One advantage to seeing the sun from a starship is that you can look directly into it. From Star Trek Generations to The Voyage Home, the myriad crews of various ships have faced the burning sunlight without sunglasses. But, that doesn’t mean the people of the 22nd, 23rd and 24th century don’t occasionally rock some shades. In Star Trek: Picard, a lot of fans were possibly scandalized by Commodore Oh wearing sunglasses despite the fact that Vulcans have an inner eyelid. Surely, Vulcans don’t need shades, right?
Perhaps not. But, fashion, contrary to what you’ve heard, is highly logical and Star Trek has had several standout moments with sunglasses, even if they’re not always totally necessary. From the earliest days of Starfleet to the dirty back alleys of Stardust City, here are seven times Star Trek characters wore their sunglasses in space.
Captain Archer’s desert shades from “The Forge”
As the first Star Trek crew to get special baseball caps for their starship, the costume aesthetics of Enterprise were always a little more contemporary thanks to the fashion of 22nd century feeling a lot closer to our then-2001 reality, than the 23rd or 24th. And as great as Archer’s NX-01 hat was in the early episodes, he looks his most ‘normcore’-cool when he’s got a backpack, his NX-01 baseball cap, and sunglasses. Archer’s way of rocking sunglasses is pretty much like a dad. He doesn’t care if he looks cool, but he’s ready.
Guinan's noir look in “Clues”
In the hard-boiled detective world of Dixon Hill, clients looking for help with their hard luck cases almost always wear shades to hide the tears; you know, the same kind of tears which match the constant rainfall outside. When Star Trek: The Next Generation fleshed out the concept of the holodeck it also brought the Raymond Chandler-esque world of noir mysteries into the 24th century. And, although Dr. Crusher wore sunglasses in the first Dixon Hill episode, “The Big Goodbye,” Guinan owning the noir look in “Clues” is the standout TNG sunglasses moment. And here’s why: The way she tilts these shades down tells you everything.
Geordi’s slick First Contact sunglasses
It’s possible The Next Generation crew never looked cooler than they did in their mid-21st century disguises in First Contact. Deanna Troi may have succeeded in “blending in,” but Geordi La Forge was perfectly at home. You might argue that Geordi only wore sunglasses on Earth to hide his neural implants, but surely people of the 2063 had seen colored contacts before. Nah, Geordi was wearing sunglasses because he knew they made him look great.
Barcaly’s whole beach-bum thing in “Inside Man”
We don’t like Reginald Barcalay because he’s cool. We like him because he’s an in-universe Voyager fan and because, assuming he’s not stuck on the holodeck, he’s pretty good at his job. He also, at least on one occasion, wears two pairs of sunglasses at once. It’s lucky Barcaly has good friends like Deanna Troi to help him through his problems. And, maybe talk him out of those specific shades?
Picard’s driving shades in Nemesis
Okay, maybe these don’t actually count, but Picard does wear what seem to be some kind of space-age driving glasses when he gets behind the wheel of the Argo in Star Trek: Nemesis. This outer-space dune buggy doesn’t seem to have a windshield, so, it’s not crazy that Picard would want some kind of protection for his eyes. But, because it it so bright where Picard drives the Argo there may be some kind of nifty micro-force-field sunglasses effect happening. Does Picard have the only sunglasses in Star Trek that appear to be transparent? In essence, does Picard have secret sunglasses? Because of the openness and honesty intrinsic to the character of Jean-Luc, if anyone was going to have sunglasses that also allowed for eye contact, its him.
Rios is “killing it” in “Stardust City Rag”
Like Guinan before him, Rios not only dons sunglasses, but also feather boa. The difference of course is that in “Stardust City Rag,” Rios isn’t entering a hard-boiled holographic detective novel. On some level, he, and the rest of the crew of the Le Sirena are infiltrating a very real version of those Dixon Hill novels Picard liked so much. Rios doesn’t keep his sunglasses on for very long, and many of us were probably overly distracted by his hat. But, let’s not diminish how great these shades are. They’re silver. They’re metal, and they’re mirrored. If we’re lucky, Rios will wear these shades one more time before the end of the season. Or, if not that, then in all of our fanfiction.
Commodore Oh’s tribute to an icon of French cinema
In “The End is the Beginning,” the steely head of Starfleet Security, Commodore Oh wears perhaps the most stylish sunglasses on this list. And again, whether or not Vulcans need sunglasses is beside the point. Oh looks like only formidable in these shades, but also, paradoxically, human. According to Tamlyn Tomita, the shades Oh wears were written in the script to be an homage to French film actress, Anna Karina. This reference is backed-up by Picard showrunner Michael Chabon, who included a photograph of Anna Karina wearing sunglasses in one of his Instagram posts addressing fan questions about the canon of Picard.
Oh’s sunglasses might not be the most practical, but artistically, they help to communicate something very interesting about future world of 2399. Even Vulcan spymasters will be influenced by French cinema! The intergalactic cultural melting pot is so integrated into society that Oh puts on these sunglasses without giving it a passing thought. Some things, like these shades, will remain classic for centuries.
Ryan Britt's (he/him) essays and journalism have appeared in Tor.com, Inverse, Den of Geek!, SyFy Wire, and elsewhere. He is the author of the 2015 essay collection Luke Skywalker Can't Read. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife and daughter.
Star Trek: Picard streams on CBS All Access in the United States, in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and OTT service Crave, and on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories.