBS is serious about continuing to invest in the Star Trek franchise, a portion of that investment needs to be directed backward, to remastering these two shows that have been sidelined. Part of the marketing for Paramount+ highlighted that it was the place to watch every episode of Star Trek – some fans will have been disappointed to learn that over 300 of those episodes don’t look great.
AI and software offer a solution to this problem, one ViacomCBS should take advantage of as soon as possible.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager are available to stream now (in SD quality only) on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Netflix in the UK and other countries and territories. Both series are also available on DVD. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for the episodes on this list.
Love is in the air! Happy Valentine’s Day – even though 2021 promises to be the strangest in a long time. If you have a special someone to spend today with, I bet you’re wondering what to watch to put you both in the mood. And if you don’t… perhaps you’re just wondering what to watch. So without further ado, here are a few Star Trek episodes worth watching on the most lovey-dovey day of the year – or at least tangentially related to it! As always, the list is in no particular order.
Number 1: The Dauphin (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
It’s been a while since we talked about The Next Generation’s most controversial major character: Wesley Crusher! He’s the main focus of this episode, falling in love with the ruler of a war-torn planet. In a classic case of “bad timing,” Salia and Wesley’s relationship wasn’t to be. He learned a valuable lesson about love along the way, though, and while the episode has some cute moments and some awkward ones, it manages to be distinctly “Star Trek” all the while.
Number 2: Choose Your Pain (Star Trek: Discovery)
I often call the relationship between Stamets and Dr Culber the “emotional core” of Discovery, yet looking back on the show’s 42 episodes, there are relatively few in which they are the main focus. Choose Your Pain has a lot going on, but one of the most significant points is how Hugh and Paul clash over the tardigrade – the space-dwelling lifeform that appears to be the key to making the Spore Drive work as intended. They’re able to resolve things, of course, but only when Stamets does something life-changing to himself in order to save the tardigrade’s life.
Number 3: Threshold (Star Trek: Voyager)
When we think about Tom Paris, who’s his romantic partner? B’Elanna Torres, of course. But in Threshold – widely regarded as one of Voyager’s worst episodes – Paris and Janeway get together and even have kids! Had you forgotten about that? After passing the Warp 10 barrier and experiencing “hyper-evolution,” Paris kidnaps Janeway and flees to an uninhabited planet. The two hyper-evolve into lizards and apparently “do the nasty,” resulting in at least three offspring. The crew of Voyager opted to leave the hyper-evolved children behind when they rescued Paris and Janeway, though, and for some reason the events of Threshold were never mentioned again. I wonder why?
Number 4: Amok Time (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Amok Time is certainly one of the most iconic Star Trek episodes, having been imitated and parodied many times. It focuses on Spock and introduces us to the concept of pon farr – the Vulcan biological mating need. The Vulcans evidently practice arranged marriage, and when Spock’s betrothed chooses another man, Kirk and Spock must engage in a ritual fight to the “death.” As one of the first episodes to explore the Vulcans in depth, as well as our first visit to the planet Vulcan, Amok Time is incredibly important within the history of Star Trek. And as a love story, well there’s something kind of romantic about T’Pring choosing to escape her arranged marriage to be with someone she cares about… right?
Number 5: Change of Heart (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Workplace romances are bound to cause problems! After Worf arrived on the station at the beginning of Deep Space Nine’s fourth season, he and Jadzia Dax struck up a relationship. They eventually got married in the episode You Are Cordially Invited, and continued to work closely together. In Change of Heart they’re assigned a dangerous mission to evacuate a Federation spy at the height of the Dominion War. But when Jadzia is injured, Worf is forced to choose whether to save her life or complete the mission.
So that’s it. Five somewhat Valentine’s Day-related Star Trek episodes! Try not to take it too seriously; this was just a bit of fun to mark the occasion!
On a more serious note, Valentine’s Day can be difficult. It can be a day that brings home feelings of loneliness, that we aren’t loved or even that we’re unworthy or undeserving of finding someone special. If you feel that way, listen to me: it’s bullshit. You’re a King, a Queen, or non-binary Royalty and you are amazing. If you haven’t found somebody yet, that’s okay. There’s no pressure or time limit. I know people who found love well into their seventies and eighties, and a few years ago attended the wedding of a neighbour of mine who finally was able to marry his boyfriend – at the age of 85! Just because some people manage to find their special somebody early in life doesn’t mean you have to conform to that too. One thing I wish I’d learned a lot sooner is that it’s better to be single than to be in a bad relationship! So please try not to worry or let Valentine’s Day become an excuse to feel rotten. Your time will come. Until then, I wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day – platonically, of course!
