First Contact with a new species is supposed to be among the proudest moments for any Starfleet officer. But even for the most seasoned of captains, things don’t always go according to plan when meeting their new galactic neighbors.
Leaving aside time travel, disregarding one-way first contacts between advanced civilizations secretly observing less advanced ones, and being just a little picky in some cases, these are the top 10 First Contacts that went really wrong.
10. The Wadi
Plenty of cultures in Star Trek partake in games, from the physically punishing Parrises squares to the cerebral challenges of Strategema, but the Gamma Quadrant’s Wadi might just take things a little too far.
In Deep Space 9’s “Move Along Home,” the station hosts the Wadi for an official first contact meeting. When the alien entourage discover they’ve been cheated by everyone’s favorite wormhole-adjacent bartender, Quark, they decide to transport most of the station’s executive staff against their will into a seemingly deadly world of fantasy that feels more like a nightmare than a board game.
By the time it’s all over, the Wadi leave in a huff, DS9’s crew are left to deal with the fallout of a troubling and traumatic experience, and not even Quark gets what he wants — full franchising rights to the game of Chula in the Alpha Quadrant.
9. The Sikarians
Not every first contact disaster involves open conflict. Just ask the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager, who manage to completely screw up relations with the peaceful, easy-going Sikarians without firing a single phaser blast in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Prime Factors.”
Out of desperation for a technology that could take the stranded Voyager 40,000 light years closer to home, a rogue group of crew members breaks Sikarian law, defies their captain’s direct orders, and steals the indigenous civilization’s tech — quite possibly destabilizing the political situation on Sikaris.
When the most hospitable civilization in the entire quadrant formally asks you to leave, you know something has gone badly wrong.
8. The Andorians
The Andorians were a founding member of the United Federation of Planets and a long-standing ally of Earth. But you wouldn’t know it based on humanity’s first contact with them.
Things start innocently enough, with the NX-01 Enterprise visiting the Vulcan monastery and historical site at P’Jem in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “The Andorian Incident.” Unfortunately, the situation on the ground is far worse than your average Alpha Quadrant tourist trap, and the crew find themselves caught in the middle of a military conflict.
The end result of this first contact was the eventual destruction of the monastery, a badly strained relationship with the Vulcans, and Captain Jonathan Archer beat to a pulp while held hostage.
Not what you’d call a smooth start to Andorian-Human relations.
7. The Kazon
You know a first contact has gone particularly badly when the leader of the species you’ve just encountered offers, as parting words: “You have made an enemy today.”
Such is the case when Voyager first encounters Delta Quadrant natives the Kazon in “The Caretaker.”
Things start off so promisingly, with the Starfleet crew offering the scarce and precious resource of water to the Kazon in exchange for their help. But just a few hours later, Voyager is destroying Kazon ships, thwarting their plans for planetary domination, and making an enemy for life. It wasn’t exactly an ideal start to diplomacy in the Delta Quadrant.
6. The Hirogen
If you had to pick a Delta Quadrant civilization you wouldn’t want to make an enemy of, the Hirogen would be among those top of mind.
They’re a brutal, ritualistic species that see all outsiders as prey and themselves as predators. And unfortunately for the crew of Voyager, they put themselves squarely in the former category after acting openly hostile to the Hirogen and assaulting the first member of the species they met.
All it takes is one bad first contact, and Voyager makes a deadly enemy that hounds them for years, Tuvok and Seven of Nine are captured and nearly killed, and the very Hirogen technology the crew were desperate to use is destroyed in the ensuing conflict.
Probably not one of Voyager’s proudest moments.
5. The Mintakans
What do you get when you mix an unplanned meeting with an alien civilization, the deification of a Starfleet captain, and multiple, blatant violations of the Prime Directive?
One pretty bad first contact.
