Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Last month Star Trek actor Michael Dorn teased a possible return to the franchise after he tweeted that he was being “summoned back into action”. But all hopes of seeing everyone’s favourite Klingon Worf appear in one of the current Trek shows (Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks) were dashed when a Paramount representative said he would not be appearing in any of the shows. Maybe he’s finally getting that Captain Worf series idea off the ground. Who knows.
But the news did get me thinking about the various times Trek characters crossed over from one series to another. And no, I’m not talking about protracted situations like Worf and Chief O’Brien moving from the Enterprise to the crew of Deep Space Nine. Rather, I’m talking about those one-off episodes where a character would show up, do their thing, and then fly into the sunset. So I decided to rewatch some Silver Age episodes and give them ye olde ranking treatment.
Oh thanks Chief. So I’m trying out a new term for this article. I was thinking of the different franchise eras of Trek and I decided to borrow and augment a description used for comic books. So here it goes: The Original Series/The Animated Series/The Motion Picture up to The Voyage Home (1966-1986) would be the Golden Age; Star Trek: The Next Generation to Star Trek: Enterprise/The Final Frontier to Nemesis (1987-2002) would be the Silver Age; the dearth of content between 2003 and 2008 would be the Dark Age (of course); the period of the three Kelvinverse films (Star Trek, Into Darkness, and Beyond) would be the Kelvin Age (2009-2016); and finally everything from Discovery going forward would be the Bronze Age (2017 to present). So I said all that to say the entries in this article would all be set in the Silver Age.
And another caveat is that I will only be doing crossover episodes featuring the main cast so don’t expect to see any Q, Vash, or Gowron episodes here. And also no pilot episodes as those deserve a list of their own. Well that is quite enough preamble. With a planet-sized SPOILER ALERT here is my ranking of Seven Silver Age Character Crossover Episodes:
#7 These Are The Voyages (Enterprise)
I said no pilot episodes but I didn’t say no series finales. I hate Star Trek: Enterprise swan song These Are The Voyages with a passion and it is the episode equivalent of a slap in the face to the fans, the cast and crew, and just to good taste. And it hurts even more because it came at the end of the fourth and best season of the show.
Now I adore Jonathan Frakes as William T. Riker and Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi and I would not have minded seeing these TNG crew members crossover with the ENT crew in a regular episode. But the series finale? Heck no! And even worse a series finale shoehorned into a TNG episode where the crew are just a holographic recreation. All of Riker’s interaction with said crew as the previously unseen Chef character felt forced and cringe-filled, especially him planting a kiss on holographic T’Pol’s cheek.
The story itself is extremely weak too, despite bringing back the wonderful Shran and leading up to Archer’s speech at the founding of the Alliance of worlds that would lead to the formation of the Federation. But I didn’t give a crap about them rescuing Shran’s daughter from these one dimensional villains of the week. And they even robbed us of seeing Archer deliver the actual speech. And then they went and stupidly killed Trip in the most contrived manner. I understand what Brannon Braga was going for as a love letter to the franchise itself, but this one failed from the concept stage and the show should have been allowed to end on its own steam. The only redeeming thing is the end scene where we see all the different Enterprises and you hear the voices of the different captains doing the “Space, the Final Frontier…” speech. Otherwise you can take this episode and shove it out of an airlock.
#6 Pathfinder (Voyager)
I just realised the two lowest ranked episodes surround the holodeck, but thankfully Pathfinder is ten times better than the atrocious These Are The Voyages. In this Season 6 Voyager episode Dwight Schultz reprises his TNG role as twitchy, socially awkward crew member Reginald Barclay. He has left the Enterprise and is now working on a project to contact Voyager in the Delta Quadrant. Sirtis is here as well as Troi (she and Frakes do love their crossovers) and falls back into the role of Reg’s therapist.
Now it’s not that great of a crossover episode because we only see Reg physically interact with holographic versions of the Voyager crew. But it is a cool, light episode that shows the growth of the Reginald Barclay character. And it was also pleasant seeing him share some warm moments with Troi. I also enjoyed the scenes in the end where the team, including Tom Paris’s dad, make contact with Voyager, and the crew later “inducting” Reg (in absentia). Those were pretty touching.
#5 Relics (The Next Generation)
I’m giving her all she’s got Captain. I can’t give her no more. How can you not love engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott with his Scottish brogue and big, every man personality? So it was a welcome surprise to see him show up in the TNG sixth season episode Relics.
The late James Doohan is fantastic here and it was great seeing him interact with the Enterprise-D crew, including sharing a drink with Data in Ten Forward and reminiscing with Picard on a holodeck recreation of the original Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C or D, thank you very much).
But the early scenes of La Forge treating him like a nuisance are not so enjoyable, even if it was necessary to set up their later mutual respect and coming together to save the Enterprise. It is still a sweet crossover and I enjoyed rewatching it, even if I did want to hit La Forge upside his arrogant head. And just a side note—the line where Scott asks if Kirk is still flying around the galaxy creates a future plot hole with Generations as Scotty was aboard the Enterprise-B when Kirk “died”. In the words of Pitch Meeting, “Whoopsie!”
#4 Defiant (Deep Space Nine)
Now this one is slightly cheating as it is not Commander William T. Riker who appears on Deep Space Nine in this Season 3 episode, but his transporter clone Thomas Riker posing as him. If you recall we met Tom in the Season 6 TNG episode Second Chances. But Tom is an exact duplicate of William T. so I’m going with it.
