Top 10 Greatest Star Trek Captain Moments

All Star Trek captainsWhat made Star Trek and its spinoffs so outstanding and memorable had to do with the shows’ captains. It makes sense being that the starship captains were the core of their shows and had many plum moments. Those instances revealed many thought-provoking insights into the captains and their lonely dilemmas, which revealed them as complex characters. In many ways, these moments are the reason why we celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.

10. Jonathan Archer’s Speech in “Terra Prime”:  The penultimate episode of Star Trek: Enterprise featured the fragile beginnings of the United Federation of Planets and how it nearly wasn’t due to a xenophobic human terrorist group. After the group was defeated, a conference on Earth made up of humans and aliens was salvaged thanks to Captain Jonathan Archer’s speech.

Archer Terra Prime

He implored the attendees to look past humanity’s faults and to see that everyone shared the peaceful desire to gain knowledge. Or as he summed up “the most profound discoveries are not necessarily beyond the next star, they’re within us.” And so, Archer helped give birth to the Federation and secured his place in history.

9. Kathryn Janeway Turns the Tables in “Counterpoint”:  In this episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the Starfleet vessel is forced to go through a region of space ruled by the Devore, a despotic anti-telepathic race, while harboring fugitive telepaths. Captain Kathryn Janeway gets involved with Kashyk, a Devore officer seeking asylum. The two are a near perfect couple but in the end the romance was a ruse by Kashyk who wanted to flush out Janeway by pretending to be sympathetic.

Janeway in Counterpoint

But it turned out Janeway was just as devious and cunning as the Devore. She tricked Kashyk and gave  the refugee telepaths time to escape Devore space. This episode demonstrates how her guile and determination have kept her crew alive as they journeyed home through hostile space.

8. Jean-Luc Picard Sees Four Lights in “Chain of Command, Part II”:  In this two-part story of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is captured by Cardassians and tortured by one particularly sadistic Cardassian named Madred. The Cardassian delighted in humiliating his human prisoner and tried to break the noble Picard. Throughout the episode he attempted to get Picard to admit that there were five lights in Madred’s office, when in reality there were only four. Madred did this to break Picard’s free will.

there are four lights

But Captain Picard would not give up his inner dignity and demonstrated the measure of his steely resolve. He steadfastly refused to admit there were five lights despite the torture and never broke even though he came close. Picard’s action set an example of relying on one’s inner strength and core beliefs to get through difficult ordeals.

7. Jean-Luc PIcard’s Rant and Recovery in Star Trek: First Contact: Captain Jean-Luc Picard had been forcibly assimilated by the cybernetic Borg. In this Star Trek film, when the Borg returned to threaten Earth, Picard’s emotions and painful memories resurfaced. Picard became obsessed, too obsessed in defeating the Borg as they tried to take over his ship, the Enterprise. He became callous about the deaths and assimilations of his crew and insisted on fighting a losing battle against the Borg.

Picard Rant in Star Trek First Contact

When finally confronted by Lily Sloane over his fanatical behavior, Picard finally lets his emotions get the better of him. He erupted into an epic, savage rant about how he will make the Borg pay for what they did to him. After this catharsis, Picard was able to regain his senses and realized his duty to protecting his crew.

6. James T. Kirk Shows Mercy in “Arena”: Captain James T. Kirk and a Gorn captain are transported to a barren planet by advanced aliens and forced to fight each other to the death for the lives of their crew. This classic episode of Star Trek, while exciting to watch, ended on a morale message, which is what made the original show so revered.

Arena Gorn defeated

After defeating the Gorn, Kirk refuses to kill it. Then one of the advanced aliens appears and proposes to kill the Gorn for Kirk. The captain of the Enterprise turns down the offer and suggests that his defeated enemy be spared. This act of mercy surprised the alien who opined that there is something special about humanity since mercy is an advanced trait.

5. Ben Sisko’s Self-Confession During “In The Pale Moonlight”: During this episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the Federation is losing a war against the evil Dominion. Captain Benjamin Sisko is at the forefront of the war in the space station Deep Space Nine and sees firsthand the effect of the grueling war. He knows he has to do something to save the Federation and what he concocted disturbs not just viewers but himself.

Sisko in the Pale Moonlight

Sisko conspired to fabricate evidence that the Dominion will attack the Romulan Star Empire. He hoped that this falsehood will bring the Romulan into the war on the Federation’s side and it works. The only cost for this duplicity is Sisko’s conscience. But Sisko has to admit to himself that saving countless lives in the Alpha Quadrant justified his actions. A sobering thought, which put Sisko in a different, grey light.

4. Jean-Luc Picard Defends Data in “The Measure of a Man”: In this intellectually charged episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a court hearing is convened to determine if the android officer, Data, can be considered sentient. At stake is his artificial life and whether or not he is entitled to equal rights.