It all happens in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Who Watches the Watchers.” With a clandestine Starfleet observation post accidentally exposed to the Bronze Age civilization indigenous to Mintaka III, the Enterprise crew tries, and fails, to rectify the situation without violating the Prime Directive.
By the end of the whole fiasco, a village of Mintakans start worshipping captain Jean-Luc Picard as a god, one of the group’s leaders is given a full tour of a Galaxy Class starship, and the entire group of proto-Vulcans are casually introduced to the existence of starship-flying extraterrestrials who spy on them.
The cultural contamination and damage to the planet’s natural evolution is hard to measure, but one thing’s for sure, this was far from a textbook first contact.
4. The Jem’Hadar and the Dominion
There’s nothing worse than having your father-son-Ferengi-friend-uncle Gamma Quadrant camping trip ruined by an unknown and menacing military force. Just ask Benjamin Sisko.
In the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episode “The Jem'Hadar,” Commander Sisko and the rest of Federation get their first bitter taste of the Gamma Quadrant’s dominant power, the Dominion, after he’s taken prisoner by Jem’Hadar warriors during a trip to an uninhabited planet on the other side of the Bajoran wormhole.
During and shortly after initial first contact Dominion operatives nearly manage to infiltrate the Federation, a Galaxy-class starship is destroyed, and the stage is set for a tragic, bloody war that would last for years.
This is one first contact that would probably have gone better if it had never happened in the first place.
3. The Klingons
The Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets have had a tumultuous history, from all-out war, to tense peace to uneasy alliance. And it's hardly a surprise once you find out the Federation first made contact with the Klingons with the nasty end of a plasma shotgun.
In Star Trek: Enterprise’s "Broken Bow, Part I," a Klingon courier by the name of Klaang crashes in an Oklahoma corn field, narrowly avoiding death at hands of two pursuers. His first encounter with humanity doesn’t work out quite as well, with a farmer named Moore initiating first contact by shooting him at close range in the chest with a plasma weapon.
Badly wounded but alive, Klaang is healed and returned to the Klingon homeworld in time to complete his mission by the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise. Despite this, first contact with the Klingon Empire would later be described as “disastrous” by Enterprise-D captain Jean-Luc Picard in The Next Generation episode “First Contact. “
2. The Gorn
When going down a list of things you really don’t want to happen during first contact with a new species, a battle to the death on a hostile world is pretty close to the top.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Arena," which features two first contacts, with the Metrons and the Gorn.
After the Federation colony on Cestus III is utterly annihilated by a then-unknown alien species, the U.S.S. Enterprise chases them down through uncharted space, intent on firing phasers first and asking questions later.
Captain James T. Kirk gets his wish when he’s involuntarily transported to a remote asteroid to do battle in single combat against the opposing ship’s captain. In a crucial opening moment for Federation-Gorn Hegemony relations, both captains decide to skip diplomacy entirely and just hit each other with rocks.
Leaving a destroyed colony, countless dead, and probably a narrowly avoided galactic war in its wake, first contact with the Gorn certainly could have gone better.
1. The Borg
When the entity known as Q promised captain Jean-Luc Picard “terrors to freeze your soul” in “Q Who,” he wasn’t kidding.
After being blasted 7,000 light years away from Federation space, the Enterprise-D makes what we’ll call official first contact with the Borg Collective in an incident that would have a lasting impact on the entire United Federation of Planets for years to come.
Despite Captain Picard’s best efforts to peacefully interact with them, 18 men and women are lost in this initial brush with the collective. This first contact also prematurely alerts the Borg to the existence of humanity and the Federation, beginning a series of events that lead to the deaths of untold thousands, the assimilation of entire planets, and a profound loss of innocence for many in the Federation.
Which is your pick for the worst handled First Contact? Let us know @StarTrek on all things social!
Colin McNeil (he/him) is 32-year-old journalist living and working in Toronto. A lifelong fan, he continues to be moved by Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry's optimistic vision of the future. Follow him @McNeilColin.