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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Top 10 Star Trek Enemy Races and Groups

 Star Trek has a rich trove of enemy alien races and organizations that have plagued our heroes throughout the many films and TV shows. Aside from being formidable, many of the opponents featured in the beloved sci-fi franchise were actually more complex and layered, which is why they resonate so much with fandom. These are the best of the lot and hopefully we’ll see some of them again when Star Trek: Discovery premieres next year.

The Breen with the Dominion

10. The Breen Confederacy: Little is known about this warlike, enigmatic race who wear fully enclosed refrigeration suits. Even their speech is undecipherable. Often mentioned in Star Trek shows they never appeared until the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Indiscretion” and later allied with the Dominion in the war against the Federation, Klingons and Romulans. This resulted in a Breen attack on Earth that destroyed Starfleet headquarters and set back the Federation war effort against the Dominion. This alone proved the Breen are a deadly adversary to be reckoned with.

Species 8472

9. Species 8472: The nearly undefeatable Borg met their match and then some when they tried assimilating Species 8472. In their first appearance in “Scorpion, Part I” (Star Trek: Voyager), the three-legged aliens shocked viewers when they easily wiped out entire Borg cubes. As one of the most alien-looking enemies featured in Star Trek, Species 8472  stand out due to their weird physiology and use of biotechnology; plus the fact that they kicked the Borg’s collective butts.

8. The Xindi: Made up of five distinct races, the Xindi inflicted a 9/11-type of attack on Earth in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “The Expanse”. The crew of the Enterprise entered Xindi space in a season-long storyline to prevent the race from destroying the Earth.

3 Xindi racesThe Xindi can be thought of as a prototype of the Federation due to the diverse makeup of their member races: reptilian, aquatic, insectoid, primate and arboreal. Eventually, we learned that they are just as diverse in their beliefs in that some factions are more warlike while others are more reasonable. This enabled Captain Archer and  the Enterprise crew to win over some Xindi members. But others continued with their final attack on Earth and had to be stopped.

7. Terra Prime: An unfortunate fact is that even in the near-paradise future of Star Trek the worst enemy is us, humanity. Many Star Trek stories dwelled on evil humans and organizations, whose antagonistic belief system ran counter to the more enlightened humans in Star Trek. Out of the many nefarious examples like Section 31, the Mirror Universe inhabitants, and rogue Starfleet officers the worst of the bunch is Terra Prime.

John Paxton and Terra Prime

Led by John Frederick Paxton, they are a xenophobic terrorist group in the 22nd century that wanted to isolate Earth and humanity from the galaxy and keep out all alien influences…sounds familiar? Terra Prime only appeared in “Demons” and “Terra Prime”, which were among the final episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. If the show had continued they would have made a perfect adversary as Earth began its first steps towards forming the diverse Federation.

6. The Vidiian Sodality: If anything the Vidiians are the grossest looking enemy aliens to appear in any Star Trek. We never saw much of them in Star Trek: Voyager. but they were still unforgettable when they did show up. First introduced in the episode “Phage” the Vidiians are a race suffering from a deadly disease that ravages their bodies. In order to stay alive they graft onto themselves body parts from other races, which explains their hodgepodge look.

Vidiians

What makes them so scary is that they just see other races, including us, as resources to cull. Most of them do not think twice as they carve up their victims and distribute their body parts to other members of their race. To them, the fact that they are saving other Vidiians easily justifies their actions while it horrifies everyone else.

5. The Romulan Star Empire: On the whole, the Romulan Star Empire are the go-to totalitarian enemy in Star Trek. Stories dealing with them are basically commentaries about the Cold War in that the Romulans are bitter rivals of the Federation. An uneasy stalemate existed between the two powers as both were equally matched, but there is something more about this race of Vulcan offshoots.

Romulans in Star Trek: Nemesis

This was seen in their very first appearance (“Balance of Terror”, Star Trek), as we met an unnamed Romulan commander who played a cat-and-mouse game with Kirk and the Enterprise. He was Kirk’s equal in terms of cunning, but was sympathetic due to his weariness about war and devotion to duty. Throughout their many appearances in the Star Trek shows, the best episodes about them were the ones that had them as fully fleshed out people who weren’t quite evil but happened to be on the other side.

