Published Feb 10, 2021
There's More to Romance on Star Trek Than Meets the Eye
Celebrate the year's most romantic day with a few of Star Trek's most romantic moments.
By Kaja Gjelde
This Valentine's Day is obviously going to be very different than the last for many. Whether our loved ones are near or far from us this year, Star Trek offers viewers hope, showing how love and human kindness shine through in even the direst of situations. Through multiple series, Star Trek presents a diverse array of relationships where characters are put into relatable and extraordinary situations alike. However harrowing the journey or difficult the task, our heroes manage to accomplish the impossible together not through violence, but compassion and understanding.
For V-Day, here’s a list of episodes that define characters’ relationships, featuring moments that may not be the most iconic, or even traditionally romantic, but will nonetheless pull on your heartstrings (Vulcan or not). During these trying times in our own lives, Star Trek conveys the message love can be found anywhere, even in the depths of space.
1. “Amok Time” The Original Series Season 2 Ep. 1 – Spock and James T. Kirk
“Captain! Jim!” – Spock
Whether or not you believe their relationship is platonic or romantic, there is no doubt that James T. Kirk and Spock are the ultimate dynamic duo of Star Trek — if not all of modern popular culture! Their friendship transcends time, space, dimensions, universes and even death. In “Amok Time,” Spock is forced to return to Vulcan to attend his time-sensitive wedding accompanied by his two closest friends: Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy. One thing leads to another and Spock resigns from Starfleet, believing his Captain and friend is dead. When the two reunite at the end, Spock is so overcome with joy that he breaks his usual Vulcan calm — one of the sweetest moments of the series. Kirk and Spock’s close bond illustrates how relationships can endure all kinds of trials and tribulations.
2. “Scavengers” Discovery Season 3 Ep. 6 – Michael Burnham and Cleveland Booker
"We always find each other." – Book
Born centuries apart, Michael and Book met entirely by chance, but by the end of Discovery’s third season you would be hard pressed to deny they belong together. “Scavengers,” is an action-packed episode, which presents a harsh reality of a future without the Federation. However, in classic Trek style, it also proves that kindness and compassion can still win the day. Sonequa Martin-Green and David Ajala perfectly present the awkward beginnings of a romantic relationship without withholding the real affection their characters have for one another. They prove that the time doesn’t always have to be ‘right’ to find love.
3. “A Call to Arms” Deep Space Nine Season 5 Ep. 26 – Leeta and Rom
“The problems of two newlyweds are but a small thread in the tapestry of galactic events.” – Rom
Celebrating love in the midst of war in “A Call to Arms,” Leeta and Rom set aside their elaborate plans for a traditional Bajoran wedding, instead opting for a small ceremony performed by Captai Sisko before evacuating Deep Space Nine. Their impromptu wedding, ending with Nog calling Leeta “Moogie,” will bring tears to your eyes. This couple didn’t require all the pomp and circumstance with lots of wedding guests, they just needed each other and the few people closest to them. Though they have their trials, including being under scrutiny for having a mixed-species relationship, Leeta and Rom’s bond illustrates true love is unconditional.
4. “The Price” The Next Generation Season 3 Ep. 8 –William T. Riker and Deanna Troi
“If you can bring happiness into Deanna’s life, nothing would please me more.” – Riker
Counselor Deanna Troi and Commander William T. Riker’s relationship is probably one of the most well-known romances from the Star Trek franchise. TNG enthusiasts likely have their favorite Riker and Troi moments. Though, “The Price” may not be the first that comes to mind, this episode illustrates the strength of their bond (and features an epic Riker take down). Deanna begins a romantic liaison with a visiting negotiator, Devinoni Ral. Of course, Ral ultimately fails to win the Counselor’s heart, but not before he tries to goad Riker into a petty competition for her affections. Ral objectifies Deanna, speaking as if she is a prize to be won while trying to attack Riker’s masculinity. Instead of being threatened, Riker tells Ral that he desires Deanna’s happiness above all, and that he is confident enough in their relationship that he knows they will continue to care about each other regardless. Evidently, mutual respect and trust as well as affection are key ingredients for an enduring romance. Nothing is sexier than healthy masculinity.
5. “Change of Heart” Deep Space Nine Season 6 Ep. 16 – Jadzia Dax and Worf
“You come first before career, before duty, before anything.” – Worf
Jadzia Dax and Worf’s romance is another one of the epic Star Trek love stories that comes to mind for many Trek fans (DS9 really has a plethora of ‘endgame’ couples). Like with many Dax and Worf centered episodes, their strong personalities clash in “Change of Heart” when they are sent on a secret mission together. Despite their difficulties communicating and the strain of completing a difficult task, their relationship is ultimately strengthened as they confront what is important to them. During one of their most romantic moments, Worf affirms that Jadzia means more to him than anything else in his life. Usually inflexible and strict, Worf’s love for Jadzia precipitates significant character development, as he risks his Starfleet career for his wife. Their passionate if turbulent romance reminds viewers how adverse circumstances can strain our relationships but, like steel tempered in fire, they can strengthen them as well.
