In celebration of Valentine’s Day, enjoy these 13 moments that showed us Trek’s tender side.
13. Odo Learns about Love from an Unlikely Source
When Lwaxana Troi shows up at Deep Space 9 in “Forsaken,” you know a potential paramour will be involved. And when it turns out to be Odo, at first it’s just as funny as when Captain Picard tried to get away from her overzealous advances. But in a surprising twist, we rediscover that there’s more to Lwaxana than libido. When she and Odo get trapped in a broken turbolift, he learns that romance is about more than writing poetry and giving flowers (or as he calls it, “sacrificing various plants to serve as tokens of affection”): it’s about intimacy. Odo is not the first man to become liquid in Lwaxana’s lap, but probably the first to do so literally. The experience makes him look at love in a whole new way.
12. Culber and Stamets Brush Their Teeth Together
Just like at the end of a very eventful day, at the end of a very eventful episode, a couple finds themselves in front of the mirror, brushing their teeth. Although it’s a small and simple moment, coming at the end of the fourth episode of Discovery (“Choose Your Pain”), it feels like a revelation to know that two characters we’ve come to admire — Hugh Culber and Paul Stamets — share not just a home, but each other’s confidence. The sentimental setting has even more meaning when Stamets reunites with Culber (believed dead) in the mycelial network. Brushing their teeth together certainly isn’t necessary in a dreamland full of spores, but they do, because that’s what Stamets’ mind returns to when he thinks about being comforted by his partner.
11. Janeway and Chakotay Almost Go “Blue Lagoon”
When Janeway and her Number One get stranded on a deserted planet and he — I cannot stress this enough — constructs a bathtub for her, I was like, “awwwww yeah, finally!” Then, I hit pause on “Resolutions,” and went to make some popcorn, as you do. But it turns out the senior leadership of Voyager has more self-control than I would have. While I didn’t get to see the unrequited hookup I had hoped for, Chakotay does say one of the most romantic things in Trek history, by telling Janeway a parable of a warrior who didn’t know peace until he found a woman leader to serve and protect. (Shhh! He’s talking about himself!) Literal days before they would have decided to just go for it and populate the empty planet — I wish! — they get beamed back aboard Voyager. If you don’t believe me, watch the air between them sizzle when they finally get back to their posts on the bridge.
10. Picard Makes Music in the Jeffries Tubes
Let’s be honest: Captain Picard’s true love was the Starship Enterprise. But he does get a chance to get romantic in “Lessons,” when a new officer in the Stellar Cartography department brings out his sensitive side. The catalyst is music, with her on piano and him on the Ressikan flute — that instrument he learned to play when he lived an entire life in 20 minutes. In a scene thrilling to those of us watching TV back in the 90s (when characters in TV shows rarely referred back to past episodes), the closed-off captain explains the story of “The Inner Light” and opens his heart to his new crewmate. And in one of the most romantic moments to take place on the NCC-1701-D, an impromptu duet in the most perfectly acoustic place in the ship — a Jeffries tube — turns into an impromptu make-out session.
9. Worf Wails for K’Ehleyr’s Death
It’s fitting that Worf is one of the only characters to appear on this list twice, along with Captain Janeway. It’s hard for people not to fall in love with Janeway, but Worf appears twice because it’s hard for him not to fall in love with others. Possibly the biggest romantic in Star Trek history, he loves (Klingon) opera, his preferred drink is (Klingon blood) wine, and he had expected Ambassador K’Ehleyr to marry him after they… did whatever that bloody hand thing was on the holodeck. In “Reunion,” Worf takes drama to Romeo and Juliet levels. K’Ehleyr reappears just long enough to introduce him to their son before she’s brutally murdered in her quarters. While she makes her journey to Sto-vo-kor, Worf roars at her bedside. His loss — past, present, and future — is palpable.
8. Janeway Gets Amnesia, Moves In
When you’re a dedicated starship captain, perhaps total amnesia is the only way to truly fall in love. “Workforce,” a two-part Voyager episode whose second half was directed by Roxann Dawson (a.k.a B’Elanna Tores), serves as an homage to the TOS episode “The Paradise Syndrome.” Janeway gets amnesia on a foreign planet and finally falls for a fella, who asks her to move in with him. But when she goes back to her place to get the last of her stuff, Chakotay is there to inform her that she has a whole crew that’s counting on her. Like Kirk, Janeway eventually gets her memory — and ship — back. The good news is that her lover is still alive. The bad news is that she has to leave him anyway. The tearful goodbye they share in her quarters before the ship’s departure makes you wonder if she’s losing more than she’s gotten back.
7. Tucker Meets the Parents on Vulcan
It’s not just the scenic lava field that’s steamy when T’Pol takes her “it’s complicated” pal Commander Tucker back to Vulcan in “Home.” He’s so angry that she’s going through with her arranged marriage that (as he later reveals to her mother) it’s at that moment he realizes he loves her. He shows his love in a way that’s appropriate on Vulcan: by doing absolutely nothing, allowing her to do what she needs to to improve her family’s standing. She repays him by doing something that’s absolutely scandalous on Vulcan — giving him a kiss on the cheek before her marriage ceremony. T’Pol and Tucker don’t have sex in this episode (unlike Captain Archer and his climbing companion back on Earth) but the romantic connection between these two is even stronger here than when they did hook up, with T’Pol memorably referring to it as her experiment with human sexuality.