4. The Cardassian Union: Once highly enlightened and cultured, the Cardassians became militaristic and harsh in order to survive. Their totalitarian ways led to conflicts with other space-faring powers like the Federation. Their prejudiced beliefs about other races also justified their brutal occupation of the planet Bajor as they stripped that planet and its people of its resources.

Cardassian in Star Trek Deep Space Nine

Although they first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Wounded”), the Cardassians were fully developed in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as one of the main adversaries. What set them apart from other villains was their love of intrigue and desire to regain lost glory, as well as their distinct look with grey and scaly skin. That show’s best stories showed that Cardassians had deep, nuanced and complicated viewpoints as they struggled to find their place in the galaxy.

3. The Klingon Empire: Arguably, the most popular alien race in Star Trek, the Klingons are the perfect antagonistic foil for the peaceful Federation. They first appeared in the classic Star Trek episode “Errand of Mercy” and like the Romulans, they are supposed to represent the West’s Cold War rivals. Known for their harsh and warlike demeanor, the Klingons actually have a complex code of honor and a rich culture. Backing up their brutish reputation, the Klingons are a militaristic match for the Federation with a fearsome fleet of warships and they are all too eager to prove their mettle against anyone.

Klingons

Even though they were the opposite of the Federation, the Klingons eventually became solid allies by the time Star Trek: The Next Generation came along. In the Star Trek spinoffs, more aspects about these noble savages were explored and we realized there was more to them than their love for fighting. That is why they have become so popular to the point that a real-life subculture has emerged that emulates the Klingons.

2. The Dominion: In many ways the Dominion can be considered the dark version of the Federation. They are composed of several different races, the most prominent being the shapeshifting Founders, the deceitful bureaucratic Vorta and the battle-hungry Jem’ Hadar–the thuggish muscle of the Dominion. But unlike the benevolent Federation, the Dominion are brutal conquerors, who only see other races as adversaries to defeat.

dominion

Their presence was alluded to in early episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the Federation began exploring the distant Gamma Quadrant. This raised interest among viewers as to who they were, and they got their answer in the episode “The Jem’Hadar”. From the start the Dominion (represented at first by the reptilian-like shock troopers) demonstrated their ruthlessness and mantra to win at all costs. The Dominion soon proved that they were superior to Starfleet in battle tactics and weapons. When war eventually broke out, the Dominion decimated both the Federation and the Klingons. The fact that they came so close to nearly conquering the Federation is why the Dominion rate so highly on this list.

1. The Borg Collective: Ever since the cybernetic race first appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Q Who?” they have thrilled and terrified fans. What is so frightening about them is their cold, adaptable nature. They forcibly assimilated other races they encounter and add their distinctiveness to their collective in a goal of achieving biological and technological perfection.

Borg

The Borg made an instant impact in their first appearance in how they quickly outmatched the Enterprise and would have assimilated the crew if not for the fact that Capt. Picard had to eat crow to get Q to save them. They are a relentless threat and what makes them more terrifying apart from the other Star Trek races is encountering them means a loss of one’s identity. Whenever they assimilate their victims and forcibly graft cybernetic parts onto them all traces of their personality are gone. By transforming victims into mindless zombies, the Borg turn anyone against their former friends and colleagues. This is something that the Enterprise crew grappled with when Captain Picard was assimilated and used Starfleet’s tactics against the Enterprise and the Federation.

Waldermann Rivera

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Top 10 Star Trek: Enterprise Episodes

cast

It’s been ten years since the final two first-run episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise aired. The prequel to the Star Trek phenomena was derided by many for its bland and derivative nature. But a careful and objective look reveals that Star Trek: Enterprise had many terrific episodes, especially its later episodes. These are the best episodes of the fifth and (to date) final Star Trek TV show.

leaving drydock10. “Broken Bow” The pilot episode of the series (which at the time was simply called Enterprise) introduces the crew of the Earth starship Enterprise, including Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), as they embark on an impromptu mission to establish relations with the infamous Klingon Empire.

