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Star Trek: The Saddest Moments in the Franchise, Ranked

Star Trek is a beloved science fiction franchise from the mind of Gene Roddenberry. Its success on television in the 1960s created a worldwide phenomenon that has expanded into countless series, films, video games, and novels. These stories offered us a vision of the future that was optimistic and hopeful. Roddenberry described how he hoped the future would eschew supernatural explanations for things in an interview with The Humanist. In this future, things like racism will be a thing of the past, and humanity has overcome all its challenges regarding disease, famine, and sickness. The only thing left for humanity to do was to explore the final reaches of space. Despite the cheery outlook at the start of the series, there were still many times when characters suffered. These sad moments are some of the series’ most resonant and memorable. There are so many moments to choose from, so here is a list of all the saddest moments in the franchise, ranked.


10 The Lower Deck Sito’s Death


First on the list is a moment from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Lower Decks.” Star Trek has a continuing quality where it focuses on named officers that act as the main characters and carry the show’s drama episode to episode. Often in the series, crew members will go on dangerous missions and bring along unnamed characters, often wearing a red shirts. These away mission members are often only brought along to be killed to raise the stakes of the mission while not endangering the normal crew members. Fans of Star Trek picked up on this trope of the show, leading to a reputation of red-shirt crew members being seen as disposable background characters.

This episode from Star Trek flips this trope on its head by naming and personalizing a group of junior officers that would just be background characters in a normal episode. By spending time with the characters, we get to know a Bajoran named Sito. Captain Picard and Officer Worf spend time with this character to give her a special emphasis. They encourage and challenge her to stand up for herself and raise her confidence. However, it is revealed that Picard only did this because they needed someone to send on a secret away mission. The away mission goes bad, and Sito does not return from the mission alive. Picard delivers a tear-jerking speech that highlights her bravery. This moment hits everyone hard, including the audience, who never expected to feel such emotions from a background character.

9 Neelix Leaving

Neelix from Star Trek smiles at the viewer.

Neelix is a character in Star Trek that was a recurring character. He is a Talaxian who joined the crew of the USS Voyager. His character was often seen as a joke, thanks to his boundless optimism and humor. He acted as the ship’s chef and morale officer, who often did not get good storylines compared to the other characters. He often ranked low in Star Trek popularity polls and was the fourth-worst character in a poll by The Wrap. Even in stories that Neelix was included in, he often didn’t fit in well because of his personality. However, in the episode “Homestead,” Neelix leaves the ship in a touching scene. The crew, who normally treats him casually, gives him respect, and each demonstrates the way Neelix has touched their lives. As Neelix leaves, we see that while he started lost and lonely, he found a home on Voyager that made him feel at peace.

Related: 5 Ways Star Trek: Discovery Impacted the Franchise

8 O’Brien’s Suffering

star trek o'brien

Miles O’Brien is a clumsy character in Star Trek that is known for his brown-nosed nature and often suffers because of it. However, in one episode, O’Brien is implanted with memories that he served 20 years in prison. During those memories, he had to kill the cellmate that he befriended, leading to significant depression. O’Brien’s personality starts to change, causing him to lash out against his co-workers and even his family over minor things. His depression gets so bad that he feels like he cannot live with what he has done, and he decides to take his own life. Luckily, he is stopped before he can commit suicide, but the moment stands out as particularly sad. It is surprising how the show can make you feel emotions for characters that you wouldn’t normally expect.

7 Soren’s Speech

soren star trek

Soren is a character from a race of people who enforce a strict form of non-binary gender expression on its citizens. These people, the J’naii, had a history of having two different sexes in society, but after years of evolution, many of them physically evolved into a genderless race. After the J’naii evolved past having a gender, the notion of gender became offensive to them, and they started to view gender expression as a primitive form of life. They viewed lifeforms with gender as lesser species. This created an issue for J’naii, who wanted to engage interspecies romance because that act would force them to assume a gender role with their partner. This attitude was so pervasive that it became a criminal act in their society to identify with a gender.

Soren was one such member of her race who fell in love with John Riker, a member of a Star Trek ship crew. After discovering that Soren was identifying as female, a trial was held, and she was forced to stop identifying as such. In her trial, she gives a tear-jerking and powerful plea for the court to let her love whoever she wants.

6 The Death Of Jadzia Dax

Jadzia Dax

Jadzia Dax is a symbiotic being composed of two different beings sharing a single conscious mind. She was a regular character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, whose true family name is never revealed in the show. While her body is 28 years old, her consciousness is over 300 years old. Having so many lifetimes of memories and the problems that this causes her is often the focus of her storyline in episodes. Her death in the show deeply affected the other characters of Deep Space Nine. It was violent and unnecessary in the story’s context, with many characters commenting as such during her funeral.

5 Data’s Daughter Shutting Down


Data is a unique character in Star Trek, being one of a rare breed of sentient androids. Many of his storylines involve the morality and ethics of treating machines the same as people. One episode where Data tests the limits of these moral questions is when he creates an artificial child for fun. Data’s daughter develops emotions in a way that even Data himself rarely could. However, these emotions come at the cost of her positronic brain having an expiration date. What started as an experiment for a day turned into the sad realization that he created something that, once it died, left him feeling alone in the universe.

4 Spock’s Mom Dying


In the Star Trek movies starring Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, and John Cho, one additional element they added was portraying Spock’s parents differently. Spock’s mother was human, and he suffered bullying as a kid because of his mixed-race status. One of the saddest moments in the movie is when he is trying to save Vulcans from the planet’s destruction, only for his mother to fall from collapsing rocks. Although Spock is meant not to show emotion, you can tell from the usually logical character that this moment affected him deeply.

3 The Destruction of the Original Enterprise


One of the saddest moments in Star Trek was the destruction of the original starship in the original series. Many of the crew mates and the audience, by extension, felt that the ship was a member of the family that got taken away. Klingons board the ship and take it over, forcing Captain Kirk to initiate its self-destruct sequence to prevent it from slipping into enemy hands. The visuals and soundtrack really sell the sadness of the moment.

2 Death of Kirk’s Son


William Shatner’s acting has been the subject of controversy, with many fans considering it hammy. However, Shatner’s performances always hit when they need to emotionally resonate with the audience. No performance is as good of an example of this as when he realizes when his son David is killed. He hears the news over his communicator, and his masterful acting performance takes over from there. He portrays a man struggling to compose himself and continue his duties despite the aching personal tragedy. It is one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the series.

Related: Star Trek: 10 Actors Almost Cast in the Franchise

1 The Death of Spock


Perhaps the most iconic moment of the original series is the tragic sacrifice of Spock. This makes it fitting to rank at the top of the list of Star Trek’s saddest moments. Many people were bawling in the theater when Spock sacrificed himself in a radiation chamber to ensure that the rest of the Enterprise could escape a device that was about to explode. It contains the famous line, “The Needs of the Many, Outweigh the Needs of the Few,” giving even a logical to the emotions of the hard-to-read character of Spock.

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