6. Michael and Ash Have a Real Kiss
No one expects Michael Burham to stay in a relationship for long — especially Michael herself. So it’s all the more sweet when she’s able to steal a moment away with her longtime secret crush Ash Tyler (who has some secrets of his own) in “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum.” Like many sci-fi couples, they’ve kissed before, but it was in a different dimension/other plane of existence, and didn’t count because they don’t remember it. Alone on an away mission, they talk about Ash’s lake house and Michael’s bleak future in prison, which makes their first kiss that they actually remember a sad one. But under a double-moon surrounded by what look like intergalactic lightning bugs, it’s also one of the most romantic in Trek history.
5. Sisko Says Goodbye to Kasidy
The Prophets (a.k.a. wormhole aliens) still have some unfinished business with their Emissary, Captain Sisko, in the series finale of Deep Space Nine. But before he goes off to learn what only they can teach him, his wife Kasidy joins him in the heaven-looking place called The Celestial Temple. As they share a final kiss, he tells her he’ll be back in, “maybe a year, maybe yesterday,” and she promises to wait for him. Believe it or not, this romantic moment reportedly almost wasn’t — actor Avery Brooks later said he asked for the resolution between the two characters to include the concept of Sisko returning. The idea of leaving his pregnant wife didn’t sit well with him, because he did not want Sisko’s final actions to play into the abandonment stereotypes that often unfairly follow Black men.
4. Riker and Troi Enjoy the Good Life at Home
I’ve always considered Deanna Troi and Will Riker Star Trek’s “it” couple, and maybe that has to do with the fact that they feel like celebrities. Attractive bridge officers at the center of the action who usually only divulge snippets of their relationship — a flirtatious smile here, a jealous glance there — in ways you have to be on the look-out for to catch. In Star Trek Nemesis, they even get waylaid in the midst of their wedding celebration, and we don’t see a ton of personal moments. So it’s a special treat for Triker ‘shippers (I said it) to get to see them in the Picard episode “Nepenthe,” enjoying life in their rustic log cabin. The tenderness these two share is perfectly personified in their daughter Kestra (named after Troi’s late sister) whose wild, kind-hearted soul is safe and protected under their care. Not to mention, Riker looks super sexy in a kitchen, making pizza from scratch.
3. B’Elanna Breaks Her Silence while Stranded in Space
One of Trek’s longest-running couples, Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres didn’t hook up immediately upon realizing they were both attracted to each other and stranded thousands of lightyears from home. Instead, they were a slow burn, and developed a friendship before a romance. In “Day of Honor,” the truth finally comes out when Tom and B’Elanna are stranded in space — like, really stranded, without a ship. As their oxygen runs out and Tom begins to lose consciousness, B’Elanna makes a confession: “I love you.” There really is no backdrop more romantic than the stars, but it’s a good thing Voyager shows up immediately afterward to beam them aboard. Next, Tom just has to get B’Elanna to go on a date with him.
2. Worf Saves Dax at All Costs
A brave warrior and a wise but youthful adventurer: a match made in deep space. Worf and Jadzia Dax were an intense couple from the start, with raucous lovers’ quarrels and a reputation for amorous encounters that could even be bone-breaking (hey, it’s the Klingon way!). In “Change of Heart,” Worf shows that his intensity extends to his loyal devotion to his wife, even if it harms his career. “Even I could not stand against my own heart,” he explains, when having to choose between completing an important mission that will save lives or carrying his true love to safety. Worf and Dax might be the most passionate of all Star Trek couples, and this episode — one of Jadzia’s last — is by far their most romantic.
1. Captain Pike Reunites with Vina on Talos IV
A romance so epic it spans two different Trek series, the love story of Captain Pike and Vina of Talos IV was originally created by Gene Roddenberry himself for the pilot of The Original Series. But most fans know what happened next: After the pilot (and its captain) were scrapped, the Trek creator gave the love story new life in Star Trek’s first two-part episode, “The Menagerie,” in which Spock steals the Enterprise to bring Pike back to Vina’s home planet. Spock committing treason is probably enough to land this romance the #1 spot, but Discovery sealed the deal in its ingenious episode “If Memory Serves,” which takes place between the two episodes. The story is this: Horribly injured in an accident, Vina was put together by the aliens of Talos IV incorrectly, meaning that her beauty is only as deep as the illusions that flourish on the planet. Captain Pike is her dream man, who the aliens bring to Talos IV hoping he’ll stay. When he doesn’t, they make an illusion of him, which keeps Vina company until he’s injured himself (rescuing children, naturally) and Spock brings him back to stay. It’s hard to imagine the day-to-day life of Pike’s illusion and Vina’s illusion — do they go back to their real bodies at night or picnic under the stars? But the beauty of sci-fi romance is that it doesn’t have to be ordinary.
Jennifer Boudinot (she/her) is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on Collider, The Belladonna Comedy, and Points in Case. She's also the co-author of the books Dangerous Cocktails and Viva Mezcal. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is a Kira with a hint of Dax. Find her on Twitter @jenboudinot.
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