Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Trek franchise, including the most recent seasons of Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds.
I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media where fans try to construct their “ultimate” Star Trek crews with characters from across the franchise, including one that popped up a few weeks ago. For whatever reason, this latest one – which was put out by the official Star Trek Twitter account – captured my imagination. So today I thought it could be fun to show off the characters that I’d pick to be in my “ultimate” Star Trek crew!
Let’s start by laying down some ground rules…
First of all, I don’t want to pick more than a couple of characters from a single series. If you’re just going to pick the entire crew of the Enterprise-D, what’s the point? We might as well just go and watch The Next Generation!
Secondly, the fact that characters come from different eras or timelines is entirely irrelevant. This is pure fantasy – though who knows, maybe one day Star Trek will do some kind of massive crossover event featuring characters from all over the place!
Third, characters have to occupy a role that we saw them fill on screen; i.e. Captain Picard can’t be a tactical officer, nor could Michael Burnham be assigned as the ship’s Chief Medical Officer!
Fourth, I want to include all of the major roles that we’ve seen main characters occupy on Star Trek – something that the Twitter post that inspired this piece didn’t do!
Finally (and most importantly), I want this to be taken light-heartedly and in the spirit of fun!
So let’s get started building the USS Trekking with Dennis!
Starship Class: Excelsior
One thing that a lot of these lists miss is the ship that the crew will be serving aboard. As many Trekkies have pointed out over the years, a starship is akin to a member of the crew; not merely a setting but a living, breathing entity in its own right. Many starship designs have become iconic parts not just of the Star Trek franchise, but of sci-fi and popular culture in general, and many Star Trek starships are instantly recognisable even to folks who aren’t fans.
The Excelsior-class has been one of my favourites ever since I first saw it. It’s a beautiful design that took the classic look of the Constitution-class and updated it, becoming an iconic piece of ’80s sci-fi in the process. It’s clearly a Starfleet ship – the design retains the saucer, neck, body, and nacelles on pylons that continue to define Federation starships, but it mixed things up for a new era. Excelsior-class ships became workhorses for Starfleet, remaining in use for decades. Picard Season 2 recently debuted an updated design, showing that the ships were still being used at the dawn of the 25th Century!
Admiral/Mission Commander: Jean-Luc Picard
In overall control of our mission at Starfleet Command is Admiral Picard! He’s level-headed, diplomatic, and willing to try to negotiate even with the fiercest adversaries. He’s also a skilled tactician in his own right, and someone who I’d trust to plan operations that involve entire fleets of starships.
Admiral Picard was initially chosen by Starfleet to spearhead the Federation’s efforts to evacuate the Romulan homeworld. While that plan ultimately fell apart due to events beyond his control, the fact that he was the right man to take charge of such a massive assignment shouldn’t be in dispute. Admiral Picard – with support from his team – will be co-ordinating our mission back at headquarters!
Captain: Benjamin Sisko
Although the question of “absolute favourite captain” is an incredibly difficult one, if I were placed under duress Benjamin Sisko is probably the individual I’d name! A battle-hardened commander who transformed a minor, obscure posting into one of the most significant strategic locations in the entire Alpha Quadrant, Captain Sisko led the charge against the Dominion during one of the Federation’s darkest hours.
As a commanding officer, Sisko inspired his crew to follow him, but he was also well-versed in dealing with alien cultures and could be both a diplomat and a deal-maker. I also feel that Captain Sisko would work well with Admiral Picard; he would command the ship while Picard was in control of the overall mission, but could also offer advice and input as we saw him do for Admiral Ross during the Dominion War.
First Officer: Jack Ransom
At the top we have two very serious people – so we need someone like Commander Ransom to balance things out! Although he can be laid-back and make jokes, when the chips are down we’ve seen Commander Ransom absolutely excel, putting the needs of his shipmates first and stepping up to tackle whatever the cosmos throws at him.
The role of a first officer in Star Trek has varied from show to show, with some taking on more away missions and others serving as advisors and confidantes. The best first officers are a mix of both, and Jack Ransom seems like someone his commanding officer can rely on to give honest, sound advice – and then lead a dangerous mission independently.
Helm: Tom Paris
The role of helm officer has been part of Star Trek since The Original Series. But it wasn’t until Tom Paris took over at the helm of the USS Voyager that I felt there was someone in the driving seat who was a bona fide pilot. Paris truly loves piloting Voyager – and any other ship or shuttle that he can get his hands on, too. That’s an impression that I never really got from Sulu, Wesley Crusher, or really anyone else who had sat in the chair before him; they seemed to see the role as a job or duty, where Paris revels in his work.
Not only does Tom Paris enjoy what he does, but he guided the USS Voyager safely home across an impossible distance. Whether it was wormholes, slipstream drives, spatial catapults, the Borg transwarp network, or a warp 10 shuttle that accidentally mutated him into a salamander, Paris navigated them all – and found redemption for his past misdeeds in the process.
Chief Engineer: Hemmer
As the first Aenar to be a major character, Hemmer had a lot of potential. The no-nonsense attitude he had stands in stark contrast to some other engineers we could think of, but when he was off-duty he was personable and friendly with his shipmates – and a guiding light to young cadets who found themselves under his wing. Hemmer’s love of science was cute, too, and he was able to take in his stride all kinds of different events that befell the USS Enterprise.
As Hemmer once told Uhura, he believed that his purpose was to fix what is broken – and he did that in more ways than one while serving as the Enterprise’s chief engineer. Hemmer helped the Enterprise survive major damage during battles against dangerous enemies, and he’s the person I’d want to rely on to keep my starship flying!
Chief Medical Officer: Dr T’Ana
Dr T’Ana is unapologetically my favourite Lower Decks character. Her gruff and grumpy bedside manner conceals genuine medical skill, and we’ve seen her treat patients with all kinds of horrible sci-fi ailments without so much as batting an eyelid. Despite her acerbic attitude, though, Dr T’Ana manages to strike up friendships with her shipmates – and has proven herself to be someone they can rely on.
We’ve also seen how Dr T’Ana is unflappable and doesn’t crack when put under pressure – something that could be important depending on how badly our mission goes! She may not be the politest doctor in the fleet, but no matter what was wrong – disease, injury, or random sci-fi shenanigans – I’d trust Dr T’Ana to patch me up. Plus she’s a Caitian, something that I appreciate as a cat-fanatic!
Nurse/Sickbay Assistant: Kes
While Dr T’Ana can be grumpy and even abrasive, Kes has a wonderful bedside manner that has a way of putting patients at ease. Although she didn’t have much by way of formal medical training when she joined the crew of the USS Voyager, she soon grew into her role as the Doctor’s assistant in sickbay. I still think it’s a shame that Kes had to leave Voyager after the show’s third season, just as she was hitting her stride and learning more about her telepathic abilities.
Kes provides a sharp contrast to Dr T’Ana, and for that reason I think the dynamic in sickbay would be a lot of fun. But Kes has also demonstrated a willingness to learn and a keen medical intuition of her own, so if Dr T’Ana (and the rest of the medical staff) were busy or indisposed, Kes is more than capable of treating patients on her own.
Counsellor: Dr Hugh Culber
Although Dr Culber is the USS Discovery’s chief medical officer, in recent seasons we’ve also seen him take on the role of ship’s counsellor to a greater degree. Not all doctors would make for good counsellors, but Dr Culber has grown into the role, taking on the extra burden of caring for his shipmates’ mental health in addition to his duties in sickbay.
In The Next Generation, Counsellor Troi had a pretty big advantage when it came to reading her patients and understanding them! Dr Culber doesn’t have that same empathic ability, meaning he has to do things the old-fashioned way! But his advice has proven invaluable to Captain Burnham, Saru, and even Book. Dr Culber throws himself into his work, prioritising his patients ahead of himself on occasion.
Tactical has often overlapped with security on Star Trek, but if you think about it, they’re really two distinct roles that require different approaches. As fun as it might be to see Worf getting angry as the Enterprise races into battle, if my back’s against the wall and I’m facing defeat, I want the cool-headed, logical Tuvok aiming the phasers and firing the photon torpedoes.
Tuvok’s temperament makes him incredibly well-suited to a position at tactical – and not only in the heat of battle, either. As a strategist who has mastered the difficult Vulcan game of kal-toh – a strategy game he’s been playing for well over a century – Tuvok is also someone I’d trust to draw up plans for everything from small away missions to large battles.
Security Chief: Odo
As above, we’re separating the roles of tactical officer and security chief. For the latter, there’s no one I can think of who’s better-suited to the role than Odo! Odo is Star Trek’s first real “policeman;” a dedicated officer of the law who was trusted by the Cardassians, Bajorans, and the Federation to be impartial when it comes to justice.
That impartiality – ensuring that no one is above the law – is exactly what our crew needs. Odo will maintain order, but he’ll do so fairly. He’ll also be able to strike up friendships with the crew while retaining that impartiality. Everyone aboard our ship – Starfleet, non-Starfleet, guests, diplomats, or anyone else we meet along the way – will know that Odo will treat them fairly. And I gotta be honest about this last point: having a changeling on the crew could come in handy in a lot of situations!
Communications: Hoshi Sato
Hoshi Sato had not only mastered forty languages – including some very alien ones – in the days before universal translators existed, but she contributed in a major way to making the universal translator itself work in the way we’ve come to expect in Star Trek. Real-time, instant translation of previously-unheard alien languages wouldn’t have been possible without Hoshi’s work.
Hoshi Sato also showed an incredible aptitude for picking up languages very quickly – notably translating languages like Romulan and both Xindi-Insectoid and Xindi-Aquatic. If there was ever a problem with the universal translator – or our mission encountered an alien race whose language and form of communication was difficult to understand – Hoshi Sato is the linguist I’d want on our crew to handle things!
Science Officer: Spock
Could it really be anyone else in this role? Although Spock would go on to be a captain, an ambassador, and a diplomat, it’s his role as the Enterprise’s science officer where he’s best-remembered and most iconic. Spock has a genuine interest in uncovering the secrets of space and the universe, and his raised eyebrow and proclamation that something is “fascinating” have become legendary parts of the Star Trek franchise!
Spock’s logical analysis of sensor readings helped out – and saved – the Enterprise on multiple occasions. Taking his time to analyse unknown phenomena, Spock would present his findings based on the available evidence, and was instrumental in missions as diverse as discovering new forms of life and shutting down ancient super-weapons. On a mission of exploration – or any mission that needs good, solid scanning and sensor work, I want Spock manning that post!
Although the role of operations or ops officer isn’t always well-defined in Star Trek, the role can involve things like power management, sensor control, deflector control, and oversight of the internal workings of the ship. We’ve seen senior officers like Data and junior officers like Harry Kim and Nog assigned to operations roles, and I’m choosing to bring Data along on this mission.
Data is an android, and he has super-human abilities and reflexes as a result. When it comes to things like systems maintenance and keeping the ship in good working order, someone like Data is ideally-suited to the role, and he’s also proven himself to be more than capable of overseeing departments and even entire crews. Data can also provide valuable insight into unfolding situations almost entirely free from bias, making him incredibly useful to have on the bridge as an advisor.
Transporter Chief: Montgomery Scott
Although Scotty is best-remembered as the Enterprise’s chief engineer, I’m assigning him the role of transporter chief this time. One of the most iconic (and misquoted) lines from The Original Series is “beam me up, Scotty,” so I think we’re on safe ground here! Scotty is nothing short of an engineering genius, and when things go wrong – as they often do with Starfleet transporters – he’s the man I’d want to fix things and keep them running smoothly.
Transporter chief is a role that can be overlooked, especially considering that transporting is a fairly quick process when everything runs smoothly. But everything doesn’t always run smoothly, and the right transporter chief with the right technical know-how can mean the difference between beaming up and having your molecules scattered across half a sector of space. Or worse!
It’s not unusual for a starship to have several cadets assigned as they complete their courses at Starfleet Academy, so I’m picking Prodigy’s Rok-Tahk for that role (even though she isn’t formally a Starfleet cadet!) Across the first ten episodes of Prodigy, I felt we got to see some genuine character growth from Rok-Tahk that I hadn’t really expected, and I think she’ll continue to develop into a truly excellent Starfleet officer one day.
We’ve seen cadets like Uhura in Strange New Worlds and Tilly in Discovery moving between departments to try their hand at basically everything aboard a starship. Perhaps Rok-Tahk will do something similar during the course of our mission, giving her a range of new experiences, and potentially bringing a different point of view to all of the departments aboard our ship.
Although Quark is a worthy contender to bring along, I think it’s not unfair to say he’s a bit of a troublemaker! Guinan can be relied upon to create a welcoming environment in her bar for when our crew need some time to relax, but she’s also far less likely to cause problems during our mission!
Guinan can draw upon the experiences of her centuries-long life to offer advice and support to all members of the crew, and we’ve seen moments where her words to Captain Picard ended up completely transforming the outcome of a story. As someone who not only tends the bar but also listens and occasionally has something of value to add, Guinan is the perfect complement to any Starfleet crew.
Non-Starfleet Crewmate: Garak
Since The Next Generation premiered, most Star Trek crews have included at least one non-Starfleet or non-Federation crewmate. When I think back over these characters, few stand out more than Deep Space Nine’s Garak. Garak also brings a lot to the table for our crew! His previous life as a spy saw him develop a completely unique set of skills ranging from technical to combat and beyond – and in a pinch, he could be very useful.
