Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2 and the following Star Trek productions: The Original Series Season 2, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine Season 3.
With Lower Decks’ third season fast approaching, I wanted to write up a theory that I’ve had kicking around since the second episode of Season 2. Lower Decks’ episodic nature hasn’t lent itself to a ton of theory-crafting so far – although I do have at least one more in the pipeline, so stay tuned for that! – but this one feels plausible; it’s the kind of narrative choice that I could see the show’s writers making.
First of all, let’s briefly recap what happened to Ensign Boimler from the end of Season 1 to the beginning of Season 2. After impressing Captain Riker, Boimler took a transfer to the USS Titan at the very end of Season 1, leaving Mariner and the Cerritos behind and being promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Boimler would serve under Captain Riker for a short while, and one of the Titan’s assignments at this time involved following up with the newly-aggressive Pakleds.
Lieutenant Boimler was assigned to an away mission to the planet Karzill IV as part of this assignment, and after getting caught in a firefight he was able to save the day and allow the rest of the team to make it back to the Titan. However, as this mission drew to a close a transporter accident created a duplicate – or clone – of Boimler, resulting in two identical Lieutenant Boimlers, indistinguishable from one another.
For seemingly arbitrary reasons, Starfleet decided that only one Boimler could remain aboard the Titan, and the other would have to take a demotion back to the rank of ensign and return to the Cerritos. After one Boimler returned to the Cerritos we’ve followed his actions, and the second Boimler hasn’t been mentioned since. But could that be about to change?
Although we were told that the two Boimlers were indistinguishable from one another – totally identical – the second Boimler, the one who remained aboard the Titan, seemed much more outgoing than the Boimler we’ve gotten to know. Not only that, but he seemed more than a little devious in tricking “our” Boimler to return to the Cerritos so that he could continue on the Titan and advance his career. Could we be looking at the beginnings of an “evil twin” (or “evil clone,” I guess) storyline?
It wouldn’t be the first time that such a story has appeared in Star Trek! Going all the way back to The Original Series we had stories like The Enemy Within that split Captain Kirk into two distinct personalities, one “good” and one “evil.” And of course there’s the classic Mirror, Mirror that showed our heroes’ evil alternate universe counterparts.
The Next Generation followed this up by creating Data’s own “evil twin” – Lore. Lore would tangle with the crew of the Enterprise-D on more than one occasion, doing things like allying with the Crystalline Entity and raising an army of abandoned ex-Borg, as well as trying to corrupt Data and sway him to his cause.
Most significantly we have Thomas Riker, the first transporter duplicate in Star Trek and whose character clearly inspired the Boimler storyline in Kayshon, His Eyes Open. Not only was Thomas difficult to work with for William Riker after being rediscovered, but he would go on to rebel against Starfleet, join the Maquis, and even steal the USS Defiant from Deep Space Nine.
Lower Decks has brought back a lot of Star Trek tropes and story beats, and many of them have been used for one-off gags or as cute callbacks to past events. It can be difficult to tell whether there’s some deeper meaning to the whole transporter duplicate story because of that. In the episode Kayshon, His Eyes Open it worked well as a surprising twist, a way to kick Boimler back to the Cerritos, and as a cute wink to fans of The Next Generation, especially considering Riker himself was present. The storyline could end there with Boimler’s twin never being mentioned again.
But at the same time, Lower Decks has used some of these classic Star Trek moments and story beats to set up longer arcs, or returned to them later. There’s a symmetry to some of the show’s episodes and storylines, too. The way the Cerritos saved the USS Archimedes in the Season 2 finale after having to be saved in the Season 1 finale is one of the best examples of this – and we could also point to the Pakled storyline itself as an unfolding multi-episode arc.
I think we’ve laid out how it’s at least possible that there could be something more going on with the transporter clone and looked at previous examples of “evil twin” tropes in Star Trek. So that answers the question of “could it happen?” quite nicely – but that’s really just the beginning.
The matter at the heart of this theory is what direction such a story would take, how it could potentially impact (our) Boimler, and what it could do for the series as a whole.
If we look back to episodes like Datalore or Second Chances, I think it’s not unfair to say that those storylines didn’t go on to have a lasting effect. The creation of twins, clones, and duplicates hasn’t actually come to matter in a significant, ongoing way for any Star Trek character so far. Even when those twins made repeat appearances their stories tended to be confined to a single episode – or perhaps a two-parter.
It was never really explained in any detail what impact Thomas’ emergence had on William Riker after the events of Second Chances. Even when Thomas returned in Deep Space Nine’s third season episode Defiant, the story unfolded from his perspective without any input from his doppelgänger.
Data’s conflict with Lore is perhaps the biggest of these storylines, with Lore being mentioned a handful of times outside of his main appearances. But because of Data’s nature, he wasn’t as emotionally impacted by Lore’s behaviour as other characters in a similar situation might’ve been. Data even expressed confusion in Second Chances as to the nature of the dispute between Will and Thomas Riker!
Although Lower Decks has been largely episodic, we’ve still seen some impressive character work across its first two seasons. The way Ensign Mariner in particular has grown into her role and come to resolve some of her issues with her mother, her friendships, and her position in Starfleet has been wonderful to see – and it’s this more serialised approach to characterisation (a hallmark of modern television storytelling) that could make an “evil Boimler” storyline different to what we’ve seen before in Star Trek.
Boimler’s issues with his transporter duplicate could have an impact on him that extends beyond a single episode – and that could take his character on a journey. Beginning with the sense of betrayal he surely felt at the duplicate’s duplicity aboard the Titan, Boimler could begin to forgive him, only to discover he’s up to no good. He could find it difficult to convince his friends at first, before showing them irrefutable proof of the clone’s misdeeds. And the whole experience of having to face off against someone who literally knows him inside and out and has shared every experience he ever had could both challenge and change him.
We could see a more confident Boimler emerge from under such a storyline – but someone whose friendships have been pushed and stretched before eventually settling. Or we could see Boimler begin to second-guess himself; if the “evil” clone was Boimler himself, perhaps he’d wonder if being “evil” is part of his own nature, and that could cause him to freeze or find it hard to make decisions.
In short, there are a lot of ways that such a story could go – but almost all of them would be good for Boimler’s characterisation in the long run. We’d get a fun episode with the evil twin that could harken back to the likes of The Enemy Within, Mirror, Mirror, Datalore, and others – but the impact of that episode could reverberate across an entire season, giving Boimler a character arc that could be very satisfying to see unfold.
So that’s it for now! The theory is that Boimler’s transporter duplicate will – in classic Star Trek tradition – turn out to be evil!
For the reasons laid out above, I think such a story could be fun and interesting. Moreover, I like the idea of the fallout from Boimler’s conflict with his “evil twin” not being confined to a single episode and potentially setting him on a season-long arc as he processes what happened and what it means for himself and his friends. Going down that road could feel deeply cathartic – with Boimler filling in for other Star Trek characters in similar situations who never got the chance to deal with the longer-term implications of what they went through!
I hope this was a bit of fun. Please keep in mind that I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that any of this will happen in Lower Decks either imminently or in Season 4. I just think it’s a fun concept, and while all the pieces seem to be in place for such a story, it could be that the transporter duplicate will (in the best tradition of Star Trek) never be mentioned again!
Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. Season 3 will premiere on the 25th/26th of August 2022. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. 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 following Star Trek productions: Picard Seasons 1-2, Discovery Season 3, Strange New Worlds, the Kelvin timeline films, Deep Space Nine, and The Next Generation.
Today I thought we could have a bit of fun! There are many so-called “hot takes” about the Star Trek franchise flitting about online, and I thought it could be a change of pace to share a few of my own. These are – based on my limited engagement with the wider Star Trek fan community, at least – opinions that aren’t widely held or especially popular. I’ll do my best to explain why I feel the way I do about each of the six subjects we’re going to consider below.
More than ever, I ask you to keep in mind that all of this is subjective, not objective! I’m not saying that these opinions are factual and unquestionable; this is just my singular perspective on a handful of very complex topics. As with everything in media, there are going to be a range of views, and while I’ll try to justify my opinions below, I know that a lot of people can and do disagree. And that’s okay! There’s room in the Star Trek fan community for respectful disagreement about all manner of things.
With all of that out of the way, this is your last chance to jump ship if you aren’t interested in some potentially controversial Star Trek opinions!
“Hot Take” #1: Star Trek: Picard transformed Seven of Nine into an enjoyable character for the first time.
Star Trek: Picard hasn’t been perfect across its first two seasons, but one thing that it absolutely got right is Seven of Nine’s characterisation. Seven was an unexpected character for the series to introduce – she’d never interacted with Jean-Luc Picard on screen before, and the pair hadn’t even the barest bones of a relationship to build on. In that sense, I was surprised (and maybe a little concerned) when it was made clear that she’d be featured in a big way in the first season.
Perhaps I should explain myself before we go any further. Seven of Nine was introduced midway through Voyager’s run in the two-part episode Scorpion. At first she seemed to be a character with a lot of potential, and I enjoyed what she brought to the table in early Season 4 episodes such as Scientific Method and The Raven. But Seven very quickly became repetitive. Week after week she’d learn some lesson in “how to be more human” from the Doctor or Captain Janeway, but she’d seem to forget all about it and revert to her semi-Borg self by the next episode. This was exacerbated by the fact that Voyager’s latter seasons seemed to include a lot of Seven-heavy episodes and stories, making her a prominent character.
That’s how episodic television works, and I get that. Most other Star Trek characters up to that point in the franchise’s history also “reset” in between episodes, and we could talk at length about how characters like Miles O’Brien could go through some horrible trauma one week only to be happily playing darts at Quark’s a few days later as if it never happened. But with Seven of Nine, a combination of her prominence and storylines that often revolved around learning and taking to heart some aspect of what it means to be human and exist outside of the Borg Collective meant that her week-to-week resets and lack of significant growth really began to grate. Toward the end of Season 7, Seven was given an arc of sorts that threw her into a relationship with Chakotay – but I’m hardly the only person who feels that didn’t work particularly well!
So by the time Voyager ended, I was burnt out on Seven of Nine. Out of all the main characters from Voyager, she was perhaps the one I was least interested to see picked up for a second bite of the cherry – but I was wrong about that. Where Seven had been static and repetitive in Voyager, Picard gave her that development I’d been longing to see, and it was incredibly cathartic! Even though Seven’s post-Voyager life hadn’t been smooth, it had been human, and seeing her experience genuine emotions like anger, betrayal, and later through her relationship with Raffi, love, was something I didn’t know I wanted. Having seen it now, though, there’s no way I’d want to lose this element of Picard.
The death of Icheb, which was shown in one of Picard Season 1’s most gory sequences, became a key part of Seven’s character arc. His loss devastated her – and the idea that Seven of Nine could be devastated was already a colossal leap for her character. That it spurred her on to one of the most human of desires – revenge – is even more significant for her. And this growth continued across the rest of Season 1, with Seven coming face-to-face with the Borg and even becoming a leader (of sorts) for the liberated ex-Borg on the Artifact.
Even though Season 2 was a mixed bag (at best) with some lacklustre storylines, Seven of Nine shone once again. Her relationship with Raffi added a whole new dimension to her character, and after seeing her experiencing anger and negative emotions in Season 1, Season 2 gave her a chance at love. Season 2 also saw Seven revelling in a new experience, having hopped across to a new timeline and found herself in a body that had never been assimilated. That set her on an arc to accepting herself for who she is – including her Borg past.