6. “The War Without, The War Within” Discovery Season 1 Ep. 14 — Sarek and Amanda Grayson
“Do not regret loving someone.” – Sarek
Amanda and Sarek are the first mixed-species couple fans see on screen in The Original Series. In every iteration of the two, their affection for one another is undeniable and their marriage endures against the odds. During Discovery’s first season, Michael has experienced a heartbreaking betrayal. Before she is assigned to her next harrowing mission in “The War Without, The War Within,” Sarek shockingly encourages Michael to not punish herself for being blinded by love. Though it may seem like an odd statement for an emotionless, famously stoic Vulcan to utter, Star Trek fans are aware of the deep meaning behind his words. From facing prejudice from the Vulcan Science Academy to escaping assassination attempts by Vulcan extremists, Sarek and Amanda’s family has experienced its share of challenges. Though their love for one another is unconventional by Vulcan standards, Amanda and Sarek’s relationship defies logic and their family changes the fate of the universe.
7. “Day of Honor” Voyager Season 4 Ep. 3 – B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris
“I have been a coward about everything, everything that really matters… So I have to tell you something… I have to tell you the truth… I love you.” – B'Elanna Torres
The entire premise of Voyager involves being separated from loved ones and returning home. Though as Ensign Kim articulates, sometimes it’s not the destination that matters but the journey. This is especially true for B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris’ relationship, which had its most significant developments during dire situations. During the titular "Day of Honor," a Klingon holiday designed to test a warrior’s honor, most of B’Elanna’s trials are endured outside the formal ceremony, including a series of events that lead to both B’Elanna and Tom stranded in open space. In this life-or-death situation, not even being able to physically touch one another through the EV suits, Torres overcomes her anxieties to tell Paris how she really feels. B’Elanna doesn’t miss an opportunity to find new friendships and eventually love even in the midst of a challenging time in her life. Enemies to lovers, their relationship shows how even the most unlikely of parings can endure the trials of the Delta Quadrant with a little bit of luck and a lot of courage.
8. “Home” Enterprise Season 4 Ep. 2 – T’Pol and Charles Tucker III
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” – Trip Tucker III
The budding romance between T’Pol and Charles “Trip” Tucker III in the prequel series was seemingly meant to be the iconic cross-cultural love story canonically before Amanda and Sarek. A defining episode for the couple, in “Home” T’Pol essentially brings Trip home to meet her mother, T’Less, and ends up marrying her Vulcan betrothed. Just before the wedding, T’Less confronts Trip about his obvious feelings for T’Pol and he articulates exactly how much he cares about her. Though, as T’Less states, T’Pol did deserve to know “all the facts” before the ceremony, it is a testament to their relationship that Trip unconditionally supports T’Pol in fulfilling what she believes are obligations to her family and Vulcan heritage. Previously, Trip has been ardently against the Vulcan tradition of arranged marriages in favor of individualism. However, he sets aside his own quibbles to support T’Pol, no matter her decision. Differences of culture, and value systems, can divide us. Without abandoning our own sense of self, Star Trek and its message of IDIC encourages us to be open to differences and respect, even love one another, despite them.
9. “Heart of Stone” Deep Space Nine Season 3 Ep. 14 – Oda and Kira Nerys
"[N]ow when I hear one of you call me “Odo,” I no longer think of myself as nothing. I think of myself as me." – Odo
Before they become a couple much later in the series, Odo openly admits his love for Kira in “Heart of Stone.” During an emotionally turbulent episode, Kira becomes stuck in a crystalline structure that threatens to envelop her. Struggling to free her, Odo distracts Kira by telling her how he got his name, which in Cardassian literally translates to “nothing.” A masterful actor, René Auberjonois gives a heart-wrenching performance as Odo recounting how Kira and his other colleagues are really the first genuine friendships he has formed in his lifetime and how these relationships made him realize his own personhood — that he was more than nothing. The small acts of kindness his fellow officers showed him, even in the way they say his name, made the biggest difference. Even when we forget to care for ourselves, the relationships we have with each other allow us to see ourselves lovingly through another’s eyes. Odo and Kira demonstrate the power of a love that encourages us to love ourselves as well as each other.
10. “Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2” Discovery Season 2 Ep. 14 – Hugh Culber and Paul Stamets
“I’m your family. Wherever we go from here, we go together.” – Culber
Last but most certainly not least, it is established early in the series that Paul and Hugh are in a loving, committed relationship. As this list demonstrates, like any other couple in the franchise their love is put to the test throughout Discovery. In the end, not even death can separate these two as they always find a way back to each other. If the title was not enough of an indication, the episode’s overall tone is rather dark as the U.S.S. Discovery is about to be thrown into an unknown future. Through all the chaos, Hugh has a tear-jerking reunion with Paul. Leaving behind everything else he knew, Culber travels to the future to be with Stamets whom he calls his home and family. It is a powerful scene and Wilson Cruz plays it brilliantly. Though the first time they kiss on-screen is historic and passionate, the ways in which their relationship endures through time and across universes is even more defining. Their love proves even when our loved ones feel separated from us, we find ways to cross that void. Also, it realistically shows love takes work, but it's well worth it (at least in this instance).
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Kaja Gjelde (she/her/hers) is a Sami-American writer and researcher with an MA in Indigenous Studies. Gjelde is a life-long Trekkie, feminist and linguaphile who lives a semi-nomadic lifestyle with her Norwegian Lundehund. Find her on Twitter @KGjelde
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.