The Star Trek franchise is available to stream now on CBS All Access (soon to be rebranded as Paramount+) in the United States, and on Netflix and/or Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Star Trek and all episodes and series listed above are the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: In addition to spoilers for the Deep Space Nine episodes on this list, minor spoilers may be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise, including Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard.
In the previous two entries in this series of articles, I picked out ten great episodes from both The Next Generation and The Original Series. This time, it’s the turn of Deep Space Nine to get a closer look. Thus far on the blog I haven’t spent much time with Deep Space Nine, which is mostly due to Star Trek: Picard taking up a lot of time, and because practically nothing from Deep Space Nine crossed over to that show. So this is a first!
The Next Generation had successfully proven that the Star Trek brand was bigger than Kirk, Spock, and McCoy in the late 1980s. With Gene Roddenberry terminally ill, Rick Berman took over the running of the Star Trek franchise, and by 1990, when the fourth season of The Next Generation debuted, was in full control. It was around this time that the concept of a spin-off from The Next Generation began to be taken seriously. It was decided that the show should be set on a space station so as to differentiate it from The Next Generation, which was still on the air at the time it premiered. Returning to the franchise’s western inspirations from way back in the mid-1960s, Deep Space Nine was based on the idea of a frontier town from those kind of stories – complete with a town sheriff, bartender, “mayor”, and “natives”.
Deep Space Nine represented the biggest change in the Star Trek franchise so far, and even in 2020 remains unique as a series not set on a moving starship. The fixed setting meant that the producers could bring in a number of secondary recurring characters in addition to the main cast, several of whom would go on to have increasingly large roles as the seven seasons of the show rolled out. Two major characters from The Next Generation crossed over to Deep Space Nine – Chief O’Brien was present from the beginning and Worf joined in the fourth season. This continuity of characters, combined with crossover episodes, firmly tied the two series together as separate parts of a larger ongoing fictional universe in a way that was unprecedented at the time. The Next Generation had gone out of its way to stand apart from The Original Series at least in terms of its characters and setting, but Deep Space Nine leaned into its sister-show.
Thematically, however, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine were worlds apart. From the very beginning there were tensions and conflicts among the crew, which was now made up of Federation and non-Federation personnel. The show would diverge even more from previous iterations of the franchise as time went on, becoming much darker in tone and eventually portraying a long, bitter war between the Federation and the Dominion – a new faction created for Deep Space Nine. The Dominion War storyline, which built up slowly between Seasons 2 and 5 and would explode into all-out war for the entirety of Seasons 6 and 7, marked Star Trek’s first foray into serialised storytelling. This more modern style of television storytelling would be employed in Enterprise, Discovery, and Star Trek: Picard as well.
For all of these reasons, Deep Space Nine was controversial in some Trekkie circles, and some fans of the two earlier shows weren’t keen on its static setting, darker tone, and serialised stories. Conversely, though, some Trekkies cite Deep Space Nine as their favourite entry in the franchise by far, precisely for those same reasons. I place myself somewhere in the middle; while it is different to what came before, that doesn’t make it worse and it is still greatly enjoyable Star Trek fare.
One final point worth making note of is that, as of 2020, Deep Space Nine has not been remastered and remains in its original broadcast format from the 1990s. I consider this to be a major mistake and oversight on ViacomCBS’ part, especially as they’ve been so keen to use the Star Trek franchise to drum up support for their streaming platform, CBS All Access. As a result, Deep Space Nine doesn’t look as good as most of the other shows (along with Voyager, which has the same limitation). I did write a piece about this, calling on ViacomCBS to remedy this situation. You can read it by clicking or tapping here.
If you missed the other posts in this series, here’s a recap of how the format works: this isn’t a “Top Ten” list of my all-time favourites. Instead, it’s a list of ten episodes (or rather, ten stories, some of which are multi-episode arcs) which I think are great and well worth watching – especially if you’re finding yourself with lots of time for entertainment at the moment. I’ve picked at least one episode from each of the show’s seven seasons, and the episodes are not ranked, they’re simply listed in order of release.
Let’s jump in and look at the episodes, and please be aware of spoilers.
Number 1: Emissary (Season 1, premiere)
It’s rare for a series to kick off with one of its best episodes. What often happens in television is that it takes time for a show to find its feet as the actors and crew get used to working together and as characters and story elements develop. In the Star Trek franchise this is true too, but Emissary bucks the trend. Until very recently I’d have said it was easily the best opening episode of any Star Trek show, but it must now share that crown with Remembrance, the premiere of Star Trek: Picard – a review of which you can find by clicking or tapping here.