Seven’s journey has been beautiful to see, but also cathartic. To me, her journey in Picard feels like it’s righted a twenty-year wrong, finally giving Seven of Nine genuine development and an arc that stuck. While I’m sure fans can and will debate individual plot points (like Icheb’s death or Seven’s off-screen involvement with the Fenris Rangers), taken as a whole I’ve really enjoyed what Picard did with what had been one of my least-favourite characters of The Next Generation era.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more from Seven of Nine – and if you’d told me in 2000-2001 that I’d write those words I wouldn’t have believed you!
“Hot Take” #2: I don’t like The Inner Light.
Often held up as an example of The Next Generation at its best, I’ve never enjoyed The Inner Light. It’s an episode I usually skip over without a second thought when re-watching The Next Generation, but I put myself through the chore of viewing it recently; it’s part of what inspired me to put together this list!
The Inner Light steps away from the exciting adventures of the Enterprise-D to show us a pre-warp civilisation living on a random alien backwater planet, and while exploring strange new worlds is part of the gig, the way this episode in particular does that is just not interesting or enjoyable in the slightest. It’s certainly “different” – and I will concede that point. Star Trek has never been shy about experimenting, after all! But this particular experiment didn’t work, which is probably why we haven’t really seen another episode quite like it.
I don’t like to say that something “doesn’t feel like Star Trek,” not least because that vague and unhelpful phrase has become associated with a subgroup of so-called fans who use it to attack everything the franchise has done since 2009. But to me, The Inner Light feels about as far away from what I want and hope to see from an episode of Star Trek as it’s possible to get.
By spending practically its entire runtime in the past, with Picard taking on the role of an alien blacksmith in a pre-warp society, The Inner Light abandons not only the entire crew of the Enterprise-D, but also many of the fundamental adventurous elements that are what makes Star Trek, well… feel like Star Trek. Its deliberately slow pace doubles-down on this sensation, and The Inner Light seems to drag as a result, coming across as boring.
I’m not particularly bothered by the way the Kataan probe operates – that seems technobabbley enough to get a pass. But after Picard has been hit by the probe and the majority of the episode is then spent on Kataan with Kamin and his family… I’m just not interested. Sir Patrick Stewart is a great actor, and what happened to the Kataan people is both tragic and a timely reminder of our own burgeoning environmental catastrophe (something that we haven’t even tried to fix more than a quarter of a century later). But despite all of the elements being in place, the story just doesn’t grab me like I feel it should. At the end of the day, I can’t find a way to give a shit about Kataan, nor about Kamin or anyone else.
There are many episodes of Star Trek with races and characters who only appear once, and yet very few of them manage to evoke that same “I just don’t care” reaction. Just within Season 5 of The Next Generation we have characters like Hugh the Borg and Nicholas Locarno, or aliens like the Children of Tama and the Ux-Mal, all of which manage to hook me in and get me invested in their storylines. I’d generally consider The Next Generation’s fifth season to be one of its best, with many of my favourite episodes. But The Inner Light isn’t one of them.
There are points to The Inner Light that did work. The Ressikan flute theme, for example, is a beautiful piece of music, and Picard’s flute-playing ability (which he learned during the events of The Inner Light) would become a minor recurring element for his character going forward, notably appearing in episodes like Lessons. And the underlying premise of a probe that transmits a message in this way could have worked; it feels quite Star Trek-y in and of itself.
But for me, The Inner Light just isn’t fun to watch. It’s boring, uninspiring, and I can’t find a way to get invested in the story of Kataan and its people – despite good performances from Sir Patrick Stewart and the other actors present.
“Hot Take” #3: Modern Trek needs to pick a single era (and timeline) and stick to it.
Star Trek, perhaps more so than any other major entertainment franchise, is convoluted. As Trekkies, we love that! The fact that modern Star Trek can explore different timelines, different eras, and broadcast different shows that are entirely separate from one another makes for a diverse and interesting presentation. It also means that we can simultaneously step back in time to before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission while also seeing what came next for Captain Picard twenty-five years after the events of Nemesis.
But try to look at Star Trek from the point of view of a newcomer. Every single one of the five shows currently in production is set in a different time period and location, and just figuring out where to start with Star Trek – or where to go next for someone who’s enjoyed watching one of the new shows – is the subject of essays, articles, and lists. It’s beginning to remind me of Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe – a combination of games, books, comics, and so on that had become so convoluted and dense after decades in production that it felt offputting.
In order for Star Trek to successfully convert viewers of one of its new iterations into fans of the franchise, it needs to simplify its current output. A fan of Strange New Worlds might think that their next port of call should be Picard or Lower Decks – but they’d be completely lost because those shows are set more than a century later.
The lack of a single, unified setting also prevents crossover stories – and these aren’t just fun fan-service for Trekkies like us! Crossovers link up separate Star Trek outings, bringing fans of one show into close contact with another. Just as The Next Generation did with Deep Space Nine (and DS9 did with Voyager), modern Star Trek should make the effort to link up its current shows. There are links between Discovery and Strange New Worlds – but any crossover potential has evaporated due to Discovery shooting forward into the far future.
This also applies to alternate realities, most significantly the Kelvin timeline which is supposedly being brought back for a fourth film. The Kelvin films served a purpose in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but as I’ve argued in the past, is it really a good idea to bring back that setting – as well as its presentation of characters who have recently been recast for Strange New Worlds – with everything else that Star Trek has going on?
In 2009, it was possible for new fans to jump from the Kelvin films to other iterations of Star Trek and keep up with what’s going on. But we’ve had more than 100 new episodes of Star Trek since then across several different eras, some including recast versions of characters who appeared in the Kelvin timeline films. I’m not so sure that a new Kelvin timeline film serves its intended purpose any more.
I wouldn’t want to see any of the shows currently in production shut down before their time. We’ve only just got started with Strange New Worlds, for instance, and I’m hopeful that that series will run for at least five seasons (to complete Captain Pike’s five-year mission!) But as the current crop of shows wind down, the producers at Paramount need to consider their next moves very carefully. Where should Star Trek go from here, and where should its focus be?
Discovery’s 32nd Century is certainly a contender, and setting the stage for new adventures years after the stories we know provides a soft reboot for the franchise while also opening up new storytelling possibilities. But it would also be great to see Star Trek return to the late 24th or early 25th Centuries of the Picard era, picking up story threads from The Next Generation era – Star Trek’s real “golden age” in the 1990s. Setting all (or almost all) of its films, shows, miniseries, and one-shot stories in a single, unified timeline has many advantages, and would be to the franchise’s overall benefit.
Stay tuned, because I have a longer article about this in the pipeline!
“Hot Take” #4: Far Beyond The Stars is an unenjoyable episode, albeit one with a very important message.
This is my way of saying that “I don’t like Far Beyond The Stars” while still giving credit to the moral story at its core. Star Trek has always been a franchise that’s brought moral fables to screen, and Far Beyond The Stars does this in a very intense – and almost brutal – way, shining a light on America’s racist past and present.
But as I’ve already discussed with The Inner Light above, the way in which this story is presented doesn’t really work for me. I find Benny Russell’s story sympathetic… but because what’s happening is so far removed from the events of Deep Space Nine, it’s difficult to turn that investment over the course of a single episode into anything substantial. The “it was all a dream or a vision” explanation also hammers this home; whatever was happening to Captain Sisko was taking place outside of the real world – perhaps inside his head, perhaps as a vision from the Prophets – and thus it doesn’t feel like it matters – in the context of the show – in the same way as other, similar stories.
Far Beyond The Stars is comparable to The Inner Light insofar as it steps out of the Star Trek franchise’s fictional future. In this case, the story returns to our real world a few short years in the past. While there are occasional flashes of Star Trek’s signature optimism, the darker tone of the story combines with its real-world setting to feel different; separate from not only the events of Star Trek, but its entire universe.
“But that’s the whole point!” fans of Far Beyond The Stars are itching to tell me. And I agree! Far Beyond The Stars knows what it’s trying to be and knows the kind of story it wants to tell and goes for it, 100%. I’d even say that it achieves what it set out to. But that doesn’t make it a fun watch, an entertaining story, or an episode I’m keen to revisit. As with The Inner Light, I almost always skip over Far Beyond The Stars when I’m watching Deep Space Nine.
Perhaps if I were an American, more of Far Beyond The Stars’ real-world elements would hit closer to home. But when I first saw the episode in the late ’90s here in the UK, I confess that at least parts of it went way over my head. That’s perhaps my own bias showing – but the whole point of this exercise is to discuss parts of the Star Trek franchise beginning with my own biases and opinions!
Having re-watched Far Beyond The Stars after spending time living in both the United States and South Africa – two societies which continue to wrangle with legacies of structural and systemic racial discrimination – I definitely felt its hard-hitting message a lot more. In fact, Far Beyond The Stars could be a great episode to use as a starting point for a broader conversation about race and structural racism. But having a moral message – especially a very on-the-nose one – doesn’t always make for the most interesting or enjoyable story.
I don’t find Far Beyond The Stars to be “uncomfortable” to watch. The racial aspects of its story have purpose, and even with the progress that America has made since the turn of the millennium, many of the racial issues that Far Beyond The Stars highlights are just as relevant today as they were twenty-five years ago. But I guess what I’d say about the episode is that it doesn’t deliver what I personally find interesting and enjoyable about an episode of Star Trek.
Taken as a one-off, I can put up with Far Beyond The Stars. It didn’t become a major recurring thing in Deep Space Nine, and while Captain Sisko would recall the events on more than one occasion, it didn’t come to dominate the latter part of Deep Space Nine’s run in any way. So in that sense, I’m content to set Far Beyond The Stars to one side, acknowledging what it brought to the table in terms of allegory and morality while being content to rewatch it infrequently.
“Hot Take” #5: Canon matters – up to a point.
There seems to be a black-and-white, either/or debate in the Star Trek fan community when it comes to the franchise’s internal canon. Some folks are adamant that the tiniest minutia of canon must be “respected” at all costs, criticising things like the redesign of uniforms or even the recasting of characters because it doesn’t fit precisely with what came before. Then there are others who say that “it’s all just a story,” and that canon can be entirely ignored if a new writer has an idea for a story. I don’t fall into either camp!
Canon matters because internal consistency matters. Internal consistency is – for me, at least – an absolutely essential part of the pathway to suspension of disbelief. If I’m to believe that transporters and warp cores exist, the way they work and the way they’re presented on screen has to be basically consistent from one Star Trek story to the next.
The same applies to characters. If a character has a background as an assassin and that’s a central part of their characterisation in one story, the next episode can’t arbitrarily change that and make them into a marine biologist because the plot demands it. Characters need to feel like real people, and the world they inhabit needs to operate by its established rules.
Luckily for Star Trek’s writers, there is a lot of flexibility in those rules! Most of the specifics of how individual pieces of technology work have never been delved into in any detail, and there’s a lot we don’t know about even the most basic of things within the Star Trek universe. So new writers find themselves with considerable leeway if they want to make a change or do something differently for the sake of a story.
But there is a limit to that – or at least there ought to be. And the Star Trek franchise has tripped up by introducing new elements that seem to tread on the toes of what has already been established, even if they don’t technically overwrite anything. Spock’s family is a case in point. The Final Frontier gave Spock a half-brother who had never been mentioned, and then Discovery came along and gave him an adopted sister as well. Neither of these additions overwrote what we know of Spock’s family history… but they definitely came close.
