It’s impossible to calculate just how deep an impact the Star Trek universe has had on our culture. There are moments across all of the shows and movies that have had a lasting effect on those who appreciate the series, to say nothing of its influence on science fiction. Instead of picking one of the Star Trek series and binge watching until you’re waving your hand over a lightswitch to open a door, here’s a collection of moments across the entirety of Star Trek that are worth specifically picking out and watching.
#35. “You hit me. Jean Luc never would have hit me.”
The first few episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are deeply focused on saving the station and establishing an early conflict for the newly formed team to deal with, and as the show starts to slide into the character development phase of the first season Q shows up. Episode 7, “Q-Less” is the one and only time we see the legendary Loki-esque superbeing interact with Commander Benjamin Sisko. The encounter ends with Q taking a shot across the jaw, and Q realizing he’s not going to get the same kind of amusement he’s become so accustomed to with Picard. Not to worry, he soon finds Captain Janeway on Voyager to pester and be pestered by.
#34. When Kirk realizes Uhura also argues with Spock
Star Trek: Into Darkness brings forward some interesting new relationships, due largely to the changes in the timeline brought about by the previous movie. This means that some of the classic relationships from the original series have been mixed up a bit, and the romantic endeavors between Spock and Uhura are chief among them. One of the best moments of the film, if for no other reason than the way the line is delivered, is when Kirk realizes that Uhura and Spock are in the middle of an extended argument.
#33. T’Pol tells a story that radically changes the understanding of First Contact
Season 2 of Enterprise is fantastic for character growth, and really helped solidify what was an otherwise shaky premise for a lot of Star Trek fans. During Episode 2 of this season, Carbon Creek, T’Pol tells this incredible story about a group of Vulcans that landed on Earth by accident well before the officially documented First Contact event with Zefram Cochrane. At the end of the episode, having seen the shock on the faces of Trip and Archer, T’Pol pretends like the event never happened and explains that the story was just a story. Or was it?
#32. Morn hid liquid Latinum in his second stomach
Deep Space Nine has a ton of colorful characters that you see everyone interact with, but only occasionally get any backstory on. The strange-looking Lurian barfly named Morn is one of the best, as he never says a word on camera but all of the main characters have this amazing relationship with him.
The episode Who Mourns for Morn is a perfect example, and it’s one of the best standalone episodes of the entire series. The end of the episode is really what drives the whole experience home, when Morn vomits a little bit of pure Latinum from his second stomach in payment for all of the trouble Quark has just endured.
#31. Kirk buried in Tribbles
The look of despair on Kirk’s face as Tribbles fall out of a compartment and bury him is one of several amusing moments in The Trouble with Tribbles, and it sets a tone for several casual conversations between Kirk and his crew in future episodes. The general amusement from fans with this episode has caused Tribbles to remain a joke throughout almost all of the other Star Trek shows, due largely to Kirk’s general disapproval of their existence in his presence.
#30. An emotional Data fistpumps in victory after blowing up a Klingon bird of prey
After coming to terms with the added stress from his new emotion chip, Data seems to be acting mostly like normal. The scene before is one of the more emotional parts of Star Trek: Generations, and now that the ship is in combat with a Klingon vessel whose weapons are perfectly tuned to Enterprise’s shield harmonics, they need to end things quickly. Right as the torpedo hits the Bird of Prey and tears it apart, the rest of the crew silently celebrates while Data breaks into an epic fistpump and shouts in celebration. It’s one of the best Data moments, if only because it’s so uncharacteristically funny both for Data and the series.
#29. Tom Paris hitting Warp 10
While those of us who have read the books know that hitting Warp 10 has some strange consequences, it’s only really been hinted at in the visual versions of Star Trek until we get to Voyager. Since those folks are desperate for any way to get home faster, Episode 15 of Season 2 feels like a potential turning point for the crew. Unfortunately, as is all too often the case on Voyager, there’s no such thing as a shortcut. Tom Paris transforms into what is speculated to be an advanced form of human evolution, and despite all of the strangeness that follows it is beyond argument that Tom Paris is the first human to successfully fly in transwarp. At least, the first that anyone knows about.