The episode begins with a flashback to the events of The Next Generation episode The Best of Both Worlds, around three years previously. Sisko, it turns out, had been aboard the USS Saratoga, one of the ships destroyed by the Borg. His wife had been killed but he escaped the exploding ship with his son Jake. Cut to the present day, and the Cardassians had finally withdrawn from Bajor after decades of occupation. Both factions had been introduced in The Next Generation too, so the audience would have been familiar with them. Both of these elements tied Deep Space Nine to its sister-show in a way that hadn’t really been seen before. Star Trek was expanding, but it was expanding in such a way that the shows being produced together would share a setting – we’d also see this in Voyager, and I’ve written previously about why it worked and why doing something similar would be good for Star Trek going forward. But we’re off-topic again.
Sisko and Jake travel to the Bajoran system and arrive aboard the newly-christened Deep Space Nine, a former Cardassian station. The episode introduces us to the crew – O’Brien, who’s obviously crossed over from The Next Generation, as well as Dax, Quark, Kira, Odo, and Dr Bashir. Interestingly, the role of Kira Nerys was intended to be filled by Ro Laren, another recurring character from The Next Generation, but actress Michelle Forbes declined the offer.
The episode sets up tension between Sisko and Picard; the former blaming the latter for what happened at Wolf 359. Sisko seems on the verge of resigning from Starfleet, but after discovering the Bajoran wormhole and encountering the noncorporeal Prophets, Sisko realises why he’d been unable to move on from those events, and approaches his new role with renewed vigour.
The only criticism I’d have of Emissary might be this: the story almost immediately took DS9 from being a minor frontier outpost to being a vitally important location. There was scope, I feel, for the show to have spent a little more time looking at DS9 as an unpopular posting, and at Bajor as a slowly-recovering backwater before introducing the Gamma Quadrant. I mentioned that Emissary stands up as being a pilot that’s one of the series’ best episodes and that’s true – in part because the discovery of the wormhole storyline could have been moved to later in the show!
Number 2: The Homecoming, The Circle, and The Siege (Season 2)
I believe this trio of episodes form Star Trek’s first “three-parter”, and kicked off the second season of Deep Space Nine with an explosive story. It would’ve felt wrong to pick just one of the three episodes considering they form a single story, and I wanted to talk about it in its entirety.
One aspect of the story in Season 1 designed to cause tension was the idea that some Bajorans resented the arrival of the Federation so soon after the Cardassians had left. While Major Kira expressed this view in Emissary, she had largely stepped back from overt criticism of the Federation’s presence, yet it was something the show wanted to address. In this story, an aggressive group of Bajorans want the Federation gone. They don’t realise it, but they’re being manipulated by the Cardassians, and the whole scheme is a Cardassian plot to retake the station and the Bajoran system – which is now strategically valuable because of the wormhole.
DS9 would come under attack a number of times across the series’ run, but this is the first time we really see the station and its crew forced into such a difficult combat situation. Despite Starfleet’s order to withdraw – they were only there, after all, at the request of the Bajoran government – Sisko and the crew stay behind to fight off the Bajoran soldiers involved in the coup.
The character of Li Nalas, played by Richard Beymer, is one of the best one-time characters that appeared in the show, especially in the early seasons. A resistance hero who Kira rescues, Li is assigned to the station and ultimately loses his life to save Sisko from the rebels.
Vedek Winn – who would later be elected Kai, the Bajorans’ spiritual leader – returns in this story from her sole appearance in Season 1. While she had been presented as a thoroughly dislikable character in the episode In the Hands of the Prophets, it was here, at the beginning of Season 2, that her role as a villain begins to be fleshed out, as she is shown to be collaborating with the Cardassians and is clearly someone for whom power is the ultimate goal.
Number 3: The Wire (Season 2)
Elim Garak, the sole Cardassian aboard DS9, was an enigmatic and interesting character in his early appearances. Later episodes would flesh him out much more, especially during the Dominion War which of course affected Cardassia greatly. But The Wire was one of the first Garak-centric episodes, and it looked in detail at his past as a spy.
In fact, The Wire is the first episode to introduce the Obsidian Order – the Cardassian Empire’s secret police/intelligence agency. This faction would go on to be further developed as later seasons of the show rolled out, but here is where it was first introduced. We also meet its former head, Enabran Tain, for the first time. Tain would reappear several more times in Deep Space Nine.
Garak had been an enigmatic character, but prior to The Wire his status and his past were unclear, and his conversations, particularly with Dr Bashir but also with others, could be taken in different ways. It wasn’t until this episode that we get outright confirmation that not only was he once a spy, but that he’s in exile. His lies cloud the story somewhat, and even by the end of the episode the reason for his exile is not clear, but what is clear is that Dr Bashir had been right about him in a roundabout way – Garak had once been a spy.
