Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Top Powerful Deaths in Star Trek (TV Version)

Recently I happened upon a great article listing the Top 10 Most Emotional Deaths in Star Trek. It can be read at this link. It's a good read, but I found that every item on the list was from one of the major motion pictures. I am not sure if it was intentional or not, but thought I would create my own list that was dedicated to the characters on the small screen. How we deal with death is as important as how we deal with life, so it is no small wonder that a fair number of characters met untimely demises on Star Trek. To make this list, the character has to die on one of the TV shows. I am OK with the character being brought back (on a temporary basis) via alternate timeline or flashback, but ultimately they are dead. Also, the actual character has to die, not a holographic representation. Finally, the death must evoke an emotional response from the audience. It could be shock, sadness, anger, or even satisfaction. Some on this list were main cast members, some were recurring characters, and some were only with us for a single episode. Each of their deaths impacted us as viewers, and these are the ten that, in my humble opinion, impacted us the most. Oh, and in case you did not clue into this yet...SPOILER ALERTS!!!

10. Winn Adami - What? A villain evoking a powerful emotion in death? Of course! People cheering for a villain getting their ultimate comeuppance is just as powerful as any other heroic death. For seven seasons Winn Adami had slithered in and out of the lives and affairs of Deep Space Nine, always manipulating for her own personal gain. Finally, when she meets her final fate, I couldn't help but do a fist pump in the air.  

9. I-Chaya - In a lovely animated episode called "Yesteryear" we meet a young Spock and the family pet, an old sehlat named I-Chaya. The two are attacked by a le-matya and I-Chaya defends the boy at the cost of his own life. It's a bit of a throwback to the typical "family dog dies while trying to save the kid" scenario shown over and over, but it is still a powerful moment when Spock chooses to put the animal down rather than letting it contiune to suffer. For pet lovers, this one hits home.

8. Charles "Trip" Tucker - Ah, Trip. I have to say that his death elicited a different type of emotion for me. It was anger mixed with frustration. I felt that the final episode of Enterprise deserved more, and felt like Trip's death was just to give the episode a "big deal" feel to it. Trip had become on of my favourite characters on the show, and though he died saving the life of his crew and captain, I couldn't help but feel a bit ticked off over it. Well, it was emotional for me, to say the least, so it is on the list. 

7. K'Eheyler - Worf has had little luck with women. Case in point, the mother of his son, the half-Klingon-half-human Federation ambassador K'Eheyler. In her second and final episode, K'Eheyler arrives on the Enterprise with Alexander in tow, surprising Worf with parenthood. By the end of the episode, K'Eheyler has been killed by the wicked Duras, who subsequently dies at the hands of Worf. This was the first death that I was aware of in which fans cried in outrage at the writers and producers of the show over the death of a character. The Powers That Be said it was the best way to get Worf to kill Duras. Regardless of whether the fans liked it or not, her death was keenly felt. 

6. Jetrel - Voyager's contribution to this list comes in the form of Jetrel, the Haakonian scientist who created a super weapon that defeated the Talaxians in a bitter war. When the Voyager crew come across him, their resident Talaxian is full of rage and hatred towards this man. What follows is a story of a man who committed atrocious crimes in war and was doing whatever he could to atone for his sins. It is revealed that he is dying from the same effects of creating his weapon, and what we first see as a war criminal becomes the means of exploring forgiveness. The impact of this death is found more in Neelix, which is likely the deepest character development our favourite Talaxian has received in the entire series. For a man to face and ultimately forgive the person who was responsible for the death of his family is truly powerful

5. Lal - One of my favourite TNG episodes is "The Offspring", where Data creates an android daughter he names Lal. The episode involves the continued exploration of the status of androids as individuals in the Federation and what their rights are. By the end of the episode, Lal's programming becomes irreversibly unstable and collapses. The last few moments between Data and his beloved daughter is incredibly emotional, which for an unemotional android like Data is saying something. 

4. Tasha Yar - A first for a Trek series, we see the departure of a major cast member. According to Trek lore, actress Denise Crosby asked to be released from her contract to pursue other ventures. What resulted was the episode "Skin of Evil" where Tasha Yar is killed in the line of duty by...a living, evil, oil slick. What makes this death so memorable for me is that it happened the way that countless security officers have been offed in both TNG and with the original "red-shirt" scenario. This time, however, the security officer who bites it is one that we had become attached to. In a way, the death of Lt. Yar in this manner made all the other crew members who had died in the line of duty become more real. Add to that the effect of her death on the rest of the crew was palpable. It moved the main crew closer together as a family, which makes this a memorable and significant death.

