One Trek Mind #26: Pets In Star Trek
I tell ya, folks, I was planning to make this week's One Trek Mind a searing, intellectual look at the Kirk-Spock-Bones troika as a symbol of Freudian psychology. I had 90% of it written and then my annoying cat jumped on the keyboard, deleting the file and all the backups. Pets!
They make you sneeze, they crap in the house and they still haven't figured out a way to cook their own food. In the future, we'll wise up and stop keeping pets around, right? Wrong! Each iteration of Star Trek has had a li'l critters, and not all of them were trying to kill the crew.
Here are my favorite ten.
10 – Jil Orra's Wompat
In the legendary TNG two-parter “Chain of Command,” the cruel interrogator Gul Madred has a quick tender moment with his daughter Jil Orra. In it, another side of him is shown, as he coaches the young Cardassian in proper pet care. It is an interesting glimpse at Cardassians – laying the groundwork for the importance of the family unit in Cardassian culture, in addition to being a nuanced view at “evil” in general. Of course, when Jil Orra slacks on her chores, we know that her father punishes her by making her shout “There Are Five Unclean Cages!”
9 – Dr. Phlox's Pyrithian Bat
Dr. Phlox would like you to believe that he keeps all the crawling, buzzing, slithering and flapping buggers in sickbay for purely medicinal purposes. But this is absolutely not the case. We've often seen him talking to his menagerie of creatures, and one that claims ownership of much of his heart is his Pyrithian bat. Who can forget the night he and Captain Archer had to chase her down when she escaped from her cage, with Phlox creating a paper Pyrithian moon hawk to scare her back home? The guano nearly hit the fan that night...
8 – Worf's Targ
Targs: A Warrior's Pet! Looking a bit like a boar with spikes down its spine, targs are an important part of Klingon culture. They are hunted for sport and their hearts are eaten during certain rituals. (Like weddings. Awwww. . . targ heart!) Domesticated targs, however, are kept as pets throughout the Empire and, indeed, we know from the episode “Where No One Has Gone Before” that Worf had one when he was a kid. We're guessing his adopted parents got him one as part of an effort to help him feel more Klingon, though heaven knows how the neighbors felt about that.
7 – Neelix
I used to work with a woman who had a pet named Worf. So it's only fitting that people WITHIN the Star Trek world would name their pets after their favorite characters, too. To that end, may I remind you of Neelix, Lt. Reg Barclay's cat. Barclay, who became obsessed with rescuing Voyager, could, in a way, be considered the first and best representation of a Trekkie within actual Trek canon. It's something to think about, anyway. One thing that must be addressed, however, is Barclay's cavalier attitude toward Neelix eating Deanna Troi's ice cream. Chocolate is really not good for cats. Next time, vanilla only, please.
6 – Kes
Speaking of Neelix, what about the actual diplomat-slash-chef of the Intrepid-class NCC-74656? Didn't he keep something around as a pet? He sure did – an Ocampan called Kes. He certainly treated her like a pet, and she had the puppy-dog eyes to prove it. I never could figure out just what the heck the relationship was between these two. All I know is that he called her “sweeting” and he had her looking after vegetables. (So, if not a pet, than at least a sous-chef.) Was their relationship sexual? That's the question no one wants to answer. She wasn't even two years old. I mean, I respect all cultures in all the quadrants of the galaxy. . . but that's just a little too much to think about.
5 – Spot
Lt. Commander Data, in his ongoing efforts to know what it meant to be human, decided that cleaning up hairballs was the way to do it. Famously despised by Brent Spiner (or at least he claims for a laugh at conventions), Spot was an orange tabby cat... and muse for the best work of original art ever shown on Trek. (I speak, of course, of Data's poem “Ode to Spot.”) Spot was no mere kitty, however. When the crew of the Enterprise-D began devolving due to an outbreak of Barclay's Protomorphosis Syndrome, Spot's recently born kittens had the necessary natal chemical compounds to combat the disease. No wonder Spot's survival caused Data to cry with joy in Generations – emotion chip mishap or not.
4 – Isis
Was Isis just Gary Seven's pet, or was there something more? Gary Seven was descendant of Earthlings, but who knows what goes on on that kooky planet of his? (It's so kooky it doesn't even really have a name!) All I know is that my cat – you know, the one who walks on my keyboard messing up my work – very rarely helps me in my espionage missions to prevent nuclear destruction or transforms into someone resembling Playboy's 1968 Playmate of the Year.
3 – Tribbles!
Hey, if Tribbles weren't cute Cyrano Jones wouldn't eat. The fact is that once a Tribble is neutered, they make dynamite pets. Dig the included photo from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, or the caged one in Star Trek 2009, for proof. They purr, they're fluffy and, so long as you aren't transporting containers of quadrotriticale, there should be no trouble.
2 – Porthos
Known as Admiral Archer's prized beagle in Star Trek 2009, Porthos spent his prime years on the floor of the captain's quarters on the NX-01. He was fond of cheese, made T'Pol gag with his pungent odor and knew to bark at hiding Sulibans and oncoming spatial anomalies. How do the animals always know?!?
1 – I-Chaya
I feel a little badly about this, because when I first thought up this list I said, “Aa-ha! Finally a list where someone from Enterprise will get the top spot!” But you know what made me feel even MORE badly? When the noble sehlat I-Chaya sacrificed himself to save young Spock during his Kahs-Wan. Porthos, I love ya, but I-Chaya won more of my heart in a single animated episode than you did in four seasons. Not just because he was a big, fuzzy walrus who couldn't bear to let his li'l master face the dangers of nature alone, but because the notion of Spock doing something as illogical as loving a pet makes a curious clear liquid drip from my ocular glands.
I know I left out a bunch (the O'Briens' cat… those fuzzy guys from Insurrection), but hopefully not your favorite. If I did, please let me hear about it in the comments. And remember to get your Pyrithian bat spayed or neutered!
Jordan Hoffman is a freelance writer, critic and independent film producer living in New York City. He fell in love with Star Trek through TOS reruns just as TNG was getting ready to launch. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels. He has a funny story about the one time he met Leonard Nimoy. Click HERE to follow him on Twitter.