Over the course of more than thirty appearances in Deep Space Nine, Andrew Robinson would make Garak just as much a part of the show as its main cast – especially in later seasons. It’s hard to imagine the series without him, as he would become such an important character, and from that point of view the story of The Wire is important. But as a work of mystery, and as an episode focusing on Dr Bashir as he tries to save a patient who, at times, treats him awfully, it’s a great work of drama too.
Number 4: The Search, Parts 1 & 2 (Season 3)
The finale of Season 2 introduced the Dominion, the aggressive Gamma Quadrant faction that would become Deep Space Nine’s major antagonists. The Season 3 premiere picks up the story in the aftermath, and the crew set out to search for the Dominion – in the brand-new USS Defiant.
The Dominion were intended to be an anti-Federation factioin. Where the Klingon and Cardassian Empires were monoethnic, the Dominion would incorporate several races under its banner, just like the Federation. But instead of being a democratic society with a focus on peaceful exploration, the Dominion would be a dictatorship, and its races would be split into castes – with the Founders being treated with god-like reverence, akin to something we might see in Imperial Japan before 1945 or North Korea. The Dominion also answered a burning question for Deep Space Nine, namely what to do with the Gamma Quadrant. The show was supposed to be set on a static station with less focus on exploration, but with the Gamma Quadrant beckoning just beyond the wormhole, a number of episodes had basically been about going there and exploring. The Dominion, and their iron grip on the territory beyond the wormhole, gave Deep Space Nine an excuse to cut back on exploration, and by extension, avoid becoming The Next Generation or Voyager, which was about to premiere. Voyager’s upcoming launch also changed the name of the USS Defiant – it was originally to be named the USS Valiant, but Rick Berman and other Star Trek producers didn’t want two ships whose names began with the letter V!
The introduction of the Defiant allowed for more stories away from the station featuring the full crew, not all of whom could seemingly fit on one Runabout. It shook up the show, and would set the stage for the more military direction that the showrunners intended to take.
The Search also introduces two key recurring characters – Michael Eddington, the Starfleet officer who would go on to become a leader in the Maquis, and the unnamed female changeling, who would be the Founders’ representative throughout the Dominion War. Odo discovering his people and realising for the first time that he isn’t alone was a major turn for his character too, one which worked brilliantly, especially in later stories. Indeed, much of what would come later in Deep Space Nine in terms of successful storylines premiered or was at least hinted at in this two-parter.
The Dominion here are shown to be very powerful, but their intentions are not yet clear. The Founders clearly have a major problem with any non-changelings, but they do concede to Odo at the end and allow everyone to return home. Obviously, however, this wouldn’t be the last we’d see of the Dominion or Odo’s people.
Number 5: Homefront and Paradise Lost (Season 4)
Since discovering the Dominion and their shape-shifting Founders, the Federation had become increasingly worried – to the point of paranoia, in some cases – about being attacked or infiltrated by changelings. The basic story of Homefront and Paradise Lost sees a former commander of Sisko’s recall him to Earth to work on strategies to protect the Federation – but this officer, Admiral Leyton, played by Robert Foxworth, has another scheme in mind.
Believing the democratic government to be impotent and paralysed in the face of the Dominion threat, Leyton plans a coup to seize power for himself on behalf of a cadre of Starfleet officers, in a story with a genuinely sympathetic antagonist. What’s so engrossing about Leyton is that he’s not a typical villain. He and Sisko actually have the same morals and the same motivation – they just have very different ways of going about engaging the Dominion. Leyton genuinely believes he’s doing the right thing – and while in the episode itself he’s presented as being in the wrong, we can at least entertain the argument that the later Dominion War would prove that he was right to take the threat seriously.
We’ve visited Earth in Star Trek on a number of occasions, but this was our first significant look at 24th Century Earth outside of Starfleet Academy. The action takes place in several locations on the planet, including Sisko’s hometown of New Orleans. It also gives Nog, now a Starfleet cadet, something significant to do for the first time in a number of episodes, and sets the stage for his future development as a Starfleet officer.
I’ve always liked the character of Joseph Sisko, played by veteran actor Brock Peters. In this story, he’s presented as a voice of reason, standing up to Sisko’s increasingly paranoid behaviour as he searches for changeling infiltrators. Giving that role to Joseph Sisko worked so well in the story, and it’s one of my favourite storylines from this duology.