However, Garak will need to be carefully monitored during our mission, as he can be rather slippery and self-serving. Although his service toward the end of the Dominion War saw him firmly allied with the crew of DS9 and the Federation, Garak has gone off-script on a number of occasions. He doesn’t always willingly share everything that he knows, so having someone else on board who knows how to handle him and how to get the best out of him could be important! But when a crisis looms, I think Garak can be counted on to find unconventional – and often un-Starfleet – ways to solve problems.
Villain: The Borg
There have been some wonderfully iconic villains in Star Trek, like Khan or Gul Dukat, and it can be hard to pick an absolute favourite. Purely in terms of the scale of the threat they pose, though, few Star Trek adversaries can compare to the Borg Collective. A vast army of billions or perhaps trillions of assimilated drones, a fleet of thousands of identical cube-shaped ships… the Borg are a faction that could wipe out the Federation in a matter of days without seriously overtaxing themselves.
We’ve seen Starfleet ingenuity and individuality overcome the Borg on a handful of occasions, but I’ve always wondered what it would look like if the Borg ever tried to invade en masse. Would a one-sided rout be inevitable… or will our cobbled-together crew find a way to save the day?
So that’s it!
Those are the characters that I’m choosing for my “ultimate” Star Trek crew.
There are no right answers to the question of which characters make for the “best” crew, and in addition to individual characteristics it’s worth considering how different characters would interact with one another and how well they’d work together. For my two cents, practically every Star Trek show has managed to get a good balance of characters and deployed them successfully. There are a handful of characters who didn’t really get enough time in the spotlight to truly shine, but even so, the franchise as a whole has done a fantastic job – and there are plenty of wonderful characters to choose from when making a list like this one!
I hope this was a bit of fun – and not something to take too seriously or get upset over! I was inspired a few weeks ago by that post from the official Star Trek social media team, and this is my (lengthy) response. It took a while to put this list together and really think about which characters I’d want to include – and which I’d have to exclude. For practically every position on the list above, there was at least one and often two other characters that I strongly considered including. I hope that the final list feels balanced between different shows and different eras, and was, if nothing else, a bit of fun to read!
Until next time!
The Star Trek franchise – including all characters, television series, and films 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 Picard Season 2, Strange New Worlds Season 1, and Discovery Season 4.
It’s been known for a while that there are unannounced Star Trek projects that are being worked on behind-the-scenes, and from time to time someone senior at Paramount will re-confirm this fact in public! Just last month at Comic-Con, we got yet another statement about these secretive projects, this time from Alex Kurtzman himself – the man who’s in charge of the overall direction of the Star Trek franchise. Kurtzman stated that there are two unannounced series that are in active development, so today I thought it could be a bit of fun to speculate about what exactly those projects could involve!
In the past I’ve put out lists of prospective Star Trek shows, but this time I want to be more focused. Rather than wild speculation or pure fantasy, I want to stick as close as possible to what we know based on statements that have been made in public, filings by Paramount, and plausible rumours from around the Star Trek franchise. Rather than saying “here’s a list of my fantasy Star Trek projects,” I want to try to stay realistic and consider some projects that feel genuinely plausible. So that’s what we’re going to do today – no “hospital ship” or “colony world” concepts here! As nice as those would be from my perspective, they don’t seem like ideas that are being actively considered by Paramount at the moment.
Despite wanting to stick to the real world as much as possible, my usual caveat applies: I have no “sources” close to the production of Star Trek nor any “insider information.” I’m not trying to say that any of these projects are definitely going to be made, let alone that an announcement may be imminent! I’ve tried to base the entries on this list on statements from people involved with Star Trek, official notices and filings from Paramount, and plausible, persistent rumours – but all of it could be easily wrong or otherwise untrue. So please take all of this with more than a few grains of salt!
The reason why I’m putting together this list now is twofold. Firstly, Star Trek Day is coming up in just under three weeks from now, and there’s the possibility of a big announcement as part of that event. Secondly, Season 3 of Picard will be that show’s last, so in my view Paramount will already have something lined up to replace it – and an announcement of that project may be forthcoming sooner rather than later. Announcing Picard’s replacement too close to its third season risks overshadowing the show as it comes to an end; getting the announcement out of the way ahead of time will give fans time to properly digest it.
So with all of that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!
Series #1: Section 31
Although a series based around Section 31 has technically been “announced,” the lack of any official news for almost four years at this point clearly means that the series has hit some bumps in the road. While I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that it’s been cancelled altogether, it’s still possible that the Section 31 series will be reworked and perhaps even re-announced along with a premiere date.
As I’ve said more than once, the Section 31 series was announced far too early. Not only was it completely overshadowed by the hugely positive response from fans to Captain Pike and Spock in Discovery’s second season – something that seemed to catch Paramount completely off-guard – but its main character desperately needed the development she would receive in Discovery’s third season in particular before she could begin to feel like someone who could carry her own spin-off.
When the Section 31 series was first discussed, Michelle Yeoh’s Empress Georgiou was about as flat and one-dimensional as Star Trek characters get. Moreover, she wasn’t just a villain, she was a psychopathic, genocidal monster who kept slaves, ate sentient beings, and seemed to revel in torture, violence, and death. Even for an organisation as roguish and off-the-books as Section 31, Empress Georgiou seemed extreme – and asking fans to support a series centred around a character like that was, for many, too much.
It wasn’t until the two-part Season 3 episode Terra Firma that we really saw a change in Georgiou. After spending time away from the Mirror Universe she began to view aliens as equals rather than sub-human, and had even adopted some Federation-inspired ways of thinking. By the time she stepped into the Guardian of Forever’s portal she had changed just enough that she could be an anti-hero rather than an out-and-out villain, and both she and the Section 31 series needed that development.
My gut still says that the Section 31 series isn’t going to happen, and we should brace for a quiet cancellation sometime in the future rather than a big announcement. I haven’t heard anything about the series since its premature announcement back in January 2019 that sounded even slightly positive, and with Star Trek branching out in different directions, it’s possible that Section 31 simply missed the boat.
However, at time of writing the Section 31 series still exists, Paramount has retained the trademarked name, and it isn’t impossible to think that it will be revived. Perhaps a new team of writers and producers will take over the project and rework it in some way – potentially even without Empress Georgiou.
Series #2: Seven of Nine and Raffi
With Picard concluding its run before any of the other current Star Trek projects, a spin-off from that series feels like a distinct possibility when considering its replacement. The time period that Picard established – the dawn of the 25th Century – is not represented by any other current Star Trek project, so if Paramount wants to keep that era alive – and potentially bring in more legacy characters from Deep Space Nine and Voyager – then a series occupying the same timeframe could be a possibility.
A lot of work went into Picard Season 2 in terms of sets being constructed for the brand-new USS Stargazer – but those sets were only used in the premiere and the second half of the season finale. That seems like a lot of work for relatively little screen time, so part of me has been wondering ever since whether those sets may be destined for use in a spin-off project!
With Seven of Nine being awarded a role in Starfleet at the end of Picard Season 2, she could be being groomed for command. Depending on how she and Raffi get on in Season 3 – which we’ll see in the first half of next year – a spin-off could see those two characters headline a new show, perhaps one set aboard the USS Stargazer.
Seven of Nine was, at one time, my least-favourite Voyager character. But Picard has given her some much-needed development that led into a wonderful arc across both seasons of the show so far, culminating in her taking the Stargazer’s captain’s chair in the Season 2 finale. I would never have expected to write these words in 2000-2001, but I think I’m ready for a Seven of Nine series!
Both Seven and Raffi have tactical backgrounds, so we could potentially see a series set aboard a kind of rapid-response vessel. The Stargazer’s mission could be less about exploration and more tactical in nature, potentially serving as Starfleet’s “muscle” in dangerous situations. That concept isn’t one that Star Trek has done before (not as a whole series, at least) so it would be something different for the franchise.
There are other 25th Century concepts that could replace Picard, but a direct spin-off featuring at least one new character that was introduced in that series could be just what the Star Trek franchise needs. Keeping some consistency and some ties between different projects isn’t a bad idea, and I’m sure that a Seven and Raffi series could find a way to stand on its own two feet without the presence of Admiral Picard.
Series #3: Project Khan and/or Ceti Alpha V
Earlier this year it was reported that Paramount had trademarked the name Project Khan. This follows on from a pitch by The Wrath of Khan writer/director Nicholas Meyer, whose project would focus on Khan’s life in between the events of Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan. Although these two ideas could be totally separate, there does seem to be an appetite from someone at Paramount to see this iconic villain make a comeback.
If we take the two ideas as separate for now, Project Khan could be connected to the Eugenics Wars, and could even be a spin-off from Picard. Season 2 antagonist Adam Soong very prominently picked up a folder titled “Project Khan” at the end of his storyline, with the series seeming to imply that he plans to resume working on some kind of genetic engineering.
This is a complete hypothetical, but if we were to get a series starting from that point, Khan himself may not appear. This could be a Brent Spiner project with Adam Soong attempting to recreate Khan’s work in the 21st Century, and could potentially see things like the outbreak of World War III, which purportedly happened in that era. Such a series could see the return of Chris Rios and Dr Teresa Ramirez – they could be trying to stop Dr Soong’s work.
Alternatively, Project Khan could step back to before the events of Picard and focus on Khan’s rise to power in the 20th Century. This would be an interesting concept, but it would have to be handled delicately. In short, the Star Trek timeline has, until now, been pretty vague about events in the modern day and how they relate to real-world history. If it were set in the 1990s, Project Khan could completely transform our knowledge of that era – but it could also tread on the toes of a number of other Star Trek stories.
Then we come to the Ceti Alpha V pitch. As much as I admire Nicholas Meyer’s work on Star Trek, I have to be honest: this isn’t a series I would give the green light to if I were in charge. We’re talking about the least-interesting chapter of a story where the ending is already known, and I just don’t see what Ceti Alpha V could tell us about Khan or his ambitious plans that we don’t already know from Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan.
There is the tantalising possibility that a Khan-focused project could connect with Strange New Worlds, though, as the character of La’an Noonien-Singh is a descendant of Khan. That could certainly be a point in favour of doing a new Khan story. Last year I took a longer look at the Ceti Alpha V concept, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here.
Series #4: Starfleet Academy
Last year (at Star Trek Day) Alex Kurtzman came pretty close to confirming that a Starfleet Academy series may be in the works. It’s certainly the nearest we’ve gotten to any kind of outright confirmation – and as above, Starfleet Academy is a title that Paramount has trademarked, this time all the way back in 2018.
Combine that with what felt like a bit of a backdoor pilot during Discovery’s fourth season, and I think we have a solid case to make that a Starfleet Academy series could be in the works! The Discovery Season 4 episode All Is Possible featured Lieutenant Tilly heading off on an away mission with a trio of new Starfleet cadets at the recently-reopened Starfleet Academy. It ended with her deciding to take up a permanent teaching post at Starfleet Academy and departing the USS Discovery – although she would reappear in the season finale.
All Is Possible definitely feels like a backdoor pilot, although the attention wasn’t on Tilly and the cadets all of the time. Tilly’s presence would connect the series to Discovery in a major way, and there’d be the possibility of crossover episodes with both shows set in the same 32nd Century time period. A Starfleet Academy show could also feature David Cronenberg’s character of Dr Kovich – a somewhat mysterious character who I still can’t figure out!
Alternatively, a Starfleet Academy series could ignore the 32nd Century and instead be set in the 25th. This version of the series could feature characters like Raffi and Elnor – the latter of whom is a cadet, and who was resurrected at the last minute in a sequence in the Season 2 finale that feels seriously underwhelming right now. Perhaps Elnor’s survival could be given new meaning and purpose if he were to be a major character in a Starfleet Academy series.
As a series concept, Starfleet Academy has been around the longest! While The Original Series was still in production in the 1960s, Gene Roddenberry came up with the idea of a show that would have focused on young Kirk and Spock during their Academy days – something we eventually saw (albeit in an alternate timeline) in 2009’s Star Trek reboot film.
I feel like a Starfleet Academy series could be a strong addition to the franchise. Not only would it be something different, but it could also be a great first contact for younger viewers – and perhaps even a second port of call for those who’ve recently become fans of Prodigy, too – as they find their way into the Star Trek fandom. Having several cadets as major characters would mean younger viewers could find this iteration of Star Trek easier to relate to and get started with, and that can only be a positive thing. I took a longer look at the Starfleet Academy concept last year, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here.
Series #5: Enterprise Season 5/The Earth-Romulan War
This one is a bit more speculative, but I’m not the only one to wonder if there may be an attempt to bring back the 22nd Century in the near future. Calling this one “Enterprise Season 5″ might be a bit of a stretch, but any 22nd Century project could bring back at least some of the characters from that series for another adventure.
Prior to its cancellation in 2005, there were plans being drawn up for a fifth season of Enterprise. According to one of the show’s producers, if it had gone ahead Season 5 would’ve shown more of the origins of the Federation, and particularly the Earth-Romulan War that was first referenced in The Original Series. That could be the starting point for a revived Enterprise or a new 22nd Century series.
