Star Trek isn’t exactly known for its romances. While Star Wars has Han and Leia, there are no Star Trek supercouples, although there were some relationships: O’Brien and Keiko married and raised a family, Rom and Leeta got hitched, and Kes and Neelix started their journey on Voyager together. But honestly, there wasn’t always a whole lot of spark.
Still, there was always sex. We learned early on that Data was “fully functional,” we know of at least two times Kirk went all the way (as the kids used to say) during the original series, and almost everybody got SOME action at one time or another.
But in addition to sex, there were also romances. Some awkward, some swoony, some memorable, and yes, there are some we’d rather forget (like those Paris & Janeway lizard-creatures), but there were also a bunch that made our hearts beat a little faster. So here, as a nod to Valentine’s Day, are the 15 Best Romances Of Star Trek — for better or for worse.
15. Torres & Paris, “Day of Honor”
At the beginning of Voyager‘s run, nobody would have paired up B’Elanna and Tom. She was deathly serious and he treated everything as a joke; she was among Chakotay’s nearest and dearest and he couldn’t get along with him for more than a minute; she had a temper and he couldn’t be riled up at all. And for a while it seemed like she and Chakotay would be the ones to make a love connection, especially after that sexual fantasy she had about him in “Persistence of Vision.” And yet somewhere in that seven year run, Tom and B’Elanna started to make sense.
He realized it long before she did, and it took almost dying together to get her to admit it. They were adrift in space, Gravity-style, running out of oxygen, when she finally admitted she loved him. “You picked a great time to tell me,” he said, as they took what they believed were their dying breaths. They got rescued seconds later, but the words had been said. The last-minute confession under duration is always romantic.
14. Picard & Crusher, Yar & Data, “The Naked Now”
There are two couples romping it up in The Naked Now, an early TNG episode meant as an homage to the original series. A disease makes everyone behave as if they’re very, very drunk, which endangers both the ship and the crew, many of whom are having too much fun to notice they’re about to meet their doom.
We get our first taste of the romantic tension between Crusher and Picard, and despite their devotion to duty, they can’t stop giddily staring at each other, exchanging sexually charged grins. You kind of wish they’d just go through with it, already, but then they have to run off and save their ship.
And here, Data gets his famous reputation for being “fully functional” and “programmed in multiple techniques.” Yar is delighted. “Oh, you jewel! That’s exactly what I hoped.” These two DO go through with it, and it creates a bond between them, despite Yar informing Data later that “It never happened.” It did!
13. Spock & Uhura, “Star Trek” (2009)
Judging by the music-driven montages of these two on YouTube, the Spock-Uhura romance set in motion in the Kelvin Universe Star Trek movies is pretty popular. We first learn that these two are a couple when she makes it clear in no uncertain terms that he was wrong in assigning her to the Farragut instead of the Enterprise. He quickly corrects his order. But their deeper connection is evident when Spock’s home planet is destroyed, and he returns from the rescue attempt that failed to save his mother. She kisses him over and over, full of all the emotions he’s not supposed to feel. “What do you need?” she asks. “Tell me. Tell me.” His answer: “I need everyone to continue performing admirably.” She kisses him, with an “okay” and no further questions, there for him but silent, as he needs her to be.
12. Troi & Riker, “Star Trek: Insurrection”
Riker and Troi had an on-again-off-again thing for years, and a romantic history that began and ended long before they were even assigned to the Enterprise, but their romance finally gets fun in Star Trek: Insurrection.
Metaphasic particles from a planetary system they’re visiting gives everything a jump start, and suddenly Troi is tickling the back of Riker’s neck when they’re supposed to be working. Then he comes by for “counseling” but plops down with his head in her lap. Even more telling, he can’t stop grinning, but when he kisses her she pushes him away with a “yuck” because she’s never kissed him with a beard before. Next thing you know, they’re in a bubble bath together and she’s shaving him–something we definitely never saw them do during the series.
11. Soren & Riker, “The Outcast”
“The Outcast” was Star Trek‘s first attempt to address prejudice against homosexuality, and eased into it very gently. The Enterprise encounters an androgynous race called the J’naii, and Riker gets to know Soren, a J’naii pilot. Their chemistry heats up as they work together, and Soren finally confesses she does identify with a gender, but is forced to conceal it. Soren thinks of herself as female, forbidden in her society.
It’s fun at first, as they have that smitten look of couples who have a secret and don’t quite know what to do with it. Hormones raging after a secret kiss with her, Riker runs to Troi with his feelings, looking for approval from his former lover. Then he goes skipping off to find Soren again, but she has been taken away. She is put on trial and forced to undergo “treament.” He tries to rescue her, but it’s too late.
10. McCoy and Natira, “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”
At the beginning of this episode, McCoy tells Kirk that he has an terminal disease (Xenopolycythemia, just to make it sound extra incurable). So it makes sense that when he meets Natira, the high priestess of Yonada, he seems especially vulnerable to her, and therefore more appealing than his arrogant colleagues.