On the other side of things, I’m quite okay with Star Trek making changes and updates to its visual style. The redesign of the USS Enterprise that debuted in Discovery and has been expanded upon for Strange New Worlds is a great example of one way that the franchise has modernised its look without really “damaging” established canon. All that’s required to get around the apparent visual changes – for anyone who feels it’s necessary – is to say that the Enterprise must’ve undergone some kind of retrofit in between Pike’s command and Kirk’s.
Where canon matters to me is in terms of characterisation and story. If we’ve established, for example, that the Vulcans and Romulans are related to one another, then future stories must remain consistent with that; there can be no “Romulan origin story” that tries to say that they evolved separately, for example. Likewise for characters. We all love a good character arc – but if a character’s personality and background are established, changing those fundamentals in an arbitrary manner should be off the table.
So to the canon purists, my message is going to be “loosen up a little!” And to the canon ignorers, what I’d say is “internal consistency matters.”
“Hot Take” #6: The Kelvin films got a lot right – and could be textbook examples of how to reboot a franchise.
Even today, more than a decade after 2009’s Star Trek kicked off the Kelvin timeline, I still have Trekkie friends who have refused to watch them. Other fans who showed up at the cinema were unimpressed with what they saw, and the Kelvin films can feel like a controversial part of the Star Trek franchise sometimes. For my two cents, though, although the Kelvin films were imperfect and certainly different to what had come before, they managed to get a lot of things right. I’d even say that Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness could be used as textbook case studies in how to reboot a franchise successfully!
Modern Star Trek – from Discovery to Picard and beyond – would simply not exist without the Kelvin films. When Enterprise was cancelled in 2005, it really did feel as though the Star Trek franchise itself had died and wouldn’t be returning. Even as someone who hadn’t been a regular viewer of Enterprise, that still stung! But if there had been doubts over the Star Trek brand and its ability to reach out to new audiences and bring in huge numbers of viewers, 2009’s Star Trek shattered them.
Into Darkness eclipsed even the massively high numbers of its predecessor and remains the cinematic franchise’s high-water mark in terms of audience figures and profitability, so it’s not exactly shocking to learn that Paramount hopes to return to the Kelvin cast for a fourth outing next year! These films took what had been a complicated franchise with a reputation for being geeky and nerdy and skimmed off a lot of the fluff. What resulted was a trio of decent sci-fi action films that may just have saved the franchise’s reputation.
The Kelvin films also gave Star Trek a visual overhaul, modernising the franchise’s aesthetic and visual style while still retaining all of the core elements that longstanding fans expected. Transporters were still there – but they looked sleeker and prettier. Warp drive was still present – but a new visual effect was created. Many of these aesthetic elements have remained part of the franchise ever since, appearing in the various productions that we’ve seen since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017.
By establishing an alternate reality, the Kelvin films found scope to take familiar characters to very different places. We got to see how Kirk and Spock met for the first time at Starfleet Academy – a premise that Gene Roddenberry had considered all the way back during The Original Series’ run – but with a twist. Star Trek reintroduced us to classic characters, but put its own spin on them, providing a satisfactory in-universe explanation for why so many things were different.
But at the same time, the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock from the prime timeline anchored the Kelvin films, providing a link to what had come before. This reboot wasn’t about erasing anything; it was an expansion of Star Trek into a new timeline, one that had basically unlimited potential to tell some very different stories. The trio of films took advantage of that, and while I would argue that there’s no pressing need to revisit the Kelvin timeline right now, I absolutely do appreciate what they did for Star Trek.
As a reboot, the Kelvin films succeeded in their ambition. They reinvented Star Trek just enough for mainstream audiences to discover the franchise – many for the first time. Some of those folks stuck around and have become big Trekkies all off the back of what the Kelvin films did. They updated Star Trek without overwriting anything, and they set the stage for further expansion and growth. By every measure, the Kelvin films were successful.
That isn’t to say they’re my favourite part of the franchise! But as a fan who wants Star Trek to stick around and continue to be successful, projects like the Kelvin films are essential.
So that’s it!
I hope that this was a bit of fun rather than anything to get too seriously upset about. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about the episodes, films, characters, and storylines that Star Trek creates, and whether I’m thrilled about something, hated it, or have mixed feelings, I will always try to explain myself and provide reasons for why I feel the way that I do. But at the end of the day, all of this is just the subjective opinion of one person!
We’re very lucky to have so much Star Trek content coming our way in the next few years. It seems like the franchise will make it to its sixtieth anniversary in 2026 with new films and episodes still being produced, and there can’t be many entertainment franchises that could make such a claim to longevity!
There are definitely points on the list above that I could expand upon, and I’m sure I could think of a few more “hot takes” if I tried! So stay tuned for more Star Trek content to come here on the website as we move into the summer season.
The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. 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 following Star Trek productions: The Original Series Season 2, The Voyage Home, The Next Generation Season 6, Deep Space Nine Season 6, Voyager Season 4, Enterprise Season 2, Short Treks, Picard Season 1, Lower Decks Season 2, and Prodigy Season 1. Phew. That was a lot!
The world can be a crappy place, and not just because of wars and pandemics. Sometimes we all need to switch off from current events and seek out some escapism. For me, films and TV shows with very heavy themes, lots of violence, or dark narratives don’t always provide the best escape, and on days when my mental health suffers I find myself reaching for something lighter and comforting. On this occasion, I thought we could pick out a few Star Trek stories that I believe fit that description.
The Star Trek franchise has long been an escape from reality for me. In both its older and modern incarnations, I find that jumping head-first into a future that looks safer and better than anything we could imagine today feels pretty great! Star Trek has always had an underlying setting that feels optimistic and hopeful for a better tomorrow – and that’s something we all need to hear sometimes.
So with that in mind, let’s consider a few Star Trek stories that I believe make for lighter, comforting viewing. As always, this isn’t a ranked list; the episodes are listed below in the order they were first broadcast.
Number 1: A Piece of the Action The Original Series Season 2
The Original Series made very creative use of some of the limitations of its time! It wasn’t always possible to visit a brand-new planet every week that looked and felt very “alien,” so The Original Series used sets intended for other films and TV shows in different – and occasionally silly – ways. A Piece of the Action sees Captain Kirk and the crew encounter a planet whose entire population have based their society around the Chicago mob!
When A Piece of the Action was written, the 1920s were only forty years in the past – the equivalent today of the eighties! So perhaps to viewers at the time it was more relevant and less… camp. But I’ve always found A Piece of the Action to have a light, almost comedic flair simply because of its setting; the ’20s-inspired dialogue, the old fashioned suits, and the general tone of a “Golden Age of Hollywood” gangster flick all contribute to that.
The notion of going to a faraway planet in space and finding a society based on the Chicago mob is silly, but A Piece of the Action sells it in the best way it can, making the very odd juxtaposition of scenes aboard the Enterprise and scenes on Sigma Iotia II flow surprisingly well. But above all, it’s a fun story that imitates, in a very Star Trek way, classic mobster films from a generation earlier.
Apparently A Piece of the Action was going to be the basis for a Quentin Tarantino-directed Star Trek film that ultimately didn’t enter production. It seems as though I’m in a minority, based on the reactions to this news from Trekkies I’ve spoken with, but I’d have been interested to see what a director as undeniably talented as Tarantino would’ve brought to Star Trek. A new film from such a big name would surely have been a box office draw, at the very least! But maybe that should be the topic of a longer article sometime.
Number 2: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Also known as “the one with the whales,” The Voyage Home is arguably the most lighthearted and fun of all the Star Trek films to date! After the very heavy stories of loss and death in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, the third and final act of this trilogy came along like a breath of fresh air. I feel that The Voyage Home is the most dated of the Star Trek films thanks to being set in what was, at the time, the modern day. But that doesn’t detract from it; the kitschy eighties flavour is all part of the appeal!
There are some fantastic moments of pure comedy in The Voyage Home. I won’t spoil them if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, but suffice to say that bringing a 23rd Century crew to the modern day and forcing them to interact with basic things like cash and computers led to some absolutely hilarious, iconic moments.
There’s an ecological message at the heart of The Voyage Home, and the threat posed by the alien “whale probe” is definitely serious. But that theme doesn’t present as excessively weighty, and by the time Kirk and the gang are running around San Fransisco in 1986, the focus is more on the fun side of that premise.
With Star Trek: Picard Season 2 fast approaching, it could be fun to go back to The Voyage Home to see the most recent use of the “slingshot method” of travelling through time – something that may be making a return to Star Trek very soon!
Number 3: Relics The Next Generation Season 6
I wanted to put at least one crossover episode on this list, and this time it’s Relics that makes the cut! Bringing Scotty into The Next Generation was a lot of fun, and having him overcome his “fish out of water” status to eventually work alongside Geordi La Forge was absolutely fantastic, and made for a wonderful, heartwarming story.
With no evil villain to defeat nor a war to fight, Relics posed a scientific puzzle for Star Trek’s first two engineers to overcome – and in the process they were able to save the Enterprise-D from being trapped inside of a Dyson Sphere! There’s definitely a message in Relics: that older people have a lot to contribute if younger people are willing to take the time to listen.
When I first saw Relics back in the ’90s, I wasn’t prepared for Scotty’s arrival. This was before the days of spoilers on social media, so I went into the episode completely unaware of what I was about to see. When Scotty materialised on the transporter pad for the first time I was absolutely blown away! The Next Generation had been my first port of call in the early ’90s, but by the time Relics came around I’d seen all of The Original Series films and quite a few episodes, so I was really excited when it turned out to be a crossover episode.
Relics is, in a lot of ways, a very fan-servicey episode. But it’s also a comforting one, and more than that it feels almost like a slice of pure Star Trek. There’s a scientific mystery that’s both interesting and exciting, there are some wonderful character moments between Scotty and Picard and Scotty and La Forge in particular, there’s more than a dash of humour, and there’s an underlying message that may just strike a chord with some folks in the real world. It’s an all-around Star Trek episode!
Number 4: The Magnificent Ferengi Deep Space Nine Season 6
The Magnificent Ferengi takes what should be a dark and upsetting premise but manages to put a lighthearted, comedic spin on it thanks to the inclusion of the titular Ferengi. After a less than spectacular introduction in the first season of The Next Generation, in which they were originally supposed to replace the newly-pacified Klingons and become a major antagonist, the Ferengi carved themselves a new niche in Deep Space Nine thanks in no small part to a wonderful performance by Armin Shimerman as Quark.
We came to see the Ferengi as comic relief on a number of occasions, as in The Magnificent Ferengi, but they were also a people with depth. Issues within Ferengi society surrounding the pursuit of wealth at all costs, the second-class status of women, and so on were topics that Deep Space Nine tackled, and the fact that the Ferengi can be funny didn’t detract from those attempts to use them to examine some more serious subjects. But that’s not why we’re here today!
At the height of the Dominion War, Quark and Rom’s mother is captured by the Dominion, and Quark leads an all-Ferengi rescue operation. With the exception of Grand Nagus Zek, this episode brings together practically every Deep Space Nine Ferengi character, and musician Iggy Pop has a guest-starring role.
The plot descends into a comedic farce – naturally, given Quark’s leadership – and if you’ve ever seen Weekend at Bernie’s… well, you know what to expect! The Magnificent Ferengi is a ton of fun, and a great episode for showcasing some of Deep Space Nine’s recurring characters.
Number 5: Message in a Bottle Voyager Season 4
Once again we have an episode with a potentially dark premise that goes in a very different and fun direction! The Doctor is the star here, as he’s sent to the Alpha Quadrant to attempt to make contact with Starfleet for the first time since Captain Janeway and the crew became stranded 75,000 light-years from home… but he finds himself aboard a ship that has been captured by the Romulans!