The Earth-Romulan War is a major event in Federation history, one that pushed the founding members of the Federation closer together. It was also a devastating conflict in its own right, and a series focusing on the war could have echoes of Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War arc. Star Trek can do war stories incredibly well – as we’ve seen in episodes of Discovery and Strange New Worlds just in the last couple of years – so this could be a great fit for an expanding franchise.
Any franchise has to be careful about coming across as too backwards-looking and introspective if it dives deeply into chapters of its own lore and backstory, but I think there’s space as Star Trek continues its renaissance to potentially step back to the time of the Earth-Romulan War. I know a lot of fans would happily welcome back Captain Archer or any other members of the Enterprise crew, so this project could be a real “love letter to the fans.”
There were a number of factors that led to Enterprise’s cancellation in 2005, and although it was sad at the time, in many ways the Star Trek franchise needed a break and a reset. But maybe the time is right to bring back some of the characters and stories that had been conceived for unproduced seasons of Enterprise now that the franchise is back on solid ground.
There are definitely arguments to be made against establishing yet another different time period for Star Trek, as the franchise can already feel overcomplicated, especially for newcomers. But there are points in favour of returning to the 22nd Century, too, particularly if a series had a relatively tight focus on something like the Earth-Romulan War.
Series #6: Captain Worf
Along with most of the rest of the main crew members from The Next Generation, Worf will be returning in Season 3 of Picard next year. It’s no secret that actor Michael Dorn has been talking up his own “Captain Worf” idea for the better part of a decade, and with the casting announcements for Picard, part of me has been wondering if that show’s final season might lead into a Worf spin-off.
As the character with the most Star Trek appearances to date – 274, in case you were wondering – we’ve spent a lot of time with Worf already! We’ve seen our favourite Klingon wrangle with his heritage and his duty to Starfleet, gain promotions, establish friendships with two different casts of characters, become a father, get married, become a widower, and much more besides. Is there room for another chapter in Worf’s life after the events of Deep Space Nine? I still think that’s an open question!
This one really depends on how Picard Season 3 goes down. Executive producer Terry Matalas has described Picard Season 3 as being a “send-off” for the crew of The Next Generation, presumably including Worf, and that sounds pretty definitive and final. We may see some characters killed off as the season goes on, especially if Picard and the crew are facing off against some kind of galaxy-ending threat. Even if Worf survives, it’s possible that all of the characters’ stories will come to a conclusive end, and if that’s the case there may be no room – and no need – for a Captain Worf series.
But it’s also possible that Picard Season 3 will be testing the waters to see whether certain spin-off ideas are viable. We’ve already considered the possibility of a Seven of Nine and Raffi series, and that’s one possibility. But maybe there’s a chance that, if fans respond incredibly positively to Worf in his new role, he could finally take the lead in his own series.
For me, I feel that Worf in a leading role is an untested idea, and one that may not work. Although there are nuances in Worf’s characterisation, many episodes of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine played up his Klingon traits, and while I’d never call him something like “flat” or “one-dimensional,” there’s definitely a case to be made that a character like Worf works best in a supporting role rather than a leading one.
But we can reserve judgement on that until we see what role has been created for Worf in Season 3 of Picard. Maybe he’ll get a fantastic ending to his decades-long story, one that feels conclusive and satisfying, rounding out his arc and tying up loose ends from both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll establish himself as the next character deserving of a spin-off project.
So that’s it!
Paramount (and subsidiary CBS Studios) has trademarked other names associated with the Star Trek brand that may be connected with shows or films that are currently in development, but it’s very difficult to know what to make of some of them! Vague titles like Star Trek: Destiny, Star Trek: Revolution, or Star Trek: Reliant have all been trademarked over the past few years – though several of these have now lapsed and haven’t been renewed. It isn’t clear whether any or all of these names were even intended to be used for films and television shows, or whether they were meant for merchandise and other projects. The interesting-sounding Star Trek Continuum trademark, for example, isn’t connected with a film or TV show at all, but is instead an official line of awful-looking NFTs.
For now at least, these are the Star Trek projects that seem to be the most likely based on what we’ve heard through official and unofficial channels. It’s definitely possible that work is ongoing in secret to develop some completely different Star Trek projects that we can’t predict at the moment, but in terms of what may be announced in the weeks or months ahead, the projects we’ve talked about today feel the most likely.
Although trademarks exist for Ceti Alpha V and Starfleet Academy, if it were up to me I’d pick a 25th Century series to fill the hole that will be left when Picard finishes its run. Lower Decks and Prodigy will still be representing the late 24th Century, but I think it’ll feel like something’s not right if the 25th Century that Picard has only just begun to explore is abandoned with that show’s conclusion. Not only because we won’t get to carry on the journey, but because that era feels like the natural next step for a franchise that found so much success in the 1990s with shows set in the 24th Century.
But we’ll have to wait and see what the creative team at Paramount has in store! I think it’s possible – but by no means guaranteed – that an announcement could come as soon as next month. The Star Trek Day live broadcast has promised “announcements, reveals, and surprises” in its official press release, and the inclusion of certain actors – such as Jeri Ryan and Michelle Hurd – could hint at something big to come.
I hope this has been a bit of fun! I tried to steer clear of baseless rumours and fan-fantasies to focus instead on concepts and pitches that are known to exist and that seem plausible. But we’ll have to wait and see whether any of them are really going to happen!
The Star Trek franchise – including all properties (and potential properties) 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: Although there are no major plot spoilers for Strange New Worlds Season 1, the inclusion of particular episodes on this list may hint at certain themes, characters, storylines, etc. There are also spoilers below for the episodes and stories on this list.
I haven’t been able to talk about Strange New Worlds as much as I would’ve liked thanks to Paramount taking an “America First” approach to the series, the Star Trek franchise, and pretty much everything else on Paramount+. However, with Paramount+ having now arrived here in the UK, I hope to slowly begin to rectify that situation and make up for lost time. On this occasion, I’ve put together a list of ten episodes that I think make great background viewing for Strange New Worlds Season 1.
You can absolutely watch these Star Trek stories before diving into the show’s first season, but if – like me – you’ve already watched Strange New Worlds Season 1, there’s still value in going back to some of them to expand on what the new show’s first season delivered. Ordinarily I’d have written a list like this before the season aired, but having already seen Strange New Worlds that’s allowed me to adapt the list and include a couple of episodes that I would have never considered!
Strange New Worlds was absolutely fantastic in its first season – and it has me lamenting the truncated ten-episode seasons of modern Star Trek as I could’ve happily enjoyed at least ten more! If you missed it, I’ve already written up my spoiler-free thoughts on the show’s first season, and you can find that piece by clicking or tapping here. At the risk of repeating myself, Strange New Worlds hit ten for ten in its first season – ten outstanding episodes that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I can’t recommend Strange New Worlds highly enough both to fans of Star Trek and to newcomers to the franchise. If you’re new, or if it’s been a while since you last saw some of these episodes, watching them will provide some additional background and backstory heading into Strange New Worlds – or will expand somewhat on some of the stories, factions, and characters if you’ve already watched Season 1. However, nothing below makes for essential or unmissable viewing; Strange New Worlds is a very accessible series that newcomers to Star Trek shouldn’t feel intimidated by!
As always, please keep in mind that all of this is just the subjective opinion of one person. I’ve chosen episodes that I generally enjoy and that I feel connect in significant ways to Strange New Worlds Season 1. If you don’t like my picks or I miss something you would’ve included, that’s okay! There’s always room in the Star Trek fan community for discussion and polite disagreement.
I’ve tried hard to avoid major plot spoilers for Strange New Worlds Season 1, but the inclusion of certain episodes here may hint at the inclusion of factions, aliens, characters, and storylines. If you don’t want to risk any of that, this is your last chance to nope out!
With all of that out of the way let’s take a look at the episodes I’ve chosen, which are listed below in no particular order.
Episode #1: The Menagerie, Parts I-II The Original Series Season 1
Technically speaking, The Menagerie was Captain Pike’s first Star Trek appearance. The episode incorporates most of the footage left over from The Original Series’ unsuccessful first pilot, The Cage, but uses a frame narrative to include Captain Kirk and Spock as they look back on the events of Captain Pike’s mission to the planet Talos IV.
After network NBC had spent a significant amount of money on The Cage, one of the conditions attached to The Original Series’ first season was that Gene Roddenberry and his team find a way to use the footage left over from the original pilot. It was either impossible or prohibitively expensive to bring back The Cage star and original Captain Pike actor Jeffrey Hunter for the role, and the recasting of the character is part of the reason for Pike’s severe disfigurement and disability.
We could do an entire article on the production history of The Cage and The Menagerie – and maybe one day we should! – but for now, the important thing to keep in mind is that this is Captain Pike’s ultimate destination. The Menagerie exists as a reminder of where Captain Pike’s arc will ultimately lead him, but it’s also an interesting episode in its own right.
The Original Series was beginning to find its feet by this point in its first season, and a two-parter like The Menagerie could’ve blown it off-course. However, the way The Cage was incorporated into the story made for a fascinating and somewhat mysterious presentation, and Spock’s characterisation and his dedication to his former captain in particular are noteworthy. It’s a fascinating episode that managed to be so much more than just a recycling of a failed pitch and that found a unique and innovative way to accomplish what could have been a difficult and annoying task.
Episode #2: Trials and Tribble-ations Deep Space Nine Season 5
Trials and Tribble-ations was created for the Star Trek’s thirtieth anniversary in 1996, and it was a fun celebration of the franchise’s roots. The crew of the USS Defiant – led by Captain Sisko – find themselves displaced in time, arriving during the events of The Original Series episode The Trouble With Tribbles.
Sisko and his crew have to preserve the timeline – a nefarious villain is attempting to use a Bajoran Orb to alter the past to his advantage. What results is a genuinely fun romp, and seeing the two crews from two different eras coming together was quite something. I’ve always held Trials and Tribble-ations in high esteem ever since I first watched it!
On the technical side of things, Trials and Tribble-ations was incredibly ambitious for its time. Using the same technology that had been used to place Tom Hanks alongside real-world historical figures for the film Forrest Gump – which had been released only a couple of years earlier – the creative team managed to seamlessly blend the Deep Space Nine characters into The Original Series. Some excellent work with costumes and sets – including a recreation of the original USS Enterprise’s bridge – really sold the illusion.
The only character from Trials and Tribble-ations to appear in Strange New Worlds is Spock, with the episode taking place after Pike’s tenure in the captain’s chair. But as a celebration of all things Star Trek, and one of the few stories to bring together the 23rd and 24th Centuries, it’s one you shouldn’t miss! There are also some interesting time travel and timeline-integrity angles to the story’s frame narrative that may just prove interesting to viewers who pay attention.
Episode #3: Q & A Short Treks Season 2
Q & A steps back in time to before the events of Strange New Worlds and Discovery Season 2 to show us Spock’s arrival aboard the USS Enterprise while still an ensign. It’s a cute short story that shows off a younger Spock while also introducing us to Una – a.k.a. Number One. Una had far less screen time than Spock or Pike in Discovery’s second season, so Q & A was one of the first stories to feature her in a big way.
There are some great shots of the internal workings of the USS Enterprise’s turbolifts – something that a geek like me is always going to be interested in! In fact, Q & A must be one of the very few episodes, along with parts of The Next Generation’s fifth season episode Disaster, to make a turbolift its primary setting. That format could feel restrictive, but Q & A makes it shine through some excellent character work and occasionally hilarious writing.
Q & A was one of three episodes of Short Treks to bring back Pike, Spock, and Una – and these short stories began to expand upon their roles and set the stage for Strange New Worlds. They were also experimental; teases to fans that also served to see whether the much-requested “Captain Pike show” was a viable concept. Short Treks did some genuinely interesting things in its second season – which is why I’ve argued that the concept should absolutely be revived!
Captain Pike is less of a presence in Q & A than he would be in Ask Not, but that’s no bad thing. We got to spend more time with Una, and seeing her in her role as first officer – in part through the eyes of a young Spock, fresh out of Starfleet Academy – was fascinating!
Episode #4: Unification, Parts I-II The Next Generation Season 5
We just talked about how interesting it was to see young Spock when he was first assigned to the Enterprise – so now let’s jump forward in time by more than a century to see a much older Spock in a completely different chapter of his life! The two-part episode Unification brought Spock into The Next Generation in a truly interesting story that built upon the Vulcan-Romulan connection that had been introduced in The Original Series.
I adore crossovers, and aside from a brief cameo in the premiere of The Next Generation, this was the first crossover involving main characters that the franchise had attempted. Its success laid the groundwork for the likes of Relics, Flashback, Defiant, Caretaker, These Are The Voyages, and many more.
Unification found a way to give Spock genuine development to reflect decades of his life that we hadn’t seen on screen. It was great to see him alongside not only Captain Picard but also Data – the two characters share many characteristics and filled similar roles in their respective series. The mystery at the heart of the episode and subsequent revelations about Spock’s work and the Romulans’ schemes made for a story that was tense, dramatic, and exciting.
Strange New Worlds isn’t all about Spock, but seeing what his life would be like decades after the events of the series is worthwhile. It puts into context not only the stories that unfold around Spock, but his own actions, behaviours, and thoughts. The Spock we meet in Unification is different from the Spock of Strange New Worlds – but not unrecognisable.