Number 6: Nor Battle to the Strong (Season 5)
Despite being credited as a main cast member for all of Deep Space Nine’s seven seasons, Cirroc Lofton’s character of Jake Sisko made only 71 appearances out of the show’s 176 total episodes. For a long time, the show’s creators didn’t really know what to do with the character. Having him try to become a Starfleet officer would have been too similar to Wesley Crusher’s storyline in The Next Generation, and I have no doubt that there was an awareness on the part of the producers that Wesley had been, shall we say, not well-received by every fan. So there was a need to do things differently, but without any real sense of direction as to what that might be. Jake Sisko was created to be less a character in his own right than to give Benjamin Sisko a dependent, and it shows.
However, by the fifth season, the idea had been conceived to make Jake into a writer. Initially he wrote poetry and planned to write a novel, but in the episode Nor Battle to the Strong he branches out and begins writing articles and profiles about current events – in this case he uses the opportunity of writing about Dr Bashir as an excuse to get off the station, but ends up in a warzone when their ship is diverted. At this point in Deep Space Nine’s story, the Federation and Klingons are engaged in a brief war which had been set in motion by a Dominion infiltrator, but that really is’t the focus of the episode.
Jake is thrown into a warzone completely unprepared for what he’d find. He goes from enthusiastic to terrified in a matter of hours, and in a very powerful sequence finds himself alone with a badly-wounded Federation soldier, who dies in front of him.
Toward the end of the episode the Klingons attack, and Jake finds himself trapped and terrified in the Starfleet base. Firing his phaser randomly he inadvertently causes a cave-in, which stops the Klingons in their tracks. Hailed as a hero, Jake feels dejected and depressed, feeling that after abandoning Bashir and the dying soldier, he doesn’t deserve the label. He writes up his experiences in a powerfully honest piece which we see both Sisko and Bashir read.
Nor Battle to the Strong is an incredibly powerful story about the reality of war, told through the eyes of the kind of enthusiastic young man that our armies arguably consist of. At the beginning of the episode Jake is longing for action, to get away from the boredom of the station and a medical conference. He’d love to thought of as a hero, too. Yet by the end, after the horrors he saw and the trauma he went through, not only does he reject the label of “hero”, but he’s more than happy to be back aboard the station.
While he labels himself a coward, and perhaps not unfairly so, we sympathise with Jake. He wasn’t ready for what he saw, as indeed nobody can be until they see if for themselves, and he acted on instinct and out of fear. Jake could be any of us, and the episode challenges us as the audience as if to say: “you think you’d act any differently?” Nor Battle to the Stong also sets up Jake for his decision to remain aboard DS9 when it’s occupied by the Dominion at the end of the season. Having seen warfare first-hand, he’s more experienced and perhaps feels a little more ready for taking a big decision like that.
Number 7: Call to Arms (Season 5), Favor the Bold, & Sacrifice of Angels (Season 6)
This trio of episodes forms a single story, with several other episodes in between at the beginning of the sixth season. In Call to Arms, the cold war between the Federation and the Dominion finally boils over into all-out conflict, and as the gateway to the Gamma Quadrant DS9 is in the firing line. In an attempt to stop the Dominion’s military build-up in Cardassian space, Sisko and the crew plant a minefield at the mouth of the wormhole – self-replicating mines, designed by Rom, Dax, and O’Brien, which would also be cloaked for maximum effectiveness. While it had been clear for some time that the Dominion War would happen one way or another, in the end it would be Starfleet and the Federation who would trigger it.
We’ve touched on Deep Space Nine being darker before, and this decision is another example of that. Starfleet had evidently given up on the idea of a negotiated settlement, and as they could no longer stand a military buildup on their frontier, they took the first step – aggressive action which had no other possible outcome. In this sense, Starfleet is presented in a much more military light than usual, akin to some of the conspirators in The Undiscovered Country, which is perhaps the closest we can get within the franchise.
The minefield ultimately leads to the anticipated Dominion-Cardassian attack, and with the Federation’s resources focused elsewhere, DS9 is surrendered to their forces at the end of Season 5, and remains under their control for the first third of Season 6. I’d argue, by the way, that DS9 was so vitally important to the war effort, as it controlled the only travel route between Dominion space and the Alpha Quadrant, that all steps should have been taken to keep it safe. But a) there’s no denying it was a dramatic turn as a story beat, and b) we don’t know the state of Federation-Klingon forces at the time, and they may well have decided that trying to hold the station and the Bajoran system would be massively costly and ultimately futile. But we’ve gone way off-topic!
Favor the Bold sees Sisko come up with a plan to recapture the station, but with the Dominion close to destroying the minefield and unleashing a vast wave of reinforcements, they have to launch the plan ahead of schedule. I loved the way that they were able to communicate the information from DS9 to Sisko – Morn would become a courier, and I loved this way of using his character.
