It seems like everyone is looking for things to relate to and, just as importantly, things to watch as we enter our new normal of social-distancing in our homes. Luckily, Star Trek serves to accomplish both of these goals! Here are 10 episodes that took Starfleet through some of its worst epidemics and quarantines.
When the Enterprise finds a planet that looks exactly like Earth, Captain Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Yeoman Rand beam down and discover a gang of children roaming the city. The few adults they do find look like monsters and immediately die. The team discovers that once the children go through puberty, they contract a virus that kills them. All but Spock come down with the virus, and they only have a short amount of time to find a cure. The rampaging children straight out of Lord of the Flies only complicate matters.
Captain Janeway and Chakotay contract a deadly virus while exploring a planet, discovering that If they leave the planet, they’ll die, but the planet’s environment protects them from the virus’s deadly effects. The Doctor is unable to discover a cure, so Janeway orders Tuvok to take command of Voyager and abandon her and Chakotay on the planet. As she and Chakotay attempt to make a home on the planet, Tuvok, after a near insurrection, disobeys Janeway’s orders to rendezvous with the Vidiians in an attempt to find a cure.
Dr. Crusher gives Barclay a synthetic T-cell to activate one of his dormant genes, and it accidentally activates his dormant introns and then infects the other crew members. When Picard and Data return from an away mission, they find the Enterprise adrift and the entire crew has de-evolved. Troi swims in her bathtub after turning into an amphibian, Riker is a neanderthal, Worf a violent predator. As Data attempts to come up with a cure, Picard engages Worf in a potentially deadly game of hide-and-seek to lure him away from Data.
While repairing food replicators, O’Brien accidentally activates a device —planted by Bajoran rebels decades before— that releases a virus. One of the first symptoms is confusing words, and as crewmembers begin to fall ill, starting with O’Brien and then Dax, Sisko orders the ship to be quarantined. Bashir is unable to formulate an antidote before he contracts the virus, so it’s up to Kira to find the Bajoran terrorists responsible for creating the virus in the hopes that they will have an antidote.
“Point of Light,” “An Obol for Charon,” and “Saints of Imperfection,” Discovery
Tilly hallucinates that her dead classmate, May, is following her around and berating her. Stamets discovers that Tilly has been infected by a fungal parasite from the mycelial network in the mirror universe, and that May is the voice of the mycelial network. Stamets and Reno manage to install a cortical node into Tilly so that May/the mycelial network can speak to them. It tells Stamets that the ship’s jumps using the spore drive are causing irreparable harm to the mycelial network, which is a sentient species. While Stamets figures out a way to shut down the spore drive, the parasite consumes Tilly. In the network now, Tilly discovers that it kidnapped her so she could help it kill a monster that is killing them. While Tilly has been infected by the mycelial network, it has been infected by humans.
“Dear Doctor” has the distinction of introducing an important, and well known piece of Star Trek canon; The Prime Directive. When the Valakian ask Archer for help in a medical emergency, T'Pol, Dr. Phlox, Archer, and Ensign Sato travel to the planet to investigate. Dr. Phlox realizes that the Valakian are slowly dying out because of a genetic disease and that they’re at a genetic dead end. Meanwhile, the Menck —a different species on the planet that the Valakian see as lesser beings— are evolving. If Dr. Phlox were to cure the Valakian of their genetic disease, he would threaten the evolutionary progress of the Menck. He and Archer instead decide to administer a drug that will lessen symptoms for a decade, and Archer wishes there was some kind of “prime directive” to provide guidance in these scenarios.
The Darwin Genetic Research Station has created a group of genetically engineered children. When the U.S.S. Lantree visits the station, a crew member’s harmless case of Thelusian flu triggers a defensive response in the children’s immune system, causing their immune systems to send out a virus that causes premature aging. The entire crew of the Lantree dies of old age, and the Enterprise investigates by going to its last location, The Darwin Genetic Research Station, which Picard puts under quarantine. Not realizing the cause for the premature aging, Dr. Pulaski — amazed by the children — visits one without protection, and she immediately falls ill.
Janeway and Neelix return from an away mission to find Voyager adrift, a lightyear away from its planned rendezvous point. The two transport on and find it seemingly abandoned. They split up, and after hearing a scream, Janeway is unable to find Neelix. She’s bitten by a bug and then finds the crew unconscious in the mess hall, with growths on their bodies where small creatures exit. The Doctor tells Janeway that while she was gone, Chakotay responded to a distress signal from a planet, who needed help combating a virus. The Doctor beamed down and realized the virus was able to take physical form. A spore from the virus was able to beam up with the Doctor. Thankfully, he’s created an antigen that he can test on Janeway, who was infected by the bug’s bite.
After receiving a distress signal, Bashir and Dax beam down to a planet on the border of Dominion space. They discover a disease called The Blight that causes welts followed by death. The Dominion afflicted the planet with The Blight as punishment for resisting them. Bashir and Dax find a hospital that serves those that quicken — when the disease becomes active — by helping them die painlessly. Appalled, Bashir decides to try and find a cure for the virus. After experimenting, he’s convinced he’s found the cure and administers it on many quickened patients. They all die quickly and painfully, and he despairs. However, after delivering a child from a quickened mother, he discovers the child has no traces of the blight. While he hasn’t discovered a cure, he’s able to isolate a vaccine that passed from the mother to her son.
The Enterprise is investigating a pattern of mass insanity that moves from planet to planet. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and a security detail beam down to the planet Deneva, where Kirk’s brother lives, and are immediately attacked by a group of men. On the planet, they discover single-celled flying creatures that are part of a hive mind. These parasitic creatures inject their tissue into humanoid hosts, causing the insanity. The team finds Kirk’s brother dead, and beams his wife and child aboard the Enterprise. Later, Kirk discovers that ultraviolet light kills the parasites, and they flood the planet with light, killing all the creatures.
Margaret Kingsbury (she/her) is a contributing writer at Book Riot, where she raves about the SFF books she loves. She writes about children's books at Baby Librarians, a website she co-founded, and you can find her on Twitter @areaderlymom and on Instagram @babylibrarians