Bonus Episode #4½: Unification III Discovery Season 3
The two-parter became a three-parter when Discovery added to the legacy of Unification in its third season. Taking Spock’s work with the Romulans as a starting point, Unification III shows us how subsequent generations of Romulans and Vulcans looked to Spock as an inspiration. His legacy is all over this story – and it would carry through into future episodes of Discovery in its third and fourth seasons.
Spock would go on to be an important part of Vulcan history, remembered fondly even centuries after his death for the process that he started. Seeing Michael Burnham react to that was sweet, and knowing that Spock has a legacy within the Star Trek timeline that extends far beyond his own lifespan is something incredibly meaningful.
Episode #5: Arena The Original Series Season 1
An absoloute classic of The Original Series, Arena features Captain Kirk’s iconic battle against an unnamed Gorn captain – the first Gorn encountered in Star Trek. I might be in the minority here, but I absolutely adore the way the rubber-suited Gorn looks. There’s something menacing about its tyrannosaurus rex-like head, its silvery, almost insectoid eyes, and its sharp crocodilian teeth. But at the same time, there’s a light-hearted campiness to the way the Gorn comes across on screen thanks in part to the limitations of 1960s special effects – and perhaps also due to the bold pattern on his (or her?) costume!
There’s more to Arena than just the scuffle at Vasquez Rocks, though! There’s a more philosophical side to the story, one that shows how far humanity has come by the 23rd Century – and how far there is still to go to make progress. Despite the conflict, both Spock and Kirk demonstrate a willingness to try diplomacy and show mercy – something that impresses the highly-advanced Metrons.
The way in which Captain Kirk was able to outsmart and defeat the Gorn captain shows his ingenuity at its best – and presents a contrast between “brains” and “brawn” that made it clear how even a strong and physically imposing enemy can be defeated. There’s a great metaphor there for dealing with bullies!
Arena is one of those episodes that I believe every Trekkie – even those who aren’t fans of The Original Series – needs to see at least once. Despite the Gorn not becoming a recurring villain in The Original Series or even during The Next Generation era, the original design of these reptilian aliens has become iconic, and as a story that fully encapsulates the Star Trek franchise’s approach to science-fiction, Arena has it all.
Episode #6: Damage Enterprise Season 3
Damage comes quite late in the fully-serialised story of Enterprise’s third season, but it’s worth a watch regardless. At this point in the story, Captain Archer and his crew are running out of time to prevent the Xindi from launching a super-weapon against Earth, and Archer’s desperation to do anything to complete his mission forces him down a very dark moral path.
In essence, Captain Archer must choose between failure – which will almost certainly lead to the total annihilation of Earth itself – and his morality, leading to him basically turning to theft and piracy in order to survive in the harsh Delphic Expanse. It’s a fascinating story that features a brand-new alien race, but also one that’s an introspective character piece focusing on Archer’s decisions.
There are other story threads in play in Damage, including T’Pol’s exposure to Trellium-D – a compound toxic to Vulcans that caused her to begin to lose control over her emotions. The way in which Vulcans suppress their emotions in favour of logic is something that Enterprise explored in depth, and it’s a fascinating part of Vulcan culture that subsequent Star Trek projects have also touched upon.
Enterprise’s third season was a tense and exciting one overall – and Damage is one of the highlights for its strong character work and examination of how Starfleet’s enlightened morality can end up falling by the wayside when the going gets tough. Captain Archer is pained by the decision he makes – but that doesn’t stop him from making it.
Episode #7: Through the Valley of Shadows Discovery Season 2
Although I’d encourage you to watch Discovery Season 2 in its entirety, I felt that Through the Valley of Shadows was really the only episode that had a significant impact on Strange New Worlds. It’s here where Captain Pike has to make a decision about his fate and his future that sets him on a particular path – one that will culminate in devastating disability.
Although Pike was willing, in the moment, to make the sacrifice in order to obtain the time crystal, the decision he made has a huge impact on him. With only a couple of episodes left in Season 2, Discovery didn’t have a lot of time to address how this would affect him – but Strange New Worlds certainly does, and this is really the starting point for Pike’s season-long arc.
Discovery’s second season was a big improvement on its first, and I think it’s fair to say that bringing Captain Pike and Spock into the show in a big way was a masterstroke! Through the Valley of Shadows reframes Pike’s accident and disability in an entirely different way, and while there are sci-fi trappings of time-travel macguffins and talk of fate and destiny, what lies just under the surface is a story that I find incredibly relatable.
I’ve been Captain Pike at this moment. Sitting down with a doctor, hearing bad news about my health, knowing that things won’t get better but will get worse, that my ability to do basic things like walking will become increasingly difficult… these are all experiences that I’ve personally had and that I saw reflected in Captain Pike. Whether intentional or not, the decision to have him become aware of his future – and choose to embrace it for the greater good – kicked off a story about disability and declining health that really resonated with me. Its approach to this complex topic was sensitive, understandable, and darkly beautiful.
Episode #8: Prime Factors Voyager Season 1
Prime Factors flips Starfleet’s Prime Directive on its head. The Prime Directive is Starfleet’s most important standing order, and it states that “no starship may interfere with the normal development of any alien life or society.” We’ve seen the Prime Directive – and the principles upon which it is based – play a huge role in episodes of practically every Star Trek series, with captains having to decide whether to interfere, how to interfere, and what the consequences may be.
Prime Factors takes the opposite approach, and asks how it would feel to our heroes if they were on the other side of this kind of policy. How would Starfleet react to being denied a request for help or trade because it conflicted with an alien society’s principles? The resultant episode was absolutely fascinating.
At this relatively early point in Voyager’s run, the fact that Captain Janeway and her crew really are stranded on the far side of the galaxy with no way to get home is beginning to sink in. Prime Factors is one of several episodes that teased the crew with a potential way to complete part of that journey – before yanking it away again.
The episode is also an interesting one for Harry Kim, who we get to see at his most eager to get home, and for the relationship between Captain Janeway and Tuvok. Although Chakotay would really take over the role of “trusted advisor” as Voyager got settled, initially it was Tuvok who was being established as Captain Janeway’s closest confidante and most reliable friend.
Episode #9: Balance of Terror The Original Series Season 1
Balance of Terror is the episode that first introduced the iconic Romulans to Star Trek – as well as revealing their connection with the Vulcans that we talked about in Unification above. Inspired by war films – particularly naval war films and those set aboard submarines – from a generation earlier, there’s a really tense, claustrophobic feel to the conflict between the Enterprise and this new, terrifying threat.
Balance of Terror expertly sets up the background of Federation-Romulan relations and uses that to create tension and conflict on the bridge of the Enterprise when a surprising connection between the Romulans and Spock’s own Vulcan people is revealed. The episode also raises the stakes by giving the Romulans not one but two super-weapons: the devastating plasma torpedo and a cloaking device. This was the first on-screen appearance of a cloaking device in Star Trek.
Of particular note here is Captain Kirk’s approach to the conflict. After discovering the Romulan vessel and its technology, Kirk decides to pursue it, hoping to intercept it before it can cross back into Romulan space. Was this uncompromising approach the right call?
Balance of Terror is a fascinating episode for its tone, for its approach to bigotry and prejudice in the enlightened future Star Trek presents, and for its introduction of a faction that would go on to play a major role in the Star Trek franchise. It’s another episode of The Original Series that I consider to be a must-watch for all Trekkies.
Episode #10: Star Trek 2009 Kelvin Timeline film
Technically a film rather than an episode, 2009’s Star Trek kicked off the Kelvin timeline with a soft reboot of the franchise. It’s a textbook example of how to write a successful reboot, and after the Star Trek franchise had begun to fade and lose viewership toward the latter part of Enterprise’s run, the 2009 reboot came along and definitively proved that there was still plenty of life in it yet! We wouldn’t have Discovery, Strange New Worlds, and the rest of modern Star Trek without this film and its two sequels.
For our purposes today, though, 2009’s Star Trek shows us a different timeline with alternate versions of Captain Pike – who plays a prominent role in the story – as well as Spock and Uhura. Seeing these versions of the characters and noting their differences and similarities to their prime timeline counterparts could be worthwhile going into Strange New Worlds.
Star Trek 2009 also chronicles the next chapter of Spock’s life after the events of Unification (which we took a look at above). Spock’s relationship with the Romulans and his plan to help them avert a catastrophe are what led to him being dragged into the alternate reality, and the meeting between the older and younger versions of the character is a powerful moment.
Seeing Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and others in their Starfleet Academy days was a concept that Gene Roddenberry had toyed with even as far back as The Original Series in the 1960s. 2009’s Star Trek took that concept and put a spin on it, updating the franchise for the 21st Century and introducing it to legions of new Trekkies. It’s a good film in its own right, and one whose legacy is the rejuvenated Star Trek franchise that we’re continuing to enjoy today.
So that’s it!
Those are my picks for ten episodes to watch before Strange New Worlds to prepare for what the series will bring – or afterwards, if you prefer, to lend some context to some of the character arcs and storylines.
There are at least ten more episodes and films that I could’ve chosen; it wasn’t easy to whittle down the list to the ten picks above. Having already seen Strange New Worlds Season 1, I confess that I picked several different episodes that I might not have chosen otherwise. But that’s the benefit of hindsight!
As I said in my spoiler-free review of the first season, Strange New Worlds is utterly fantastic and well worth a watch for Trekkies and newcomers to the franchise alike. I can’t praise it highly enough – and I can’t wait for Season 2!
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is available to stream now on Paramount+ in countries and territories where the service is available. New episodes are being released weekly on Paramount+ in the United Kingdom. Further international distribution has not been announced at time of writing. The Star Trek franchise – including Strange New Worlds and all other episodes, films, and shows 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 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 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 the titles on this list.
A few days ago I put together a list of five television shows that ran too long. This is the counterpoint to that list, because today we’re going to look at five television shows that ended too soon! As I said last time, I’d always rather be in a position of lamenting a show cancelled before its time rather than feeling a series dragged on too long and ran out of fun material. As we’ve recently seen with Game of Thrones, a bad ending can sour audiences on the entire show, and even shows that started off great can be a chore to go back and re-watch if they got worse as time went on.
So speaking for myself, I find it better for a show to end too soon, while it’s still good, rather than run and run until storylines are exhausted and the show becomes a shadow of its former self. But that doesn’t mean seeing a favourite series unceremoniously cancelled is a nice feeling! All of the shows we’re going to look at today had potential to be so much more than they were, if only they’d been able to run for at least one more season apiece.
There can be different reasons why it feels like a show ended before its time. In some cases it’s obvious – a major storyline unresolved, mysteries still unexplained, and a narrative unfinished. Some of the shows on this list fall into exactly this category. But other shows conclude having generally wrapped up most of their narrative elements and after resolving character arcs and points of drama, yet still the feeling of wanting more can persist.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion. If you disagree, or if you think these shows ended at just the right time, that’s great! We’re all entitled to our opinions about entertainment and media, and if my opinion doesn’t align with yours this time, that’s okay! So without further ado, let’s take a look at my picks.
Number 1: Terra Nova (2011)
Terra Nova began with a very interesting premise – the discovery of a wormhole-like singularity that allowed humans to travel to the distant past and establish a colony. The 22nd Century, when part of the series is set, was nightmarish and dystopian due to overpopulation and pollution, which is what drove protagonist Jim and his family to make the dangerous journey back in time.
I mentioned Terra Nova last time, and it was only when I thought about the show again – ten years after its cancellation – that I considered putting together this list! As with other entries on the list, lower than expected viewing figures almost certainly explains the show’s premature cancellation. Perhaps we can blame that on the shift in viewing platforms in the early 2010s away from broadcast television toward streaming, but even so perhaps Terra Nova’s premise was just too niche for mainstream audiences.
What I liked about Terra Nova is the creativity in its premise. Not only was there some kind of conspiracy tied to the faction operating the time-wormhole, but events at the colony were unpredictable as well, with a renegade faction battling the established leadership. In addition, Terra Nova introduced new fictional species of dinosaurs to its prehistoric setting, something that the Jurassic Park franchise wouldn’t do for another four years!
Terra Nova ended on a very strange and tantalising cliffhanger, but with its cancellation, that story was never resolved on screen. In a half-hearted effort to reach out to fans of the series, the DVD box set came with a “make your own motion comic” feature, allowing fans to download some artwork to make up their own continuations – but by all accounts, the motion comic was pretty limited in its options. Thus the Terra Nova story ended in disappointing fashion, despite showing promise. It’s worth a watch if you’re interested in sci-fi and dinosaurs, but if you do sit down to watch the only season of the show, just be aware that its story was never finished.
Number 2: Space Precinct (1994-95)
Gerry Anderson is renowned among a certain subset of sci-fi fans – most of whom are probably British – for creating shows like Space: 1999, as well as “supermarionation” (i.e. filmed with puppets) kids shows Thunderbirds, Stingray, and Captain Scarlet – all of which were mainstays of my childhood television viewing! In the mid-1980s, Anderson began working on the concept that would eventually become Space Precinct – a police procedural show set in space.