#28. When DS9 crew realizes that Klingons didn’t always have forehead ridges
The biggest nod to the original series to date happens during Deep Space Nine, when time travel forces several members of the crew into the same space and time that The Trouble with Tribbles is happening for Kirk and his crew. The episode delicately balances original series material with a similar plotline, but the best moment of this episode is when everyone from DS9 realizes that they are surrounded by Klingons. It wasn’t immediately obvious, because none of them have forehead ridges, which causes everyone to look to Worf for an explanation. The awkward response Worf delivers generates more questions than it answers, but it’s one of those classic Star Trek moments that everyone should enjoy.
#27. Spock tells Leila she can’t pronounce his full name
Fans of the original series will remember This Side of Paradise as a powerful episode for Spock’s character development. It’s not a particularly noteworthy episode for much else, but since Spock is pretty cool there’s more than enough reason to revisit or watch for the first time. One key moment in this episode, which is something we hear repeated later on due to its significance, is Spock explaining why everyone just calls him Spock. He explains to Leila Kalomi that his full name is unpronounceable to humans, which causes a bit of shock for the madly in love Leila.
Seriously though, how hard is it to pronounce S’chn T’gai Spock?
#26. When Sulu went crazy and thought he was a swashbuckler
Nothing else need be said.
#25. Janeway conquering the weird fear clown
Whether it’s because she’s the first female captain in the series or the dark nature of the mission quickly hardens her, Janeway is repeatedly put in situations where she must demonstrate what a badass she is. Season 2, Episode 23 is one of the best. The crew seems entirely without options against a hostile AI that has captured the minds of several species. Janeway puts herself in harms way to free the hostages, and through sheer force of will and a chilling conversation with the AI that identifies as fear, the good Captain takes command of the situation and walks away entirely unscathed.
#24. Scotty educating Geordi on how to look like a superhero
In all Star Treks the Engineering team is always working against the clock, and always come out looking like heroes at the last second. It’s par for being a member of an exceptional crew, and the suspense it creates is a key part of formulaic television. During the episode Relics in The Next Generation, none other than Scotty himself is recovered from a crash and spends a few days on the new Enterprise. During his stay, he is shocked to learn that Geordi doesn’t give artificially inflated times for when a task will be completed in order to look like a hero, and the whole conversation makes several episodes in the original series that much funnier.
#23. Kirk shouting “KHAN” because Spock is dead
Watching Spock die was a huge deal for everyone watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the scream that follows is both a silly and emotional part of the series. It’s one of those things that makes the second Star Trek movie worth watching again and again, and exists as one of a few scenes where Kirk being upset doesn’t feel at least partially ridiculous.
#22. Spock shouting “KHAN” because Kirk is dead
Alternate universes means alternate stories, and when Khan was announces as the bad guy in Star Trek: Into Darkness we all knew deep down that there would be several nods to the original story. The new Trek universe saw a role reversal, and when Spock broke from his typical calm toe express an outrage that matched Kirk’s in the original it seemed fitting.
#21. Sisko decloaking the USS Defiant for the first time
By the time Deep Space Nine happens, the Federation isn’t accustomed to getting knocked around like a rag doll. The Alpha Quadrant has been mostly carved out into the various factions, and while there are uneasy treaties all over no one wants to pick a fight with the Federation if they can avoid it. This is one of the reasons the battles with the Jem’Hadar are so hard to swallow, and a new tactic is needed in order to defend against this new threat. Fortunately, Sisko knows an Admiral who knows an Admiral, and the USS Sao Paulo gains a cloaking device and is recommissioned the USS Defiant.
The moment in Episode 1 of Season 3 when Sisko decloaks the warship 300 meters away from DS9 without anyone having a clue is a huge turning point in the Dominion War, and a great start to the third season.
#20. Worf admitting he’s terrified of space walks
As the super masculine representative from an war-happy race of beings, every time Worf shows a weak point in his personality is way funnier than it should be. During Star Trek: First Contact we learn that Worf is really not a fan of space walks, which is a bummer since he now needs to put on a suit and go fight some Borg punks on the hull of his beloved Enterprise.
