The superb storytelling of the Star Trek canon has presented us with many fun questions to ponder for over 50 years. One of the weirdest might be: Can you mix egg nog with Romulan Ale, or is that just not done?
Okay, you got me – this is a question that has never been addressed remotely during any Trek series. Still, every so often there are references to real-world customs that get your mind going even if the show doesn’t quite get there. A fun example of this is during the holidays; while Trek has never come close to a full-on Christmas episode the way so many shows have, every so often a reference to the Yule pops up (or just the kind of warm, inspirational storyline that one thinks of during this time of year) to remind us. Today’s Friday Five is four of those fun/funny references, plus one honest to goodness “this reflects the holiday spirit” episode that you should revisit, even if it features not a single solitary elf or present…
“Dagger of the Mind” (The Original Series, Season 1)
There really isn’t anything about this first-season original Trek episode that shouts “holiday viewing” in particular, but it’s the first indication of holidays still being celebrated in the show’s canon. Kirk, while investigating the apparent escape of a mentally unstable prisoner from a penal colony, is sent on an away mission with Dr. Noel – a beautiful science officer that he totally doesn’t remember flirting (just flirting?) with at the last science lab Christmas party. Typical.
“Death Wish” (Voyager, Season 2)
This is a fun one: A renegade from the Q Continuum winds up with Janeway’s crew. The Q we know and love from TNG shows up to bring him in (and also what the hell the Voyager is doing in the Delta Quadrant); to make a point, in one scene original-Q turns the ship into an ornament on a Christmas tree and dangles them in front of his face saying “You’ve got nowhere to hide.” Best part of this one is, that same year, Hallmark actually made a Voyager ornament you could hang on your tree and role-play Q while you do it!
“Bread and Circuses” (The Original Series, Season 2)
The Enterprise discovers a planet whose culture bears a striking resemblance to Earth’s Roman Empire, only more advanced; early on, they are briefly sheltered by the “Children of the Sun,” who advocate for peace but are always persecuted. After at last, Kirk, Spock and Bones escape, the big moment is Uhura’s toward the end of the episode: She points out to them that they’re way off base wondering about their benefactors’ “sun worship.” (It’s not sun, it’s son… as in son of God? The J-man? Christmas birthday boy?! You knuckleheads…)
“Devil’s Due” (The Next Generation, Season 4)
During its seven year run (and especially in the middle seasons), TNG never met a good literary Holodeck reference it didn’t like. “Devil’s Due” is mostly an episode about believing in spirits and superstitions, but it’s kicked off with a fun bit of camp as Data acts out the role of Scrooge during the scene with the ghost of Jacob Marley, while Picard watches and critiques from the sidelines. The holiday spirit doesn’t last beyond the episode’s teaser, but Brent Spiner’s Alastair Sim impression is pretty memorable anyway.
Once More Unto The Breach (Deep Space Nine, Season 7)
Look, I’m not going to mince words: I love Deep Space Nine an awful lot. I also love Ron Moore – Battlestar Galactica is my One True Show™ – and he wrote this episode. What makes this prime holiday viewing is not anything directly relating to the Yule, but rather a terrific story in the last season of DS9 involving Worf – himself still stinging from the death of his wife Jadzia Dax – putting his reputation on the line for his friend Kor, a Klingon war hero who has been disgraced and is just looking for a chance to prove himself again. No one wants to give the old man a chance. In the end, it’s a beautiful lesson in forgiveness that speaks to the very nature of what the holiday season is all about. Q’apla!