9. “Affliction”/”Divergence” This two-part fourth-season episode answers the nagging question that has perplexed Star Trek fans ever since the late ’70s –why do the Klingons from the original series look different from modern incarnations of the warrior race? The answer was quite inventive.

xindi attack8. “The Expanse” The second-season finale introduces a radical shift in the show’s direction and has echoes of the then-recent 9/11 attack. A surprise assault on Earth by an alien race called the Xindi leads to the Enterprise being re-assigned to undertake a military mission to Xindi territory to prevent another more devastating attack that is coming within a year.

7. “Zero Hour” The Xindi super weapon archer vs xindicommandeered by an ill-tempered Xindi faction finally arrives at Earth in this thrilling third-season finale. The only hope to prevent Earth’s destruction is a desperate Archer and his crew, along with Xindi allies. The final moments were tense beyond belief and featured slam-bam space battles and the episode’s cliffhanger was way out of left field.

6. “The Forgotten” The personal ramifications and loss from the Xindi attack on Earth are seen through the eyes of Chief Engineer Charles Tucker (Connor Trinneer) whose sister was lost in the attack. Trinneer’s acting was quite memorable in the moments when his character broke down over his intense grief. Other standout acting came from T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) and Degra (Randy Oglesby), an Oppenheimer-like Xindi who has a change of heart about his race’s destructive plans for Earth.

5. “Twilight” An accident leaves Archer with the inability to form new memories. As time passes, the Xindi destroy Earth and humanity is scattered. As years pass by, Doctor Phlox (John Billingsley) discovers that curing Archer’s condition is the key to undoing the past. But will Archer be cured before the Xindi eradicate the last vestiges of humanity?

old archer

From the shocking cold opener where a visibly older Archer witnesses Earth’s destruction to its final, nerve-wracking scenes, “Twilight” excelled in presenting us with a dismal future where the Xindi succeed and put humanity on the brink of extinction.

4. “United” This episode was actually the middle part of a three-episode arc where Romulans try to instigate war between Earth, Vulcan, Andorians, and other planets. As a prototype Romulan ship with the capability to alter its outer appearance attacks different alien ships, the Enterprise crew and alien allies try to discern what is actually happening before war breaks out.

The alliance formed from the effort was one of Star Trek: Enterprise’s best moments and this episode used its all shipsprequel status to its best advantage. The highlight of “United” was a lingering shot featuring an armada of Earth, Vulcan, Andorian and Tellarite spaceships after confronting the Romulan menace. Thus, the seeding of the eventual United Federation of Planets has begun.

azati prime3. “Azati Prime” Archer and the Enterprise finally reach the Xindi super weapon in the aliens’ territory and prepare to destroy it, but Archer is suddenly whisked into the far future by the enigmatic time traveler Daniels (Matt Winston). As this goes on, the Xindi discover the Enterprise and launch a devastating assault that ends in a nail-biting cliffhanger.

What made this episode stand out is the revelation that what Archer does has a pivotal impact in Star Trek’s distant future. Plus, a hint of a future Enterprise is shown for good measure.

2. “Demons”/”Terra Prime” As Earth and its allies begin its first steps to forming the basis for what will become the revered Federation, those plans are threatened with the emergence of a xenophobic human terrorist group that wants to keep Earth and humanity isolated.

tera primeEven though “These are the Voyages” was the official final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, this penultimate two-part story is a much more valid conclusion to the series. That is because it points the way towards Star Trek’s optimistic future and illustrates quite nicely how the characters help pave the way for what lies ahead with Star Trek.

1. “In a Mirror Darkly, Parts I & II” Starting with a cold opener where humanity’s first contact with Vulcan takes a more savage turn, and then showcasing a dark, militaristic opening credits in a mirror darklyfans were in for a treat as the cast chewed lines and reveled in playing evil versions of their characters. Amidst the histrionics, questions about the original Star Trek episode “The Tholian Web” were answered and we learned the origins of the brutal Terran Empire seen in other Star Trek shows. “In a Mirror Darkly” was a true treat for fans with its numerous shenanigans and shout outs to the Star Trek mythos.