The sparks fly. Within a few minutes of being alone with him, she asks him to marry her, stay on Yonada, and rule by her side. “But we’re strangers to each other,” he tells her. She’s got a good answer for that: “But is not that the nature of men and women? That the pleasure is in the learning of each other?” He confesses he has only a year to live, and she suggests they spend it together. Who could say no all that?
They even get married, but of course, it won’t last, and when the story resolves itself, they realize they must each pursue their own destiny. He gets cured, and although she stays behind, Kirk promises McCoy a return visit in a few months. Wish we could’ve seen it.
9. Seven & Chakotay, “Human Error”
Chakotay, admittedly, has great chemstry with every woman on the ship. Seska, B’Elanna, Janeway … each one had some spark with him. But things really spice up when Seven of Nine decides she’s ready to dip her Borg toes into romance, and starts in the holodeck. You have to wonder if anyone else would be able to juggle their real life fantasy person with their holodeck one; one minute she’s falling asleep in holo-Chakotay’s arms, the next the real one’s paging her to report to Astrometrics.
It’s bittersweet, a story that’s sexy and sad at the same time. Seven thinks she might be ready to pursue romance outside the holodeck, and even asks B’Elanna for “coiffure” tips, but a leftover Borg failsafe device makes it potentially lethal for her to explore her emotions. The Doctor offers up a potential but complex solution, but she fearfully turns him down. Don’t worry: in the final episode, their romance becomes real, and just as electric as the fake one.
8. Dax & Lenara, “Rejoined”
On Deep Space Nine, we saw the power of love that spanned two lifetimes … two of Dax‘s, anyway. She’d been in love with Lenara when they both had different hosts, and when Dax sees her again, all the old feelings come rushing back. They try to resist, respecting the rule of Trill society not to rekindle old relationships (although apparently friendships are just fine, since she and Sisko still get to be buddies).
But they can’t hold out for long, and they defy everyone’s advice for a while and go for it. The much talked-about kiss was worth discussing, but not because it was woman-to-woman; it’s because it was a kiss rich with meaning, with years of longing, and with the power of emotions that drove them to take the biggest risk they could.
7. Crusher and Ronin the Ghost, “Sub Rosa”
Is it romantic to have sex with a ghost that also had sex with your grandmother? Hmm.
The whole episode was written as a sort of Harlequin romance in space, and it’s often cited as one of the most loathed stories in TNG history. Beverly Crusher goes to her grandmother’s funeral, then takes a few days off to go through her things. She starts having sex dreams about some guy named Ronin, and describes the sensations to Troi in Ten Forward. “There was a voice, a man. He whispered my name. It was as if I knew him, or more like he knew me. He knew exactly how I liked to be touched. It was the most physical dream I’ve ever had. The sensations were very real and extremely arousing.”
“Frankly, I’m envious,” Troi says, but soon Crusher’s addicted to Ronin and can’t think about anything else. He turns out to be an anaphasic lifeform that has been using the women in her family for generations. It’s all over now, but it was fun while it lasted.
6. Kirk & Miramanee, “The Paradise Syndrome”
Remember the episode where Kirk got married and had a kid?
In “The Paradise Syndrome,” Kirk gets knocked out, loses his memory, and is discovered by Miramanee. “Kirok” becomes her tribe’s medicine man, and they fall in love. While Spock and McCoy fret and bicker about Kirk’s fate as well as the planet’s, Kirok romps around with Miramanee, chases her through the grass, makes plans for the village, and then finds out, with delight, that she’s pregnant with their child.
Of course, the romance is doomed, and worse, Miramanee is killed, along with their child, after defending her husband when the tribe turned against him. The planet is saved, and at least she dies with that knowledge. (We’re still not sure why McCoy couldn’t save her, since she was only hit by rocks, but so it goes.)
5. T’Pol & Tucker, “Harbinger”
T’Pol and Tucker managed to really spice up Enterprise, didn’t they?
What started as a medical solution–Vulcan neuropressure–got intimate, what with it consisting of a lot of half-clothed massaging. Things really steamed up when Tucker began using his newfound massage techniques on another woman, and T’Pol started giving them the side eye every time they flirted. (Gotta like Corporal Cole, who gave Tucker a smack on the butt in front of everybody at a combat training session.) Tucker and T’Pol discussed the matter, ten just gave in to their raging hormones and got naked and sweaty together. T’Pol tried to dismiss the importance of it, and they decide not to have sex again, or even mention it. “Doesn’t mean we can’t keep doing the neuro-pressure though,” Trip suggested. She may not have smiled, but the look in her eyes spoke volumes.
Their future scenes together were hot, but soon started to pack an emotional punch as their relationship, initially resisted by T’Pol, slowly grew. In “Harbinger,” aptly named, we see the true beginning of it, in all its sexy, steamy glory.
4. Odo & Kira, “Children of Time”
This story tipped us off to the depths of Odo’s love for Kira, and featured one of the grandest romantic gestures of all time.
