Published Sep 6, 2022
The Lower Decks Connection: The Most Dangerous Games
Sometimes you're the hunter, sometimes you're trapped in a board game
By Julian Gardner
Welcome back to The Lower Decks Connection, a weekly editorial series where we connect a plot or story from the latest Star Trek: Lower Decksepisode to classic Star Trek episodes. This week’s episode, “The Least Dangerous Game,” saw Boimler trying to say yes to more things. This ranges from joining Shaxs’ choir to sing Bajoran dirges to agreeing to be the prey in a hunt to the “death.”
Even though K’Ranch is more of a catch and release kind of guy — though not without posing for a couple selfies — this isn’t the first time that Starfleet has found itself up against aliens who want to play a mysterious and possibly dangerous game with them. In many of the classic Star Trek shows, the crews would find themselves entangled in alien games, so read on to find a watchlist for those of you who want more of this kind of plot!
The classic showdown! In “Arena,” the Enterprise is chasing the Gorn through unknown space following the near-destruction of a colony on Cestus III. During the pursuit, a group of aliens known as the Metrons beam both Kirk and the Gorn captain to a nearby planet, demanding trial by combat. Whoever wins will be able to leave with their ship, while the loser will die, as will their crew. While famous for the fight scenes between Kirk and the Gorn, it also packs a powerful message about mercy and connection as Kirk fights for both his own crew and his enemy.
War games can be deadly. On the planet Eminiar VII, a civilization has been locked in conflict with a neighboring planet. Even though their war is fought via computer, the deaths are very real; anyone caught in the virtual crossfire is sent to a termination booth to be, well, terminated. Kirk must find a way to end the conflict before any more lives, including those of his crew, are lost. It’s a powerful episode that explores the cost of war in a uniquely Star Trek way.
What happens when a video game from Risa starts affecting everyone onboard the Enterprise-D? Chaos! Wesley, on leave from the Academy, and his new girlfriend Ensign Robin Lefler (played by guest star Ashley Judd), soon become the only members of the Enterprise who haven’t fallen prey to the video game’s addicting qualities, leaving them alone to fix Data and try to free the crew from its influences. Of course, it’s all a ploy by a species called the Ktarians to take over both the ship and, eventually, the Federation. Can Wesley save the day?
This might seem like a strange addition to this list, but it features one of the most dangerous games in Star Trek history. After being shot in the heart on an away mission, Picard dies. Upon death, the captain is greeted by Q who gives him a chance to fix his life by going back to the moment when he received an artificial heart after being stabbed following a game of dom-jot with a cheating Nausicaan. This encounter proves that Picard needed that moment of risk to prove that life is worth living to the fullest, rather than playing it safe. A dangerous game indeed, though one that led to the career of one of Starfleet’s greatest leaders.
Chief O’Brien befriends an alien from the Gamma Quadrant named Tosk, only to find that Tosk is being hunted by other aliens for sport. O’Brien wants to release Tosk, but Sisko argues that he cannot interfere with alien cultures per Starfleet regulations. Even so, O’Brien still tries to help Tosk escape from those pursuing him. This was a key episode in early DS9 showcasing not only O’Brien’s humanity but the way that the show would continue to keep the moral quandaries of early Trek shows mixed with a slightly more gritty outlook on the Federation.
The Wadi, a visiting species from the Gamma Quadrant, love games. At first, they seek out Quark’s for gambling. However, when they discover that they’re being cheated, they decide to play what they call an “honest game,” resulting in Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Bashir all trapped inside the board game they’ve created where the dangers seem very real. As Quark plays for the crew’s lives, Sisko must lead his friends to safety. Will this lead to the demise of the DS9 crew before their adventures even fully begin? Don’t worry, the leader of the Wadi would say, “It’s only a game.”
Seven of Nine is forced into battle in this episode; she is blackmailed in order to get Tuvok medical treatment. Her first match goes badly, and when she wakes up, she’s informed her next fight will be to the death. As the Voyager crew tries to track down both Seven and Tuvok for a rescue, Seven must accept training from a fellow captive in order to try and survive long enough for her and her fellow crew member to be rescued. This episode features guest performances from Trek mainstays Jeffrey Combs and J.G. Hertzler (the latter cameos in the latest Lower Decks episode as the Klingon, Martok), as well as from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Do you think you could take on K’Ranch’s game of the hunt and survive? Let us know @StarTrek on social!