Neelix is often referred to as the Jar Jar of the Star Trek Universe, which is a little unfair. He’s a necessary member of the long journey home regardless of how obnoxious he can be early on in the show, and episode 24 of season 2 is a big step towards him being treated with a little respect. It takes a transporter malfunction with a thoroughly irritated Vulcan in order to get there, but afterwards even Tuvok learns to appreciate some of Neelix’s quirks.
#18. Borg Picard
The end of season 3 for Next Generation was both the turning point in a much larger Borg story arc, but also the catalyst that flung Benjamin Sisko into his position as Commander of DS9. It’s a pivotal moment for the entire series, giving the Borg what they need to gain an even greater edge over the Federation and showing Commander Riker that he has what it takes to fire on a ship bearing the image of his superior officer.
#17. Voyager blowing through a Borg Sphere into the Alpha Quadrant
While the ending to Voyager was a mostly painful exercise in what happens when sci-fi shows go on for way longer than they should, the final moments of the series finale ensures that any shows that happen after Voyager won’t have any problems with The Borg. The combination of transphasic torpedos and ablative armor from a future version of the vessel guaranteed that current Borg vessels have no chance of survival. While the event irreparably violated the Temporal Prime Directive, Janeway was able to get as many people home as possible and ensure The Borg were never a problem again.
#16. Nog’s experience with the strangely sentient hologram on DS9
Every version of the Star Trek series explores the limits of what artificial intelligence is and how holograms differ from actual people, but Deep Space Nine managed to mostly stay away from holograms leaving the holodeck. Instead, we get Vic. This hologram breaks most of the rules that governs holograms, right down to his ability to activate and deactivate himself at will and even communicate with the crew through the comms system. The most impressive thing Vic did was help out Nog, the first Ferengi ensign in Starfleet. When Nog struggled with his post-war experience, Vic’s help proved immeasurable.
#15. Worf holding the Sword of Kahless for the first time
Most of what we see through Worf’s eyes is a redemption story, as he desperately tries to restore honor to the House of Mogh while dealing with his partially human upbringing. Despite everything he’s done for The Empire, respect from his fellow Klingons is one of the most difficult things for Worf to attain. That’s one of the biggest reasons why Deep Space Nine episode 9 of season 4 is Worf’s proudest moment. Despite everything, the moment he’s handed the Sword of Kahless he feels like a true Klingon warrior and doesn’t require approval from anyone.
#14. The birth of Red Alert
Season 2 Episode 9 of Enterprise looks and feels like the same contamination episode we’ve seen in every sci-fi series ever. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a formula that doesn’t often yield new results. The folks onboard Enterprise have the misfortune of being first when it comes to a lot of things, and as a result there’s not a lot of existing policy for them. This episode has a special moment where it becomes clear that a new form of tactical alert is necessary for travelling through space, and as a result the beginnings of Red Alert are created.
#13. When the Romulans figure out Sisko made a fake data rod
The Dominion War needed to seen as the first conflict in a long time that required a compromise of integrity in order to win. In a time where Earth was seen as this peaceful utopia and DS9 was seen as the frontier of everything hostile and aggressive, the conversation between doing what’s right and doing what’s necessary went a long way towards setting that tone. No single moment did this better than when Sisko got caught lying to the Romulans in order to get them in the fight.
#12. Data betraying the Borg Queen
Data has always been capable of deceptive, even if he didn’t always see the value or purpose. After being shown what it is to feel what humans feel by the Borg queen, it looked as though Data was going to choose this huge step forward in his journey towards humanity instead of standing by his crew. To say it was obvious that Data would choose his crew is an understatement, but the way in which he deceives the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact shows he’s already made tremendous strides.
#11. Admiral McCoy calls Data a Spock substitute
The Encounter at Farpoint is an incredible episode for many different reasons, but one of the best moments in the episode is when Bones, who is now an Admiral, makes it clear that Data is TNG’s version of Spock. It’s the closest any Star Trek episode has come to playing with the fourth wall, and it’s one of those things that you can’t help but laugh at when you see it.
#10. “The Doctor gave me a pill and I grew a new kidney!”