Comedian Andy Dick guest-stars as a newer version of the Emergency Medical Hologram, and forms an astonishingly funny pair with the Doctor, who was often used for moments of comic relief during Voyager’s run. Seeing the two holograms working together to outsmart the Romulans in a comic story that could verge into slapstick is absolutely hilarious, and there are some real laugh-out-loud moments.
I also find Message in a Bottle to be a very uplifting episode. It marks the halfway point of Voyager’s seven-season run, and the first moment that the crew are able to contact the Federation. After four years of being alone, the crew finally get to inform Starfleet that they’re okay and working their way home, and there’s something incredible about the episode’s closing moments as a result.
The Prometheus-class ship is a pretty cool inclusion, too – a brand-new class of ship which has features that even the USS Voyager or Enterprise-E couldn’t match. I always wanted to see more from this ship, but aside from a couple of background appearances, we haven’t yet!
Number 6: Carbon Creek Enterprise Season 2
Carbon Creek uses a frame narrative to tell the story of the first time Vulcans came to Earth… and it wasn’t in the mid-21st Century, as Captain Archer (and us as the audience) had been led to believe! Instead, T’Pol tells the tale of her great-grandmother, and how she and a small crew came to be stranded on Earth in the 1950s during a survey mission.
Carbon Creek is fun for its fifties atmosphere, and Enterprise really manages to nail that feel through some wonderful sets, costumes, and dialogue. It’s also an episode that shows off how Vulcans can be unintentionally funny in Star Trek, particularly when confronted with different or unusual situations. In this case, T’Mir and her crew have to blend in with a town of very emotional humans.
There are definitely some lighthearted moments scattered through the entire episode, and the frame of T’Pol recounting the story to a stunned Archer and Tucker adds to that as well. It’s also a great example of how a prequel story doesn’t have to tread on the toes of anything established previously; nothing in Carbon Creek fundamentally changes what we already know about first contact between humans and Vulcans. In many ways it expands it – knowing that Vulcan had humanity under observation decades ahead of official first contact gives them a reason to be surveying the area during the events of First Contact!
All in all, a fun episode that steps away from many of Star Trek’s familiar elements like starships to tell a story with some interesting characters in a fun setting.
Number 7: Ephraim and DOT Short Treks Season 2
It’s a shame that we haven’t seen more Short Treks lately; the most recent batch of episodes ended with Children of Mars shortly before Picard Season 1 kicked off in early 2020. The idea of telling one-shot short stories in the Star Trek galaxy may have been a fairly blunt and obvious way for CBS All Access (since rebranded as Paramount+) to convince Trekkies to remain subscribed in between seasons of the main Star Trek shows, but several episodes ended up being fantastic in their own right.
Ephraim and DOT was one of two animated Short Treks episodes that were broadcast in December 2019, and it’s something that we hadn’t really seen the Star Trek franchise do before. Thirty-five years after The Animated Series went off the air, this was Star Trek’s first return to animation, and where The Girl Who Made The Stars was more of a conventional story, Ephraim and DOT was framed very differently!
Telling the story of a tardigrade named Ephraim and a DOT-type robot aboard the USS Enterprise, this Disney-inspired tale sees the unlikely duo team up to save Ephraim’s eggs. With an enthusiastic narrator who sounds like they’ve come from a National Geographic documentary, the short story is a lot of fun – and packs a surprisingly emotional punch at its climax!
Ephraim and DOT also shows off a handful of fun clips from The Original Series that have been reimagined for animation, and this “greatest hits” montage was absolutely fantastic; a blast from the past that elevated the episode.
Number 8: Nepenthe Picard Season 1
If you don’t have the same connection to the characters from The Next Generation that I do, maybe Nepenthe won’t be one of your “comfort episodes.” But for me, seeing Picard reunited with Riker and Troi was one of the highlights of Picard Season 1 – and Nepenthe is one of the best Star Trek episodes that I’ve seen in a long time!
After several tense and dramatic episodes in which Picard and the crew of La Sirena had to unpick the mystery of Bruce Maddox, the synths, the Zhat Vash plot, and so on, Picard was able to rescue Soji and use a spatial trajector to escape to the planet of Nepenthe – home to Riker, Troi, and their daughter Kestra.
There are some very sweet moments between Soji and Kestra as they bond, and while the story has some very bittersweet moments as we learn that Riker and Troi’s elder child had passed away, there are some absolutely incredible and heartwarming character moments as well. After more than eighteen years away from the 24th Century, Nepenthe felt like the homecoming I had been waiting for.
Seeing Riker and Troi enjoying a peaceful life away from Starfleet was something that I needed to see, even if I didn’t realise it beforehand! Although there were issues with the Picard Season 1 finale that meant that, realistically, taking an entire episode away from the main plot to slow down and hang out with Picard, Riker, Troi, and Soji was arguably a mistake, I just can’t find it in my heart to fault Nepenthe for the way it comes across on screen. It’s a beautiful, emotional episode, and sitting down to eat pizza with the characters after everything they’ve been through just feels right.
Number 9: First First Contact Lower Decks Season 2
First First Contact might be my favourite episode of Lower Decks so far. It isn’t as hilarious as some of the show’s other offerings, but as an uplifting story with a real “Star Trek” feel, I don’t think it can be bettered! The episode sees the crew of the Cerritos teamed up with the fancier and more powerful USS Archimedes – under the command of one Captain Sonya Gomez, no less – to undertake their first ever mission of first contact!
But naturally, things don’t go to plan. The Cerritos is called into action to save the stricken Archimedes, and the entire crew pulls together to perform the very difficult and dangerous task of literally stripping off the ship’s outer hull! Lower Decks ditched its usual two (or three) storylines format here, and put all four ensigns and all of the ship’s senior staff in the same story – and the result was absolutely fantastic.
Lower Decks goes out of its way to recreate the look of The Next Generation era, and I’ve always appreciated that. But it doesn’t hesitate to bring new things to the table, and we get our first look at Cetacean Ops in this episode – an aquatic department that had been mentioned in background dialogue in The Next Generation but never seen on screen.
All four ensigns have roles to play in the story, and after the Cerritos had to be saved at the climax of the Season 1 finale, the poetic symmetry of being the one to save a disabled Starfleet ship was absolutely beautiful, and a great way to bring the show’s successful second season to a close.
Number 10: Kobayashi Prodigy Season 1
The Kobayashi Maru test seems like an odd choice for a “comfort” pick, doesn’t it? But the way Prodigy pulls it off feels like a love letter to Star Trek, bringing in classic characters from The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine in holographic form.
There’s more going on in the episode than just the Kobayashi Maru test on the holodeck, and Prodigy’s ongoing story arcs come into play in a big way throughout. But for me, the moments on the holodeck with Dal and the holographic versions of some wonderful characters from Star Trek’s past are what elevates Kobayashi and what makes it so enjoyable.
It’s such a shame that Prodigy remains (officially) unavailable in most of the world, because it’s been one of the most surprisingly fun Star Trek projects, and despite its kid-friendly atmosphere and intended audience, there’s so much to love for Trekkies. I hope that the rollout of Paramount+ internationally will see Prodigy grow in popularity and bring in hordes of new fans – and with episodes as strong as Kobayashi to ease them into the world of Star Trek, there’s a good chance that’ll happen!
The character choices may seem like an odd mix at first – and seeing Odo on the bridge of a Galaxy-class ship definitely felt strange! But each of them is given a moment to showcase their strengths, and what they brought to Star Trek in their original appearances. It makes the entire holodeck sequence feel so very special – and with such an eclectic mix of characters, there really isn’t anything quite like it in Star Trek’s entire official canon!
So that’s it!
Those are my picks for ten “comfort episodes” – or rather, nine comfort episodes and a comfort film – from the Star Trek franchise. We don’t need to repeat why the world feels so messed up right now, because we can all see what’s going on. Certain news stories have become omnipresent, completely taking over social media and other apps. If you find yourself doomscrolling, take a break. Do anything other than wallow in the mess of the real world.
The Star Trek franchise has been my comfort place for decades, and I find myself drawn to it when the world feels too much or when my mental health suffers. A future where humanity has succeeded at conquering not only the problems of today but also many of the baser, more primitive aspects of our own nature holds an appeal that can be difficult to put into words, and I find that practically every Star Trek story – even those darker in tone – have a lot to offer.
So I hope this was a bit of fun and maybe gave you some viewing inspiration! I had a great time going back to these episodes to put this list together, and with everything going on in the world I thought it could be a good time to share something like this.
The Star Trek franchise – including all episodes and films discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. 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 and the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Original Series Season 1, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine Season 3, Voyager Seasons 2, 3, and 7, and First Contact.
It seems an age ago that we were eagerly anticipating Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. In those sunlit, rosy days before the pandemic hit, this website was brand-new, and I spent a lot of time in December 2019 and January 2020 looking ahead and wondering what we’d see when the Star Trek franchise finally returned to the 24th Century – after an eighteen-year wait!
With Season 2 of Picard now only days away, I thought it could be fun to revisit a concept from the early days of the website: a list of episodes that I think could make for interesting background viewing, potentially informing story points and characterisations in the new season of Picard. In the run-up to Season 1 I focused on episodes of The Next Generation that strongly featured Captain Picard himself, as well as a few stories about the Romulans, and a few more stories which could’ve potentially led to big changes in the two decades following the events of Endgame and Nemesis.
This time, we have a little bit more information to go on! Season 2 will tell a story that involves (to a greater or lesser degree) the following elements: the Borg Queen, Guinan, Q, time travel, and, of course, Admiral Picard himself. On this occasion, then, I thought it could be fun to pull out twelve stories from Star Trek’s past that might just be useful background viewing for Season 2 of Picard. It goes without saying that Season 1 is mandatory viewing, so I’m not putting any of those episodes on this list! You should really watch, or re-watch, all ten before the season kicks off!
My usual caveats apply, as they always do! Firstly, everything listed below is entirely subjective. If I miss out an episode that you think is incredibly important, or you hate all of my picks, that’s okay! We all have different opinions about Star Trek, and there’s no need to fight about it. Secondly, I don’t claim to have any “insider information.” I’m basing my theories and guesses about Season 2 on publicly released material, such as trailers and interviews. And finally, the episodes are not ranked; they’re merely listed below in the order in which they were originally broadcast.
With all of that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!
Number 1: Tomorrow is Yesterday The Original Series Season 1 (1967)
Though The City on the Edge of Forever is perhaps the best-known of The Original Series’ time travel stories, Tomorrow is Yesterday preceded it by several months. It was the first episode of the Star Trek franchise where time travel played a major role in the story, and it was also the first in which the crew paid a visit to the modern day. Tomorrow is Yesterday established what went on to become a mainstay in terms of the franchise’s time travel story tropes: being sent back in time by accident!
Aside from being a fun episode in its own right and well worth a watch, Tomorrow is Yesterday is also the episode which introduced the Star Trek franchise to something that appears to be making a return in Picard Season 2: the slingshot method of travelling through time, referred to in this episode as the “light-speed breakaway factor.”
Almost every Star Trek series has included the occasional time travel story, and we can look to episodes like Tomorrow is Yesterday for creating that premise. Visiting the modern world would go on to be significant later in The Original Series, in Star Trek IV, and on several other significant occasions in the franchise. For me, some of these stories can feel rather dated, but I think Tomorrow is Yesterday largely avoids that trap!
