When it comes to Star Trek, the frantic nature of exploring the final frontier and protecting the prosperity of the future provides excitement. For many, that’s the allure — or at least what got them initially hooked. But it’s the quiet moments that set the franchise apart and allow it to endure. While I love the battles of the Dominion War, the barroom brawls of “The Trouble With Tribbles,” and the temporal onslaught of “Year of Hell,” it’s the character moments that keep me coming back year after year, decade after decade.
These moments may feature the whole crew, or may simply involve a likely (or unlikely) pairing. They may be uplifting or they may be sad. They may be reflective or decisive. Regardless of the details, they add depth to the Star Trek universe and allow us to feel a stronger connection to the story, and to see ourselves in the characters.
While there are hundreds of moments to choose from, I’ve selected two of my favorites from each series as a sampler to spur you on to share yours:
The Campfire Scene from Star Trek V
The Undiscovered Country may have been the perfect sendoff for the TOS cast, but the most perfect final gathering of the triumvirate came in The Final Frontier. It’s campy, no doubt, but the interaction between Kirk, Spock and Bones as they sat around a campfire said more about the bond between these men than anything you’ll find before or after. For this brief moment, they were just friends, enjoying each other’s company … and a marsh melon or two.
Spock and Amanda in “Journey to Babel”
Watching Spock’s evolution from rigidity to a balanced application of logic and emotion has always been one of my favorite parts of TOS. When faced with the prospect of losing his father, Spock stubbornly chose protocol over compassion. But the exchange with his mother cracked the exterior that others could not penetrate, and this one scene continued to give us so much for so long, being revisited in small ways in both the Prime and Abramsverse timelines as an important step in Spock’s growth.
The Final Poker Scene in “All Good Things…”
It’s very short — roughly 75 seconds — but the time between Picard stepping through the door to Riker’s quarters and the fade out to the saucer is one the most touching moments in Star Trek. It sums up in one quiet, crowning scene what a family the Enterprise-D crew became over their seven years together, how we sometimes distance ourselves from family and friends, and why we shouldn’t waste the time that we have.
Remembering Data in Nemesis
The death of Data certainly divided fans. Some saw it as unnecessary while others, like me, saw it as the fitting culmination of Data’s journey to become human. Either way, his death gave us a beautiful scene involving the TNG crew that echoed a similar moment from the TOS films. “To absent friends,” Picard says as he raises a glass in memory of Data, the same words Kirk spoke to his crew when remembering Spock.
Miles and Julian in “Extreme Measures”
One of the great character pairings on Deep Space Nine is that of Miles O’Brien and Julian Bashir. Given their start, it never seemed likely they would become best friends. But the brewing bromance is possibly the best, most real-world friendship of any two men in the franchise. After being “shot” while inside the mind of Sloan — and thinking they are going to die — the two have a wonderful debate on just how strong their friendship is that’s at the same time serious and hilarious.
Kira and Odo in “Children of Time”
“Praying over your own grave. That’s got to be a new one.” Kira’s right, but this very unusual scene for Deep Space Nine — shot in bright daylight in a field — has serious ramifications for the relationship between her and Odo. Certainly it doesn’t pay off right away, but it took a case of quantum duplication for Odo to finally open up about his feelings for the Major. It’s a particularly moving scene in which we can see the emotional evolution of Odo — 200 years’ worth — in the span of two minutes.
Tom and B’Elanna in “Day of Honor”
Not so much a scene as a series of scenes, the predicament faced by Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres in “Day of Honor,” floating in space as their oxygen slips away, was just what they needed to stop hiding their feelings. Star Trek has a way of creating romantic pairings that don’t always work — but in this case Voyager got it right. The human flyboy and Klingon engineer just needed a little push … from some random ion turbulence. Roxann Dawson’s performance in particular was authentic, emotional, and a watershed moment for her character.
Harry’s “To The Journey” Speech in “Endgame”
Another family gathering of sorts, this one comes at a pivotal moment for Voyager. It serves as a bookend to Janeway’s view of her crew. Whereas “Caretaker” gave us a collection of officers serving under a captain, “Endgame” gave us a family and a leader who saw them as such. The camaraderie on show — under the piercing glare of Admiral Janeway (talk about awkward) and capped by Harry’s famous observation that it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey — is truly wonderful.
Hoshi and Phlox in “Fight or Flight”
More than anyone else in Star Trek, Hoshi Sato was a point-of-view character for the audience. We’ve all faced trepidation that stands between us and personal growth, and often it’s been a mentor or gentle hand that helped us through. Fortunately for Hoshi, Phlox doesn’t take the easier route and just feed her to his bat. Instead, John Billingsley shines as the voice of Star Trek future helping guide Star Trek past.
Archer and Hernandez in “Home”
The journey into the Expanse to find the Xindi weapon took a psychological toll on Archer, and upon returning home he realized that everything he believed about the future had changed. Isolating Archer with the Columbia’s captain, Erika Hernandez, upon a desolate mountainside was the perfect choice for working out what he had lost and how to get it back. In his words, we can all see the frustrations and struggles we’ve felt when our expectations about something were shattered.
These are the moments in Star Trek that have made it part of my life for so many decades, and why I’m driven to share it with everyone through discussion after discussion in my podcasts. We’ve barely scratched the surface. Which quiet moments connect with you?—C Bryan Jones is founder and publisher of the Trek.fm podcast network, host of The Ready Room and Hyperchannel, and co-host of The Orb: A Star Trek Deep Space Nine Podcast. Here on Earth, he lives in Tokyo where he’s Editor-In-Chief of The Journal, the magazine of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. He can also be be found on Twitter (@cbryanjones) and his personal website cbryanjones.com.
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