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home isn’t exactly on a favorites list for most Trekkies, but there’s one moment in particular that can’t be ignored. In a fantastic demonstration of just how advanced medicine has become in the future, Bones gives an ailing woman a single pill that cures her of an illness that we still battle with today.
#9. When getting to and from the mirror universe becomes no big deal
Every Star Trek after the original series has flirted with the mirror universe, where mustaches mean you’re evil and for some reason light bulbs don’t work so good, but Deep Space Nine is where things get truly silly. After a while, entering and leaving the mirror universe becomes way less of an accident. The episode Shattered Mirror is a great example of this, and really sets the stage for a future where entering and leaving the mirror universe becomes a simple transporter adjustment.
#8. Awkward Picard as a Lieutenant
Captain Picard is always held to an incredible set of self imposed standards, and when he’s told that time is up and that he’s going to die Q steps in to show him what a wonderful life he’s lead. The episode is downright depressing when you see what Picard would have been without that attitude and drive that leads him to take risks, but it’s an important moment in his development and a reminder that Q is kind of a prick.
#7. Q shouting at his son about messing with the Borg
The Q work hard to act as though they are supreme beings without equal, and the most visual of them is less than polite in most situations, but there’s one race in particular that even they don’t want to mess with. Season 7 episode 19 of voyager demonstrates that Q aren’t big fans of messing with The Borg. It’s likely that Q realize there’s little chance The Borg will turn their attention to assimilating Q if they are difficult to find, which is why Q shouted at his son for messing with them in front of Janeway and crew.
#6. Worf tells Q to die
During one of the many encounters with Q, many of which resulted in embarrassing or compromising situations for the Enterprise crew, there should be no surprise from anyone that the first thing Worf suggests Q do when he realizes he’s mortal is to go and die in order to prove that he is no longer a super powerful being. While it’s hard to argue with Worf’s logic, Season 3 episode 13 of Next Generation is an all around amusing experience.
#5. “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”
While communicating with alien species isn’t always a guarantee, the universal translator usually does a pretty good job getting most of the way. This isn’t always the case, and Picard’s experience with the Tamarians is both hilarious and painful to watch. The quotes from this episode are a constant source of jokes among trekkies, which makes the first time you hear “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” a worthy moment in any list.
#4. Picard delivering a life altering verbal smackdown to Wesley Crusher
Jean Luc is no stranger to lecturing just about everyone. It’s one of his weaknesses, even when he’s wrong. There’s one speech in particular that is well worth listening to, and it’s the one he delivers to Wesley Crusher after his spectacular bungling of the Starfleet Academy experience. Season 5 episode 19 is a good one, but the brutal lecture Picard delivers to Wesley is one for the record books.
#3. Picard defending Data’s right to be treated like a member of Starfleet
At the start of Star Trek: The Next Generation it is clear that Data is more like a tool to be used than a member of the crew. The whole point of this experience is to offer a development cycle in which we see Data grow and experience humanity while those around him adjust to treating an android like a person. This happens quickly, and the first huge step in that direction is in Season 2 episode 9 when Picard argues for Data to be treated like a member of Starfleet instead of a utility to be turned on and off when needed.
#2. When Q tells Enterprise that they will meet again
Every story has a beginning, and while The Encounter at Farpoint is hailed as one of the best episodes in Star Trek history for a reason, the tone set at the very end is one that carried on all the way through Voyager. Of all the things that happened in this episode, the reassurance that the Q entity is going to be paying extra close attention to humanity exploring space is something long time fans of the universe can appreciate as the trust statement uttered in the entire series.
#1. Quark, Rom, and Nog time travel to Roswell, New Mexico in 1947
There aren’t a lot of time travel episodes that interact directly with Earth, and there are even fewer time travel episodes without at least one Starfleet character, which is why season 4 episode 8 of Deep Space Nine is such a big deal. Quark, Rom, and Nog are taking a new shuttle for a trip around the block, and find themselves stuck on Earth in 1947. The episode plays on Earth stereotypes of what aliens look like and how they behave, while Quark wields his cobbled together knowledge of humans to make him and his family seem far more capable than they really are.