The Defiant breaks through an energy barrier and Kira is wounded. The rest of the team beams down to the planet below and comes face-to-face with their own descendants; seems that the barrier threw them back in time AND prevented their escape. An entire civilization has risen, and everyone has family there, except Kira, who died–or will die–due to her injuries.
The only way to break free would erase the existence of all 8000 descendants, and they can’t ethically do it. But the Odo on the planet, not a descendant but the same one who crashed, can. While one Odo struggles to keep his shape in a stasis device, older/alternate Odo from the planet confesses his love to Kira, then rigs it so that they do, in fact, get out and she can be saved. Not many people would trade your survival for an entire civilization.
3. Dax & Worf, “Change of Heart”
Dax and Worf were an unlikely couple, but made sense: Dax had a core strength, both physical and mental, that only Worf could both appreciate and match.
Not long after their wedding, they go on a mission to retrieve a Cardassian agent, and during their odyssey through a jungle, Dax is seriously wounded by the Jem’Hadar. She tries to keep going, but eventually insists that Worf complete the mission without her: there are lives at stake, perhaps millions.
Worf, devoted to duty above all else, heads out, then doubles back. He hoists a now-unconscious Dax over his shoulder and takes her back. The Cardassian agent is killed, and Worf’s action costs him a shot at ever getting his own command. Sisko reads him the riot act, but admits he would have done the same for Jennifer, and when Worf visits Dax in sickbay he confesses he’d do it all over again. Turns out Worf is the biggest romantic of them all, and the bond between these two is powerful. Her death later that season makes it all the more poignant.
2. Picard & Eline, “The Inner Light”
Eline was probably the most patient woman in all of Star Trek history.
Picard gets knocked unconscious by a probe, and while only 20 minutes passes on the Enterprise, he lives an entire lifetime on the planet Kataan. There, he is married to Eline, who must deal with a husband who doesn’t know his name (Kamin), or believe the life he’s living is real. As the years pass, Picard accepts that he is Kamin, and his ever-patient wife finally gets the love she deserves, having stuck by his side, faithfully waiting for him to come around.
We know that Picard has sometimes lamented his lack of family, and in this episode, he has it all: children, grandchildren, and true love. His love for her is deep, and he mourns her death, even though he eventually learns that it happened thousands of years ago. The memory stays with him, and with viewers too, as it’s often cited as one of the most popular episodes of the series.
1. Kirk & Edith Keeler, “City on the Edge of Forever”
If you weren’t expecting to see this at #1 on the list, you have no heart. And if you have any doubt that Edith Keeler was Jim Kirk’s true soulmate, you need to go watch that episode again.
In this original series classic, Kirk and Spock chase a deranged McCoy back in time to New York City during the Depression. They meet Edith Keeler, the focal point in history they’ve been drawn to. Edith is a visionary, a brilliant woman and humanitarian who believes in saving the world and starts by doing everything she can in her very small corner of it.
When Jim Kirk meets her, he recognizes a kindred spirit, someone who is able to see things bigger than herself, who helps people by teaching them to boost themselves up, and knows how to lead and make decisions without hesitation. They are two of a kind, with both a spiritual connection and chemistry that’s off the chart. The only thing that could ever have stopped Kirk from saving Edith’s life at the moment of truth was the risk of civilization as he knew it …. and for a moment, he considered doing it anyway. Doomed romance, but a beautiful one, for all eternity.
Honorable Mention: Kirk and the Enterprise
In the history of Star Trek, no captain has been more in love with their ship than Captain Kirk. Initially he laments this. “This vessel, I give, she takes,” he tells Spock when he’s under the influence of the Psi 2000 virus.“She won’t permit me my life. I’ve got to live hers.” But a few minutes later, he gets it together enough to send Spock & Scotty off to save the ship and looks around at it with love. “Never lose you,” he says. “Never.”
In “This Side of Paradise,” the entire crew beams down to Omicron Ceti III, under the influence of the planet’s spores. Kirk, uninfected, stands alone on the bridge, refusing to accept what’s happening, fruitlessly checking to see if anyone else has remained. Then the spores get into his system, so he packs some uniforms in a little briefcase and heads to the transporter room. Just as he’s about to leave, his love for the the Enterprise kicks in, and makes him so angry that the spores leave his system.
And when he is affected by Elaan’s tears and falls in love with her, and McCoy rushes in with the antidote he’s been working on for weeks, Spock tells him, “The antidote to a woman of Elas, Doctor, is a starship. The Enterprise infected the Captain long before the Dohlman did.”
That love affair lasts right up to the end, when he gives up the joy of the Nexus to help save the Enterprise one last time, and officially passes the torch to Picard. Love is love.
Okay: we know there are plenty missing from this list. Should Spock and Leila (Jill Ireland) be on it, even though the spores made him do it? Or Wesley Crusher and Robin Lefler, who flirted and saved the ship at the same time? Picard and Daren, with flute and roll-out piano? (No, that’s not a euphemism.) Let us know in the comments.
The newest series in the franchise, Star Trek: Discovery, premieres later this year.