Space Precinct is set in the year 2040 – which means, in 2021, that we’re closer to when it was set than when it was made! Just in case you didn’t feel old enough already! Main protagonist Patrick Brogan transfers from the New York City police force to a role in the Demeter City police on the planet Altor – a kind of “space ’90s New York” complete with rampant crime and corruption!
What I appreciated about Space Precinct when I watched it in the mid-1990s was the blend of sci-fi and policing. Almost every episode could have been, with a few tweaks and a few less aliens, part of a modern-day police procedural, and that gave it a unique selling point. The show had some wonderful alien designs, realised with physical prosthetics for the most part, and the way aliens like the Creons and Tarns were created could have become iconic.
Sadly, Space Precinct only got a single season before it was cancelled – allegedly due to poor viewing figures in the United States. Sky and the BBC, who broadcast the show here in the UK, invested a decent amount of money in the project, and I remember collecting a number of action figures based on the main characters – though goodness only knows where they are now! It’s still possible to pick up the series on DVD, and if you can find it it’s well worth a watch, and easily holds up when compared to other early/mid-90s sci-fi fare. Oh, and it has a great theme tune!
Number 3: Firefly (2002)
No list of prematurely cancelled shows would be complete without Firefly. A truly bizarre decision on the part of schedulers and executives at American broadcaster Fox saw Firefly’s first few episodes aired out of order. Though the show does have episodic elements, some storylines work far better when viewed in the correct order, and that may be one reason why the show failed to connect with audiences first time around. Rather than give it time or make another attempt, Fox cancelled the series before the first season had even concluded.
Firefly was a fascinating mix of sci-fi and western, with a far greater western emphasis than the likes of Star Trek and Star Wars. It had a fun cast of characters and the excellent writing was backed up by some beautiful world-building, leading to the world of Firefly feeling genuinely real in a way few franchises ever manage to pull off. It was such a shame that it didn’t get a fair shake from its broadcaster and original audience.
I only encountered the series a couple of years after it went off the air, when a colleague recommended it to me. Like many folks, I discovered Firefly thanks to the DVD box set, and even though I knew going in that the series had no ending, it was still disappointing to reach the final episode and have to leave Mal and his crew with no conclusion.
As you may know, however, a fan campaign succeeded in reviving Firefly for a one-off film. 2005’s Serenity wrapped up the story in a bittersweet way. Considering the original plan was for a seven-season run, one season plus a feature film still leaves me feeling short-changed, even if the film was a solid conclusion to the original characters’ stories. So far, the world of Firefly has never been revisited – but I truly feel there’s scope to do so. A spin-off or a show set in the same universe would make for a wonderful addition to Disney+ – and I believe that The Walt Disney Company will own the rights to the show following their acquisition of large parts of Fox. Will it ever happen? Doubtful, but a fan can dream!
Number 4: Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-05)
It wouldn’t be one of my lists without at least some Star Trek, right? Unlike other entries on this list, Enterprise managed a decent run at four full seasons and just shy of 100 episodes. And also unlike the other shows we’ve talked about, I actually fully understand the decision to cancel it. By 2005, Star Trek had been in continuous production for almost twenty years – longer, if we trace production back to the films as well as television shows. And there was a sense that audiences were beginning to get burnt out after four television shows and six films.
Enterprise had been threatened with cancellation going back to at least its second season, but had managed to survive two prior cancellation scares. However, its fourth season would turn out to be its last. Because we’ve subsequently learned about potential storylines for the unproduced Season 5, I think Enterprise warrants a place on this list – because it sounds like a season of television I’d have loved to see!
According to some of the production staff who have been interviewed in the years since Enterprise went off the air, Season 5 would have focused on the Earth-Romulan War, a conflict first mentioned in The Original Series. And if we look at some of the events in Season 4, notably the trio of episodes The Forge, Awakening, and Kir’Shara, we can see what could be argued to be the beginnings of a Romulan storyline in the show.
I’ve explained previously that I wasn’t a huge Enterprise fan during its original run, only tuning in sporadically. But despite that, Enterprise’s cancellation struck a raw nerve in 2005, and it seemed for a time that Star Trek was dead and never coming back. Ultimately, though, Enterprise being cancelled led to a reimagining of the franchise, culminating in Discovery, Picard, and the other shows and films we’re enjoying currently. So while I can say I regret not seeing this unproduced Earth-Romulan War story in Season 5 of Enterprise, things worked out alright for Star Trek in the end!
Number 5: FlashForward (2009-10)
FlashForward had a unique premise, one which took sci-fi and time travel concepts but mixed them up in a way I had never really seen before. The basic premise was that practically everyone on Earth lost consciousness at the same moment and experienced the titular “flash forward” – with everyone seeing what appeared to be a vision of their lives around six months in the future. The show follows a team of FBI agents as they try to unravel the mysterious event.
I’d really never seen anything quite like FlashForward, which I watched at the behest of my partner at the time. We got very into the series when it was running, and we were both disappointed to learn it had been cancelled. The first and only season of the show ended on a cliffhanger, with a second “flash forward” event taking place.
FlashForward had a great cast, including John Cho (Sulu in the Kelvin films) and Peyton List (Rizzo in Picard Season 1). It was a well-financed production with great special effects and set designs to compliment its exciting premise, and felt like a show that was headed for success. At the time, around the turn of the last decade, shows like Fringe and Lost were showing that sci-fi shows with different and unique settings could be a success – but sadly, FlashForward was only given a single season.
Initially a ratings hit for network ABC, FlashForward saw a big drop in viewership as its season rolled on, and its this decline that led to it being axed. Unfortunately the story was already set and the final episodes had already been filmed, meaning there was no way to conclude the story.
So that’s it. Five shows that ended too soon to stand in contrast to the other list of five shows that outstayed their welcome!
Though it’s always better for a series to end on a high note leaving fans clamouring for more, rather than running too long and seeing a decline, the entries on this list were cancelled prematurely. Television executives always seem very quick to pull the plug on an underperforming series, even when there seems to be genuine potential for a revival.
Most television shows take at least a full season to establish themselves. It takes time for actors to get to know their co-stars, for audiences to familiarise themselves with aspects of the story and setting, and thus it’s often not until a show hits its second or even third season before everything falls into place. Some executives don’t allow that to happen, which is a shame. And sadly we’ve begun to see this attitude spill over to streaming services, with Netflix in particular killing off several of its own shows while they were still very popular with fans. Hopefully it’s a trend that will decline as audiences find new ways to access entertainment and media – but I’m not holding my breath!
I enjoyed all of the shows on this list, but sadly that enjoyment is tinged with at least a little disappointment at the stories we never got to see, or the mysteries left unresolved. While I can heartily recommend all five, that recommendation has to come with a caveat as a result of their being cut short.
All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective network, broadcaster, studio, and/or distributor. 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: Enterprise, Star Trek: Discovery, and for other iterations of the franchise.
Star Trek: Enterprise is the only series in the franchise to be set in the 22nd Century. As such, it exists semi-independently, with very few opportunities for characters, factions, themes, or storylines to cross over and appear in newer Star Trek projects. As a prequel, many of the characters and events that debuted in Enterprise were not mentioned or referenced in shows that supposedly took place years later – as those storylines had not yet been conceived.
Enterprise thus exists in a strange place in Star Trek’s broader canon. There was a brief mention of Captain Archer in both Season 1 of Discovery and the 2009 film Star Trek, but both were little more than blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affairs.
I’ve written about this phenomenon before in relation to Star Wars, where I termed it the “prequel problem.” Introducing wholly new story elements in a prequel is a risky storytelling strategy, as not only might it adversely impact the original work (or franchise, in this case) but it could also cut off the prequel in terms of story, isolating it and making connections with the original work difficult.
While Enterprise managed to avoid most of the pitfalls that befell the Star Wars prequel trilogy, one area where I feel the “prequel problem” is noticeable is in terms of two of the main antagonist factions the show introduced: the Suliban and the Xindi.
Both factions played significant roles in Enterprise across its first three seasons in particular. The Xindi, it could be argued, became one of the key driving forces in the expansion of Starfleet, leading to early deep-space exploration and allowing Starfleet to hone many of the skills and technologies it would use in future missions of exploration and discovery.
The attack by the Xindi on Earth was also a significant moment, one which history should preserve for future generations of Starfleet officers and Federation citizens. While some of the events of the Temporal Cold War (or Temporal Wars, as Discovery called them) may have arguably been classified, the existence of the Suliban clearly was not, and both factions could – and almost certainly should – still be around in the 23rd, 24th, and 32nd Centuries.
Setting aside the obvious production-side reason that the Suliban and Xindi were created for Enterprise years after The Original Series and The Next Generation went off the air, in order to answer my question of whether we’ll ever see either return we need to consider possible reasons for their absence. In short, is there anything we could point to from an in-universe point of view to indicate why these major factions would have simply disappeared by the 23rd or 24th Centuries?
There are many factions and races seen in Star Trek that have only made a single appearance in the franchise so far, including many that could easily be revisited. The First Federation, encountered in The Original Series Season 1 episode The Corbomite Maneuver, are one example, as are the Sheliak, from The Next Generation Season 3 episode The Ensigns of Command. While we know the Milky Way galaxy is populated by a large number of alien races, some simply choose not to have much contact with the Federation.
Location is an issue in this case, though. Enterprise depicted Earth’s first major mission of exploration, and the races encountered in the show – presumably including both the Xindi and Suliban – can’t have been located that far away (relatively speaking). The NX-01 Enterprise had a maximum speed of warp 5, limiting its possible range.
Star Trek has kept many locations and their distances from one another deliberately vague to allow for maximum storytelling leeway, and that’s probably no bad thing. I don’t want to get into the weeds on just this one point, but in short what I’m trying to say is that both the Suliban and Xindi are likely to be much closer to Earth than, for example, Bajor or Talos IV.
We’ve never seen it suggested that the Suliban ever joined the Federation in future, but the Xindi certainly had. Xindi were known to serve in Starfleet by the 26th Century – according to the time-travelling Crewman Daniels – and this further suggests that Federation-Xindi relations existed and grew over the years, even if they didn’t officially join up until centuries later.
In the aftermath of their conflicts with Earth, both of which were due to external manipulation by time travelling factions, it’s possible that both the Suliban and Xindi simply chose to cut off all contact, isolating themselves and maintaining no relationship with the Federation, and this is arguably the most likely in-universe explanation for the lack of appearances in the 23rd and 24th Centuries.
However, it’s still possible that there were accidental encounters out in space, or that the Federation pursued a policy of attempting to reestablish contact and diplomatic relations behind the scenes, even if those attempts were rebuffed. Discovery’s Season 1 premiere gives us an interesting glimpse at how Starfleet handled the reappearance of a faction they had no contact with – let’s hope that second contact went better with the Suliban or Xindi than it did with the Klingons!
Bringing either the Suliban or Xindi into modern Star Trek would be a huge way to connect the ongoing franchise back to Enterprise in a way that hasn’t yet been attempted. I think it’s absolutely worth doing for that reason alone, and in a way, just as Discovery did with the Klingons, the two factions could be changed to fit the needs of a new story.
In fact, there’s arguably far greater scope to reimagine both the Suliban and Xindi than there ever was with the Klingons! The Klingons had been thoroughly established across fifty years of Star Trek before Discovery came along, and while the show managed some aesthetic changes (I genuinely loved the ancient Egyptian influence in parts of the Discovery redesign) it was constrained by both past and future depictions of the Klingon Empire. There are two huge reasons why the Suliban and Xindi don’t have similar constraints.
The first is that both the Suliban and Xindi were only seen in the 22nd Century. Depending on which series they were to reappear in, there’s been either a century, two-and-a-half centuries, or an entire millennium for their cultures to have changed, allowing the writers of modern Star Trek to adapt either faction to a far greater degree than the writers of Discovery Season 1 could with the Klingons.
Secondly, this will be our first time seeing either faction free of the manipulation of time travelling villains. The changes made by interference in the timeline to both the Suliban and Xindi is impossible to overstate, and after finally freeing themselves from their time travelling benefactors, we simply don’t know what position either faction would be in.
Both of these reasons mean that, in my opinion at least, there’s a lot of potential in both the Suliban and Xindi if they did return. Since we know that the Xindi joined the Federation, perhaps Discovery Season 4 could bring back at least one Xindi character in the 32nd Century, establishing that the Xindi remained loyal even in the aftermath of the Burn.
The Suliban are more complicated, and could make for a return either as an antagonist or ally of the Federation, depending on which way the writers and producers wanted to take things. There’s no proof that the Suliban would simply become friendly toward the Federation and Earth, even after Silik’s death, and if they had withdrawn and cut off ties as I suggested above, they may have continued to have a burning hatred of Earth and the Federation.
Strange New Worlds could see the return of the Suliban, perhaps through the kind of deep space encounter that I mentioned. If such a story makes clear that it’s the first time anyone from the Federation has seen a Suliban in roughly 100 years, this would go some way to closing the hole their absence in the 23rd and 24th Centuries generated.
I could see Pike trying hard to establish some kind of diplomatic ties with the Suliban, only to see his efforts fail and the Suliban attacking the Enterprise. A skirmish like this wouldn’t lead to a larger conflict necessarily, but it would again confirm that the Suliban remained isolated and unfriendly well into the 23rd Century.
