September 13, 2014

The List: 9 Truly Freaky Moments in Star Trek

I was recently listening to Random Trek (a truly great podcast that you must all check out) and they discussed the season 1 The Next Generation episode 'Conspiracy'. During the discussion, it was pretty apparent that the hosts were disturbed by how gross the episode was. And there is no arguing, as they agreed as well, that the end is immensely graphic and freaky as all get out.

Now, while Star Trek is a drama, it tends to be a softer view of the future. The show is more allegorical than anything else, so the realm of science, philosophy and morality are explored, not necessarily horror and suspense. And though we are talking about spaceships and aliens with big ridges on their heads, the show certainly tries to keep things grounded. But producing over 750 hours of television and 12 feature films can sap you of ideas from time to time. And when that happened, Star Trek revealed some truly freaky ass shit.

Here are nine examples of when things got crazy (and freaky)*:

*note: I've only watched Voyager and Enterprise sparingly so I've excluded them from this list. I only added episodes of TNG and DS9 as well as some of the films. Hey, I never said this was a comprehensive study! If you know of any freaky moments from TOS, VOY, or ENT, let me know in the comment.


Speak of the Devil: "Conspiracy" (TNG, Season 1, episode 25)

This is kind of the champion of freaky ass Star Trek. Sure, you can see stuff like this in a horror flick but ... this is Star Trek! The show with jumpsuits, technobabble and elfin merchants with weird ears. How can what happens in the video above be real?!


That Was Unexpected: "Empok Nor" (DS9, Season 5, Episode 24)

There have been plenty of murder mysteries in Star Trek. There have also been some pretty eerie deaths and such but one thing Star Trek never does is do anything simple. So when DS9's writers got towards the end of season 5 (and the end of ideas for that year), they decided to do a haunted house episode in space and took all the Star Trek out of it, injecting horror and brutality in its place.

Just watch the first forty seconds of the clip above. I can argue, in terms of quick and brutal deaths, maybe only the films can match the uncharacteristic violence of the above clip. 'Empok Nor' is certainly a deep cut episode of DS9 and that is mostly because it is one of the least Star Trek episodes of that series, let alone the franchise.


Just ... No: "Night Terrors" (TNG, Season 4, Episode 17)

Okay. That was odd.

O .... kay. This is getting wei ...

NO. NOOOO. NO. Just NO! Stop it. *cries*


Right. Next. To. You: "Identity Crisis" (TNG, Season 4, Episode 18)

Two episodes that freak me out ... back to back. Though lacking the horror tropes of "Night Terrors", "Identity Crisis" offers its own chills. When Geordi uses the holodeck to investigate a mission from his past in which he and a friend were possibly infected with an unknown disease, he discovers that there was an invisible guest that was with him that day. As he slowly deletes all the holographic copies of his old crewmates from the program trying to determine why he sees multiple shadows reflecting off a wall, he is left with just himself and a lone shadow ... apparently coming from no one. 

I've posted a video of the investigation below. However, the YouTube user who posted it recorded it off a live TV so it lacks the impact of seeing this truly eerie moment for the first time and with TNG's amazing production value (the use of lighting was especially effective in the scene). I watched this for the first time in the hospital when my appendix exploded and I had trouble sleeping all alone in my hospital room that night.

Here is a link to the full episode for free on Identity Crisis


Odo Goes the Way of The Thing: "The Alternate" (DS9, Season 2, Episode 12)

Long before it was determined that Odo was a Founder and long before we even knew what a Founder was, DS9's early seasons dealt with Odo trying to find his origins. In this early run episode, Odo visits a planet and finds life similar to himself. Naturally, the DS9 crew take it back on the station and the life form starts executing and attacking people like a gooey slasher would ... in darkened rooms and poorly lit corridors.

In the end, we find out Odo is the gooey slasher thing and has had a bit of a multiple personality disorder since returning from the planet. Add 'daddy' issues and ... well ... you've got a rampaging blob on the loose. 

Turning away from more typical Star Trek fare with its approach to alien races (or, in this case, infections), 'The Alternate' is dark, moody and uncharacteristically creepy.

*The Best I Could Find Was At 1:29 on the video


A New Kind of Wet Willy: "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" (film, 1982)

So ... uh ... that happened. Little, slimy creatures are gross enough. But forcibly putting them in someones ears is extra gross! This disturbing display of body horror is a rare sequence in a franchise dedicated to wonder, not chills.


Data Myers: "Phantasms" (TNG, Season 7, Episode 6)

So yeah, that is how the episode starts (the YouTube user edited it to make it a bit longer). Eerie enough. But like any good use of tension, comedic relief is necessary and 'Phantasms", an episode in which Data experiments with dreaming, is full of funny moments. Some, as in the clip below, that occur right before the episodes more freaktastic moments.

It is hard to believe that of all the TNG seasons there were, Season 7 was the one chosen by the Emmys to be nominated for Best Dramatic Series. The season is so crazy and tone def (besides 'Phantasms', there were episodes about Data being inhabited by an ancient culture ("Masks"), Beverly Crusher getting fucked by a ghost ("Sub Rosa"), and Geordi being visited by his dead mom's ghost ("Interface"); there were also episodes about adding a speed limit to the universe ("Force of Nature"), comedic character Lwaxana Troi's loss of her young child ("Dark Page") and the crew all devolving and attacking people ("Genesis")) yet visually effective. "Phantasms" is an example of Star Trek going outside its boundaries and freaking you out.


Caveman Riker! "Genesis" (TNG, Season 7, Episode 19)

As mentioned above, Season 7 TNG is weird. Though not as freaky as "Phantasms", "Genesis" deals with the more literal problem of the entire crew devolving into ... well ... monsters. Barclay turns into a Spider, Troi turns into a lizard thing, Nurse Ogawa turns into Zira the ape, Riker turns into a caveman and Worf becomes PREDATOR WORF!

"Genesis" benefits from putting the familiar, comfy settings of Star Trek into bizarro versions of itself. And, in a rare twist, Picard's devolution (which is delayed) is to be the Final Girl who squares off against the big bad at episode's end.


Space Zombies: "Star Trek: First Contact" (film, 1996)

Donald Marshall of GeeksOn called Star Trek: First Contact, arguably the most commercially successful and one of two of the most critically applauded Trek films, as "Night of the Living Dead in space" and nothing could be more true.

After having shared their first film with the original crew, the Next Generation cast got their own picture and completely owned it. But they also played against type. In the series first PG-13 film, there were multiple scenes of body horror, torture and just plain spookiness. It's not only a great film but also a perfect blend of Star Trek's philosophical ideals and freaky scares.

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