3. Lisa Cusak - In the sixth season of DS9 there was a gem of an episode called "The Sound of Her Voice" in which the crew of the Defiant find themselves on their way to rescue a stranded Starfleet Captain named Lisa Cusak. What makes this character the most interesting inclusion on this list is that she is never once seen. Her entire part in the story is a voice over the comm system. As she speaks to the crew about life and problems, she quickly becomes a real significant part of their lives. She becomes a friend, a confidant, and an almost invisible companion. When they arrive at the planet that she has been stranded on they discover that they had been speaking to her through a time distortion, and she had been dead for years. Despite the fact that they had only known her for a short period of time, her death impacted the crew, and, vicariously, us. 

2. Edith Keeler - Likely one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of Star Trek (any series) is "The City on the Edge of Forever". We are introduced to Edith Keeler, a 20th Century social worker who encounters Kirk, Spock, and McCoy as they have traveled back in time. In the past, Keeler dies in an automobile accident that McCoy saves her from, disrupting the timeline and resulting in a serious and negative change to Earth's history. Kirk and Keeler fall in love, even though our brave captain knows that she must perish. As the moment arrives, and Kirk has to hold McCoy back from saving the life of his love, the look on Kirk's face is one of those intense moments where no words are needed to express the emotional impact. For once, Kirk is vulnerable, which we all are when faced with death.

Before I speak on the #1 most powerful death on Trek TV, I would like to thank Paul Woodsworth and Nigel Druitt for much input in creating this list. They provided me some great suggestions that I had originally overlooked. Because of those suggestions, I offer a quick list of "Honorable Mentions"

  • Tora Ziyal - half-Bajoran, half-Cardassian daughter of the infamous Gul Dukat. A tragic character torn between two worlds.
  • Timicin - played by the impressive David Ogden Steers, Timicin was a renowned scientist who fell in love with Lwaxana Troi days before he was to commit suicide due to the customs of his people
  • Marla Aster - a crewman on Picard's Enterprise who is killed in the line of duty, leaving behind a now orphaned son
  • Kestra Troi - the unknown older sister of Deana Troi. Her death resulted in a serious traumatic experience for Lwaxana Troi, giving Majel Barrett many great moments of depth and acting
  • Patahak - a Romulan soldier who could have been saved by a tissue donation from Worf. Worf refuses, bringing to light a great ethical debate
  • Michael Eddington - a Maquis and former DS9 security officer who gives his life for his people and the man he betrayed, dying for a losing cause he truly believed in
  • Gary Mitchell - a former classmate of Kirk who becomes gifted with god-like powers
  • Damar - a character like Damar grew so much during his time on DS9 that he almost seemed destined to go down with both guns blazing
  • Weyoun - there was a definite sense of satisfaction when the final clone of this smarmy character was killed (how many Weyouns did we see die? Four? Five?)
  • Sarek - the father of Spock dies of Bendii Syndrome, a debilitating condition that seemed hardly fitting for such a influential diplomat 

1. Jadzia Dax - I think of all of the deaths that Trek had, this was the most tragic on TV and belongs in the Top 3 (at least) when you include the films. First, she was going to be a mother, and as a parent I feel it when one is close to parenthood and has the opportunity taken away. Second, her death was almost accidental. Some argue that she should have died heroically, in battle, or in a valiant struggle against a superior adversary, but she instead fell victim to the "wrong place, wrong time" scenario. Dying at the hands of a wraith-possessed Dukat was not the most romantic and glorious way to go, and that is where I find much of its strength. Not all death is meaningful. People die every day, and this death without meaning was all the more powerful because of it. And finally, Jadzia's death had a lasting impact on the rest of the crew. Obviously, Worf was affected the most, with Captain Sisko a close second (his monologue with her casket is still a powerful moment), but everyone lost someone special. Bashir and Quark, Kira and Odo, Jake and O'Brien all seemed to be deeply wounded with the passing of their friend and colleague. 

I hope you enjoy the list. Please feel free to comment. Also, if you have any suggestions for future articles or would like to contribute, please let me know.


  1. It would have been hilarious if everyone was moved one spot down this list and #1 turned out to be some random TOS redshirt. :)