Picard in Measure of a Man

Despite a blistering argument against Data, his commanding officer, Captain Jean-Luc Picard defended Data. At first, Picard is typically level headed and uses logic and reason to argue that Data is sentient. Then as his argument continued Picard grew more impassioned and was able to convince everyone not only of Data’s self-awareness but of his inalienable rights, which echo one of Star Trek’s core messages about equality, tolerance and mutual respect.

3. Ben Sisko Explains Time Through Baseball in “Emissary”: The pilot episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine set this Star Trek spinoff radically apart from other Star Trek shows. But one of the few things that stayed constant was the need for exploring the unknown. In this case a wormhole that Commander Benjamin Sisko discovered near the planet Bajor.

Sisko explains baseball

Upon entering the wormhole, he meets noncorporeal aliens who have difficulty understanding linear time. Sisko cleverly used baseball to explain the cause and effect nature of time. Thanks to queries from the aliens (who took the shape of people he knew), Sisko realized that he is emotionally trapped in the past because of his wife’s death. This epiphany allowed him to come to grips with her death and move on with his life as a Starfleet officer.

2. James T. Kirk admits he feels young in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: At the start of this classic film, Kirk is downtrodden over his growing old. Compounding his mood are his deskbound duties and his birthday. As Star Trek II progresses, James Kirk takes command of his beloved Enterprise and is reborn as he confronts his greatest enemy–Khan Noonien Singh.

Kirk says I feel young

Even though in the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Kirk defeats Khan, he loses his best friend, Spock and is once again forced to face his mortality. However, recent events, while emotionally taxing, have reinvigorated James T. Kirk and his spirits have been rekindled. His personal arc perfectly encapsulated the film’s theme about growing old with dignity and spiritual rebirth, which was expressed with his bittersweet confession that “I feel young.”

1. James T. Kirk’s Soliloquy in “The Naked Time”: Captain James T. Kirk, or rather his original performer, William Shatner, was prone to speechifying in Star Trek. Often these addresses were bombastic and self important and were deservedly parodied. But early in the show’s run with the classic episode “The Naked Time” Kirk gave one of the first of these speeches and for one of the few times, his words were exceptionally heartfelt.

James Kirk in Naked Time

He was infected with a virus that loosened his inhibitions. When this happened his innermost thoughts and frustrations came to the surface. We saw Kirk as vulnerable, lonely and deeply committed to his duty as a starship captain. He lamented over the fact that his duty prevented him from enjoying a normal life or even having someone to love. The speech summed up the extent of the personal sacrifice James T. Kirk, and any other worthy starship captain, make in order to serve a higher cause.

José Soto

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Star Trek Beyond Pushes Past Other Treks In A Thrilling Ride

Star Trek Beyond poster

The latest Star Trek film, Star Trek Beyond, is unlike other Star Trek films, but shares many qualities of the best of them. It is a fun thrill ride that has heart and character development and takes audiences along into a grand adventure.

The way this film is different than other Trek films is that it takes place in deep space, nowhere near Earth and all the trappings of the Federation and nearby space. No Klingons, Romulans or other familiar trappings that have started to stifle Star Trek, even the reboot films. Star Trek Beyond feels completely original because it doesn’t try to ape lines and scenes from other films and in doing this the film feels very fresh and is the jolt that the franchise needs.

kirkAt the same time, this film pays respectful homage to the original Star Trek and especially Star Trek: Enterprise. To explain how would spoil too much of the film’s plot.  Star Trek Beyond takes place in the third year of the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is feeling burned out in his job and is thinking of taking on a new challenge. Soon after, the Enterprise arrives at this magnificent Starbase called Yorktown, which is more like a floating city or colony unbound by gravity. The scenes that show off the splendor of the Yorktown base are jaw dropping and is unlike anything seen in most films and bring to mind many literary sci-fi orbital cities.

Enterprise attacked by swarm

An alien woman in a spaceship arrives and asks for help rescuing her crew past a nearby nebula. The Enterprise is sent through the nebula and on the other side is attacked by swarm-like ships. Quickly, the small ships overwhelm the Enterprise and actually rip it apart. This forces Kirk to evacuate the ship and this splits up the main cast, who take refuge in a nearby planet. Separately, the bridge crew struggle to survive and stay one step ahead of the alien swarm. With most of the ship’s crew captured by the aliens on the planet, Kirk has to find a way to marshal his resources to free his people and defeat the aliens. Splitting up the main characters is a good move since they’re given their standout moments. An interesting thing to note is that the cast looks noticeably older now but fit the iconic roles better because of this factor. It is much easier to buy these actors as the characters they’re interpreting.

