The latest episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds explores the old trope of romancing the captain. As a life long Trek fan, I’m never sorry to see our fearless leaders relax long enough to get some. But I also know that most will end up as ill-advised short-term dalliances. Whether the partner turns out to be evil or they die, there’s always some reason our captains end up alone again by the end of the episode.
Captains having relations with their crew members is understandably a bad look. Instead of undermining their integrity, the writers usually bring in guest stars for captain sexytime instead. But there’s also the solid choice of alien viruses, memory loss, or certain death that sets the mood for them to act against their character.
I didn’t rank Lower Decks‘s Captain Carol Freeman of the U.S.S. Cerritos. So far she hasn’t had any sexy times that we know of. Her husband, an admiral, checks in on her from time to time, so hopefully she’ll get some soon. It says something that the female captains are all ranked at the “good idea” side of this list. Seems like an odd thing to hope for, but I’d love to see more women making ill-advised choices in this regard.
7. “We Always Find Each Other“
Star Trek: Discovery has had more captains than the other shows, but not much intimacy. Examples where all parties are from the Mirror Universe are too easy. Michael Burnham continues her relationship with Cleveland Booker in season four, after she becomes captain. They have their conflicts that come from her duty to the ship and his revenge plot. But how bad of an idea can it be to hook up with a man who rescues endangered species and has a cat co-pilot?
6. “Delete the Wife”
Star Trek: Voyager offers both Janeway’s salamander family with Tom Paris in “Threshold” and the alternate life she had while brain-washed in “Workforce.” But let’s go with one where she had a bit more agency. There’s no shore leave in the Delta quadrant. But there is a holodeck. And yes, holodeck encounters do count. Just ask the Lower Deck-ers who have to clean the biofilters. In “Fair Haven,” Janeway re-programs a bartender in Paris’s simulation to “match her specifications.” She makes him taller, interested in poetry, and single.
While she has to confront her feelings about that later, at least she gets to unwind and have some fun. And, as Chakotay says, it’s nice to see her do that for once. It does lead to some drama and gossip. But also a great truth bomb from the Doctor, who says she shouldn’t be limited to “the occasional dalliance with a passing alien.” Romancing photons and forcefields is more ethical than one’s subordinates after all.
5. “Edith Keeler Must Die”
Captain Kirk certainly had his share of hookups in Star Trek: The Original Series, but there’s only a few I’m willing to re-visit. In “City on the Edge of Forever,” he is transported back to 1930’s New York, where he falls for the first woman he talks to. In his defense, Joan Collins is the guest star and who wouldn’t fall in love with her?
Knowing he is only visiting this time period isn’t enough to dissuade him. Neither is finding out her upcoming death is a pivotal moment in history. Spock tinkers with his science projects while watching the inevitable attachment form. In the end, Kirk literally has to hold himself and Dr. McCoy back from rescuing her in order to save humanity from a German victory in WWII. Pretty dramatic stakes.
4. “You Look Like a Man Who Can Handle Trouble“
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard’s downtime clothing choices are perhaps more ill-advised than his romantic partners. In “Captain’s Holiday,” he goes to the planet Risa to read a book—his first mistake. When a woman named Vash inserts herself into the narrative, he knows she’s up to no good. But an intriguing archeological mystery lures him in. He pursues romance even though they have different moral codes.
The most surprising part about this episode is that it’s not a one-off relationship. Vash returns the following season in the episode “Qpid.” Our heroic Starfleet captain finds her in his quarters. Instead of reporting what is clearly a security breach, he makes out with Vash. Q is equally intrigued and sends the Enterprise crew through a Robin Hood simulation. Again, Picard always manages to end up in silly outfits when the ladies come calling. We get some great moments of a flustered Picard. And then she runs off to partner with Q and explore the universe. Can’t blame her for that.
3. “I May Have Been Hitting on You”
Star Trek: Strange New World‘s Captain Pike already has quite a following. His sexy time scene in “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach” will add to that. This hookup falls into the trope of past loves, or missed connections. It’s a device to skip the backstory and get right to the chemistry.
Pike’s flustered flirting is a thing of beauty. This one’s ill-advised not just because it turns out her people have a different moral code. He knows she needs protection. She literally just had a knife to her throat. Inviting one’s knight in shining uniform into your bed happens in more than just Star Trek. But at least once, I’d like to see that they called for backup guards to be posted while they’re distracted.
We also learn that Pike is a cuddler. And maybe a bit of a downer. Despite the giggling and smiles, he still manages to bring up his future injury. And if you didn’t already know this was going to be a one-night stand, the writers tempt him (and us) with the idea of long-term love on a planet that could possibly cure him and keep his arms looking like that forever.
2. “It Is the Men Who Are the Slaves“
Star Trek: Enterprise‘s Captain Archer struggles with the usual “married to Starfleet” excuses. In “Bound,” he is overwhelmed by temptation, risking the crew and ship. Even though it turns out Orion women are manipulating men with their pheromones, it is still not okay that Archer hooks up with one of them. At the time, he believes her to be a recently-released slave who feels like she is his property.
It’s also wild that Tucker manages to help save the day because he is immune thanks to “mating” with T’Pol. But watching him and the female bridge crew save the day is fun. If this episode came out now, I’d hope for some nuances about gender identity and sexual attraction.
1. “I’m Going to Make You Glad You’re Alive”
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine went there. We shouldn’t have to tell Sisko that we do not hook up with Mirror Universe versions of our old friends and crewmembers. Much less two of them in the same day. All while trying to save a version of his dead wife. It’s not the first time someone had to go against their character when undercover, but he doesn’t put up much of an argument. Sisko hooking up with both Dax and Kira in “Through the Looking Glass” is just weird.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She never would have made it past Picard’s Risa outfit without help from her Trek hive mind reminding her of captain sexytime examples throughout the franchise! Melissa also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.