Discovery, as mentioned above, could bring back the Xindi. While we certainly could see them on friendly terms with the Federation, we could also see either the Suliban or Xindi looking to exact revenge for the Burn – an event I’m sure at least someone blames the Federation for!
Given that Enterprise is less well-remembered than the Star Trek shows of the 1990s, perhaps we won’t see a major tie-in any time soon. There have been a couple of name-drops as mentioned, with the Suliban being mentioned once in Lower Decks. But so far, no major connection has been made. While we can say that the setting of modern Star Trek shows precludes all but a few major character crossovers, I think the absence of major factions like the Suliban and Xindi is more obvious, and at the very least, establishing an in-universe reason for why they disappeared after the mid-22nd Century would be worth doing.
Both factions have interesting elements that could be explored. The Suliban – or at least, some individuals – had undergone extensive genetic engineering at the behest of someone from the future, and the impact of that genetic engineering on Suliban society could be explored. Did they, as their one reference in Lower Decks seemed to hint at, retain some of their abilities, like shape-shifting? If so, did those traits get passed down to future generations? What are the consequences of their involvement in the Temporal Wars and their fight with Earth?
The Xindi are not a single species. They are, in fact, five different species that evolved together on one planet. A sixth species had been wiped out by the mid-22nd Century. In a way, the Xindi could be a microcosm of the Federation – different species working together. There’s potential for the Xindi to be an analogy for real-world problems of different races and groups working together, and thus the faction presents a way for Star Trek to do something it’s always done: use its sci-fi setting to look at real-world issues.
I would make the argument that there are good reasons to bring back either faction. Not only are they relatively blank slates – getting blanker the further into the future their reappearances end up being – but bringing them into a current Star Trek project would connect back to Enterprise, something which hasn’t been done since Star Trek returned to the small screen almost four years ago.
Discovery had opportunities in its first two seasons to make reference to either the Suliban or Xindi – or other factions or events from Enterprise – but failed to do so in any significant way. With Strange New Worlds (and possibly the Section 31 series) picking up the baton for the 23rd Century, it perhaps makes arguably the most sense to bring them back there. But I could also see it being possible for an appearance in Picard, Discovery, or even Lower Decks or Prodigy. In short, there are many ways either faction could come back.
Whether the Suliban or Xindi ever will come back, though… well, that’s up to the creative team in charge of Star Trek!
Star Trek: Enterprise Seasons 1-4 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other territories where the service is available. Further international streaming is available via Netflix. The series is available on DVD and Blu-ray too. The Star Trek franchise – including Enterprise 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.
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.
Spoiler Warning: In addition to spoilers for the Enterprise episodes on this list, further spoilers may be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
My relationship with Star Trek: Enterprise hasn’t always been smooth. I was listening to the radio sometime in either late 1999 or early 2000 when news was breaking that a new Star Trek show was entering production. Here in the UK, Deep Space Nine and Voyager were still on the air – but were approaching the end of their runs. It wasn’t clear what would come next, and as a teenager who was a big Star Trek fan, I was naturally curious and anxious to see what we were going to get. I was definitely expecting a new Star Trek show sooner or later – the franchise had been on television for practically my entire life up to this point, so the idea that it might go off the air never even crossed my mind!
However, when the show was revealed to be a prequel (I can’t remember if that was part of the initial announcement or was something that I found out later) I was less than impressed. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace had been in cinemas around this time, and I just remember feeling that prequels as a concept were not something I was a fan of. This was a pretty childish reaction: “The Phantom Menace was bad, therefore all prequels must be bad!” Nevertheless, that’s how I felt at the time. Enterprise would also be shown not on the BBC, which doesn’t have advertisement breaks, but on Channel 4, which does. Having seen all of the other Star Trek shows free of ad breaks I wasn’t especially keen to have them in Enterprise.
The inclusion of Scott Bakula, who had previously starred in an underappreciated science fiction series called Quantum Leap, did improve matters somewhat for me, but I still wasn’t sold on the premise of Enterprise. Why did Star Trek need to go back in time to before Capt. Kirk? For me, the whole point of the franchise was, and always had been, to press further forward into the future. Looking at how the Federation formed and Earth’s early missions of exploration, meeting races I’d already seen developed in other series, just didn’t hold much appeal as a concept.
When Broken Bow premiered in late 2001 I did tune in, but for much of the rest of Enterprise’s original broadcast run I didn’t, and as a result I didn’t see well over half the series until I picked it up on DVD around 2009-10, long after it had gone off the air. This was the moment that I came closest to no longer following the franchise, as I’ve previously discussed. When I did pick up Enterprise on DVD, however, I was pleasantly surprised. While it still isn’t my favourite part of the franchise, it’s a series which has heart, and the spirit of exploration – seeking out strange, new worlds – which had been largely absent from Deep Space Nine and parts of The Next Generation and Voyager was on full display. I’ll often use Enterprise as an example whenever I hear the expression “no one asked for this”. No one in 1999-2000 was asking for a Star Trek prequel, yet the show found its feet and told some interesting and enjoyable stories with a great cast of characters. Despite my initial feelings, I’ve warmed up to Enterprise in the years since it was broadcast.
Enterprise wasn’t just controversial with me, though, and the show struggled with ratings during its run. It managed to last for four seasons – one more than The Original Series – before being cancelled in 2005. In the aftermath of Enterprise’s demise the Star Trek franchise seemed dead – until rumours of a reboot film were first heard over a year later. It would be twelve years before another Star Trek show would grace the small screen, though, and by then a lot would have changed for the franchise. The CGI used for almost all of the Enterprise‘s special effects is very much of its time, and thus looks dated by today’s standards. The late 1990s and early 2000s were, at least in my opinion, not a great time for CGI. Many shows and films – like the Star Wars prequels – tried to take advantage of the technology before it was properly ready for prime-time.
In case you missed it, here’s how this format works: this isn’t a “top ten” ranked list of my all-time favourite episodes. Instead, this is simply a list of episodes that I find enjoyable and would recommend – especially if you find that you have more time than usual for entertainment at the moment! I’ve picked stories (a couple of which are multi-episode arcs) from all four of Enterprise’s seasons, and they’re listed below in the order they were released.
This is your final chance to jump ship if you want to avoid spoilers!
Number 1: The Andorian Incident (Season 1)
One of the unexpected things about Enterprise, not just in its first season but really for its entire run, was that the Vulcans were quasi-antagonists. We’d seen human-Vulcan relations being generally good across Star Trek, and even in First Contact there was no real indication that it would be a rocky road. Nevertheless, the Vulcans are presented as being arrogant, interfering, and are suggested to have deliberately slowed the development of humanity’s warp technology. Even at this early stage in Enterprise, they’re not exactly good friends.
The Andorians had been established as one of the Federation’s core races as early as The Original Series’ second season episode Journey to Babel – which featured on my list of ten great episodes from Star Trek’s first show – and after the blue-skinned aliens were curiously absent for almost all of The Next Generation’s era, Enterprise brought them back. The show was focusing on the build-up to the birth of the Federation, and with the Andorians known to be one of the founding members, encountering them was inevitable.
Journey to Babel established that relations between Vulcans and Andorians could be complicated, to say the least! And The Andorian Incident takes that story thread and runs with it, not only telling a really interesting story that showed the Vulcans at their most arrogant and duplicitous, using a site they claimed to be a religious sanctuary as a high-tech spy post, but also laid the groundwork for the Andorians’ future appearances on the show.
Shran, played by veteran Star Trek actor Jeffrey Combs, makes his debut here and would go on to be a recurring character. Jeffrey Combs had previously portrayed Weyoun in Deep Space Nine, among several other characters, and is outstanding in the role of Shran. This Andorian commander would be both an enemy and later an ally of Capt. Archer and Enterprise’s crew, and the complex character was a perfect fit for Combs to play. Despite the difference in makeup and prosthetics from Deep Space Nine, it is clearly him, and if you’re very familiar with Weyoun from the Dominion War arc that can take a little while to get used to!
Number 2: Sleeping Dogs (Season 1)
Broken Bow, which was the premiere of Enterprise, showed first contact between humans and Klingons. While this first contact wasn’t exactly smooth, the two powers maintained an uneasy peace, and the Klingons had already reappeared in Enterprise’s first season. Sleeping Dogs is another episode featuring the famed warrior race, showing an early (in terms of the in-universe timeline!) example of cooperation with humans as Archer and a Klingon named Bu’kaH attempt to free a stricken Klingon ship.
Enterprise stops to investigate a gas giant only to discover a Klingon ship trapped in its atmosphere. An away team consisting of Reed, T’Pol, and Sato is sent to investigate, but they become trapped when their shuttlepod is stolen. These three characters weren’t often working together, despite being bridge officers, so giving them a chance to interact and face adversity was a good move for a series in its first season. Recent outings aside, Star Trek has always tried to give every main cast member opportunities like this.
Bu’kaH is an interesting guest star. While the way she was ultimately convinced to help – appealing to her Klingon sense of honour and fear of a dishonourable death – isn’t original and had been done before, it was nevertheless nice to see her come around and work with Archer to rescue the stranded away team.
Number 3: Carbon Creek (Season 2)
Prequel stories can often mess up existing canon, overwriting what we thought was the established backstory, lore, and history of a fictional universe. As a result, I find that they can be very difficult to get right, as I’ve already explained in my introduction. Carbon Creek, however, is different. The episode tells the story of the crew of a small Vulcan craft who find themselves stranded in 1950s America – in the town of Carbon Creek.
Time travel stories in Star Trek, like the film The Voyage Home or the Voyager two-parter Future’s End, feel very dated very quickly, because they dump the crew in a contemporary setting. Carbon Creek deliberately avoids this trap, putting the crew in a nostalgic 1950s setting rather than the early 2000s – when Enterprise was in production. Stories that go down that route tend to work better, at least in my opinion.
T’Pol, aboard Enterprise, entertains Archer and Tucker with a story of her great-grandmother, who happened to be one of the stranded Vulcan crew members. The episode focuses largely on this Vulcan crew, meaning T’Pol actress Jolene Blalock is the only main cast member with significant screen time. It was a great episode for her – but not one which really let her get away from the stoic Vulcan behaviour of T’Pol. The two characters – T’Pol and her great-grandmother – are essentially the same; we could do a whole article about Vulcan personalities and how easily (or not) one Vulcan could be swapped out for another!
Regardless, Carbon Creek is a sweet story, and the classic 1950s Americana setting is something I personally enjoyed. It’s definitely a different kind of episode – it’s not a time travel story, it’s something comparable to Voyager’s fifth-season episode 11:59 in that it’s a story set in the past, relayed by a character in the present. I found it enjoyable, telling a hidden story of human-Vulcan contact.
Number 4: The Catwalk (Season 2)
What I like about The Catwalk isn’t necessarily its major storyline, which sees a species called the Takret invading Enterprise, trying to catch three of their deserting officers who had been given refuge aboard the ship. Instead, what I like is the driving force behind the plot, that the crew are trapped in a storm and forced to take refuge in one of the nacelles.
To me, this is Enterprise showing off just how dangerous space exploration can be, even for a ship designed explicitly for the purpose. We’ve seen Starfleet ships face anomalies and space weather before, but this is the first time that we’ve seen them come up against something they couldn’t outrun or avoid. Instead, the crew are forced to sit through a storm, hiding in one of the most heavily-shielded parts of the ship.
Much of the plot is set in the catwalk – part of the ship’s warp nacelle. The crew take refuge there when a massive storm front hits, and we see them having to survive in very close quarters. Morale could easily dip very low under such circumstances, so this is a moment for Capt. Archer to show off his leadership abilities.
The main storyline is interesting, showing the abandoned ship invaded by the Takret, but it parallels the Voyager fourth season episode Scientific Method in some respects – particularly its resolution.
Number 5: Regeneration (Season 2)
The Borg are one of Star Trek’s most interesting villains. I have an article discussing how they can be used as an incredibly effective storytelling device, including how they play on our collective fears of brainwashing and out-of-control technology. You can find it by clicking or tapping here. In-universe, however, the Federation’s history with the Borg only begins in The Next Generation’s era; the 24th Century. Bringing the Borg into Enterprise was a challenge, but one that the producers decided was worth trying. Even by Season 2, things weren’t going smoothly for Enterprise – the show had lost some of its core fans, and after more than fifteen years on the air, there was an element of franchise fatigue setting in, at least for some people. The Borg had usually been a guaranteed winner in Star Trek, and I’m sure that was a key production-side reason for doing a Borg story.
The story that results makes a mess of canon, but no more of a mess than the introduction of Seven of Nine’s family had in Voyager. Both of these stories shifted humanity’s first contact with the Borg to before Q Who (the second-season episode of The Next Generation which first introduced them). Setting aside canon issues, however, what results is a strong story taken as a standalone piece. Sure, the reason for the Borg’s presence is a bit of a stretch, but aside from that it was interesting to see 22nd Century humans try to deal with an enemy like 24th Century Borg.
By having a tiny number of drones and one small, sub-light ship being all there was, there was a reasonable and realistic way for Archer and Enterprise’s crew to prevail; pitting them against a fully-operational Cube and thousands of drones would have clearly been too much to handle! And the episode’s resolution does handle at least part of the canon question – by saying that the Borg’s transmission to the Delta Quadrant wouldn’t be received until the 24th Century it excuses the fact that the Borg didn’t attempt to visit Earth in the interim… though it does, perhaps, set up a time-loop paradox!