Strange as it seems, the best episode of Star Trek: Enterprise doesn’t even feature the main cast. Rather this two-part story is solely about the Mirror, Mirror parallel universe versions of the Enterprise crew. It was easy to tell the cast had a great time portraying twisted, malevolent versions of their normal characters and that added to the joy of seeing “In a Mirror Darkly”.

enterprise

This fourth-season episode best shows the strengths of Star Trek: Enterprise when it fully realized its potential by being an actual prequel rather than recycling old storylines from other Star Trek shows. Sadly, the improvements the show underwent came too late since it was cancelled at the end of its fourth season. As lamentable as that was, at least Star Trek: Enterprise has a distinctive honor that other Star Trek shows lack: it ended on a creative high note.

Honorable Mentions: “The Andorian Incident”, “Awakening”, “The Council”, “Countdown”, “Dead Stop”, “Harbinger”, “Kir’Shara”, “Minefield”, “Observer Effect”, “Regeneration”, “Silent Enemy”, “Similitude”, and “Storm Front, Parts I & II,

José Soto

Star Trek Belongs On TV

 ship

After the release of Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013, the state of the Star Trek franchise had once again been called into question. No doubt, the film was a success at the box office and initially received high critical acclaim. But vocal critics of the film and director J.J. Abrams’ handling of the revered franchise soon drowned out any good will. Many of them decried how dumbed down Star Trek had become, how it just pandered to the action crowd at the cost of Star Trek’s loftiness.

Abrams’s films should be lauded for resurrecting Star Trek. Before he came along, the franchise was considered dead; the last film Star Trek: Nemesis was a box office flop and the last show Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled for poor ratings. Star Trek felt tired and used up, which necessitated the reboot. And frankly, the reboot did the job of bringing back Star Trek as a flashy, exciting and invigorating property, but many felt alienated.

Fluctuating Reboot

enterprise crashingThese critics saw a ray of hope when J.J. Abrams jumped ship to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which precluded him from directing the next Star Trek film. That hope turned into disbelief and exasperation when screenwriter and producer Roberto Orci was hired by Paramount Pictures to direct the upcoming film. Even though he is a professed Star Trek fan, Orci didn’t have any directing experience and such a decision to entrust the franchise on a novice was troubling. But once again, the director’s chair went empty when Paramount announced this past November that Orci would no longer direct the film.

For a brief moment, hopeful fans opined on who should direct the film. The rumor that Abrams’ production company Bad Robot was trying to woo Edgar Wright was heartening. Some fans even started a campaign to get veteran actor/director Jonathan Frakes to return for a third turn as director. Then Paramount released a short list that precluded Frakes and Wright. Soon after, they announced that Justin Lin, the director of many Fast and Furious films would take the helm.

kirk and khan

That announcement was applauded by some, but it confirmed the suspicion that Paramount is only interested in making more shallow, action-packed fare. Many feel that reducing the Star Trek films into pyrotechnics-laden, empty adrenaline fests besmirches the property’s name. Most of the films and TV shows were lauded for offering something more. They had themes, messages, and commentaries of current topics. In Star Trek Into Darkness’ defense, that film did explore issues about terrorism, security and the need for Starfleet to get back into exploring, but those messages got lost in the lens flares, high-octane thrills, and sloppy plotting.

Enduring Aspects

True, many fans have a romanticized view of Star Trek. The old shows and films weren’t strictly intellectual fare, they did have their fair share of action episodes and flashy special effects. It’s part of Star Trek’s legacy. Think of how often fans would hum the pulsing action music from episodes like “Space Seed” while acting out Kirk’s famous drop kicks and fisticuffs. But Star Trek struck a proper balance between action, storytelling and food for thought.

One of the many reasons why all captainsStar Trek and its spinoffs have endured in popularity has been due to provocative episodes like “City on the Edge of Forever”, “The Visitor”, “The Inner Light”, and “The Naked Time”. These shows didn’t rely on action scenes and stunts, though they were welcomed when they did occur. Instead their selling points were character development and morality plays. That is why Star Trek continues to resonate. The action scenes and spaceship battles were just icing on the cake. This reverence also extends to many of the films. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek: First Contact are universally beloved for exploring many themes and character development. This especially applies to Star Trek II which was an action film, but presented memorable themes about revenge, growing old and renewal. Meanwhile, Abrams’ two Star Trek films were initially well received, but later derided by many for pandering to adrenaline junkies and betraying the spirit of Star Trek.

That is why there has been a call for Star Trek to return to its roots and have stories about exploration and so on, and the best way to achieve this is by returning to television. Continue reading