The story arc is finally concluded in Sacrifice of Angels in dramatic fashion, and features what is still one of Star Trek’s biggest space battles to date, possibly only behind a couple of later battles in Deep Space Nine and the one seen in Discovery’s Battle at the Binary Stars. The battle is also one of Star Trek’s finest, with the last-minute arrival of the Klingon fleet clearing a path for Sisko to make it back to the station. The next twist involves the Prophets, who finally involve themselves in the war on the side of the Federation – at least for a moment.
Practically every character gets a turn across this story arc, from Jake Sisko, who opts to stay behind aboard the occupied station, to Kira, who sees herself as a collaborator with the Cardassians, to side-characters like Rom, Nog, and Garak, who all have roles to play. Gul Dukat sees a massive turnaround in his character, going from achieving his wildest ambitions to tasting bitter defeat and painful loss, setting the stage for what would come next for him. Overall, a stunning story to kick off the Dominion War arc.
Number 8: Who Mourns for Morn? (Season 6)
In the midst of a what was a very dark season overall, Who Mourns for Morn? stands out as being a much more light-hearted episode. Focusing on the character of Morn, who was less of a recurring character than a true background character, this episode sees him “killed”, and Quark scrambling to recover his fortune.
Taking a break from the war and returning to the Quark-versus-Odo dynamic that had worked so well in previous seasons, the episode also brings in a number of guest stars to play Morn’s criminal associates. Each of these characters was fairly one-dimensional and even a little over-the-top, but in the context of a fun heist/mystery story they worked wonderfully, and gave Deep Space Nine some much-needed time off from the war.
René Auberjonois and Armin Shimerman worked so well together, not just here but throughout their stories together in Deep Space Nine. The two actors built up a chemistry and, reportedly, a genuine friendship – helped, no doubt, by the long sessions spent together having makeup and prosthetics applied.
Morn had been a part of Deep Space Nine from the beginning, but in a non-speaking role. This episode took a more detailed look at him, particularly his past as a criminal. It was genuinely funny to see the characters talking about Morn as someone who would never shut up in light of the fact that we never heard him speak on-screen, though the episode wasn’t universally well-received, as some fans felt it was too un-serious in the middle of a war, and that Morn was somehow “unworthy” of an episode dedicated to him. Some people are real killjoys!
Number 9: In The Pale Moonlight (Season 6)
Deep Space Nine was much darker than any Star Trek show had been before, as we’ve already mentioned. It looked at themes like warfare and morality from a wholly different place than Gene Roddenberry had done, and In The Pale Moonlight sees the show at one of its darkest moments. What results is an episode that is divisive, at least in some circles. Fans of the more optimistic tone of The Original Series and The Next Generation may dislike what it brings to to the table, particularly in the way it shows how 24th Century humanity is susceptible to the same flaws and problems that we are today – but I’d argue that simply makes it more relatable, or even realistic.
With the Dominion War raging and many Starfleet officers dying on a daily basis, Sisko hatches a plan to bring the Romulans into the fight on the side of the Federation-Klingon alliance. Other episodes of Deep Space Nine had looked at the gritty reality of war from different angles, but In The Pale Moonlight showed the crew looking through reams of names of the dead and missing in a powerful sequence that showed just how many casualties were being inflicted.
The Dominion had been created to be an equal for – and to outgun, at points – the Federation-Klingon alliance. We’d seen even going back to their pre-war appearances how powerful their ships and weapons could be, so by this point in the show the fact that the war would see the Federation somewhere between a WWI-esque stalemate and actually being on the back foot is not unrealistic. The storyline builds masterfully on what has come before, especially earlier in Season 6, to present Sisko’s decisions in a sympathetic light.
Sisko employs Garak to aid in his scheme to convince a Romulan senator that the Dominion plans to attack them. As with any big lie, Sisko finds himself falling deeper and deeper into the scheme, crossing more and more lines in his quest to do what he believes is right. The episode thus looks as the concept of moral relativism and the question of whether the ends can in fact justify the means under exceptional circumstances. Sisko was ultimately okay with lying, forging evidence, pitting two powerful factions against one another, and dragging a foreign power into a war that they didn’t need to participate in. He was even content to cover up murders, all in the name of victory for the Federation. As Section 31 would say, sometimes saving the Federation means doing very un-Federation things.
Number 10: The Siege of AR-558 (Season 7)
Deep Space Nine’s seventh and final season was a war story, and the latter part in particular was one long serialised arc. It can be difficult to pull out single episodes from such a story, but for me, The Siege of AR-558 encapsulates perfectly what the show wanted to say about war.
