Star Trek crews have been encountering powerful aliens since the very first journey of the Phoenix alerted a passing Vulcan ship. However, only a few of those aliens claimed to be gods, and fewer still had truly god-like abilities to back up those assertions.
Still, some encounters did lead to life forms who wielded genuine power beyond the understanding of our brave human crews. Were they simple aliens, wayward gods, or something in between? Whatever the answer, here are just a few of the most powerful beings encountered by Federation crews over the centuries.
Apollo presented Kirk and the Star Trek: The Original Series crew with an interesting case in “Who Mourns for Adonais?” While he may not have been truly supernatural, he was by all appearances the actual god Apollo of Greek myth. Thousands of years ago, he and others of his species had arrived on Earth to eventually form the pantheon of Greek gods, drawing power from some combination of human adulation and extra-dimensional energy focused through their temples.
But before long the honeymoon was over, the ancient Greeks had moved on to other belief systems, and the alien gods left Earth for greener pastures and new followers. Unfortunately, they landed on Pollux IV, an empty rock without a single worshiper to be found. Trapped and lonely, Apollo’s brothers and sisters eventually ascended to a higher plane, vanishing from our dimension. Apollo refused, believing humanity would soon take to the stars, find him, and finally rejoin their long-lost religion.
Though he was eventually found by the Enterprise, Kirk and crew were unwilling to become slaves to this tiny god, and even less willing to leave behind Palamas, a crewmember and target of Apollo’s love. After Kirk was forced to destroy Apollo’s temple, the ancient god apologized for his behavior and ascended in a fog to join his brothers and sisters, leaving the Enterprise crew to mourn the loss of a living piece of ancient Earth history.
Explorer, prophet, god? Whatever the case, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s The Traveler remains one of the canon’s most-intriguing and powerful aliens. He played a key role throughout TNG, especially for young Wesley Crusher.
The Traveler initially appeared as a simple scientist’s assistant and warp field enthusiast in “Where No One Has Gone Before.” While Counselor Troi sensed something was up with the un-readable “assistant,” the truth was fully revealed when The Traveler began phasing into subspace while manipulating the Enterprise warp field.
Over the course of the series it’s revealed that The Traveler was an extra-dimensional alien able to manipulate warp fields, and even space-time itself, purely with his mind. Initially a mysterious figure on a journey of exploration much like the Enterprise’s own, The Traveler eventually formed an intense personal connection with Wesley Crusher, saying he recognized abilities in the young ensign that were far beyond simple genius.
The alien appeared several more times over the years to help the Enterprise crew out of a jam, but his final purpose centered on Wesley, who was also eventually able to phase into subspace. Once the young ensign was older and better educated, The Traveler judged him ready to become a true extra-dimensional apprentice, and together the pair departed the Enterprise for the last time to explore the universe together.
Pah-wraith and Prophets
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s wormhole aliens were the most “realistically” god-like in all the series -- capable of powerful psychological influence and communication with believers, but extremely limited in the physical plane. They were also one of the canon’s only examples of “living” gods with an established, active religion still being practiced even into the age of the modern Federation.
Over the course of DS9 it’s revealed that the Prophets were extra-dimensional beings residing in the Bajoran wormhole. Little was known about their origins or true motives, except that they established contact with Bajor thousands of years ago via orbs left in orbit around the planet.
Over time, the Prophets found it necessary to expel criminal or unwanted elements of their own population, banishing the exiles to our universe. Those exiles eventually became the Pah-wraith, a competing faction whose members often presented themselves as fire spirits. The war between the two factions drove the major story developments of DS9 and made the Prophets a key component of the Dominion War, all of Bajoran history, and everything that followed for the Federation.
Stephen Ashley is a freelance writer currently taking a break from Brooklyn in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. He credits the syndicated TNG reruns of his youth for launching his love affair with Star Trek and all things science fiction.