Since the first series of Star Trek in 1966, the franchise has gone on to become one of the most iconic and influential global television franchises in history. Each series has delivered new surprises, discoveries and bold revelations, alongside its beloved characters and traits that are echoed throughout popular culture, over 50 years later.
With stories of exploration, both of space and of ourselves, Star Trek has developed a reputation for it’s deep and thoughtful moments and often times any modern iteration thrown aside for changing the formula. But shocks and surprises are nothing new, nor is action and suspense. Our bold heroes aren’t as clean cut and perfect as we’d like to think.
After a series of twists, turns and character flaws led the charge of Discovery’s first season, in anticipation of the second – which is set to come with more space drama and surprises, we’re taking a look back at the thin gs that have shocked and surprised fans over the years; kept us on the edge of our seats and let us see the darker sides of our heroic Starfleet officers
A Logical Mutiny
The Menagerie, The Original Series (1966)
Michael Burnham may have been Starfleets first mutineer as she let her feelings override her judgements, but it seems mutiny might just run in the family.
The leading trio of The Original Series featured a perfect balance of characters, with Spock’s calculating mind on one side and McCoy’s fiery determination on the other, anchored by Kirk’s steely temper and courage. However, everyone’s favourite Vulcan shocked audiences when he sacrificed his loyalty to the crew when Christopher Pike, his former captain and mentor, was gravely injured.
Confined to a pod-like chair and only able to communicate with the help of a beeping light, the once heroic Pike was destined to a life of emptiness. A fact Spock was unwilling to let happen. To save his life, Spock hijacked the Enterprise and forced Starfleet to help him, against Kirk’s orders.
Creating fake documents and logs, Spock commandeered the ship, set it on radio silence and raced off with Pike to Talos IV; a planet which was home to a people who had once kidnapped the captain and tried to force him to live out a life of fantasy. The Talosians could offer Pike a normal life, at least the illusion of one, and let him live his final years with a sense of being and happiness.
Willing to risk it all, Spock broke all the rules of law and willingly accepted a court martial for his actions in order to expose the hidden secrets of Talos and save the life of his former captain.
Bones, What Have I Done?
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
The Enterprise was special. When The Motion Picture was to see a Star Trek reimagined, despite it being absolutely insane that anyone could accept the original and motion picture ships were the same beast; thats what we stuck with. We couldn’t get rid of the Enterprise and even being old and battered, destined for the scrapyard, the ship was just as important to Star Trek as Kirk and Spock.
Towards the climax of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, fans were left in tears when Spock sacrificed his life for his crew. But all was not lost and there was a chance to save him; his mind had been transferred to McCoy, his body reborn on Genesis. So Kirk rallied the troops to steal the Enterprise, put the pieces of Spock back together and save the day. But saving Spock would come at a cost; they weren’t the only ones going to Genesis. The Klingons were on their way to find out the secrets of the self-terraforming world.
Still worn from the fight with Khan and massively undermanned, the Enterprise was knocked out with a few surprise blasts from the Klingons. On the ground Kirk’s son, David, tried to fight back only to end up with a knife in his chest. Collapsing in a stunning moment of subtle agony, Kirk was crushed. Corned and void of all hope, he surrender. Inviting the Klingons to take his ship. But not without a plan, clearing out his crew and setting the ships self-destruct as a welcome present for Klingon Commander Kruge.
We’d seen the ship battered, overpowered and taken from them before. And as that countdown ticked on we all waited for that last minute save. But then it happened. The Klingons watching the countdown, realising too late and then, BOOM! The bridge blows, the saucer blasts apart and what remains sets the skies of Genesis alight as it burns up in the atmosphere as Kirk watched his beloved ship burn from planet side.
Resistance Was Futile
Best of Both Worlds Part One, The Next Generation (1990) & First Contact (1996)
Despite a rocky start to the season, The Next Generation hit its stride with the introduction of the Borg, who entered Federation space on a mission to assimilate humanity into its collective mind.
The Borg successfully captured Jean Luc Picard implanting him with alien tech, transforming the captain of the Enterprise into a disposable servant. With their leader lost and no way to save him, Starfleet, under Riker’s command, saw no other option but to fire on the Borg ship; with Picard aboard.
As the screen faded to black, closing the season, fans were left shocked at what remains one of the biggest cliff-hangers in Star Trek’s history and left wondering if this was truly the end of their captain.
Of course, he did return and the status quo would see Picard take back his command for another few seasons. But what happened to him would follow him for the rest of his life, eventually causing the calm and collected captain to snap.
The Borg would never stop coming. They had an unhealthy obsession with trying to wipe out humanity and couldn’t seem to accept that their plans would be stopped every single time. To ensure we wouldn’t resist, the Borg Queen herself raced back in time to assimilate Earth at a more primitive time when we’d be unable to resist; slowly taking over the Enterprise – who followed them to counter-act the plan – as their new Borg flagship.
Even with his ship overrun by Borg, his crew being assimilated one by one, Picard seemed determined to resist at all costs; relentless in his pursuit of justice. While his crew followed his orders, a 21st century Lilly Sloan didn’t need to. And she bluntly told him he was making a mistake. That he needed to blow up the ship, kill the Borg once and for all; that he’d already lost the battle and it was the only way to win the war and save the future.
For the first time the tea drinking, contemplative captain lost his cool; shattering a display case as he lashed out in anger and unleashing a vindictive, hate filled rant against his former captors; a moment that still resonates strongly as the one time we saw the captain – a representation of Roddenberry’s ideal of a perfect civilisation – become the embodiment of anger and vengeance.
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