As we get ready for Picard Season 2 and the franchise’s latest foray into time travel, stepping back to see where it all began during the first season of The Original Series is no bad thing. Tomorrow is Yesterday has a fairly straightforward premise that should be easy enough to follow even for fans who aren’t as familiar with The Original Series, and is well worth a watch on its own merits.
Number 2: Encounter at Farpoint The Next Generation Season 1 (1987)
In the first teaser trailer for Picard Season 2, we heard Q’s voice proclaiming that “the trial never ends.” Encounter at Farpoint is the episode in which Captain Picard first encountered Q, and the episode in which the referenced “trial” began. Q accused humanity (and by extension, the Federation) of being a “dangerous, savage, child-race” who are unfit to travel the stars. Picard and his crew defended themselves against the accusation.
The task Q set for Picard was to unravel the mystery of Farpoint Station, which he and the crew of the Enterprise-D were en route to. However, figuring out the puzzle wasn’t the end of the trial, and even after bringing the Farpoint saga to a successful conclusion, Q departed in ambiguous fashion, hinting that he would return. He did, of course, on a number of occasions!
Encounter at Farpoint was the premiere of The Next Generation and established the characters of Picard and Q (as well as many other familiar faces). As we approach Picard Season 2, it’s worth going back to see where it all began. This was the first big puzzle that Q tasked Picard with solving, and seeing how Q operates and what the point of it all is, from his perspective, is well worth taking into consideration.
This is also the beginning of “the trial.” We don’t know to what extent the idea of Picard – and humanity – being on trial will feature in Picard Season 2, but if Q has returned to set up a new mystery there could be a connection – and there could be consequences if Picard and the crew of La Sirena can’t figure it out. Q has toyed with Picard on a number of occasions; Encounter at Farpoint was the first.
Number 3: Q Who The Next Generation Season 2 (1989)
Q Who is the episode that introduced us to the Borg – and it’s a pretty scary one by Star Trek’s standards! Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D have never faced a villain like this, and the Borg represent an existential threat. Q made good on his promise to show Picard that there are dangers in the galaxy that he couldn’t even imagine… and eighteen members of the Enterprise-D’s crew paid the ultimate price.
In a way, Q Who shows Q at his most aggressive, devious, and villainous. By throwing the Enterprise-D into the path of the Borg, he proved his point to Picard about the Federation’s unpreparedness in the most painful way possible. But I don’t believe that’s all there is to the story.
I have a theory about Q Who that you can find by clicking or tapping here. To briefly summarise: Star Trek has made a mess of the history of Borg-Federation contact, and it seems likely that the Borg were already aware of humanity and Earth long before the events of this episode. They may have already been preparing for an attack or assimilation attempt, and Q hoped to prevent that by giving the Federation advance warning.
My theory goes into much more detail! But suffice to say the complicated history of contact between humanity and the Borg makes it seem plausible, at least to me, and shows off an aspect to Q’s character that I think could come into play in Picard Season 2. Q Who also establishes the existence of history between Q and Guinan – something that may come up in Picard Season 2 given that both characters are returning.
Number 4: Yesterday’s Enterprise The Next Generation Season 3 (1990)
Though it’s a fantastic episode in its own right, Yesterday’s Enterprise is on this list for one reason: Guinan. When a rift in the space-time continuum sends the Enterprise-C forward through time, decades’ worth of history are changed, leaving the Federation in a very bleak timeline in which it’s fighting a losing war against the Klingons.
Aboard the warship Enterprise-D, Captain Picard and the rest of the crew are completely oblivious to the change; this version of the characters have only ever known the war timeline. But Guinan alone realises that something has gone wrong, and argues with Captain Picard about how to set things right.
Despite a recent controversy, Whoopi Goldberg will be reprising the role of Guinan in Picard Season 2, bringing the character back for the first time since Generations in 1994. Given that we know Season 2 also features a radically changed timeline, not dissimilar to the one seen in Yesterday’s Enterprise, perhaps Guinan will be aware of the change.
Guinan could be the one to talk to Picard about the possible point of divergence, as we know she’d visited Earth in the 19th Century. She may also be one of the only people other than the crew of La Sirena to be aware that something has changed. Guinan also has a history with Q, as we saw in the episode Q Who – so that could also come into play!
Number 5: Time’s Arrow Parts I-II The Next Generation Seasons 5-6 (1992)
Guinan also plays a key role in the two-part episode Time’s Arrow. Thanks to time travel, this is the episode where she and Captain Picard actually have their first meeting, and although the nature of their relationship is still shrouded in mystery, we get a little bit more information about how they came to meet in the first place.
Guinan’s fascination with Earth appears to date back to at least the 19th Century, as she visited undercover during that time period. We know from the most recent Picard Season 2 trailer that Guinan appears to be running a bar on Earth at the dawn of the 25th Century, giving her an association with Earth and humanity that stretches back over five hundred years.
Time’s Arrow is an interesting story that mostly focuses on Data, who was of course a huge part of the story of Picard Season 1. It seems as though Brent Spiner will be playing a new role in Season 2 – perhaps another ancestor of the Soong family – so getting a bit of extra data on Data could be worthwhile, too!
One thing I’m personally curious about in Picard Season 2 is if we’ll get any further backstory on the Picard-Guinan relationship. Although Time’s Arrow depicts their first meeting from Guinan’s perspective, we’ve still never learned how they came to meet in the 24th Century from Picard’s point of view. All we know is that it likely happened prior to his assuming command of the Enterprise-D. I don’t know if Picard Season 2 will expand on that in any way… but it would be interesting!
Number 6: Tapestry The Next Generation Season 6 (1993)
Tapestry is a really interesting episode that deals with the dynamic between Q and Picard, and specifically looks at the nuances present in their relationship. Picard has always viewed Q as an adversary, but I’ve argued in the past that Q doesn’t see himself that way. He views Picard as a friend, and himself as a guide or even an ally – and the way Tapestry unfolds kind of shows why that is.
When Picard is injured on an away mission, he finds himself close to death. At that moment, he encounters Q – who claims he’s already dead. Q gives Picard a chance to avert his death by changing a key event in his past – getting stabbed shortly after graduating from Starfleet Academy – but doing so sets Picard’s life and career on a completely different path.
The important thing here is how Q views the whole affair. We can entertain debates on whether or not Q actually sent Picard back in time or whether it was all an elaborate illusion, but that’s entirely beside the point. Q genuinely believed that he was helping – that by showing Picard an alternate life, he gave him an appreciation for the life he had actually led, even if that meant it was about to end.
I firmly believe that there’s more going on with Q in Season 2 than meets the eye. It’s possible that he didn’t change the timeline at all, and is merely responsible for shielding Picard and the crew of La Sirena from it. It’s also possible that he did change it as part of an elaborate puzzle, one which he hopes and expects that Picard will be able to solve. Speaking of which…
Number 7: All Good Things… The Next Generation Season 7 (1994)
All Good Things is the best example of this aspect of the dynamic between Picard and Q, and could – in theory – be a template for the events of Picard Season 2. In All Good Things, the Q Continuum sets a puzzle for Picard – an eruption of “anti-time.” Thanks to the time-travelling interventions of Q, Picard is able to hop between three different periods of his own past to solve the mystery.
The solution to the anti-time eruption required Picard to challenge his own way of thinking, specifically his linear perception of cause-and-effect. Being able to recognise that events in the future had a causal link to events in the past greatly impressed Q, who seemed to suggest that it was the first step on a path that could one day see humanity evolve into beings comparable to the Q themselves.
All Good Things was also Picard’s last dalliance with Q prior to the events of Picard Season 2. As far as we know at this stage, Q hasn’t been to see Picard in the approximately twenty-five years since the events of All Good Things – but that could change as we get into the new season. It’s possible, at least in my opinion, that Q might’ve been interested to see Picard at his lowest ebb, possibly showing up to see if he could provoke him into action. But we’ll save a detailed explanation of that for my next theory post!
It’s possible that the trailers and teasers for Season 2 have already revealed the nature of Q’s involvement in the story: that he is directly responsible for changing the timeline, he did so on purpose, and he will be the main villain of the season. But I would argue that the “villain” monicker does not fit with Q’s past characterisation, and thus I suspect that there’s much more going on than meets the eye. All Good Things is both a piece of evidence in favour of that argument, as well as a potential blueprint for how a time travel puzzle set by Q could unfold.
Number 8: Past Tense, Parts I-II Deep Space Nine Season 3 (1995)
We know, thanks to a voiceover in the most recent trailer, that at least some of the events of Picard Season 2 take place in the year 2024. But Picard Season 2 isn’t the first Star Trek production to visit that specific year! In Deep Space Nine’s third season, Commander Sisko and the crew of the USS Defiant found themselves accidentally sent back in time to the exact same year.
Past Tense is an interesting story, as it will mark the first time that any episode of Star Trek set in “the future” at the time it was broadcast will be reached, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in doing a full write-up of its story when we hit the end of August 2024! We could talk for hours about how its depressing presentation of the 2020s seemed a long way from reality once upon a time, but with the growth of homelessness and other economic issues, today’s society feels far too close for comfort to the world of the Bell Riots.
I’m not sure how much of Deep Space Nine’s presentation of a fictionalised 2024 will make it into Picard Season 2. It’s possible that the new series will entirely ignore this two-part episode… but I think we should keep an eye open for references or callbacks to some of the characters, events, or even things like brands and products.
Regardless, this will be the first time that two very different Star Trek productions have travelled back in time to the same year, and it might be interesting and informative to take a look at Past Tense to see how Deep Space Nine told us that the year would unfold. It seems as though Picard Season 2 will be set, in part, in California – which is also where Past Tense was set, so that’s another point of connection. I’m not expecting a huge crossover with this one single Deep Space Nine story, but there could easily be references made to it.
Number 9: Death Wish Voyager Season 2 (1996)
Captain Picard wasn’t the only Starfleet officer to tangle with Q. After making a sole appearance in Deep Space Nine, Q hopped over to the Delta Quadrant, where he had several run-ins with Captain Janeway during Voyager’s journey home. Q presented a bit of a puzzle for Voyager; his abilities mean that he could have sent the ship and crew back to Earth with a snap of his fingers. But if we can look beyond that narrative hurdle, Q’s appearances in Voyager added a lot to his characterisation.
In Death Wish, we got our best look to date at the Q Continuum itself. Depicted in a manner that humans could comprehend, the Continuum resembled a rather dilapidated roadside house in the middle of the desert. For the first time, we got to see more members of the Q Continuum as well, and got a glimpse of how Q himself is a bit of a radical by the standards of his people.
The idea that the Q Continuum is not an entirely stable, homogeneous place is an interesting one, and was explored in more detail in the episode The Q and the Grey. But Death Wish also presented a very complex moral question – in the longstanding tradition of Star Trek! This episode can be a difficult watch for some folks because of its discussion of suicide, and it’s absolutely fine to skip it if that subject hits too close to home. If the debate around suicide and end-of-life care is something you’re interested in, though, this is a uniquely “Star Trek” attempt to tackle it.
Q emerges from this story as a reformer – or even a radical – by the standards of his people. We also know, thanks to a line in All Good Things, that he was responsible for assisting Picard when the Continuum set the anti-time puzzle. It’s stories like this that make me think that there’s a goodness in Q; that he isn’t just a trickster or a pure villain.
