Who says you can't celebrate the 4th of July on the Enterprise? While Star Trek presents a unified Earth as part of the United Federation of Planets, its roots in American independence are clear. Just watch “The Omega Glory” again. (Tall words! Proudly saying “We The People!”)
I don't know about you, but being an adult has not lessened my excitement at 4th of July fireworks. Maybe I just like colorful explosions in the sky? Certainly the producers of Star Trek do, too, as big, colorful blasts of light have been a staple of the franchise since the beginning. With liberty and justice for all, I'd like to present these examples of rockets' red glare as my favorite Star Trek explosions.
Sometimes there's a Mirror Universe right in front of you.
Voyager's terrific season five cliffhanger “Equinox” introduces us to another ship trapped out in the Delta Quadrant. Faced with obstacles similar to Captain Janeway, its leader, Captain Ransom, slid the slippery slope away from Federation ideals and let his pragmatism turn to evil. Turns out he's been capturing, killing and sucking the energy of inter-dimensional slug beasties to give his engines a little high-test gas.
Voyager's principled stance leads to kidnappings and a chase, with Equinox eventually bursting into light with a warp core breach.
Okay, so maybe this moment is a tad reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon escaping the blaze of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi, but that didn't mean I leapt off my couch and shouted “Yes!!” any less.
Captain Janeway and her crew are riding the slipstream of Borg transwarp conduits as Admiral Janeway goes mano-a-mano with the Borg Queen. Voyager seems to be unable to escape the pursuing Sphere and now they're bringing the action right to Earth's doorstep. Starfleet Command holds its breath, prepares for a great big punch in the eye and - blammo! - out shoot our intrepid travelers, seven years and many, many miles older.
What's the opposite of “jump the shark?” Deep Space Nine was already terrific, but when the fourth season began, introducing Worf and the shifts in allegiance amidst many of the interplanetary players in preparation for the Dominion War, things started cruising at a warp speed never seen before on Trek.
If one were looking for a precise moment when this change happened, it's probably when Klingon Birds of Prey, under the orders of Martok and Gowron, attacked Gul Dukat's ship the Prakesh and blasted it out of the sky.
Luckily, he of the long neck and other key Cardassians are beamed aboard the Defiant and everyone dug in their heels for the best (mostly) serialized four seasons of television ever produced.
Hey, who says that an explosion has to DESTROY a ship?
With Captain Archer zipping around the timeline and doing all he can to convince the Xindi to leave poor Earth alone, T'Pol is left to fend off a Xindi attack. The ship is blasted in ways that rarely rock our interstellar home, turning it into a flying Siss cheese.
Indeed, one mini-explosion is viewed from the POV of the cold, indifferent vastness of space, showing some unlucky redshirts getting sucked through the nonexistent hull before the emergency force field kicks in.
Hey, who says that an explosion has to even be a ship?
In the very psychedelic TOS episode “The Alternative Factor” the push and pull between tectonic plates of time and space are causing ripples in the very fabric of the universe. Yeah, they don't really light up the sky, but try telling that to Lazarus as he engages in an eternal battle with his evil mirror in a corridor between matter and antimatter! Looks explosive to me.
5 – Double Borg Destruction on Voyager
I imagine the story meeting went something like this:
-- Fellas, I want to introduce a new villain. And I want them to be the most fearsome creatures in the Galaxy?
-- What can be more fearsome than the Borg?
-- These guys will be. And we'll establish that. We'll open this episode, “Scorpion,” with shots of a Borg cube trying to assimilate a ship, and then getting blasted to bits.
-- I love it! But is it enough?
-- Hmnnn. . . I got it! It's not just a Borg Cube. It's TWO Borg Cubes!
-- Yes! Somebody order this man a sandwich. Now, what are these aliens called?
-- Okay, this you are gonna' love. . . .
While I may have cheered more at the warp core ejection at the end of Star Trek 2009 (though this may've just been because Simon Pegg cried “I'm givin' 'er all she's got, Captain!”) the destruction of the Kelvin certainly makes a more emotional impact.
It isn't just that George Kirk (Thor!) sacrifices himself for the good of the crew and that out of this sacrifice James T. Kirk is born – it's that with this explosion comes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman's insurance against any claim that the rest of the movie is inconsistent with Star Trek canon. Now THAT's a big bang!
It isn't just ships that go boom. Sometimes they are floating pots and pans like “The Changeling's” Nomad.
It isn't so much the pyrotechnics that makes Nomad's explosion so tremendous, but the technique that led it to happen. Captain Kirk, with the moral support of his ol' pal Spock, was able to best this killer piece of levitating artificial intelligence by giving it a one-two punch of paradoxical statements. Not to put too fine a point on it, he blew it up with logic!
(This was not the only time logic defeated a foe on Star Trek – but we'll be saving the other examples for a forthcoming One Trek Mind column!)
You blew up the Enterprise, Kirk, that's what you did!
The Enterprise is the single greatest icon in the entire franchise. (With Spock's ears a close second!) If you are going to destroy it, you gotta' do it big. First, get an away team of evil Klingons on there. Then, have the auto-destruct count down in a really cinematic fashion. Then, don't just have it catch fire – you have it catch fire and then WHOOOOOOM! The entire hull just flies up in the air above it. This climactic moment from The Search for Spock left both an emotional and physical impact!
The Enterprise's demise in Search for Spock may have meant more, but the destruction of Praxis at the beginning of The Undiscovered Country just… looks cooler.
Bringing it back to fireworks, have you noticed that some of the newer fireworks displays have these ring-within-ring dealies? Am I the only one who shouts “Praxis!” every time one gets launched?
Praxis' death (a stand-in for the USSR's Chernobyl nuclear plant) was the first step toward an alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It also knocked Captain Sulu's teacup to the floor. I think we can safely call this the number one pick.
But maybe I've left a few off the list? I mean, Star Trek isn't exactly a show that skimps on the explosions. If I've forgotten your fave, please let me know in the comments.
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.