Directed by Vietnam War veteran Winrich Kolbe, who directed a number of other Star Trek episodes too, The Siege of AR-558 has a claustrophobic feel, no doubt informed by its director’s own experiences. The fact that the planetoid is not even given a proper name adds to the sense of futility, and while there is a good reason to defend the captured position – it hosts an important Dominion communications relay – that hardly matters to the soldiers stationed there.
Nog’s character arc in Deep Space Nine, from petty thief to outstanding officer and war hero, sees major development as he suffers a serious injury. The way Aron Eisenberg approached the role of Nog is commendable, because he took what could have been a one-dimensional minor character, and foil for Jake Sisko, and turned him around into someone we could root for and feel for. Sadly, Eisenberg passed away last year.
The Siege of AR-558 is also a reminder that all wars see small acts of heroism on a regular basis, many of which go unnoticed and unreported. Sisko’s decision to stay and fight is one, Nog’s injury is another, but also we have the soldiers already present on the planetoid – not all of whom survive the episode. These characters show different reactions to life on the front lines, and the episode is much better for their inclusion.
The Siege of AR-558 also gives Ezri Dax something to do away from the station. Ezri was brought in at the beginning of Season 7 to replace Jadzia Dax – who had been killed at the end of the sixth season. Nicole deBoer played her very well in all of her appearances, but with only one season left before the show would end, Ezri didn’t have a lot of time for us to get to know her. Thus her role in an episode like this one, while not the main focus, is important for her character as the season unfolds.
So that’s it. Ten great episodes from Deep Space Nine. I tried to pick a couple of non-war stories to go along with all of the war-themed episodes. There’s more to the show than the war, but war and its associated themes are prevalent throughout the series, even from its opening scene which was set midway through a battle.
There are many other episodes which almost made this list, and Deep Space Nine has some great options to revisit time and again. I’ve seen the Dominion War arc more times than I can count, and even on a repeat viewing the war is still incredibly dramatic, tense, and exciting. For me, “modern” Star Trek began partway through The Next Generation’s run, perhaps around the third season, and Deep Space Nine carried on the trend of modernising the storytelling, taking Star Trek away from its 1960s roots. While some fans of The Original Series may not appreciate that, for me personally it works. I have friends on both sides of the argument of whether the Dominion War arc was a great idea or a terrible one, but again it’s a storyline that worked for me.
As I said last time when looking at The Next Generation, there were many other episodes that I could have chosen for this list. Deep Space Nine can be divided into at least three distinct parts – Seasons 1 and 2, prior to the introduction of the Dominion, Seasons 3-5 before the outbreak of the war, and Seasons 6 and 7 while the war raged. Within that framework there were changes, the two biggest ones being the introduction of Worf in Season 4 and Jadzia Dax being replaced by Ezri at the beginning of Season 7.
While I wouldn’t pick Deep Space Nine to be someone’s first introduction to Star Trek – especially as it hasn’t been remastered – it is nevertheless a great show, and one that takes the franchise to different places both in terms of its static location and thematically. It’s a very interesting part of Star Trek’s history, and one that I hope will be the inspiration for a new series in the future.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is available to watch now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. The series is also available on DVD. The Star Trek franchise – including Deep Space Nine and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Star Trek is divided right now. No, I don’t mean the divisions in the fanbase – though you can read my thoughts on that by clicking or tapping here – instead I’m referring to the fact that The Original Series, The Next Generation, Enterprise, all of the films, and all of the new series are in HD, while Deep Space Nine and Voyager aren’t.
Streaming has quickly become the biggest thing in home entertainment, replacing our DVD collections. Even ViacomCBS realised this, and set up their own streaming service. It’s thanks to the existence of CBS All Access, and the need to provide that new platform with original content, that Star Trek has been renewed at all. But before Star Trek found a new digital home, The Original Series and The Next Generation were remastered in high definition and got Blu-ray releases. Blu-ray, in case you didn’t know, is the optical disc format which was supposed to replace DVD a few years ago. Blu-ray discs can store much more digital data – 25GB as opposed to a mere 4.7GB for DVDs – meaning that full HD video content was possible.
The resulting change from DVD-quality video, which had a resolution for digital video of 720×480 pixels, to Blu-ray, which offers a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, meant that older episodes of Star Trek, filmed for television in the 1960s and 1980s-90s, had to be remastered. The remastering process exposed lower-quality special effects, which had to be entirely redone in order to look presentable at the higher resolution offered by Blu-ray. This was especially notable with some of The Next Generation’s early-90s CGI, which had been designed to be broadcast on the smaller screens of that era. Therefore the remastering process was far less straightforward than simply copying all of the broadcast episodes, upscaled, onto Blu-ray discs. Each episode had to be worked on, and new special effects and digital effects created from scratch, adding to the cost of the work.