Number 10: Future’s End, Parts I-II Voyager Season 3 (1996)
The two-part time travel story Future’s End sees Captain Janeway and the crew of the USS Voyager sent back in time to Earth, circa 1996. It’s another story set in the California area, and I think it’s an interesting episode – albeit one that I feel has become very dated by Star Trek standards!
If Picard Season 2 sticks with things like the Borg and the slingshot method, it seems that the kind of time travel depicted in Future’s End won’t be a factor. But there are still interesting points to consider, such as the Temporal Prime Directive and how Starfleet in the future would come to police the timeline, watching out for changes.
There aren’t a great many Star Trek episodes that visit the modern day, and as I’ve already explained I feel that a modern setting can make such stories feel very out-of-date very quickly. Future’s End definitely falls into this trap; its depiction of Southern California has a very ’90s flavour. But it’s a bit of fun, and dare I say almost a guilty pleasure!
I’m including Future’s End here for its modern day time travel story and its focus on California, both of which are elements that we know will be part of Picard Season 2. As with Past Tense, I don’t expect to see a huge tie-in between the new season and the events of this episode, but there may be smaller callbacks and references to some of the characters and events it depicted.
Number 11: Star Trek: First Contact Film (1996)
First Contact introduced us to the Borg Queen for the first time, and went into a lot more detail about Picard’s assimilation experience. The Borg Queen was presented as the embodiment of the Borg rather than their leader, and she became a fearsome adversary for Picard and Data over the course of the story.
Season 1 of Picard saw the retired Admiral face his lingering Borg assimilation trauma when he beamed aboard the Artifact in the episode The Impossible Box, but Season 2 will see him come face to face with a Borg Queen for the first time in twenty-five years. For someone who’s clearly suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress, we don’t know what effect that could have.
Picard was violently anti-Borg in First Contact, and we saw hints of that in Picard Season 1 as well. His conversation with Dr Jurati and Elnor in The Impossible Box, as well as the way he responded to some of the xB’s in later episodes, was in line with his attitude to the Borg in First Contact – and I wonder how encountering a Borg Queen will make him feel!
Many Trekkies hold up First Contact as one of the absolute best Star Trek films, and it’s hard to disagree. As an action-packed work of sci-fi with some truly scary elements thanks to the way the Borg are depicted, it’s an exciting ride from start to finish. It also goes into a little more detail about World War III – an event in the history of the Star Trek timeline that could play a role in Picard Season 2. Check out my full World War III theory by clicking or tapping here!
Number 12: Endgame Voyager Season 7 (2001)
Almost five years after First Contact depicted the Borg’s biggest attack on Earth to date, Endgame brought back the Borg Queen in a significant way. The interventions of a time-travelling Admiral Janeway from the future saw the USS Voyager make it home to Earth, and in the process dealt a significant blow to the Borg Collective.
Even though it’s been more than twenty years since Endgame, we don’t actually know what became of the Borg in the aftermath of Admiral Janeway’s attack. I’ve always assumed that the Borg Collective was large enough, clever enough, and adaptable enough to survive the neurolytic pathogen that she introduced into the Borg Queen… but because the Star Trek franchise has yet to return to the Borg post-Endgame, we can’t be certain of that.
Even Season 1 of Picard, which depicted the disabled Borg Cube known as the Artifact, didn’t settle the issue. So it’s an open question at this juncture whether the Collective survived, whether it was significantly damaged by Admiral Janeway’s pathogen, or whether it was able to easily shake off the attack. It seems as though no major Borg activity occurred in Federation space in the twenty-plus years after Endgame, though.
Endgame makes this list because of the Borg Queen’s role in Picard Season 2, and I think it could be very useful background viewing, possibly even setting up a story about the Queen herself or the state of the Borg Collective at the dawn of the 25th Century. On a vaguely related note, I took a deeper look at Admiral Janway’s actions in Endgame, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here.
So that’s it!
Those are twelve episodes (alright, eleven episodes and a film) that I think might make for useful or interesting viewing prior to Picard Season 2! I think we’ve hit most of the key subjects – at least, those that we’re aware of at this early stage – and got a good mix of stories focusing on Captain Picard, Q, Guinan, time travel, and the Borg Queen.
At the end of the day, though, Star Trek’s past didn’t prove all that important to unravelling the events of Picard Season 1 – nor to recent storylines in Discovery, either. So it’s quite likely, in my view, that Picard Season 2 will bring plenty of brand-new characters and story elements into play. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth going back to these stories and others, but my suspicion at this stage is that the new story won’t rely excessively on what came before.
When Picard Season 2 arrives at the end of next week, I hope you’ll stay tuned for individual episode reviews, theories, and more. Despite the somewhat underwhelming end to Season 1, Picard Season 2 has been one of my most-anticipated shows for almost two years, and I can’t wait to jump in and have another adventure with Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of La Sirena.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 3rd of March 2022, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere 24 hours later. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. 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 Star Trek franchise, including the following upcoming series: Strange New Worlds Season 1, Picard Season 2, Lower Decks Season 2, Discovery Season 4, and Prodigy Season 1.
Yesterday was Star Trek Day! And in case you missed it, ViacomCBS held a live event that was streamed online and via Paramount+ showcasing and celebrating all things Star Trek! We’ll break down the big news in a moment, but first I wanted to give you my thoughts on the event as a whole.
This was the first big in-person event that many of the folks involved had been able to attend since 2019, and there was talk of the pandemic and its enforced disruption on the various shows that have been in production over the last couple of years. There was also a lot of positivity from presenters and interviewees not only about Star Trek – which was to be expected, naturally – but also about being back together and simply being able to hold a major event of this nature. The positivity of hosts Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton was infectious, and the event was much better for the role the duo played in hosting the panels and introducing guests.
That isn’t to say that Star Trek Day was entirely without problems, though. To be blunt, the event dragged on a bit too long (it ran to over three hours) and several of the panels and interviews were the worse for being conducted live instead of the pre-recorded, edited, and curated segments and panels we’ve had to get used to in the coronavirus era. Several of the guests seemed unprepared for what should’ve been obvious questions, and there were too many awkward silences and pauses while people gathered their thoughts and responded to the hosts. Such is the nature of live broadcasting – and it sounds rather misanthropic to criticise it!
During what I assume was an intermission on the main stage we were treated(!) to a separate pair of presenters on the red carpet reading out twitter messages and posts from the audience. This was perhaps the segment that dragged the most; one of the presenters even admitted to not being a regular Star Trek viewer (she hadn’t seen Discovery at all) so unfortunately this part of the show was less interesting as the pair were a little less knowledgeable about the franchise. If it had been made clear that this section of the broadcast was going to last as long as it did I might’ve taken a break as well!
Overall, though, despite running a bit too long and the ending feeling a little rushed (something we’ll talk about later), Star Trek Day was a success. It didn’t only look forward to upcoming projects like Strange New Worlds and Picard Season 2, but it looked back at every past Star Trek series, inviting members of the casts of those shows to talk about what made them – and the franchise – so great.
As a true celebration of all things Star Trek, the broadcast has to be considered a success. And although a pre-recorded event could’ve been edited and streamlined to cut to the more interesting parts and to give interviewees a chance to gather their thoughts, it was nice to see many of the folks we know and love from Star Trek back together and able to spend time in person with one another. Hosts Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton did a great job at making us as the audience feel included, as if we were there at Star Trek Day right along with them. For those few hours – even through awkward moments and segments that seemed to run a little too long – it felt like being a member of the Star Trek family. As someone with few friends, I appreciated that immensely. For those few hours last night – and yes, even though Star Trek Day didn’t start until 1:30am UK time I did stay up to watch it – I felt like I, too, was an honorary member of the Star Trek family, and that’s a feeling I would never have been able to get anywhere else.
Now then! Let’s talk about the various panels, trailers, and interviews. Over the coming days I’ll be taking a closer look at some of the announcements and trailers in more detail (as well as perhaps crafting a few of my patented and often-wrong theories), but for now I want to try to include an overview of everything that was included in Star Trek Day.
We’ll come to the biggest announcements and trailers at the end, but first I wanted to talk for a moment about the music. Star Trek Day had a live orchestra on its main stage, and we were treated to live renditions of Star Trek theme music past and present – as well as a medley that kicked off the event. I was listening to Star Trek Day on my headphones, and the music sounded beautiful. Composer Jeff Ruso (who composed the theme music to Discovery and Picard) picked up the conductor’s baton, and the medley he arranged was really an outstanding celebration of all things Star Trek.
Star Trek Day both began and ended with music, as Isa Briones (Star Trek: Picard’s Soji) sang her rendition of Irving Berlin’s 1926 song Blue Skies to close out the broadcast.
There were five “legacy moments” spread throughout Star Trek Day, and these celebrations of past Star Trek series were genuinely moving. Actors George Takei, LeVar Burton, Cirroc Lofton, Garrett Wang, and Anthony Montgomery spoke about their respective series with enthusiasm and emotion. Cirroc Lofton paid tribute to his on-screen dad Avery Brooks, talking about how Deep Space Nine showed a single dad balancing his work and family commitments. He also spoke about Deep Space Nine’s legacy as the first Star Trek show to step away from a starship and take a different look at the Star Trek galaxy.
The themes of diversity and inclusion were omnipresent in these legacy moments, and all five actors spoke about how Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry have promoted diversity since the very beginning. George Takei spoke about Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek, how sci-fi had previously been something often seen as just for kids, and how putting a very diverse cast of characters together was groundbreaking in the 1960s. It’s always amazing to hear George Takei speak, and even fifty-five years later he still has a grace and eloquence when speaking on these topics. As someone who has himself been at the forefront of campaigning for diversity and equality, he does so with a gravitas that few can match.
Garrett Wang spoke about how Voyager could be a “refuge” for fans; a place to go where everyone could feel included and like they were part of the family. The way the show combined two crews was, I would argue, one of its weaker elements, but Wang looked at it through a different lens, and I can see the point about how Voyager put those folks in a difficult situation and brought them together to work in common cause. He also spoke in very flattering terms about Captain Janeway and Kate Mulgrew – who is returning to Star Trek very soon.
Anthony Montgomery was incredibly positive about Enterprise, and how the series embodied the pioneering spirit of exploration. I loved his line about how Enterprise, although it was a prequel recorded later than many other shows, laid the groundwork and filled in much of Star Trek’s previously unvisited stories and unexplained lore. Above all, he said, Enterprise was a “fun” show – and it’s hard to disagree! The orchestra concluded this speech with Archer’s Theme – the music heard over the end credits for Enterprise – which is a beautiful piece of music. If I were to remaster Enterprise I’d drop Faith of the Heart (which is a nice enough song, don’t get me wrong) and replace it on the opening titles with Archer’s Theme. The orchestra played it perfectly.
LeVar Burton talked about The Next Generation, and how Star Trek was reinvigorated for a new era. The Next Generation was the first spin-off, and it came at a time when spin-offs didn’t really exist in the sci-fi or drama spaces, so it was an unknown and a risk. Burton also spoke about The Next Generation’s sense of family, and how Star Trek can be a unifying force in the world.
Far from being mere padding, the five legacy moments saw stars of Star Trek’s past pay tribute to the franchise and the shows they were part of. There were consistent themes running through all five speeches, particularly the theme of inclusion. Star Trek has always been a franchise that strives to include people who are “different” – people like myself. For many fans, that’s one of the things that makes Star Trek so great. To see some of the biggest stars acknowledge and celebrate that aspect of Star Trek was wonderful, emotional, and rather cathartic.