In this episode Tom steals the Defiant to carry out a mission for the Maquis. I loved seeing Frakes’s exploration of the character and all the little nuances he employed to separate his performance from that of Riker. It really is some of his best acting in the franchise. And he has some awesome chemistry with Nana Visitor as Kira, who acts as both a love interest and voice of reason.
The plot itself is also quite strong featuring lots of Cardassian intrigue, tension, and a brief onscreen ship battle. One thing though—we never find out if Tom snubbing O’Brien early in the episode was because of an actual issue between the Chief and the real Riker, or it was just a ruse to get rid of him. Okay, it was most likely a ruse, but it is fun to play with in the old head canon.
#3 Flashback (Voyager)
Voyager also had a Season 3 crossover episode though they went all the way back to The Original Series film The Undiscovered Country. Flashback was produced along with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Trials and Tribble-ations (more on that in the next entry) to celebrate Trek’s 30th anniversary. The episode sees Vulcan Chief of Security Tuvok flashing back to his time as an Ensign aboard the Excelsior under the command of Captain Sulu and during the events of the sixth Star Trek film. Tuvok actor Tim Russ actually played a human Enterprise-B Bridge Officer in Generations but as Vulcans are known for their long life spans he was a natural choice for the crossover. Russ also played a mercenary named Devor in the TNG episode Starship Mine, but that’s not relevant right now. Let’s try and stay focused.
Now as a crossover this one does take some time to get to the crossover aspect, but once it does it really takes off. Firstly it was a warm feeling of nostalgia seeing George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney reprise their roles as TOS characters Hikaru Sulu and Janice Rand respectively. Sulu is witty, charming, and capable as captain and it made me feel (and not for the first time) that not having a Sulu-led Excelsior series or even mini-series was really a lost opportunity. Rand, however, just has a couple of scenes but it was still great seeing her.
For Voyager fans the episode also provides a lot of background on Tuvok and the plot device of an alien virus disguising itself as a memory engram is so very Trek. But my favourite aspect is providing a side story to the events of The Undiscovered Country (not the best Trek film, but one of the more entertaining ones) including an encounter with legendary Klingon warrior Kang, who first appeared in TOS episode Day of the Dove and also appeared in the DS9 episode Blood Oath (which itself was a TOS Klingon crossover). That is a helluva lot of nostalgia for one episode and I loved it.
#2 Trials and Tribble-ations (Deep Space Nine)
While picking the bottom entry on this list was easy I had some trouble deciding on the number one. I am a massive fan of Trials and Tribble-ations but after much deliberation I decided it should take the silver medal instead of the gold. This sixth season episode finds the DS9 crew traveling back in time to Deep Space Station K7 during the events of iconic TOS episode The Trouble With Tribbles. Their mission is to prevent an older Arne Darvin, the Klingon agent disguised as a human in the original episode, from assassinating Captain Kirk. Actor Charlie Brill returned to reprise his role as Darvin and he puts in solid work.
Trials and Tribble-ations is just one long, nostalgia-perfumed love letter to TOS. Can we talk about the exceptional editing and special effects work to incorporate the DS9 crew into the TOS scenes? Let’s talk about it. I mean, it looks almost seamless and that is with 1996 effects. That is mind-blowing to me. Also the attention to detail in the recreation of the sets is astounding. This episode was nominated for Outstanding Art Direction, Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series, and Outstanding Special Visual Effects, but sadly did not win any.
The plot weaves in and out of The Trouble With Tribbles craftily and recreates several of the most important scenes. And I loved how they sidestepped the Klingons’ very human appearance with Worf’s line, “We do not discuss it with outsiders!” Take that nosy Bashir. And Dax in that TOS uniform? Hello nurse! Women did wear less, and Terry Farrell wore that out outfit very well. There actually isn’t a lot of interaction between the DS9 crew and the TOS crew aside from the post-fight admonishment and the famous meeting of Kirk and Sisko. But like those adorable tribbles it is such a delightful and whimsical episode that you cannot help but enjoy it. And if you don’t, then you might be a Klingon in disguise.
#1 Unification Part II (The Next Generation)
And here we have it folks. Our gold medal winner. Season 5 Episode Unification Part II. Now I chose the second part of this two-part episode because the crossover character here is Spock and he only appears in the end scene cliffhanger of the first episode. Unification finds Picard and Data heading to the Romulan home world Romulus to investigate reports that Ambassador Spock has been sighted on the planet and address concerns from the Federation bigwigs that he may have defected. But the Enterprise-D crew discover that Spock is actually meeting with a Romulan faction seeking reunification with their Vulcan cousins.
The incomparable Leonard Nimoy reprises his role as Spock and delivers a pitch-perfect performance as an older, wiser and more wistful version of his legendary character. He shares a number of powerful scenes with Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard and it is like watching two masters at work. The plot itself is an important one as well, both showing an important arc in Spock’s life and setting up future events both for the first Kelvinverse film and most recently the Discovery Season 3 episode Unification III, the latter featuring a holo-recording of Spock during this episode and presenting a future where the Vulcan’s dream of unification has become reality. And we also have the return of sneaky half-Romulan agent Sela in this episode, which is always a good time.
While Trials and Tribble-ations is an encapsulation of joy, Unification II is an epic episode that features the triumphant return of arguably the most famous Trek character ever, and a storyline with major implications for series history and lore. Oh, and the final scene where Spock mind melds with Picard to connect with his recently-deceased father Sarek (played again by Mark Lenard) makes me feel to tear up every time. Just such a beautiful, timeless, and awe-inspiring episode. And that’s why it’s number one this list.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.