Sports are just as important in the 23rd century as they are now. Whether they were trying to relax, trying to connect with nature, or settle an old beef, Star Trek’s finest loved to turn to sports.
Just as they do today, a person’s athletic pursuit of choice give us a glimpse into the nature of so many of those who inhabited the Enterprises, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine. Though the sports aren’t exactly the same as the ones we see on ESPN and in the Olympics, it’s still a crucial part of life in the future.
With so many moments to choose from, it was hard to narrow down our choices, but after deliberating we’ve managed: These are the ten best times sports showed up on Star Trek.
10. Playing Basketball on the Enterprise
While we all knew of Jonathan Archer’s love of water polo, it’s basketball that we saw on played on NX-01. The crew is finishing up a game, during “Forge” in the fourth season, when they are interrupted to find out about the Earth embassy on Vulcan-- interrupting Phlox’s dominant run on the court.
9. Julian, Miles and Darts
Miles O’Brien and Julian Bashir’s buddy-comedy-within-a-show often heats up over games. While their LARP games are memorable, their duels over the dartboard at Quark’s gives you an idea of how their friendship evolves. When Julian’s biological advantages are unveiled “Doctor Bashir, I Presume” in the fifth season, Miles understands it through darts, and insists his friend moves his starting spot back.
8. Picard and Riker’s Shooting Game
In “A Matter Of Honor, the captain and his second-in-command practice their shooting skills while discussing Riker’s interest in an exchange program with the Klingons. Unlike most of the games, it’s not easy to tell who is better between the two men.
7. Kira Nerys, Springball Star
The Bajoran game of springball, resembling tennis and handball, is discussed often on Deep Space Nine. In “For the Cause,” we finally get to see the game played as Kira wins a match.
6. Jean-Luc Horseback Riding, a True Horseman
Most of the time, Captain Picard has to settle for horseback riding on the holodeck, like he did in “Pen Pals.” His love of getting to ride on an actual horse sends him back to the Enterprise in “Starship, Mine” to get his saddle, only to find terrorists trying to hijack the ship.
5. Seven Takes on the Rock
A mash-up of MMA and professional wrestling, Tsunkatse is called both a “test of strength and agility” and “crude and pointless” by Voyager crew mates. Most importantly, THIS IS THE EPISODE WITH THE ROCK. Mr. Dwayne Johnson himself shows up as Seven’s opponent.
4. Janeway Beats Seven in Velocity
Part shooting game, part racquetball, Velocity proves to be the perfect game for Seven to play while learning more about being human, and being a more gracious loser. She has trouble, in fact, letting a loss to Janeway go during “Hope and Fear” in the fourth season.
3. Will Riker and His Father Take to the Ambo-jitsu Ring
“Haven’t we grown beyond the point where we resolve our problems with physical conflict?” Dr. Katherine Pulaski asks when she finds out Will Riker is going to fight his father in a sport/martial art that seems to have its roots in the old “American Gladiators.” As we find out in “The Icarus Factor,” the Rikers’ relationship is complicated, stemming from the death of Will’s mother when he was young. When they finally face off as adults, Will figures out that his father has been cheating in the game all along. The physical conflict Dr. Pulaski worries about gets the pair talking about their shared pain, and allows them to actual start rebuilding a relationship.
2. The Niners’ ‘Win’ in “Take Me Out to the Holosuite”
The Siskos’ love of baseball was well-documented throughout the series, from Jake’s quest to get his father a Willie Mays card to Ben finally warming up to Cassidy during their first date after she mentions the sport. This love hits its apex in “Take Me Out to the Holosuite,” a welcome relief during the war-heavy seventh season. Worf using “Death to the opposition!” instead of “Hey batter, batter!” is enough to make this episode a re-watchable gem, but seeing Captain Sisko’s change of heart over beating his Vulcan rival is what truly makes it great.
1. Picard and Guinan Fencing in “I, Borg”
Picard fences often throughout the run of TNG, and he is proficient with his foil. His duel with Guinan in “I, Borg” takes a more emotional turn. While Guinan and Jean-Luc are fencing, they take a break to talk about the Borg sitting in a holding cell a few decks away. Guinan even fakes an injury to use fencing to prove her point that the Borg should not be trusted.
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Maggie Hendricks (she/her) is based in Chicago and has covered sports and culture for more than 10 years for USA Today and Yahoo Sports. She co-hosts a weekly radio show on 670 the Score, and sneaks in Star Trek references into the sports world as much as possible. Follow her on Twitter @maggiehendricks.