Number 6: Impulse (Season 3)
Season 3 of Enterprise was Star Trek’s second experiment with serialised storytelling, following the Dominion War story arc in Deep Space Nine. The season also saw Enterprise receive the “Star Trek” prefix, in line with other shows. In its first two seasons it wasn’t titled Star Trek: Enterprise, but simply Enterprise. The serialised nature of Season 3 makes it difficult to pick individual episodes, but Impulse is a great choice as it’s a fairly self-contained story.
While in the Delphic Expanse searching for the Xindi, Archer and the crew encounter a Vulcan ship. The crew of the ship have been driven insane by a compound that’s toxic to Vulcans but which ships traversing the region need for reinforcing their hulls. The Vulcans were unaware of the side-effects and were driven mad – coming close to animalistic or zombie-like. In fact, the 28 Days Later style of fast-moving zombies is probably a good analogy for the sick Vulcans in Impulse.
The episode focuses in part on T’Pol, and her struggles with the toxic compound. She would later develop an addiction as a result of her exposure here, something which would be detailed in later episodes in the third and fourth seasons. This set up not only an interesting new angle for her character, but a great storyline about dealing with addiction.
Number 7: Countdown and Zero Hour (Season 3)
As previously mentioned, Enterprise’s third season essentially forms one continuous story. While there are semi-standalone episodes contained within, it’s by far a better experience if watched from beginning to end as intended. Countdown and Zero Hour are the culmination of more than twenty episodes’ worth of story, and really need to be viewed in that context.
At the end of Season 2, Enterprise was recalled to Earth following an attack by the Xindi. It would be revealed to Capt. Archer that the Xindi were developing another weapon, larger in scale, that would destroy the Earth, and thus the ship was dispatched to prevent this from happening. The season continues the time travel themes established in previous stories, and explains that the Xindi are being manipulated by a faction in the Temporal Cold War.
By this point in the story, Capt. Archer has managed to contact the Xindi, and the race is on to prevent them from using the weapon – which is now fully-operational and ready to be deployed. Major Hayes, who had been a recurring character throughout the season, is killed off in a pretty brutal scene, and eventually it’s up to Archer to do whatever it takes to save Earth.
A season-long arc like this needed a truly awesome ending, and Countdown and Zero Hour delivered, providing an explosive finale.
Number 8: Home (Season 4)
Home is an interesting story, dealing in part with the way Enterprise’s crew are treated after returning to Earth. As we’ve recently seen in Star Trek: Picard, and saw hints at in Star Trek Generations, some Starfleet officers and crew seem to become semi-celebrities in the Federation, or at least people whose names are known to the public. Home explores this concept in a way we haven’t really seen in any other Star Trek story, however.
While we’d seen the Xindi weapon defeated at the very end of Season 3, Season 4’s two-part premiere took the crew on another adventure, finally wrapping up the Temporal Cold War arc. As I’ve said on a number of occasions, time travel stories have never been my favourite (both within Star Trek and outside it) so from my point of view I was glad to see that element of the show brought to a conclusion. Home is thus the first episode of Enterprise taking place after the victory over the Xindi.
The episode introduces Enterprise’s sister-ship, Columbia, which would appear on several occasions before the show wrapped production at the end of the season. This story element was nice, showing humanity finally expanding its fleet and beginning another mission of exploration. Archer’s comments that the new ship would need all the weapons it had was an acknowledgement that his optimism had been tainted by his experiences in space – with the Xindi in particular.
Home would also set up what I consider to be the fourth season’s most interesting storyline: the Terra Prime anti-alien xenophobia which would be further explored toward the end of the season.
Number 9: The Forge, Awakening, and Kir’Shara (Season 4)
As I mentioned earlier, the way Vulcans were portrayed in Enterprise as pushy, rude, arrogant, and even aggressive at times may have been in keeping with some of what we’d seen previously, but it was also quite different from how we’d seen characters like Spock and Tuvok. This trilogy of episodes essentially removes many of the higher-ranking Vulcans we’d come to know over much of Enterprise’s run, setting the stage for the changes in Vulcan society that would be needed to get them closer to prior depictions.
We’d learnt earlier in Enterprise’s run that mind-melding was something considered taboo among many 22nd Century Vulcans, and given that we know by the 23rd and 24th Centuries this would no longer be the case – and would not even be referenced – that was one of many Vulcan storylines that needed concluding. Given that Enterprise’s ratings had always been shaky and cancellation was always a threat, it may have seemed to the show’s creators that the fourth season was going to be the final opportunity. Having developed the Vulcans over three seasons, with T’Pol and Ambassador Soval in particular, there was a sense that it was necessary to try to move the Vulcans themselves closer to their 23rd and 24th Century depictions.
The resulting story is a fascinating one that takes a far deeper look at Vulcan history than anything we’d ever seen, greatly expanding on the role of Surak – the legendary father of Vulcan philosophy and logic who debuted in The Original Series third-season episode The Savage Curtain. This was a great tie-in to the franchise’s past, and explored the Vulcans from a different point of view, while at the same time making that abrupt turnaround from the way they behaved in Enterprise to what we’d already seen in other Star Trek shows.
Number 10: Demons and Terra Prime (Season 4)
At the beginning of Season 4, Home established that there was a faction of humans on Earth opposed to any and all dealings with aliens, something which had been a minority view but had grown massively as a result of the Xindi attack. This duology of episodes explores that idea in much more detail, and continues Star Trek’s tradition of using a science fiction setting to parallel real-world issues.
I’ve written a number of times about how it’s important to consider Star Trek episodes in the context of their time when looking at real-world parallels, and Demons and Terra Prime were written and produced in the aftermath of both the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War – both of which were major events in the early/mid-2000s. Among the many consequences of 9/11 and subsequent conflicts in the Middle East was a rise in xenophobia targeting Muslims – and I’d argue that’s what Demons and Terra Prime is paralleling with its anti-aliens storyline.
However, it’s never good enough for a story to have a moral or a message – in some cases, being too in-your-face can detract from the enjoyment. So where Demons and Terra Prime really succeed is that the story is engaging and well-told. The primary villain – John Frederick Paxton, who’s portrayed pitch-perfectly by Peter Weller, who would also play Admiral Marcus in Star Trek Into Darkness – is one of Enterprise’s best. His motivation, while abhorrent, is something we as the audience can understand because, at least in 2005, we were living through what many considered to be a similar time. Paxton is a reactionary, a far-right conservative who wants to take Earth back to an era before humans and aliens had contact. He’s by no means a sympathetic villain – as we’ve spent four years with T’Pol, Phlox, and others, we feel we know them on a personal level in a way Paxton doesn’t – but he’s a fascinating one nevertheless.
Terra Prime ends with a major emotional revelation for Tucker and T’Pol, and these two characters in particular are at the heart of the story.
So that’s it. Ten great Enterprise episodes. There’s a lot to appreciate in the series, despite my initial reaction to it all those years ago. While it can certainly be argued that Enterprise led directly to Star Trek’s second major cancellation in 2005, in other ways it laid the groundwork for what would come later. The serialised storytelling in particular went a long way to modernising the franchise from a narrative point of view, and the focus on exploration brought Star Trek back to its roots.
Prequels can be difficult to get right for many reasons, and while Enterprise does create some issues for Star Trek’s wider canon, overall there were more hits than misses. The undeveloped fifth season, which supposedly would have shown parts of the Earth-Romulan war, as well as more of the lead-up to the founding of the Federation, remains to this day something I’m disappointed we never got to see.
By 2004-05, Star Trek had been on the air approaching twenty years without a break, with two shows running simultaneously for large parts of that. The whole reason Enterprise was envisioned as a prequel, instead of making another 24th Century spin-off or moving the timeline forward, is almost certainly because the people in charge of Star Trek at that time were running out of ideas. There exists such a thing as “franchise fatigue” in the world of entertainment, and thus I’d suggest that by that time, Enterprise’s cancellation had as much to do with Star Trek as a whole needing an overhaul than the series itself.
Enterprise’s 2005 cancellation seemed to mark a definitive end to the franchise, and for at least a year it seemed as though we’d got all of the Star Trek films and shows that we were ever going to. But of course we know that it wasn’t the end: Star Trek would be successfully rebooted in 2009, and finally in 2017 would return to the small screen. Enterprise’s reputation as “the show that killed Star Trek” can thus be fully rehabilitated, and while it isn’t perfect, and much of its CGI in particular is very dated by today’s standards, it is a very enjoyable show.
There’s one more article to come in this current series, which has the working title “everything else”! I will be picking ten episodes from other Star Trek productions which currently don’t have enough episodes to have a “ten great episodes” list of their own, including The Animated Series and Short Treks. I hope you’ll stay tuned for that in the next few weeks.
Star Trek: Enterprise is available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and internationally. The Star Trek franchise – including Enterprise – 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: While this essay doesn’t go into many plot details, there may be minor spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise, including for Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery.
I’ve seen a number articles and videos over the last couple of years, really since Star Trek: Discovery premiered, looking at how the Star Trek fanbase has become divided into fans of “old” Star Trek and “new” Star Trek. However one may feel about the various films and series, it’s undeniable that there are many Trekkies who have jumped ship over the years and do not consider themselves fans of the franchise’s newer iterations – as well as plenty of casual viewers who have seen one series but not others. Given that the franchise is well past its fiftieth anniversary, perhaps that’s fair enough. But I did want to take a look at the phenomenon for myself and give my thoughts on how the franchise is split, some of the possible causes, and what that split could mean for the franchise going forward into the 2020s and beyond.
Firstly, the question often asked in these articles is “how can everyone come back together?” Writers will often set up that question, pretending that they’re going to answer it fairly, only to basically end up saying “everyone will come back together if Star Trek does everything my way and gives me everything I want.” That just isn’t realistic, I’m afraid. And as with many cases of division, the reality is that there may not be a way to bridge the gulf and reunite everyone around one new Star Trek series or film. That may sound depressing, and it is in a way. But we have to be realistic – there are some people now who are literally making money from running anti-Star Trek groups online, and if anyone expects someone in that position to suddenly turn around and say “hey guys, I just saw the latest episode and it was amazing!” well, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. The truth is that some people aren’t interested in fair criticism. They have decided they want to hate, and just like fans of a football team could never support a rival club, no matter what, their hatred for the current and upcoming lineup of Star Trek shows and films will continue. It’s part of the tribal mindset that we as human beings all end up subscribing to in one way or another: “I support X, which is opposed to Y. Therefore, I can never ever like Y, because it would go against how I define myself as a person”. That’s true in sport, it’s true in politics, and it’s true in entertainment as well.
But before we can look at divisions in the fanbase, we need to examine the basic concept: what is “old” Star Trek, and what is “new” Star Trek? It’s a far more complicated question than it seems, and the answer will vary depending on how old a person is, and when they first encountered the franchise.
There are several “turning points” in the history of Star Trek where fans jumped ship, and the easiest way to look at them is in chronological order. The first one was in 1987, when The Next Generation premiered. Until this point, Star Trek had been The Original Series with Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the 1960s crew, and while there was excitement for Star Trek’s return to television – just as there was in 2017 – that was countered by a vocal number of fans who believed ardently that the original characters were the beating heart of Star Trek – and were irreplaceable. These people may have watched The Original Series and the first four Star Trek films (The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered County were released after The Next Generation premiered) but simply had no interest in a new crew, a new ship, and a new century. Indeed, Sir Patrick Stewart himself has said many times that he believed The Next Generation would not be a success – and would run for perhaps two seasons at most.
The second turning point is the one I’m most familiar with – because it’s the point I came very close to jumping ship myself: 2000-2001, when Enterprise was announced and entered production. In the aftermath of the disaster that was Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999, a prequel was just something that many fans, myself included, had little interest in. Star Trek – as I have often written here on the blog – had always been about pushing forward into the future, and yet here was a show that wanted to look back at its own past. This kind of navel-gazing just didn’t feel like a good idea, and the aesthetic of the show, with its boiler-suit uniforms, clunky starship design, modern (for the time) computer screens, and overreliance on not-quite-good-enough early-2000s CGI was not inspiring. There had been some real stinkers in the Star Trek canon when it came to individual episodes and stories – Spock’s Brain, Angel One, Shades of Grey, Threshold, and Move Along Home to name but a few – but this was the first time that the premise of a series itself seemed unexciting, at least for me. The introduction of Scott Bakula as the captain did go some way toward lifting the show for some fans who had been on the fence, but I confess that during Enterprise’s original run here in the UK I only tuned in sporadically, and it was only when I got the series on DVD a few years after it went off the air that I watched it in its entirety. Nowadays I often cite Enterprise as an example whenever I hear the argument: “nobody asked for this”. Nobody in 2000 was asking for Enterprise, yet it actually told some interesting stories and had a great cast of characters. I’m glad to have seen it, I’m glad it existed, and ultimately I feel its strengths far outweighed its weaknesses. Giving it a second chance was a good decision – even if the only reason I bought the DVDs was to complete my Star Trek collection!
Next comes our third turning point: when Enterprise went off the air, a spell was broken. Star Trek had, in some form, been in continuous production for almost two decades, beginning with pre-release work on The Next Generation in 1986 running all the way through to 2005 when the final episodes of Enterprise were produced and released. The cancellation of Enterprise was symbolic – the end of an era. And in that moment it seemed as though Star Trek was dead and not coming back. But it didn’t stay that way for very long at all, and within a year or so of Enterprise’s cancellation, word started going around about a new film – one which would be a reboot, recasting iconic characters like Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. For many long-term fans – including some friends of mine – that was a bridge too far, and they were never interested in what would become 2009’s Star Trek and the “JJverse” or Kelvin timeline that it spawned. For others, Star Trek was too much of a departure from the rest of the franchise, with its visual overhaul and action-heavy story, and some fans who did give it a go were underwhelmed and didn’t come back for more.
So we’ve reached the final turning point. 2017, and the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery is the moment that many of these articles and videos use when dividing “old” Star Trek from “new” Star Trek. Discovery had a somewhat troubled production, with Bryan Fuller departing before the show aired, and controversy surrounding CBS All Access as a platform for the show in the United States. There was also the “prequel problem” that plagued Enterprise, and as more details came out about the series, the visual style being more in line with the JJverse than The Original Series also became a bone of contention. As with each of the three previous turning points, a number of fans decided that Discovery just wasn’t for them and simply opted out.
The point of recounting this history of the Star Trek fanbase and the points at which some fans chose not to continue with new iterations is simple – this is not a new phenomenon. It has happened before in Star Trek, and, if we’re lucky enough for the franchise to continue into the future, it will undoubtedly happen again sooner or later. None of these moments destroyed the franchise or ruined the fanbase, nor drove Star Trek’s creators and promoters out of business for the simple reason that the fans who jumped ship were in the minority. A vocal minority, perhaps, but a minority nevertheless. And it’s the same with those who haven’t watched Discovery and Picard – and of course, those who make a big fuss about not supporting “new” Star Trek in online groups and on YouTube channels: they’re a minority.
Trekkies have always been a minority of Star Trek’s audience. It’s a commercial product; a series designed to have appeal beyond a small niche of convention attendees. If it didn’t appeal to casual viewers it would never have survived or been reborn in the first place, at any of the points mentioned above. So to say that because a small number of Trekkies who liked the TNG-era shows don’t like Discovery there’s somehow a massive problem and that Star Trek today is fundamentally broken is nonsense. A minority of a minority, no matter how vocal they may be with their criticism and hate, don’t matter to ViacomCBS’ bottom line in any material way.
But do they have a point?
It’s a tough one for me to answer, and if you’ve been here before you’ll know why: I’m a big fan of “new” Star Trek, just as I’m a fan of “old” Star Trek too. I can see the point of view that says the newer shows and films are bad, but generally I don’t agree, so from my perspective they don’t have a point. Especially to those people who pre-judged Discovery and Picard based on what they read in anti-Star Trek groups online and never even watched the shows in the first place I’d really say they don’t have a leg to stand on in this argument. How can they possibly sit there and say something is bad when they haven’t given it a try for themselves? The biased “reporting” of some anti-Star Trek YouTuber is not the same as experiencing the film or series for themselves, and I’d really encourage everyone who falls into that category to at least stick with Discovery beyond its opening two episodes, which I fully concede were especially weak.
This actually ties into another point – most Star Trek series, with the exceptions of Deep Space Nine and Picard – opened quite underwhelmingly. And it took more than a few episodes for all of the Star Trek shows to really find their feet. The Next Generation’s first season isn’t anywhere near as good as its third, fourth, or fifth, for example, and Voyager similarly took at least a full season to get up and running. Even the beloved Original Series got off to a rocky start – so giving up on Discovery or Picard after one or two episodes isn’t really giving those shows a fair shake.
Part of this is to do with binge-watching culture. For many Star Trek fans – and I include myself in this category to an extent, especially when it comes to Enterprise – they missed out on seeing most or all of “old” Star Trek when it originally aired. They could pick and choose which episodes to watch from DVDs or on streaming platforms, and watch them anytime they wanted to. Star Trek, to many Trekkies, was a complete product. Seven seasons of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, as well as three of The Original Series and four of Enterprise is a lot to wade through, and an individual bad episode is just a blip when you don’t have to wait a week for the next one and can skip ahead to another episode on the disc.
But there are changes in the way Star Trek has told stories over time, and we do have to acknowledge that. There has been a move away from episodic storytelling (aka the “monster-of-the-week” format) in favour of season-long story arcs and a serialised format. I confess I have a preference, in some cases at least, for episodic television. It’s nice to be able to jump into a random episode of a series without needing to know or remember everything that happened leading up to that point. It makes Discovery and Picard season-long commitments, instead of something fans can jump in and out of. And because, as mentioned, a lot of folks are used to Star Trek shows being complete products and in addition are used to binge-watching, having to wait a week between episodes of a partially-complete story can be annoying I suppose.
There has also been a shift away from the more ethereal, philosophical, and thought-provoking storylines that Star Trek used to do. Ironically, many of those stories and episodes are less popular among fans – The Motion Picture is always considered a poor relation to films like First Contact and The Wrath of Khan, which are both much more in the action-sci fi genre, just to give an example. I discussed this in a little more detail in my 40th anniversary look at The Motion Picture if you’re interested to read more. But there’s no doubt that Discovery and especially the JJverse films have gone in a much more action-centric direction, and for people who wanted to see more of the slower paced, thought-provoking stories, action-sci fi maybe doesn’t “feel like Star Trek” in quite the same way.
Now we come to what is the single biggest point: nostalgia. People like what they grew up with. Heck, the whole reason Star Trek is being made again now, more than fifty years since it was first created, is because nostalgia is incredibly powerful and there’s money to be made from it. But nostalgia is a double-edged sword. Some people don’t want to see an “updated” version of the franchise they loved from childhood or young adulthood. If they want more of it in the first place, they want to see it exactly the same as before. No changes, no iterations, no modernising – a carbon copy of what came before. And that isn’t realistic.
Television storytelling has moved on since the 1960s and the 1990s – which are the two “golden ages” of Star Trek, depending on which fans you ask. Expecting to see The Next Generation Season 8 in 2020 was an unrealistic expectation. The way stories are told, and what television audiences expect from their shows, are just different nowadays. For fans of episodic television that might seem disappointing, but as with Trekkies in general we’re in a minority there. Shows like Lost, Breaking Bad, and of course Game of Thrones had such a huge impact on television that they fundamentally changed the way audiences approach their favourite franchises – and in order to stay competitive, Star Trek has to recognise that and keep up.
There are undeniably a lot of positive feelings attached to a franchise from childhood. The return of Star Trek (and other franchises too, like Star Wars) was designed to play on those positive feelings to sell a product – that’s basically the point of resurrecting franchises in the first place. For a minority of fans who only liked things when done the old way, that hasn’t worked and the updates and changes mean they don’t get the same feelings that they do when re-watching an old episode or film. But for a lot of people, these shows have been a hit. They hit the mark where it mattered and got many fans clamouring for more. And in a few years or a few decades from now, Discovery-era fans will be just as excited for the return of Burnham and Saru as I have been to see Picard and Seven of Nine.
In fact, one of the things I was genuinely concerned about with Star Trek: Picard is that they were going to fall into the Star Wars trap of overplaying the nostalgia card. I didn’t want The Next Generation Season 8, because that show has ended. It’s over. What Picard represented is something practically no other series or franchise will ever get – a new iteration. Picard is the same man, and he’s the core of the show as he was in The Next Generation. But surrounding him are new characters, and I wanted to make sure that they would have the chance to become fan favourites for the next generation (pun absolutely intended) of Star Trek fans.
My introduction to the franchise was The Next Generation. And it wasn’t until a few years later – probably in the mid-1990s – that I got around to watching any of The Original Series. For some people, Picard and Discovery will be their first port of call as Star Trek fans, just as The Next Generation was for me. Those of us who’ve been around Star Trek for twenty-five years or more still have a place in the fandom, but things are changing. With new shows in production, new fans are coming on board who may not be aware of Picard’s top-secret mission to Celtris III, or that Kirk and his crew once visited a parallel universe where magic is real. If we try to be gatekeepers and say “you aren’t a real Star Trek fan because Discovery isn’t as good as the show that I like” then the fandom isn’t just going to be divided, it’s going to become toxic. Instead of being a “big tent”, recognising that the franchise means different things to different people, some folks seem to want to claim the fandom for themselves and exclude anyone who doesn’t share their belief about what Star Trek means.
And frankly, that’s just sad.
Star Trek has always tried to use its science fiction setting to tell stories that reflect contemporary issues. There are countless examples, and this could be an essay in itself, but suffice to say many of those stories resonated with fans in the past. The Original Series challenged the Cold War concepts of superweapons and mutually assured destruction in the episode The Doomsday Machine to great effect, and fans will laud that. But when Discovery uses Ash Tyler’s trauma as an analogy for underreported male sexual abuse, those same folks scream about “too much politics”. As I’ve said before, to anyone who says there’s “too much politics” in modern Star Trek I’d ask one simple question – “have you seen Star Trek before?”
The problem here is that, when it comes to The Original Series and the shows of The Next Generation’s era, we’re watching them decades on from their original release. Many of the people complaining about politics in modern Star Trek weren’t even born when The Next Generation and its sister shows were first on the air. And very few people now can remember watching The Original Series when it was new. The political themes in many of those episodes are less prickly and less relevant today, and though they would be instantly recognisable to contemporary audiences, watching them today fifty years later or thirty years later, they’re harder to spot. And if someone is watching an episode for the tenth or twentieth time, an episode they first watched at age five or six, it’s even harder to be objective and pull the themes and messaging out of the drama and presentation. Taking a step back and looking at a favourite show or episode objectively is very difficult. I made an attempt to do so when I re-watched The Measure of a Man from The Next Generation’s second season, but it wasn’t easy.
Star Trek has always been a political show, even if as kids we didn’t realise it. And it has always taken a “progressive” political position on contemporary issues. If an individual can’t stand that, and is only content to watch entertainment that is either wholly politically neutral or agrees entirely with their own political biases, then that’s okay. No one is forcing anyone to watch a television show that they don’t like. And if they don’t like something, it’s easier than ever to change the channel. They can pick a new show on Netflix or Amazon Prime or CBS All Access and watch that instead, or go back to a previous Star Trek series that they do enjoy. Modern Star Trek is not mandatory viewing, and from my own point of view I can tell you I’m pretty brutal when it comes to switching off a show that I find boring or that I’m not enjoying for whatever reason.
In 2020 we live in a world where there is an insane amount of entertainment available to watch – and much of it can be found online for free with a basic knowledge of computing. So I don’t really understand why people would want to spend a lot of time watching a show that they don’t enjoy, then jump online to share their dislike with others – not when there are so many other things to watch. A few people who run websites, groups, or YouTube channels, make money by doing this. And I guess that’s fair enough – if people will pay for it, and you can make money at it, that’s okay. But for everyone else, I don’t really see what they gain from it – aside from the feeling of inclusion being part of a “tribe”, or perhaps a feeling of superiority to think they know better than the show’s creators?
To get back on topic, and draw this essay to a conclusion, there are differences between Star Trek today and Star Trek in the era of The Original Series and The Next Generation. For some fans, the difference is too stark and they don’t want to watch whatever they consider to be “bad”. I’m okay with that – we can all have our own opinions about the franchise. I just don’t like the toxicity and gatekeeping that has plagued some – thankfully small – groups within the fandom.
Speaking for myself, I’ve enjoyed Star Trek’s return to television. Star Trek: Picard has been the better of the two offerings so far, but I’m genuinely excited at the prospect of a Capt. Pike series and at Lower Decks’ different take on the franchise. It’s a great time to be a fan right now, simply because there’s so much Star Trek – and sci fi/fantasy content in general – in production. We won’t always be so lucky to have this, and even though I wasn’t a big Enterprise fan during its original run, I was still sad when it went off the air and there was just a big void of nothing. That isn’t a scenario I’m keen to see repeated, and while I admit there have been hits and misses in modern Star Trek, I’d rather see it continue to be made than simply scrapped. By diversifying the kind of stories it tells – Picard and Discovery are very different in tone, for example, and Lower Decks will be something different again – hopefully Star Trek can build on what has been accomplished already and bring in more people. If some people decide not to stick with it because of the changes, that’s okay. But I firmly believe that the core or the heart of Star Trek is the same as it was in the 1960s – and that it has remained that way for its entire run.
Star Trek is a complicated franchise that means different things to different people. But there is room in the fandom for everyone – at least, everyone who wants to participate. If someone dislikes Picard or Discovery but loves The Next Generation, as fans and as people who know how to behave civilly, we can still have a great conversation about Star Trek without treading on each others’ toes. And it’s my hope that there’s more that unites us as fans of this great franchise than divides us – after all, Discovery and The Next Generation have much more in common than The Next Generation does with, say, the latest iteration of some celebrity reality show. At the end of the day, I’m happy to share a franchise and a fandom with some very passionate people – even if we can’t agree on a lot of things.
The Star Trek franchise – including all series and films 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.