Each of the five actors spoke with love, positivity, and enthusiasm for the franchise that made them household names. Anthony Montgomery’s incredibly positive attitude in particular shone through – he was beaming the whole time and seemed genuinely thrilled to have been invited to speak and to celebrate Enterprise.
If Star Trek Day aimed to celebrate all things Star Trek, then the legacy moments went a long way to making that ambition a reality on the night. The speeches were pitch-perfect, as were the orchestral renditions of all five Star Trek themes, and I had an unexpectedly good time with these moments. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the programme listed on the website; I didn’t really have any expectations of what the legacy moments would include. They surprised me by being one of the most enjoyable, down-to-earth parts of a hugely entertaining evening.
Let’s talk about news and announcements. That’s what you’re here for, right?! That was certainly what I was most interested in and excited for when I sat down to watch the Star Trek Day broadcast – though, as mentioned, I was taken aback by some of the other elements present that I wouldn’t have expected!
First, a non-announcement! Wil Wheaton interviewed the head of production on Star Trek, Alex Kurtzman, early on in the evening. Kurtzman didn’t have anything to say about the Section 31 series, nor about the upcoming Star Trek film due for release in 2023. However, he mentioned something that I found really interesting: a Starfleet Academy series or project. This isn’t anything close to an official announcement, of course, and he and Wil Wheaton talked about it in abstract terms. But a Starfleet Academy series has been something Star Trek has considered in the past; Gene Roddenberry was quite keen on a Starfleet Academy spin-off prior to developing The Next Generation. Watch this space, because it’s at least possible that a project centred around Starfleet Academy will get off the ground under Kurtzman’s leadership.
There were no brand-new shows or films formally announced at Star Trek Day. While I wasn’t necessarily expecting such an announcement, and Kurtzman’s earlier statement that no new show will be worked on until the current crop have run their course would seem to exclude it, there are multiple pitches and projects that have been rumoured or talked about over the last few years. The Section 31 series was absent again, as mentioned, and that’s more bad news for a series that feels like it isn’t going to happen. There were also no mentions of the likes of Ceti Alpha V, Captain Proton, or Captain Worf – just some of the heavily-speculated or rumoured pitches believed to be floating around over at ViacomCBS.
We did get release dates or release windows for several upcoming seasons, though! After Lower Decks Season 2 draws to a close in mid-October there’ll be a couple of weeks with no Star Trek, but then Prodigy will be available (in the United States at least) from the 28th of October. Shortly thereafter, Discovery Season 4 will kick off – it will premiere on the 18th of November in the United States and on the 19th internationally. Finally, Picard Season 2 is scheduled to arrive on our screens in February next year – presumably shortly after the season finale of Discovery.
All of this is great news! There was no release date for Strange New Worlds, but I think we can assume it will follow within a few weeks at most of Picard Season 2, which would put it perhaps in May or June 2022 at the very latest. But there will be a whole lot of Star Trek on our screens this autumn and winter, well into the first half of next year. Wil Wheaton said it best: with so many new Star Trek projects in production, we’re living through a new golden age of Star Trek right now!
I was a little surprised when the Discovery panel ended without revealing a new trailer or teaser for Season 4. Michelle Paradise, Wilson Cruz, Blu del Barrio, and Ian Alexander talked about how the show is fostering a sense of family in the 32nd Century – and that we will see Gray get a “corporeal” body in Season 4 somehow, which is great! But I have to say I’d been expecting a new trailer; the show is only a couple of months away after all. Perhaps we’ll get that nearer to the time. There wasn’t any mention of Season 5 either, but it’s possible that announcement will come as the marketing campaign for Season 4 ramps up.
Wilson Cruz seems like such a positive person in every interview I’ve ever seen him participate in, and he brought a lot of positive energy to the stage in Star Trek Day as well. There was talk of the Stamets-Culber relationship being revisited in Season 4, which is great – Stamets and Culber really form the emotional core of the show. He also spoke about how Dr Culber is embracing new roles in Season 4 – the role of counsellor to others aboard the ship as well as a parental role for Adira and Gray.
Gray’s storyline has the potential to be one of the most powerful in Discovery as the show moves into its fourth season. Being trans or gender-nonconforming can make one feel invisible – something I can speak to myself – and this is literally shown on screen by Gray’s invisibility. The powerful story of discovering how to be seen, and to do so with the help, encouragement, and support of one’s closest friends and family has the potential to be an exceptionally powerful story, one which I can already feel resonating with me. Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander spoke very positively about their on- and off-screen relationships, and they seem like they work exceptionally well together as a duo. I can’t wait to see what Season 4 will bring for them both.
I’ve already got a Prodigy theory! The show’s co-creators talked about how Prodigy Season 1 begins with the kids on a never-before-seen planet described as being “far removed and mysterious.” It sounds like we aren’t seeing a planet that the USS Voyager visited in the Delta Quadrant – something backed up by scenes seemingly set on that world in the trailer – and the USS Protostar appears to have crashed “inside” the planet. Did it crash during the final leg of Voyager’s journey home through the Borg transwarp network? Or perhaps during one of Voyager’s other flights – the space catapult from The Voyager Conspiracy or Kes’ telepathic launch in The Gift, for example. More to come on this, so stay tuned!
So we got a release date for Prodigy in the United States, but as I’ve said on a couple of occasions now it seems as though Prodigy isn’t going to be broadcast anywhere that doesn’t already have Paramount+. Considering that the series is a collaborative project between Star Trek and Nickelodeon (itself a ViacomCBS subsidiary), it should surely have been possible to secure an international broadcast on the Nickelodeon channel – a satellite/cable channel here in the UK and in many other countries. It’s a disappointment that, once again, ViacomCBS does not care about its international fans. It’s not as egregious a failing as it was with Lower Decks, because as a kids’ show Prodigy’s primary audience won’t really notice the delay. But for Trekkies around the world, to see Prodigy teased then find out we have no way to watch it is disappointing, and there’s no way around that.
Despite that, the Prodigy panel was interesting. Dee Bradley Baker, who voices Murf – the cute blob-alien – seems like he’s a real Trekkie and spoke about the franchise with passion. It was so much fun to see him perform Murf’s voice live, as well! Brett Gray, who will take on the role of young leader Dal, seemed overjoyed to have joined a franchise – and a family – with such a legacy, and I liked the way he spoke about how the young crew of the USS Protostar will grow as the season progresses.
The show’s co-creators – brothers Dan and Kevin Hageman – spoke about how Prodigy won’t be a series that talks down to children, but rather aims to be a series with plenty to offer for adults as well. The best kids’ shows manage this – and the Hagemans have received critical acclaim and awards for their work on Trollhunters and Ninjago, so there’s a lot of room for optimism. They both seemed to have a good grasp of the legacy and role Star Trek plays and has played for young people, and I think the show is in safe hands.
The Prodigy trailer was action-packed and exciting! We got a glimpse of the villainous character played by John Noble – and heard his distinctive voice – as well as got a much closer look at the USS Protostar than we had before. Perhaps the most exciting moment, though, was seeing the Janeway hologram for the first time! Janeway’s role in the show seems like it will be that of a mentor; the kids will make their own calls and decisions, but Janeway will be on hand to offer advice – at least that’s my take at this stage.
There were some funny moments in the trailer, too, which will surely produce a lot of giggles from Prodigy’s young audience. “Just hit all the buttons” until the phasers fire was a great laugh line, and the ship losing artificial gravity was likewise hilarious. There was also a crash-landing that reminded me very much of a scene in the Voyager episode Timeless. I’m really looking forward to Prodigy and to spending time with the young crew of the USS Protostar.
The Lower Decks panel was perhaps the funniest of the night. It was also the one where the interviewees felt the most comfortable and did their best at participating and answering questions; there were none of the awkward silences or long pauses that made me cringe during other panels. Noël Wells, Eugene Cordero, and creator Mike McMahan initially took to the stage before being joined in truly spectacular fashion by Ransom voice actor Jerry O’Connell. The cast members clearly get on very well together, and this came across as the four talked with host Mica Burton about the first four episodes of the season as well as what’s to come in the remaining six episodes.
Wells and Cordero talked about how they see their characters of Tendi and Rutherford becoming friends and bonding over “nerd” things – geeking out together over things like new tricorders, engineering, or how best to do their work was a hallmark for both in Season 1. I’m not so sure how I feel about Mike McMahan saying that the rest of the season plans to go “even bigger” with some of its stories. Lower Decks can be overly ambitious, at times, with the number of characters and story threads it tries to cram into a twenty- or twenty-five-minute episode, and this can be to the detriment of some or all of the stories it wants to tell.
However, McMahan spoke about the episode Crisis Point from Season 1 as a kind of baseline for how big and bold the show wants to go in the second half of Season 2. That episode was one of the best, not just for its wacky over-the-top action, but for its quieter character moments. If the rest of Season 2 keeps in mind the successful elements from episodes like Crisis Point, then I think we’re in for a good time!
The mid-season trailer was interesting! Here are just some of the things I spotted: the Pakleds are returning, Rutherford seems to get a “Wrath of Khan-inspired” moment in a radiation chamber, Tendi was transformed into a monster that seemed reminiscent of those in Genesis from Season 7 of The Next Generation, Boimler and Mariner are involved in a shuttle crash, Mariner rejoins Captain Freeman on the bridge, there was a scene in which Boimler easily defeated some Borg that I assume must be a dream or holodeck programme, a Crystalline Entity was seen, the creepy bartender with the New England accent was back, and Boimler and Mariner shared a joke about the utility of phaser rifles. I’m sure there was more – but those were the key things I spotted! The rest of Season 2 will hopefully continue to hit the highs of the past few weeks – and there’s another episode coming out very soon here in the UK that I can’t wait to watch!
It was very sweet for Star Trek Day to take time to discuss Gene Roddenberry’s legacy, coming in the centenary year of his birth. His son Rod, and former Star Trek stars LeVar Burton, George Takei, and Gates McFadden joined Wil Wheaton to talk about Gene Roddenberry, and this was one of the most touching moments in the entire event. There were some laughs as George Takei told us about his first meeting with Gene Roddenberry and how he came to land the role of Sulu – including how both he and Gene mispronounced each others’ names! Gates McFadden seemed to have been talked into joining the cast of The Next Generation by Roddenberry, having initially wanted to return to the stage and join a play. Rod Roddenberry’s reminiscence of the design process for the Enterprise-D was hilarious – apparently his mother thought the ship looked like “a pregnant duck!”
LeVar Burton, who had been a Star Trek fan prior to joining The Next Generation, spoke about how he was overwhelmed at first when meeting “the Great Bird of the Galaxy,” and how a small role on a made-for-television film introduced him to producer Bob Justman, who later arranged for him to meet with Gene Roddenberry during pre-production on The Next Generation. All of these anecdotes went a long way to humanising Gene Roddenberry the man – we can often get lost in the legacy and philosophy he left behind, and how Star Trek and the world he created has influenced and impacted us, but this was a rare opportunity to hear small, personal stories about the man himself. I greatly appreciated that.
George Takei got one of the biggest applause lines of the evening when he spoke about the importance of Star Trek’s fans, in particular Bjo Trimble, on popularising The Original Series and getting a nationwide fan community started. Decades before the internet came along to make fandoms and fan communities a part of many peoples’ lives, Star Trek was already developing its very own devoted fan community thanks to people like Bjo Trimble, and for George Takei to take time to acknowledge the role fans have played in Star Trek’s ongoing success was wonderful to hear.
