Connecting with Star Trek's Quiet Moments

Between the thrilling installments exploring the final frontier and protecting the future, it's these character moments that sets the franchise apart.


Illustration of marshmallows roasting over a campfire; Amanda Grayson; and hands, playing cards, and poker chips around a table

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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 Final Frontier

Kirk, McCoy, and Spock sit around a campfire in Star Trek: The Final Frontier

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country may have been the perfect sendoff for the The Original Series 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 marshmallow or two.

Spock and Amanda in “Journey to Babel”

Spock stands beside his mother Amanda Grayson aboard the Enterprise in 'Journey to Babel'

"Journey to Babel"

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Watching Spock’s evolution from rigidity to a balanced application of logic and emotion has always been one of my favorite parts of the Original Series. When faced with the prospect of losing his father, Spock stubbornly chose protocol over compassion. But the exchange with his mother, as seen in "Journey to Babel," 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 Kelvin timelines as an important step in Spock’s growth.

The Final Poker Scene in “All Good Things…”

Picard joins his first crew poker game, shuffling the deck as he smiles to himself, as Deanna Troi and Riker look at the others at the table in 'All Good Things...'

"All Good Things..."

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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 in "All Good Things..." 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

In Picard's quarters, he raises a glass to the crew among him (La Forge, Crusher, Worf, Troi, Riker) in a solemn tribute to their fallen friend Data in Star Trek Nemesis

Star Trek Nemesis

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The death of Data certainly divided fans in Star Trek Nemesis. 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”

Julian Bashir looks over and smiles while Miles O'Brien tinkers around in 'Extreme Measures'

"Extreme Measures"

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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 in "Extreme Measures" — 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”

In a field on a bright day, Kira looks over at Odo as they walk hand in hand in 'Children of Time'

"Children of Time"

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“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 for "Children of Time" — 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”

In their EV suits, Tom Paris and B'Elanna float aimlessly in space as they lose oxygen supplies in 'Day of Honor'

"Day of Honor"

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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”

An emotional Harry holds his head low in 'Endgame'

"Endgame"

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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”

Hoshi Sato worriedly looks over her sick pet, Sluggo, as Phlox looks over at them in Sickbay in 'Fight or Flight'

"Fight or Flight"

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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 in "Fight or Flight." Instead, John Billingsley shines as the voice of Star Trek future helping guide Star Trek past.

Archer and Hernandez in “Home”

Archer offers his insight to Hernandez for their maiden voyage on the Columbia in 'Home'

"Home"

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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?

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