By the time The Next Generation’s final season released on Blu-ray in 2014, a combination of factors came together to leave sales underwhelming from CBS’ perspective. Firstly there was the move by many consumers to online video streaming. Blu-ray had seemed exciting in the mid-late 2000s when it was new, but as platforms like Netflix gained traction in the 2010s, Blu-ray just never took off in the same way as DVD had a decade prior. Secondly, many people already owned The Next Generation in full either on VHS, DVD, or both. And despite the promise of remastered episodes with all-new digital effects, we were being asked to essentially buy the same product again for a second or third time. This combination of many fans already owning the full series plus Blu-ray and optical media as a whole feeling decidedly “last-gen” in a world of digital streaming meant many folks, myself included, didn’t pick up The Next Generation on Blu-ray.
I certainly felt, in the mid-2010s, that sooner or later Star Trek would join one of these new streaming platforms and that I could simply watch the HD versions at that time. As someone who had been collecting Star Trek on DVD since the early 2000s (when The Original Series came in chunky plastic boxes), I already had the full collection by the time Blu-ray was out – I even had Enterprise, despite that being my least-favourite Star Trek show! The idea of having to re-start my Star Trek collection on a new format just wasn’t something I was keen on, so I waited it out. And, to be fair, the remastered episodes of both The Original Series and The Next Generation are now available for streaming – on CBS All Access in the US, or on Netflix in the rest of the world (though I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon Prime Video snaps up the international rights now that they also have Star Trek: Picard).
Unfortunately, though, the lack of interest in The Next Generation on Blu-ray has meant that Deep Space Nine and Voyager never made it to the remastering suite. They remain in their original format, in what we’d call “standard definition” or DVD quality. And there’s nothing wrong with that – they are, still, perfectly watchable on DVD or on streaming. But as television screens get larger and better, the difference in quality between a remastered episode of The Next Generation and an episode of Deep Space Nine, unchanged since its early-90s television debut, is incredibly obvious and offputting.
An increasing number of viewers expect HD content nowadays. With some shows – like Netflix’s The Witcher or Amazon Prime Video’s The Grand Tour – being broadcast in 4K resolution, which is one step higher even than Blu-ray, standard/DVD-quality content just doesn’t look good enough for a lot of people, and they don’t enjoy watching it. On a modern 4K television that could easily have a screen size of fifty inches or more, such content looks mediocre at best, and pretty crappy when compared to anything in HD.
ViacomCBS have their own streaming service now – CBS All Access – which is billed as the new home of Star Trek. However, two of those flagship shows, which people remember with fondness from the 1990s, are not up to current standards when it comes to visual quality, and that’s something ViacomCBS should address.
The remastering of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, combined with their permanent home online, would pull in subscribers to CBS All Access. Even fans who haven’t been moved by Discovery or Picard could be convinced to sign up to the platform if it would be the only place to watch their favourite series in HD. And I’m sure many of them would also give Discovery or Picard a try while they were there – it wouldn’t cost anything extra, after all. There would be no need for an expensive Blu-ray release, with the cost of printing thousands of discs and shipping them all over the world no longer necessary. And I’m sure Netflix and/or Amazon Prime would happily snap up the rights to a newly-remastered “classic” of the 1990s. Nostalgia is a big deal in today’s media landscape, after all.
A lot of folks seem to have given up on the idea of ever seeing those series in HD given the move toward online streaming and The Next Generation’s lacklustre performance on Blu-ray, but CBS All Access should be Deep Space Nine and Voyager’s ticket to a full-HD remaster. The Star Trek brand would then be all together, all remastered, all fully in HD ready for new and old fans to join the party. I’m absolutely certain that, in the long run, ViacomCBS would find it worthwhile. What We Left Behind, the recent documentary about Deep Space Nine, included some remastered scenes, and its successful crowdfunding campaign should demonstrate that there is a viable market for such content.
From a branding point of view, it isn’t a great look for CBS All Access to be offering some of its content for its flagship franchise in DVD quality. Netflix doesn’t do that, Amazon Prime Video doesn’t do that, and Disney+ certainly doesn’t do that. CBS All Access is the only paid-for streaming platform in the world right now offering two full seven-season series in low quality, and that’s bad for the brand. It makes it seem like ViacomCBS can’t be bothered to put in the effort; it makes CBS All Access look cheap. And for fans who don’t follow all the ins and outs of Star Trek, it could be an unexpected disappointment: they sign up, log in for the first time, and choose their favourite episode – only to find that it looks poor on their big-screen TV.
So come on ViacomCBS! Remaster Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Bring the final two Star Trek shows into the 2020s and give your own platform a nice little boost in the process.
The Star Trek franchise – including all titles mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.