As I’ve said before, The Motion Picture was the culmination of this fan-led journey for Star Trek, but the film also laid the groundwork for much of what we’d come to know as Star Trek in the eighties and nineties. Many sets and design elements were in continuous use in some form from The Motion Picture’s premiere in 1979 right the way through to the cancellation of Enterprise in 2005, and much of the aesthetic and feel of Star Trek is owed to what The Motion Picture pioneered. George Takei acknowledged that, and that was a pretty cool moment. The Motion Picture is one of my favourite Star Trek films, and a 4K remaster was briefly shown off as well – the 4K blu-ray set of the first four Star Trek films is out now, so Star Trek Day took a moment to plug it!
The panel that seemed to get the most online attention was, I felt, one of the worst and most cringeworthy to watch! The Strange New Worlds panel was followed up by a pre-recorded video that introduced new members of its main cast, who joined Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn. Among the newly-revealed characters were an Aenar (an Andorian race introduced in Enterprise) a possible descendant or relation of iconic villain Khan, and three characters from The Original Series who are returning to Star Trek: Dr M’Benga, who appeared in a couple of episodes, Nurse Chapel, and the one who got the most attention: Cadet Nyota Uhura!
Uhura blew up online after the announcement, and it’s fair to say that I was not expecting this! There was scope, I felt, for Strange New Worlds to bring back classic characters, but the choices they made seem to be pitch-perfect. I’m especially excited to see more from Dr M’Benga – he was a minor character who feels ripe for a deeper look. The same could also be said of Captain Pike and Number One!
As I predicted a few months ago, the uniforms for Strange New Worlds have been slightly redesigned from their Discovery style. I was never wild about the asymmetrical collars; they worked okay on Discovery’s all-blue uniforms but looked perhaps a little clumsy on the recoloured uniforms worn by Pike and the Enterprise crew. So to see the teaser show off a redesigned style that keeps the bold primary colours but ditches the Discovery style was pretty great! As with any new uniform I think we need time to see them in action and get used to them, but there’s already a lot to like. In addition to the V-neck style worn by Pike and Spock, we saw a white medical variant worn by Nurse Chapel, another medical variant with a broad crew collar worn by Dr M’Benga, and a zipper style worn by Number One. Starfleet uniforms – like any aesthetic or design element – are of course subject to personal taste, but from what we’ve seen so far I like the Strange New Worlds uniforms.
The Strange New Worlds live panel was not the best, though. Anson Mount, who is usually so full of life and happy to talk about all things Trek, sat in silence for large parts of it, deferring to the rest of the panel to answer questions. He may have been trying to avoid jumping in too fast or dominating proceedings, but it led to several very awkward silences that weren’t fun to watch. I got the sense that perhaps he wasn’t feeling well.
The producers – Akiva Goldsman, who has previously worked on Picard, and Henry Alonso Myers – gave us a few tidbits of information about the series. I was very pleased to hear so much positive talk about returning Star Trek to a more episodic format. Goldsman, who had been instrumental in crafting Picard’s serialised story during Season 1, seems quite happy to return to episodic television. There are a lot of advantages in a show like Strange New Worlds – i.e. one about exploration – to using a more episodic format. Episodic television can still see wonderful character growth – I’d point to Ensign Mariner in Lower Decks as a recent Star Trek example – so it was great to see how positively the cast and crew talked about that aspect of Strange New Worlds.
The producers and cast seemed very keen to embrace the legacy of The Original Series in more ways than one. Without looking to overwrite anything, they want to bring their own take on classic characters, and I think that’s great. Spock benefitted greatly from the expanded look we got at him in Discovery’s second season, and there’s no reason to think characters like Nurse Chapel or Cadet Uhura won’t likewise get significant character development that plays into the characters we know and love from their roles in The Original Series.
In terms of aesthetic, Strange New Worlds is trying to walk a line between embracing the 1960s style of The Original Series and also updating the show to a more modern look. There was talk about the design of sets, in particular Captain Pike’s quarters, and how the designers had been keen to return to the 1960s for inspiration. Likewise hair and nail styles were mentioned by Rebecca Romijn for Number One – a ’60s-inspired, “retro” look seems to be on the cards for the character, but not to such an extent that it becomes distracting. Walking that line is a challenge – but one I’m glad to see the show tackling!
We didn’t get a full trailer for Strange New Worlds, and the character introductions were cut in such a way as to minimise what we could see of the USS Enterprise. However, we did get a decent look at the transporter room set, which looks really cool, and when we met Dr M’Benga we got a glimpse of what I assume to be sickbay – and it looks like the colour scheme from The Original Series is still present in some form. We also got to see the logo and typeface for Strange New Worlds.
So an underwhelming panel in some respects led to one of the biggest reveals of the night! Uhura, Chapel, and Dr M’Benga make welcome returns to Star Trek, that’s for sure. And there’s a particular genius to choosing these three characters in particular: they’re all ripe for more development and exploration. Uhura was a mainstay on The Original Series, but compared with the likes of Kirk and Spock there’s still plenty of room to explore her characterisation, background, and learn more about who she is in a way that will inform the original character and portrayal. Likewise for Nurse Chapel and Dr M’Benga – in many ways these two characters are near-blank slates for the new writers and producers to mould into their own creations.
I’m more excited today for Strange New Worlds than I was 24 hours ago, and that’s really saying something! I loved how Mount and the producers spoke about how his portrayal of Pike and Pike’s leadership style led them to redesign parts of his quarters so he could accommodate more of his crew around the table. Cooking was a big part of Captain Sisko’s character in Deep Space Nine, and I picked up at least a hint of that in some of the things said about Pike.
The panel also discussed how the USS Enterprise is a “star of the show” in many respects, and how episodic storytelling will allow the series to return to Star Trek’s roots in terms of producing entertaining stories with morals. As I’ve said before, Star Trek has always used its sci-fi lens to shine a light on real-world issues, and to learn that Strange New Worlds is embracing that is fantastic news.
Spock’s characterisation was mentioned by Ethan Peck and the producers, and there was talk of how we’d see different facets of his personality. The Cage was mentioned as showing us “smiley Spock,” and I liked how the producers have a keen knowledge of how Spock and other Vulcans perceive and experience emotions – Spock is an emotional person, even if he suppresses those emotions much of the time. An exploration of that aspect of his character – informed by his experiences in Discovery Season 2, perhaps – will be truly interesting to see play out.
Finally we come to Star Trek: Picard. This was the final event of the evening, and unfortunately the way it was teed up felt incredibly rushed. Jeri Ryan – who will reprise her role as Seven of Nine in Season 2 – raced onto the stage to introduce the new trailer, and it just seemed very obvious that the people running the event were acutely aware of time constraints and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. There was no Picard panel, no appearance from Sir Patrick Stewart (even by video-link or in a pre-recorded message), and though the trailer was very interesting the way Picard Season 2 was handled felt rushed right at the end of Star Trek Day – ironic, perhaps, considering the rushed way Season 1 also ended!
We’ll get to the trailer in a moment, but it was great to see that Picard Season 3 has been officially confirmed. We knew this was coming – Season 3 is already in production, and filming has already begun. But to get an official confirmation was good, and it drew a huge cheer from the audience. There’s clearly a big appetite for more Picard!
Onward, then, to the trailer. This is one that I’ll have to return to for a more detailed breakdown in the days ahead, but for now here are my summarised thoughts.
A return to the 21st Century is not what I would have chosen. Time travel isn’t my favourite Star Trek storyline, and in particular time travel stories which return to the modern day can feel awfully dated very quickly. Look, for example, at Voyager’s two-parter Future’s End, or Star Trek IV as examples of that. Star Trek feels like the future – one of the reasons I love it so much – and when it comes back to the modern day I think it risks losing something significant. It’s possible that only a small part of the story will be set in the modern day, but even so I wasn’t exactly wild about this story element, unfortunately.
We knew from the earlier trailer that there has been some kind of change or damage to the timeline. It now seems as though Q may be more directly involved, as Picard blamed him for breaking the timeline. Whatever the change was, it seems to be centred in our own 21st Century (though it could be anywhere from 2020-2040, I guess) and resulted not in the creation of the Federation but a “totalitarian state” by the 24th Century. I don’t believe that this is the Mirror Universe that we’re familiar with, but rather a change to the Prime Timeline itself – perhaps caused by Q, but earlier comments seemed to suggest that Q wasn’t to blame, so watch this space.
In voiceover we heard Laris questioning Picard’s motivation for wanting to join Starfleet or leave Earth, something we’d seen him talk about in episodes like Family and again in Generations. She seemed to question whether he’s “running” from something in his past – could it be some darker impulse or perhaps a family secret that’s connected in some way to the creation of the totalitarian state? Could it be, as I suggested recenly, tied into World War III?
One of the things I was most curious about was the role of the Borg Queen, whose return had been signalled a few days ago via a casting announcement. It seems as though Picard has access to the incarcerated remains of a Borg Queen – somehow – and that she may be vital to allowing the crew of La Sirena to travel through time. Rather than the Borg themselves playing a role in the story, then, this may be a battle involving Picard and Seven – victims of assimilation – and a captured, damaged Borg Queen.
There’s a lot more to break down from the Picard trailer, and in the days ahead I’ll put together my thoughts in more detail – as well as perhaps fleshing out a theory or two. For now, I think what I want to say is that I have mixed feelings. The big drawback I can see is the modern-day setting for part of the show. I hope I’m proven wrong, but to me Star Trek has never been at its best with these kinds of stories, and I’m concerned that it’ll stray from being a Star Trek show into something… else.
On the other hand, there are many positives. The return of Laris, who seems to have an expanded role compared to where she was in Season 1. Q’s mysterious time-bending role, too. Is he the villain of the piece, or is his latest “trial” something that he believes will help Picard and humanity? What role will he play – ally, adversary, or something in between? The “totalitarian state” definitely channelled some elements of the Mirror Universe, but also seems to have put its own spin on this concept, taking it to different thematic places. I’d be curious to see what role the Picard of this timeline has in the government of the totalitarian state.
So that’s all I have to say for now. In the days ahead I’ll take a closer look at the Picard trailer, as well as talk about other things we learned at Star Trek Day.
Although it was a late night and a long broadcast, I had a good time with Star Trek Day overall. There were some moments that didn’t work well, some unprepared interviewees and some segments that dragged on too long, but on the whole it was a fun and incredibly positive celebration of Star Trek. I came to the broadcast hoping to see more from upcoming shows, but I was blown away just as much by the celebration of Star Trek’s past as I was by the look ahead.
The hosts, presenters, and most of the speakers and guests showed off their passion and love for Star Trek in a very positive way. There was a lot of talk about returning the franchise to its roots, celebrating the legacy of Gene Roddenberry and his original vision for Star Trek and what made it so appealing to people of all ages across multiple generations. As we look ahead to Star Trek’s future in 2021, 2022, and beyond, taking these moments to look back at what got Star Trek to where it is today was fantastic, and well worth taking the time to see. Above all, Star Trek Day shone with passion and positivity, and that’s just what the franchise needed as it marked its fifty-fifth birthday. Here’s to the next fifty-five years of Star Trek!
Star Trek Day was broadcast online and on Paramount+ on the 8th of September 2021 (9th of September 2021 in the UK). At time of writing the event can be re-watched on the official Star Trek website; panels and trailers are supposed to be available via Star Trek and Paramount+ official YouTube channels. Clips may also be available via official social media pages and channels. The Star Trek franchise – including all properties and series 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: 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: 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.