As usual, Karl Urban steals the film with his dead-on Jayla, Spock and McCoyimpersonation of the late DeForest Kelley doing Dr. McCoy. He gets most of the funniest lines and his scenes with Spock (Zachary Quinto) allow the two characters to bond and echo the classic banter between Kelley and Leonard Nimoy. Other stand out characters are Scotty (Simon Pegg) and his alien ally Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who rescues Scotty on the planet. Jayla is full of fire and is a breakout character in the Star Trek films. The villain in this film, the aliens’ leader Krall (Idris Elba), is one tough foe who is after an alien artifact that was on the Enterprise. But what makes him stand out is his backstory, which makes him one of the most unique Star Trek villains on film or TV.

On the whole, Star Trek Beyond is consistently fun to watch and goes a long way to validate the reboot in ways that the past two attempts did not.

kirk trio

At the same time, the film took time out to have some quiet character related moments that add heart and nuance. It was very welcome and overall strikes a good balance with the flow of the film. Do not be put off by the first trailer which did not represent the film’s tone at all. Anyone involved with that trailer should not be allowed near another Trek film because of the way it gave the wrong impression about Star Trek Beyond. It needs repeat viewings to confirm that this is the best of the three reboot films and one of the better entries on the whole. After some shaky summer releases Star Trek Beyond is just what was needed. It’s a terrific and reverential way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary thanks to its characters, their interactions, and a non-stop sense of adventure.

José Soto

Top 50 Star Trek Episodes, Part 2: Episodes 11-30

 Star Trek collage wallpaper

As many reading this know, this year marks Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. It’s actually an event that will happen in less than three months from now as celebrations will most likely hit fever pitch among fans who delighted in the space-faring adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the starship Enterprise crew. Continuing our countdown of the 50 best episodes from the original Star Trek series, we will start with the 30th best episode…

30. “Tomorrow is Yesterday” The starship Enterprise and its crew time travel to the 1960s and rescues a U.S. Air Force pilot (Roger Perry) who isn’t allowed to return home and report on what he has witnessed.

Tomorrow is Yesteday

29. “The Conscience of the King” Excellent scripted lines and stellar acting by Arnold Moss as a tortured former dictator turned Shakespearian actor highlights this episode.

Conscience of the King

28. “The Devil in the Dark” Captain James T. Kirk and Spock investigate killings at an underground mining facility by a monstrous rock-like creature. But there is more to the story…

Devil in the Dark

27. “Journey to Babel” The Enterprise transports diplomats to a peace conference; among the passengers are Spock’s estranged parents (Mark Sarek and Jane Wyatt). Complicating the occasion are the strained relations between Spock and his father and an onboard secret agent trying to wreck the conference.

Journey to Babel

26. “Assignment: Earth” In this backdoor pilot, Kirk and Spock time travel to Earth in the 1960s and meet the mysterious Gary Seven (Robert Lansing), a human sent by aliens to Earth to keep humanity from destroying itself. However, his mission is hampered by Kirk and Spock who suspect Seven is up to no good.

Gary Seven Assignment Earth

25. “The Empath” Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) are captured and tortured by callous aliens. During the ordeal they meet Gem (Kathryn Hays), a mute woman who has the power to heal others and is also under study by the aliens to see if her people are worthy of salvation. Helping make the episode so memorable were Hay’s magnificent and expressive performance and a beautiful score.

The Empath

24. “Amok Time” Spock must return to his home planet Vulcan and mate or else he will die. This episode was the first one to lift the veil on the enigmatic Vulcans and revealed much about their logic-based culture. The Vulcan travelogue and cultural exploration were punctuated by a nail-biting duel between Spock and his friend Kirk for the hand of Spock’s betrothed.

Amok Time duel

23. “The Enemy Within” A transporter malfunction splits Kirk into two halves. One meek and indecisive, the other lecherous and primal. This oft-used trope of the evil twin actually worked well because the script (by Richard Matheson) thoughtfully examined how dual aspects of Kirk’s personality, including his savage side, were essential to his survival and capability as a leader.

Kirk the Enemy Within

22. “Friday’s Child” On a planet with a primitive and brutal society Kirk, Spock and McCoy are embroiled in a tribal power struggle involving Klingons. After the head of local tribal leader is killed the trio must escort his pregnant wife (Julie Newmar) to safety while avoiding the leader’s successor and his men. Meanwhile, McCoy has to deal with an uncooperative patient and Spock, who is clueless around infants.

Friday's Child

21. TIE: “The Cage”/”The Menagerie, Part I &II” The very first Star Trek pilot “The Cage” about telepathic aliens imprisoning Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), a previous Enterprise captain, was rejected by NBC, but the network allowed series creator Gene Roddenberry to produce a second pilot. However, footage from the original pilot was recycled into a classic two-part episode of the regular series as Spock undergoes a court martial for helping his former commanding officer.

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